The Akedah

From Death to Life

Beit Midrash for calendar_month July 2022

Abraham and Sarah had a few short years to enjoy their bundle of joy. Isaac was a delight to his father and his mother, both of whom knew that this child was a gift of God’s grace, the fulfillment of the divine promise that had driven their lives for decades. The intense nurturing spirituality of a godly mother ensured that Isaac would be reared in the “nurture and admonition of the Lord.”[1]  Indeed, his prophetess mother had a divine gift for insight that went beyond what in women is often called intuition. It was Sarah’s prophetic gift that revealed to her what was not apparent to others. In order to support this gift, God instructed Abraham, “Listen to whatever Sarah tells you, because it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.”[2]

This instruction to the patriarch was given in the midst of the complex and potentially perilous domestic situation that had developed in the relationship between Isaac and Ishmael, the son of the Egyptian bondwoman Hagar. Being the man of justice, deference, and mercy that he was, Abraham felt great responsibility toward both of his sons. He knew, however, that Isaac was the child that God had promised while Ishmael was the product of human reasoning that had searched for an alternative to solve what seemed like an impossible situation. This knowledge, however, did not restrict Abraham’s love for Ishmael, nor did it in any way diminish his desire that this son of convenience would also “live before the Lord.”[3]

The evolving problem reached an explosive level when Sarah “saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, mocking.”[4] On the surface of this reading, the reported action would seem to have been innocent enough: it was just two boys playing together and the older making fun of the younger. Indeed, the language of the text looks like a play on words with the description of Ishmael’s action, מְצַחֵֽק (mitzachek), etymologically paralleled with יִצְחָֽק (Yitzhak), the name of Isaac. Ishmael was making fun (מְצַחֵֽק) of Isaac (יִצְחָֽק). Or more simply, Ishmael was “Isaacing Isaac”!

Just beneath the surface, however, something far more ominous was lurking. Ishmael was following in his mother’s footsteps, deriding Isaac in the same way in which she had scorned Sarah and probably was continuing to deride her.[5] John Calvin may well have been right in his assessment that Ishmael’s “epithet” was a “malignant expression of scorn, by which the forward youth manifested his contempt for his infant brother” compared with the positive laughter which was divinely imposed upon Isaac.[6] At any rate, competition for Abraham’s favor and, indeed, the birthright of Abraham’s inheritance was in the works. Since Ishmael was fourteen years older than Isaac, there was a considerable difference in the thought processes of the two boys. What would have seemed like “fun” to the younger Isaac might well have been more malevolent in the mind of the older Ishmael. Whatever the case, Sarah noticed what had happened, and she “knew then that Ishmael would be a bad influence upon Isaac” that could well “imperil Isaac’s future as the second patriarch” of the Chosen People.[7]

The sages have suggested that this “mocking” was much more serious than child’s play. Indeed, it was sinister. They point out that mitzachek, the word which described Ishmael’s action toward Isaac, is used elsewhere in Scripture to denote the three cardinal sins[8] of idolatry,[9] adultery,[10] and murder.[11] From these facts, the sages recognized that “Ishmael’s behavior demonstrated that he was thoroughly corrupt and evil.”[12] As a matter of fact, Rashi even went so far as to suggest that incest was either Ishmael’s covert plan or his overt act toward his younger brother.[13] David Kimhi, known as the RaDaK, maintained that Ishmael was “scoffing at Isaac for having been born to aged parents.”[14] Obadiah Sforno said the verse indicates that “Hagar had told Ishmael that cynics claimed Sarah was impregnated by Abimelech”[15] and that he was using this vile claim to sow seeds of doubt in young Isaac’s mind. Whatever the case, Ishmael was mocking both Isaac and Sarah and, in doing so, he was actually mocking his own father Abraham.

