Did YHVH Tell Abraham to Sacrifice Isaac?
In the story of the banishment of Ishmael in Genesis 21, YHVH told Avraham that in his son Yitschak (Isaac) his seed was called (Gen 21:12), but in Gen 22:2, YHVH seems to have turned the promise upside down when He told Avraham to sacrifice him. And in the culmination of the story in Gen 22:12, it seems that YHVH had “changed” His mind again when He told him not to sacrifice Yitschak thus having created another internal challenge for Avraham. We thus see that the well-known story of “Isaac sacrifice” creates more problems than it seems to. We will try to show in this work that the question of the “Isaac sacrifice” is far from being theologically settled and hope to provide a more complex answer below. Because the last thing we would expect YHVH to ask Avraham or anyone in that matter would be a human sacrifice. We will explain that this is not the way to interpret this verse.
Traditional commentators offer only one interpretation of the story of “Isaac sacrifice”. The common interpretation among the scholars (Jewish and Christian alike) that Avraham was told to slaughter and bring his son as a sacrifice is not at all grounded well in the text though, as the connection between what YHVH told Avraham to do and what he intended to do is never raised or even hinted at in the context of the Genesis 22. For these interpreters, who promote such a concept of human sacrifice (as if it had come from the Almighty), it does not seem to matter that this is an idolatrous practice among the ancient pagans.
The unscriptural interpretation of the story of “Isaac sacrifice” comes from the reading of translations like this one,
And He said, “Take your son, now, your only son Yitschak, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriyah, and offer him there as a burnt-offering on one of the mountains which I command you.” (Gen 22:2)
But did really YHVH told Avraham to sacrifice Yitschak, the promised son, whom he so much loved? Can we rethink the whole story of the sacrifice of Yitschak before we see the beautiful picture of what truly transpired at the end of it? We will duly address this issue of the “Isaac sacrifice” in the following vein and offer the conclusion for the reader’s consideration.
The challenges we are faced with in the Isaac sacrifice
We will explain the reason for these questions in due course, as the present author will try to present all facts the text offers, without being conclusive on the matter. With that said, since the Hebrew text of the story is rich with meanings and shadow pictures, the present author is obliged to admit that this story is one of the present author’s favorite ones of the Bible. However, there are challenges in the story of the “Isaac sacrifice”. The challenges we are faced with posed by the narrative, as we know it by theological discussions in Rabbinic and Christian circles, occurs on four levels:
1. The Lord of the universe changed His promise given to Avraham that from him the promised son would come out. The challenge is: If He had changed His mind once, He could change it again.
2. By telling Avraham to sacrifice Yitschak, the Righteous One had instituted the abominable practice of human sacrifice. This seems self-contradictory and more importantly wrong. The challenge here is the human sacrifices.
3. Avraham’s uncertainty is also problematic; he did not even question the Creator’s decision to sacrifice his only son. We should recall here that Avraham negotiated the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah even for the sake of ten righteous but did not negotiate the fate of his own son. The challenge is: In the story, we see no sign that Avraham had even intended to ask YHVH, “Why did You give me a son whom You want me now to sacrifice?”
4. Avraham consciously and willingly obeyed and brought up his unsuspecting son on the altar to sacrifice him, and Yitschak did not even question his father’s decision. The challenge is a suspected deceit. If Avraham had indeed believed that the bringing of his son as a living sacrifice was the will of YHVH, why did he not tell his son before heading to the mountain.
We see from the challenges above that we are faced with serious theological, moral, and ethical problems, which we need to address to our best knowledge and understanding. Failure to come to some understanding or not addressing these problems at all would leave a big hole in our faith, since this story is a pivotal point of YHVH’s Redemption Plan.
As already said, the story of “Isaac sacrifice” is well discussed by the Rabbinic and Christian theologians not without controversies to the text and even to the internal denominational doctrines. We find the following difference of opinion. Some say that, for instance, Abraham ibn Ezra (1089–c.1167), who was a famous Torah commentator, Elohim’s words sometimes change and referring to our story, he said that Elohim first told Avraham to sacrifice Isaac, and then told him not to. Likewise, in Numbers 3:12-13, YHVH gave the priesthood to the firstborn, but then He replaced them with the Levites. We can understand why he said that, namely, to explain the problem with human sacrifice, but the stories are hardly parallel.
