Week 2, Day 1 The Akedah
This week, more than most, it is especially important that we read the entire story before looking at its various parts. You will find it below.
The story in Genesis 22 is known in Hebrew as the “Akedah”—the Binding of Isaac. We know it more commonly as the “Sacrifice of Isaac”.
Far more that most Bible stores, the Akedah has been worked over by scholars and readers from every conceivable angle for almost 3000 years. The rabbis said Scripture has 70 faces. This may be a case of 70 X 7 faces. There are so many questions, and so many problems, raised by this account that we will no doubt need to look at it from many directions to try to make some sense of it.
Be prepared, in the end, for the story to still not make much sense.
We sometimes get a little bent out of shape when God fails to answer a prayer. In this story, Abraham has received an answer to prayer—he has been given a son. God rips this living answer out of his heart and his life.
Begin by reading the whole story; two or three times would be good. Then write down the first five questions this story raises for you. (I could as easily have asked for fifty, as you’ll see when you read it.) Email your questions to me at email@example.com. Some of them will be addressed, but probably not answered, before the week is out.
Prayer: God, it is hard—those days when things don’t make sense. But when it is your command that drives us from you we really are at a loss to know what to do. Be with us as we climb Mt Moriah with Abraham and Isaac this week. And meet us when we return. Amen.
Genesis 21:1-3; 22:1-14
The Birth of Isaac
1The Lord dealt with Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did for Sarah as he had promised. 2Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age, at the time of which God had spoken to him. 3Abraham gave the name Isaac to his son whom Sarah bore him.
The Command to Sacrifice Isaac
1 After these things God tested Abraham. He said to him, ‘Abraham!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ 2He 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 that I shall show you.’ 3So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac; he cut the wood for the burnt-offering, and set out and went to the place in the distance that God had shown him. 4On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place far away. 5Then Abraham said to his young men, ‘Stay here with the donkey; the boy and I will go over there; we will worship, and then we will come back to you.’ 6Abraham took the wood of the burnt-offering and laid it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. So the two of them walked on together. 7Isaac said to his father Abraham, ‘Father!’ And he said, ‘Here I am, my son.’ He said, ‘The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for a burnt-offering?’ 8Abraham said, ‘God himself will provide the lamb for a burnt-offering, my son.’ So the two of them walked on together.
9 When they came to the place that God had shown him, Abraham built an altar there and laid the wood in order. He bound his son Isaac, and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to kill his son. 11But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, and said, ‘Abraham, Abraham!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ 12He said, ‘Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.’ 13And Abraham looked up and saw a ram, caught in a thicket by its horns. Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt-offering instead of his son. 14So Abraham called that place ‘The Lord will provide’; as it is said to this day, ‘On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.’ 15 The angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven, 16and said, ‘By myself I have sworn, says the Lord: Because you have done this, and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17I will indeed bless you, and I will make your offspring as numerous as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of their enemies, 18and by your offspring shall all the nations of the earth gain blessing for themselves, because you have obeyed my voice.’ 19So Abraham returned to his young men, and they arose and went together to Beer-sheba; and Abraham lived at Beer-sheba.