Why did God command Abraham to sacrifice Isaac?

In Genesis 22, God commands Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac. Although in the end Abraham did not have to sacrifice Isaac, it still raises questions: why did God make the command in the first place? The answer to this question appears if we stand back to look at the bigger picture.

Key points

  • Child sacrifice was a serious offence to God – it was forbidden under penalty of death (Leviticus 20:2)
  • Jesus loved children – for example Mark 10:13-16
  • So why did God command it?
  • v1 says that God “tested” Abraham
    • Testing is an exercise in trust. v5 and v8 suggest that Abraham thought he was going to come back with Isaac and that God would provide a sacrifice.
    • In v12 the angel says “Now I know you fear the Lord” – there’s often a difference between knowing something intellectually, and knowing it so that it makes a difference.
    • The quote is taken from C.S. Lewis’ book A Grief Observed
  • In v13-14 we see that God himself does provide. What’s the big picture?
    • v2 says that Abraham was going to the region of “Moriah” – only found in one other place in the Bible (2 Chron 3:1) – where the temple was built. God is giving is a picture.
    • Who did provide their only loved son as a sacrifice? – God!
    • Genesis 22 is a lesson for us, that God’s blessings come through sacrifice – but that God himself provides the sacrifice.
  • Why was it right for God to sacrifice Jesus? – John 10:17-18. Jesus laid down his life – it wasn’t like human beings sacrificing an innocent child!

Explore further

The video that provoked this question was about understanding violence in the Old Testament.

Your questions answered

This is part of the Your questions answered feature. See that page for more videos in the series.

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