Genesis 22:2 BDC: Why did God ask Abraham to sacrifice his son when God condemned human sacrifice in Leviticus 18 and 20?

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Leviticus 18:21 and 20:2 give us God’s moral standards as to human sacrifice. It is specifically condemned.

Leviticus 18:21 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

21 You shall not give any of your offspring to offer them[1] to Molech, and so profane the name of your God: I am Jehovah.

 

Leviticus 20:2 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

“You shall also say to the sons of Israel, ‘Any man from the sons of Israel or from the aliens sojourning in Israel who gives any of his offspring to Molech, shall surely be put to death; the people of the land shall stone him with stones.’

Edward D. Andrews
EDWARD D. ANDREWS (AS in Criminal Justice, BS in Religion, MA in Biblical Studies, and MDiv in Theology) is CEO and President of Christian Publishing House. He has authored ninety-two books. Andrews is the Chief Translator of the Updated American Standard Version (UASV).

Any yet …

Genesis 22:2 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

He said, “Please take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you.”

As in Genesis 22:2, God asked Abraham to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice. This is certainly difficult to understand. Some have even been outraged at the idea of an all-loving God would even ask such a thing. This is certainly understandable.

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However, we should not what God did not do before we talk about what he did do. He never intended for Abraham to go through with the sacrifice, even though it is true Abraham did not know this and he was prepared to offer up Isaac as a sacrifice. Moreover, there is no other person since the days of Abraham that has ever had such a request since. God desires that all worshipers choose life, which includes children. He wants them to enjoy life to the fullest extent now, living a long satisfying life, and receive eternal life upon Jesus’ return.

We are not in the dark as to why God chose to ask Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, for the Bible offers the reader that special reason. The Father was well aware that he was going to allow His own Son, Jesus, to die on our behalf many centuries later. (Matt. 20:28) In having Abraham going through the motions with all of the emotional turmoil that it encompassed, we now can appreciate just how much the sacrifice of His Son. This gave us a powerful demonstration of that coming sacrifice of His Son by asking Abraham, the father of a forthcoming great nation, to offer his son, Issac.

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Ponder the words of God to Abraham, “Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and … and offer him there as a burnt offering …” We can not the way God said of Isaac the son, “your son, your only son, whom you love.” God was we aware of how precious Isaac was to Abraham. Thus, God knew how precious the life of his Son, Jesus, was to him. The great love of the Father for the Son was shown in that the Father spoke twice from heaven, specifically referring to Jesus. “my Son, the beloved.” Mark 1:11; 9:7.

We can take note too how God made this request of Abraham, he included the word “please.” Almost all of the literal translations leave this word out (ASV, RSV, NASB, ESV, CSB, LEB) but the updated American Standard Version does not. One Bible scholar suggests that God’s use of this word intimates that “the way the command is put here tries to soften the blow for Abraham while maximizing our realization of its enormity. ‘Please take.” The use of the enclitic נָא [(nāʾ)] ‘please’ is rare in a divine command and makes it more like an entreaty, another hint that the LORD appreciates the costliness of what he is asking, ‘your son, your only child, whom you love.’”[2] Note that the Hebrew participle (nāʾ) is emphatic, “Please!, I beg you!, I pray!, i.e., a marker of emphasis, with a focus on the desire of the speaker, used to heighten a sense of urgency, intensity.”[3]

As we can see from our emphatic participle, as we can only imagine, as the Father knew, making such a request to Abraham would have grieved him deeply, just as the Father must have grieved deeply as he watched his Son suffer and die. Think it through, for us, the Father put himself through the greatest pain that he had ever experienced or will ever experience again. The same can be said of the Son, who not only had to be the one to suffer and die but he also grieved for the suffering it must have caused the Father.

Therefore, while, we without limited understanding may cringe at the thought of what the Father asking Abraham to sacrifice his son, we must remember that God did not require that Abraham follow through with the sacrifice. God saved Abraham from what He Himself was going to have to suffer through. God protect Isaac from having to die and Abraham from having to bring about his death. However, God did not “spare his own Son, but delivered him over for us all …” (Rom. 8:32) “God sent his only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through him.” (1 John 4:9) It is evidence of his love for us.

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Again, it should be kept in mind that God had no intention from the beginning of having Abraham offer up Isaac. (22:12) This was an outward display of a great evident demonstration of Abraham’s faith.

Genesis 22:12 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

12 He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God,[4] seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.”

God was not after a sacrifice, but an evident demonstration of Abraham’s faith, which was likely more for Abraham than for God. Abraham’s actions confirmed God’s confidence in him. By his actions, Abraham demonstrated beyond question that his original faith in God was beyond question, and is still genuine, as he was to become the father of a great nation. In addition, Jehovah is the God of the living, not the dead. Even though a person may lose their life, if they are in God’s favor, to him they are not dead but awaiting a resurrection.

9781949586121 BIBLE DIFFICULTIES THE NEW TESTAMENT DOCUMENTS

Hebrews 11:17-19 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

17 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up[5] Isaac, and he who had received the promises was offering up[6] his only begotten son, 18 of whom it was said, “In Isaac your seed[7] shall be called,” 19 having reasoned that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking,[8] he did receive him back.

It is inferred in the account that Abraham must have believed that, even if he did offer Isaac, it was within Jehovah’s power to bring him back. Take note of his comments before heading off to complete his task.

REASONABLE FAITH Why Me_ FEARLESS-1

Genesis 22:5 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

And Abraham said to his servants, “You stay here with the donkey, and I and the boy will go up there. We will worship, then we will return to you.”

There is no evidence that Abraham was aware that God was going to offer a different kind of sacrifice other than his son, leaving Isaac unharmed. We have no way of knowing the exact thoughts of Abraham at that moment. Yet, we do have the inspired record. Moreover, we have what can be concluded from the above and we can extrapolate that Abraham may have expected to return with his son. Why? Because he “reasoned that God was able even to raise him [Isaac] from the dead.” – Hebrews 11:19.

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[1] Lit cause to pass over; allow the passing through; i.e. children devoted to or sacrifices in the fire to Molech

[2] Gordon John Wenham and David Allen Hubbard, Genesis 16-50, vol. 2, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1998), 48.

[3] James Swanson, Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Hebrew (Old Testament) (Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997).

[4] I.e. God-fearing (not dreadful fear), reverential fear of displeasing God out of ones love for God.

[5] An interpretive translation could read, “as good as offered up Isaac.” The Greek verb here (prosenenochen) translated “offered up” is in the perfect tense, where the writer describes “a completed verbal action that occurred in the past but which produced a state of being or a result that exists in the present (in relation to the writer). The emphasis of the perfect is not the past action so much as it is as such but the present ‘state of affairs’ resulting from the past action.” (GMSDT) Dods and Moffatt take the perfect tense to refer only to a past act with no emphasis being suggested by the author. (Dods, “Hebrews,” 358; Moffatt, Hebrews, 176.)

[6] The Greek verb here (prosepheren) translated “was offering up” is in the imperfect tense, “where the writer portrays an action in process or a state of being that is occurring in the past with no assessment of the action’s completion.” (GMSDT) Therefore, this rendering is in harmony with what actually happened.

[7] Or descendants; offspring

[8] Lit in a parable; Gr enparabolei

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