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In the Book of Genesis, Isaac is the son and heir of Abraham and the father of Jacob. Isaac means 'laughter'. Isaac was so called because when his mother Sarah overheard that she would bear a child in her old age, she laughed (Gen 18:10-15, 21:6-7).

Some commentators believe that in the Book of Amos there is some suggestion that Israel may be another name for Isaac (Amos 7:9, 16) but it is far more common to take Israel to mean only his son Jacob (Gen 32:22-28, especially 28).

Isaac was the only son of Abraham by Sarah. He was the longest lived of the three patriarchs (Genesis 21:1-3). Isaac was circumcised by his father Abraham when eight days old (4-7); and a great feast was held in connection with his being weaned.

The next memorable event in his life is that connected with the story of God testing Abraham by asking hom to offer Isaac as a sacrifice on a mountain in the land of Moriah (Genesis 22). For many readers, both religious believers and not, the Near sacrifice of Isaac is one of the most troubling and provocative stories in the Bible.

When he was forty years of age Rebekah was chosen for his wife (Gen. 24). After the death and burial of his father he took up his residence at Beer-lahai-roi (25:7-11), where his two sons, Esau and Jacob, were born (21-26), the former of whom seems to have been his favourite son (27,28).

Due to a famine (Gen. 26:1) Isaac went to Gerar. In order to avoid being killed, he lied about his relationship to Rebekah. This story recalls the twice-told story about Abraham's sojourn in Egypt (12:12-20) and in Gerar (20:2). The Philistine king rebuked Isaac for his disohonesty.

After staying for some time in the land of the Philistines, he returned to Beersheba, where God gave him fresh assurance of covenant blessing, and where Abimelech entered into a covenant of peace with him.

The next chief event in his life was the blessing of his sons (Gen. 27:1). He died at Mamre, "being old and full of days" (35:27-29), one hundred and eighty years old, and was buried in the cave of Machpelah.

In the New Testament, reference is made to his having been "offered up" by his father (Heb. 11:17; James 2:21), and to his blessing his sons (Heb. 11:20). As the child of promise, he is contrasted with Ishmael (Rom. 9:7, 10; Gal. 4:28; Heb. 11:18).

Isaac is "at once a counterpart of his father in simple devoutness and purity of life, and a contrast in his passive weakness of character, which in part, at least, may have sprung from his relations to his mother and wife. After the expulsion of Ishmael and Hagar, Isaac had no competitor, and grew up in the shade of Sarah's tent, moulded into feminine softness by habitual submission to her strong, loving will." His life was so quiet and uneventful that it was spent "within the circle of a few miles; so guileless that he let Jacob overreach him rather than disbelieve his assurance; so tender that his mother's death was the poignant sorrow of years; so patient and gentle that peace with his neighbours was dearer than even such a coveted possession as a well of living water dug by his own men; so grandly obedient that he put his life at his father's disposal; so firm in his reliance on God that his greatest concern through life was to honour the divine promise given to his race.", Geikie's Hours, etc.

For the Islamic view on Isaac, see: Ishaq

Initial text from Easton's Bible Dictionary, 1897 -- Please update as needed