For other people of this name, see Isaac (disambiguation).


Isaac digging for the wells, imagined in a Bible illustration (c. 1900)

Prophet, Seer, Second Hebrew Patriarch, Father of Israel, Holy Forefather
Born Canaan
Died Canaan
Honored in Judaism

Christianity Islam

Major shrine Cave of the Patriarchs, Hebron
Influences His father Abraham
Influenced Jacob, the Twelve Tribes of Israel as well as many Jews, Christians and Muslims

Isaac (English pronunciation: /ˈaɪzək/;[1] Hebrew: יִצְחָק, Modern Yitsẖak Tiberian Yiṣḥāq, ISO 259-3 Yiçḥaq, "he will laugh"; Yiddish: יצחק, Yitskhok; Ancient Greek: Ἰσαάκ, Isaak; Latin: Isaac; Arabic: إسحٰق‎ or Arabic: إسحاق‎ ʼIsḥāq) as described in the Hebrew Bible, was the only son Abraham had with his wife Sarah, and was the father of Jacob and Esau. Isaac was one of the three patriarchs of the Israelites. According to the Book of Genesis, Abraham was 100 years old when Isaac was born, and Sarah was beyond childbearing years.

Isaac was the only Biblical patriarch whose name was not changed, and the only one who did not leave Canaan. Compared to those of Abraham and Jacob, Isaac's story relates fewer incidents of his life. He died when he was 180 years old, making him the longest-lived patriarch.


[hide]*1 Etymology

[edit] EtymologyEdit

The anglicized name Isaac is a transliteration of the Hebrew term Yiṣḥāq which literally means "He laughs/will laugh."[2] Ugaritic texts dating from the 13th century BCE refer to the benevolent smile of the Canaanite deity El.[3] Genesis, however, ascribes the laughter to Isaac's mother Sarah rather than El.[3] According to the Biblical narrative, Sarah laughed privately when Elohim imparted to Abraham the news of their son's eventual birth. Sarah laughed because she was past the age of childbearing; both she and Abraham were advanced in age.[4][5]

[edit] Isaac in GenesisEdit

The account of Isaac from the Book of Genesis

Isaac is mentioned by name 80 times in Genesis.

[edit] Birth of IsaacEdit

It was prophesied to the patriarch Abraham that he would have a son and that his name should be called Isaac. When Abraham became one hundred years old, this son was born to him by his first wife Sarah.[6] Though this was Abraham's second son[7] it was Sarah’s first and only child.

On the eighth day from his birth, Isaac was circumcised, as was necessary for all males of Abraham's household, in order to be in compliance with Yahweh's covenant.[8]

After Isaac had been weaned, Sarah saw Ishmael mocking, and urged her husband to banish Hagar and Ishmael so that Isaac would be Abraham's only heir. Abraham was hesitant, but at God's order he listened to his wife's request.[9]

[edit] Binding of IsaacEdit

Main article: Binding of IsaacSee also: Abraham and IsaacAt some point in Isaac's youth, his father Abraham brought him to mount Moriah. At Yahweh's command to Abraham, he was to build a sacrificial altar and sacrifice his son Isaac upon it. After binding his son to the altar and drawing his knife to kill him, in the very last moment an angel of Yahweh prevented Abraham from proceeding. Rather, he was directed to sacrifice a nearby ram instead. This event served as a test of Abraham's faith to Yahweh, not as an actual human sacrifice.[10] [2][3]The birth of Esau and Jacob, as painted by Benjamin West===[edit] Family life=== When Isaac was 40, Abraham sent Eliezer, his steward, into Mesopotamia to find a wife for Isaac, from his nephew Bethuel's family. Eliezer chose Rebekah for Isaac. After many years of marriage to Isaac, Rebekah had still not given birth to a child and was believed to be barren. Isaac prayed for her and she conceived. Rebekah gave birth to twin boys, Esau and Jacob. Isaac was 60 years old when his two sons were born. Isaac favored Esau, and Rebekah favored Jacob.[11]

