"Psalm 23," John August Swanson. Used by permission from the artist.
Image © by John August Swanson. Artwork held in the Luther Seminary Fine Arts Collection, St. Paul, Minn.
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Binding of Isaac
Genesis 21:1-3; 22:1-14 Commentary
by Terence E. Fretheim
The story of the birth of Isaac brings a key aspect of the Abraham narrative to a climax.
The promised son is, finally, born. Interestingly, only Sarah speaks in response (21:6-7). She is mentioned by name six times, and sketched in terms of joy and delight. No miracle language is used, though God is the one who is, finally, given credit for what has happened (21:1-2). But God acts in dependence on Sarah (see 16:2, “by her”). Sarah testifies to her faith in the God who has made this birth possible in spite of seemingly impossible odds (21:6-7).
Remarkably, after Isaac is weaned (21:8), he disappears from the narrative until the troubling text in 22:1-14 (19). This classic text constitutes a climactic point in the story. How it is to be understood is a long-debated issue.
This story centers on God’s “test” of Abraham (22:1), though neither God nor Abraham use that word. Importantly, God’s command to Abraham in 22:2 was intended to test his faithfulness, not to kill (sacrifice) Isaac. Indeed, the purpose of the test was so that God may know ...
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2019-20 Worship resources
The narrative lectionary is a four-year cycle of readings. Read more.
NL282: Binding of Isaac
September 17, 2017
This is the podcast for Genesis 21:1-3; 22:1-14, the Narrative Lectionary reading for Sept. 17, 2017, featuring Profs. Rolf Jacobson, Kathryn Schifferdecker, and Craig Koester. Podcast recorded at Luther Seminary, Saint Paul, Minn.