Casual readings of this text have cast Sarah in the bad light of being a jealous, overbearing, and vindictive master who abused her servant Hagar at every step of the process of surrogate motherhood. Sarah, however, has always been recognized among the Jewish sages as a greater prophet than Abraham,[16] perhaps because of her sensitivity to righteousness in areas where Abraham seemed to have a blind spot.[17] As a matter of fact, in rabbinic midrash, Sarah was also called by the name Iscah, which can mean “anointed” or “seeing,” and is “a reflection of her greatness as a prophet.”[18]

Whatever the case may have been, because Sarah was, indeed, a prophetess of great spiritual insight, she reacted immediately to her intuition and initiated the action that ensured that the son of promise would not be further exposed to challenges against his patrimony or to whatever other evil acts might have been imagined in the midst of a divided house. Hagar and Ishmael were removed from the household of Abraham. What on the surface may have looked like an act of jealous anger and retribution against Hagar and Ishmael was actually an effort to preserve the integrity of the Chosen People through the son of promise. With the conflict removed, Abraham would have been free to focus all of his energies on the son of promise, the heir through whom his lineage was to be established forever according to the divine plan.

Had this action not been initiated, who knows what may have taken place? Another Cain and Abel situation could have developed, or some subtle deception could have led to idolatry. God would not let this happen, however. He had strategically positioned Sarah as a woman of vision and insight who would not compromise with evil, even in its most subtle manifestation. Despite the fact that her controlling impulses had created the situation in the first place when she had hoped to help God accomplish what seemed impossible, God still used her intuition to maintain godly circumstances in which her son would be reared as the progenitor of the Chosen People. The bloodline had already been established by divine command and provision. God was merely orchestrating circumstances to ensure the fact that everything ultimately would come to fulfillment just as he had planned and promised it.

Because God had made promises to Abraham regarding Ishmael, however, the Lord of heaven and earth worked miracles to preserve the young lad’s life so that he would become the great nation that God had promised Abraham he would be: “As for Ishmael, I have heard you; behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful and multiply him exceedingly. He shall become the father of twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation.”[19] The fulfillment of this promise, however, took place in the absence of the protective covering of the holy family. Perhaps this is why God made this startling prediction about Ishmael’s nature to his own mother: “He will be a wild ass of a man. His hand will be against everyone.”[20]

In the midst of conflict in a complex domestic situation, God was working out his will. His instruction to Abraham was clearly for the best: “Whatever Sarah says to you, listen to her.” The spiritual resources of the Patriarch of Faith would never be wasted on the son of promise as they might well have been on the son of convenience. Isaac would literally follow in his father’s footsteps, walking with God and walking in faith and faithfulness[21] to ensure the continuing emergence of the Chosen People from death to life.

An Impossible Challenge

As time passed, God presented the ultimate challenge to both Abraham and his son Isaac. In spite of all the imprecations that Scripture attached to the horrific pagan practice of child sacrifice and immolation,[22] God issued this shocking command to Abraham: “Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you.”[23] How could this be? While it was true that “in the ancient Near East during Abraham’s time, human sacrifice and sacrificing children to foreign gods were commonly practiced,”[24] could the God of the covenant really be directing Abraham to engage in the most hideous of pagan practices, or was this just a trial of faith for which there would be a simple solution?

A Mountain of Life, A Valley of Death

Moriah, the place to which God was sending Abraham, was a unique place. This mountain was located on the site of what would become Jerusalem, specifically the mountain on which the temple would be constructed and even more particularly on the spot where all the sacrifices of Yhwh’s temple would be offered. Moriah was very close, however, to the precipitous Hinnom Valley that was just south of the holy mountain. Perhaps this is why God gave very specific instructions to Abraham about the place where this sacrifice was to take place: “Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”[25] Not just any location—mountain or otherwise—would be acceptable for this momentous event. It had to be the exact place where God had chosen to place his name, the most sacred spot on earth.[26]

Though it was very close to the summit of the sacred Mt. Moriah, the Hinnom Valley was a particularly abominable and detestable place because it was the site where many gods, including Baal and Molech, were worshipped in utterly gruesome displays of merciless infanticide. The dominant cult of Molech featured a religion in which the people customarily brought their firstborn children to the idol temple where the priests would crush the infants’ skulls on the knees of Molech’s stone image and then cast them alive into the fire that was burning in the god’s belly. Many apostate Israelites also joined in this horrific practice, causing the site to be cursed[27] and to be recognized as a profoundly evil place.

