Genesis 22:1-19 We can scarcely begin an examination of our text without first noting that Abraham had a son, and this was what God took note of as well. Going back to Genesis 12, God had promised to the childless Abram that he would become a great nation. This is a very significant promise to a man with no children! Particularly when he is already approaching old age, as Abram was at that time. Over the next number of years, Abraham, by the suggestion of his wife (16:1-2) contrived to produce a child by Hagar; but this would not be the promised son. Yet Abraham still had fatherly affection for Ishmael (21:11); so we are reminded that immediately preceding our narrative, Abraham had just lost, in a very real sense, his firstborn son.
So it comes as somewhat of a shock to discover that God has chosen to test Abraham in 22:1-2, by requesting that Abraham return the possession which God has lent him, and which he deeply treasures. In the words of Gordon Wenham, “The introduction… serves to cushion the listener from the full impact of the horrific command to Abraham, and it diverts attention from the question whether Isaac will be sacrificed to whether Abraham will stand up to the test.”[i] But Abraham, as we will discover, has already learned the lesson that what God has given us, he may desire once again; and that which we give to God he may return to us in even greater measure.