For the week of October 30, 1999 / 20 Heshvan 5760
Torah: Bereshit / Genesis 18:1-22:24
Haftarah: II Kings 4:1-37

What Kind of God
Is He Anyway?

Then God said, "Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about." (Bereshit / Genesis 22:2)

God commanded Abraham to kill his son Isaac. What kind of God would tell a father to do such a thing!

Why would God conceive of this? Why would he delight in Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his own son? This could make a good horror thriller. There's Abraham, the friend of God under the guise of some noble religious act plotting (under God's direction) the ritualistic murder of his son.

Or maybe God has a bizarre sense of humor. It almost sounds like he waited until the last possible second and then shouted out, "Ha! Ha! Fooled you! I was only joking!"

Many have doubted God's goodness because of this story. Could you imagine the effect this had on Isaac? To be bound like an animal and placed on an altar, seeing his father raise a knife to kill him. While God came to his rescue, the trauma of such an experience would not be easily forgotten.

There's no getting away from the dark side of this story. It is a terrible story. But in order to understand it we need to look much closer at what is going on here. In an earlier TorahBytes (, we looked at this story from the viewpoint of Abraham's relationship with God. Abraham knew he could trust God with something as drastic as this. God's promises to Abraham were wrapped up in Isaac's survival. Abraham knew God would take care of it.

But there is something even more profound going on here. Through this experience Abraham was coming into contact with something of God Himself - the sacrifice of a son.

It was never intended that we would have to die. Death is the consequence of our rebellion against God, which began when Adam and Eve disobeyed God's directions in the Garden of Eden. The penalty of death was not to be final. God determined to deal with it. Yet to do so would be no small thing.

The message of the Tenach (Old Testament) is centered around the coming of someone who would release us from death, namely the Messiah. As we read the prophetic descriptions of the Messiah, we see that his identity is that of God's own Son, and that he would release us from the sentence of death by his dying on our behalf.

It is next to impossible for us to understand what it meant to God to give his Son in this way. But he did. And unlike Abraham, there was no last minute reprieve. Yeshua died a hideous death on a Roman cross that we might be freed from eternal death.

And so when Abraham raised his knife over his own precious son, he tasted the profound bitterness that God himself experienced.

That day Abraham came to know the cost that God would one day pay for the whole human race.

And what about Isaac? Isaac graphically learned the principal of salvation through substitution:

Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son (22:13).

And just like Isaac, another has died in our place. Can we accept that?

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