[edit] OccupationEdit

Around the age of 75, Isaac moved to Beer-lahai-roi after his father died.[12] When the land experienced famine, he removed to the Philistine land of Gerar where his father once lived. This land was still under the control of King Abimelech as it was in the days of Abraham. Like his father, Isaac also deceived Abimelech about his wife and also got into the well business. He had gone back to all of the wells that his father dug and saw that they were all stopped up with earth. The Philistines did this after Abraham died. So, Isaac unearthed them and began to dig for more wells all the way to Beersheba, where he made a pact with Abimelech, just like in the day of his father.[13] [4][5]Isaac blessing his son,as painted by Giotto di Bondone===[edit] Birthright=== Isaac grew old and became blind. He called his son Esau and directed him to procure some venison for him, in order to receive Isaac's blessing. While Esau was hunting, Jacob deceptively, after listening to his mother's advice misrepresented himself as Esau to his blind father and obtained his father's blessing, making Jacob Isaac's primary heir, and leaving Esau in an inferior position. Isaac sent Jacob into Mesopotamia to take a wife of his own family so, he can start a family of his own. After 20 years working for Laban, Jacob returned home, and reconciled with his twin brother Esau, then he and Esau buried Isaac when Isaac died at the age of 180.[5][14]

[edit] Other referencesEdit

[edit] Isaac in the New TestamentEdit

In the New Testament, there are references to Isaac having been "offered up" by his father, and to his blessing his sons.[15] Paul contrasted Isaac, symbolizing Christian liberty, with the rejected older son Ishmael, symbolizing slavery;[3][16] Hagar is associated with the Sinai covenant, while Sarah is associated with the covenant of grace, into which her son Isaac enters.The Epistle of James chapter 2, verses 21-24[17] states that the sacrifice of Isaac shows that justification (in the Johannine sense) requires both faith and works.[18]

In the early Christian church, Abraham's willingness to follow God's command to sacrifice Isaac was used as an example of faith[19] and of obedience.[20][21] The Epistle to the Hebrews chapter 11, verse 19[22] views the release of Isaac from sacrifice as analogous to the resurrection of Jesus, the idea of the sacrifice of Isaac being a prefigure of the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.

[edit] Isaac in the Qur'anEdit

Like many of the biblical Hebrew patriarchs and prophets, the Qur'an mentions Isaac as a righteous man of God. Isaac (and Jacob) are mentioned as being bestowed upon Abraham as gifts of God, who then worshipped God only and were righteous leaders in the way of God: And We bestowed on him Isaac and, as an additional gift, (a grandson), Jacob, and We made righteous men of every one (of them).
And We made them leaders, guiding (men) by Our Command, and We sent them inspiration to do good deeds, to establish regular prayers, and to practise regular charity; and they constantly served Us (and Us only).—Qur'an, sura 21 (Al-Anbiya), ayah 72-73[23]===[edit] Testament of Isaac=== Main article: Testament of IsaacThe Testament of Isaac is a pseudonymous text which was most likely composed in Greek in Egypt after 100 CE. It is also dependent on the Testament of Abraham. In this testament, God sends the archangel Michael to Isaac in order to inform him of his impending death. Isaac accepts God's decree but Jacob resists. Isaac in his bed-chamber tells Jacob of the inevitability of death. Isaac has a tour of heaven and hell shortly before his death in which God's compassion to repentant sinners is emphasized. In this testament, Isaac also talks with the crowds on the subjects of priesthood, asceticism, and the moral life.[24]

[edit] World viewsEdit

[6][7]Isaac embraces his father Abraham after the Binding of Isaac, early 1900s Bible illustrationThe early Christian church viewed Abraham's willingness to follow God's command to sacrifice Isaac as an example of faith and obedience. For Christians, Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son is a "type and shadow" of God's willingness to sacrifice his only son, Jesus.

Islam considers Isaac as a prophet of Islam, and describes him as the father of the Israelites and a righteous servant of God.

