4

I would like to know, if possible, at least the approximate age of Isaac when Abraham offered him as a sacrifice to God. Based on Abraham's advanced age, it would seem that Isaac did not resist in being bound to the wood. Also, it seems that he was no toddler since he helped carry the wood that he was to be bound to.

Has a reasonable estimate of Isaac's age ever been ascertained at the time of his sacrificial offering to God?

Thank you.

4 Answers 4

5

The top-rated answer to How old was Isaac when he was offered up by Abraham? - Biblical Hermeneutics Stack Exchange gives the range 20 to 40 years old.

Other answers suggest more specific ages:

  • 37 — Jewish tradition says that his mother died upon hearing of what was about to happen.
  • 33 — Christian typology matches Jesus's age when he was sacrificed.

There is also the tradition that Isaac allowed, or even requested, his binding because he thought that his own faith wasn't as strong as his father's.

What is clear is that Isaac was old enough to be physically stronger than his father (he carried the wood while Abraham carried a much lighter load), and that Isaac was therefore a willing participant:

Genesis 22:6 — NLT
So Abraham placed the wood for the burnt offering on Isaac’s shoulders, while he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them walked on together,

7
  • 2
    Thank you for your answer. If I am not mistaken, Isaac was married at the age of forty, and his mother died shortly thereafter. That being the case, it would seem that Jewish tradition might be incorrect suggesting that she died when Isaac was about 37 years old.
    – DDS
    Aug 16, 2023 at 22:33
  • 1
    I'm afraid you are indeed mistaken. You may be confusing Sarah's tent with Sarah herself. Sarah is absent when Abraham and Isaac return, and her death is reported almost immediately after this (Gen 23:1) In the next chapter [Genesis 24:67] it says "Then Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent, and he took Rebekah, and she became his wife, and he loved her; thus Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death." Aug 17, 2023 at 2:15
  • @DanFefferman The source of my comment: Soon after the marriage of Isaac and Rebecca, Sarah died and was buried in the double cave of Mambre which Abraham had bought for a tomb from the children of Heth. Abraham dwelt with his children till he had reached the age of one hundred and seventy-five years. Then he too, was gathered to his fathers, and they laid him by the side of Sarah. cf. pg 32. "Complete Bible History" See: ia800200.us.archive.org/16/items/CompleteBibleHistory1891/…
    – DDS
    Aug 17, 2023 at 2:41
  • @I.Chekhov, that source is a book written in 1891 by "Anonymous Author", who's hardly a respected academic authority. Aug 17, 2023 at 2:53
  • 1
    @RayButterworth many of the OT/NT books we believe in have uncertain authorship, so why the author was attacked instead of his claim makes me quizzical. People reading the discussion would benefit from a better approach to discussion. The second comment is good. Aug 17, 2023 at 14:22
3

The Hebrew used in Genesis 22:5 is וְהַנַּ֔עַר we-han-naar ('and the lad'), נַעַר naar being a "youth, lad, boy or 'retainer'", see Strong 5288 according to many references and also to Stack Exchange Mi Yodeya.

3

It may seem surprising to learn that the rabbinical consensus on this, although there is certainly more than one opinion about it, tends toward the idea that Isaac was 37. This is computed on the presumption that Sarah, who is not heard from again after this event, must have died at the thought of losing her beloved son.

According to the Rabbis, the 'aḳedah not only coincided with, but was the cause of, the death of Sarah, who was informed of Abraham's intention while he and Isaac were on the way to Mount Moriah. Therefore Isaac must then have been thirty-seven years old (Seder 'Olam Rabbah, ed. Ratner, p. 6; Pirḳe R. El. xxxi.; Tanna debe Eliyahu R. xxvii.).

Another ancient Jewish opinion is offered by Josephus, who stated:

Now Isaac was twenty-five years old. And as he was building the altar, he asked his father what he was about to offer, since there was no animal there for an oblation. (Ant. 1.13.2).

Among Christian commentators opinions tend to agree that Isaac was not a little boy.

Adam Clarke said: “[I]t is more probable that he was now about thirty-three” (1:140, emp. in orig.). Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown asserted that Isaac was “then upwards of twenty years of age” (n.d., p. 29). J. Curtis Manor described him as “a youth of sufficient strength and agility to carry a load of firewood up a mountainside” (1994, p. 103). Keil and Delitzsch affirmed that “this son had grown into a young man” (1976, 1:248). Morris added: “[T]he meaning in Isaac’s case should also be ‘young man’ ” (1976, p. 373).

Objections to this relatively mature age based on the word נַעַר (lad/youth) may be overcome by the fact that Isaac was still single, and Hebrew tradition in ancient times did not consider that full manhood was reached until marriage.

Despite the typical depiction in Christian art, in which Isaac is usually depicted as a boy, Jewish and Christian commentators alike recognize the likelihood that he was actually what we, in the modern world, would call a full-grown but not yet married man.

0

We know only that Isaac was old enough to ask an intelligent question (Genesis ch22 v7).

The cultural expectation of obedience to fathers is sufficient to explain his non-resistance.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .