17 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son,
18 of whom it was said, “In Isaac your seed shall be called,”
19 concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense.
20 By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come.
21 By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, and worshiped, leaning on the top of his staff.
22 By faith Joseph, when he was dying, made mention of the departure of the children of Israel, and gave instructions concerning his bones.
Isaac was the son through whom God’s promises would be kept, but Abraham had such faith in God that he was willing to sacrifice him (v.17-18)
tested (v.17) — to prove his character and faith
The word “tried” is the translation of peirazo which means “to put to the test.” Here it refers to the act of God putting Abraham to the test in order to prove his character and the steadfastness of his faith. The construction in the Greek makes it clear that while the testing of Abraham was still in progress, he had already offered up his son, that is, before the trial had come to an issue, by the act of his obedient will, through faith in God. Abraham met the test through faith before there was any visible evidence of God’s intervening hand. Abraham fully expected to offer his son as a sacrifice, and as fully expected God to raise his body from the dead out of the ashes of the burnt sacrifice. He reasoned that since God promised him a line of ancestry through Isaac, He would have to do that. And he had faith to believe that God would do so. Vincent explains the words “Also he received him in a figure,” as follows: “Since the sacrifice did not take place as a literal slaughter, there could not be a literal restoration from death. There was a real offering in Abraham’s will, but not a real death of Isaac. Isaac’s death took place symbolically, in the sacrifice of the ram: correspondingly, the restoration was only a symbolic restoration from the dead.” — Hebrews in the Greek New Testament, by Kenneth S. Wuest, page 204.
concluding (v.19) — mad up his mind after considering the facts, that God could raise Isaac from the dead
figurative sense (v.19) — Abraham’s offering of his son and receiving him back was a figure of God offering His Son and receiving Him back.
Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau (v.20) — Genesis 27:1-28:5. The blessing involved deceit, but Isaac operated in faith. Isaac later confirmed the blessing.
concerning (v.20) = lit. “and that concerning” — emphasizing things beyond the lifetimes of Jacob and Esau
sons of Joseph (v.21) — Genesis 48:17-20
staff (v.21) — The staff was necessary because of the lameness of Jacob given as God’s reminder of His promises on the night Jacob wrestled with the Lord at Peniel (Genesis 32:24-32).
Joseph died in Egypt (v.22) but had faith in God’s promise that his people would return to the land. (Genesis 50:25; Exodus 13:19; Joshua 24:32)
made mention (v.22) = remembered — Genesis 15:13-14
Issac’s, Jacob’s and Joseph’s examples of faith all occurred at the time of death.