Abraham’s life takes up a good portion of Genesis, from our first meeting in Genesis 11:26 to his death. We know much about Abraham’s life aside from his birth and early life. When we meet Abraham, he’s 75. Genesis 11:28 tells us of Abraham’s father, Terah, who moved his family to Haran in northern Mesopotamia. God called Abraham from his home to Haran, telling him to go to a land God would show him. God also makes three promises to Abraham.
These promises form what we’ll later know as the Abrahamic Covenant created in Genesis 15. What truly makes Abraham unique is that he obeyed God. Genesis 12:4 says that after God called Abraham, he did what God told him. Hebrews’ author uses Abraham as an example multiple times, referring to this impressive act, specifically detailed in Hebrews 11:8. How many people would leave behind everything and just go without knowing the destination? Family meant everything to those living in Abraham’s time.
Families were closely knit at that time, so it was unusual for family members to live miles apart. Additionally, we’re not told anything about Abraham’s religious life and family before his calling. The people in Haran and Ur worshipped the moon god Sin, so God called Abraham from the pagan culture. He knew and recognized Yahweh’s call and obeyed willingly without hesitation. Another example of Abraham’s faithful life comes after the birth of his son, Isaac. Abraham and Sarah didn’t have children, but God promised they would have a son.
This son would be the heir of Abraham’s fortune with which God blessed him, and he would be the heir of promise, continuing Seth’s godly line. Abraham believed, and that faith is credited to him as righteousness. In Genesis 17, God reiterates His promise and Abraham’s faith is rewarded with Isaac’s birth in Genesis 21. Abraham’s faith was tested regarding Isaac. God commanded Abraham to sacrifice Isaac on the top of Mount Moriah in Genesis 22. We don’t know Abraham’s internal reaction to this command, but we see Abraham faithfully obeyed God, who was good and gracious to him up to this point.
As he did with the earlier command, Abraham obeyed. The story ends with God stopping Abraham from sacrificing Isaac, but imagine how he must have felt. He waited years for a son, and the God who promised this son to him was about to take him away. So, how old was Isaac when Abraham was called to sacrifice him?
How old was Isaac when Abraham almost sacrificed him?
The Bible doesn’t specify how old Isaac was when he and his father trekked to Mount Moriah for the sacrifice. Because of the Bible’s silence, we can acknowledge that his age doesn’t concern our interpretation of the passage or our grasp of the lesson God wants us to learn. Still, to help satisfy curiosity, we can find clues about Isaac’s age in the Bible. One clue is found in Genesis 22:7, where Isaac notices fire and wood but, seeing no animal, asks his father about it, implying that Isaac was old enough to know the proper sacrificial process and was wise enough to ask about it.
This clue doesn’t tell us much about his age, though, since even a young child might have noticed this. The chronology of Sarah’s life suggests some limits. Sarah birthed Isaac when she was 90 years old. She sent Ishmael away before the Mount Moriah incident after Isaac was weaned, as detailed in Genesis 21:8-10. Typically, weaning occurs somewhere between the ages of 2 and 5. Sarah died when she was 127, sometime after the Mount Moriah incident, meaning Isaac was between 6 and 37 when he was recommended as a sacrifice.
The phrases “some time later” and “a long time” in Genesis 21:34 and Genesis 22:1 suggest that some time passed between Isaac’s birth and the voyage to Mount Moriah. So Isaac wasn’t an older man when he was offered as a sacrifice, but he wasn’t a toddler either. Another clue regarding Isaac’s age comes from Genesis 22:2, where Abraham is told to go to Mount Moriah, a three to four-day journey. The distance to be traveled suggests that Isaac was old enough to care for himself and help care for his elderly father on the trip.
The term “lad” or “boy” used to refer to Isaac in Genesis 21:5 is translated from a Hebrew term that doesn’t necessarily refer to a young boy. Instead, the term encompasses many meanings, from a baby to a young man. It can even refer to a servant or steward and a junior officer. In Genesis 22:5, the servants accompanying Isaac and Abraham are called “young men.” The word translated “young men” is the same used for Isaac in verses 5 and 12. Perhaps the most valuable clue to Isaac’s age is Genesis 22:6. As the father and son climb the mountain, Isaac carries a large pile of wood. The amount of wood for a burnt sacrifice would’ve been relatively heavy.
This fact tells us Isaac wasn’t a small child when he was almost sacrificed, so he had to be at least a healthy teenager. Isaac’s age also adds a remarkable dimension to the tale. If he was strong enough to carry the wood up Mount Moriah, he was likely strong enough to resist sacrifice and fend off his father if he wanted to. The fact that Isaac allowed himself to be bound and put on the altar shows he continued to trust his father. Taking in all of the evidence, we can assume that Isaac was a young man when he was almost sacrificed.
We can learn from Abraham’s life that we should live a life of faith. He took Isaac to Mount Moriah because he knew God was faithful and would keep his promises. Abraham’s faith wasn’t blind but a settled assurance to trust in the One who had proved Himself trustworthy and faithful. Looking back on our lives, we would see God’s hand all over it. God doesn’t have to speak through burning bushes or send angels to be active in our lives. He is orchestrating and superintending the events of our lives. It may not always seem that way, but Abraham’s life shows God’s presence in our lives is real.