Genesis 23:1, How Old was Isaac When He was Offered as Sacrifice?

And Sarah was an hundred and seven and twenty years old: these were the years of the life of Sarah.

//Today’s question is a good one. Since Abraham loaded Isaac with wood to carry, we know he wasn’t a child.

Most artwork pictures him as a teenager. Jewish tradition in the book of Jubilees agrees, saying he was fifteen (Jubilees 17:15-16). Another midrashic calculation makes him twenty-six (Gen. Rab. 56:8). But the most logical calculation, if we follow scripture, is a bit different.

When Genesis chapter 23 opens with today’s verse, it presupposes Sarah’s death, which therefore must have taken place in connection with the events of the previous chapter: the sacrifice of Isaac. The point is that even though Isaac lived, he never saw his mother Sarah again … or she, him. We are led to believe that the heartache of losing her son (or so she imagined must happen) caused her death.

Genesis 17:17 tells us that Sarah was 90 years old when Isaac was born. If she died at age 127, this means Isaac was 37 years old when Abraham took him up the mountain to sacrifice him.

A second version of the above listed midrash confirms this recalculation. It tells how Isaac actually asked to be bound on the altar, for “can one bind a man thirty-seven years old without his consent?”

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