In the study of the Old Testament, we recognize many beautiful examples that enable us to understand the New. From the beginning of time, God has shown His promise of salvation to His people through historical events. When studying the Bible it is important to remember that the stories they contain are not stories of fantasy, but a record of God reaching down to humanity and drawing us back to Him. In understanding the foreshadowing of salvific events, we come to a deeper appreciation for Christ and the Church. The purpose of this essay is to discover how the events in Genesis 22 foreshadow the work of Christ in the new Covenant.
Chapter 22 of Genesis opens with God testing Abraham by commanding him to go and sacrifice his only son. “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love…and offer him there as a burnt offering upon one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” (Gen. 22:2) Abraham immediately obeyed; he rose early, prepared the wood and went with Isaac to the place that God had told him. Isaac carried the wood to the place of the offering. I believe that it is impossible to fully understand Abraham’s anguish; Isaac was the son whom he loved, and now God asked for his death. We can only imagine the extent of Isaac’s distress in being forsaken by the father who loved him.
In these verses we find a clear foreshadowing of the Passion of Christ. Jesus is the Son of God; the beloved only Son of God. Through the prefigurement of Abraham and Issac we are given, perhaps, a slight glimpse of the sorrow God must have felt in sending His Son to us. We took Jesus onto a hill, making Him carry the wood for His death. As we see in Matt. 27:46, Christ experienced the greatest extent of distress and forsakenness.
“…Isaac said to his father Abraham…‘Behold, the fire and the wood; but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?’ Abraham said, ‘God will provide himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.’ ” (Gen. 22:7-8) In this we see perfect obedience and trust in the love of the Father. There is a love that is greater than mere personal affection; the culmination of love, which trusts and rests in God.
God has provided a lamb! Just as the ram was provided and offered as a sacrifice of thanksgiving, Christ is the Lamb that has become our sacrifice of thanksgiving that we offer in the Eucharist. The sacrifice of the cross is perpetuated throughout the ages (CCC 1323); we find the perfection of love in this sacrifice of the new Covenant that is necessary to restore justice.
Isaac was spared on the third day (cf. Gen. 22:4). On the third day, Christ rose from the dead, bringing salvation to all souls. Upon the completion of the sacrifice of the ram, the Lord gave his promise to Abraham that he and all his descendants would be blessed because of his obedience. In the new Covenant, the Lamb of God has been sacrificed; we have received the promise of blessing through the Church because of Christ’s obedience unto death.
In understanding Genesis 22 as a prefigurement of the Passion and Resurrection, we see an example of the perfection and continuous revelation of God’s plan of salvation. We see the love that God has for the world, and understand that this love has been from the beginning of time. From the old Covenant with Abraham and Isaac into the new Covenant with Christ, we see the constant requirement for love and justice; and how when justice has been attained, the blessings of God’s love overflows.