I recently learned that many scholars think that verses 15-18 of Genesis 22 were a later addition to the text. These verses comprise the second angelic monologue after his initial instruction to spare Isaac (ESV, excerpted):

And the angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time...and said, "By myself I have sworn, declares the LORD...I will surely bless you...and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice."

Victor Hamilton1 (who disagrees with this view) summarizes the two reasons that commentators "almost unanimously view these four verses as secondary":

  • The "suspicious introduction" of the angel a second time, which seems artificial.
  • The refocusing of the narrative in a different direction (the “promise theme”) which seems like it is not an integral part of the story.

From Skinner himself2:

The secondary character of 15-18 is clear not only from its loose connexion with the primary narrative, but also from its combination of Eulogistic conceptions with Yahwistic phraseology, the absence of originality, the improper use of נאמ יהוה etc.

He explains that נאמ יהוה (ESV: "declares the LORD”) is a label for for prophetic inspiration, hence the designation as "improper" here.

Neither what I’ve read of the argument in favor of this nor its refutation (just the two references given) seems especially persuasive to me, but apparently such things are considered knowable. Without putting the documentary hypothesis as a whole on trial, and without reference to absolute dating, I’m wondering if there are valid linguistic reasons to conclude that these four verses were written separately from the rest of the narrative.

1. Victor P. Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 18–50 (NICOT; Accordance electronic ed. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995), 114.

2. John Skinner, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Genesis (New York: Schribner, 1910), 330.

  • The answer to the question will probably depend upon the presuppositions of the one approaching the text, for example I am coming to the text as a conservative reformed theologian therefore I would expect to find a particularly strong affirmation of the Abramic covenant following this test however one who holds to the DH would be looking for which author to attribute it to Commented Mar 30, 2015 at 7:19
  • @JonathanChell True. And maybe the question is such that answers must either a) work within the framework/assumptions of the DH; or b) challenge the DH more largely. I wasn't thinking of it that way (because I don't think in a DH framework), but your point is taken. On the other hand, if answers can take the opportunity to show me what kind of linguistic markers are used to make this sort of determination (inside, outside, or upside down the DH), I think that would be useful.
    – Susan
    Commented Mar 30, 2015 at 7:39

1 Answer 1


It is sometimes hard to discern material from the Elohist source apart from that by the Yahwist source, but in this instance, Norman C. Habel says that the main narrative is usually attributed to the Elohist and that the appendix in verses 22:15-18 appears to belong to the Yahwist (Literary Criticism of the Old Testament, page 56).

As the Elohist and the Yahwist wrote independently of each other (the Elohist in Israel and the Yahwist in Judah), the addition of Genesis 22:15-18 to the Elohist narrative would have been a more complex process than the Yahwist simply adding his detail to that of the Elohist.

The Documentary Hypothesis assumes that a redactor combined the hitherto separate works of the Yahwist and the Elohist some time after the fall of Israel in 722 BCE, to create an early version of Genesis in what is now known as the JE tradition. When two version of the same story existed, it appears that the redactor usually preferred the Yahwist version, no doubt because this version would have been better known to the long-term citizens of Judah. Perhaps in this case, the Elohist story of the proposed sacrifice of Isaac was judged better than the Yahwist version, but the redactor did not want to omit the ending of the Yahwist narrative, and so added this as an appendix to the Elohist account. In this case, Genesis 22:15-18 is not so much a later addition as part of the merging of two somewhat independent books, to create the JE Book of Genesis.

Alternatively, there was no Yahwist version of the proposed sacrifice of Isaac, but the redactor actually created the appendix because he felt that the Elohist narrative was incomplete. Being from Judah, his style could have been sufficiently similar to that of the Yahwist that the origin of this passage is unclear. This would suit the "later addition" hypothesis.

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