Genesis 22:10, 15-16, Did Abraham Kill Isaac?

Then [Abraham] reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. And the angel of the LORD called to Abraham from heaven a second time and said, “I swear by myself, declares the LORD, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore.”

Oops. That’s not how the story goes, is it? Abraham doesn’t really kill Isaac, does he?

Yes, quite possibly, he does. Several midrashic sources actually confirm that Isaac was indeed sacrificed. Why else does Abraham now appear to descend the mountain alone? The story continues: Then Abraham returned to his servants, and they set off together for Beersheba.

Scholars have long recognized that the books of Moses are a collection of multiple authors’ writings, and this particular story is contributed by what scholars label the “E” writer—the one who refers to God as Elohim. Not surprisingly, this “E” writer will never again mention Isaac (though other sources will). But inserted after the sentence where Abraham appears to slay his son are a few verses that I’ve left out; verses written in a different style, verses in which an angel of Yahweh intervenes and stops the sacrifice. Likely, these verses were inserted into the story much later.

The story of Abraham and Isaac may mark a turning point in Hebrew history, when human sacrifice became repugnant. But what’s not exactly clear is when this turning point came … when the story of Isaac was rewritten to be morally acceptable. We don’t know.

1 Comment

  1. Isn’t it strange, that God who is Purely Good, would order Abraham to Kill his innocent son, Isaac?
    Would our loving Father, God, play a “Trick” like this on His loyal servant?
    Could it be that God NEVER told Abraham to Sacrifice Isaac?

    All of these questions are answered in this Teaching:

    • The Common Understanding of this record
    • Why is this “Test” Questionable?
    • Did God Tempt Abraham?
    • Burnt Offering vs. Sacrifice
    • Satan’s Deception
    • Not the first time Abraham Miscomprehended
    • How old was Isaac?
    • Other Important things to Note

    -Andrew Davis

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