Laughter, Ge 17:17; 18:12; 21:6, one of the patriarchal ancestors of the Hebrew nation and of Christ, son of Abraham and Sarah, B. C. 1896-1705. His history is related in Ge 21; 24-28; 35:27-29. He is memorable for the circumstances attending his birth, as a child of prophecy and promise, in the old age of his parents. Even in childhood he was the object of dislike to his brother Ishmael, son of the bondwoman; and in this, a type of all children of the promise, Ga 4:29. Trained in the fear of God to early manhood, he showed a noble trust and obedience in his conduct during that remarkable trail of faith which established Abraham as the "father of the faithful;" and in his meek submission to all the will of God, prefigured the only-begotten Son of the Father. At the age of forty, he married the pious and lovely Rebekah of Mesopotamia. Most of his life was spent in the southern part of Canaan and its vicinity. At the burial of his father, he as joined by his outcast brother Ishmael. Two sons of Isaac are named in Scripture. The partiality of the mother for Jacob, and of the father for Esau, led to unhappy jealousies, discord, sin, and long separations between the brothers, though all were overruled to accomplish the purposed of God. At the age of one hundred and thirty-seven, Isaac blessed Jacob and sent him away into Mesopotamia. At the age of one hundred and eighty, he died, and was buried in the tomb of Abraham by his two sons. In his natural character, Isaac was humble, tranquil, and meditative; in his piety, devout, full of faith, and eminently submissive to the will of God.
(2.) The only son of Abraham by Sarah. He was the longest lived of the three patriarchs (Ge 21:1-3). He was circumcised when eight days old (Ge 21:4-7); and when he was probably two years old a great feast was held in connection with his being weaned.
The next memorable event in his life is that connected with the command of God given to Abraham to offer him up as a sacrifice on a mountain in the land of Moriah (Ge 22). (See Abraham's bosom.) When he was forty years of age Rebekah was chosen for his wife (Ge 24). After the death and burial of his father he took up his residence at Beer-lahai-roi (Ge 25:7-11), where his two sons, Esau and Jacob, were born (Ge 25:21-26), the former of whom seems to have been his favourite son (Ge 25:27-28).
In consequence of a famine (Ge 26:1) Isaac went to Gerar, where he practised deception as to his relation to Rebekah, imitating the conduct of his father in Egypt (Ge 12:12-20) and in Gerar (Ge 20:2). The Philistine king rebuked him for his prevarication.
After sojourning for some time in the land of the Philistines, he returned to Beersheba, where God gave him fresh assurance of covenant blessing, and where Abimelech entered into a covenant of peace with him.
The next chief event in his life was the blessing of his sons (Ge 27:1). He died at Mamre, "being old and full of days" (Ge 35:27-29), one hundred and eighty years old, and was buried in the cave of Machpelah.
In the New Testament reference is made to his having been "offered up" by his father (Heb 11:17; Jas 2:21), and to his blessing his sons (Heb 11:20). As the child of promise, he is contrasted with Ishmael (Ro 9:7,10; Ga 4:28; Heb 11:18).
Isaac is "at once a counterpart of his father in simple devoutness and purity of life, and a contrast in his passive weakness of character, which in part, at least, may have sprung from his relations to his mother and wife. After the expulsion of Ishmael and Hagar, Isaac had no competitor, and grew up in the shade of Sarah's tent, moulded into feminine softness by habitual submission to her strong, loving will." His life was so quiet and uneventful that it was spent "within the circle of a few miles; so guileless that he let Jacob overreach him rather than disbelieve his assurance; so tender that his mother's death was the poignant sorrow of years; so patient and gentle that peace with his neighbours was dearer than even such a coveted possession as a well of living water dug by his own men; so grandly obedient that he put his life at his father's disposal; so firm in his reliance on God that his greatest concern through life was to honour the divine promise given to his race.", Geikie's Hours, etc.
