Sunday, October 28, 2007

Abraham, Sacrifice and Hearing God's Voice

Abraham, Seperation and Hearing God’s Voice (Genesis 22: 1-18)
***Quoted from a Jewish friend’s blog - Yaelbatsarah

“The most interesting separation was the one I hadn’t noticed before, way the text shows Abraham’s separation from God. In Chapter 22 God tells Abraham to take Isaac up the mountain and sacrifice him. This is the Abraham that argued against God destroying strangers, but for his own kid he gets up and goes.

This is the last time God speaks to him. The next time it is an angel of God who speaks to Abraham, and just to make sure we noticed it wasn’t God talking to Abraham directly anymore, the text says in verse 13 that the angel called to Abraham a second time. Are you getting it? God isn’t talking to this guy anymore! Why? Maybe because God had expected Abraham to argue and Abraham didn’t?” (Yaelbatsarah)

What can be learned here about our friendship with God? Do we do things with our faith that are unreasonable and need to be looked at more closely? No one’s faith is perfect – and we all make mistakes – but let’s pause this week to see if we are using our faith as a reason to make those mistakes.

34 comments:

BrotherKen said...

I have read what Yael has written and his responses to comments. I have to admit, this sacrifice story has always seemed a bit odd to me, and when I see something out of place I always look for another interpretation, but this doesn't fit with either. I always figured that somewhere along the way the details of how Abraham struggled with this demand to kill his son just got left out, for sure it seems odd that there is not even a mention of an argument. But to say that the whole event was to test Abraham's loyalty to His family doesn't work for me.

But then it seems just as odd that God would ask him to kill His son. Many have sacrificed themselves and others for some delusional idea that they were doing it for God and in their mind were justified by this story. I guess I am still looking for some real purpose of this story.

Yael said...

I have read what Yael has written and his responses to comments.

HER! HER! HER!

I have never been, nor am I now, nor will I ever be a him! My blogs make it pretty clear that I'm a woman. Why keep calling me him?

Just so that no one misunderstands, this is merely one interpretation of many I have posted. Torah is said to have 70 faces. I don't have 70 interpretations of this story yet, but give me time....

I disagree with Ken that an argument between God and Abraham just got left out of the story. That would have been the most important piece of the story. I can't imagine Torah going through all the steps of Abraham arguing for Sodom but then missing a little argument over the fate of Isaac?

I agree with Ken that this is a strange story and that I may not have hit on what it's all about, I may be totally wrong. I like texts that are strange. Torah is ever fascinating.

BrotherKen said...

Geez! I am so sorry Yael. I saw you say Her! Her! before and I thought you meant Here! Here!

Actually, while reading some of your writing, it did dawn on me that you were a woman, but I was so focussed on the topic that I forgot.

Anyway, you do make a good point that if there were an argument it would not have been left out. I have done some reading on how meticulously the Torah was kept and stuff like that was not just dropped out haphazardly.

I do not understand the concept of multiple interpretations, so forgive me if I come across a bit rigid in my thinking.

Yael said...

Well, I'll forgive you this time....

That's quite a compliment that you were focused on the topics and not the person. Now many of us can do that!

Our approach to Biblical exegesis is PaRDeS:
Pshat - surface meaning
Remez - deeper meaning other than the literal
Drash - interpretation of the passage, making comparisons to other passages, pulling ideas together (a lot of my writing is at this level, midrash)
Sod - the secret meaning, sometimes quite mystical

Torah for us is very much alive and relevant to our world today. We can find new meaning every time we read. God gives us Torah, not God gave us Torah. That is Torah for us.

So, you never have multiple interpretations? I thought Christians did that all the time with prophecy and with those 'types' of Jesus I'm always hearing about in Torah, Isaac, Joseph, Moses, etc. The passover lamb and all of that? The snake, the rock Moses struck, the bronze serpent? If you don't give any of these multiple meanings to make Tanakh just be a book that points to your book, I may have to talk to you more! Are you sure you don't allow for multiple meanings? I've just never met a Christian who didn't.

SocietyVs said...

I personally like what Yael has gotten out of this scripture - it is so fitting for our situation these days.

