saac - Bible study ideas

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Isaac, stained glass window

Isaac's story

Scroll of the Torah

Bible text for this story

Rebecca with the blind Isaac

Paintings of Rebecca

Old woman with a baby

Isaac's mother Sarah

Middle Eastern woman with sad face

Struggle for power: Sarah & Hagar

Rebecca at the well

Bible's great love story: Rebecca

Old Jewish man

Abraham, father of Isaac 

Jacob, painting from the Sistine Chapel

Lies, lies, lies: Jacob 

Sacrifice of Isaac, Caravaggio

Human Sacrifice 


Bible text for Isaac's story










Activities for individuals or groups

Bible Themes in Modern Films

'Love Actually' has several themes similar to stories in the Book of Genesis, proving that there is no such thing as a new story. 

Stage 1:  Make up a list

List some films related to themes in the story of Isaac:

  • conflict between brothers (or sisters for that matter)

  • love between a man and woman

  • parents who favor one child over another

  • deception and its long-lasting consequences

  • father/son and mother/son relationships

You can choose recent films or classics. 
If this is a group activity, choose films most people know. 

Stage 2:  Glance over your list

1.  Have you chosen films that are realistic, or do you prefer films that are inspiring/uplifting?
2.  Do your favorites have both these qualities?
3.  What does this say about you and what you need in a story?

Stage 3:  Choose your favorite 
4.  What are the central relationships in this film? How do they develop?
5.  Is the relationship shown in a realistic light? 
6.  Do any of the scenes remind you of your own life or experiences?
7.  Or does the film express what you would like to have in your own relationships?

Stage 4:  Think about your choices

Group activity: discuss these questions, making sure everyone in the group has a chance to talk about their ideas.

Single activity: sit down for a few minutes and focus your mind; make a quick list of your favorite love stories; read through the Stage 3 questions, and think about them as you do other tasks in your day.

Movies about quarrelling families

Can you name the films?

Can you see a connection with Isaac's story?

Ordinary PeopleLittle Foxes
The Godfather

The Family Stone

Answers HERE (see 'Isaac')  Can you think of others?



Paintings of Isaac and Rebecca

Stage 1

Read the story at Bible People: IsaacThe sacrifice of Isaac, by Caravaggio

Stage 2

Go to Isaac and Rebecca: Paintings
Scroll through the paintings from first to last.

Which part of the story of Isaac and Rebecca has been the most popular with artists?

Would this have been your choice?

Artists paint what they want to paint, but they also paint with their audience in mind. Look at the paintings again. Who is the painting directed at? Explain your reasoning.

Stage 3

If you have chosen something different, ask yourself why this other incident appeals to you more than the scene favored by the artists. Spend some time quietly thinking about your response.

Understanding yourself  

Isaac favored one son over the other: 

  • Esau had all the qualities that Isaac lacked. He was a vigorous, hearty sort of fellow, an accomplished hunter, popular with his friends. The downside was that he tended to act impulsively, on the spur of the moment, without giving thought to the consequences - not a good characteristic in a leader. 

  • Jacob, who may have resembled his father in character, was not as favored as his rowdier brother.

Look at your own friends, and the people you admire. Why do you like them? What are the characteristics that appeal to you? Does that tell you anything about yourself? Spend a little time in quiet reflection, trying to understand yourself better.

Living with your past

Stained glass window showing the near-sacrifice of Isaac Nobody ever talks about the profound impact on Isaac of events in Genesis 22:1-19 (the command to sacrifice Isaac). Abraham and Isaac have built the sacrificial altar together, then Abraham binds his son and places him on the altar, ready to be killed.

Not one word is said about Isaac's reaction to his father's horrifying actions.

Were there events in your early life that affected you for many years afterwards? Is this a good or a bad thing? How have you come to terms with your own past? Discuss this with a learning partner.

Focus Questions

The Sacrifice of Isaac, by sculptor Isaac Berruguete

The Sacrifice of Isaac, 
by sculptor Isaac Berruguete

1. What are the most interesting moments in Isaac's story? 
2. In the story, who speaks and who listens? Who acts? Who gets what they want? If you were in the story, which person would you want to be friends
with? Which person would you want to avoid?
3. What is God's interaction with the main characters? What does this tell you about the narrator's image of God? Do you agree with this image?
4. What is happening on either side of the story, in the chapters before and after it? Does this help you understand what is happening?
5. The narrator/editor has chosen to tell some things and leave other things out. What has been left out of the story that you would like to know?
6. Are the characteristics and actions of the people in the story still present in the world? How is the story relevant to modern life, especially your own? 


Abraham, Sarah and the newborn Isaac

Abraham, Sarah and the newborn Isaac, from the movie 'The Bible'


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