In one small piece of real estate, clearly within sight of each other, there were glaring images of life and death, of blessing and curse. El Shaddai, the “Most High God,” was worshipped on Mt. Moriah with blessings for long life.[28] On the mountain top, life and blessing at their very best were the dominant themes. Immediately below it, however, Molech was being worshipped in the Hinnom Valley, accompanied by the screams of innocent infants and the cries of bereaved parents. In the deep, dark valley, death was in control. This was the stark contrast that the patriarch of biblical faith and his only son faced when they reached the end of their three-day journey into destiny: Moriah and Hinnom—Life and Death interposed. Moriah was a temple; Hinnom, a garbage dump. Both Abraham and Isaac could clearly see what Abraham Joshua Heschel described: “The need of Molech was the death of man,” but “the need of the Lord is the life of man.”[29]

As a matter of fact, centuries later, the gruesome history of Hinnom became the basis for the eschatological imagery that Jesus used to describe the final judgment, wherein he declared that the wicked of the earth would be punished in a lake of fire called Gehenna.[30] Eleven times, Jesus used the term Gehenna, the Greek translation of the Hebrew גֵּ֣י הִנֹּ֗ם (ge-hinnom—literally, “valley of Hinnom”), to describe this place of final judgment that has come to be described as “hell.”

It was important, therefore, for Abraham and Isaac to get this right. Only in the right place would God’s power bring forth life from the dead. Led by the Spirit of God, the patriarch had to navigate between the places of death and infanticide to the place where God’s altar had been prepared by divine providence for the Akedah, the “binding” of Isaac. When the divine intervention of life that God had planned for Isaac would take place, a forever ineradicable image of contradistinction would be established that would set apart the holy place of life (God’s Holy Place, with its blessing for young and old alike) from the places of death (the idol temples, with their infanticidal rituals and unbridled debauchery).

Entering the Stage of Divine Destiny

Abraham and Isaac were placed on the stage of divine destiny to prove that God is the Lord of death and life but that his preferred judgment has always been and will always be that of life, even eternal life. Father and only son marched together in complete, unwavering faith to the site of destiny, the specific place that God had prepared for both of them to demonstrate their undying devotion to the God of Scripture. For both father and son, it was a conscious decision of the human will to obey the heard voice of God, to follow that voice to the place that had been prepared, and to achieve the destiny that had been preordained for both of them. Indeed, Isaac and his voluntary participation in the Akedah is as important to this profound story as Abraham’s faith.

God did not instruct Abraham to go to the place “where I will send you.” God would not risk a wrong turn by a possibly emotionally distraught father who was confronted with the prospect of killing his only son. God commanded Abraham to go to the mountain “I will show you.” Abraham and Isaac were not making this journey alone. God was walking with them and “showing” them the way to the right mountain! For Abraham, this task would not be a stab in the dark. He would be guided by the rays of revelation more powerful and far more accurate than any global positioning satellite! There would be no mistake. He would arrive faithfully at the very rock on the mountaintop where Melchizedek worshipped and where thousands of sacrifices would be offered by his descendants after him in God’s Holy Place. Indeed, this was just another stage in the “walking-with-God” exercise along the path that God had laid out for Abraham decades before that day.

It is vital to note that, at the time of the Akedah, Isaac was not an infant. The question of Isaac’s age at the time of this event has produced much speculation. The text itself suggests that he was at least an adolescent who was strong enough to carry the wood for the sacrifice.[31] Some have argued that Isaac was much older, perhaps even as much as thirty-seven years of age.[32] Whatever the case, it is clear that as the event unfolded, Isaac knew full well what was taking place and what his own role in the drama would be.[33] Though most people think that Abraham was the actor in this faith drama and Isaac was only the innocent and unknowing child who was acted upon, the truth is that Isaac willingly joined his father in this faith event. The test of faith that God issued to Abraham was clearly shared by Isaac who was a full and willing participant in one of the greatest challenges of the ages when God required the impossible from his friend Abraham.

