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Isaac in the Bible: His Amazing Story and Legacy

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If you know the story of Abraham, then you have heard the name Isaac in the Bible. The birth of Isaac was a crucial part of the story of Father Abraham and God’s promise in the Abrahamic covenant in the Old Testament. 

In this article, we will unpack the main aspects of Isaac’s life and how the unveil God’s faithfulness. 

graphic of Abraham holding Isaac as a baby with the text Isaac in the Bible: His story and legacy

Who was Isaac in the Bible

Isaac was the second son of Abraham and and his wife Sarah. Their first son, Ishmael, was conceived with Sarah’s servant, Hagar, resulting from impatience in God’s promise to give Abraham a son. However, God is always faithful, and Isaac was Abraham and Sarah’s miracle child and was, therefore, in line for their inheritance as if he was the true first born. 

Later in life, Isaac also became a husband to Rebekah and a father to Jacob and Esau. Through every stage of the life of Isaac, a great obedience to and trust in God was demonstrated.

Isaac as a Son – Birth and Sacrifice

The story of Isaac begins at his birth in chapter twenty-one of the book of Genesis. But let’s first go back to the promise of his birth in chapter twelve. 

“Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

Genesis 12:1-3 (ESV)

This promise, known as the Abrahamic covenant, was given to Abraham (Abram at the time) at the age of seventy-five. Because of his old age, his wife Sarah (Sarai at the time) doubted and was impatient to give Abraham a son, so she told him to lay with her slave woman, Hagar. Hagar conceived a son who would be named Ishmael, and he was the first of Abraham’s offspring. 

Despite Abraham and Sarah’s impatience and doubt, God remained faithful to his original promise. 

“The Lord visited Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did to Sarah as he had promised. And Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age at the time of which God had spoken to him. Abraham called the name of his son who was born to him, whom Sarah bore him, Isaac.”

Genesis 21:1-3 (ESV)

By this point, Abraham had reached the old age of a hundred years! Sarah’s reaction to bearing a son this late in life was that of disbelief as she said “everyone who hears will laugh over me” (21:6). Can you blame her? I surely cannot imagine bearing a child at such an age. But God is faithful. 

Even though Abraham’s son Isaac was technically his second-born, he was the miracle child of the divine promise. He was therefore set to receive Abraham’s inheritance as the first born. God commanded Abraham and Sarah to cast out Hagar and Ishmael but promised to protect and bless them nevertheless. God is good!

One of the most well-known biblical stories surrounding Isaac as a son is the sacrifice of Isaac. After all of this waiting for a son, God commands Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. What!?

After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” and he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.”

Genesis 22:1-2 (ESV)

As a man of the Lord, Abraham obeyed this, albeit wild, command of God and prepared to sacrifice Isaac as a burnt offering in the land of Moriah. Moments away from the sacrifice, knife in hand, an angel of the Lord cried out to Abraham, telling him not to hurt Isaac. 

painting of Abraham sacrificing Isaac in the Bible

“Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son. But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.”

Genesis 22:10-12 (ESV)

Whew! It was just a test. But not without a point. The angel called out yet again with a promise from God regarding the everlasting covenant. 

And the angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven and said, “By myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, and in your offspring shall the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.”

Genesis 22:15-18 (ESV)

It is this moment that allowed the story of Isaac to continue, as he became a husband and father, as well as a faithful man of the Lord, just like his father, Abraham. 

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Isaac as a Husband

At the age of forty, Isaac married his cousin Rebekah and became a husband. 

After the death of his wife Sarah, Abraham became concerned with his son Isaac being married, so he sent out one of his servants to find him a wife. He lived in the land of Canaan at this point in time, but did not want Isaac to marry a Canaanite woman. Rather, he wanted him to marry a woman from his original country and kindred. 

And Abraham said to his servant, the oldest of his household, who had charge of all that he had, “Put your hand under my thigh, that I may make you swear by the Lord, the God of heaven and God of the earth, that you will not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell, but will go to my country and to my kindred, and take a wife for my son Isaac.”

Genesis 24:2-4 (ESV)

So the servant went out to the city of Nahor in Mesopotamia, stopping by a well where the women retrieved water. He prayed that the Lord would grant him success in this quest, asking that the young woman who offered him water upon his request would be the one who was supposed to marry Isaac. Before the servant even finished praying, Rebekah approached the well and offered him water upon his request and watering his camels. It was by this that the servant knew Rebekah was set out to be Isaac’s wife. 

The servant and Rebekah then went on to Rebekah’s father’s house, where the servant met her father and brother. After the telling of the story of how Rebekah and the servant met, the men all agreed that this was a work of the Lord and thus approved the marriage, so long as Rebekah was willing to go. 

Rebekah agreed to go back to the land of Canaan with the servant and met Isaac there. The two married. 

“And the servant told Isaac all the things that he had done. Then Isaac brought her into the tent of Sarah his mother and took Rebekah, and she became his wife, and he loved her. So Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.”

Genesis 24:66-67 (ESV)

As Isaac becomes a husband, we see yet again the provision and fulfillment of God. God promised Abraham that he would make of him a great nation, so he furthered the story of Isaac by blessing him with a marriage that would bear him sons, continuing the line of his father, Abraham. 

graphic of Abraham sacrifices his son Isaac on the mountain for the post on Isaac in the Bible

Isaac as a Father

Another great significance of Isaac in the Bible is his role as the father of Jacob and Esau, which he enters in Genesis 25. Just like Abraham’s wife Sarah, Isaac’s wife Rebekah was barren. Isaac prayed for her to conceive, and God answered with her conception of the twin sons. 

