How OLD was Isaac when
Abraham tried to sacrifice him?
Submit Bible questions, through our easy to use form,
to our team of mature Christians known as the Email Evangelists.
Question: How old was Isaac when God told Abraham to offer him as a SACRIFICE?
Answer: The Biblical story of Abraham and his attempt to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice to God is a fertile subject in Jewish literature and tradition. While some statements regarding this epic event (known as the akedah in some writings) have some truth to them, others simply cannot be supported in the light of a proper reading of the scriptures. One example of this is a tradition that says it was Satan (and not God deciding to do so on his own) who suggested that Abraham be tested by requiring him to sacrifice his only son.
In regard to how old Isaac was when he was to be sacrificed, one tradition says the event occurred very soon after he was weaned (Genesis 21:8). The problem is, no one is sure at what age this happened. The Jewish writers Jarchi and Ben Melech say that Isaac was weaned at two years old; Gedaliah says three; Jerome says some Hebrews believe he was five; Philo makes him seven; and Bishop Usher places the weaning at ten or twelve years of age. An average of all these opinions would place the weaning at about six years old.
The Bible stories in children's books must terrify little boys and girls as they generally depict Abraham's son as a small boy when he was about to be sacrificed.
A tradition among some Rabbis is that the news of Abraham's journey to Mount Moriah and its real purpose caused the death of Sarah, his wife. From this, they deduce that Isaac had to have been at least thirty-seven years old when he was to be offered up to God.
The first century Jewish historian Josephus also took a stab at how old Isaac was when his father was commanded directly by God to sacrifice him. In his huge volume tracing Jewish history from creation forward, he states the following.
"NOW ISAAC WAS TWENTY-FIVE YEARS OLD. And as he was building the altar, he asked his father what he was about to offer, since there was no animal there for an oblation . . . " (Antiquities (History) of the Jews, Book 1, Chapter 13)