Did God Approve of Child Sacrifice Like The Other gods With Abraham?
One may read Genesis 22, where God seemingly orders Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac, and question whether to respect God or any of the Old Testament guidance. There may be plausible interpretations for this passage to suggest God is not encouraging child sacrifice as the others supposed gods did during these times.
- Scholars consider the first five books of the OT as a literary unit. The writers surely knew it had been recorded that God condemned child sacrifice (Lev. 18:21, Lev. 20:2-5, Deut. 12:31, 18:10) but still included this story. They may have understood the purpose and moral of the story was not that God approved of this kind of sacrifice
- The story begins that God was testing Abraham (22:1). The rest of the story suggests Abraham either expected that they would not have to carry out this act or that God would bring Isaac back from the dead (i.e. Heb. 11:17-19). The other supposed gods could not promise this. Abraham told the servants both he and Isaac would be coming back (5). Abraham fully expected God to provide a lamb instead for the altar and did so (8, 13). Finally, the angel stopped Abraham before he could harm Isaac (11-12).
- Why would God test Abraham with such a revolting temptation? It should be noted that the sacrifice never happened, unlike the other gods who fully expected execution to quench their thirst for power. God may have used this extreme example to differentiate Himself from the other gods, proving God did not approve of child sacrificing. These were unique historical times. God was using Israel as a means to usher in the Messiah as a blessing to all nations. This event took place on Mount Moriah where the temple was to be built (2 Chron. 3:1). Jesus through his sacrifice and resurrection replaced the temple as a guide toward God for a better life.
- Isaac was not a child and most likely was an adult. The term boy or lad used for Isaac could refer to one of military age (I Chron. 12: 28). Kaiser suggests the term could mean that Isaac was easily in his twenties and possibly thirties (Hard Sayings Of The OT, p. 123). Isaac had a choice in this matter unlike the babies sacrificed by other cultures to their supposed gods
- No one reading this passage can justify their behavior that God is commanding them to kill their child. God clearly spoke to Abraham as was God’s practice in the beginning of history with the Israelites. Abraham had experience in recognizing God’s voice. This was not a hunch. Besides, whoever uses this passage to claim God commands them to harm their child can expect God to provide a way out at the last minute. If God doesn’t they are delusional and not truly hearing God’s voice.
Is it at least fair to say that this event between Abraham and God did not mirror other ancient sacrifices to gods as they would not have stopped the sacrifice for their own pleasures? Since Abraham knew his older son would either not die or come back from the dead right away, does this make God’s request not the wrong we may have felt initially? This passage isn’t necessarily the editors letting their own story-telling devices creep into the story since God was clearly opposed to child sacrifice. There are reasonable explanations that God was not approving of child sacrifice in this extreme test for Abraham and Isaac.