Some academic scholars have described Isaac as "a legendary figure", while others view him as "a figure representing tribal history, though as a historical individual" or as "a seminomadic leader".[25]

[edit] Documentary hypothesisEdit

The name Isaac occurs 32 times in the Hebrew Bible.[2] Variations of the formula "Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob" occur 23 times in the Hebrew Bible.[24] According to the documentary hypothesis, use of names of God indicates authorship, and form critics variously assign passages like Genesis chapter 26, verses 6-11[26] to the Yahwist source, and Genesis chapter 20 verses 1-7, chapter 21, verse 1 to chapter 22, verse 14 and chapter 22, verse 19[27] to the Elohist source; this source-critical approach has admitted problems, in that the name "Yahweh" appears in Elohist material.[28] According to the compilation hypothesis, the formulaic use of the word toledoth (generations) indicates that Genesis chapter 11, verse 27 to chapter 25, verse 19[29] is Isaac's record through Abraham's death (with Ishmael's record appended), and Genesis chapter 25, verse 19 to chapter 37, verse 2[30] is Jacob's record through Isaac's death (with Esau's records appended).[31]

[edit] Jewish viewsEdit

[8][9]Isaac Blessing Jacob, painting by Govert Flinck (Rijksmuseum Amsterdam)In rabbinical tradition the age of Isaac at the time of binding is taken to be 37 which contrasts with common portrayals of Isaac as a child.[32] The rabbis also thought that the reason for the death of Sarah was the news of the intended sacrifice of Isaac.[32] The sacrifice of Isaac is cited in appeals for the mercy of God in later Jewish traditions.[21] The post-Biblical Jewish interpretations often elaborate the role of Isaac beyond the Biblical description and largely focus on Abraham's intended sacrifice of Isaac, called the aqedah ("binding").[3] According to a version of these interpretations, Isaac died in the sacrifice and was revived.[3] According to many accounts of Aggadah, unlike the Bible, it is Satan who is testing Isaac and not God.[33] Isaac's willingness to follow God's command at the cost of his death has been a model for many Jews who preferred martyrdom to violation of the Jewish law.[32]

According to the Jewish tradition Isaac instituted the afternoon prayer. This tradition is based on Genesis chapter 24, verse 63[34] ("Isaac went out to meditate in the field at the eventide").[32]

Isaac was the only patriarch who stayed in Canaan during his whole life and though once he tried to leave, God told him not to do so.[35] Rabbinic tradition gave the explanation that Isaac was almost sacrificed and anything dedicated as a sacrifice may not leave the Land of Israel.[32] Isaac was the oldest of the Biblical patriarchs at the time of his death, and the only patriarch whose name was not changed.[3][15]

Rabbinic literature also linked Isaac's blindness in old age, as stated in the Bible, to the sacrificial binding: Isaac's eyes went blind because the tears of angels present at the time of his sacrifice fell on Isaac's eyes.[33]

[edit] Islamic viewsEdit

Main article: Islamic view of IsaacIsaac (Arabic:إسحٰق‎, Ishaq) is revered by Muslims to be a prophet and the patriarch of Islam. Isaac, along with Ishmael, is highly important for Muslims for continuing to preach the message of monotheism after his father Abraham. Among Isaac's children was the follow-up Israelite patriarch Jacob, who too is venerated an Islamic prophet.

Isaac is mentioned fifteen times by name in the Qur'an, often with his father and his son, Jacob.[36] The Qur'an states that Abraham received "good tidings of Isaac, a prophet, of the righteous", and that God blessed them both (XXXVII: 12). In a fuller description, when angels came to Abraham to tell him of the future punishment to be imposed on Sodom and Gomorrah, his wife, Sarah, "laughed, and We gave her good tidings of Isaac, and after Isaac of (a grandson) Jacob" (XI: 71-74); and it is further explained that this event will take place despite Abraham and Sarah's old age. Several verses speak of Isaac as a "gift" to Abraham (VI: 84; XIX: 49-50), and XXIX: 26-27 adds that God made "prophethood and the Book to be among his offspring", which has been interpreted to refer to Abraham's two prophetic sons, his prophetic grandson Jacob, and his prophetic great-grandson Joseph. In the Qur'an, it later narrates that Abraham also praised God for giving him Ishmael and Isaac in his old age (XIV: 39-41).