I am an outsider to most church religious communities right now - peeking in and observing - and then making some commentary. Needless to say, I am not very welcomed for the majority of those commentaries (or they would never be heard over the pulpit on a Sunday). I am alright with that. But the system does need a serious overhaul.

I see hints of that in Yael's commentary about Abraham - maybe he needed to question more about this incident? And the same goes for us, maybe we need to question more of what we see in our faith system that is played as 'gospel truth'?

I also the idea of using our faith for the purpose of hurting others - which is pointed out by Yael in that Abraham saved Lot - but his own son he made no excuses for. Maybe that story is supposed to say that to us - as we see - God does stop speaking to Abraham (and angel of the Lord does from now on). This runs counter to any Christian view we have ever heard of that scripture/story - but maybe that's a good thing?

For me, it's almost as if 2 opposite points can be made from that story and both say something we need to hear.

Yael said...

Thanks Jason. I think there are many lessons we can learn from Torah. And then there is the wonder of the parallels and symmetry. It is an incredibly deep text.

Jim Jordan said...

Thanks for the Pardes guide, Yael. There are indeed layers of wisdom in the Bible. That's a great guide to ensure that we're looking at it from all angles.

In Genesis 22:1 it tells us that God is testing Abraham. Did Abraham make a mistake in not arguing the point - or did the author err by leaving it silent? It certainly is NOT consistent with God's Word to kill your children. Long story short, God still doesn't allow it. A few points.

1) As part of the sacrifice Abraham and Isaac have to travel quite a distance (70 miles?) to reach an exact point God has designated.
2) Isaac carries the wood for his own sacrifice up the hill even though he doesn't know it's for him.
3) As Abraham proceeds to go through with the act, there seems to be only one explanation for what was going through his mind; the promised child, Isaac, was going to die, breaking God's own Word, but that he would then be brought back from the dead.
4) God stops the sacrifice, and provides a lamb.
5) Abraham calls the site "Jehovah Jireh" - God provides - and goes home. Oddly, God calls Isaac Abraham's "only" son here.
6)The site is the same spot where the Temple will be built a thousand years later [chosen for its holiness because of this incident], and from the same spot Jesus will be condemned a thousand years after that.
7) Jesus will walk down the same hill carrying the wood for his sacrifice, only this time the victim knows and accepts the sacrifice.
8) In order for God's Word not to be broken, he would die, and then rise from the dead.

That's the Christian interpretation. I of course find it very compelling. Otherwise, you look at this story and wonder "What's the point?" Even if you can find lessons on odedience and trust, most people are inclined to think there is some mistake here, even if they don't say it out loud.

At least we can say the potential aspects of the Scripture (pshat, remez, drash, etc.) have been touched upon.

Blessings.

Yael said...

Yes Torah says God is testing Avraham, but it does not say what is being tested.

Is there anyone who thinks it is a beautiful picture of a father/son relationship where the father would kill his son just to appease his god? Surely the news has been filled with many such stories in recent years with parents now sitting in psych wards or prison as a result of their actions.

Since resurrection from the dead is not a concept taught in Torah, I don't see where Avraham would have gotten the idea that this was even a possibility.

Torah contains many exhortations to not follow the ways of the Canaanites who sacrificed their children for their gods. Avraham should have known better than to even think this is what God desired.

This is the test. Would Avraham argue for God to act justly, as he had for Sodom, or would Avraham follow the ways of his idolatrous neighbors and sacrifice his child. Avraham failed. God never spoke to him again, nor did his son Isaac, who went off to live with Hagar.

I am curious where you get your information that Jesus was condemned at the Temple, Jews had no authority to condemn anyone to death and certainly the Temple was not the place to hold court! The Temple was the realm of the Sadducees, the leaders of the Temple cult. It was not the realm of the Pharisees, who comprised the Sanhedrin and who were bitter foes of the Sadducees. It also seems strange to claim that there was a cross at the Temple and that Jesus carried it from there. Crosses were a Roman execution implement. Why on earth would Jews have one at the Temple when thousands of Jews were being hung on these things to die? Just to make it easier on our oppressors to kill us?

Jim Jordan said...

Since resurrection from the dead is not a concept taught in Torah, I don't see where Avraham would have gotten the idea that this was even a possibility.