The challenge that stands before Ibn Ezra is to explain that the Just One had changed His mind. Abraham ibn Ezra is in a contradiction to the Sages’ own teaching on the first born. We know that originally the service was meant for the firstborn of Israel. But when they sinned by worshipping the golden calf, the first born became disqualified. The Levites, who had not committed the idolatry, were chosen in their stead. We read this in Midrash Aggadah and also in the Torah (see Num 3:40-41). Ibn Ezra’s “solution” is therefore not binding and cannot be offered as an explanation.
On the other side of the argument, the Christian theologians teach that the overall theology has been changed at the cross, where the Law has been replaced by grace with the death of the Messiah. This “theology” is contrary to what Yeshua himself stated in his First Address to the nation of Israel, aka the Sermon on the Mountain.
According to Christian interpretation of the “Isaac sacrifice”, Avraham reconciled the ideas that he would be the father of many nations, by having faith in resurrection, even though he was told to sacrifice his son. On the basis of this faith, the Christian theology holds the view that Avraham could sacrifice his son Isaac and still believe that he would be resurrected and become the father of many nations. They derive the doctrine of resurrection from the contradiction between God’s promise that Isaac will be the promised son and the command to sacrifice him.
In other words, according to the Christian theology, the doctrine of resurrection comes from the contradiction of the Word of YHVH. A priori, this is a false premise to start with. There is no contradiction of the Word of YHVH, and therefore, the doctrine of resurrection cannot be derived from such a contradiction.
Hence, we see that we are challenged with even more questions. This behooves us to understand, to our best knowledge and ability, what indeed happen on Mount Moriyah, namely:
(1) Why is the alleged sacrifice not explicitly written the way the commentators say it should be understood? Is changing the text to its opposite called “interpretation”?
(2) Did YHVH change His promise when He told Avraham to sacrifice Yitschak? Because if He did, none of us stands on a safe ground concerning the promise made to the rest of us. For once He had changed His mind, He could change it again.
(3) And the ultimate question therefore is: Was indeed Yitschak offered as a human sacrifice, or there is something in the text we do not understand?
This is what we will challenge in the following, as we will ask the intelligent reader to rethink the whole story of the “Isaac sacrifice”. Also, we do not ask the reader to substitute our judgment for his or her own but to carefully examine the matter, as it will be exposed below.
Was Abraham told to sacrifice Isaac?
A good departure point to describing “sacrifice of Isaac” is to explain what the narrative does and most importantly what it does not say. But first of all, we need to clear an old misconception that is heavily influenced by Christian movies and traditions, namely, that Yitschak at the time of “the sacrifice” was a little boy who was led by his father unsuspectedly to slaughter. But was at all Yitschak a little boy who suspected nothing or a grown man who willingly obeyed his father. This we argued in the article How Old Was Yitschak When Avraham Offered Him?
A closer look at the Hebrew text of Genesis 22 suffices to notice that nowhere in it has YHVH “commanded” Avraham to sacrifice anything. It is remarkable that YHVH did not “command” Avraham anything. This is self-evident from the reading of the Hebrew text, as we will explain below. Although this may appear surprising, this conclusion follows naturally from the plain words of the text. It comes as no surprise, therefore, that Avraham was not told to slaughter his son Yitschak at all.
We find the command to Abraham to “sacrifice Isaac” in the translations but not in Hebrew. This seems quite astounding that the Torah has failed to mention this “little” detail. What then did YHVH tell Avraham?
Let us read Gen 22:2 what is said in Hebrew. The first word we will bring to the careful reader’s attention is the word “now” as it appears in all English translations and unfortunately in JPS, as well. It will be clear to the reader that the perception of command is expressed by the usage of the word “now” in the text. Thus translated, the verse seems like a command which had to be performed immediately, i.e., “right now.” What do we find in Hebrew though is something else.
