Chapter 22 starts out straight away with the sacrifice of Isaac, or sometimes called the binding of Isaac. This event is the ultimate test of Abraham’s faith, and has many deeper spiritual and theological meanings, especially in the light of the New Testament.
We’re never told exactly how old Isaac is here, but there’s several indicators in the text that he wasn’t a child anymore. Jewish sources and early Christians both agree that he was probably a young man in his 20s or 30s. This is an important detail to consider.
So we begin with God calling Abraham to take his “only son” even though we know he is actually the younger of his two sons, and take him to the mountains of Moriah and offer him as a burnt offering to God. Human sacrifice, even of your own children, was a common practice in Canaan and the other lands of the near east, and it’s likely that Abraham was familiar with this practice. So a deity being appeased with the blood of a child might’ve been foreign to Abraham, but it wouldn’t have been to his neighbors and perhaps his servants.
The fact that Isaac is called the only son, and indeed the “only begotten son” in some translations, is a pretty clear typological allusion when we read it in light of the incarnation. Then there is the mountains of Moriah, the place where Solomon built the temple centuries later.
So Abraham takes some servants, a donkey, and his son, and they depart for the mountains the Lord sent them to. They arrived on the third day, and not to spoil things here but it’s important to not that essentially Isaac was under a sentence of death for three days and on the third day was given back his life. Sounds very family doesn’t it? Abraham reveals his complete and total trust in God when he says to the servants that they are going up the mountain and they’ll return soon. He believed God and His promises to make a great nation from his son Isaac, and he knew this promise couldn’t come to pass if Isaac were to be a burnt offering that day, so Abraham trusted that either God would change the situation or even raise Isaac back from the dead, but either way he was certain that Isaac would live to see the another day.
Abraham then takes the wood for the fire and places it on Isaac to carry up the mountain. This detail is important because it shows that for sure Isaac was at least a late teen, or young adult, because a child opulent have the strength to carry a cord of wood up a mountain. Also it’s important to note that another only son carried the wood that was the means of His death up a mountain as a sacrificial lamb…
When they reach the top Isaac makes an observation that was plainly obvious, but he was probably just seeking for his father to confirm what he already knew. He asked where was the animal that was to be sacrificed. And Abraham said, “God will provide himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” This is foreshadowing of God himself being the lamb some 2000 years later in these very hilltops.
Abraham then binds Isaac, and we often marvel at the faith of Abraham in this moment, but Isaac too is showing great faith in God. Remember that he is apparently much stronger than his father because he was given the heavy lifting to go up the mountain. Also Isaac was probably a young adult, and since Abraham was 100 when he was born, that means he’s at least 120 years old. So it’s not hard to see how anything that happens from this point forward (if Isaac didn’t know that he was to be the sacrifice before he sure does now) is with the complete consent of Isaac. He could easily overpower and disarm his father, he could run away, he could do a whole number of things, but the thing he chooses to do shows his faith is a strong as his father’s. He lies down and allows Abraham to bind him up.
At the last moment an angel appears and calls out to Abraham to stay his hand and not harm his son. He commends him for not withholding his son, and this same phrase is alluded to by Saint Paul in Romans 8:32 and also in the catechism.
Upon receiving this resurrection from the sentence of death, after three days, in Jerusalem, God provided a ram for the sacrifice and this a partial fulfillment of the words of Abraham because when John the Baptist calls Jesus the “Lamb of God” that is pointing towards the ultimate fulfillment.
In the next chapter Sarah passes away and Abraham seeks out a burying place. He obviously had one in mind when he approached the Hittites in Hebron and they offered him any plot to bury Sarah in that he chose, but he insisted on buying land from them instead. When he names a specific piece of property the owner rises up and offers to give it to Abraham. This interaction shows how respected Abraham is among these Hittites who had no cultural or ethnic relation to Abraham. But he insists on buying the land and being it’s legal owner, and as far as we know this is the first piece of property the 137 year old Abraham owned, even though he’s been promised to have the entire land as his family’s possession, but that will not take place for at least 400 years.
Chapter 24 is all about Isaac and Rachel. Abraham is getting old and wants to find a bride for his son, but he doesn’t want him marrying a local Canaanite (this will be officially banned in the Law of Moses a few hundred years down the line. See Deuteronomy 7).
When the servant is tasked with making this marriage happen he asks what he is to do if he can’t get one of the woman from Abraham’s people to return with him, and Abraham tells him in that case he is released from this oath but he must never take his son back to Mesopotamia. Isaac must remain in the land promised to his descendants.
When the servant arrives in the land of Abraham’s brother he stops at a well to water his animals. The meeting of a bride at the well takes place several more times in the Old Testament with Jacob and Moses, and also is analogous to the meeting of Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well in John’s gospel. He prays to God and asks for a specific sign and when Rebecca comes to get water he asks he for a drink and she responded exactly as he asked God to give him as a sign. He then asks who’s daughter she is and he’s flabbergasted to hear she’s the granddaughter of Abraham’s brother.
Rebecca runs back home and tells her family what’s happening, and the writer here specifically tells us that her brother notices the rings and bracelets the servant gave to his sister and he runs out to meet him. Her brother was named Laban, and he shows back up again a few chapters from now, and let’s just say he isn’t a good guy. After the servant recounts the whole story they agree to allow Rebecca marry this man, and in celebration the servant gives her family “many costly ornaments.”
The next morning when he asks to leave the family tries to delay him for ten days. This could be completely innocent and come from a desire to spend more time with her before she departed for a far away land, possibly to never be seen again. But given what Laban does to his nephew/son-in-law a few decades from now and how he eyeballed the golden goods that the servant obviously had plenty of, I’d say he wanted more time to find a way to separate the servant from his goods.
But he was insisting on leaving immediately and Rebecca agreed and they mounted the camels and rode off into the sunset heading for Canaan. When they arrive we notice that Isaac is out in a field praying and communing with God. This shows how deep of a faith and relationship he had with God, and reinforces the idea that Isaac had a faith equal to or greater than that of his father.