The Great Myths #18: The Sacrifice of Isaac (Jewish)

And it happened after these things that God tested Abraham. And He said to him, “Abraham!” and he said, “Here I am.” And He said, “Take, pray, your son, your only one, whom you love, Isaac, and go forth to the land of Moriah and offer him up as a burnt offering on one of the mountains which I shall say to you.”

And Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey and took his two lads with him, and Isaac his son, and he split wood for the offering, and rose and went to the place that God had said to him. On the third day Abraham raised his eyes and saw the place from afar. And Abraham said to his lads, “Sit you here with the donkey and let me and the lad walk ahead and let us worship and return to you.”

And Abraham took the wood for the offering and put it on Isaac his son and he took in his hand the fire and the cleaver, and the two of them went together. And Isaac said to Abraham his father, “Father!” and he said, “Here I am, my son.” And he said, “Here is the fire and the wood but where is the sheep for the offering?” And Abraham said, “God will see to the sheep for the offering, my son.” And the two of them went together.

And they came to the place that God had said to him, and Abraham built there an altar and laid out the wood and bound Isaac his son and placed him on the altar on top of the wood. And Abraham reached out his hand and took the cleaver to slaughter his son. And the LORD’S messenger called out to him from the heavens and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” and he said, “Here I am.” And he said, “Do not reach out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him, for now I know that you fear God and you have not held back your son, your only one, from Me.”

And Abraham raised his eyes and saw and, look, a ram was caught in the thicket by its horns, and Abraham went and took the ram and offered him up as a burnt offering instead of his son. And Abraham called the name of that place YHWH-yireh, as is said to this day, “On the mount of the LORD there is sight.” And the LORD’S messenger called out to Abraham once again from the heavens, and He said, “By my own Self I swear, declared the LORD, that because you have done this thing and have not held back your son, your only one, I will greatly bless you and will greatly multiply your seed, as the stars in the heavens and as the sand on the shore of the sea, and your seed shall take hold of its enemies’ gate. And all the nations of the earth will be blessed through your seed because you have listened to my voice.”

And Abraham returned to his lads, and they rose and went together to Beer-sheba, and Abraham dwelled in Beer-sheba.

– Genesis 22:1-19, translated by Robert Alter

Read the other Great Myths here

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5 replies »

  1. Certainly Jews don’t own the story, but neither of the other Abrahamics would have it without them remembering it first. In the same way I’d say a story about Jesus was Christian, even though Muslims remember him & refer to him as well. & don’t some strains of Islam say it was Ishmael, not Isaac, who was the purported sacrifice? Another reason to highlight the story from Genesis as Jewish, while admitting everybody else can take it too.

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