I have never seen a father read the binding of Isaac in Genesis in the Hebrew
language and not get emotional. Setting the scene does not take much. Abraham has two sons who he loves very much.
The Bible is clear on that. Abraham and his wife live a very long time without children and Sarah is known to be barren. Sarah, knowing the realities, encourages Abraham to have a child they name Ishmael. The Biblical story of Hagar and Ishmael is powerful in itself. I also should make note that when Hagar and Ishmael are sent away, God directly gives Ishmael a parallel birthright to what Isaac received after the episode we read this week.
In one of the few examples of monogamy in the Old Testament, Abraham is faithful to his spouse (it was at her urging that he lay with Hagar). When Isaac has reached probably his early to mid teens, his father is told by God to sacrifice his son. He would have been at the age old enough to watch himself but young enough to still fully trust his father.
In the Hebrew version of the binding of Isaac, trust and pain are central to that story. As Abraham takes this journey, he is reassuring to Isaac, but you can tell that is not an easy thing for Abraham, though Abraham knows it to be necessary.
My interpretation here varies a bit from the traditional interpretation in that Abraham’s faith is strengthened when God calls off the human sacrifice putting a lamb in his place. I take a different view in that I see it as Abraham having the faith that God will provide and not take away his son, his heir.
This is in line with the interpretation that the writer of the book of Hebrews has. Here the faith that Abraham has is tested with a trust that God will provide, even though it is inconceivable, because of the impossible pregnancy due to his and Sarah's age.
But God promises, and He provides a Son. Abraham's trust was fulfilled! So it would be again when that was tested during the binding story. Again, Abraham knew God would provide, as he did. Thus, as Isaac matured, he could carry forward that faith.
But it is important to note, that Abraham took a significant "risk" in his faith.
Though to him it would not be a risk since he had the faith and knew, though difficult and emotional, God would provide. Often when we do not trust in God it is because we are afraid to risk and worry that God will not provide. The interesting thing that we saw last week, we see this week, and we will continue to see is that when we risk and give ourselves over to God we cannot help but see an abundance of God's blessings on us.
Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen