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Genesis 22: Abraham gets ready to kill his son Isaac

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Caravaggio - The Sacrifice of Isaac (1603)




A bit later on, God was chatting with Abraham again.  “Fine boy you got there,” He said.  “A wonderful addition to your family and to the whole tribe.  Which is why I need to you take young Isaac up into the mountains and make him into a burnt offering to Me.”

What parent hasn’t dreamed of this moment every now and then?  Abraham gathered up some kindling, his boy, two servants and a donkey.  They headed for the land of Moriah, which apparently had pretty lax child endangerment statutes, and in three days found a mountain suitable for burnt offerings of your own child.  Abraham told the servants to stay put with the donkey while he and Isaac went off to worship in private.  He made Isaac carry the wood for the burnt offering.

“Why must I carry the wood, Father?” asked Isaac.

“Difficult chores build character,” explained Abraham.

“Oh.  Say, what’s our burnt offering going to be, anyway?  We didn’t bring an animal to…”

“Enough questions!”  An awkward silence followed.  “Um… the Lord will provide,” Abraham added.

More awkward silence followed as Abraham built an altar, arranged the wood, bound his son up, and placed him on top of the wood.  “Father—“

“I said the Lord will provide!” snapped Abraham, lifting a knife above Isaac.

“We probably should have talked more,” mused Isaac.  “At the same time, I’m kinda glad we didn’t.”

Right then, the angel of Yahweh called down from heaven.  “Abraham, Abraham!”

“I’m doing it, already!  Leave me alone!”

“But you don’t have—“

“Quiet!  I’m in the zone!”

“Maybe listen to that angel first, Father?”

“Every Sabbath, you just can’t keep your mouth shut during the ceremonies, can you, boy?”

“Abraham!  You really don’t have to do this!  Stop sacrificing your son!”

“What?”

“It’s true!  This was all just a test, and you passed!”

“A test?  A test for what?”

“A test to see if you fear God—and obviously, you do!  You were willing to sacrifice your own son to Him!”

Abraham stopped and thought about this for a bit.  “Really?”

“Really!”

“Really?” asked Isaac.

“Really!” said the angel.

“Really,” repeated Abraham.  “I’ll tell you what: anyone who’d put me through something like that is about as scary as they get.  That’s just freaky.”

“Yes, but now we know!  We know you fear God!”

“And what I know is that you’ll mess with me like that and not really mean it.  Next time you pull something like that, you won’t follow through.  See if I get ready to kill one of my kids again.”

“Yes, well, the Lord still wants something,” said the angel.  “That ram over in the brush will do.”

“Sure, that ram will do, yes, fine,” Abraham groused.  “He put it there just now, didn’t He?  Might as well sacrifice it to Him.  This Guy sure plays a lot of head games.”

“Yes, well…”

“Let’s just call this place ‘The Lord Shall Provide’, huh?  That way we’ll always remember this touching lesson.  Boy, I’ll never want to forget about this, no sir!”

“Look, Abraham!  God said he’s really impressed by what you were willing to do, so He’s going to give you so many blessings, and so many descendents, and it’s going to be so awesome, because you heard Him ask for this, and you—“

“I brought my own son out into the middle of nowhere and nearly slashed him up like a sheep and burned the corpse.  Yeah, is the Lord going to help me get to sleep at night now?  Ch’yeah, you let me know.”  At that, Abraham went home and slept fitfully.  Later on, he found out that all those descendents were coming mostly in the form of nephews.  The nephews were born of his brother’s wife and her concubine.  The Lord did not make Abraham’s brother chase the concubine’s children into the desert with their mother, nor did He make him take any of his wife’s sons to an altar for a fake-out sacrifice.  “One son to worry about, I have,” Abraham sometimes said to himself.  “Any more than that and I’d need to sleep a whole lot more than I can.”

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