Gen. 18:13,14 - 13 Then the LORD said to Abraham, "Why did Sarah laugh and say, 'Will I really have a child, now that I am old?' 14 Is anything too hard for the LORD ? I will return to you at the appointed time next year and Sarah will have a son."

Being condemned at the temple: John 19:11 - Jesus answered, "You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin."

Jesus was crucified on a hill nearby and, no, he didn't carry the cross from the Temple. I have to look into these logistics more specifically, but clearly the similarity in images is there, even if you believe them to be contrived. Take care.

SocietyVs said...

"I don't see where Avraham would have gotten the idea that this was even a possibility." (Yael)

I don't think Abraham would of thought of resurrection in his days at all - he had just seen Sodom and Gommorah go up in smoke and the only person 'saved' left those towns. Neither is the concept even remotely mentioned in Genesis to Abraham...I think Abraham figured is he sacrificed his son maybe God would grant his wife the birth of another one?

Jim - I don't quite the correlation between the Genesis passage and the John passage?

Yael said...

Jim,
First you posted Jesus will walk down the same hill carrying the wood for his sacrifice, only this time the victim knows and accepts the sacrifice.

Then you posted Jesus was crucified on a hill nearby and, no, he didn't carry the cross from the Temple.

The same hill and a hill nearby are quite different things. The imagery would then be similar, from your point of view, but not the perfect correlation you originally asserted.

I have to look into these logistics more specifically, but clearly the similarity in images is there, even if you believe them to be contrived.

Far be it from me to call your views contrived. I merely questioned the idea that such things could take place at the site of the Temple and gave my reasons why I would find such a view illogical. My comments had to do with geography as relates to the politics of those days.

I'm not going to tell you that an image which brings meaning to your life is invalid, while claiming that the images which bring meaning to mine are of course valid. Fair is fair.

An old woman giving birth is unheard of, but certainly many women had given birth prior to Sarah so that the idea of a woman giving birth was not an unknown concept. It is just a natural part of life. I don't see how this would point Avraham to believing in resurrection from the dead. Yes, the text says God could do anything, but where would Avraham have gotten the idea that the dead could live again? That I'm not seeing.

Jason,
Yes, Avraham went on to have many sons after the death of Sarah so he could well have taken this view. I'm not sure what the connection is with the other verse either.

Jim Jordan said...

society - The condemnation of Jesus was from the Temple folks even if it was the Romans that crucified Him.

Yael, I've been pondering over a possible inconsistency. God was testing Abraham when He asked him to sacrifice his son, agreed. When Abraham raised the knife, the angel of the Lord stopped him. So there was no sacrifice. God didn't let him carry through with it. So I don't see that that makes it a mistake. Neither is it a failure per se. It could be called a success that Abraham knew God's voice so well that he heard it in a snap, in time to save Isaac.

Jephthah's sacrifice of his daughter is a more difficult story [Judges 11] to swallow. Jephthah makes a vow with God and unwittingly dooms his only child in the process. The difference was that it wasn't God's idea that time.

If the New Testament is to be believed, God sacrificed His only son. That might sound evil, but why couldn't He do that? Christians see it as the ultimate sign of love for humanity.

Avraham failed. God never spoke to him again, nor did his son Isaac, who went off to live with Hagar.

You must mean Ishmael. Isaac never lived with Hagar. Ishmael and Hagar had been sent away in the previous chapter. The next appearance of Ishmael is at the funeral in Ch. 25. It's silent on whether Ishmael ever talked to him again before he died, but certainly Isaac did. Abraham also had more children with another woman. Society pointed out the possibility of him having more children with Sarah. While that might contradict God's Word in that Isaac was already the child of the promise, it is not impossible.

"Resurrection is not possible" contradicts "nothing is impossible for God", doesn't it? The resurrection itself doesn't contradict the Torah anywhere that I can see, nor does the sacrifice of God's son. The angel in Gen. 22:16 says "you were willing to offer your only son". What limits God from offering His son to us?


It's been refreshing to hear your interpretations, Yael. I understand better why you believe what you believe and just want you to understand better why I believe what I believe. God wants it to be a dialog, not a monolog (see, I've been reading your blog:-). I'm starting to see how His plan is a lot larger than our musings.

