on Hebrews 11 :19
To raise him up, even from the dead - Abraham staggered not at the promise through unbelief, but was strong in faith, giving glory to God. The resurrection of the dead must have been a doctrine of the patriarchs; they expected a heavenly inheritance, they saw they died as did other men, and they must have known that they could not enjoy it but in consequence of a resurrection from the dead.
He received him in a figure - Εν παραβολῃ· In my discourse on parabolical writing at the end of Matthew 13, I have shown (signification #9) that παραβολη sometimes means a daring exploit, a jeoparding of the life; and have referred to this place. I think it should be so understood here, as pointing out the very imminent danger he was in of losing his life. The clause may therefore be thus translated: "Accounting that God was able to raise him up from the dead, from whence he had received him, he being in the most imminent danger of losing his life." It is not, therefore, the natural deadness of Abraham and Sarah to which the apostle alludes, but the death to which Isaac on this occasion was exposed, and which he escaped by the immediate interference of God.
on Hebrews 11 :19
Accounting that God was able to raise him up even from the dead - And that he would do it; for so Abraham evidently believed, and this idea is plainly implied in the whole narrative. There was no other way in which the promise could be fulfilled; and Abraham reasoned justly in the case. He had received the promise of a numerous posterity. He had been told expressly that it was to be through this favorite child. He was now commanded to put him to death as a sacrifice, and he prepared to do it. To fulfil these promises, therefore, there was no other way possible but for him to be raised up from the dead, and Abraham fully believed that it would be done. The child had been given to him at first in a supernatural manner, and he was prepared, therefore, to believe that he would be restored to him again by miracle. He did not doubt that be who had given him to him in a manner at first so contrary to all human probability, could restore him again in a method as extraordinary. He, therefore, anticipated that he would raise him up immediately from the dead. That this was the expectation of Abraham is apparent from the narrative in Genesis 22:5, "And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you;" in the plural - ונּשׁובּה אליכם wanaashuwbaah 'alēykem - "and we will return;" that is, I and Isaac will return, for no other persons went with them, Hebrews 11:6. As Abraham went with the full expectation of sacrificing Isaac, and as he expected Isaac to return with him, it follows that he believed that God would raise him up immediately from the dead.
From whence also he received him in a figure - There has been great difference of opinion as to the sense of this passage, but it seems to me to be plain. The obvious interpretation is that he then received him by his being raised up from the altar as if from the dead. He was to Abraham dead. He had given him up. He had prepared to offer him as a sacrifice. He lay there before him as one who was dead From that altar he was raised up by direct divine interposition, as if he was raised from the grave, and this was to Abraham a "figure" or a representation of the resurrection. Other interpretations may be seen in Stuart in loc. - The following circumstances will illustrate the strength of Abraham's faith in this remarkable transaction.
(1) the strong persuasion on his mind that God had commanded this. In a case of this nature - where such a sacrifice was required - how natural would it have been for a more feeble faith to have doubted whether the command came from God! It might have been suggested to such a mind that this must be a delusion, or a temptation of Satan; that God "could not" require such a thing; and that whatever might be the appearance of a divine command in the case, there must be some deception about it. Yet Abraham does not appear to have reasoned about it at all, or to have allowed the strong feelings of a father to come in to modify his conviction that God had commanded him to give up his son. What an example is this to us! And how ready should we be to yield up a son - an only son - when God comes himself and removes him from us.
(2) the strength of his faith was seen in the fact that in obedience to the simple command of God, all the strong feelings of a father were overcome. On the one hand there were his warm affections for an only son; and on the other there was the simple command of God. They came in collision - but Abraham did not hesitate a moment. The strong paternal feeling was sacrificed at once. What an example this too for us! When the command of God and our own attachments come into collision, we should not hesitate a moment. God is to be obeyed. His command and arrangements are to be yielded to, though most tender ties are rent asunder, and though the heart bleeds.
(3) the strength of his faith was seen in the fact, that, in obedience to the command of God, he resolved to do what in the eyes of the world would be regarded as a most awful crime. There is no crime of a higher grade than the murder of a son by the hand of a father. So it is now estimated by the world, and so it would have been in the time of Abraham. All the laws of God and of society appeared to be against the act which Abraham was about to commit, and he went forth not ignorant of the estimate which the world would put on this deed if it were known. How natural in such circumstances would it have been to argue that God could not possibly give such a command; that it was against all the laws of heaven and earth; that there was required in this what God and man alike must and would pronounce to be wrong and abominable! Yet Abraham did not hesitate. The command of God in the case was to his mind a sufficient proof that this was right - and it should teach us that whatever our Maker commands us should be done - no matter what may be the estimate affixed to it by human laws, and no matter how it may be regarded by the world.
(4) the strength of his faith was seen in the fact that there was a positive promise of God to himself which would seem to be frustrated by what he was about to do. God had expressly promised to him a numerous posterity, and had said that it was to be through this son. How could this be if he was put to death as a sacrifice? And how could God command such a thing when his promise was thus positive? Yet Abraham did not hesitate. It was not for him to reconcile these things; it was his to obey. He did not doubt that somehow all that God had said would prove to be true; and as he saw but one way in which it could be done - by his being immediately restored to life - he concluded that that was to be the way. So when God utters his will to us, it is ours simply to obey. It is not to inquire in what way his commands or revealed truth can be reconciled with other things. He will himself take care of that. It is ours at once to yield to what he commands, and to believe that somehow all that he has required and said will be consistent with everything else which he has uttered.
(5) the strength of the faith of Abraham was seen in his belief that God would raise his son from the dead. Of that he had no doubt. But what evidence had he of that? It had not been promised. No case of the kind had ever occurred; and the subject was attended with all the difficulties which attend it now. But Abraham believed it; for, first, there was no other way in which the promise of God could be fulfilled; and second, such a thing would be no more remarkable than what had already occurred. It was as easy for God to raise him from the dead as it was to give him at first contrary to all the probabilities of the case, and he did not, therefore, doubt that it would be so. Is it less easy for us to believe the doctrine of the resurrection than it was for Abraham? Is the subject attended with more difficulties now than it was then? The faith of Abraham in this remarkable instance shows us that the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead, not withstanding the limited revelations then enjoyed, and all the obvious difficulties of the case, was early believed in the world; and as those difficulties are no greater now, and as new light has been shed upon it by subsequent revelations, and especially as in more than one instance the dead have been actually raised, those difficulties should not be allowed to make us doubt it now.
on Hebrews 11 :19
11:19 Accounting that God was able even to raise him from the dead - Though there had not been any instance of this in the world. From whence also - To speak in a figurative way. He did receive him - Afterwards, snatched from the jaws of death.