Gallery D

Fearing The God

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God Orders Abraham To Kill His Son

By James Donahue

There is a troublesome story in the Book of Genesis about God’s command to Abraham to take his only legitimate son, Isaac, into the mountains and there to sacrifice him as a burnt offering.

We have to remember that Isaac was a miracle child, who came to Abraham and Sarai late in life, and that the boy was a promise from God to be the beginning of what was to be the Hebrew race. So a command like this must have been a devastating thing for Abraham to hear.

As the story is told in Genesis 22, Abraham obeyed. In verse three we read that “early the next morning Abraham got up and loaded his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. He said to his servants, ‘Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then come back to you.”

There is no drama in the way the story is told. He have no picture of how Abraham must have been feeling about what he was about to do. The story implies that Abraham blindly obeyed, and as he was leaving the servants, he implied that both he and Isaac would be coming back, even though he knew full well that he was about to kill Isaac.

On the way up to the top of the mountain, Abraham and Isaac are carrying the wood, the fire and a knife. And Isaac began getting suspicious. He asked: “Father? The fire and wood are here, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” The people were already practicing burnt offerings and killing lambs, so Isaac was no stranger to what was about to happen.

Abraham told Isaac that God was going to provide the lamb. Was it a lie or was Abraham so devoted to his God that he was proceeding with blind trust that everything was going to turn out all right? What a terrible spot for this man to be in!

“When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood," the story reads.

We don’t know how old Isaac was at this time, but by now the boy must have been scared out of his wits. He now knew that his father had been lying to him all the way, and that he was about to be the sacrifice.

But just as Abraham raised his knife to slay his son, at that last critical moment, an angel called out from the clouds and stopped the killing. “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” the angel said. “Now I know that you fear God because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”

God then rewarded Abraham with another promise that he will “make our descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed.”

While it is true that the descendants of the two sons of Abraham have become numerous, and throughout the Old Testament they took possession of a lot of cities and killed a lot of “enemies,” that last promise, that “through our offspring all nations on earth will be blessed” has not been fulfilled.
The fighting going on today between the Palestinians, the descendants of Ishmael, and the Jews, that descended from Isaac, is not new. Those two races have been at war with each other for centuries. The fighting has kept the whole world in turmoil.
We are yet to see a blessing from what happened in that ancient time.

It also is troublesome to think that the lesson in this story is one of fear. Where is the love and compassion that the prophets like Jesus, Mohamad and the Buddha taught their followers when they came along? It appears that the Old Testament God promoted the ancient primitive practice of blood sacrifice to satisfy the ravages of a fearsome creature that ruled over them.
It was a concept of fear that has prevailed among kings and rulers to this very day. There is something very wrong with this "lesson."
It is true that Bible scholars draw a parallel with the image of Isaac being sacrificed for the good of mankind, and Jesus, who was said to have been “God’s only son,” who became a blood sacrifice to cover the sins of mankind.  But we might argue for days about why all the blood shedding was necessary for anything.