How would you explain why God would command Abraham to sacrifice Isaac?

bible-questions
oldtestament

(Omar Rushlive Lozada Arellano) #1

Hello guys! Just wondering how you would answer this question in case you were asked:

  1. If God does not want people to sacrifice their children to Baal/Moloch, why would He command Abraham to sacrifice Isaac as a burnt offering?

Genesis 22:2, "Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”

Jeremiah 19:5, “They have built the high places of Baal to burn their children in the fire as offerings to Baal–something I did not command or mention, nor did it enter my mind.”


(SeanO) #2

For Abraham, Isaac was at the very center of both his own heart and of God’s promise. He loved Isaac very much as a father and Isaac was the fulfillment of God’s promises to him - a child of his old age - a miracle.

God was asking Abraham to trust Him with everything - his son and God’s promise.

The following two verses from Scripture make it clear that Abraham fully believed God would deliver Isaac back to him - even if it required resurrection.

Genesis 22:5 - He said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.”

Hebrews 11:17-19 - By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, 18 of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 19 He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.

God was not after Isaac. God wanted to strengthen Abraham’s faith. He was after Abraham’s heart. God never intended to let Abraham go through with this deed.

Moreover, this act prefigured Jesus. God did not require Abraham to offer his son - he provided a sacrifice in Isaac’s place just like God would one day offer up His own Son one day.

The story of Abraham and Isaac helps us remember both to trust God to keep His promises and to be in amazement of God’s love in giving His own Son.


(Tim Ramey) #3

@omnarchy
I really think that Sean hit the issue better than I could have. I would just like to add that I do not believe that the Lord would have allowed Abraham to go through with it, as Sean said, Also Sean mentioned that He wanted to strengthen Abraham’s faith. Yet, I think the reason that He tested his faith because Isaac was the basis for the great promise to Abraham and he longed for a son more than anything else. The Lord needed Abraham to not have as a son as an "idol’ . Abraham tried his best at fulfilling God’s promise himself. He needed Abraham to realize that he needed to believe in the Promise Giver and not in the promise


(Dave Kenny) #4

Here is a text that gives a fascinating description of all the components of the Abraham dilemma. The remarkable question tackled by this text is whether or not ethics can ever be suspended for a greater end? Namely… obedience in faith.

Are even ethics (do not murder, a father is to love his son etc…) subordinate to faith? The challenge is deeper than it first appears.

Dave


(Jimmy Sellers) #5

Hi @omnarchy :
I would like to add to the very good answers that have been posted by @SeanO, @Dave_Kenny and @Tim_Ramey this contextual view:

The fact that human sacrifice did occur in the ancient Near East means that what the Torah legislated against (e.g., Dt. 12:30) was a reality in Israel’s world. Some in Israel may have practiced it as a part of their Yahwistic beliefs, though not with the approval of the central authorities of Yahwism (Green, pp. 199, 201). “In so doing, the people [of early Israel] may have been consciously carrying out a ritual which was common to most groups in the region of whose cultural background they were a part” (Green, p. 199).
Carpenter, E. E. (1979–1988). Sacrifice, Human. In G. W. Bromiley (Ed.), The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Revised (Vol. 4, p. 259). Wm. B. Eerdmans.

In your question is a much larger question for me, was human sacrifice practiced in Israel, if not how would Abraham known how to response to God’s test? In other words, how would Abraham have known what God meant when he said, …offer him there as a burnt offering… (Ge 22:2). Base on what Abraham did he knew what was being ask of him as demonstrated by what he did next. He chopped wood for the burnt offering.
One of the lessons that I have learned about the Bible is that everything written is God inspired but everything written is not God approved. I hope this does not detract from your question or the discussion.
As an aside the Aqedah (The Binding of Isaac) is a fascinating study and for me the perfect picture of God the father alone with his son on that lonely hill on Calvary 2000 years ago were he provided the Lamb. How great is our God!


(SeanO) #6

@Jimmy_Sellers That is a question I have never considered - whether the Israelites ever practiced child sacrifice, but since Abraham was the very forefather of the nation then there were no Israelites at that time and certainly Abraham never practiced it. Later the Israelites did worship stars in the temple, engage in cult prostitution and in Judges even keep an oath to offer a child. But I do not recall an instance of child sacrifice as appeasement.

I really like the following explanation highlighting how although child sacrifice was not common in Ur it was in Canaan and God used this event to set Himself apart:

“In Genesis 12 Abraham followed God’s call to move to Canaan. Although human sacrifice was not common in Abraham’s native Ur, it was well-established in his new land. God later asked Abraham to offer Isaac as a sacrifice (Genesis 22:2). But then God distinguished Himself from gods like Moloch. Unlike the native Canaanite gods, Abraham’s God abhorred human sacrifice. God commanded Isaac to be spared, and He provided a ram to take Isaac’s place (Genesis 22:13). God used this event as an illustration of how He would later provide His own Son to take our place.”


(Carson Weitnauer) #7

In brief, I would summarize this thread by saying:
God commanded Abraham to sacrifice Isaac as a burnt offering so that he could demonstrate his total opposition to child sacrifice. The narrative twist is dramatic, memorable, and lasting: Abraham is not to sacrifice Isaac, but rather a substitute. Though our sin before the deity is great, he does not demand our children pay the price. Rather, God is the one who will provide the substitute. In fact, the story of Abraham and Isaac goes far beyond its immediate scenario. It points beyond itself to the astounding fulfillment: God himself becomes the sacrifice for our sins!


(Omar Rushlive Lozada Arellano) #8

@Jimmy_Sellers @CarsonWeitnauer @SeanO @Dave_Kenny @Dave_Kenny @Tim_Ramey I appreciate your contribution guys! It’s nice to see how it’s answered in different angles.