With typical Abrahamic faith, neither the patriarch nor his son even flinched at the divine Word. Abraham had seen God, conversed with him extensively,[34] eaten with him in the sanctuary of his tent home.[35] Most importantly, he had heard from God. He recognized the divine voice with absolute clarity and certainty. And God and Abraham had an agreement: God said it, and Abraham did it—and he did so immediately. In this case, the Scripture confirms Abraham’s faithfulness: “Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him and Isaac his son; and he split wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him.”[36]

Both Abraham and Isaac had much time to think about what they had set out to do. From their tent complex in Beersheba, it was a three-day journey to Moriah. Plodding ahead, Abraham knew that the God whom he had served for more than a century could be trusted implicitly. God would allow the test that he had placed before Abraham, and he would fulfill the terms of the covenant that he had made with him. It is possible that the patriarch even knew the truth of this infallible principle of faith: “Whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”[37] When one puts his life on the line for God, he will always find it. This is the principle of truth stated so poignantly by missionary Jim Elliot before he was martyred by Quechua Indians in Ecuador: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”[38]

Perhaps this is the reason why on the third day of the journey, when Abraham “raised his eyes and saw the place from a distance,” he instructed his servants, “Stay here with the donkey, and I and the lad will go over there; and we will worship and return to you.”[39] Abraham did not say, “I will return to you.” He said with all boldness, “We will go, we will worship, and we will return to you.” The Father of Nations knew in his heart of hearts that there had to be a simple answer to the dilemma! The God whom he served was a God of blessings and life, not a god of curses and death. This simple knowledge was the basis of the Jewish tradition which has asserted that “through his prophetic gifts, Abraham knew that he would not have to carry out the command to sacrifice Isaac.”[40] Jon Levenson points out that “the knowledge at issue here still involves a not inconsequential measure of faith—faith that the prophetic message is authentic and the God who authors it, reliable.”[41]

Both the sages of Israel and the apostles of the Jesus movement shared the view that Abraham knew God well enough to know that his God would not bereave him of his promised son, the father of the Chosen People. Whether he prophesied the continued life of Isaac into being, as Rashi suggested,[42] or whether he believed that God would resurrect Isaac from the dead, Abraham simply knew God, and he believed that his God would be for life and not for death.

No wonder the author of the Christian text of Hebrews spoke of the nature of Abraham’s faith in this manner: “By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered Isaac as a sacrifice, and he who had received the promises was offering up his only begotten son; He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, it was he to whom it was said, ‘In Isaac your descendants shall be called.’ Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.”[43]

Indeed, the very Hebrew name of the place of the Akedah had already established the hope of life, even of resurrection, long before Abraham and Isaac made their fateful trek up the slopes of God’s mountain. Yhwh would meet them at Moriah, which in Hebrew means “to provide,” or “to see.” Clearly then, “in the very word Moriah—“provision”—we have a hint of salvation and deliverance.”[44] As Gordon Wenham has observed, “Salvation is thus promised in the very decree that sounds like annihilation.”[45]

Life and Death Squeezed into One Moment of Time

The journey ended. Walking with God had brought Abraham and his son to the right place at the right time to do the right thing that would establish the foundation of faith and faithfulness on which the saga of the Chosen People would rest for all time. Abraham dutifully set about the task of preparing the burnt offering. He arranged the wood on top of the rock of sacrifice. When Isaac observed, “The fire and wood are here, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Abraham replied, “God will provide himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.”[46] Then Abraham bound Isaac hand and foot and laid him on top of the altar. The old man reached fearlessly for the sheathed dagger that he had brought with him. He raised the instrument of death on high and prepared to plunge it into the heart of the son he loved.

