ISAAC , or, in Hebrew, Yitsḥaq; the second of the biblical patriarchs and the only son of Abraham and Sarah. Although not known from elsewhere, the name Yitsḥaq conforms to a well-known Northwest Semitic type and means "may God smile"; Ugaritic texts from the thirteenth century bce refer to the benevolent smile of the Canaanite god El. The Bible, however, ascribes the laughter to Isaac's mother, who was amazed to learn that she would have a child despite her advanced age.
Isaac is the only patriarch whose name was not changed. The Bible treats him primarily as Abraham's son or the father of Jacob and Esau. He was the first ancestor of the Israelites to be circumcised on his eighth day in accordance with God's command (Gn. 17:12). At an unspecified age he was taken to be sacrificed in order to test Abraham's faithfulness; however, Isaac himself did little except ask why his father had not brought an animal for the offering. His later marriage to Rebecca, a cousin, was arranged by Abraham and provided comfort to Isaac after his mother's death. In his old age, Isaac was deceived into giving Jacob the blessing intended for the older Esau.
Isaac's only independent actions are found in Genesis 26, in which he tells King Abimelech that Rebecca is his sister, a story reminiscent of one told twice about Sarah and Abraham. The same chapter mentions his involvement in agricultural activities and his resolution of a dispute over water rights between his shepherds and those of Abimelech. Isaac died at the age of 180 and was buried alongside Rebecca at Machpelah.
Postbiblical Jewish interpretations focus largely on the story of Abraham's intended sacrifice of Isaac, called the ʿaqedah ("binding"), and often elaborate his role beyond the biblical description. According to one version he actually died and was then revived. Christian tradition, perhaps attested as early as the writings of Paul (Rom. 8:32), views this incident as prefiguring the Crucifixion. Paul contrasted Isaac, representing Christianity, with Ishmael, the rejected older son who symbolizes Judaism (Gal. 4:21–30).
An excellent survey of modern scholarly insights into the patriarchal narratives is Nahum M. Sarna's Understanding Genesis (New York, 1966). Rabbinic legends are collected in Louis Ginzberg's The Legends of the Jews, 2d ed., 2 vols., translated by Henrietta Szold and Paul Radin (Philadelphia, 2003). Shalom Spiegel's The Last Trial, translated by Judah Goldin (New York, 1967), summarizes a vast array of postbiblical legends pertaining to the binding of Isaac (Gn. 22).
Frederick E. Greenspahn (1987 and 2005)
"Isaac." Encyclopedia of Religion. . Encyclopedia.com. (May 24, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/isaac
"Isaac." Encyclopedia of Religion. . Retrieved May 24, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/isaac
Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).
Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.
Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:
Modern Language Association
The Chicago Manual of Style
American Psychological Association
- Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
- In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.