The Hebrew word behind “now” is נא, na, and it simply means “Please!” We find this Hebrew word in Gen 12:13, where we read,
Please, say you are my sister, so that it shall be well with me for your sake, and my life be spared because of you. (Gen 12:13)
Avram did not command Sarai to say she was his sister “now” (because they were not yet in Egypt), but simply pleaded with her to say it in order to save his life, when they would enter Egypt. So, hardly we can translate נא, na, in Gen 12:13 as “now” since the context and the timing do not permit it.
Therefore, the proper translation of Gen 22:2 must be: And He said, “Take, please, your son, …” That was not a harsh command from YHVH to Avraham to slaughter his son but a plea to Avraham to take his son. It is remarkable to learn that the Almighty Sovereign of the universe can make a plea before a mortal, but this is what we read in the narrative. This should come to us as a surprise for it was YHVH who called Avraham his friend. YHVH asked Avraham to take his son, but take him where and why? We will pause here for a moment to return to it later.
The second thing that may surprise many is that nowhere in the whole narrative do we find that YHVH has commanded Avraham “to bind and slaughter”, that is, to kill and sacrifice his son Isaac. Simply, nowhere can it be derived from the plain reading of the text. The problematic words in the translations are “offer him there as a burnt offering”. The confusion hence comes from the association of burnt sacrifices after being slaughtered on the altar. The problem here is how two Hebrew words are translated, as we will explain. The Hebrew words in question are עָלָה alah, and עֹלָה olah. We read,
Take your son, now, your only son Yitschak, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriyah, and עָלָה alah him there as עֹלָה olah on one of the mountains which I command you. (Gen 22:2)
As the careful reader has already noticed, both words are spelled out in Hebrew identically and pronounced similarly. The traditional interpretation suggests that the noun עֹלָה or עוֹלָה olah, always refers to “a burnt offering”, as in bringing up an animal sacrifice by fire on the altar of the Temple. A literal translation, however, would require a different approach. The verb עָלָה alah, from which עֹלָה olah is derived, is a primitive root and simply means to ascend, to bring up, to rise up and is used in a great variety of senses, primary and secondary, literally and figuratively.
So, YHVH’s instruction in Genesis 22:2 is שָם וְהַעֲלֵהוּ and simply means “and bring him up there [the mountain]” where “vav” at the end of the word וְהַעֲלֵהוּ means “him” and שָם sham means “there”, hence, “bring him (Yitschak) up on the mountain.
Although, alah and olah, are spelled with the same Hebrew consonants, עֹלָה olah (alternative spellings are עוֹלָה עַוְלָה עָוֶל עֶוֶל) may come from a different root: עָוַל aval, as Strong Dictionary hints at, and therefore, they are two different words, as we will explain. Notice the alternative spellings of both words עוֹלָה.
If this is the case, olah means (moral) evil, iniquity, perverseness, unrighteousness, wickedness. Olah comes from the root verb עָוַל aval, which means to distort (morally), to deal unjustly. The first use of this word is found in Gen 8:20 where Noach was told to build an altar to YHVH and take of every clean animal and bring them up on the altar. We read thus,
And Noach built an altar to Yehovah and took of every clean beast and of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar. (Gen 8:20)
In Gen 8:20 we find the same expression “offered burnt offerings” as in our verse Gen 22:2. We also find this word in Lev 4:22-24 with its literal meaning of “iniquity”.
When a ruler sins, … he shall lay his hand on the head of the goat and slay it at the place where they slay עֹלָה olah the burnt offering before Yehovah. It is a sin offering. (Lev 4:22-24)
Hence, from Hebrew we read thus (notice how olah couples with chatah, the Hebrew word for “sin”).
