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Genesis: Chapter 22

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Text view alone

1Some time afterward, God put Abraham to the test. He said to him, “Abraham,” and he answered, “Here I am.” 2And He said, “Take your son, your favored one, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of theheights that I will point out to you.” 3So early next morning, Abraham saddled his ass and took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. He split the wood for the burnt offering, and he set out for the place of which God had told him. 4On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place from afar. 5Then Abraham said to his servants, “You stay here with the ass. The boy and I will go up there; we will worship and we will return to you.”

6Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and put it on his son Isaac. He himself took the firestone a Lit. “fire.” and the knife; and the two walked off together. 7Then Isaac said to his father Abraham, “Father!” And he answered, “Yes, my son.” And he said, “Here are the firestone and the wood; but where is the sheep for the burnt offering?” 8And Abraham said, “God will see to the sheep for His burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them walked on together.

9They arrived at the place of which God had told him. Abraham built an altar there; he laid out the wood; he bound his son Isaac; he laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10And Abraham picked up the knife to slay his son. 11Then an angel of the LORD called to him from heaven: “Abraham! Abraham!” And he answered, “Here I am.” 12And he said, “Do not raise your hand against the boy, or do anything to him. For now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your favored one, from Me.” 13When Abraham looked up, his eye fell upon a b Reading 'eḥad with many Heb. mss. and ancient versions; text 'aḥar “after.” ram, caught in the thicket by its horns. So Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering in place of his son. 14And Abraham named that siteAdonai‐yireh, a I.e., “the Lord will see”; cf. v. 8. whence the present saying, “On the mount of the LORD there is vision.” b Heb. Behar Adonai yera’eh.

15The angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time from heaven, 16and said, “By Myself I swear, the LORD declares: Because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your favored one, 17I will bestow My blessing upon you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars of heaven and the sands on the sea‐ shore; and your descendants shall seize the gates of their foes. 18All the nations of the earth shall bless them‐ selves by your descendants, because you have obeyed My command.” 19Abraham then returned to his servants, and they departed together for Beer‐sheba; and Abraham stayed in Beer‐sheba.

20Some time later, Abraham was told, “Milcah too has borne children to your brother Nahor:21 Uz the first‐born, and Buz his brother, and Kemuel the father of Aram; 22and Chesed, Hazo, Pildash, Jidlaph, and Bethuel”—23Bethuel being the father of Rebekah. These eight Milcah bore to Nahor, Abraham's brother. 24And his concu‐ bine, whose name was Reumah, also bore children: Tebah, Gaham, Tahash, and Maacah.


a Lit. “fire.”

b Reading 'eḥad with many Heb. mss. and ancient versions; text 'aḥar “after.”

a I.e., “the Lord will see”; cf. v. 8.

b Heb. Behar Adonai yera’eh.

Text Commentary view alone

22.1–19 :

Abraham's last and greatest test. This magnificently told story, known in Judaism as the “‘Akedah” (“binding”), is one of the gems of biblical narrative. It also comes to occupy a central role in rabbinic theology and eventually to be incorporated into the daily liturgy. Jewish tradition regards the ‘Akedah as the tenth and climactic test of Abraham, the first Jew.

1 :

There is no good English equivalent for the Heb “hineni,” translated in this verse as Here I am. The term indicates readiness, alertness, attentiveness, receptivity, and responsiveness to instructions. It serves as a kind of refrain throughout the ‘Akedah. Abraham employs it in answer to God here, to Isaac in v. 7 (where it is rendered as “Yes”), and to the angel of the LORD in v. 11 .

2 :

The order of the Heb is “your son, your favored one, the one whom you love, Isaac” and indicates increasing tension. Not only is Isaac the son upon whom Abraham's life has centered; he also loves him. If Abraham did not love Isaac, the commandment to sacrifice him would not have constituted much of a test. The expression go to (“lekh‐lekha”), which otherwise occurs only in 12.1 , the initial command to Abraham, ties this narrative to the beginning of Abraham's dealings with God. Note also the parallel of on one of the heights that I will point out to you with “to the land that I will show you” ( 12.1 ). The location of Moriah (here the name of a land, not a mountain) is unknown. The late biblical book of Chronicles calls the Temple Mount in Jerusalem “Moriah” (2 Chronicles 3.1 ), perhaps on the understanding that the ‘Akedah is the foundation legend for the service of God that took place there.

