The sick account of Abraham and Isaac!
To understand the story in Judaism you have to understand their concept of Yetzer-Tob and Yetzer ha-Rah.
explain the concept, please? I have no patience with theological constructs that provide extraordinary ethical allowance for deity. But I am ever curious to discover how different cultures and religions warp the minds of people around concepts that the common people are prevented from adopting themselves.
Yetzer-Tob: The Good Inclination
Yetzer ha-Rah: The Evil Inclination.
This is an early example of people conceiving of dual moralism. This was a turning point in Judaism and for many other cultures as they began to develop philosophical approaches to life's questions. It was the repudiation of fatalism. Man, it was determined, was free to think and to choose and to act. This was a big step in early Bronze Age cultures where humans had lived in fear of Nature and developed gods specific to forces in Nature. Finally someone or groups began to think that life was not just being a puppet pulled by a cosmic string.
Man, all humans, could alter the outcome of events if they would just think and reason. The two forces humans experience, Good and Evil, are seen as the necessary mechanisms to process which outcome we want.
The story of Abraham and Isaac shows this struggle as does the Book of Job.
Not knowing all the details in a story would tend to cause confusion, so unless one knows, and I don't, it's difficult to reach some of the conclusions many of you are making. Abraham, first of all, did not just hear a voice in his head, if the account is correct. He knew God, personally, as we know each other. Just hearing a voice telling you to do anything would not justify your believing it was of God. We also have no idea how much Isaac knew or how passive or active he may have been.
Josephus evidently had access to extrabiblical accounts, and he quotes Abraham as saying:
"Oh, son, I poured out a vast number of prayers that I might have thee for my son; when thou wast come into the world, there was nothing that could contribute to thy support for which I was not greatly solicitous, nor anything wherein I thought myself happier than to see thee grown up to man's estate, and that I might leave thee at my death the successor to my dominion; but since it was by God's will that I became thy father, and it is now his will that I relinquish thee, bear this consecration to God with a generous mind; for I resign thee up to God who has thought fit now to require this testimony of honor to himself, on account of the favors he hath conferred on me, in being to me a supporter and defender. Accordingly thou, my son, wilt now die, not in any common way of going out of the world, but sent to God, the Father of all men, beforehand, by thy own father, in the nature of a sacrifice. I suppose he thinks thee worthy to get clear of this world neither by disease, neither by war, nor by any other severe way, by which death usually comes upon men, but so that he will receive thy soul with prayers and holy offices of religion, and will place thee near to himself, and thou wilt there be to me a successor and supporter in my old age; on which account I principally brought thee up, and thou wilt thereby procure me God for my comforter instead of thyself."
I understand that if you've left a cultish religion that you'd be pissed, edgy, and willing to believe the worst about religion in general. But you'd only be transferring your hatred and anger from the religion to that on which the religion was loosely based. On the other hand, being a believer in religion, I prefer to understand the story as a type and shadow of the ultimate sacrifice by Christ for all mankind. As one biblical scholar put it in regard to the story of Abraham and Isaac:
Abraham had just passed through one of the greatest dramas in human history. From generation to generation it would be proclaimed as one of the most outstanding examples of righteous faith ever exhibited by a member of the priesthood. It would help others who followed Abraham to trust in the Lord, particularly when his commandments were strange and incomprehensible. In earth life as in the eternities before we learn that obedience to God is for our good. Sometimes he will ask us to do that which may seem paradoxical and strange, but with the faith of Abraham a man will obey God whether he understands the reason or not.
According to Jewish tradition, Abraham expected the Lord to either stop him at the last minute or, if Isaac was slain, to raise him back up. But whether these traditions are true, no one knows. Again, we have only the biblical account as canon and we don't know what Abraham or Isaac thought about the request, so many facts are not extant. If Abraham knew the Lord for as long and as intimitely as the scriptures suggest, I'd be more inclined to give him a break. I don't see it as sick in any way.
