The LXX text says that God wanted to test ἐπείραζεν Abraham by ordering him to kill Isaak (offer him as a whole-burnt sacrifice). But why did God choose this particular test? Is there more to this than just finding a most cruel test for a father to kill his beloved son?

God has promised Abraham that he will get the Earth of Canaan and become a father of a great and numerous nation, Gen 17:6. But as we know, only after some hundreds of years did the nation of Abraham/Isaak/Jacob enter the land of Canaan and the Israelites had to buy out their firstborns from the God (as slaves who do not inherit the land?). Later in Num 3:12-13 this role goes over to Levites, that definitely did not inherit any land of Canaan. May the interplay between the first-born-inheritance of Isaak and the land of Canaan play a role in this test?

1 Καὶ ἐγένετο μετὰ τὰ ῥήματα ταῦτα ὁ θεὸς ἐπείραζεν τὸν Ἀβραάμ· καὶ εἶπεν πρὸς αὐτόν Ἀβραὰμ Ἀβραάμ. ὁ δὲ εἶπεν Ἰδοὺ ἐγώ. 2 καὶ εἶπεν Λάβε τὸν υἱόν σου τὸν ἀγαπητὸν ὃν ἠγάπησας, τὸν Ἰσαάκ, καὶ πορεύθητι εἰς τὴν γῆν τὴν ὑψηλήν, καὶ ἀνένεγκον αὐτὸν ἐκεῖ εἰς ὁλοκάρπωσιν ἐφ᾽ ἓν τῶν ὀρέων ὧν ἄν σοι εἴπω. LXX Gen 22:1-2

2 Answers 2


The question is “Why did God command Abraham to kill Isaak and then rescinded this very command?"

As to the answer, it cannot be one-faceted, for it is such a dreadful mystery. Søren Kierkegaard's life-bewilderment cannot be an easy kernel to crack for anybody. Just to scratch a surface of the abyss-like mystery:

a) God wanted Abraham to learn that everything - his life, breathing, children, the love towards them, which is dearer for him than breathing, everything! - he has from the Giver of life, God. And so, nothing, not even love towards son must be put above the love towards Him who put this very love towards son inside your breast;

b) do not despair about future of your beloved ones, just do commandments of God, for He arranged it so that there is no death in the true reality contemplated by the Spirit-enlightened intellectual vision, for whoever dies physically while serving God, is not dying but goes from this physical death to life (cf. John 5:24), for an upright man survives his biological death and goes joyfully to God carried by angels, while his corpse is bemoaned by his relatives and friends; and even the physical death will eventually by the end of history be abolished by the general resurrection of all mankind and the souls of the deceased will reunite their resurrected bodies.

c) It is giving some mystical analogy of what it means that the Father did not spare His only-begotten eternal Son, but gave Him in order to save humanity: in a sense, all fathers and mothers should be like God-the-Father with relationship to their kids: at a certain moment the parents should realize that the child, ultimately, does not belong to them but is a gift of God and as such belongs more to God then to them, and the parents therefore should sacrifice their own vision on their son or daughter to that vision that God has towards him or her; to give a simple example, if a parent wants a son to become a banker in order to have safe and financially secure life, but sees that in divine perspective this son will and must become a musician, then the parent must, so to say, "kill" his vision of the "banker-son" and embrace the divine vision of the "musician-son", for the son belongs to Him who gave to him the talent of being a genius musician and "save" in a way humanity from listening bad or mediocre music like the Lord Christ saved humanity from the tyranny of sin.

The combination of the a), b) and c) is also possible and thousands of other no less plausible interpretations.

  • the OP has been edited so that this answer is moot. :-( Jun 13, 2023 at 2:44
  • 1
    @DanFefferman Thanks! I have changed/removed the beginning. Jun 13, 2023 at 6:37

The OP asks: "May the interplay between the first-born-inheritance of Isaak and the land of Canaan play a role in this test?" Yes. In fact, Isaac was not the first-born son of Abraham; Ishmael was. So some condition may have been necessary for Isaac to qualify. (A similar dynamic was involved in the next generation when the blessing originally intended for Esau went to Jacob.) The "Binding of Isaac" takes place after Ishmael was banished from Canaan. One interpretation could be that Isaac symbolically died and was reborn through the process of Abraham's offering. In any case, though his faithful cooperation in the episode, Isaac came to hold the right of inheritance as the first born of Abraham in Canaan, as Ishmael had been sent away. The father and son thus cooperated in a providential victory, and Abraham became the "father of faith" (Romans 4:16)

**Conclusion: Yes, the inheritance of Isaac in Canaan is related to Abraham's test, for their cooperation resulted in Isaac inheriting the position of "only son," or at least primary son, which formerly belonged to Ishmael. **

  • Thank you for your answer. Was Ismael not considered a heir anyway as a son of a expelled concubine/slave, not a lawful wife? By being symbolically killed and than bought back for a ram, didn't Isaak on the contrary lost the sovereignty and the inheritance right?
    – grammaplow
    Jun 12, 2023 at 10:46
  • I have corrected the title and the text of the question to reflect on the issue that killing was not ordered explicitly.
    – grammaplow
    Jun 12, 2023 at 11:47
  • In that case I'll edit out the part of my answer dealing with that. About Ishmael, Gen. 21:12 says " But God said to Abraham, “Do not be distressed because of the lad and your maid; whatever Sarah tells you, listen to her, for through Isaac your descendants shall be named. 13 And of the son of the maid I will make a nation also, because he is your descendant.” -- So we are told that in God's view, Ishmael was a descendant but no longer the primary inheritor of Abraham's legacy. Jun 12, 2023 at 23:51
  • I don't think Isaac lost any rights in the "Binding" story... on the contrary he emerged from it having inherited Abraham's standard of faith at the risk of his own life and thus came to justly inherit his father's position. Jun 12, 2023 at 23:59
  • 1
    @grammaplow - for a different opinion regarding Isaac & Ishmael please see - hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/a/74455/33268 Jun 14, 2023 at 13:27

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.