Answering 439 Bible Contradictions: #3
Answer: Abraham had many physical sons but only one unique child of promise.
Problem: Hebrews 11:17 and Genesis 22:2 speak of Abraham sacrificing his “only” son Isaac, while several passages in Genesis make it clear that he had other sons such as Ishmael.
Explanation: The Greek word behind “only” in Hebrews 11:17 is monogenes, meaning unique (as does the Heb. yachid in Gen. 22:2) in the sense that it is the only one of its kind. When a husband puffs his chest and says he loves only one woman, his mother and daughters don’t get offended. They smile actually, and so does his wife, for she is the one being honored as the sole recipient of his distinctive love.
The Father speaks of Jesus as his “only” (monogenes) Son (Jn. 3:16; 1 Jn. 4:9). Abraham almost had to slay his only son, but the Father actually did (Is. 53:10). The price of our salvation is incalculable, for it cost God his Son.
It is true that Abraham had other sons, such as Ishmael from Hagar and later on more sons from Keturah, but he had only one son of promise. Isaac was unique because he was the child God had promised to Abraham and Sarah in their old age as the living sign of faithfulness to His people.