Genesis 22: Akedah – “The Binding of Isaac”

Posted: July 27, 2012 in Old Testament, Theology and Faith
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Although Isaac is not necessarily a major character in the narratives of Genesis, he is still an integral part.  Abraham and Sarah had been unable to have children.  Sarah’s womb was barren.  And, although they had a son, Ishmael, through Sarah’s handmaiden, God told Abraham and Sarah that they would have a son and the promise would be fulfilled through him.

The promise did not come to fruition immediately.  In fact, Abraham and Sarah were well beyond child-bearing years when God visited them again.  God assures them that they will have a child within a year’s time.  Abraham is silent and Sarah laughs at the impossibility of having a child in their old age.  Yet, that is exactly what happens.  Isaac is born!  Isaac embodies the promise from God to Abraham.  Abraham’s son is very precious to him.

Genesis 22 is initiated by God’s desire to test Abraham.  God calls to Abraham and commands him to take Isaac and to sacrifice him.  There is no protest but simple obedience from Abraham.  Isaac is old enough to understand that they have not adequately prepared for the journey.  Upon asking his father about a sacrifice, Abraham simply states that God will provide a lamb for the sacrifice.  It is the picture of unclouded faith.

Abraham had seen God’s ability to provide in the past.  After all, Isaac was a miracle by God alone.  Abraham and Sarah’s bodies were as good as dead.  They were unable to fulfill God’s promise on their own.  Despite the overwhelming odds, God provided the elderly couple with a son.  That experience confirmed Abraham’s faith and trust in what God was asking him to do.  Thus, Abraham obeyed without reservation.

The underlying basis for Abraham’s trust is God’s faithfulness.  After all, God had specifically told Abraham that it would be through Isaac that the promise would be fulfilled.  Although we can merely speculate at Abraham’s thoughts about sacrificing his son, we can clearly see that God is powerful enough to fulfill his promise, even if Isaac is sacrificed.  God has fully demonstrated the divine power and goodness.  Abraham moves ahead in obedience.

When Abraham and Isaac arrived at the mountain, the preparations for the sacrifice were made.  Isaac was bound and placed on top of the wood.  Abraham grabbed the knife and was prepared to plunge it into his son.  At this moment, an angel appears and stops Abraham from killing Isaac.  God tells Abraham that he now knows that Abraham is faithful.

This suggests God limits God’s knowledge of the future or that the future is not something that is not fully knowable because it does not yet exist.  There is a real freedom of decision for humanity.  Thus, God tests Abraham to see how he would act when asked to give back to God that which is most precious to him.  Abraham is shown to be faithful.

God values human decision.  Abraham has the capacity to choose not to sacrifice Isaac.  Yet, it is his difficult decision that ultimately proves to God that Abraham is faithful to him alone.  It seems like God desires to know if God’s people have a singleness of heart for God alone!  God has created the cosmos in such a way that there are real choices with real consequences.  God is far from being a divine tyrant.  Rather, God invites response and waits to see the result.

It is at this point that Abraham notices a ram that is caught in a nearby bush.  Abraham takes the ram and sacrifices it to God.  Abraham names the place “The Lord Will Provide.”  That is the theological “kernel of truth” for this passage.  God is shown to be faithful and to provide in ways that might not be readily apparent in the beginning.  This is a lesson that Abraham has learned well in his journey with God.  Our assertion should be: “God’s grace is enough!”



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