We may flinch at seeing the revered patriarch nearly end his own son’s life. But what do we miss when viewing this story through contemporary eyes?
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One of the most dramatic moments of the entire Bible occurs when Abraham reaches out his hand to take the knife, ready to sacrifice his son Isaac in obedience to the Lord (Gen. 22:10). Considering the customs of the time with regard to child sacrifices, perhaps the Lord’s request did not seem so far-fetched to Abraham. Except that, of course, the Lord had promised Abraham that he would multiply his offspring “as the stars of heaven” through this son (21:12; 26:4).
But according to Hebrews 11:19, Abraham obeyed God because he “reasoned that God could even raise the dead.” As we know, the Lord did not let Abraham harm Isaac but provided a ram for the sacrifice (Gen. 22:12–13). After Abraham’s demonstration of reverence to God, the Lord promised to bless him to the point that all nations would also be blessed through his offspring (v. 18).
This passage marks a radical contrast with the practice of the other nations of Abraham’s time (and continuing in subsequent centuries) that did sacrifice their children to pagan gods. Even some of the Israelites did so, in total disobedience to God (2 Kings 16:3).
Today it is almost impossible to identify ourselves with this event in the lives of Abraham and Isaac. We can’t fathom offering our children as a physical, living sacrifice before God, much less sacrificing them to pagan gods.
But is it true that the days of offering our …