Read Genesis 22:1-13
A few data points before we discuss:
–Note in v1 that the JST changes â€œtemptâ€? to â€œtry.â€?
–Note also that it appears that the Mount Moriah of v1 is the same place that will ultimately be the site for Solomonâ€™s Temple. If you think this, it opens up possibilities of seeing this story as a temple-like experience and might be interesting to think about more.
–See Hebrews 11:17-19, which suggests that Abraham knew that his son would be brought back from the dead. Whether he thought this would happen immediately or eventually is an open question. Also note that v17 (â€˜accountingâ€™) translates a Greek word meaning â€˜consideredâ€™ or similar, which suggests that Abraham makes a rational, deliberate decision, which is interesting since we often think of him acting by faith (i.e., the opposite of reason).
–Also read D & C 132:36.
–Also read Jacob 4:5.
–Consider v5, where Abraham indicates that they both will returnâ€”Is this his confidence in the resurrection, is this his confidence that God wonâ€™t make him go through with it, is it him lying (what would they have done had he announced his plans), or is it a play for pathos as he speaks without consciously realizing that Isaac wonâ€™t return with him?
–Based on data from surrounding chapters, it appears that Isaac is between 6 and 35 years old.
A small minority of people are OK with this story; the vast majority are horrified by it. We usually work as hard as we can to deny that horror, but Iâ€™m not sure that is the best approach. We might borrow a useful approach from Islamic scholars of the Koran (HT: danithew), who approach a difficult text by focusing on the masâ€™ala (problem or issue) and what it can teach us. In other words, you arenâ€™t wrong to be horrified by this text; thatâ€™s supposed to be the first reaction. The text then asks you to work through that reaction to see what you can learn from it. So: letâ€™s see what we can learn from our discomfort with this text.
The big question: What can you learn from your discomfort over this text?
–Elder Oaks explained:
This story also shows the goodness of God in protecting Isaac and in providing a substitute so he would not have to die. Because of our sins and our mortality, we, like Isaac, are condemned to death. When all other hope is gone, our Father in Heaven provides the Lamb of God, and we are saved by his sacrifice. â€œBible Stories and Personal Protection,â€? Ensign, Nov. 1992, 37.
This may be a BIG point: our horror at the story is what our horror would be in real life if it were not for the atonement.
–Facing our deepest fears about what God might ask us to do. Ask: Anyone have experiences to share where they had to face up to their fears of what God would ask of them?
–Obedienceâ€”it isnâ€™t obedience if it was something you thought was a good idea anyway. Ask: Any experiences where you made a decision to be obedient and were later blessed? How can one become more obedient?
–Note that God does not require anything of Abraham that he wasnâ€™t willing to do himself. Abraham was given the opportunity to become god-like in that he would experience what it felt like to sacrifice a child. Ask: Any experiences where you have drawn closer to God through sacrifice?
–Why does an omniscient God need to test Abrahamâ€™s faith?
–Note that Abraham is in a weird way forced to identify with the fathers who had tried to sacrifice himâ€”what to do with this idea?
–We always talk about the parallels between this story and the atonement, but the big difference is that Isaac doesnâ€™t offer himself up. What to make of this?
–Since Abraham thought (?) that he would have to sacrifice his son, this actually is a story about great mercy: God spared him.
— Do you think this incident provides God with new information? If not, what is its purpose? What are some tests that you have endured (no details!) and what did you learn from them?
–The first verse requires us to take Godâ€™s perspectiveâ€”not Abrahamâ€™s–on events, as we know this is just a test. But he didnâ€™t. (Or did he?) What can we do to try to take Godâ€™s perspective on events in our own lives?
Comparing Hagar and Abraham
We find many similarities if we compare the story of Hagar and Ishmael in the wilderness with the story of Abraham and Isaac in the wilderness:
(1) The sacrifice reflected God’s will.
(a) God told Abraham to listen to Sarah (21.12), who cast out Hagar and Ishmael (21.10), condemning them to death in the wilderness.
(b) God told Abraham to sacrifice Isaac (22.2).
(2) Previous events make these events ironic (and especially trying).
(a) Hagar’s previous experience of running away (16.6) and being commanded to return makes this experience rather ironic.
(b) Abraham’s previous experience of being almost sacrificed to a false god by his own father makes this experience rather ironic.
(3) These events, although divinely inspired, seem that they will make fulfillment of the covenant impossible.
(a) Leaving Hagar and Ishmael to die makes the divine promise of posterity (16.10) appear futile.
(b) Killing Isaac makes the covenant promise of posterity (17.4) appear futile.
(4) Location, location, location.
(a) Hagar and Ishmael go alone into the wilderness (21.14) to face a great test.
(b) Abraham and Isaac go alone into the wilderness (22.6) to face a great test.
(5) What greater fear could a parent have?
(a) Hagar fears the death of her child (21.16).
(b) Abraham fears the death of his child (22.2).
(6) The turning point.
(a) At the peak of despair, an angel speaks (21.17).
(b) At the peak of despair, an angel speaks (22.11).
(7) God intervenes by opening their eyes.
(a) Hagar, eyes opened by God, sees what will save Ishmael’s life (21.19).
(b) Abraham sees what will save Isaac’s life (22.13)
(8) The lives are saved with symbolic reference to the Savior.
(a) Waterâ€”a symbol of Jesus–preserves Ishmael’s life (21.19).
(b) The ram (used for the sacrifice) saves Isaac’s life (22.13).
Ask: if you took these stories as a template for thinking about what kinds of trials you might face, what would you conclude?
â€“Trials are not accidental; they reflect Godâ€™s will. So walking around asking â€˜why me?â€™ isnâ€™t useful.
â€“Expect trials to be The Worst Possible Thing with layers of irony
â€“On (3), a great trial would be one that makes you think, â€œGod couldnâ€™t want me to do that, because then . . .â€? This forces us to realize that Godâ€™s fulfillment of a plan may bear no resemblance to our thoughts about it.
â€“On (5), expect trials to be hardâ€”the hardest thing possible. Basic, obvious, but overlooked.
â€“On (6) and (7), remember that God will comfort us.
–On (7) and (8), remember that it is Jesus who helps us through our trials, and who ultimately saves us.
â€“Comparing stories, we realize that God cares as much about a slave girl as about a major figure, as much about a woman as a man, as much about someone outside of the covenant line as the keeper of the covenant.