What is Written? The Sacrifice of Isaac

I remember reading through the Bible as a teenager and waiting to get to the part where it said to, “Ask Jesus into your heart.”

I never found it.

There are many religious traditions and beliefs that are simply not found in Scripture. From Christian and Jewish perspectives it is easy to read ideas we have been taught into the text.

Today I am excited to announce a new feature on Land of Honey called: What is Written? It will be an ongoing exploration of common beliefs and seeing if what Scripture actually says provides any basis for those ideas.

Let’s not be afraid to examine our beliefs.

Hebrews 11:17 | Land of Honey
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The Torah portion this week provides a perfect opportunity to examine a widespread belief. In Beresheet 22, Abraham is told to sacrifice his son Isaac. Most teachings on this say that Isaac was spared at the last second when an angel stopped a knife-wielding Abraham.

Does Scripture support this belief?

Beresheet 22:10-13
Then Abraham put out his hand and took the knife to kill his son. But the angel of YHWH called to him out of heaven: “Abraham!” He answered, “Here I am.” He said, “Don’t lay your hand on the boy! Don’t do anything to him! For now I know that you are a man who fears YHWH, because you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.”

Let’s set aside what we have been told about this passage for a minute. Doesn’t that last statement sound a lot like Isaac had been sacrificed? You have not withheld. Not, You weren't going to withhold. Plus, we can see that suddenly, Isaac is gone.

In verse 13 it is only Abraham that burns the ram. If Isaac had been spared wouldn't he have been so joyful as to voluntarily sacrifice to YHWH? 

In verse 19 it says that Abraham returned to his young men and settled in Be’er-Sheva. But what about Isaac? If he was alive wouldn’t he have gone back down with his father? Especially since verse 3 makes it clear that Abraham and Isaac went together to Mount Moriah.

In Beresheet 23 Sarah dies in Kiryat-Arba. This is odd since we just learned that Abraham moved on to Be’er-Sheva, over 30 miles away.  Beresheet 23:2 mentions that Abraham came to mourn and weep for her. They weren’t together when Sarah died. Is it possible that Sarah was so devastated by the loss of her son that she left her husband? Strangely, there is no mention of Isaac at all in the 23rd chapter. What kind of son would miss his mother’s funeral? Particularly in a close-knit, Tribal culture this is unthinkable.

The next time we see Isaac is in Beresheet 24:62, and Rebekah is so surprised to see him that she falls off her camel. (Strong’s Word 5307 – naphal – to fall)

Can Rebekah be shocked because Isaac was raised back to life?

Abraham knew this was possible.

Hebrews 11:17-19: By trusting, Abraham when put to the test, offered up Isaac as a sacrifice. Yes, he offered up his only son, he who had received the promises, to whom it had been said, “What is called your ‘seed’ will be in Isaac.” For he had concluded that YHWH could even raise people from the dead.

What about the angel? The text tells us that Abraham offered up the ram as a burnt offering in place of his son.

Vayikra 18:21: You are not to let any of your children be burnt to Molech, neither shall you profane the name of YHWH.

Is it possible that the messenger in verse 11 didn’t stop the slaying of Isaac but stopped the pagan practice of burning a human being?

This is for sure a disconcerting idea, and I can't say for certain that Isaac was sacrificed. However the text of Scripture does not support that he was spared. This is outside of the box most of us have YHWH in, but if this is true there are many parallels to the death of Yeshua! For instance that Joseph of Aramathea prevented Yeshua's body from being burnt.

Finding the answers starts with asking better questions. Let's keep asking!

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