THE AKEDAH – THE BINDING
In the Torah – the first five books of Scripture – we read how Abraham was asked of GOD to offer his son Isaac as a burnt sacrifice on Mount Moriah. In Jewish literature this act is termed The Akedah or the binding.
Genesis 22:2, “And [GOD] said, ‘Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.’”
Now, let’s be absolutely clear about something up front. The GOD of the Bible abhors the spilling of innocent blood. He in no way condones any type of human sacrifice especially that of children. His anger at such practices is repeatedly stressed throughout Scripture, Lev. 18:21; Deut:18:10; 2 Kings 16:3; 17:17; 21:6; 23:10; 2 Chron. 33:6; Jer. 32:35; Ez. 16:21; 20:26; 20:31; 23:37, to name a few. So, why did God ask Abraham to sacrifice his son as an offering? This has to be one of the strangest episodes in the Old Testament.1
Most of us are familiar with the account: Abraham takes Isaac, two young men and a donkey, (here I am mentioning donkeys once again), and travels three days to Mount Moriah. Abraham leaves the donkey and the two young men at the base of the mount, and takes Isaac to the top where he prepares to offer him as a sacrifice. At the final moment, an angel interrupts the proceedings and a ram is substituted.
Now, the question may be asked, whose sacrifice was greater, Abraham’s or Isaac’s? At first we might be quick to say it was Abraham’s since the text plainly says, “God tested Abraham” by asking him to sacrifice his beloved son (Gen. 21:1-2). Nonetheless, how can we possibly overlook the depth of Isaac’s suffering? 2 Isaac would have been in his mid thirties when he journeyed with his very aged father Abraham to Moriah. He has the physical strength to easily overpower Abraham, but, there is no voice of protest, no resisting, no indication that Isaac refused to submit to his father’s will. “And they walked, the two of them, together.” (Gen. 22:6). What might have been running through Isaac’s mind when Abraham summoned him to go on this fateful three-day journey? The text is silent about any conversation the two might have had on the way to Moriah. However, according to Nehama Leibowitz, a noted Israeli Bible scholar and commentator who rekindled an interest in Bible study, the Torah is very specific in its indication of the change in speakers during a given conversation. The only recorded dialog about the purpose of the journey to Moriah occurs at the end, when Isaac notices the fire and the wood for the sacrifice. Verse 7 of Gen. 22 reads,
“And Isaac spoke unto Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he said, ‘Here I am my son.’ And he [Isaac] said, ‘Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for the burnt offering? And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for the burnt offering: so they went the both of them together.”
The idea from this grammatical structure is that Isaac at first tried speaking, but could not find the words to express his sudden suspicion . . . when he tried again, all he could utter was, “my father . . .” and Abraham then reassured him “Here I am my son.” Then Isaac gathers himself and continues, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” It is hard to imagine Isaac’s pathos during this exchange. On the third day of the journey into the unknown, “he said . . . [silence] . . .he said, ‘My father . . . he said . . . but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?’” 3 Isaac doubtlessly grasped the plan but understandably had trouble verbalizing the horror of the situation. Abraham’s response can be rendered, “God will see for himself a lamb for the offering . . .my son.” In other words, you my son, are the lamb for the offering! And at this moment the choice was given to Isaac. 4 So what did Isaac do when he fully understood the purpose of this mission from his aged father? How did he choose? He did not resist – he willingly submitted himself in trust and allowed himself to be bound to the wood. Such was his love, and such was his passion! 5
As Christians and as Messianic believers, we understand the Akedah as a foreshadowing of the ultimate sacrifice the heavenly Father would give on our behalf – a ‘type’ of what would eventually be accomplished. Both Isaac and Yeshua were born miraculously; both were “only begotten sons”; both were sacrificed by their fathers at Mount Moriah in their 30’s; both experienced a “passion”; both willingly took up the means of his execution – Isaac carried the wood as did Christ; both were resurrected on the third day (Gen. 22:5, Heb. 11:17-19); and both demonstrate that one life can be sacrificed for another – the ram for Isaac, and Yeshua for all of mankind. 6 I argue that Isaac was ‘resurrected’ in that according to Heb. 11:19 Abraham considered God able to resurrect his son Isaac. For the three day journey, Isaac was dead in the mind of his father Abraham, and for three days Christ was in the grave separated from His Father. But Abraham clung to the promise at the mouth of the LORD that it would be through Isaac and Isaac alone that the whole world would be blessed and Abraham would have seed without number. “Accounting that God was able to raise him up [Isaac], even from the dead: from whence also he received him in a figure.” (Heb. 11:19). Or as the NLT puts it, “Abraham reasoned that if Isaac died, God was able to bring him back to life again. And, in a sense, Abraham did receive his son back from the dead.”
Summarizing thus far we have the following truths.
