Highlights for Genesis 18-23
In Genesis, chapter 22 comes Abraham’s incredible show of faith, which few of us could imagine repeating. Childless Abraham and Sarah finally get their son at ages 99 and 90. God commands Abraham to slaughter him on an altar with a knife like an animal.
Would anyone be internally questioning the justice of God at this point? I sheepishly recall feeling exasperated with Heaven over much smaller tribulations. Maybe keep this point in mind when we get to Brigham Young’s excellent insights about Abraham’s sacrifice.
Dear Abraham passes this test with an incredible outcome. He is promised numberless progeny that will be influencers throughout the world. It starts with Jacob, who has twelve sons who then become the fathers of twelve tribes.
The Real Dialogue
Let’s take a look at verse 2 from the KJV Bible:
KJV Bible – Genesis 22:2
2 And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.
Throughout our version of the Bible, Abraham doesn’t talk much – but in more ancient texts, he does. This makes more sense because our modern revelations show the Savior’s pattern is to converse and include some Q&A time. The dialogue from the Rashi (Jewish Talmud) between God and Abraham seems more realistic; Abraham kind of argues with the Lord.
Do you sometimes object and counter when the Spirit prompts you to do something? Can you imagine what Abraham might have been feeling at this moment?
Robert Alter (The Hebrew Bible): your son, your only one, whom you love, Isaac. The Hebrew syntactic chain [meaning the original correct Hebrew grammar] is exquisitely forged to carry a dramatic burden, and the sundry attempts [various unimpressive attempts] of English translators from the King James version to the present [day] to REARRANGE it are misguided.”
Note: your only one. “…Isaac, [a] sole son by his legitimate wife is his only one [by Hebrew custom].”
Robert Alter: “The classical Midrash (ancient Biblical commentary by rabbis), followed by Rashi (ancient Talmud commentary by rabbis) beautifully captures the resonance [or a deep, full, reverberating sound] of the order of the terms. Rashi’s concise version [translation] is as follows”:
“Your son. He said to Him, ‘I have two sons.’ He said to him, ‘Your only one.’ He said, ‘This one [Isaac] is an only one to his mother and this one [Ishmael] is an only one to his mother.’ He said to him, ‘Whom you love.’ he said to him, ‘I love both of them.’ He said to him, ‘Isaac.”
What a hard assignment, right?
Brigham Young Makes Abraham Part of Our Story
Brigham Young masterfully helps us understand the significance of Abraham and Isaac’s story in our own lives. The bullet points below are Brigham Young’s voice from a sermon he gave. Verses and a bit of commentary were inserted for more understanding. (Source: JD 4:367 Exchange of Feeling)
- But the people of the Most High God must be tried. It is written that they will be tried in all things,
My people must be tried in all things, that they may be prepared to receive the glory that I have for them, even the glory of Zion; and he that will not bear chastisement is not worthy of my kingdom. (D&C 136:31)
- even as Abraham was tried.
Therefore, they must needs be chastened and tried, even as Abraham, who was commanded to offer up his only son. (D&C 101:4)
chastened: repentant, mellowed, softened, humbled, tempered
There it is – steep trials are requisite for any real Saint. It’s already a given you will pass through Abraham-size trials. Perhaps not the best news, but keep reading.
- If we are called to go upon mount Moriah to sacrifice a few of our Isaacs, it is no matter; we may just as well do that as anything else. I think there is a prospect for the Saints to have all the trials they wish for, or can desire.
In this moment, what comes to your mind; what is your personal Isaac? Every dedicated Saint has one.
I found strength and reason in what Brigham explains:
Do not be discouraged when you hear of wars, and rumours of wars, and tumults, and contentions, and fighting, and bloodshed; for behold they are at the thresholds of our doors. Now, do not let your hearts faint; for all this will promote the kingdom of God, and it will increase upon the earth. Why? Because the world will decrease. We will be strengthened, while they will be weakened.
To be tried and chastened but remain faithful adds to our stature and capacity. We find ourselves equal to greater and greater obstacles and challenges through this process. Our hearts and wills are enlarged. The last days call on the strongest Saints worldwide to step up and not be afraid of the trials to come.
This post draws on two resources – (1) Joseph Smith’s complete translation of the Bible – amazingly, Joseph Smith corrected translations for more than 3,900 verses from the KJV Bible. And (2) Robert Alter’s “The Hebrew Bible – A Translation with Commentary.” Robert Alter’s book is considered one of the best translations of the Bible in our modern time and came highly recommended by bookofmormoncentral.org – a premiere Latter-day Saint scholarship site. Robert Alter’s lifetime work was published in 2018. See My Secrets for Falling In Love with the Old Testament for more information about these two books and where to get them.