Immediately, the angel of the Lord stopped Abraham’s plunging dagger in midair, and these amazing words of grace echoed from the lips of God in the pregnant air atop the divine mountain: “Abraham! Abraham! … Do not lay a hand on the boy. … Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”[47] Then, when Abraham turned around to see what God was doing, “there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns.”[48] Instantly, the patriarch of faith understood what God’s intentions had been all along, so he “took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son.”[49] After the Akedah drama was complete, Abraham called the place of the where the sacrifice was made by the name Yhwh Yireh, which means, “God will see” or “God will provide.”

It was finished. The drama ended, and the saga of the Chosen People began—first on the sacred foundation of a father’s faith and willingness to sacrifice the most important thing in his life in order to obey God’s command and then on the intervention of God to bring forth life out of the clutches of death. Abraham did not withhold from God his only son, the son that God had miraculously given to him by overriding the natural laws of human reproductive biology and producing human life from virtually dead bodies. And God did not take Abraham’s miracle child. Instead, the patriarch received his son back as though he had been resurrected from the dead. Now, for the second time, he had been given God’s gift of life from the dead in the person of his most precious son, Isaac.

The Greater Meaning of Life from the Dead

Over the centuries, sages and prophets came to understand that the profound miracle upon which the saga of the Chosen People was founded was more than just an event of history. Instead, it had powerful spiritual overtones for all of the descendants of Abraham and Isaac. The Akedah came to be recognized as a vicarious atonement, a sacrifice that God accepted for the entire Chosen People throughout all their generations. As the great third-century Carthaginian Christian polemicist Tertullian declared, “Abraham whom his faith made obey the command of God offered his only, beloved son as sacrifice to God so that God in His part bestowed on him the favor of the redemption of his posterity.”[50] This Christian observation had been confirmed in the texts of the Targumim which specifically attributed “Israel’s deliverance to the efficacy of the Akedah.”[51] God’s blessings upon the Chosen People were founded upon the faithfulness of Abraham and Isaac to fulfill God’s instructions and to receive God’s provision.

This understanding of the Akedah as a vicarious atonement flows from the principle of Zekhut Avot (“the merits of the fathers”), which Louis Berman says “overlaps the Christian concept of vicarious atonement.”[52] Rabbinic sources “always viewed the willing sacrifice of Abraham, and especially Isaac’s willingness to offer himself, as an act of vicarious atonement through the future history of their descendants, the nation of Israel.”[53] In this way, “the righteousness of the patriarchs could be vicariously applied to their descendants in time of spiritual need.”[54]

This is why there is a strong connection between the Akedah and the High Holy Days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the most sacred season of the Jewish liturgical calendar. The repeated blowing of the shofar (ram’s horn) on Rosh Hashanah harks back to the ram that was caught by his horns in the thorn bush and was there held at ready for the burnt offering after Abraham and Isaac had fully obeyed God and had done what he had required of them. Likewise, in the Zikhronot (Remembrance Prayers) of Rosh Hashanah, an appeal is made to God to remember the Akedah. Then on the second day of Rosh Hashanah, the entire story of Genesis 22 is read.[55] In this case, the “reading of the Akedah is intended to remind God of the merits that accrued to Abraham and Isaac as a result of this awesome sacrifice.”[56]

The idea of vicarious atonement that was embedded in the Akedah on very solid applications of divine principles became a foundation for the Christian understanding that the death of Jesus on the cross was also a vicarious atonement for the redemption of the entire world from the bondage of sin. It was certainly not difficult to see the parallels between the binding of Isaac to the altar on Moriah and the binding of Jesus to the cross on Calvary. The motifs of a loving father and an only son involved in sacrifice to God are parallel in both events. While there are significant differences between the Jewish and Christian understandings of atonement, particularly of vicarious atonement, it is clear that both religions are solidly anchored in the idea that the faith of the fathers brought about acts of atonement that somehow and to some degree relate to the ongoing blessing of God upon their communities.

