With Genesis 22, a beloved verse in Judaism and the mystic Kabbalah, we start a series of small bites challenging traditional story driven views of Old Testament verses. If approached with no Bible school story or preaching shaping the course of this narative and simply let these words explain then what truth can we draw from the binding of Isaac?
Who is the Angel of the Lord?
As Abraham is commanded to take the son of Sarah to a mount in Moriah, we see the appearance of a new voice in his relationship with God. Confusion begins as the heavy hearted Abraham, Isaac leave the other young men at the foot of the mountain. For the first time, Abraham is spoken to by “The Angel of the Lord” and not God himself.
Who is the angel and why do they speak at first in the third person and then shift to first person?
And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me.Genesis 22:12
What we do know is that up until this point it is God who speaks to Abraham. Why the shift to a messenger who asks instead of intervenes? Why the blurry identity?
Battling Concepts of Trial and Atonement
When Abraham is asked by the Angel to stop and not harm the already bound Isaac, the ram which he looks up and sees behind him is offered as a substitute. The OT is in its entirety a catalogue of foreshadows revealing the forthcoming substitutionary atonement of Christ by God. Again, an only son and again a sacrifice but with the key difference being that God DOES sacrifice his son and Abraham does not but more on that shortly. Let’s look at the sacrifice. Why does Abraham offer the sacrifice in the stead of his son when God has apparently told through the Angel of the Lord that it was only a test? If he passes this test then why does Abraham need to still offer any sacrifice, a device God uses to show men the wages of sin so of no actual worth to Him.
Alone, each makes perfect sense but allowing for logical digressions outside of the accepted narrative.
- TRIAL: God is pleased with Abraham as he was prepared to sacrifice his son
- SUBSTITUTE: Abraham offers a ram in place of his son in order to saver him.
Can it really be both? Would God require Abraham to still tick the box of sacrifice with a beast of no worth to him (thus making it no sacrifice) when His will was that Isaac wasn’t sacrificed? Interesting.
Can God Break Promises?
The Angel goes on to make pledges to Abraham about him and his seed. Each one is quite definitive but do they come to pass?
That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies.Genesis 22:17-18
And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.
In no time at all the line of Abraham, the children of Israel are taken captive, they are told to keep pure blood lines and historically this proves to be good advice as they are persecuted as a curse wherever they lay down roots.
From pogroms to the holocaust, the Jewish people have spent the last 2000 years being chased out of every country they created a community. The Angel of the Lord makes pledges that seem to be quite contrary to the reality of the Jewish people.
Beginning as it Ends?
When Christ is sacrificed for the sins of all, God endures the ultimate human nightmare. Not to be tortured but to stand by and watch a child of your own tortured. Most parents would rather take the pain themselves, the protective nature of parenthood dictates gladly enduring something for a child.
Jesus final words are, “It is finished”. He came with the aim of exposing the Pharisees and the veil is torn exposing the Holy of Holies. The Pharisees are shown as liars, the Holy of Holies containing broken laws to be worshipped revealed as Satanic (“You are of your father, the devil”) and God does something Abraham cannot. Stand by and witness a child tortured to death while able to intervene.
Could it be that the simple truth of Genesis 22 is Abraham being asked to do something that ultimately he cannot? Does he offer the ram knowing that it is not enough but desperately trying to appease a God he has disobeyed? Can we judge the Angel as potentially a deceiver on account of the broken promises?
The Ram and The Lamb
As Isaac and Abraham ascend the mountain Isaac questions Abraham about the lack of a sacrificial beast. Abraham answers and at a first glance it appears that he is aware of the replacement.
And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together.Genesis 22:8
The words are prophetic and not foreknowledge of the ram in thicket. God does indeed provide Himself. Jesus Christ is God and man. He is also the “Lamb of God” and not a Ram.
When Abraham has sacrificed the Ram, a different beast to a submissive lamb, he names the mountain “Jehovah Jireh” which means, “The LORD will provide”. Piecing together what has some to pass we are left with two statements.
God will provide himself, a lamb
The prophetic words of Abraham foretell of Christ, both man and God becoming the perfect lamb of God to atone for all.
Jehovah will provide himself, a ram
The image of the ram is used most often as a transfiguration of Satan, most commonly as the Baphomet. Jehovah is the “Lord of the Earth” but never heaven.
Mans Failure and Gods Success as Bookends
Symetry between New and Old Testament is common and bafflingly perfect in the great structure of Gods word. If we are to view God taking a line of people to tell the very truth of mankind as a whole then are we seeing perfect bookends? Abraham is unable to kill his own son but God does this very thing to save all mankind? The first failure is the last triumph?
Abraham is often held out as a great patriarch but raising up men is the very problem we have from the beginning. Adam and Eve being deceived into disobedience by the serpent. Grabbing the wheel from God and trying to work outside of the perfect route he gave for us is the very thing that poisoned mankind.
Abraham was just a man and just like us he sinned. As a father it’s understandable that he would accept the wrath of God by disobedience to protect a child. Perhaps we overlook how much of a sacrifice God makes in not only sacrificing his son but allowing the torturous death when he could stop it at any point.
The show of love in enduring what most cannot even imagine is exemplified in Genesis 22 when Abraham listens to a messenger who uncharacteristically makes and breaks promises. Abraham knows he has done wrong and tries to make ammends with a ram.
All food for thought. God bless.