OneSmallStep said...

**I don't think Abraham would of thought of resurrection in his days at all **

I don't think he would have, either, considering the times. Even with the quote "Is anything too hard for the Lord --" at that time, raising people from the dead could've been seen as inconsistent (much like we would say that God cannot make a circle in the shape of a square. That is "impossible" for God). To say that a resurrection applies here seems to be reading something back into the Tanakh, especially given the cultural viewpoint at the time. I think it was more someone lived and died, and that was it. The way in which one had "eternal life" was through offspring. Plus, to make the connection between what is hard for God to the resurrection seems to be reading something back into the passage -- again, due to the culture of that time. I think Yael's point was that if the concept of the resurrection was a strong one, it would be seen in the Torah.

Jim Jordan said...

Wow, 3 posts in two minutes.

Yael, yes, I was back-pedaling on my specifics (the "same hill") because they were...a little off.

I'm not going to tell you that an image which brings meaning to your life is invalid, while claiming that the images which bring meaning to mine are of course valid. Fair is fair.


This is very true! I could not say with any degree of certainty that Abraham was thinking of resurrection any more than saying he was thinking "let's get this over with already - I've got a tee-time in two hours!" But there is a lesson here as you point out.

You see, we are all going to die. Yet we (Muslims, Jews, Christians et al) believe that we are going to live again. We trust that God will not forsake us. Its not such a whacky thing to suppose this thought occurred to Abraham here. Our longing for self-preservation is not a fluke but a God-ordained aspect of our persona.

Imagine the trust that Abraham would have had. The verses presuppose that he was hearing God as clearly as he hears the person in front of him. "Here I am Lord" - verse 2.

So I don't agree that there was any failure here. It's a wonderful story that is like a gift that you never seem to finish unwrapping. Doesn't that sound like your description of Torah, Yael?

Pity the person who one day says they are done opening it.

SocietyVs said...

"society - The condemnation of Jesus was from the Temple folks even if it was the Romans that crucified Him." (Jim)

Okay, well that answers the John passage - but how does that relate with Gen 18? Were you relating the 2? I was just asking so I could see the point you are trying to make there...as it is...I do not.

What I do find odd Jim is that you seem to want to continously point Jewish things from out texts to our Jewish friend - almost as if to say 'in you face'? You have to point out things about Judaism to prove our faith is 'better' or 'more complete'? There is the John reference, then we have on your blog the 'perfected Jews of Anne Coulter', and this whole Abraham passage has to point to Jesus (ie: via sacrifice).

I guess I don't get it to be honest. I see her faith just as valuable as any of ours and no different. I don't think we have something she does not? But if that is so - she has something we do not?

Jim Jordan said...

Okay, well that answers the John passage - but how does that relate with Gen 18?

It doesn't. Read it again, this time with feelin'.

Jason, your complaints have to do with standard Christian beliefs. I promise I won't defend Anne Coulter any more, even when she makes sense. The mention of her name causes others to foam at the mouth (a political reaction?). And since when did a Christian interpretation of Scripture brutalize a Jewish interpretation simply by being stated?

I could take offense at much of what Yael writes about Christians and their "god" but I don't. Yael's God is God and I agree. She says my God is not God and I'm "in her face"?

BTW, if people troll through my blog looking for something to disagree with, they're likely to find it. There are almost 600 articles to choose from, and they're not all about cheesecake. As a matter of fact, none of them are about cheesecake...Chill out, hermano.

OneSmallStep said...

**You see, we are all going to die. Yet we (Muslims, Jews, Christians et al) believe that we are going to live again. We trust that God will not forsake us. Its not such a whacky thing to suppose this thought occurred to Abraham here.**

The problem I would have here is the "live again" concept. As stated before, the Tanakh is vague on the afterlife. I would find it somewhat out there in occuring to Abraham because of the culture of the time -- he had no concept of heaven/hell or even a resurrection. Judaism now might believe one will live again. But I think the first mention of any sort of afterlife or resurrection is stated in the book of Daniel.

It's not off the wall for Abraham to believe that God wouldn't forsake him. I do find Abraham believing that Isacc would be resurrected off the wall, for reasons stated above.