By the way, the Hebrew religion never condoned human sacrifice in any way, shape or form, and this is the only account that comes close to it. It did not stop human sacrifice among the Hebrews (again, because they never practiced it), nor did it stop it in the other neighboring cults that did. Actually, it was the Greeks and Romans that eschewed it. Carthage, Rome's largest competitor, murdered infants by the thousands and I wouldn't be surprised to learn that the Lord didn't have something to do with Rome's strange obsession with wiping Carthage off the map. We hear stories of Hannibal and the Alps, but they left the infant killing out of the history. Roman historians for centuries questioned why Rome felt it needed to utterly destroy the Carthaginians. And when anything horrendous happened in Roman history, many of its historians and philosophers referred to it being part of the "Punic curse."
Ironically, JW parents are prepared to 'sacrifice' their infants to Jehovah out of blind and erroneous belief to the Watchtower's blood transfusion policy, which is easily proven to be completely scripturally false anyway.
Any form of sacrifice of human life out of obedience to some claimed divine directive is a detestable thing, not something that ever came up into Jehovah's heart, according to scripture.
Cold Steel: " Not knowing all the details in a story would tend to cause confusion, so unless one knows, and I don't, it's difficult to reach some of the conclusions many of you are making."
Why would any God of wisdom inspire men to record such a narrative without providing the necessary details to avoid confusion and people coming to the conclusion that he's evil? I find the whole "not knowing all the details" excuse to be rather weak and serving only to show up the Author of the bible as being not very wise at all due to him shooting himself in the foot by not providing all the details necessary to portray himself fairly as a wholly loving and just God.
The question I posed a few months back is why did Abraham need testing in the first place? Any way you look at it it's a contradiction to the concept people paint of God. Either he's all knowning and knows Abraham would do what he asked, so why test him? Or he isn't, which would fly in the face of beliefs people hold.
God had already promised he would establish a covenant with Isaac and his descendants. So Isaac cannot be killed. Furthermore, why does God need to test Abraham? What if he fails the test (and many people would argue he did fail by going through with it)? If he fails, God has already established the covenant with Abraham and specifically through Isaac. Wouldn't the time to test Abraham be BEFORE you promise all this to him and/or BEFORE you name Isaac as the son that the covenant is going to go through? If Abraham fails the test, he is not worthy of the convenant with God. If he does kill Isaac, how can that covenant be fulfilled through Isaac if he's dead? Since God already declared it, it must come true.
Which means God must have already known Abraham would go through with it. Which means God put Abraham through hell for no good reason. If you can read the heart and know what somebody would do, why make them suffer the agony of having to kill their son? Even if God stops it, that's still agony. I'm a father and I couldn't do it.
It's a no-win situation and a pointless proposition.
I like to bring up Genesis 22:2 whenever the JWs try to make the argument that God isn't cruel.
What Island Man said!!
Island Man- In Judaism God is very different from the Christian God and the western perceptions of the 'all loving god' idea.
'I am a giver of life and a killer' Judges, 'I create good and evil' Isaiah and so on. First you have to get your head around completely different views of everything that you are taught as a Christian. In Judaism haSatan is very different from the Devil and Satan of the New Testament.
Quoting Josephus and an LDS prophet is not kosher in this case, Cold Steel. And no one knows how God "spoke" to Abraham--the bible has no words adequate to convey how Abraham received the message at Genesis 22.
The word "sacrifice " is NEVER used in the passage. And there is a word specific for killing the creature being offered: zebach.
You do not understand that the concern is less about how Abraham behaved as about the behavior of God. God the not-liar, the not-wanting-human-sacrifice God, the I-don't-test-with-evil God.
There is a select canon of scriptures that are the single ground for digging up Christian religion's "Truth". Even the LDS church has to deal with the Bible to call itself a Christian denomination--even though LDS prophets use plenty of other extra-biblical sources that modify/qualify the Hebrew/Greek text.
As for Abraham being a type for Jehovah? "For God so loved the world that he killed his only begotten son."? No--it does not say that.
If it were possible for us to imagine a god who was trying to teach us to trust but not kill; a god who wanted us not to act according to a committee's vote but with stumbling faith then we might have held out for a more ambiguous and spiritual intent for this story's reason to exist.
There is no consistency in many of the stories. I do not think we are up to telling the story of god if there is one.