A Foundation for the Dynamic Saga

The Akedah provides a secure foundation for the unfolding dynamic saga of life from the dead that has characterized the Chosen People from time immemorial. Through one event in one fleeting moment of time, the fate of the entire Chosen People hung in the balance. Which would it be, life or death? The answer was life, for God provided himself the ram for the substitutionary sacrifice. Life triumphed over death, and life reigned then and ever thereafter. Because of the faith and faithfulness of father and son to engage the Eternal in the drama of sacrifice and redemption, God produced life from the dead, and Am Yisrael Chai, the people of Israel live.

[1] Ephesians 6:4.

[2] Genesis 21:12, NIV.

[3] Genesis 17:18.

[4] Genesis 21:9.

[5] Genesis 16:4.

[6] John Calvin, Commentaries on the First Book of Moses called Genesis, trans. John King (Edinburgh, UK: The Edinburgh Printing Co., 1847), vol. 1, pp. 542–543. In this same commentary, Calvin also gave the following explanation: “Ishmael turns the blessing of God, from which such joy flowed, into ridicule. Therefore, as an impious mocker, he stands opposed to his brother Isaac. Both (so to speak) are the sons of laughter: but in a very different sense. Isaac brought laughter with him from his mother’s womb. … He therefore so exhilarates his father’s house, that joy breaks forth in thanksgiving; but Ishmael, with canine and profane laughter, attempts to destroy that holy joy of faith.”

[7] Walter Orenstein, Teach Me about God: The Meaning and Significance of the Name of God (Lanham, MD: Jason Aronson Publishing 2005), p. 75.   

[8] The injunctions against idolatry, adultery, and murder are the only commandments which can never be suspended even in order to save human life.

[9] Exodus 32:6.

[10] Exodus 32:7.

[11] 2 Samuel 2:14.

[12] Marina Goodman, Why Should I Stand Behind a Mechitzah When I Could Be a Prayer Leader? (Southfield, MI: Targum Press, Inc., 2002), p. 41.

[13] Rashi, noted in Israel Drazin and Stanley M. Wagner, trans. and eds., Onkelos on the Torah: Understanding the Bible Text (Jerusalem, Israel: Gefen Publishing House, 2006), p. 124.

[14] David Kimchi, noted in Drazin and Wagner, p. 124. RaDaK is an acronym for Rabbi David Kimchi, who was a thirteenth-century rabbi, philosopher, and grammarian.

[15] Obadiah Sforno, noted in Drazin and Wagner, p. 124. Sforno was a sixteenth-century rabbi.

[16] Shemot Rabbah 1.1. Cf. Jill Hammer, Sisters at Sinai: New Tales of Biblical Women (Philadelphia, PA: Jewish Publication Society, 2001), p. 252.

[17] For example, Abraham employed the half-truth, “She is my sister,” to cover up his true identity as Sarah’s husband when he feared that both Pharaoh and Abimelech might assassinate him in order to add the beautiful Sarah to their harems (Genesis 20:2; Genesis 26:9). When Abraham was less than diligent to protect his wife’s honor, God stepped in and did so himself—and with stunning results!

[18] Megillah 14a.

[19] Genesis 17:20. See the fulfillment of this promise in Genesis 25:12–18.

[20] Genesis 16:12.

[21] In Genesis 48:15–16, Jacob declared, “The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked faithfully, the God who has been my shepherd all my life … may he bless these boys.”

[22] Leviticus 18:21; Deuteronomy 18:10; 2 Kings 21:6; Jeremiah 7:31.

[23] Genesis 22:2.

[24] Paul Copan, How Do You Know You’re Not Wrong? Responding to Objections that Leave Christians Speechless (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2005), p. 166.

[25] Genesis 22:2, NIV, [emphasis added].

