Genesis – Child Sacrifice?
This is a teaching I learnt from Chuck Missler a number of years ago. Enjoy
Abraham’s offering of Isaac on Mount Moriah has puzzled many for centuries. Is God ordaining Child sacrifice? Or is there another profound secret hidden behind this strange narrative?
The Biblical text declares that a variety of rhetorical devices have been included in the text:
“I have also spoken by the prophets, and I have multiplied visions, and used similitudes, by the ministry of the prophets.” Hosea 12:10
Of particular significance in studying the Bible are similies, metaphors, allegories, parables and types. A similie is a comparison by resemblance; a metaphor is a comparison by representation; an allegory is a continued metaphor or continued representation; a parable is a continued resemblance.
Perhaps the most startling example of a “type” is the famed inicdent of Abraham offering his son Isaac in Genesis Chapter 22, called in Hebrew, the Akedah.
v2 says, “And (God) said, Take now your son, Your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell you.”
This is a strange call. Does God here endores child sacrifice? Hardly! But then, what is going on? This story has confused people for centuries.
v3, “And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and cut the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went unto the place which God had told him.”
By the time Abraham gets to Genesis 22, he has learnt many lessons. Notice that he doesn’t dally; he starts on his journey the very next morning!
Notice also that there are four going on the trip: Abraham, Isaac, and two young men, as well as the donkey.
v4, “Then on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and the place afar off. v5, And Abraham said to his young men, Stay here with the donkey; and I and the lad will go up and worship, and come again to you.”
It took 3 days to get to the place known as Mount Moriah. Notice also that the two young men remain at the base of the hill as the father and son climb up it. (Is Abraham’s prediction about both of them returning just a stall, or is it a prophecy?)
The Topology of Mount Moriah
Mount Moriah is a ridge system betwenn the Mount of Olives to the east and Mount Zion to the west. It is bounded by the Kidron Valley on the east, the Tyropean Valley on the west, and the Hinom Valley to the sounth.
The ridge begins at the south at about 600 meters above sea level and rises to a peak as one goes northward. At the base of this ridge was the town of Salem at which Melchizedek was both the king and the priest. This later becomes Ophel, the City of David, and ultimately, Jerusalem.
Higher on the ridge, at about 741 meters above sea level, is a saddle point where Ornan later owned a threshing floor which would eventually be purchased by David to become the site of solomon’s Temple. (A threahing floor was not necessarily at the peak; it was typically a saddlepoint which enjoyed a prevailing wind which could be used to separate the chaff from the grain when threshed at harvest times.)
The peak of the Mount is a bit further north at about 777 meters above sea level, at a place which would later become known a Golgotha – the exact spot where Jesus Christ would be crucified as the offering for sin, 2000 years later. As we begin to understand the typology of this narative, we begin to appeciate the subtleties in the account. Abraham had an earlier son, Ishmael, but for God’s purposes here, Isaac is viewed as “your only son.”
In Scripture we have the law of first mention: this is that the first occurance of a word in the Scripture is usually a very significant instance in the overall design. It is profoundly significant that this account includes the first occurrence of the word “love” in the scripyures.
v6, “And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it upon Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife; and they went both of them together. v7, And Isaac spoke to Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he said here am I, my son. And he said, I see the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?
Good question, Isaac. You can appreciate the lad’s concern. Notice Abraham’s response:
v8, “And Abraham said, My Son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together.”
“God will provide” who? Himself! Was this also just a stall? Did Abraham realize that he was acting out a prophecy? 2000 years later- on that very spot – another Father would offer His Son as the offering of all time!
v9, And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood.”
We are all victims of our Sunday Schook colouring books: we always picture Isaac as a small boy. Most Scholars maintain that Isaac was about 30 years old at this point.
v10, “And Abraham stretched out his hand, and took the knife to slay his son. v11, And the angel of the Lord called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said Here am I. v12, And he said, lay not your hand upon the lad, neither do anything unto him: for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld you son, YOUR ONLY SON from me. v13, And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behind him a ram was caught in a bush by his horns: And Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in stead of his so.”
So, we encounter the substitutionary ram. When Adam and Eve “fell” in the Garden of Eden, even then, God taught them that by the shedding of innocent blood they would be covered. All the Levetical sacrifices in the Torah were designed to anticipate the climatic sacrifice for all time, also foreshadowed here. We are the benefiaries of a love story, written in blood on a wooded cross, which was to be erected in Judea some 2000 years later.
v14, “And Abraham called the name of the place Adonai Yireh (Adonai will see (to it), Adonai provides) – As it is said to this day, “On the mountain Adonai is seen.” (note- I don’t use the word Jehovah as it was never a word used to describe God in Hebrew and I feel more comfortable using Adonai instead)
Abraham then gave the location a prophetic labe. It appears that he somehow knew that he was acting out a prophecy! Abraham also knew that Isaac, if offered, would have to be resurrected since God had previously promised Abraham that Isaac would have numerous descendants. (It is interesting that Isaac was “dead” to Abraham for three days; from the time the commandment came until he was free by the angel.)
Here, is the “type” we have Abraham cast in the role of the Father and Isaac as the Son. The Ultimatedrama of God the Father offering His Son are what this historical narrative appear to be alluding. There is even another subsequent example in which, the roles are the same.
A Bride for Isaac
Later, in Genesis 24, Abraham commissions his “eldest servant” to gather a bride for Isaac, who then travels to the designated place, qualifies the woman (Rebecca) by the well, and offers her the opportunity to marry the bridegroom she has never seen; and she accepts. She ultimately meets her bridgroom at the well of LaHai-Roi, the “Well of the Living One (who) sees me.” Here again Abraham is a “type” of the Father; Isaac, the Son; and Rebecca, his bride, suggestive of God’s specially chosen, the Church (which has been graften in to the Olive tree of Israel).
The designation “Eldest Servant” is misleading to us: he was Abrahm’s business partnes and would have inherited all Abraham possessed if Abraham had not had any issue. He is cast, here as a type of the Holy Spirit, called to gather the bride for Isaac. He is not named here, but we know from previous passages that his name was Eleazer, which means “Comforter”.
A Textual Omission?
Returning to our earlier review of Genesis 22, immediately after the substitutionary offering, we come to verse 19:
“So Abraham returned unto his young men, and they rose up and went together to Beersheba; and Abraham dwelt at Beersheba.”
Notive that in the list of who came down from the mountain to return home, only Abraham and the two young men at the bottom of the hill are listed. Where’s Isaac? Naturally, we infer that Isaac also joined them and that there were four who traveled back to Bersheba. But that’s not what the text says! It seems that Isaac has disappeared: the person Isaac has been edited out of the record, from the time that he is offered on the mount until he is united with his bride, 2 chapters later! It would seem that the text has been subtly tailored so as to fit the broader design, to be consistant with the larger picture; a type highligting the climax to come.
What an amazing picture pointing forward to what eventually happened on Calvary 2000 years ago. Nothing happens by chance.