When a ruler sins (chata), … he shall lay his hand on the head of the goat and slay it at the place where they slay the iniquity (olah) before Yehovah, it is a sin (chatah). (Lev 4:22-24)
Clearly our word olah is used in parallel with the word chattah to teach us that an iniquity is a sin for us, bringing up (alah) an animal on the altar and ascending it up (alah) in the smoke of fire, is a representation of iniquity (olah) and not the iniquity itself. This interpretation, however, works for the Noach story but contradicts the Isaac story. This might have caused the translators to render both words as one and the same: firstly, by their identical spelling and close pronunciation, and secondly by their service. But they may not be. The phrase “offered burnt-offering” is therefore to be translated as “brought up iniquity” [the animals as representations of iniquities].
But Avraham was never told to do olah, “burnt offering”, as Noach was told, since that would have been an abominable offering of human sacrifice. Again, nowhere in the whole narrative do we find that YHVH has commanded Avraham “to bind and slaughter” or sacrifice Yitschak, as it is implied in the phrase “offer him there as a burnt offering“. But simply His instruction in Genesis 22:2 was שָם וְהַעֲלֵהוּ “and bring him up there [the mountain]”. Therefore, the most rational conclusion is that the phrase לְעֹלָ֔ה שָם וְהַעֲלֵהוּ means “and bring him up there [the mountain] for iniquity” (where Yitschak by no means was “iniquity” but a representation of iniquity).
By now the reader should have notice the upcoming shadow picture of something in the Almighty’s plea to Avraham,
Take, please, your son, your only son Yitschak, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriyah, and bring him up there as an iniquity on one of the mountains which I command you! (Gen 22:2)
The text is as simple as it is, and this is how we should read it without any preconceived ideas. With this in mind, we keep on reading,
And Avraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and Yitschak his son. And he split a tree for the iniquity (olah) and arose and went to the place which Elohim had commanded him. (Gen 22:3)
The new surprising thing is what we find in this verse. Avraham did something he was not commanded to do at all: he split a tree and took it with him, for what he presumed he was told to do on the mountain. That was the first thing that might have led Avraham to draw a wrong conclusion. When we read the Hebrew text, we see that the word for “wood” is eytz, whose simple meaning is “tree”.
The confusion might have come from the usage of the expression in Hebrew “and bring him up there for iniquity” to mean “to burn something on the mountain” as his ancestor Noach did after the Flood, and what was the common practice at that time, namely, to bring something on an altar for burning. But strictly speaking and judging by what the text does and what it does not say, YHVH did not ask Avraham to take a tree with him to burn it on the mountain. He simply did not tell Avraham to do such a thing.
After three-day walk to the mountain Moriyah, Avraham saw the place from a distance and said to the young men who were with him,
Stay here with the donkey while the boy and I will go over there and worship and come back to you. (Gen 22:5)
First thing first: the Hebrew word behind “boy” should be yelad meaning child, but this is not what we find here, but na’ar, a young man (for more on the age of Yitschak, refer to the referenced article).
The word usually translated as “to worship” actually means “to bow down” and notice also what Avraham told his servants: “we will come back to you”. In other words, he said “we (plural), that is Avraham and Yitschak, will come back to you”. In his mind, Avraham believed that they both would return to the camp after he finished whatever YHVH would ask him to do on the mountain. No word that he would sacrifice Yitschak.
And Avraham took the tree of the iniquity (olah) and laid it on Yitschak his son. And he took the fire in his hand, and a knife, and the two of them went together. (Gen 22:6)
If Avraham had already presumed that YHVH had asked him to burn something, in his mind he was expected to take a fire and a knife with him, which he did. Another prophetic picture we cannot overlook is that Avraham laid the tree upon Yitschak, and they headed for the summit of the mountain.
Now comes the critical moment in our story, which is full of emotions: Yitschak for the first time, we are told, questioned his father’s actions, as we further read,
“My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” And he said, “Look, the fire and the wood! But where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” (Gen 22:7)
If his father took the fire and the knife, where was the animal sacrifice, Yitschak asked? From the day Avraham was asked to bring his son up to the mountain (for unknown reason) until the moment Yitschak inadvertently asked this prophetic question, we can count at least three full days. We can expect that there were some conversations between the father and the son on the purpose of going up to the mountain and exactly what they both were supposed to do there, but for unknown reason we are not told of their existence.
