When Abraham Sought to Sacrifice Him, Isaac was Still a Child With No Idea What His Father was Planning
One of the most pervasive ideas mankind has about The Bible is that because it was written by so many different writers there’s no point in believing in its so-called “divine” authorship. It’s therefore assumed to be a fraudulent book, which only an idiot or a fool would treat as an object of trust.
On the face of it, this assumption seems reasonable; yet this thread of logic unravels in an instant when one considers the following alternative. Yes, The Bible was written by different authors, each writing from their own perspective, but this, in and of itself, doesn’t negate the possibility of its divine origins. In fact, it’s this very diversity that provides us with the clue that it can’t possibly be the crude by-product of human inspiration.
What makes The Bible so amazing, actually, is that even though it’s a book written across the entire span of human history, it still bears the unmistakable stamp of a single point of view. In other words, although so many hands have “stirred the pot,” so to speak, the scriptural record as a whole still bears a remarkable similarity through in and throughout. From age to age, what begins as a germ of thought in The Old Testament unfolds with astonishing continuity in The New Testament. From author to author, every book in The Bible echoes with the same voice, unfolds the same storyline. And it’s this fact that rings out to those with ears to hear and eyes to see: This is no coincidence; it is, in fact, the greatest proof of its divine authorship.
With this idea in mind, let’s examine our next misconception, in another story that’s troubled scholars and laypersons alike for generations. It involves one of the most famous dramas in The Bible, if only because it’s commemorated by no less than three of the great religions of mankind—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
Story Continues Below
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Story Continues From Above
According to tradition, Abraham was ninety-nine years old when God visited him with good news of the birth of a son to be conceived by his wife Sarah, who was almost ninety years old at the time. Yet, in spite of a brief bout of skepticism, Sarah did conceive the following year, and Isaac was born, much to the couple’s shock and delight.
Before long, the child was growing up, happy and healthy, but soon, unbeknownst to his wife and son, Abraham was again visited by God. This time, however, the Lord came as the bearer of bad news. The same child the Lord had bestowed upon Abraham and his wife would now have to be offered up to God as a burnt offering.
Although horrified, Abraham still determined to carry out the difficult task that the Lord demanded of him. So, without ever letting on to his intentions, Abraham took his young son from his doting mother and led him to Mount Moriah. And there, he prepared to sacrifice his beloved Isaac, in a sacred, howbeit bloody, ritual.
Fortunately, for all involved—as the story goes—God intervened at the last possible moment, staying the hand of Abraham just as he was about to kill the child. The Lord then provided a substitute victim, a ram caught in a thicket, which Abraham was told to slay in place of his son.
So Isaac was spared a grisly death that day, Abraham passed his supreme test of faith, and God saw that his chosen man was even willing to sacrifice his beloved son if He asked him to.
Another thrilling story with a happy ending, right? Well, yeah, sure. But what, exactly, was the point of the whole exercise, really?
Since its first telling, this story has had humanity scratching its collective head, wondering: What was God thinking in thrusting an innocent child into such a bizarre predicament?
We can only imagine the sheer terror Isaac must have felt as he watched in helpless confusion while his loving father held up that knife, poised to cut his throat.
But wait; before we go too far with our questions and doubts, certainly we’re all acquainted with what the typical evangelical response has been throughout the ages. Immediately, they come to the Lord’s defense, offering up their pat explanations, and all with a perfectly straight face: “Of course,” they insist, “God never intended for Abraham to actually kill his son. This event was just a foreshadowing of what the Lord was planning to do with His Son Jesus. In this case, Isaac was acting as a type of the Son of God, Who would willingly offer Himself up as the Lamb of God, slain as a sacrifice for the sins of the world.”
To which our reply to such profound wisdom is: “Gee, I never thought of it that way. Okay, sure, I see the parallel now.” There’s only problem: When it comes to seeing the sacrifice of Isaac as a genuine shadow of things to come, an honest look at The Book of Genesis will actually reveal how deficient it is in that department.
Now before anyone condemns me as an unbelieving heretic, let me take this opportunity to review the traditional biblical landscape to prove my point. But do bear in mind, won’t you, that in doing so, it isn’t my intention to undermine the reality of Scripture’s ability to portray these all-important types and shadows. On the contrary, it’s my intention to absolutely prove its ability. But to do that, without needing smoke and mirrors to make these parallels work, there are certain things we need to be aware of.