Genesis 22: The Sacrifice of Isaac

Old Testament Seminary Student Study Guide, (2002), 27–29

If the Lord asked you to give something up, what would be the one thing hardest for you to let go of? Would you do it? Why? Genesis 22 tells the story of one of the greatest tests God has ever given to anyone. Before reading chapter 22, read what the Lord said to Church members in Doctrine and Covenants 101:4–5. While you read Genesis 22, put yourself in either Abraham’s or Isaac’s place and consider what you would have been thinking at each point in the story.

Understanding the Scriptures

Genesis 22

Clave (v. 3)Cut 
Yonder (v. 5)To another place 
Fearest (v. 12)Reverence, love, and respect 
Thicket (v. 13)Bush, bushes 
Stead (v. 13)Place 
Possess the gate of (v. 17)Have power over 

Genesis 22—Why Did the Lord Ask Abraham to Sacrifice Isaac?

“Why did the Lord ask such things of Abraham? Because, knowing what his future would be and that he would be the father of an innumerable posterity, he was determined to test him. God did not do this for His own sake; for He knew by His foreknowledge what Abraham would do; but the purpose was to impress upon Abraham a lesson, and to enable him to attain unto knowledge that he could not obtain in any other way. That is why God tries all of us. It is not for His own knowledge; for He knows all things beforehand. He knows all your lives and everything you will do. But He tries us for our own good, that we may know ourselves. … He required Abraham to submit to this trial because He intended to give him glory, exaltation and honor; He intended to make him a king and a priest, to share with Himself the glory, power and dominion which He exercised” (George Q. Cannon, in Conference Report, Apr. 1899, 66).

Elder Neal A. Maxwell applied these truths to us when he said our lives “cannot be both faith-filled and stress-free. …

“Therefore, how can you and I really expect to glide naively through life, as if to say, Lord, give me experience, but not grief, not sorrow, not pain, not opposition, not betrayal, and certainly not to be forsaken. Keep from me, Lord, all those experiences which made Thee what Thou art! Then let me come and dwell with Thee and fully share Thy joy!” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1991, 117; or Ensign, May 1991, 88).

The Prophet Joseph Smith suggested that sacrifice is one of the ways we obtain greater faith. For example, how do you think your faith in God would have grown if you had experienced what Abraham had? He would not have grown in faith if he had refused to offer the sacrifice God commanded. Joseph Smith said, “A religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation” (Lectures on Faith [1985], 69).

Genesis 22:14—Where Was Jehovah-jireh and What Does Its Name Mean?

Abraham called the place where he built the sacrificial altar “Jehovah-jireh,” which was a prophecy that the Lord would later be seen on this same mountain. Commonly called Mount Moriah (see Genesis 22:2), this same group of hills was the site of Solomon’s Temple and the Savior’s Crucifixion.

angel stopping Abraham from sacrificing Isaac Christ on the cross

Studying the Scriptures

Do three of the following activities (A–E) as you study Genesis 22.

Activity A iconA Type of Christ

  1. 1.

    Read Jacob 4:3–5 and explain what we learn about the story of Abraham and Isaac.

Abraham and Isaac

The Sacrifice of the Son of God

  1. 2.

    List as many details as you can about the story of Abraham and Isaac that teach us something about the Atonement of Jesus Christ. You may want to organize the information in a chart like the one shown.

Activity B iconFind and Note Examples

  1. 1.

    Make a list of all the evidence you can find in Genesis 22:1–14 that demonstrates Abraham’s obedience, faithfulness, and dedication to God.

  2. 2.

    Choose one item from your list that especially impresses you and write about how you could apply it in your life.

Activity C iconPonder and Write about Sacrifice

  1. 1.

    Why do you think Abraham was willing to offer his son as a sacrifice?

  2. 2.

    What does the Lord ask you to offer as a sacrifice? (see 3 Nephi 9:19–20).

  3. 3.

    Why would a person be willing to offer sacrifices to God?

As you consider your answers to these questions, consider the following teaching of the Prophet Joseph Smith: “For a man to lay down his all, his character and reputation, his honor, and applause, his good name among men, his houses, his lands, his brothers and sisters, his wife and children, and even his own life also … requires more than mere belief … that he is doing the will of God; but actual knowledge, realizing that, when these sufferings are ended, he will enter into eternal rest, and be a partaker of the glory of God” (Lectures on Faith, 68; see also Paul’s teaching in Hebrews 11:17–19).

Activity D iconCompare the Promises

Read the promises of God to Abraham in Genesis 12:2–3; 13:14–16; 15:5; 17:2, 4, 7. Compare them to what God promised Abraham in Genesis 22:15–18. In what ways are they the same or different?

Activity E iconPonder and Write about How Testing and Trying Experiences Strengthen Our Faith

How do trials like this one of Abraham and Isaac strengthen our faith in Christ? Some of the insights in the “Understanding the Scriptures” section may help you answer.