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Abraham and Isaac

How did Isaac resemble Jesus? 

There was one key moment, when the fate of the entire Jewish race hung by a thread, or rather a sharp blade. Abraham stood over his beloved son, Isaac, ready to slit his throat …

“But the angel of the LORD called out to him from heaven, ‘Abraham! Abraham!’ ‘Here I am,’ he replied. ‘Do not lay a hand on the boy,’ he said. ‘Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.’ Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place The LORD Will Provide. And to this day it is said, ‘On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided.’ The angel of the LORD called to Abraham from heaven a second time and said, ‘I swear by myself, declares the LORD, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore …’” (Genesis 22:11-17)

The angel of the LORD had sufficient authority to make promises concerning Abraham and his descendants, the people of Israel.

This was the Akeidah, the Binding of Isaac, the most read, recited and prayed over story in Judaism. There are also striking parallels here with the Birth of Jesus. Both are promised sons, born as a result of a miraculous conception (or at least highly improbable in the case of Isaac, on account of the age of his parents!). Both are offered up as a sacrifice and, although Jesus succumbs to death on the cross, in the longer term, both live on. Interestingly they were also both of similar age.

Although Christian tradition places Isaac in late childhood, the Hebrew word used for him, naar, best describes him as a bachelor of marriageable age. In fact Jewish tradition places Isaac at around 36 years old, on account of his mother’s death soon after this episode, at the age of 127, which was 36 years after his (improbable) birth when she was at the ripe old age of 90. If we accept this scenario then we concede that Abraham was 100 years old at the Binding of Isaac and in no position to forcefully control the situation. Therefore Isaac must have been a willing sacrifice, rather than a helpless youth. An interesting thought.

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The Angel of the Lord

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