Lectionary Year A
June 30, 2002
Genesis 22:1-14

IV: Broader Context


1. Could this kind of testing be part of "Lead us not into temptation..." in the Lord's Prayer?

2. "The beloved Son": echoes in Mark 9:7, 1:11-- Jesus is the beloved and only Son, who is sacrificed -- this time, with no ram caught nearby.

3. Early Christianity:

Tertullian, in "Five Books in Reply to Marcion: Book II, 'Of the Hearing of the Old and New Laws'" (from The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Eerdmans 1976, Vol. 4, p. 147.)

"Lest well-earned love should tempt the faithful sire
and seer. to whom
His pledge and heir was dear, whom God by chance
Had given him, to offer him to God
(a mighty execution!), there is shown
To him a lamb entangled by the head
In thorns; a holy victim - holy blood
for blood - To God..."

In "An Answer to the Jews", ibid., vol. III, p. 165: Isaac prefigured Christ, "concealed, as He was, as a victim by the Father; carrying as He did, the 'wood' of His own passion."

4. Reformation

a. Martin Luther: This pericope is "a contradiction with which God contradicts himself". (Brueggeman, GENESIS, p. 88.)

b. John Calvin: "The command and the promise of God are in conflict." (ibid.)


1. "Testing" by God: also in Exodus 20:20, Deut. 8:16, 13:3, 33:8

2.. Modern Judaism: (Source: Dr. J.H. Hertz, former Chief Rabbi of the British Empire, The Socino Edition of the Pentateuch and Heftorahs, London: Socino Press, 1967, p. 201)

"It was a test safe only in a Divine hand, capable of intervening as He did intervene, and as it was His purpose from the first to intervene, as soon as the spiritual end of the trial was accomplished."

This text opens the Israelite war against "the abominations of child sacrifice". Rabbi Hertz states that God's demand for sacrifice was not shocking for that time and area, but God's prevention of the sacrifice was truly astounding. He also says Abraham's willingness to offer up Isaac led to the ideal of Martyrdom in Israel. In the Middle Ages, the "AKEDAH", or "Binding of Isaac", gave Jewish parents strength to die, at times with their children, rather than see them fall into "idolatry and baptism". It gave Jewish parents moral strength to hold fast to their faith, even though it cost their children professions, status, and more, in Central and Eastern Europe. God prevented Abraham from sacrificing Isaac, but still required spiritual surrender.

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