I do like what Yael stated earlier, though -- maybe Abraham was supposed to argue, and test the order. He did so with strangers, yet not with his own son. It could be a story speaking out against blind faith. Simply because the name "God" is attached to an order doesn't mean the order is good.

Jim Jordan said...

OSS - But I think the first mention of any sort of afterlife or resurrection is stated in the book of Daniel.


Gen 5:22-24
And after he became the father of Methuselah, Enoch walked with God 300 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Enoch lived 365 years. Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.

OSS - It's not off the wall for Abraham to believe that God wouldn't forsake him.

But it is off the wall that Abraham would believe that God would not forsake his son? Note verse 5, "we" are going to come back down, Abraham says.

I see Yael's point that Abraham was expected to argue, but how many times does he have to do that? In Genesis 15 Abraham is facing doubts about God's protection. God has to assure him "I am your shield and your very great reward". In Genesis 18 Abraham challenges God with the words "surely the judge of all the earth will do right". There are numerous crises of faith in Abraham's life, but this is an old Abraham. And isn't that verse 5 another challenge to God? "We are going to worship and come back"? Abraham is saying, "God, you are NOT going to break your Word!" Sounds like the Abraham I know.

Yael said...

Abraham knew God's voice so well that he heard it in a snap, in time to save Isaac.

The conversation has gone on far from here, but I want to comment on a couple things. When God told Avraham to take Isaac to be sacrificed, God said, 'Avraham' and Avraham responded (Gen 22:1). When the angel of God tried to stop Avraham, the angel had to call twice, Avraham, Avraham (Gen 21:22). He only had to be called once to take his son, but in order to be stopped from killing his son he had to be called twice. God's voice didn't stop him the second time, it was an angel's voice.

The condemnation of Jesus was from the Temple folks even if it was the Romans that crucified Him.

Again, the Saduccees were the Temple cult. You claim Jesus was condemned by the Sanhedrin, which was composed of Pharisees. These groups did not get along. They are not the same. We Jews had no power to condemn anyone to death. Only the Romans.

Yael said...

You must mean Ishmael. Isaac never lived with Hagar. Ishmael and Hagar had been sent away in the previous chapter. The next appearance of Ishmael is at the funeral in Ch. 25. It's silent on whether Ishmael ever talked to him again before he died, but certainly Isaac did.

No, mistaking Isaac for Ishmael would be a huge error. Where did Isaac speak to his father again? The text states 'Avraham then returned to his servants, and they departed together.' (Gen 22:39) The next time Isaac is spoken on he is 'in the vicinity of Beer-lahoi-roi' (Gen 24:47), the place where Hagar went when she was sent away. (Gen 16:13). Later Isaac and Ishmael together bury their father.

Yael said...

"Resurrection is not possible" contradicts "nothing is impossible for God", doesn't it? The resurrection itself doesn't contradict the Torah anywhere that I can see, nor does the sacrifice of God's son. The angel in Gen. 22:16 says "you were willing to offer your only son". What limits God from offering His son to us?

I did not say resurrection is impossible, I said that I see no model for this in Torah, whereas giving birth to children is something everyone who know happens, even if it has never happened to an old woman before.

Since the crucifixion is not my belief but is very much a part of yours, I'm not going to comment on it other than as I have from a geographical and political point of view.

Thank you for striving to maintain a dialog. I am also trying to do the same. You can give Jason credit or blame(!) for that. I never used to bother until he wandered into my blog.

Yael said...

So I don't agree that there was any failure here. It's a wonderful story that is like a gift that you never seem to finish unwrapping. Doesn't that sound like your description of Torah, Yael?

Pity the person who one day says they are done opening it.


I suppose I should have put all my comments together, but oh well, it would have been long and I'm just commenting as I'm reading....

There are Jews who would agree with you there is no failure in this story, perhaps there isn't. I see it as a story of many failures, however, and digging through it all is disturbing, distressing, but enlightening.

I don't believe in life after death as you do, we have many views of what happens after we die in Judaism. Torah puts no emphasis on an afterlife, so I don't either. I freely admit this topic just doesn't interest me. Don't think you'll see much about it on my blog!

I always feel sad when I hear someone has discarded Torah never to be looked at again. It is the hardest thing for me to hear someone speak of Torah as dead and meaningless. Yes, it is like unwrapping a gift. Given with love.

