The Command to Sacrifice Isaac
22 After these things God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 2 He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains that I shall show you.” 3 So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac; he cut the wood for the burnt offering, and set out and went to the place in the distance that God had shown him. 4 On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place far away. 5 Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; the boy and I will go over there; we will worship, and then we will come back to you.” 6 Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. So the two of them walked on together. 7 Isaac said to his father Abraham, “Father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” He said, “The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” 8 Abraham said, “God himself will provide the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So the two of them walked on together.
9 When they came to the place that God had shown him, Abraham built an altar there and laid the wood in order. He bound his son Isaac, and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to kill[a] his son. 11 But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 12 He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” 13 And Abraham looked up and saw a ram, caught in a thicket by its horns. Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called that place “The Lord will provide”;[b] as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.”[c]
15 The angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven, 16 and said, “By myself I have sworn, says the Lord: Because you have done this, and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 I will indeed bless you, and I will make your offspring as numerous as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of their enemies, 18 and by your offspring shall all the nations of the earth gain blessing for themselves, because you have obeyed my voice.” 19 So Abraham returned to his young men, and they arose and went together to Beer-sheba; and Abraham lived at Beer-sheba.
- Genesis 22:10 Or to slaughter
- Genesis 22:14 Or will see; Heb traditionally transliterated Jehovah Jireh
- Genesis 22:14 Or he shall be seen
There are some remarkable foreshadowings in this story of Jesus’ later experience:
– As Abraham offered up his only son, so God the Father too will offer up his only Son to be sacrificed.
– Isaac carrying the wood for the holocaust on his shoulders prefigures Jesus carrying his cross to Calvary.
– And when Isaac asks where is the sheep for the holocaust, Abraham answers: “God himself will provide the sheep for the holocaust.” Jesus, too, would be the sheep of the sacrifice, he will be the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
There is one big difference, however. In the end, God spared the life of Isaac once he knew of Abraham’s fidelity; but God, who loves the world so much, did not spare his own Son, who was both Priest and Victim.
Some commentators also see in the story the basis of the ritual prescription for the redemption, the ‘buying back’ of the first-born of Israel. The first fruits of flocks and herds and animals were usually offered in sacrifice. Humans, however, were not to be sacrificed but bought back, ‘redeemed’.
Commentators also see in the last minute preventing of Abraham killing his son strong opposition by the Israelites to the child-sacrifice which was common among neighbouring peoples.
But, above all, in this incident it is Abraham’s faith which reaches its climax.
Once again we, too, can reflect on the extent of our faith and trust in God. Are we ready to give God anything he asks for, knowing that whatever he asks is for our good? In my life now, what would I find it most difficult to give up if God asked me?
The Impotence of Idols and the Greatness of God
1 Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory,
for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness.
2 Why should the nations say,
“Where is their God?”
3 Our God is in the heavens;
he does whatever he pleases.
4 Their idols are silver and gold,
the work of human hands.
5 They have mouths, but do not speak;
eyes, but do not see.
6 They have ears, but do not hear;
noses, but do not smell.
7 They have hands, but do not feel;
feet, but do not walk;
they make no sound in their throats.
8 Those who make them are like them;
so are all who trust in them.
9 O Israel, trust in the Lord!
He is their help and their shield.
9 1 And after getting into a boat he crossed the sea and came to his own town.
Jesus Heals a Paralytic
2 And just then some people were carrying a paralyzed man lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.” 3 Then some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.” 4 But Jesus, perceiving their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? 5 For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Stand up and walk’? 6 But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he then said to the paralytic—“Stand up, take your bed and go to your home.” 7 And he stood up and went to his home. 8 When the crowds saw it, they were filled with awe, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to human beings.
New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE) New Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition, copyright © 1989, 1993 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Nowadays, we do not see something like paralysis or a physical handicap as a punishment from God. We do not believe that God works like that. On the other hand it is likely that many health problems which we have can be linked with a disharmony in our lives arising from a conflict between what we are truly meant to be and what we tend to be. We refer to some sicknesses as ‘dis-eases’. They are the result of harmful stress when we are out of harmony with ourselves, with other people and with our environment. In that sense, we can see a clear link between sin and sickness.
Perhaps if we looked at our own lives we might see that some of our physical and mental ailments are due to a lack of harmony between God and others and our surroundings. Let’s think about that today.