The name Isaac is from the Hebrew name Yitzchak, which literally translated means, “he will laugh.” Isaac can also mean “he laughs,” or “laughter-loving,” or slight variations on these.
Isaac of the Old Testament lived from 1896 BC to 1716 B.C., based on what we know from Bible chronology. He was the promised and long-awaited son born to Abraham and Sarah in their old age. Sarah was well beyond child bearing years at the time of his conception. She chose the name Isaac because she had laughed at the messengers of God announcing that she would give birth to a son, although she denied this when asked.
In spite of her age, Sarah not only delivered a healthy baby boy, as the Lord had promised, but she was also able to breast-feed Isaac, a joyous time for her, certainly. Eventually, however, despite her joy, Sarah could no longer tolerate the presence of her maidservant Hagar, and as a result, Isaac’s older half-brother Ishmael, and his mother, Hagar, were sent into the desert to die, (although the Lord did not allow them to) enabling Isaac to become the undisputed heir to his father Abraham.
Many years later, according to established Bible chronology, the Lord spoke to Abraham, calling upon him to sacrifice Isaac on Mount Moriah. Isaac went willingly, even carrying the wood for the fire, not realizing he was to be the offering unto the Lord. It would seem, however, that when the time came for his death, Isaac, being a strong young man, and Abraham, being elderly, that Isaac could have protested his impending death, and yet choose not to. Abraham bound his son with a rope, placed him on the altar they had built together, and raised the knife to slash Isaac’s throat. Just then, an angel intervened, instructing Abraham to sacrifice a ram instead – one that the Lord had provided Himself, that was caught in a thicket nearby.
When it was time for Isaac to choose a wife, his father Abraham decided, per custom, that his son would marry a cousin. This tradition kept land and wealth in the control of the tribe’s ruling family. Abraham sent a messenger to his brother Laban in Mesopotamia, who had a grand-daughter named Rebecca. The messenger devised a plan to learn if Rebecca was truly to be Isaac’s wife. When Rebecca met the messenger she offered water not only to the man but to his thirsty camels as well, fulfilling what the messenger had set up in his mind as a test of sorts. The messenger then formally introduced himself and told her family of his mission. Bible chronology tells us that Rebecca agreed to the marriage, and she and Isaac were happily married.
They were certainly in love, although Scripture tells us Rebecca appeared for some time to be barren. But then Isaac cried out to the Lord, and she became pregnant. It was a difficult nine months, after which she bore twin sons, Esau and Jacob. Isaac preferred the first born twin, Esau. He was a man’s man and an excellent hunter. Rebecca, however, favored Jacob, the quiet one, the one who seemed to stay at her side more.
Esau, being the first born son, would, as his birthright, inherit a greater portion of his father’s wealth than Jacob. One day Esau came in tired and ravenous from a day in the fields. Jacob was cooking a lentil stew, and Esau insisted he be served some immediately. He was certain he was starving. Jacob, however, withheld the food, and required of Esau something in exchange – his very birthright as older brother. Esau saw no use for a birthright to a man dying of starvation. Jacob continued to withhold the food. “Swear to me as of this day,” said Jacob, and foolish Esau swore an oath trading away his birthright to his younger brother for a bowl of stew.
Eventually Isaac’s time on the earth was drawing to a close, and the issue of his rightful successor resurfaced. Custom required that the father give a blessing to his heir, to confirm his position as leader of the tribe. When Isaac was old and blind, Rebecca coached Jacob on how to trick his father into mistaking him for Esau. She dressed Jacob in Esau’s favorite clothing and covered his arms and neck with the skins of a young goat, which she prepared for Jacob to feed his father, in preparation for receiving the blessing, that was due Esau. Disguised as he was, he deceived Isaac and received the firstborn’s blessing. Esau was completely infuriated when he learned of this, and was going to murder his younger twin. Rebecca, however, learned of this and was able to safely get Jacob out of the camp, and away to her relatives in Mesopotamia.
Now according to Bible chronology, the days of Isaac were one hundred and eighty years, and when he died his sons Esau and Jacob buried him, finally have been reconciled to each other.
Important World Leaders and Events During This Time
- Emigration of Indo-German tribes can be roughly be dated around 2200 B.C.
- Mongolian people began the practice of animal husbandry around 2000 B.C.
- The period from 4000 B.C. to 2000 B.C. is referred to as the Bronze Age.
- The settlement of Japan dates back to around 2200 B.C.
- Emperor Yu, the great colonizer in China, ruled the Tang-Shang Dynasty during 1919 B.C.
- Fu-hi, the Great Benefactor, founded the silk industry, in approximately 2000 B.C.
- The Hyksos kingdom in Egypt was centered in the eastern Nile Delta and Middle Egypt. The word Hyksos means “foreign rulers” or “shepherd kings” They were an Asiatic people who invaded the eastern Nile Delta around 1720 B.C.
- The First Intermediate Period of Egypt was a forceful time where the control of Egypt was divided between two conflicting ruling powers. One of those controlling powers ruled from Lower Egypt, and the other from Upper Egypt. This took place between 2200B.C. and 1530 B.C.
- Probable time of the building of the Great Pyramids in Egypt.
Main Bible Characters
- Esau and Jacob, twin sons of Isaac through Rebecca
- Abraham, forefather of the Jewish people
- Sarah, foremother of the Jewish people
- Isaac, promised son of Abraham and Sarah and husband of Rebecca
- Rebecca, Isaac’s cousin and wife
- The nations called Moab and Ammon are usually mentioned together because it was brothers by those same names who founded them. These children were born to Lot and his two daughters, after Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboiim were destroyed by God.
- The city of Damascus of Syria was founded in the second millennium BC.
Main Bible References
Genesis 18:10–12; 21-22; 24-28; 35:27-29