After these things God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains that I shall show you.” So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac; he cut the wood for the burnt offering, and set out and went to the place in the distance that God had shown him. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place far away. Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; the boy and I will go over there; we will worship, and then we will come back to you.” Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. So the two of them walked on together. Isaac said to his father Abraham, “Father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” He said, “The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” Abraham said, “God himself will provide the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So the two of them walked on together. When they came to the place that God had shown him, Abraham built an altar there and laid the wood in order. He bound his son Isaac, and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to kill[a] his son. But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” And Abraham looked up and saw a ram, caught in a thicket by its horns. Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place “The Lord will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.”
The story as told here has Abraham at its centre, he appears as the hero and presents the ultimate patriarchal world view.
Abraham is presented as faithful to agree to sacrifice something so important as his son, because his son was a gift and that means his son belongs to him. Isaac is Abrahams possession – and later the ram.
Sarah is nowhere in this story – it is hard to believe she would have agreed.
Abraham has already sent away another child into hostile land where he saved from immanent death by God.
However much we are set up to be sympathetic, Abraham’s behaviour is grotesque
He would have been informed by the culture he had left behind in Ur – where we know, like all Mesopotamia, child sacrifice occurred to appease gods by buying them of –and doing deals.
Here that understanding of appeasement is changed to showing faith it is argued child sacrifice demonstrates a loyalty to God .
It turns out it is not needed, a substitute is found: The poor ram. We pardon Abraham with a sigh of relief – but he goes on to kill, to take life and call it right. Look carefully – because sacrifice is important and loaded term
We don’t want Abraham to kill Isaac.
We are shocked he would consider it.
Some of us are shocked he murdered a ram to please God
It is shockingly foolish misunderstanding of God and of love.
The sacrifice of a child is not sane – it demonstrates that for Abraham Isaac is his possession to use to maximise his self interest. Betrayal of natural care and affection is twisted in Abraham to mean faithfulness.
Perhaps we do the same? In the cv19 crisis children’s well being has been sacrificed.
On the internet porn and violence – take an horrendous toll of vulnerable children’s wellbeing – their whole life is sacrificed on a holocaust of societies moral ambivalence.
We can see now a society that puts shopping and commerce ahead of education and happiness.
We build houses with no green spaces, we fail to provide funds for children’s wellbeing.
Even local trusts set up for the benefit of children refusing them the help they need.
Rising suicide numbers, rising numbers of children with poor mental health. Rising misery. We know all this. We cant say we don’t.
The delivery of free school lunches (the sad unwholesome remnant of cooked and nutritionally balanced school meals, free milk and free vitamins) – has been compromised and left for individual schools to organise. But how can they ensure sure children were fed at least once a day? – It is safe to say some of the very most vulnerable children around us are hungry – and we know children have been without professional support or oversight even before the pandemic.
Children may not be up chimneys – well not in the Uk – but they are trafficked for sex here in every county in every area. Our society measures the sacrifice children must make against the cost benefit to grown-ups (time, money, taxes).
Little ones in the UK have massively curtailed freedoms except where they can be exploited advertising for peer acceptance (the right shoes/ hair ties pencil case, digital games, phone) and junk food.
Then there are the other children tied up for holocaust – North Korea for example where a child born out of wedlock is ineligible for inoculations and food supplements.
Jesus message in the Gospel today is clear: Be compassionate love and look after children. Learn from them.
This Genesis story has two messages,
one; God is Good and
two; Abraham was a righteous man.
The first is true, God is Good. The second might be describing a very different truth; Abraham was a fool – he misunderstands God to be like him and he fails to act with compassion. Abraham closes his heart in a misguided attempt to get closer to God. Abraham is an elitist patriarch.
Jesus will teach God is “dad” not patriarch.
One has power and ownership and overriding self-interest – the other is full of love.
Abraham was foolish– but then as we look around this society and our world – there are fools ugly-doing everywhere. And God is crying out….stop….look at the children.