“And Isaac prayed to the Lord for his wife, because she was barren. And the Lord granted his prayer, and Rebekah his wife conceived.”

Genesis 25:21 (ESV)

Yet again, another example of God’s faithfulness to and provision over his people shown through the story of Isaac. 

This part of Isaac’s life gets a bit more complicated whenever the twins begin having conflict as early as in the womb. Rebekah went to the Lord with the greatest concern, and He answered her this:

“Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you shall be divided; the one shall be stronger than the other, the older shall serve the younger.”

Genesis 25:23 (ESV)

And this rings true throughout the lives of Jacob and Esau. Esau is born first, so he has the birthright to the inheritance of his father, Isaac, who favors him (though he later sells it to Jacob for a bowl of soup). However, Rebekah favored Jacob and would later team up with him to trick Isaac into giving him a blessing meant for Esau.

In the last days of Isaac’s life, it became time to give a blessing to his first born, Esau. Isaac instructed Esau to bring him food before the blessing, but Rebekah overheard and took advantage of Esua’s absence (as he was out hunting), went to Jacob, the younger son, and told him to go out and do the same thing, then pretend to be Esau in his father Isaac’s presence, so that he would receive the blessing of the firstborn instead. 

Jacob and Rebekah’s deceptive plan panned out exactly as they wanted, and Isaac unknowingly blessed Jacob instead of Esau, furthering the conflict and division between the twin sons. Isaac’s blessing to Jacob is as follows:

“See, the smell of my son is as the smell of a field that the Lord has blessed! May God give you of the dew of heaven and of the fatness of the earth and plenty of grain and wine. Let peoples serve you, and nations bow down to you. Cursed be everyone who curses you, and blessed be everyone who blesses you!”

Genesis 27:27-29 (ESV)

After Jacob’s blessing, Esau came into the presence of his father, Isaac, with the food he had prepared for him. It was then that Isaac discovered Jacob’s deceit, yet could not remove the blessing. This made Esau bitter towards Jacob, and Esau plotted to kill him.

Upon hearing Esau’s intentions, Rebekah tells Jacob to flee to Laban. Isaac instructs Jacob to marry a woman there instead of a Canaanite and blesses his life yet again. Esau ends up marrying an Ishmaelite, and this is where we see God’s message to Rebekah earlier on pan out, as Jacob’s offspring become the Israelites, and Esau’s become the Edomites, two nations in constant conflict with each other. 

Through Isaac’s role as a father to Jacob and Esau, God plants more seeds for the coming of Jesus, as Jesus was an Israelite of Jacob, Isaac, and Abraham’s bloodline. Remember in the Abrahamic covenant when God told Abraham that it was through his offspring that all the families of the earth would be blessed? It all started with Isaac, Abraham’s first son, who would go on to raise Jacob, the foundation of Israel

God’s Promise to Isaac

Now that we have broken down the story of Isaac into his main 3 roles, as a son, a husband, and a father, let’s backtrack to the time after the twins birth, but before the blessing conflict, when God made a profound promise to Isaac in chapter twenty-six of the book of Genesis. 

“And the Lord appeared to him and said, “Do not go down to Egypt; dwell in the land, and I will be with you. Sojourn in this land, and I will be with you and will bless you, for to you and to your offspring I will give all these lands, and I will establish the oath that I swore to Abraham your father. I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and will give to your offspring all these lands. And in your offspring all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because Abraham obeyed my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.”

Genesis 26:2-5 (ESV)

This promise signifies Isaac “as the “new” Abraham because his father was given a similar command” (. And just like his father, Isaac had doubts as well. He went into the land of the Philistines, telling the king, Abimelech, that Rebekah was his sister rather than his wife out of fear that he would be killed because of her beauty. But God protected him and his wife, holding fast to his promises. 

Abimelech and Isaac fell into conflict because of Isaac’s bountiful blessings from God. Abimelech had Isaac moving from place to place, which was not (and still isn’t) an uncomplicated process, but Isaac complied, trusting in God who told him to sojourn in this land. 

Eventually, King Abimelech took note that the Lord has been with Isaac (Gen 26:28), and drew up a peace treaty between his people and Isaac over a great feast. 

Another example of God’s faithfulness shown through Isaac in the Bible

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What Can we Learn?

Through the story of Isaac in the Bible, we see both trial and triumph, doubt and trust. But through it all, God never let go of Isaac, nor his father Abraham, nor his son Jacob, the bloodline of Jesus Christ. Every happening in the days of Isaac were used by the Lord to bring forth the result of his promise.

Will He not do the same for you? No matter where you are at in your life, the God of Abraham and Isaac is actively working for the good of his people. We must remember that we can only see one small picture of God’s big story, and therefore we must be like Isaac and trust in God’s calling and promises, no matter what hits us along the way.  

You may also enjoy this video on The Complete Story of Isaac in the Bible & Jacob | The Patriarchs of Blessing and Curse.

Or one of these recommended resources on Isaac in the Bible for deeper study:

Receiving the Isaac Promise: Position Yourself for the Fullness of God’s End-Time Outpouring by R.T. Kendall 

Isaac: The Biblical Character Series by James G Whitelaw

ESV – “Scripture quotations are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”

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