3 :

The verse resembles 21.14 . The expulsion of Ishmael in the pre‐ceding chapter and the ‘Akedah have much in common, but the latter is the more wrenching, since Abraham is directly commanded to sacrifice his son, and the angelic intervention (vv. 11–12 ) is thus more surprising. Some have wondered why Abraham, who protested God's apparent decision to destroy the innocent with the guilty in Sodom ( 18.22–32 ), here obeys without objection. The essence of the answer is that the context in ch 18 is forensic, whereas the context of the ‘Akedah is sacrificial. A sacrifice is not an execution, and in a sacrificial context the unblemished condition of the one offered does not detract from, but rather commends, the act.

5 :

Abraham may be concealing the truth from his servants (lest they prevent him from carrying out God's will), from Isaac (lest he flee), and from himself (lest the frank acknowledgement of his real intention cause his resolve to break). Alternately, he may be expressing his profound trust in God's promise, casting his faith and hope as a prediction.

6 :

The image of Isaac's carrying the wood on which he is to be burned adds enormous power to the story. A midrash relates this to a Roman (not Jewish) method of execution that was sometimes used on Jewish martyrs: “It is like a person who carries his cross on his own shoulder” (Gen. Rab. 56.3 ).

7 :

Our ignorance of Isaac's age makes it difficult to interpret his poignant question. Most rabbinic commentators see him as an adult and thus a willing participant in his own sacrifice—the prototype, that is, of the Jewish martyr.

8 :

The same possibilities that we outlined for v. 5 apply here as well. The verse ends with the same Heb words with which v. 6 ends. Even after their exchange, father and son still have a single resolve: “the one to bind, and the other to be bound; the one to sacrifice, and the other to be sacrificed” (Gen. Rab. 56.3 ).

12 :

In the Tanakh, the “fear of God” denotes an active obedience to the divine will. Godis now able to call the last trial of Abraham off because Abraham has demonstrated that this obedience is uppermost for him, surpassing even his paternal love for Isaac.

13 :

The substitu‐ tion of a male sheep for the first‐born son has parallels in the ancient Near East and foreshadows the story of the paschal lamb (Exod. 12.1–42 ). Contrary to a widespread misperception, however, the story is not about the superiority of animal to human sacrifice, nor is it a polemic against human sacrifice. Note that God commands the sacrifice of Isaac at the beginning of the story (v. 22.2 ) and commends and rewards Abraham for being willing to carry it through at the end (vv. 12, 15–18 ). A midrash has Abraham praying that God “see the blood of this ram as if it were the blood of my son Isaac, the entrails of this ram as if they were the entrails of my son Isaac” (Gen. Rab. 56.9 ).

14 :

The name of the otherwise un‐attested site plays on Abraham's words in v. 8 . This enigmatic verse may connect the site of the ‘Akedah to the Temple mount (see v. 2 n. ).

15–18 :

The second angelic address conveys the LORD's final blessing on Abraham, picking up the language of several earlier addresses (cf. 12.3; 13.16; 15.5 ). Only this time, the earlier promises are reinterpreted as a consequence of the ‘Akedah. Much Jewish prayer calls upon God to remember the ‘Akedah for the benefit of Abraham's descendants.

19 :

Too much should not be made of the omission of Isaac. The story closes where it opened (v. 1 ): with the focus on Abraham alone.

22.20–24 :

The children of Nahor. Like Abraham's as yet unborn grandson, Jacob/Israel ( 35.22b–26 ), his brother Nahor becomes the patriarch of eight children by his primary wife and four by his secondary wife. Rebekah, who will marry Isaac and thus become the second matriarch of Israel, is the only person of her generation mentioned here (v. 23 ). One senses that the promise of descendants reiterated and reinterpreted in v. 17 is already on its way to fulfillment. Note the near‐identity of v. 17b with the blessing on Rebekah in 24.60 .

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