Study of Genesis/The Binding of Issac
- 1 Pre-Lesson Activity
- 2 Lesson
- 3 Human Sacrifice :: Outrageous!
- 4 Why would God ask such a thing?
- 5 My POV
- Read Genesis 20:1 - 20
- As you read note what your reaction is to the events, especially the dynamic between God and Abraham.
- Try to notice how the author guides your expectations and understanding of the account.
- Read Jeremiah 32:35 this is ESV see notes below
- How do these texts affect your understanding of the passage?
Comments on the Text
- A Wikipedia Summary of various opinions on the Binding of Isaac
- A discussion from the Jewish perspective by Louis Jacobs, the rabbi emeritus of the New London Synagogue, an author and lecturer at University College in London and at Lancaster University.
Today's reading will be dealt with in ? sections. First we'll consider the outrageousness of God commanding Isaac's sacrifice. Then we'll look at various understandings that have been offered, then I will offer my point of view. I encourage you to interact with what I present and see what you think. I also welcome your comments.
Human Sacrifice :: Outrageous!
Reaction of readers
What was your reaction as you read the material assigned from Genesis? If you are like me and the the referenced materials you probably agonized over God's command. Let me disspell a modern misreading of the text. Whatever else this text is, this is not child abuse, Isaac is likely an adult man in this account. If he is being bound and sacrificed it is only because he agreed to it.
Indications within the text
As we look at the scripture there are a number of clues that this was meant to be outrageous. It is called a test which distances the authoritative voice of the narrator and God from the command.
The building of phrases, your son, whom you love.
Grammatically we have evidence this was outrageous, the particle נָא (na') in the command. This particle serves as an intensifier that can sometimes be translated as please but it is often not translated into English. (The KJV uses 'I pray' in Genesis 12:13 repeatedly in Genesis 18 Judges 9:38 and in other passages.) The English versions (NKJV, NASB, NIV or ESV) do not translate it directly in this verse. Hamilton (NICOT) shows the location of the partical. He translates:
Then He said: 'Take, please, your son, your precious one who you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, where you shall offer him up as a burnt offering on one of the peaks I will identify for you'.
נָא (na') occurs frequently in the Hebrew portions of scripture, but only 4 times when God addresses people. In each case, God makes a amazing request of them--and three of these are to Abraham!
- In Genesis 13.14, Abram (he has not been renamed Abraham yet), still childless, has just given the best of the land to his closest relative, Lot. God tells Abraham to "lift up please your eyes and see" to the north, to the south to east and to the sea, God promises him and his offspring all that land. I translated נָא (na') as please.
- In Gen 15.5, Abram, still childless, has proposed to make one of his servants his heir. God brings Abraham outside and says "look please heavenward" and number the stars, So shall your offspring be!
- Here in Gen 22.2, God commands Abraham to kill his miraculously-born son, his beloved son, his only son through whom all the promises of descendants, land and blessing will come!
- In Exodus 11.2, God tells Moses "speak please" to the the slave Israelites and order them to ask their Egyptian associates for their jewelry!
Why would God ask such a thing?
This is so not like God! Jeremiah 32:35 and Leviticus both forbid human sacrifice, why would God ask what he forbids?