(See ABRAHAM; ISHMAEL.) "laughter," because Abraham laughed in joy at the promise of his birth, type of the annunciation of Messiah's birth (Ge 17:17); and Sarah too, with some degree of incredulity because of the improbability at her age (Ge 18:12), but at his birth with thankful joy toward God, saying "God hath made me to laugh, so that all that hear will laugh with me" (Ge 21:6-7; compare Isa 54:1). His miraculous conception and naming before birth typify Messiah (Luke 1; Matthew 1). Born at Gerar when Abraham was 100 years old. "Mocked" by Ishmael (who was "born after the flesh") at the weaning feast; the mocking, as Paul implies, containing the germ and spirit of persecution, profanely sneering at the object of the promise. The child of the bond-woman must therefore give place to the child of the freewoman born "by promise."
While the believing parents "laughed," Ishmael "mocked." With the laugh of derision and spite. Isaac is type of the believing "children of the promise," "born after the Spirit," therefore, "children of the free" church, "heirs according to the promise," persecuted by the children of legal and carnal bondage, but ultimately about to "inherit all things" to the exclusion of the carnal (Ga 4:22-31; 5:1; 3:29; Re 21:7-8). Isaac's submission (at 25 years of age: Josephus, Ant. 1:13, section 2) to his father's will when binding him, and his bearing the wood for his own intended sacrifice, make him a lively type of Him who bore His own cross to Calvary (Joh 19:17), and whose language was, "Lo I come to do Thy will O God" (Ps 40:7-8; Heb 10:7). His living still after the three days (Ge 22:4) in which he was dead in Abraham's purpose prefigures the Messiah's resurrection on the third day.
The scene of the sacrifice, Mount Moriah, was probably that of Christ's suffering. What Isaac's sacrifice wanted to perfect the type was actual death and vicarious substitution; the offering of the ram's life instead of the human life, hereby saved, supplied the defect; the ram and Isaac jointly complete the type. Isaac typifies Christ's Godhead, the ram typifies His manhood (Theodoret) "caught in a thicket by his horns" as Jesus was crowned with thorns. Isaac was of too excellent a nature to be slain, for God's law gives no sanction to human sacrifices. The Father, in love to us, prepared a human body (Heb 10:5) for His Son, which can suffer death, the penalty which divine righteousness required for our sin; Christ's Godhead could not suffer. The manhood and Godhead formed one Christ, at once the Son of man and the Son of God, as Isaac and the ram formed one joint type.
Thus Abraham had the wonderful honour of representing the Father, and Isaac, the only son of the promise, was the most remarkable of all the types of the Son Messiah. Abraham herein had the glimpse which he had desired of Messiah's day "and was glad" (Isaac meaning "laughter flowing from gladness") (Joh 8:56); not that he fully comprehended the anti-typical meaning. So Heb 11:19, "from whence (from the jaws of death, compare 2Co 1:9-10) he received him back in a parable," i.e. in the way of a typical representation of Christ's death and resurrection. So the slain goat and the scape-goat jointly on the day of atonement represented Christ's death and. resurrection.
By this work "Abraham's faith was made perfect" (Jas 2:21-23), not was vivified, but attained its crowning development. His "faith" alone was "counted for righteousness" long before, and he was justified before God (Ge 15:6). By this work he was also "justified" evidentially before men. Philo Byblius preserves from Sanchouiatho the Phoenician tradition, "Cronus, whom the Phoenicians call Israel, being king, having an only son by a nymph, Anobret, called Jahoud (Hebrew: Yahid), even now the Phoenician name for only begotten, when perils from wars were impending, having clothed his son in royal apparel, offered him upon an altar which he built" (Eusebius, Praep. Evang., 1:10). This corruption of the Scripture history of Isaac's sacrifice was based on the pagan idea of the most precious human sacrifice being needed to appease the gods in times of calamity.