Yael said...

Jim,
Just as you must not deny belief in Jesus, I must not call him divine. It is the core of what it means to be Jewish just as your belief is at the core of what it means to be Christian. I cannot call Jesus what you wish me to call him. Some Jews would take me to task for even calling him Jesus! We are not to speak the names of other deities.

So, I will ask you for feedback. Would it be less offensive for me to just speak of deity rather than god with a small g? On my own blog I feel free to kvetch a bit...or a lot....and I can assure you living a religious Jewish life in the midst of evangelical Christians has not been easy. I am a work in progress, too, however, so sometimes you'll have to do as I do when reading Christian blogs. I cringe and then overlook.

We have a teaching in Judaism. He ate the pomegranate and then spit out the skin. Take what is good, discard the rest.

It is a good person who looks out for the welfare of their friends, and that is what I see Jason doing. I appreciate his concern that I not feel bombarded, I don't, and hopefully you don't either.

Jim Jordan said...

Yael - He only had to be called once to take his son, but in order to be stopped from killing his son he had to be called twice. God's voice didn't stop him the second time, it was an angel's voice.

Hmmm. Easy to overlook, but very profound and true.

Re: Isaac and Ishmael. It is silent on whether Abraham and Isaac talked or not after the incident. I would imagine Isaac had something to say...

The scene where the two brothers bury Abraham is a wonderful glimpse of reconciliation.

As for them living together in Beer La'hai Roi, is that corroborated elsewhere?

Fascinating insights. Thanks.

SocietyVs said...

"It doesn't. Read it again, this time with feelin'." (Jim)

Okay I read it again - with feelin - and what's the point? 'Nothing is to hard for the Lord'? So resurrection in Abraham's day would of been thought of even then - via this passage?

"Jason, your complaints have to do with standard Christian beliefs" (Jim)

I agree.

"I promise I won't defend Anne Coulter any more, even when she makes sense" (Jim)

She's an acquired taste - saw her piece on Canada - from thence on I avoid her like the plague.

"And since when did a Christian interpretation of Scripture brutalize a Jewish interpretation simply by being stated?" (Jim)

Well in our convo - nobody is hurt I am sure (or brutalized) - but the idea's we Christians come up with can be questionable. I would love to hear Coultre's explanation for why I am a 'perfected Jew' - by being in this faith (when I am not Jewish at all - unless we ahdere to the Mormon's beliefs Native peoples are actually of Jewish origin).

So nobody is brutalized - and if I am restricting your freedom's - I am sorry.

But to be honest I merely stated a question about the idea a Jewish person blogs with us - and maybe you push it a little hard. I could be wrong - and if I am - I am sorry. Just thought I'd check the temperature in the water.

Jim Jordan said...

So, I will ask you for feedback. Would it be less offensive for me to just speak of deity rather than god with a small g?

Small letter g is fine and kvetching is fine - I kvetch on my blog, too. Better to be hot or cold than lukewarm, Christians like to say.

Cringe and overlook is a good motto. Philosopher William James once said, "Wisdom is knowing what to overlook." I used that quote for the lesson on Romans 15 and I think the same principle is in the Torah. King David recognized the same principle when he stopped Abishai from killing Shimei for cursing him (2 Samuel 16).

I believe that if we see our differences as great then our God is small. If our differences are insuperable, then indeed our God does not exist.

Jim Jordan said...

Hi Jason. Just saw your comment.

The Gen 18 passage would not rule out Isaac coming back from the dead. What part of "nothing is impossible for God" can escape from that meaning? With all respect to cultural norms, there is no wiggle room.

The John 19:11 passage points to the fact that the Jewish high priests turned Jesus over to Pilate. Add to that they hang out at the Temple, which is on the site where Isaac was nearly sacrificed.

I think that Yael and OSS, while not agreeing, understood that that's what I meant.

She's [Coulter's] an acquired taste.

The truth is I find her routine rather repugnant on almost all levels. She's a polemicist first and last. Like the pomegranate Yael talked about, just lots more skin.

I was a little confused as to whether you felt you were trying to level the playing field or just levelling me. But don't worry, I hold no offense.