And now comes the moment we are expecting, when Avraham said,
My son, Elohim does see for Himself the lamb for an iniquity (olah). (Gen 22:8)
Here again we see another new element in the story: the lamb. Let us recall what the text does and what it does not say: Avraham had never been commanded to slaughter and sacrifice a lamb on the top of the mountain, so that he would need a tree for the fire, and a knife for the slaughtering. Nevertheless, we see both the father and the son played their prophetic roles for the fulfillment of the Redemption Plan of YHVH. But this is not all, as there is more to come in the story.
The expression יִרְאֶה־לֹּ֥ו אֱלֹהִים elohim yereh lo, “Elohim will see for Himself” speaks a lot. The Hebrew text as it is vocalized by the scribes does say what it says in third person singular active imperfect tense: elohim yereh lo, “Elohim will see for Himself”, but the verb רָאָה ra’ah, to see, can also be written with different vowels to read in third person singular passive imperfect tense thus: elohim yera’eh lo, “Elohim will be seen for Himself”. This is how this phrase is written originally (with no vowel points that do not exist in Hebrew): יראה־לּו אלהים. Therefore, we see that in Hebrew both expressions can be written identically and differ only in the vowel points.
The Masoretic text supports the former rather than the latter, namely: elohim yereh lo, “Elohim will see for Himself”, according to how the scribes have decided to vocalize this phrase. The alternative and legitimate vocalization would be elohim yera’eh lo, “Elohim will be seen for Himself”. Either way, the Hebrew text will be identical for both translations. Which vocalization is the correct one, we do not know as none of them is wrong or grammatically incorrect?
However, we see a significant change of the meaning of the text that has shifted from “Elohim will see for Himself” to “Elohim will be seen for Himself”. What is the difference? Theologically this is a big change from “Elohim will provide for Himself the lamb” to “Elohim will appear for Himself the lamb”. Keep in mind the latter, as we are proceeding in this study.
The reader is asked not to draw swift theological conclusions, but to take into account what the Hebrew word “Elohim” means. Literally, it means a mighty one or someone in power or authority, as the word “Elohim” itself does not necessarily mean the Creator of the universe. In the Hebrew Scripture, “Elohim” is found to refer to the angels and judges, as they are all vested in power and authority to do their tasks.
“Elohim” does not necessarily mean “God” as it is commonly translated and understood. Behind the gentile concept of “God” there is a theological baggage depending on the religion and the denomination of the ones who use it, but it does not necessarily mean what the Hebrew “Elohim” really means.
The Hebrew “Elohim” means much more to it than that. It can refer to the Creator (as the present author would translate “Elohim” as “The Absolute One” instead of “God”). “Elohim” can refer to His messengers (angels), but it can also refer to men and judges, as we find this in the command to Mosheh (Moses) to appear before Pharaoh and be like “elohim”. YHVH did not tell Mosheh to be a God before Pharaoh but be His representative in power and authority to judge the Egyptians. i.e., to speak with authority, which Mosheh did.
So, back to our story, Avraham, speaking prophetically, did not say that YHVH will appear in a form or image of something, but that One in power and authority will be seen as a lamb. Who could that in power and authority will be seen on the mountain we will see at the end of our study?
What Avraham was never asked to do
Again, regardless of how Avraham pronounced יראה־לּו אלהים the phrase is prophetically enough. If he had said it one way or the other, it was a beautiful and prophetic Hebrew wordplay, which has not lost its prophetic meaning. We keep on reading,
And they came to the place which Elohim had told him, and Avraham built an altar there and placed the trees in order. And he bound Yitschak his son and laid him on the altar, upon the trees. (Gen 22:9)
Let us pause for a moment here. The present author is in opinion that there is a time gap between verse 8 and verses 9-10. This time gap was not filled only for the time it took for both to climb up to the top of the mountain but also for something else, which we will explain now.