(Jennifer Judson) #9

It is a key turning point in the redemption narrative of man’s history with God. It establishes the story thread that weaves through history to each Christian’s heart.

In typology, the OT person or thing is called the type, and the NT person or thing is called the antitype, meaning the one that takes the place of the ‘type.’ In the comparison between type and antitype there is always at least one significant point of similarity, but there is also a significant point of superiority. The antitype is always greater than the type and may be different from the type in many particulars, even though similar in other respects.

Post crucifixion and resurrection, we can see Jesus in every angle of this scene.
Type - Abraham: One man through whom all the world will be blessed. Antitype - Jesus: One man through whom all the world will be saved.
Type - Abraham: Trusted in God’s saving hand. Antitype - Jesus: In humanness asked for the “cup to pass by” but trusted in God’s power.
Type - Isaac: The innocent, first-born son and Abraham’s hope for descendants. Antitype - Jesus: The innocent, first-born son and hope for all mankind.
Type - the ram: Blameless and without blemish caught in the thorns (the result of Adam’s cursing of the ground), substituted for Isaac. Antitype - Jesus: Blameless and without blemish with a crown of thorns, substituted for you and me because of Adam’s fall.

Though all of THE story points to God providing a means of reconciliation, this is the place where we the audience see the stage set for redemption.


(Megan Kemp) #10

I would add to what @SeanO said and quoted from Genesis that Abraham told Isaac that “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering…” (Genesis 22:8)

Further, after Abraham looked up from the altar where he had placed Isaac, and saw the ram God had provided, he called the place “The Lord Will Provide”. So going into it, Abraham completely believed God would provide. And after he did provide, Abraham declared it so.

I’m glad this thread started because just last week, I had been pondering this very topic!

I don’t think the main point to gain from this is about child sacrifice. It’s about Abraham’s faith that went even to the point of placing Isaac on the altar. It’s about his obedience to do as the Lord asked.

Megan


(Jimmy Sellers) #11

The point I was trying to make was that human sacrifice was a known practice in Abraham’s day. I don’t think that Abraham (1/2 of the original Hebrew) participated in human sacrifice any more that Bill Graham would participate in abortion but Abraham and Bill Graham both would understand the respective practices. It stands to reason that God would not ask of Abraham something that he couldn’t relate to even through it was a shocking request.
Another comparison might be the SED or VI command, it means nothing to me but might well be recognized by you.:grinning:


(David Cieszynski) #12

To keep it concise as there could be a deeper question and the questionnaire maybe trying to trip you up, “God wanted to make sure that He was the central point in Abraham’s life and He wanted to show Abraham that he could be trusted with the most precious part of Abraham’s life aka Issac.”


(RONALD EUGENE LUCAS) #13

I have never concluded that Abraham KNEW that Isaac would return from the sacrifice. He certainly could not say to the servant Isaac and I will go sacrifice and I will come back to you. Certainly would not say, Isaac & I will go sacrifice, but Isaac will not be coming back with me!


(SeanO) #14

@lukeonfleming If we trust in the inspired nature of the New Testament, Hebrews also affirms that Abraham believed (knew might be a strong word) that Isaac would be coming back with him - even if he had to be resurrected.

Hebrews 11:17-19 - By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, 18 of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 19 He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.


(St. Adrian M.) #15

For me, this question has the answer in the first verse (Gen 22:1) " … God tested Abraham …", so it is not what the question implies that God wants to sacrifice children, not even Abraham believed that according to Hebrews 11:17-19, mentioned by @SeanO

When dealing with Old Testament question one must consider:

  1. Old Testament questions should be answered in their historical context. That story didn’t happen in a 1st world country in the 21st century (where there are no slaves, and ppl have all sorts of rights … )

  2. Most of the stories/events from Old Testament makes no sense without the New Testament. Saint Augustine said, “The new is in the old concealed; the old is in the new revealed.” (Remeber the poison snakes and the Bronze Snake, what a silly story until Jesus explains it to Nicodemus.) we know that Abraham is a hero of faith from NT. No OT question should be answered before reading the whole Bible.

  3. Keep in mind the progressive revelation of God in the Bible. Abraham received the promise, Moses received the Law (including the 6th Commandment), the prophets received more insights and prophesies, the incarnation of Jesus and the apostles’ writings …


(Kelly) #16

Carson,

This was so insightful for me. As I have been diving deeper into the study of the Bible, I have found that looking at God from Genesis to Revelation is so important. In looking at the God of the Bible and not the God of a story, we get a fuller picture of who God is and what He is really like. I never considered the influence of his culture and how it might “pollute” him. The Bible speaks over and over of how God hates child sacrifice. To use Abraham, it would be important for Abraham to not become like his new culture…at the same time provide him with the opportunity to keep his eyes on God. Thanks for posting this. Many talk to me about how God is some kind of ego-maniac and Job and this story are often used to prove their point. This is a great perspective of God, again, showing how he values life and values us … It’s not about Him and His ego. It’s about His love and value for us.

@CarsonWeitnauer

[quote=“CarsonWeitnauer, post:7, topic:2542, full:true”]
"In brief, I would summarize this thread by saying:

God commanded Abraham to sacrifice Isaac as a burnt offering so that he could demonstrate his total opposition to child sacrifice. The na"rrative twist is dramatic, memorable, and lasting: Abraham is not to sacrifice Isaac, but rather a substitute. Though our sin before the deity is great, he does not demand our children pay the price. Rather, God is the one who will provide the substitute. In fact, the story of Abraham and Isaac goes far beyond its immediate scenario. It points beyond itself to the astounding fulfillment: God himself becomes the sacrifice for our sins!"