So the king of Moab sacrificed his son to Chemosh when sore pressed by Israel, Judah, and Edom (2Ki 3:27). The idea though wrong in its application, rested on a primeval tradition of God's justice having appointed the sacrifice of precious life as the atonement for sin. Abraham's trustful loving obedience to the true God, at the cost of the greatest self-sacrifice, was by the test shown to be at least equal to that of idolaters to their false gods. The angel's intervention, the ram's substitution, and the prohibition of the human sacrifice prevent the possibility of supposing God sanctions any human sacrifice save that of the Antitype. Not in blind credulity, for Abraham had now long experience that God can order nothing wrong or harsh to His people, but in faith "accounting that God was able to raise His son even from the dead," he obeyed. At 40 Isaac married his cousin, Rebekah, daughter of Bethuel, Nahor's son, by whom at 60 he had twin sons, Esau and Jacob.
His contemplative character appears in his "going out to meditate" or pray "in the field at the eventide." The death of his mother Sarah just before (Genesis 23) naturally pressed upon his spirit, and his resource in affliction was prayerful meditation, a type of Him who "went out into a mountain apart to pray" (Mt 14:23), his calm and submissive temper also prefiguring the meek and lowly Lamb of God Isa 53:7). Solitude and prayer suit best the wounded spirit. That Sarah's death was uppermost in his meditation is implied most artlessly in what follows: Isaac "brought Rebekah into his mother Sarah's tent, and he loved her, and was comforted after his mother's death." Rebekah supplied the void in his heart and home. Weakness and partiality for Esau, probably owing to the contrast which Esau's bold spirit presented to his own gentle unadventurous character, were his failings; his partaking of his favorite dish, venison, the produce of his son's hunting, confirmed his selfish partiality. The mother loved the steady, quiet Jacob.
The gift from God of the twin sons was the answer to Isaac's prayer, after 20 years of childless marriage; for God in giving the greatest blessings delays fulfilling His promise in order to call forth His people's persevering, waiting, prayerful faith (Ge 25:21). When Isaac was 137, the age at which Ishmael died 14 years before, the thought of his brother's death at that age suggested thoughts of his own, and the desire to bless his favorite before dying. As he lived 43 years afterward, to see Jacob return from Mesopotamia, he probably was now dangerously sick; hence, loathing ordinary food, he longed to have "savoury meat such as he loved." Esau invited him to: "arise and sit" to eat of his venison; implying that he was laid in his bed. Moreover "he trembled exceedingly" when Esau came in. Esau's words imply his thinking Isaac near death, "the days of mourning for my father are at hand." Isaac's unexpected prolongation of life probably deterred Esau from his murderous purpose against Jacob for having stolen his blessing.
He reverenced his father amidst all his wildness, and finally joined with Jacob in paying the last mark of respect at his father's grave, even as Isaac and Ishmael had met at Abraham's Burial. Isaac's carnal partiality and Rebekah's tortuous policy eventuated in their being left in their old age by both children, Esau disappointed and disinherited, Jacob banished to a long and distant servitude; the idols of God's children becoming their scourges, in order to bring them back to Himself (1Co 11:32; Jer 2:19). His equivocation as to his wife, as if she were his sister, through fear of Abimelech's people at Gerar, was another blemish in Isaac (Genesis 26) So Abram had erred in Egypt and in this same Philistine kingdom (Genesis 20) under a king also bearing the common title (See ABIMELECH , i.e. my father a king. Isaac had obeyed God's vision in not going down to Egypt, a place of spiritual danger though abundant in food, but sojourning in Gerar during the famine. Lack of godly and manly fi
