The Art of Biblical Subtext (or, How Do Other People Pick Up On Things I Can’t Seem To???)

Genesis 22.  God calls on Abraham to sacrifice his only son Isaac to Him on a mountain in Moriah.  Abraham obeys, he doesn’t take Isaac and runs for the hills.  He willingly goes, bringing his as-of-yet clueless son with him.  As they climb the mountain, he says to the servant with them, “Stay here, for we will return.”  But the scriptures don’t explicitly say Abraham had no fear.  Isaac asks him where the animal for the sacrifice is, and he replies simply, “God will provide.”  He doesn’t deviate.  He doesn’t question.  And at the very last possible moment, or “right on time” in God’s Timing (something else that just baffles my mind), God intervenes and provides a ram for the sacrifice.

Now, it seems there are two possible explanations for Abraham’s statement: “Stay here, for we will return.”  The “we” indicates Abraham’s faith that God would let him keep his son.  On the one side, there’s the theory that Abraham knew God would provide an “out” for Isaac to be spared altogether, hence the ram in the thicket at the opportune moment.  “Oh look!  There’s a substitute for you, Isaac my boy!  Let’s get you out of these ropes and binds, shall we?”

But it seems to me that a more reasonable “human” response would be to delay, linger, procrastinate as much as possible to quell the nearness to the actual act of sacrifice, to put off tying Isaac up, or at least make the bonds loose so he could get free.  But no.  Isaac was bound tight as a drum in inescapable bonds and placed on the altar, like a turkey ready to be roasted.  This gives way to the other school of thought: Abraham believed God would resurrect his son and send him back down the mountain with him.

Reasonable, yes.  But how can we possibly read into Abraham’s mind when all we truly have to glean from is a play-by-play of the events as they occurred?  There’s no post-sacrifice wrap-up, no interviews with the individuals involved, no instant replays with close-ups of Abraham’s face looking for a tell of some sort.  Did he look around desperately as he was raising the knife to plunge into his son, praying fervently for a replacement?  Or did he expect to see his son walking down from higher up the mountain after being sacrificed, not a scratch or a burn on him, in a completely new body?

I plan on asking Abraham that someday.

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