Elsewhere in the Qur'an, Isaac is mentioned in lists: Joseph follows the religion of his forefathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (XII: 38) and speaks of God's favor to them (XII: 6); Jacob's sons all testify their faith and promise to worship the God that their forefathers, "Abraham, Ishmael and Isaac", worshiped (II: 127); and the Qur'an commands Muslims to believe in the revelations that were given to "Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob and the Patriarchs" (II: 136; III: 84). In the Qur'an's narrative of Abraham's near-sacrifice of his son (XXXVII: 102), the name of the son is not mentioned and debate has continued over the son's identity, though many feel that the identity is the least important element in a story which is given to show the courage that one develops through faith.[37]

[edit] Western scholarly viewsEdit

Some scholars have described Isaac as "a legendary figure" while others view him "as a figure representing tribal history, though as a historical individual" or "as a seminomadic leader."[25]

The stories of Isaac, like other patriarchal stories of Genesis, are generally believed in liberal Western scholarship to have "their origin in folk memories and oral traditions of the early Hebrew pastoralist experience."[38] Conservative Western scholarship believes the stories of Isaac, and other patriarchal stories in Genesis, to be factual. The Cambridge Companion to the Bible makes the following comment on the Biblical stories of the patriarchs: Yet for all that these stories maintain a distance between their world and that of their time of literary growth and composition, they reflect the political realities of the later periods. Many of the narratives deal with the relationship between the ancestors and peoples who were part of Israel’s political world at the time the stories began to be written down (eighth century B.C.E.). Lot is the ancestor of the Transjordanian peoples of Ammon and Moab, and Ishmael personifies the nomadic peoples known to have inhabited north Arabia, although located in the Old Testament in the Negev. Esau personifies Edom (36:1), and Laban represents the Aramean states to Israel’s north. A persistent theme is that of difference between the ancestors and the indigenous Canaanites… In fact, the theme of the differences between Judah and Israel, as personified by the ancestors, and the neighboring peoples of the time of the monarchy is pressed effectively into theological service to articulate the choosing by God of Judah and Israel to bring blessing to all peoples.”[39]According to Martin Noth, a scholar of the Hebrew Bible, the narratives of Isaac date back to an older cultural stage than that of the West-Jordanian Jacob.[25] At that era, the Israelite tribes were not yet sedentary. In the course of looking for grazing areas, they had come in contact in southern Palestine with the inhabitants of the settled countryside.[25] The Biblical historian, A. Jopsen, believes in the connection between the Isaac traditions and the north and in support of this theory adduces Amos 7:9 ("the high places of Isaac").[25]

Albrecht Alt and Martin Noth hold that, "The figure of Isaac was enhanced when the theme of promise, previously bound to the cults of the 'God the Fathers' was incorporated into the Israelite creed during the southern-Palestinian stage of the growth of the Pentateuch tradition."[25] According to Martin Noth, at the Southern Palestinian stage of the growth of the Pentateuch tradition, Isaac became established as one of the Biblical patriarchs, but his traditions were receded in the favor of Abraham.[25]

[edit] In artEdit

The earliest Christian portrayal of Isaac is found in the Roman catacomb frescoes.[40] Excluding the fragments, Alison Moore Smith classifies these artistic works in three categories: "Abraham leads Isaac towards the altar; or Isaac approaches with the bundle of sticks, Abraham having preceded him to the place of offering .... Abraham is upon a pedestal and Isaac stands near at hand, both figures in orant attitude .... Abraham is shown about to sacrifice Isaac while the latter stands or kneels on the ground beside the altar. Sometimes Abraham grasps Isaac by the hair. Occasionally the ram is added to the scene and in the later paintings the Hand of God emerges from above."[40]==[edit] See also==