After they reached the summit of Moriyah, Avraham might have paused for a while waiting for something. But what was it? We read verse 10,
And Avraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son, (Gen 22:10)
Here, contrary to what we have seen in the Bible movies, we see that Avraham did not raise his hand in the air holding a knife as if to stab his son Isaac in the chest, but he stretched out his hand to take the knife; he did this because in his mind he had to sacrifice his son.
The humane way to slaughter an animal for food or sacrifice is to cut gently the jugular vein with a very sharp and smooth knife so that it would cause minimal or no suffering to the animal. While the blood is dripping on the ground, the only thing the animal may feel is a deep sleep coming upon itself: the animal does not even know that it is dying but it feels it is falling asleep. That was how Avraham had slaughtered his sheep for food and by no means we could have expected him to attempt to stab his son the way we have seen it in the movies.
Strictly speaking and judging by what the text does and what it does not say, we need to reiterate for the sake emphasis that:
(1) YHVH did not ask Avraham to take a tree with him to burn something on the mountain.
(2) Avraham had never been commanded to slaughter a lamb on the altar, much less to sacrifice his son, so that he would need a tree for fire, and a knife for slaughter.
(3) He had never been told to build an altar either.
None of this was in the plea of YHVH to him, and yet he did prepare an altar to sacrifice Yitschak the promised son on it. So, what might Avraham have waited for when they reached the summit and paused for a while?
How Avraham might have misunderstood YHVH
Let us summarize how Avraham and Yitschak might have seen the whole story. Avraham was never told “to bind and slaughter” or sacrifice Isaac, but simply YHVH’s instruction was “bring him up there [on the mountain] for iniquity.” That was what he heard when YHVH spoke to him.
While he was wondering why YHVH would ask him to go up to the mountain with his son and what the role of his son would be, he thought that he would be asked to sacrifice an animal for the iniquities of his generation, as he prepared for the journey by having taken wood for fire.
As they were walking towards Mount Moriyah, most likely they were discussing the purpose of their journey to the mountain. Upon arrival at the mountain, Avraham thought that whatever sacrifice they would be asked to do on the mountain, they would do as asked and both would return to the camp, as he told his accompanying servants.
Here, Yitschak asked the question, if they would do an animal sacrifice, where was the animal? Avraham, as he himself did not know what he would expect from the whole journey, gave the most natural answer that a lamb would be provided, if they would been told to sacrifice an animal on the mountain.
Upon arrival on the top of the mountain Avraham and Yitschak expected to find there a lamb or other clean animal suitable for sacrifice for the iniquities of their generation. As the time was going by and no animal was seen around, Avraham came to the conclusion that since there was no animal to be found on the mountain, from the very beginning YHVH might have meant his son for “olah”. And he prepared the altar to sacrifice his son.
What YHVH might have asked Avraham
The intelligent reader needs no reminding that human sacrifices are an abomination to the Creator, and that by no means He would command anyone under any circumstances to do such an abomination, much less as a sacrifice for YHVH and in the Name of YHVH.
Now, let us see the whole story from a heavenly perspective and how it might have transpired according to YHVH’s plan. YHVH pleaded to His friend Avraham to take his only son Yitschak, whom he loved, and bring him up to His mountain Moriyah as an “olah”, i.e., as a representative of the iniquities of his but also of the future generations. Let us again recall the prophetic statement of Gen 3:15,
And I put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed. He shall crush your head, and you shall crush His heel.
In order to fulfill this promise, YHVH might have planned to give mankind a beautiful shadow picture of a man who would ultimately fulfill His Redemption Plan.
However, as YHVH saw from above the preparations Avraham had done an animal sacrifice by having taken wood for it, He waited patiently for the events to transpire. He was listening to the conversation between the father and the son during their three-day journey to the mountain. Upon their arrival at the skirts of Moriyah, YHVH saw that Avraham’s expectation was to find a lamb for the sacrifice at the mountain summit, to sacrifice it, and return back home with his son. And while witnessing the conversation between the father and the son, YHVH saw that Avraham had faith in Him: that although no animal had been provided so far for the sacrifice, he believed that YHVH would provide it.
