Abraham & Isaac: A Midrash

Recently I read Rachel Held Evans’ post on the Akedah (Binding of Isaac) and it spurred some thoughts. (Sidenote: I also learned she was baptized in Alabama! A fellow former fundylander.) In former days, I simply accepted the idea that God would ask someone to kill their son for Him. The implication that God occasionally asks people to kill their children did not seem problematic to me ( it probably still wouldn’t if I was a Calvinist). But now I don’t think that’s the case. Many rabbis believed Abraham should have questioned God; that was the point of the test. Abraham’s faith is commendable still: after all, he believed this strange god of his would resurrect/restore/whatever his son back to him regardless.
I cannot accept, will not accept, that the God who was Jesus would ever utter: “Kill your child for me.”
Remember, Abraham had no Scriptures or stories beyond his own to go on for his god. Only the God’s promises and trustworthiness He had shown in the past. This strange God that wore a man’s shape in the day. That ate and drank in a mortal creature’s tent in the wilds. That called a human a friend, and told him of the God’s plans, comings, and goings.
And judgments.
When Abraham’s God came down to examine Sodom and Gomorrah it is Abraham who argues/asks for mercy to be shown on the denizens of the land. Abraham is an intercessor, but I also think he was trying to see what kind of god to whom he had sworn himself. Is this god curious about justice? Mercy? Is He cruel?
No. “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?”
Let us hope so.
Yet when God puts Abraham on trial ( perhaps to ask Abraham, “What kind of god do you think I am? Are you my friend, like you were regarding Sodom and Gomorrah? Or will you act like a slave?”) Abraham makes no intercession in the narrative. He questions nothing, unlike when he questioned God’s plans regarding Sodom and Gomorrah. “Ah, this god keeps His promises, but demands much. He kills as the other gods. Yet…I know He keeps His promises. He promised me Isaac. Whatever happens next, He will keep His word. He will return my son to me.” The Nobel winner and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel says something along the lines that Jews have a right and obligation to argue with their God. We wrestle with the Scriptures and stories, trying to draw God’s face.
Abraham and Isaac go together. They come to Moriah together. They ascend the mountain together.
They do not descend the mountain together (go read it; the implications make me shiver). Read Isaac’s story. He is never as close to the God as his father was. Nor as close as Jacob will become. He is only the Fear of Isaac. A strange god who keeps promises.
If a voice from heaven told me to kill a child, I would not. That’s not god. We know that now, because we have the full revelation of God: Jesus. My God doesn’t ask parents to kill their children.
If that’s who God really is, I’d rather go to hell.


6 thoughts on “Abraham & Isaac: A Midrash

      • In my opinion, the Old Testament is the history of what would become the Jewish people and their encounters with their god, eventually realizing (especially by the time of the prophets) what God was really like. This is fully realized with the Incarnation of Jesus. Events occur and the story is formed to make sense of it. God could have protected Sodom and Gomorrah; He did not. I think it’s possible a volcanic event of some sort happened, and the story is set to explain it. (Also: Ezekiel says the cities were destroyed because of their lack of kindness and empathy, especially with the poor.) Even today we witness tornado, hurricane, etc. and try to work out how/if God was involved. We are no different than our fathers.
        Anyhow, I don’t think God ever actually wanted Abraham, at best a henotheist trying to obey his new god, to kill Isaac. Because Abraham gave no attempt to intercede for Isaac, their relationship suffers: Isaac is usually found in Sarah’s tent hereafter, and he never seems close to his father’s God.


      • I am down with the mindset. That is close to how I believe. I was just curious. Believe their “judgment” was simply a refusal to leave their place of wickedness despite their impending destruction from natural disaster.


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