How Old was Isaac When Abraham Offered Him?

Posted by on Nov 6, 2016

 From the popular Bible movies we got used to see the little Isaac carrying a bunch of dry sticks before he was offered for sacrifice. But how old was he? Can we know?

The Torah tells us that Yitshak (Isaac) was old enough to walk, to observe the world around him, to reason for himself, and to carry a bundle of cut wood up a fairly rugged and steep mountain for three days. And last but not least, he was also old enough to be responsible for his actions and decisions.

Per Torah one is considered adult at the age of twenty years old or above in order to enlist as a soldier (Num 1:20) or to be counted in a census (Num 1:19). Also, at the age of twenty one could be penalized (Num 14:29, Num_32:11). According to Josephus, for instance, Yitshak was twenty-five years old (see Antiquities Book 1:13:2).

Now they had brought with them everything necessary for a sacrifice, excepting the animal that was to be offered only. Now Yitshak 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.

These facts rule out any notion, as it is taught, that Yitshak was just a little boy at the time of his binding. Let us reason. If Sarah gave birth to Yitshak when she was ninety and Avraham was 100 (Gen 17:17) and died in the year when Yitshak was offered when she was 127 (Gen 23:1) and Avraham was 137, then Yitshak was 37 years old when his father bound him. This is confirmed by the account of The Book of Yasher 22:41.

In other words, he was a grownup who took a responsible decision to lay his life on the altar.

In addition, from Targum Yerushalmi, Targum Jonathan, we learn that Yitshak was promised, born, and offered as sacrifice all on Passovers. These events took place in 2047, 2048, and 2085, respectively (see the Jubilees Table from the present author’s book Reckoning of Time).

For more insight into the story of Yitschak (Isaac), continue to the article “Did YHVH tell Abraham to sacrifice Isaac?

May we merit seeing the coming of our Mashiach speedily in our days.