[26] Deuteronomy 12:5; 2 Kings 21:4. Some have suggested that the very topography of Jerusalem demonstrates that God placed his name in the city because the valleys that circumscribe and intersect the city of Jerusalem perfectly form the Hebrew letter shin, which is the first letter of the universally recognized name of God, Shaddai. Perhaps God meant it literally and physically when he said that Jerusalem was the site where he had chosen to place his name. See Karl D. Coke, “Jerusalem and the Letter Shin,” Restore!, vol. 10, no. 4, p. 13.

[27] Jeremiah 7:31; 19:2–6.

[28] Moriah was the place where Melchizedek (Malki-Tzedek—“my king of righteousness”) led the worship of God Most High with rituals of bread and wine and of blessings both for God and for man (Genesis 14:18).

[29] Abraham Joshua Heschel, Man is Not Alone: A Philosophy of Religion (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1951), p. 245.

[30] Luke 12:5. Jesus said, “And I say to you, my friends, be not afraid of those killing the body, and after these things are not having anything over to do … fear him who, after the killing, is having authority to cast to the gehenna; yes, I say to you, Fear ye him” (ylt). In virtually all English translations this and the ten other references that Jesus makes to “Gehenna” are translated as “hell.”

[31] Genesis 22:6.

[32] Lippman Bodoff, The Binding of Isaac, Religious Murders and Kabbalah: Seeds of Jewish Extremism and Alienation? (Jerusalem, Israel: Devora Publishing Co., 2005), p. 93, n. 14.

[33] Dov Peretz Elkins, Rosh Hashanah Readings: Inspiration, Information, Contemplation (Woodstock, VT: Jewish Lights Publishing, 2006), p. 120.

[34] Genesis 12:7.

[35] Genesis 18:1.

[36] Genesis 22:3. This is almost the same language that was used when Abraham expelled Hagar and Ishmael from the family encampment in Genesis 21:4. This method is also noted in Genesis 19:27 when Abraham observed the destruction of Sodom.

[37] Matthew 16:25.

[38] Jim Elliot, quoted in Elizabeth Elliot, Through Gates of Splendor (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House, 1981; originally published: Lincoln, NE: Back to the Bible Broadcasts, 1956), p. 172.

[39] Genesis 22:4–5.

[40] Jon D. Levenson, The Death and Resurrection of the Beloved Son: The Transformation of Child Sacrifice in Judaism and Christianity (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1993), p. 130.

[41] Levenson, p. 130.

[42] Rashi, Perush al Hatorah. Cf. Omri Boehm, Binding of Isaac: A Religious Model of Disobedience (New York: T. & T. Clark International, 2007), p. 45.

[43] Hebrews 11:17–18, nasb, 19, NIV.

[44] Copan, p. 165.

[45] Gordon Wenham, World Biblical Commentary: Genesis 16–50 (Nashville, TN: Word Publishing, 1994), vol. 2, p. 105.

[46] Genesis 22:7–8, NIV.

[47] Genesis 22:11–12, NIV.

[48] Genesis 22:13, NIV.

[49] Genesis 22:13, NIV.

[50] Tertullian, Adversus Judaeos, 10.

[51] 51 Kenneth A. Mathews, The New American Commentary: An Exegetical and Theological Exposition of Holy Scripture: Genesis 11:27–50:26 (Goshen, IN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2005), p. 301. Mathews notes specific texts as Targum Canticles 1:13, Targum Esther 2, 5:1, and Targum 1 Chronicles 21:15.

[52] Louis Arthur Berman, The Akedah: The Binding of Isaac (Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson, Inc., 1997), p. 152.

[53] Tim F. LaHaye and Edward E. Hindson, eds., The Popular Bible Prophecy Commentary: Understanding the Meaning of Every Prophetic Passage (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 2006), p. 19.

[54] LaHaye and Hindson, p. 19.

[55] Berman, p. 155.

[56] Nathan MacDonald, Mark W. Elliott, and Grant Macaskill, Genesis and Christian Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2012), p. 53.

About the Author
John D. Garr, Ph.D.
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