Isaac (Yitzchak in Hebrew) is the second of the patriarchs of the Jewish people. He was the son of Abraham and Sarah, husband of Rebecca, and father of Esau and Jacob, and is famous for his central role in the Binding of Isaac, when he was almost offered up as a sacrifice to G‑d. Curious to know more? Read these 17 facts about Isaac.

1. His Story Is Told in the Book of Genesis

The majority of the Book of Genesis is dedicated to recounting the stories of the three patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Isaac’s narrative is intertwined with those of Abraham and Jacob, spanning chapters 17 through 35.

Read: Isaac: The Second Patriarch of the Bible

2. He Was the Second of the Patriarchs

In the lineage of the Jewish people, there are three revered patriarchs: Abraham, his son Isaac, and Isaac's son Jacob (father of the original 12 tribes of Israel).1 As the father of every Jew, Isaac's life story holds personal significance and imparts profound life lessons for each of us.

Read: The Patriarchs

3. His Birth Was Miraculous

Isaac’s parents, Abraham and Sarah, were married for many years without bearing children. Sarah was barren and physically incapable of mothering a child.2 Then, when Abraham was 99 and Sarah was 89, G‑d delivered the astounding news that in a year’s time they would miraculously have a child, Isaac.3

Read: Abraham, the First Patriarch

4. His Name Means “Laughter”

In response to this joyful news, Abraham laughed in delight, expressing his gratitude for the extraordinary blessing. In commemoration of this reaction, G‑d instructed him to name his son Isaac, which means "laughter" in Hebrew.4

Read: Learning to Laugh

5. He Was His Mother’s Only Child

Exactly a year later, on the first day of Passover,5 Sarah miraculously gave birth to Isaac, her only child.6 In contrast, Abraham fathered several other children with his concubine, Hagar.7 Isaac’s most well-known half-brother was Ishmael, 13 years his senior. Due to Ishmael’s inappropriate and sometimes dangerous behavior, his father eventually banished him from his home.8

Read more: Ishmael: Abraham’s Other Son

6. He Was the First to Be Circumcised at 8 Days

When G‑d initially commanded Abraham to circumcise himself and his household, Abraham was 99 and Ishmael was 13.9 Isaac was the first to be circumcised at only eight days old,10 symbolizing that a Jew’s bond with G‑d is not merely an intellectual choice but the very essence of our identity.

Read: Why Do We Have Circumcision?

7. He Was Prepared to Be a Sacrifice for G‑d

When Isaac was 37 years old,11 G‑d tested Abraham's faith by instructing him to sacrifice Isaac atop Mount Moriah (later to become the Temple Mount). Abraham, without hesitation, complied with G‑d's command, and Isaac willingly participated in the process. At the last moment, when Isaac was bound on the altar and about to be slaughtered, G‑d sent an angel to inform Abraham that it was a test of faith, and there was no need to carry through with the sacrifice.12 The willingness Abraham and Isaac displayed, and the lengths they went to to follow G‑d’s command, proved their steadfast devotion to Him and remains treasured by G‑d to this day.

Read: The Great Test: The Binding of Isaac

8. His Wife Was Rebecca

Three years later, Isaac married Rebecca, the daughter of his first cousin Bethuel. Establishing this union involved a lengthy mission undertaken by Abraham’s servant, Eliezer, who traveled to distant Aram Naharayim. Eliezer chose Rebecca as Isaac’s bride after witnessing her tremendous kindness, proving her worthy of being married to someone of Isaac’s stature.13

Read: Rebecca of the Bible

9. He Instituted the Afternoon Prayer

According to the Talmud,14 Isaac was responsible for instituting the afternoon prayer. (The morning and evening prayers were established by Abraham and Jacob, respectively). This is indicated in the narrative when Eliezer returns to Hebron with Rebecca, finding Isaac “going forth to pray in the field toward evening.”15

Read: What Is Jewish Prayer?

10. He Fathered Antithetical Twins

After many years of childlessness, Isaac and Rebecca became parents to twin boys, Esau and Jacob. From birth, their paths diverged, with Esau pursuing a life of hunting and deceit, while Jacob dedicated his days to the study of Torah.16

Read: Twins in the Bible

11. He Never Left the Holy Land

Isaac achieved the sanctity of a sacrificial offering when he was bound on the altar. Consequently, he lived a hallowed life and never left the Holy Land. During a famine in the Land of Israel (then known as Canaan), Isaac did not leave for Egypt, as his father had done.17 Instead, he relocated to the Philistine city of Gerar, which was within the Holy Land.18 He also did not marry a concubine, as Abraham had done.19

Read: Our Land

12. He Dug Wells

During his time in Philistine territory, Isaac devoted much effort to digging wells. He reopened his father’s wells that had been filled with earth and dug several new ones.20 In Kabbalistic teachings, this endeavor of digging deep and finding richness within is seen as a reflection of Isaac’s spiritual quality of gevurah, discipline and restraint, which is focused inward.

Read: Why Isaac’s Wells Lasted

13. He Was Extremely Wealthy

Isaac was blessed with immense wealth, surpassing even the riches of the Philistine king Abimelech.21 His prosperity sparked jealousy among the Philistines, forcing him to relocate, until he eventually settled in Beer Sheba. Ultimately, Abimelech acknowledged Isaac's favor in G‑d's eyes, culminating in a visit from the king and the forming of a covenant between them.22

Read: The Challenge of Being an Isaac

14. He Had Poor Eyesight

As he aged, Isaac’s vision deteriorated.23 Some say that G‑d made him blind specifically so that the rest of the story could play out the way it did (see next item). Others say it was due to the smoke of the idolatrous incense of Esau’s wives, or to the tears of the angels that fell into his eyes when he was bound on the altar.24

Read: The Reason Isaac Went Blind

15. He Was “Tricked” Into Blessing Jacob

Isaac initially intended to bestow blessings upon his firstborn, Esau. Rebecca, however, realized that Jacob was more deserving (and that Esau had previously sold his birthright to Jacob25), so she arranged for Jacob to masquerade as his twin brother and receive the coveted blessings.26

Read: Why Did Isaac Love Esau?

16. He Was Separated From His Son for 22 Years

Upon discovering what had happened, Esau was incensed and plotted to murder Jacob. Recognizing the danger, Isaac and Rebecca sent Jacob to distant Haran, where he married and raised a family.27 It would be 22 years28 before father and son were reunited29 (Rebecca passed in the interim30).

Read: Jacob of the Bible

17. He Lived Until 180

Isaac lived the longest among the patriarchs, reaching the remarkable age of 180.31 (In comparison, Abraham lived to 175,32 and Jacob's to 147.33) He was buried alongside his parents, wife, and, later, his son Jacob and daughter-in-law Leah in the Cave of Machpela in Hebron.34

Watch: Hebron, City of the Patriarchs