Yael said...

Altogether, Enoch lived 365 years. Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.

Certainly there is much speculation about what this verse actually means.

It seems to me the concept of an afterlife evolved over time. There is no mention in Torah of anything other than sheol, a place of the dead. The Psalmists give much praise to God but what is said about any afterlife? Salvation in Psalms is in the context of physical salvation,usually from danger.

from what I have read in history, talk about an afterlife did not become commonplace until the times of Antiochus. People were saying what is the point of living a religious life when it would be so much easier to just assimulate to the Greek way of life. It was during this time when the more obscure, apocalyptic writings came into existence. It is something I find quite interesting that our sages are the ones who taught this concept as a way to keep the masses faithful to Judaism, yet many of us Jews today have no interest in any teachings on an afterlife, while Christians, who reject the teachings of our sages, have taken this concept so to heart that it is all many of them even talk about.

Lifes little twists and turns I suppose.

As far as impossible for God goes, I'm with OSS on her comment. And I will leave it at that.

The reference to Hagar's place and Isaac are the verses I pointed out. I don't have a Christian Bible however so I can't check what it says in translation. The Hebrew words are the same in both places.

OneSmallStep said...

**Altogether, Enoch lived 365 years. Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.**

I'm with Yael on this one. The Book of Daniel specifically mentions everlasting life and shame/torment, as well as the concept of a resurrection. For Enoch, that is also vague, especially since in those times, sheol wasn't a punishment, it was simply where you went when you died. As Yael states, salvation had to do with rescue during this life. For Enoch, he was simply taken away and no more. It doesn't mention resurrection, everlasting life or torment. It doesn't say where Enoch went, just that he was taken away and people could no longer see him, not that he went to an everlasting life.

**But it is off the wall that Abraham would believe that God would not forsake his son? Note verse 5, "we" are going to come back down, Abraham says.**

Simply because I'm saying that Abraham wouldn't have held to the resurrection does not mean I'm saying Isaac would be forsaken. Resurrection is simply not part of the cultural make-up at the time, and so it's applying later standards to an earlier time. It wasn't part of the belief structure, and Abraham would have no concept of it.

**I see Yael's point that Abraham was expected to argue, but how many times does he have to do that?**

He must do that whenever he finds something questionable with the order? It goes back to not just accepting an order because the word "God" is attached to that order. The order should be evaluated, and determined if it is just. What gets a lot of people in this section is that Abraham simply accepted it, and this is lauded as great faith. But for those of us with children, picture leading our children somewhere, tying them up, raising the knife, and having someone stop us at the last minute, and then us saying that God was tested our faith, and it was good. That would fall under the category of child abuse. Not only would our child never trust us again, we'd probably never be allowed to see our child again, with good reason. Think of the damage that would to do the child.

Yael said...

Think of the damage that would do to the child.

The text says Avraham went down the mountain and left with his servants. It doesn't say 'they' went down the mountain. Avraham then goes to Beer-sheva where he stayed, even though Sarah is in Hevron. Isaac is next seen in Beer-lahai-roi. If everything is so wonderful, why is everyone in a different place?

In the next generation, Rebekkah is the one God talks to, Rebekkah is the one who makes sure the right son gets the blessing. Isaac is blind, physically and perhaps emotionally. His father basically paralyzed him for the rest of his life. He's just a side player. We know very little about him. We know Avraham, we know Jacob, we know Josef, but what do we know about Isaac? His mother threw out his older brother; his father tried to kill him. No wonder he was quiet and eventually blind. In that family it was probably best not to be able to see or hear or be heard!

Jim Jordan said...

Hi OSS
That would fall under the category of child abuse. Not only would our child never trust us again, we'd probably never be allowed to see our child again, with good reason.

Let's just suppose that I am applying the idea of a later time, resurrection, to an earlier time. Aren't you doing the same thing here? I don't suppose the Dep. of Children and Families was there to take Isaac to a foster home? :-) I don't think children had rights then like they do now, nor would they expect to have them. It's worth considering, however, the toll this took on Isaac's psyche.

Again I think its entirely relevant that mankind has always known of the inevitability of their own death, but also hoped for a second life after. Sheol does not describe a valley of dry bones, does it? There isn't a very clear of what it is, perhaps, but it's not a lifeless pit of dry bones from my vantage point.