First of all, we need to recognize Abraham’s assumptions. He knew that Isaac would be resurrected if killed: God had promise Abraham that Isaac would have children. (Gen. 17:19) 7
Also, Abraham knew that he was acting out a prophecy! He named the location, “In the mount of the Lord it shall be seen.” (Gen.22:14). 8
As Abraham and Isaac climb the hill, Isaac is carrying the wood on his back, and asks, “Where is the lamb?” Good question. Abraham answers, “God will provide [who?] himself a lamb. We need to realize that 2,000 years later, another Father offered His Son, The Lamb of God, on that very spot!9
How long was Isaac “dead” to Abraham? He was, in traditional Jewish style, “dead” to Abraham as soon as the commandment came to take his only son on a three day journey to Moriah, and he essentially returned to “life” following these three days. This is called, in Biblical parlance, a “type.” We may use a more modern term, “model.” Abraham is a “type” of the Father; Isaac, a “type” of the Son; the entire episode, an anticipation of the New Testament even. 10
An examination of the topology of Mount Moriah reveals the following. It is part of a ridge system between the Mount of Olives and Mount Zion. It is bordered by the Kidron Valley on the east, the Hinnom Valley on the south, and the Tyrolean Valley on the west. If one were to approach the Mount as did Abraham from Beersheba to the south, we would climb up to a peak about 777 meters above sea level (Gen. 14:18).
Many years later, David would purchase the threshing floor of Arunah were Solomon would eventually build the Temple (1 Chron. 21:18-26). A threshing floor was located where a prevailing wind would facilitate the separation of the grain from the chaff. Or one could say the place where the wheat and the tares are separated! (It is in fact, this very spot where the cross of salvation was erected and at the foot of which a person is declared “wheat or chaff”)! This spot is about 741 meters above sea level, but just below the peak. The peak of the Mount is at a place just outside the city wall of Jerusalem to the north. It’s a place you can still visit today, just above an Arab bus station outside the Damascus Gate. It is known as Golgotha. Isn’t it fascinating that a group of Roman soldiers erected three crosses 2,000 years ago on the very spot that Abraham offered his son so many years earlier? 11
Now, in speaking of love, the first occurrence of the word love in the Scriptures (ahavah) is found in our initial Scripture given at the beginning, Gen. 22:2 referring to Abraham’s love for his “only” son who was offered as a sacrifice on Moriah (the very spot of the crucifixion of Yeshua, and a clear reference to the gospel messaged “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
Some scholars have noted that the word ahavah comes from a two-letter root with Aleph as a modifier. This renders the meaning as “I give.” The point being is that love is essentially an act of sacrificial giving. The quintessential passage of Scripture regarding love (ahavah) in the life of a Christian is found in 1 Corinthians 13: “Love seeks not its own . . .” The antithesis of love is selfishness, the root of pride and fear.
Both Isaac and Jesus sacrificed their lives in obedience to their fathers’ will. Both accepted the promise of God and believed that love was stronger than death. The passion and sacrifice of Isaac was a dramatic foreshadowing of the greater passion and sacrifice of Yeshua, the beloved Son of God Himself. The shared suffering of the Heavenly Father and Jesus was the means by which “righteousness and peace have kissed” (Ps. 85:10), thereby restoring the children of promise to their original inheritance and we to become the grafted-in-ones onto the Vine, the Lord Jesus Christ.12
In Scripture it is often suggested that if we desire to understand the meaning of a word it is beneficial to find the first instance of the use of said word. Love, as first used here in Genesis means “I give.” True demonstration of love always costs us something! Let us determine to “pay the cost” in loving each other. Let us be willing to “die to self” so that we can proffer life to our brothers and sisters. Amen.
1 The Akedah, Chuck Missler
2 The Passion of Isaac, Hebrew for Christians
7 – 11 ibid
12 The Passion of Isaac, Hebrew for Christians
Let us remember our fellow members during this time of being apart. There are many personal needs among the flock. Let us hold each other up by name and bring each before the thrown of our Lord and Intercessor, Jesus Christ.
Remember also, the physical needs of the church especially the upcoming work on the flat roof. May the Lord direct those making decisions that the right person or persons be assigned to this task. May the work progress speedily as winter approaches.
We pray for our leadership Lord, that you continue to bless our deacons with health and wisdom and with revelation insight into following where You are leading. Encourage all of our members dealing with challenges of work, finance and family issues. May You, Oh Lord, come near to each and every person needing a touch from You. May You enter into every situation that is causing stress and bring Your peace, that peace that passes all understanding. May the balm of the Holy Spirit flow between family members and the membership of our congregation. Arise and shine Lord and bring light to the darkness of these days. We pray for our community here at Ohsweken, that You keep us safe from sickness and poor health; that You guard each and every home with an angelic hedge of protection; that You filter every spiritual attack through the Holiness of Your good will. Let us rest in the righteousness that Your salvation brings. Let us be confident in the assurance of Your promises. May we lift our eyes from the shadows of this world system and look hopefully toward the bright future which is ours to inherit. Give us a song in our heart to carry us through the trials we will face tomorrow. Shelter us beneath Your wings of comfort and may we draw warmth from our nearness to You. We thank You for all who are remaining faithful and who continue to give to Your work here at Ohsweken Baptist Church. Keep us ever faithful so that we do not lose our candlestick. We thank You for Your word which brings hope to our spirit, strength to our bones and joy to our hearts. Thank You for Your undying faithfulness toward us and all who call you Lord. Let us sing praise to the Lord according to His righteousness; let us sing praise to the name of the Lord Most High (Ps. 7:17). Let us praise the name of the Lord with song, and magnify Him with thanksgiving (Ps. 69:30). Rejoice, people, for the Lord is good; the Lord loves you with an everlasting love, and the Lord is near to anyone who calls upon Him. Reflect this week upon the un-surpassing wisdom of the LORD GOD Almighty; upon His abundant mercy and grace; upon His incredible demonstration of the meaning of love. Be blessed in that Name which will stand for all time above every name, the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.