Son of Abraham and Sarah. The meaning of the name is 'he laugheth,' and several reasons for bestowing it are suggested (Ge 17:17; 18:12; 21:6). The narrative as it occurs in Scripture was derived from three principal sources. Jahwist supplied Ge 18:9-15; 21:1-7,24; 25:5,11,26 and the bulk of Ge 25:27; to Elohist may be attributed Ge 22:1-14 with Ge 27:11 f., Ge 27:17 f., Ge 27:20-22; while Priestly Narrative was responsible for Ge 25:19 f., Ge 25:26; 27:46 to Ge 28:9; 35:27-29. Apparent discrepancies in the story, such as that Isaac, on his deathbed (Ge 27:1,41), blessed Jacob, and yet did not die until many years afterwards (Ge 35:27), are evidently due to original differences of tradition, which later editors were not careful to remove. Viewed as coming from independent witnesses, they present no serious difficulty, and do not destroy the verisimilitude of the story. In outline the narrative describes Isaac as circumcised when eight days old (Ge 21:4), and as spending his early youth with his father at Beersheba. Thence he was taken to 'the land of Moriah,' to be offered up as a burnt-offering at the bidding of God; and if Abraham's unquestioning faith is the primary lesson taught (Ge 22:12; 26:5; Heb 11:17 ff.), Isaac's child-like confidence in his father is yet conspicuous, with the associated sense of security. His mother died when he was thirty-six years of age; and Abraham sent a servant to fetch a wife for Isaac from amongst his kindred in Mesopotamia, according to Ge 24, where the religious spirit is as noticeable as the idyllic tone. For many years the couple were childless; but at length Isaac's prayers were heard, and Rebekah gave birth to the twins, Esau and Jacob. Famine and drought made it necessary for Isaac to shift his encampment to Gerar (Ge 26:1), where a story similar to that of Abraham's repudiation of Sarah is told of him (ch. 20; cf. Ge 12:10-20). The tradition was evidently a popular one, and may have found currency in several versions, though there is no actual impossibility in the imitation by the son of the father's device. Isaac's prosperity aroused the envy of the Philistine herdsmen (Ge 26:20 f.) amongst whom he dwelt, and eventually he withdrew again to Beersheba (Ge 26:23). He appears next as a decrepit and dying man (Ge 27:1,41), whose blessing, intended for Esau (Ge 25:28; 27:4), was diverted by Rebekah upon Jacob. When the old man discovered the mistake, he was agitated at the deception practised upon him, but was unable to do more than predict for Esau a wild and independent career. To protect Jacob from his brother's resentment Isaac sent him away to obtain a wife from his mother's kindred in Paddan-aram (Ge 28:2), and repeated the benediction. The next record belongs to a period twenty-one years later, unless the paragraph (Ge 35:27-29) relates to a visit Jacob made to his home in the interval. It states that Isaac died at Hebron at the age of 180. He was buried by his sons in the cave of Machpelah (Ge 49:31).
Isaac is a less striking personality than his father. Deficient in the heroic qualities, he suffered in disposition from an excess of mildness and the love of quiet. His passion for 'savoury meat' (Ge 25:28; 27:4) was probably a tribal failing. He was rather shifty and timid in his relations with Abimelech (Ge 26:1-22), too easily imposed upon, and not a good ruler of his household,
As Isaac was the patriarch that stood between Abraham and Jacob, it may seem remarkable that so little is recorded of him, especially as the promise given to Abraham, of all nations being blessed through his seed, was confirmed to Isaac. He was 'the son of promise,' born when Abraham was a hundred years old, and 'the son of the freewoman,' in contrast to 'the son of the bondwoman.' He became the heir, the son of the bondwoman being cast out. Ga 4:22-30. Abraham's faith was tried when told to offer up this son of promise, called his 'only son,' as being a type of Christ. Abraham obeyed, and Isaac heard that beautiful utterance of faith, "My son, God will provide himself a lamb." He was raised as from the dead and restored to his father, and the covenant was confirmed as to the seed.
