Hebrews 11:17 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

Hebrews 11:17, NIV: By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son,

Hebrews 11:17, ESV: By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son,

Hebrews 11:17, KJV: By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son,

Hebrews 11:17, NASB: By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and the one who had received the promises was offering up his only son;

Hebrews 11:17, NLT: It was by faith that Abraham offered Isaac as a sacrifice when God was testing him. Abraham, who had received God's promises, was ready to sacrifice his only son, Isaac,

Hebrews 11:17, CSB: By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac. He received the promises and yet he was offering his one and only son,

What does Hebrews 11:17 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

True godly "faith" is a trust in God, based on prior knowledge, and in spite of our limited understanding (Hebrews 11:1). The writer of Hebrews intends to demonstrate that God's assessment of a person is tied to their faith, not merely to their actions (Hebrews 11:6). Prior examples, such as Noah and Sarah, focused on those who trusted God in the face of general, long-term doubts or unsure circumstances. Here, the focus shifts to moments when people are confronted with immediate, dire conflict. God's desire for those moments is the same as always: to trust and obey.

The ultimate example of this is Abraham, whose faith was demonstrated dramatically in the incident with his son, Isaac (Genesis 22:1–14). Abraham's life shows how he learned to trust in God's ability to keep His word, despite Abraham's own insecurities. Abraham could not see how God could provide him and Sarah a natural-born son, but God did just that (Genesis 21:5). Abraham could not see how God could judge the sins of Sodom without destroying the righteous (Genesis 18:22–23), but God did just that (Genesis 19:15–17). When God commanded Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, the one through whom all of His promises were meant to be fulfilled, Abraham could not see how God would keep His word. And yet, Abraham obeyed (Genesis 22:1–14).

It is that established, decades-long trust which many critics miss while interpreting Abraham's actions, as well as the Bible's definition of faith. Abraham was not coldly agreeing to murder his son. Nor was he blindly following an unknown voice. Abraham was confident that God would prove righteous, even if Abraham could not see or understand in that moment how such a thing was possible. This passage will go on to offers some insight into Abraham's mind, but the main point is his faith—demonstrated by his obedience (James 2:14–17).