The dialog can go on and on. Genesis 22 is such a provocative story. I wouldn't call it a blemish on the Scriptures. I think also we should not look at it through a modern lens lest we miss the context.

Thanks for the perspectives on this. The angel calling twice when Abraham heeded the call to sacrifice the first time. Did this incident scar Isaac's soul? Does it explain more about the sin of narcissism he committed by favoring the child, Esau, that reminded him of himself? Lots of things to ponder, more than before. Regards.

OneSmallStep said...

Yael,

**If everything is so wonderful, why is everyone in a different place? **

You raise the same questions I've also wondered. The silence from certain quarters, such as Isaac, is very interesting, isn't it?

Jim,

**Let's just suppose that I am applying the idea of a later time, resurrection, to an earlier time. Aren't you doing the same thing here?**

We've got two things going on here, if the ressurection is compared to sacrifice. The resurrection and the concept of eternal life is a belief structure. The idea of sacrifice and such is tied to morality, because this story is often used in determining whether the Christian God is good. But what was going on here is that Abraham protested God destroying Sodom and Gomorrah. He wondered if it was a just act (and possibly even moral), and he knew very few people in that city. Yet when called to sacrifice his son, Abraham said nothing, yet he fought for strangers. So it's taking his own standard, and wondering what happened to it with Isaac.

Today, we find many ancient practicies barbaric, because our concept of morality has evolved to better standards, such as no sacrificing humans to the gods, eliminating slavery and child labor in areas, women's rights and so forth. So am I applying today's standards to back then, when I explain why people have a problem with it? Yes, because it ties into the concept of absolute morals. If it was "okay" to sacrifice the child then, but not okay now, how does that not make morality relative?

**Again I think its entirely relevant that mankind has always known of the inevitability of their own death, but also hoped for a second life after** But can you find support for hoping for a life afterwards, in any of the early Tanakh? Or a resurrection? I can't speak for Yael, but that's why I keep commenting on this. Originally, it was stated that Abraham "knew" God could resurrect Isaac. Now we have a lack of clarity as to what Sheol is, or how feasible a "second life" is. This concept of heaven/hell/resurrection dominates Christianity. It's often stated that Jesus came to save people from hell -- yet this very idea is only apparent late in the Tanakh. It evolved in this belief structure, and yet is a fundamental belief system, even used to interpret Isaac's sacrifice.

Yael said...

I think it's important to look at it both ways, from our perspective and in context. Torah is alive and relevant to our lives today. If it doesn't speak to us where we are today, of what good is it?

I do not consider the Akedah a blemish on Torah at all, it is a fascinating passage which we Jews read twice per year, once on Rosh Hashanah and once during the usual Torah reading cycle.

As an aside: We blow the shofar on Rosh Hashanah, the ram's horn, to remind God of Avraham's devotion. Now, perhaps you'll wonder, "But, didn't you just say...." and I would say yes I did. Multiple levels of meaning, multiple lessons to be learned. Perhaps devotion to God, perhaps misguided devotion to God, a reminder to not go overboard even with God, but as long as he did, we might as well remind God of our ancestor's loyalty?

Midrash teaches that one ram's horn was blown by Moses on Sinai and the other will be blown by Elijah to herald the coming of Moshiach. "Although your children are destined to be entangled in misfortune, in the end they will be redeemed by the horns of a ram."

Back to your comment: Certainly children were not treated the same back then, thus the warnings not to copy the nations in sacrificing children. The point of Torah was to elevate us above the society around us, to help us be a holy people, who did not live by the same standards as everyone else.

I don't think sheol is the valley of dry bones. Sheol was a shadowy underworld of the dead. Perhaps gehenna is the valley? No, I think it's a garbage pit. I think the valley of dry bones is just the valley of dry bones.

But, you are right. We could go on forever about this. The parashah has moved on to a new topic. No use beating a dead ram....OK. I know that is very bad....

Yael said...

Jason,
Move your blog to wordpress! It is so much easier to comment there and you can easily upload all your posts from blogger! Sometimes I have to copy those letters 3 times to get my post to go. It is sooooo tedious...