As Isaac thus became in principle a risen or heavenly man, he must not return for a wife to the country from whence he had been separated by death and resurrection, as also by the call of Abraham; a bride must be fetched for him from thence, and she must be one of the same 'kindred:' a remarkable type of the heavenly Christ, and of those given to Him of the Father: they are heavenly as He is heavenly. God in a remarkable way blessed the mission of the servant (type of the Holy Spirit gathering a bride for Christ), and Rebekah, Isaac's cousin, became his wife. He loved her and was comforted after his mother's death. Abraham had several sons; but he gave all that he had to Isaac, in which Isaac is again a type of Christ, who will possess all things.
Rebekah was barren, but on Isaac beseeching the Lord, she conceived, and was told that she should be the mother of two nations, and the twin brothers Esau and Jacob were born, Esau being the firstborn. A famine being in the land, Isaac removed to Gerar, and there faithlessly said that Rebekah was his sister, and was rebuked by the king of the Philistines. God confirmed the blessing promised to Abraham, both as to Isaac's seed possessing all those countries, and also as to all the nations of the earth being blessed in his seed.
After the Philistines had had much contention with Isaac respecting some wells of water which they claimed, they bade him depart from them, for he had become too great to dwell so near. He submitted and removed to Beer-sheba. He was thus again in the truth of his calling within the limits of the land of promise: there the Lord again appeared to him, and told him not to fear, He would bless him for his father Abraham's sake. Now the Philistines come to him, admitting that they saw that Jehovah was blessing him, and they desired a covenant with him that he would do them no hurt. Thus was he now in the true place of moral superiority, in the place of his calling, and as such having no disputes with the nations, but acknowledged as the blessed of the Lord
(laughter), the son whom Sara bore to Abraham, in the hundredth year of his age, at Gerar. (B.C. 1897.) In his infancy he became the object of Ishmael's jealousy; and in his youth the victim, in intention, of Abraham's great sacrificial act of faith. When forty years old he married Rebekah his cousin, by whom, when he was sixty, he had two sons, Esau and Jacob. Driven by famine to Gerar, he acquired great wealth by his flocks but was repeatedly dispossessed by the Philistines of the wells which he sunk at convenient stations. After the deceit by which Jacob acquired his father's blessing Isaac sent his son to seek a wife in Padan-aram; and all that we know of him during the last forty-three years of his life in that he saw that GOD, with a large and prosperous family, return to him at Hebron.
before he died there, at the age of 180 years. He was buried by his two sons in the cave of Machpelah. In the New Testament reference is made to the offering of Isaac
and to his blessing his sons.
he is contrasted with Ishmael. In reference to the offering up of Isaac by Abraham, the primary doctrine taught are those of sacrifice and substitution, as the means appointed by God for taking away sin; and, as co-ordinate with these, the need of the obedience of faith, on the part of man, to receive the benefit.
The animal which God provided and Abraham offered was in the whole history of sacrifice the recognized type of "the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sins of the world." Isaac is the type of humanity itself, devoted to death for sin.
ISAAC, the son of Abraham and Sarah, was born in the year of the world 2108. His name which signifies laughter, was given him by his mother, because when it was told her by an angel that she should have a son, and that at a time of life when, according to the course of nature, she was past child-bearing, she privately laughed, Ge 18:10-12. And when the child was born she said, "God hath made me to laugh, so that all that hear will laugh with me," Ge 21:6. The life of Isaac, for the first seventy-five years of it, is so blended with that of his illustrious father, that the principal incidents of it have been already noticed under the article Abraham. His birth was attended with some extraordinary circumstances: it was the subject of various promises and prophecies; an event most ardently desired by his parents, and yet purposely delayed by Divine Providence till they were both advanced in years, no doubt for the trial of their faith, and that Isaac might more evidently appear to be the gift of God, and "the child of promise." At an early period of life he was the object of the profane contempt of Ishmael, the son of the bond woman, by whom he was persecuted; and as in the circumstances attending his birth there was something typical of the birth of Abraham's greater Son, the Messiah, the promised Seed; so, in the latter instance, we contemplate in him a resemblance of real Christians, who, as Isaac was, are "the children of promise," invested in all the immunities and blessings of the new covenant; but, as then, "he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now," Ga 4:29.
