The Significance of the Lamb in Genesis 22

by Matt Sieger | March 27 2013

In the synagogue on Rosh Hashanah, it is traditional to recite the Akedah, the story in Genesis 22 of Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his only son, Isaac.

God told Abraham, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you” (v. 2). “Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife” (v. 6).

God himself will provide the lamb.

As the two of them went together, Isaac asked his father, “Where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” And Abraham responded, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son” (vv. 7­–8).

Then, just as Abraham was about to sacrifice his son, God called out for him to stop. Abraham saw a ram with his horns caught in a thicket. He sacrificed the ram instead of Isaac. Then we read:

So Abraham called that place, The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, ‘On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided (v. 14).

On Rosh Hashanah, the shofar is sounded to waken the soul to the need of repentance. The shofar is a ram’s horn, reminding us of the ram Abraham sacrificed on Mount Moriah.

Abraham told Isaac that God would provide a lamb. But God provided a ram. Did Abraham get it wrong? Maybe not.

The prophet Isaiah wrote about someone who, like Isaac, would not resist the sentence of death: “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth” (Isaiah 53:7).

Who was this lamb? Some 700 years later, another prophet, John the Baptizer, said of Jesus, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).

Could this be the lamb that Abraham had envisioned when he told Isaac that God would provide the lamb? Jesus told the Jewish religious leaders, “Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad” (John 8:56).

Did Abraham foresee that Jesus would be crucified near Mount Moriah, where Abraham had sacrificed the ram in Isaac’s place?

God provided a ram to rescue Isaac from physical death. But He provided Jesus the Lamb to rescue us from spiritual death—eternal separation from God.

The book of Hebrews in the New Testament says:

By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death. (Hebrews 11:17-19)

According to the New Testament, Jesus, God’s one and only son, literally came back from death after three days in the grave. That gives all who believe in Him the hope of resurrection after this life.