Born: 19th century B.C.
Best known as: The Hebrew patriarch who was almost sacrificed by his father
Reliable but not brilliant, Isaac plays an important torch-passing role between his father, Abraham, and son, Jacob, in the biblical book Genesis. As told in chapters 21-28, Isaac is born to the elderly Abraham and his wife Sarah and chosen over half-brother Ishmael to bear the Hebrew lineage. God tests Abraham in a strange near-sacrifice of Isaac, halted only at the last second after Abraham proves his willingness to obey God. Later, with a wife chosen for him (Rebekah), Isaac dutifully leads a generation as a nomadic chieftain in what is now southern Israel, Gaza and the West Bank -- quarreling at times with the native Philistines over wells dug in a dry land. He is nearly blind and on his deathbed when Jacob, wearing goat skins, swindles him out of a blessing intended for his elder son, Esau. Besides being a patriarch in Judaism, Isaac is also an honored biblical figure in Christianity and a prophet in Islam (see Koran 19:50 and other passages).
There is no known birth date for Isaac, but it is believed he existed between 2000 B.C. and 1500 B.C…. The name Isaac in Hebrew (Yitzhak or Yitzchak) is a play on the words “laughed” and “laughter,” echoing Abraham’s and Sarah’s reaction to God’s announcement that they will have a child when they are very old… The near-sacrifice, or “binding,” of Isaac is depicted in famous paintings by Andrea Mantegna (15th century); Peter Paul Rubens, Anton Van Dyck, and Rembrandt (17th century); and Marc Chagall (20th century)… Genesis reports Isaac’s death in Chapter 35, long after the rest of his story.
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