They arrived at the summit of the mountain and built the altar for the sacrifice and waited for the lamb to appear. YHVH waited to see what action Avraham would do as no animal was to be found around. And when He saw that Avraham had misunderstood His words and took the things in his own hands ready to sacrifice his own and only son in the place of the lamb, the Merciful One stopped his hand to sacrifice Yitschak right there. He could not allow any human sacrifice, much less to sacrifice Yitschak through whom the fulfillment of the prophecy would take place. And then He said at the last moment,
Do not lay your hand on the young man, nor touch him. Because now I know that you fear Elohim, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me. (Gen 22:12)
In this scene, we see that Elohim is able to turn the evil into good and although humans may misunderstand Him and attempt to do evil believing they do good; He can turn it around, as He intervened the Yoseph story.
We see here both the father and the son played their prophetic roles in order to fulfill another shadow picture of a promised son who should come one day and crush the serpent’s head. This is how the Good News started at the very beginning of the world.
Therefore, we conclude that YHVH had never had in mind to command Avraham to do a human sacrifice. He would never ask or command anyone else to do such an abomination. Neither had He changed His mind what He had planned to do.
What was YHVH’s plan for Avraham and Yitschak?
What YHVH simply wanted from Avraham was to bring his beloved son to His mountain where He would show them both something. What was it? What did YHVH want to reveal to His friend Avraham? For a deeper insight into this prophetic picture and what was revealed to Avraham, the reader is encouraged to read (for a complete understanding of our story) the articles To foresee Yeshua the Messiah and The Festival of the Unleavened Bread and the Messiah.
What was behind the scenes Avraham did not know about
It is the present author’s understanding of what might have transpired on the mountain of YHVH. This study has not been meant to be conclusive nor exhaustive, but to give an unorthodox view of one of the most prophetic stories of the Bible. But we still may be perplexed as to why the righteous Avraham would have even assumed that his friend YHVH would ask him to sacrifice his beloved and only son.
According to The Book of Jubilee 17:16, this is what took place between Elohim and the satan in heaven. We read thus,
And the prince Mastêmâ came and said before Elohim, ‘Behold, Avraham loves Yitschak his son, and he delights in him above all things else; bid offer him as a burnt offering on the altar, and Thou wilt see if he will do this command, and Thou wilt know if he is faithful in everything wherein, Thou dost try him.
We should recall that this “deal” between Elohim and the satan is not without precedent in the Scripture, when YHVH tested through the satan the faith of another servant of Him, Iyov (Job).
And satan answered Yehovah and said, “Is Iyov fearing Elohim for naught? Have You not made a hedge around him, and around his household, and around all that he has on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But stretch out Your hand, please, and strike all that he has – if he would not curse You to Your face!” And Yehovah said to Satan, “See, all that he has is in your hand. Only do not lay a hand on himself.” (Job 1:9-12)
It is very plausible that the conversation in The Book of Jubilee might have taken place when Avraham and Yitschak were awaiting the lamb on the mountain. As YHVH and the satan were watching the men, the satan stepped in and offered the deal to test Avraham’s faith, as he would test Iyov’s faith. The test was granted and when Avraham was found faithful, despite the misunderstanding, YHVH declared,
By Myself I have sworn, because you have done this, and have not withheld your son, your only son, that I shall certainly bless you, and I shall certainly increase your seed as the stars of the heavens and as the sand, which is on the seashore, and let your seed possess the gate of their enemies. (Gen 22:16)
Thus, YHVH turned the evil intent of the satan into a blessing for Avraham. Avraham’s offering of his son was an example of faith, as the author of Hebrews testifies:
By faith Avraham, when put to the test, offered up Yitschak. He who had received the promises was ready to bring up his only son, of whom he had been told, it is through Yitschak that descendants shall be named for you. He considered the fact that Elohim is able even to raise someone from the dead—and figuratively speaking, he did receive him back. (Hebrews 11:17–19)
And indeed, Avraham (unknowingly of the test of the satan) was ready to sacrifice his son believing that YHVH was able to raise him from the dead.
Continue reading Avraham gained righteousness but lost a son
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