When Isaac had arrived at a state of manhood, he was required to give a signal proof of his entire devotedness to God. Abraham was commanded to offer up his beloved son in sacrifice, Ge 22:1. This remarkable transaction, so far as Abraham was concerned in it, has already been considered under the article Abraham. But, if from this trial of the faith of the parent we turn our attention to the conduct of Isaac, the victim destined for the slaughter, we behold an example of faith and of dutiful obedience equally conspicuous with that of his honoured parent. Isaac submitted, as it should seem, without resistance, to be bound and laid on the altar, exposing his body to the knife that was lifted up to destroy him. How strikingly calculated is this remarkable history to direct our thoughts to a more exalted personage, whom Isaac prefigured; and to a more astonishing transaction represented by that on Mount Moriah! Behold Jesus Christ, that Seed of Abraham, in whom all the families of the earth were to be blessed, voluntarily going forth, in obedience to the command of his heavenly Father, and laying down his life, as a sacrifice for the sins of the world.
In the progress of Isaac's history, we find him, in the time of his greatest activity and vigour, a man of retired habits and of remarkable calmness of mind. He appears to have been affectionately attached to his mother Sarah, and, even at the age of forty, was not insusceptible of great sorrow on occasion of her death. But he allows his father to choose for him a suitable partner in life; and Rebekah was selected from among his own kindred, in preference to the daughters of Canaan, in the midst of whom he dwelt. In a few years afterward, he who had mourned for his mother, was called to weep over his father's grave; and in that last act of filial duty, it is pleasing to find the two rival brothers, Isaac and Ishmael, meeting together for the interment of Abraham. The occasion, indeed, was well calculated to allay all existing jealousies and contentions, and cause every family broil to cease, Ge 25:9. After the death of Abraham, "God blessed his son Isaac;" but, though the latter had now been married twenty years, Rebekah was childless. "Isaac entreated the Lord for his wife, because she was barren; and the Lord was entreated of him, and Rebekah his wife conceived," Ge 25:21. God also promised to multiply Isaac's seed, and his promise was fulfilled. Two children were born to him at one time, concerning whom the divine purpose was declared to the mother, and no doubt to the father also, that "the elder should serve the younger." A famine which came upon the country in the days of Isaac, obliged him to remove his family and flocks and retire to Gerar, in the country of the Philistines, of which Abimelech was at that time king. The possessions of Isaac multiplied so prodigiously, that the inhabitants of the country became envious of him, and even Abimelech, to preserve peace among them, was under the necessity of requesting him to retire, because he was become too powerful. He accordingly withdrew, and pitched his tent in the valley of Gerar, where he digged new wells, and, after a time, returned to Beersheba, where he fixed his habitation, Ge 26:1-23. Here the Lord appeared to him, and renewed to him the covenant which he had made with Abraham, promising to be his God, and to make him a blessing to others. Abimelech now sought his friendship, and, to form an alliance with him, paid him a visit; on which occasion Isaac displayed his magnificence by a sumptuous entertainment, A.M. 2240.
When he was a hundred and thirty-seven years of age, and his sight had so failed him that he could not distinguish one of his sons from the other, Jacob craftily obtained from him the blessing of primogeniture. Yet Isaac survived many years after this, to him, distressing occurrence. He sent Jacob into Mesopotamia, there to take a wife of his own family, Ge 28:1-2, and to prevent his marrying among the Canaanites as his brother Esau had done. And when Jacob returned, after a lapse of twenty years, Isaac was still living, and continued to live twenty-three years longer. He then died at the age of a hundred and eighty years, and was buried with Abraham by his sons Esau and Jacob, Genesis 35. See ESAU and See JACOB.