Theological Insights from a Modern Perspective

The Sacrifice of Abraham

Sarah gives birth to Isaac, and all is well for a few years, then it happens. Sarah gets a bug-a-boo in her about Hagar’s son when she sees him with Isaac and, in pure, spiteful, manner tells Abraham to send them away under the guise that she does not want Ishmael to have a part of Isaac’s inheritance. Now, to be fair to Sarah, the Hebrew text is unclear as to what is going on, some translations say they were playing, other say Ishmael was mocking Isaac. In either case, Abraham is upset because Ishmael is also his son, but, he gives into Sarah and sends Hagar and Ishmael off with naught but bread and water to sustain them on their journey. The world has been paying for this act ever since, as the two tribes of Abraham have never had peaceful relations. How different might things have turned out if Abraham had stood up to Sarah, and possibly disciplined Ishmael.

God, understanding what is going on, looks after Hagar and Ishmael, provided them with food and water to help them on their journey to Paran, and watches over Ishmael, who grew into a mighty hunter, and would take an Egyptian wife. He would then, like Isaac, have twelve children who would become great tribal chiefs in their own right.

Sacrifice of Abraham

Now we come to the main event – the Sacrifice of Abraham’s son, Isaac. God tells Abraham to take his son Isaac – his “only” son since Ishmael is now dead to Abraham – to the lands of Moriah, upon a mountain to be identified later by God. This is not a close place as on the third day of the journey it was just visible in the distance. Later Solomon would build the Temple on this location, showing its’ great significance to both the Jewish people, and to God. Some have speculated that the actual place of the sacrifice might have been Golgotha, where Christ was sacrificed, as the Bible is not exact on where the sacrifice actually took place.

While still a way off Abraham departs from his entourage, taking only Isaac, the firewood (carried by Issac), a knife, and the fire. Isaac, curious, asks Abraham why they are not taking a lamb with them for the sacrifice, to which Abraham replies that God will provide the lamb for the sacrifice. Of course, Abraham knows that Isaac is to be the sacrifice, and he makes his preparations, binding Isaac and placing him upon the altar. Just as Abraham is about to sacrifice Isaac the Angel of the Lord appears and tells Abraham that this was just a test, and that Abraham has been found worthy and is not to sacrifice Isaac. Elated Abraham looks around, finds a lamb in a thorn bush and offers it to God.

As I said, we are all familiar with this story, but it is full of parallels between Abraham, God, Isaac, and Jesus, here are a few of the more important ones.

  • Sarah and Anna (the mother of Mary) are both barren until well past the age to have children. It is important to note that we are not talking a few years, Anna was well into her 60’s when she conceived Mary.
  • Abraham, like God, is willing to sacrifice his only son for the hope of the world.
  • Isaac, like Jesus, is required to carry the wood that will be used to sacrifice him.
  • Both Isaac and Jesus submit to the will of their Father for the sacrifice.
  • Jesus and Abraham were both hopeful that the sacrifice would not be required, but were willing to put God’s will above their own.

This brings us to the end of the story of Abraham. After this Sarah, Abraham’s wife, passes on and Abraham secures for them a cave in which to be buried. Abraham then secures a wife for Isaac (another tale) before he, too, passes on. I am not sure if I will continue the exegesis beyond this point, not sure how helpful it has been to the readers. Time will tell.

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Comments on: "The Sacrifice of Abraham" (1)

  1. Please continue exegesis!

    Like

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