Thursday, May 18, 2017

The binding of Isaac

After these things God tested Abraham and 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 of which I shall tell you” (Gen 22:1-2).

There's a striking similarity between the ordeal of Job and the binding of Isaac. Both accounts exhibit dramatic irony. In both cases, God puts an individual to the test, but he doesn't know it's a test. The reader knows something Job, Abraham, and Isaac don't, because the narrator explains to the reader what God is up to. But Job, Abraham, and Isaac aren't privy to that key piece of information.

In addition, the reader has the benefit of hindsight. He knows how the story ends. He knows that God has no intention of letting Abraham go through it with. But, of course, Abraham doesn't know the outcome in advance. He doesn't know that God will rescind the command at the last moment. 

Although expositions of Gen 22 often focus on Abraham's submission to the will of God, the success of the test depends as much on Isaac's submission to the will of God. In a way, Isaac's submissive attitude is more impressive because God didn't even speak to him. At best, he's getting his information secondhand from his father. 

Isaac was old enough to either overpower his elderly father or at least run away. Yet he cooperates in what appears to be his premature death. If anything, it's harder for a teenager to face the prospect of death. He had his whole life ahead of him. 

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