Giving a Promise vs. Giving Up a Promise

October 1, 2019

As a small child, I sat in my synagogue’s Hebrew School as our teachers would share stories from the Tanakh (the Hebrew Scriptures or Old Testament). I remember listening with excitement as they would share about the heroes of our faith. The greatest of those heroes was Abraham, the father of our faith. We would hear about how G-D spoke to Abraham:


Genesis 12:1 Then Adonai said to Abram, “Get going out from your land, and from your relatives, and from your father’s house, to the land that I will show you.


I remember thinking how much faith a person must have in order to get up and leave everything they knew and be willing to travel somewhere without knowing where they will be going and when they will end up there. I remember thinking how hard it was for me to get into my car with my parents without knowing where we were going, while I could see my parents. Yet, Abraham simply packed up and left his home and his family behind. 


As we read further into the life of Abraham, just ten chapters later in Genesis, we find what in Judaism is called “The Akidah,” or the “Binding of Isaac,” which begins with: 


Genesis 22:1 Now it was after these things that God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham.” “Hineni,” he said. 2 Then He said, “Take your son, your only son whom you love —Isaac—and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains about which I will tell you.”


I can still recall my reaction to first hearing these words. “What?! How could a loving G-D ask such a thing of someone who has been so faithful to Him for all this time?” It was beyond my comprehension that after making Abraham wait so long to give him the “Son of Promise,” Isaac, G-D was asking Abraham to offer Isaac as a burnt offering. Yet, there it was - right there in the Torah. I said to my teacher, “This isn’t fair! It isn’t right! How could G-D ask Abraham, who had already given up everything to follow G-D, to give up the son that he had promised?” My teacher tried to answer my questions to satisfy my anger and bewilderment, but she could not. This portion of Scripture was one of the reasons I later became agnostic. I desperately wanted there to be a G-D, but I could not reconcile certain passages like this one with a G-D demonstrating love toward those like Abraham who had walked away from everything to follow and serve. It is interesting that this same section of the Torah was so instrumental in my decision to believe that Yeshua (Jesus) is the Messiah. 


I hope that this explanation will help you with your struggles if and when it ever appears as if G-D is unjustly asking you to give up something that you love for Him. The answer is that it was precisely because Abraham had been so faithful that G-D asked him to offer Isaac as an offering. You see G-D had already promised Abraham that Isaac would be the “Son of Promise,” as we rea