Abraham’s Binding of Isaac or the Akedah


I wrote a previous post on the age of Isaac when Abraham took him up on Mount Moriah for sacrifice. In this second post, we take a look at the meaning of this sacrifice.

The binding of Isaac in Gen 22 is referred to as the עקדה or “Akedah” meaning “binding”.

In the Christian tradition, Isaac is clearly a type of Christ. He willingly offers himself in obedience to the Father as a sacrifice. By carrying the wood for the sacrifice on his back, Isaac prefigures Christ who carried the cross to his own immolation. Abraham receives Isaac back as one who was as good as dead. There is a kind of resurrection in the story. This becomes even more interesting when we examine Jewish tradition on the matter:

It appears that this notion was widespread in medieval times: Ibn Ezra (commentary on Gen. 22:19) also quotes an opinion that Abraham actually did kill Isaac…and he was later resurrected from the dead. Ibn Ezra rejects this as completely contrary to the biblical text. Shalom Spiegel has demonstrated, however, that such views enjoyed a wide circulation and occasionally found expression in medieval writings.

-Louis Jacobs, “Akedah,” Encyclopedia Judaica 2:482.

Obviously the belief that Abraham did in fact slay his son is an error. Nevertheless, it demonstrates how the sacrifice of Isaac was so closely identified with death and resurrection.

As noted previously, Gen 22:14 reveals that the Akedah occurred on “the mount of the LORD”. It is Mount Moriah – the location of the future Temple mount of Jerusalem. (cf. 2 Chron 3:1). It would seem that sacrifice of animals on Mount Moriah at the Temple recalls the original “sacrifice” of Abraham at the Akedah of Isaac. In other words, animal sacrifices recall the human sacrifice of obedience. Clearly, once the Messiah offers his life in sacrifice, animal sacrifices serve no purpose.

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