[edit] NotesEdit

  1. ^ Wells, John C. (1990). Longman pronunciation dictionary. Harlow, England: Longman. p. 378. ISBN 0582053838. entry "Isaac"
  2. ^ a b Strong's Concordance, Strong, James, ed., Isaac, Isaac's, 3327 יִצְחָק 3446, 2464.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Encyclopedia of Religion, Isaac.
  4. ^ Encyclopaedia Britannica, Sarah.
  5. ^ a b Jewish Encyclopedia, Isaac.
  6. ^ Genesis 18:10–12
  7. ^ Genesis 16:15
  8. ^ Genesis 21:1–5
  9. ^ Genesis 21:8–12
  10. ^ Genesis 22
  11. ^ Genesis 25:20–28
  12. ^ Genesis 25:11
  13. ^ Genesis 26
  14. ^ Genesis 35:28–29
  15. ^ a b Easton, M. G., Illustrated Bible Dictionary, 3rd ed., Isaac.
  16. ^ Galatians 4:21–31
  17. ^ James 2:21–24
  18. ^ Encyclopedia of Christianity, Bowden, John, ed., Isaac.
  19. ^ Hebrews 11:17
  20. ^ James 2:21
  21. ^ a b Encyclopaedia Britannica, Isaac.
  22. ^ Hebrews 11:19
  23. ^ Qur'an 21:72
  24. ^ a b Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible, Isaac, p. 647.
  25. ^ a b c d e f g Eerdmans Encyclopedia of Christianity, Isaac, p. 744.
  26. ^ Genesis 26:6–11
  27. ^ Genesis. 20:1–7, 21:1–22:14, 22:19
  28. ^ Collins, John J. (2007). A Short Introduction to the Hebrew Bible. Fortress Press. p. 49. ISBN 9780800662073.
  29. ^ Genesis 11:27–25:19
  30. ^ Genesis 25:19–37:2
  31. ^ Morris, Henry M. (1976). The Genesis Record: A Scientific and Devotional Commentary on the Book of Beginnings. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House. pp. 26–30. ISBN 0801060044.
  32. ^ a b c d e The New Encyclopedia of Judaism, Isaac.
  33. ^ a b Brock, Sebastian P., Brill's New Pauly, Isaac.
  34. ^ Genesis 24:63
  35. ^ Genesis 26:2
  36. ^ Encyclopedia of Islam, W. Montgomery Watt, Isaac
  37. ^ Concise Encyclopedia of Islam, C. Glasse, Isaac
  38. ^ Columbia Encyclopedia, Isaac.
  39. ^ The Cambridge Companion to the Bible, p. 59.
  40. ^ a b Smith, Alison Moore (1922). "The Iconography of the Sacrifice of Isaac in Early Christian Art". American Journal of Archaeology 26 (2): 159–173. doi:10.2307/497708.

[edit] ReferencesEdit

  • Browning, W.R.F (1996). A dictionary of the Bible. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0192116916.
  • Paul Lagasse, Lora Goldman, Archie Hobson, Susan R. Norton, ed (2000). The Columbia Encyclopedia (6th ed.). Gale Group. ISBN 978-1-59339-236-9.
  • P.J. Bearman, Th. Bianquis, C.E. Bosworth, E. van Donzel, W.P. Heinrichs, ed. Encyclopaedia of Islam Online. Brill Academic Publishers. ISSN 1573-3912.
  • Erwin Fahlbusch, William Geoffrey Bromiley, ed (2001). Encyclopedia of Christianity (1st ed.). Eerdmans Publishing Company, and Brill. ISBN 0-8028-2414-5.
  • John Bowden, ed (2005). Encyclopedia of Christianity (1st ed.). Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-522393-4.
  • The New Encyclopedia Britannica. Encyclopedia Britannica, Incorporated; Rev Ed edition. 2005. ISBN 978-1-59339-236-9.
  • Jane Dammen McAuliffe, ed (2005). Encyclopedia of the Qur'an. Brill Academic Publishers. ISBN 978-90-04-12356-4.
  • Geoffrey Wigoder, ed (2002). The New Encyclopedia of Judaism (2nd ed.). New York University Press. ISBN 978-0-8147-9388-6.
  • Lindsay Jones, ed (2005). Encyclopedia of Religion (2nd ed.). MacMillan Reference Books. ISBN 978-0-02-865733-2.
  • David Noel Freedman, Allen C. Myers, Astrid B. Beck, ed (2000). Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible (1st ed.). Wm. B. Eerdmans. ISBN 978-0-8028-2400-4.

[edit] External linksEdit

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