TEST? Gen 22:1-19
TEST? Genesis 22:1-19
CONTEXT The ancients occasionally offered their children by fire to the gods. The practice is noted in Deuteronomy (late 7th century BCE) as alien and prohibited to Israelites (12:31; 18:10). Our ancestors were not only aware of this way of propitiating a demanding deity but considered it efficacious as in the instance of the king of the Moabites turning the tide of a battle by a burnt offering of his son on the ramparts of his besieged city (II Kings 3:27) Yiftach earns no criticism from the narrator when he fulfills a promise to Yahh by sacrificing his daughter (Judges 11). Apparently child sacrifice was considered the ultimate in offerings, against which the eighth century prophet Michah argues: “How shall I approach Yahh? . . . Shall I give my firstborn for my wickedness? The fruit of my belly for my mortal sin? He has told you, humanity, what is good and what Yahh demands of you, only to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:7f).
The narrator seems to have been conflicted and arrived at a compromise between obedience to God on the one hand, and morality–not to say love of ones’ children, on the other. The story is set in the distant past when one might justify conceiving: A) God being pleased by obedience to such a demand, and B) a true believer, founding father who might feel obliged to please God at the cost of his child. Titling the episode a “test” allowed them to fudge on the theme of how far obedience should go.
The cumulative voices of E and J seem to be indicated by the divine names, but the versions, if such they were, do not differ in ideas. Note that lowercase “god” is called for when the word appears with the article: ha’elohim, “the god.” With exclusively “Yahh” references, the passage reinforces the reward theme and reflects the opening covenant promise to Avraham (Genesis 12:3, Cf. 24:60). The title sentence serves as disclaimer, reassuring the reader–but not the characters– that what follows is only a test. Verses 15-18 read like an anticlimactic add-on, a “moral,” reiterating blessings cloud elsewhere.
SIGNIFICANT NAME: Moriah appears in one other context, the Y’rushalayim hill where God appeared to David, and Sh’lomoh built the Holy Temple. (2 Chronicles 3:1) Moriah may be derived from the verb “see,” root r-a-h, ראה, and, while Moriah lacks the alef, א, several ancient versions spell the name with the alef, and the Vulgate renders: terram visionis, “land of vision.” Verse 14 appears to be a two level gloss. First, Avraham names the place, with reference to v.8, using the active form of “see”, yir’eh. Second, an incongruent explanation offering yera’eh, passive form, meaning “be seen, appear.” At the “this day” may reference where Sh’lomo built the Temple (2Ch 3:1).
1IT HAPPENED, AFTER THESE EVENTS, THAT THE GOD TESTED AVRAHAM.
“Avraham!” said God.
“Right here,” he replied.
2“Take, please, your son, your only son, whom you love, Yitschak. Get yourself to the Land of Moriah. There offer him by fire on one of the hills that I shall say to you.”
3So Avraham rose early in the morning. He saddled his ass, took his two lads with him, and Yitschak his son. He split wood for a burnt offering, rose and went to the place the god had said to him.
4On the third day, Avraham raised his eyes and saw the place from a distance. 5He said to his lads: “You stay here with the ass. I and the lad shall go up yonder. We’ll prostrate and return to you.”
6Avraham took the wood for a burnt offering and put it on Yitzchak his son. In his own hand he took the fire and the devourer and the two of them walked on together.
7Yitschak said to his father, Avraham, “My father?”
“Right here, my son.”
“Here’s the fire and the wood. Where’s the lamb for a burnt offering?”
8“God, for himself, will see to the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them walked on together.
9They arrived at the place the god had said to him. There Avraham built the altar. He arranged the wood. He bound up Yitschak his son and set him on the altar, over the wood. 10Avraham then put out his hand and took up the devourer to slaughter his son.
11And then, “Avraham, Avraham!” an angel of Yahh called to him from the sky.
“Right here,” he said.
12“Do not put out your hand against the lad. Don’t do anything to him. For now I know that you are god-fearing in that you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”
13Avraham raised his eyes and saw–there was a single ram, caught by its horns in the thicket. He went and took the ram, offering it by fire for a burnt offering in place of his son.
(14Avraham named that place “Yahh will see to it,” as it is said to this day, “at the mountain of Yahh it will be seen/at the mountain, Yahh will be seen.”)
15A second time the angel of Yahh called from the sky to Avraham and said, 16“I have sworn by my self, declares Yahh, that because you have done this thing of not withholding your son, your only son, 17that I will truly bless you and greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens or the sand on the sea shore. Your seed shall possess their enemies’ gates. 18By your seed shall all the nations of the earth bless themselves, as a consequence of your having listened to my voice.”
19Avraham returned to his lads. They rose and went together to B’er Sheva. Avraham lived in B’er Sheva.© Rabbi David L. Kline http://good-to-be-a-jew.blogspot.com/