As my wife and I sat in bed together this evening, doing our independent biblical study and devotional reading, we had an interesting conversation. It is not uncommon for my wife to send me off to look for something – such as my Hebrew Reader, of late – to get a clearer picture of the words. This she did, wondering what 1 Samuel 16:13 read, trying to get a clearer picture of where Beth Moore (hereafter, BM) was “going” in her discussion of the importance of “horn” in the Psalms.
Two different versions of NLT read quite differently, both different from the suggested reading from the BM study. And to its credit, the second edition actually says “flask” (I guess that gives the idea of “horn”), where the first edition did not. In any case, this didn’t really clear much up for Kim.
She began talking about some of the uses of horns described by BM. There are horns used to secure things, like sacrifices – which BM used some twisting of the English language to speak of Christ’s “securing” our salvation. There are horns used to make music (she specifically related such to trumpets, and the joy found in Christ) and communicate over distances. There are horns used to carry things (like oil in 1 Samuel 16:13), leading to the idea of source and supply. She completely ignored the idea of source and supply, to my knowledge. Instead, she focused on the horn’s relation to oil, and thus “anointing”. All together this made her attempts to address the “horn of my salvation” dubious, a blending of all the possible aforementioned uses 1 of horn.
So as I made an effort to describe to my wife my lack of comfort 2 with BM’s handling of the matter, she made an offhand comment about how the ram in Genesis 22 was “caught”, and is an image for Christ our substitute sacrifice. And this is where things got really interesting to me.
While I see where people get this idea from, I’ve never found it to be all that compelling. At surface I guess it works. But I think focusing on it causes us to fail to see the highlight on Isaac as both a type and anti-type for Jesus and the redemptive plan. It is Isaac who is the sacrifice. It is Isaac who is the child of promise. It is Isaac who is returned to Abraham “resurrected”.
Abraham knew going up the hill that God’s promise would come through Isaac, and Abraham went up the hill expecting to sacrifice his son. Abraham tells his servant to wait for both of them to return. Abraham didn’t know what God was going to do, but trusting in the promise assured him that he would come back with his son, whatever that would take. It is a story of trust, of obedience, of power and provision, more than it is about the last-minute substitution 3.
In all these ways Isaac is a type for Christ. But this story is an anti-type for God’s provision of his own son. For whereas God provided a substitute for Isaac in Genesis 22, there could be no substitute for Christ. While Abraham does not in fact experience the death of his son, God the Father does.
And so I share all this with my wife. And she says, “Then why have I never heard that?” And for the life of me I can’t think of a particular source of my understanding along these lines. I’m slightly amazed that my wife has not heard me mention it, because I know I have both written and spoken of it before.
So what do you think? Should we focus primarily on the substitution of the ram, or on the picture of Isaac? Is the redemptive element of the story born out more by the picture of the substituted ram, or the obedient and sacrificial son restored to his father? Have you ever heard or thought about this? Or am I just out in left field?
1. Dave Black, though specifically discussing Greek, addressed this phenomenon called “illegitimate totality transfer” in a September 30th blog post, which I read through the folks at NT Resources Blog.
2. If you know me, you can probably picture my left eyebrow raised up about half an inch.
3. One might add that Jesus’ sacrifice and resurrection is no last-minute substitution, but part of God’s plan from the very beginning.