Sunday, April 10, 2011

Abraham and Isaac... and God

By Garrett Fogerlie

In Genesis 12:1-3, when Abraham is already 75 years old, God promises him that he will be the father of a great nation. At the time though, he does not have any children and is a bit skeptical. Later in Genesis 13:14-16, God repeats the promises to Abraham again, and again in Genesis 15:4-5. I guess God was really trying to convince Abraham.

Eleven years later Abraham still has not had any children and he starts to get fed up with god's empty promises. So he decides to take things into his own hands and rapes his slave girl, Hagar. Hagar gets pregnant, which causes Abraham's wife Sarai to abuse her (Shocking). So she runs away were in Genesis 16:7-16, an angel finds her and tells her that she is pregnant and will give birth to a son and name him Ishmael (which means 'God hears'). So she returns to Abraham, who is 86 now, and he names his son Ishmael.

Thirteen years later, god returns to Abraham again and introduces himself, (apparently Abraham didn't recognise him) and once again, God promises to give him countless descendants. (Also God changes Abraham's name from Abram to Abraham, god knows why, lol) They haggle out a deal, a little circumcision commitment and Abraham's wife Sarai must change her name to Sarah (I have no clue why God is so determined to change people’s names. I can only assume it aids in conception.) At any rate God seems to enjoy naming people and tells Abraham to name his upcoming son, Isaac. After meeting with God, Abraham returns home where he circumcises himself, his child Ishmael, and his slaves. (This must have been very confusing for them; I imagine they must have thought he lost his mind.) Why he chose to circumcise his slaves, is unclear, since they were not Jews and had no covenant with God. I suppose if I had to circumcise myself I would want a few practice runs first.

Genesis chapter 18 through 20 doesn’t add much to the story or Abraham and Isaac. God appears yet again saying that Sarah will have a child. Sarah laughs and then she and God get into a bit of an argument. The rest is mostly about Sodom and Gomorrah.

That’s the background of the story of Abraham and Isaac, for those of you who didn’t know it.

Finally, in Genesis chapter 21 verses 1-2, Sarah, who is now 90 years old now, gives birth to Isaac. When Isaac grew up and was about to be weaned, Abraham prepared a huge feast to celebrate the occasion. But Sarah saw Ishmael making fun of her son, Isaac. So she turned to Abraham and said, “Get rid of that slave woman and her son. He is not going to share the inheritance with my son, Isaac. I won’t have it!”

This upset Abraham since Ishmael was his first son, so he spoke with God, because he wanted to do the right thing. God, being the sadistic prick that he is in the Old Testament, said, “Do whatever Sarah tells you, for Isaac is the son through whom your descendants will be counted.”

So Abraham got up early the next morning, prepared food and a container of water, and strapped them on Hagar’s shoulders. Then he sent her away with their son, and she wandered aimlessly in the wilderness of Beersheba.

And here is where the main story starts.
Sometime later, God tested Abraham’s faith, telling him,
“Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love so much, and go to the land of Moriah. Go and sacrifice him as a burnt offering on one of the mountains, which I will show you.”
So the next morning Abraham got up early. He saddled his donkey and took two of his servants with him, along with his son, Isaac. Then he chopped wood for a fire for a burnt offering and set out for the place God had told him about. On the third day of their journey, Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. “Stay here with the donkey,” Abraham told the servants. “The boy and I will travel a little farther. We will worship there, and then we will come right back.”
So Abraham placed the wood for the burnt offering on Isaac’s shoulders. As the two of them walked on together, Isaac turned to Abraham and said,
“Yes, my son?” Abraham replied.
“We have the fire and the wood,” the boy said, “but where is the sheep for the burnt offering?”
“God will provide a sheep for the burnt offering, my son,” Abraham sinisterly replied.
When they arrived at the place where God had told him to go, Abraham built an altar and arranged the wood on it. Then he tied his son, Isaac, and laid him on the altar on top of the wood. And Abraham picked up the knife to kill his son as a sacrifice. At that moment the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”
“Yes,” Abraham replied. “Here I am!”
“Don’t lay a hand on the boy!” the angel said. “Do not hurt him in any way, for now I know that you truly fear God.”
Then Abraham looked up and saw a ram caught by its horns in a thicket. So he took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering in place of his son. Abraham named the place Yahweh-Yireh which means ‘the Lord will provide’.

The reason I shared this story is because people say that, wow God told him to kill Isaac, but at the last second, he showed his mercy by saving him. First off, God told him to kill his son by sacrificing him, and an angel superseded and prevented the horrific sacrifice, not God.

This story is so popular, people cite it to show what a merciful god, God is. But if you think about the story, it shows a bastard of a god. A god that bargained out a deal to be worshipped and have Abraham circumcise himself and his child, in return, God would give him another child. If that doesn’t show that he is not a God worthy of anyone’s worship, what about having Abraham to send his first born child Ishmael and his mother into the wilderness; or commanding Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac as an offering to himself.

It may be contested that God needed to ‘test’ Abraham to make sure he was worthy of becoming the father of a great civilization. But this idea under minds the idea of God, if he is God, shouldn’t he have just known what Abraham would do, without having to put Isaac through this whole ordeal?

“All three monotheisms, just to take the most salient example, praise Abraham for being willing to hear voices and then to take his son Isaac for a long and rather mad and gloomy walk. And then the caprice by which his murderous hand is finally stayed is written down as divine mercy.”
Christopher Hitchens, God is not Great

When it is all said and done though, Isaac was not murdered, although the whole situation must have been very confusing to him and I’m sure it must have changed the way he thought of his father.

Unfortunately, for Jephthah's daughter, no angels stepped in and stopped Jephthah from sacrificing his daughter to God; as was the deal that God haggled out with Jephthah for helping him defeat the Ammonites. She was burnt to death by her father as God commanded.

-- Garrett Fogerlie

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