Thursday, July 14, 2011

The doctrinal problem solved by Abraham’s near-sacrifice of Isaac

I’ve often wondered about the story of Abraham being commanded to sacrifice Isaac. I felt like there had to be more to it. Recently it occurred to me that some of these scripture stories may have been meant to solve problems that we don’t face today. Since one of the problems of Abraham’s time was the worship of false gods and child sacrifice (such as passing children through the fire to Molech), it may be that the story of Abraham almost sacrificing Isaac was meant to show believers that the true God was a god of mercy that did not require child sacrifice. This almost made my head explode, it was so different. But it quickly began to make sense. What better way could God have demonstrated that He did not require child sacrifice than to ask one of His faithful to sacrifice his son…and then STOP IT FROM OCCURRING… and provide A SUBSTITUTE? This would demolish the argument for child sacrifice and testify of vicarious sacrifice by a Savior. It fulfills two purposes in one. Future generations could point to that as an argument for Jehovah’s mercy and love.

I hesitated to post this, since it seemed like a totally different way of looking at that story, but when I looked on the internet I found that it wasn’t so strange after all. On Wikipedia’s entry “binding of Isaac,” I ran across a whole plethora of views on it, one of which was this:
…according to Rabbi Joseph H. Hertz (Chief Rabbi of the British Empire), child sacrifice was actually "rife among the Semitic peoples," and suggests that "in that age, it was astounding that Abraham's God should have interposed to prevent the sacrifice, not that He should have asked for it." Hertz interprets the Akedah as demonstrating to the Jews that human sacrifice is abhorrent. "Unlike the cruel heathen deities, it was the spiritual surrender alone that God required." In Jeremiah 32:35, God states that the later Israelite practice of child sacrifice to the deity Molech "had [never] entered My mind that they should do this abomination." (accessed 7/14/11)


Jocelyn Christensen said...

Oh wow, that is greatness! Thank you! The same could be said of any trial, pain, loss that we experience...I suppose...He lets us go through painful, confusing things, but then saves us through the Atonement so that the experience does not kill us, but only is an opportunity for him to demonstrate his mercy and love for us.

I do think your assessment of this situation is spot on.