Abraham's test?


There’s a flaw in your argument. No where did God tell Abraham to kill Isaac. He asked for a sacrifice. I’m not splitting hairs or playing semantics here; there’s a very real and critical difference. Killing, as you both attest - and we all agree - is an evil act. Sacrifice is a loving gift. If God is asking for a gift of this magnitude, there must be a rationale for it, and Abraham demonstrates his love and faithfulness by compliance. If we read carefully, no father can doubt Abraham’s shaky hesitance and fear and concern, but he knows in giving in this manner, something greater must lie ahead. It did.

There was a time I thought I would have to give up something on that level. No, I wouldn’t be taking a knife to another person directly, but it’s our modern society’s equivalent. It does something inside you to turn that over to thy will be done.


And the sacrifice, if completed meant killing Isaac. Indeed you are playing semantics here. The bottom line, if completed, Abraham would have killed Issac. “…Sacrifice is a loving gift…” The right kind of sacrifice, yes, but In this case the loving gift would have been simple murder of an innocent victim. I can see further argument with you in this matter would indeed be a fruitless endeavor. You need to reconsider your definition of sacrifice.


It’s not helpful to think of God being in the present moment with us and knowing what the futur is. He is in the Eternal Now.


It is not evil if God commands it. God gives life and God takes life away. Evil for rational creatures is going against the commandments of God. However did you read what I posted from St. Paul?

Hebrews 11:17-19
17 By faith Abraham, when put to the test, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was ready to offer his only son, 18 of whom it was said, “Through Isaac descendants shall bear your name.” 19 He reasoned that God was able to raise even from the dead, and he received Isaac back as a symbol.


Abraham was not a 20th century man. He lived at a time when blood sacrifice was the rule everywhere and human sacrifice was at least a well-known practice. By the standards of the time this was normal. The exceptional thing was that Abraham served a God who would stop him before he went through with it.

Also I would point out that Abraham did not want to kill Isaac. Abraham was prepared to do what God told him, in spite of his own desires.
As for God: God knew Abraham would obey, and God was prepared to intervene to save Isaac. Isaac did not die that day.


The problem is the angel was clearly speaking for God. How do we know? Because Abraham stopped the sacrifice when the angel told him to stop.

Think of it this way: Where I work and where most people work there is a certain hierarchy. At times my boss’s boss will give me certain tasks. If my direct boss or someone not my direct supervisor wants me to do something that differs from I was originally been tasked to do, I let them know what the boss’s boss told me. Sometimes in response that second person will explain that he or she talked to the boss’s boss and he gave the ok to change the original command. In short, only if someone with the authority from the boss’s boss tells me will I not do or alter what I was initially told to do.

By your reckoning since the angel said “Now I know” then it was all to prove to the angel that Abraham would kill his son (i.e. it had to be sufficient for the angel that Abraham passed the test), but that doesn’t add up.


One must read the story within its historical-cultural context. The account of Abraham and Isaac is a teaching against the ancient Canaanite practice of child sacrifice to the god, Moloch. Indeed, it was at one time quite common and was actually practiced in the valley of Gehenna, near Jerusalem. Some Hebrews fell into the evil practice prompting the need for the Abraham/Isaac Story to be told. The ultimate lesson of the story is that the one, true God does not want sacrifice, but faith and obedience.


Angels speak for God. But word for word? It’s possible but maybe not. Though my view is not shared by people who have better knowledge than I, which you’ll see later.

Why couldn’t it prove to the angel and be a test for Abraham? Some of the following commentaries allude to this possibility.

I’m not an expert on ancient Hebrew. All languages have nuances and if any are present I wouldn’t know. One of the pitfalls of debating such matters on a forum is the probability of encountering an actual scholar or other expert is low.
There are some commentaries on that verse (https://biblehub.com/commentaries/genesis/22-12.htm):


for now I know Abraham has stood the test. Actual experience has justified Divine foreknowledge. Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges

now I knew - literally, have known; not caused thee to know (Augustine), but caused others to know (Lange); or the words are used anthropomorphically (Calvin) Pulpit Commentary


“Now I know that thou fearest God.” This was known to God antecedent to the event that demonstrated it. But the original “I have known” denotes an eventual knowing, a discovering by actual experiment; and this observable probation of Abraham was necessary for the judicial eye of God, who is to govern the world, and for the conscience of man, who is to be instructed by practice as well as principle. Barnes’ Notes on the Bible

Now I know, i.e. Now I have what I designed and desired; now I have made thee and others to know. Matthew Poole’s Commentary

for now I know that thou fearest God […] this is said, not as though he was ignorant before how things would issue; for he knew from all eternity what Abraham would be, and what he would do, having determined to bestow that grace upon him, and work it in him, which would influence and enable him to act the part he did; he knew full well beforehand what would be the consequence of such a trial of him; but this is said after the manner of men, who know things with certainty when they come to pass, and appear plain and evident: or this may be understood of a knowledge of approbation, that the Lord now knew, and approved of the faith, fear, love, and obedience of Abraham, which were so conspicuous in this affair, see Psalm 1:6; Saadiah Gaon (i) interprets it, “I have made known”, that is, to others; God by trying Abraham made it manifest to others, to all the world, to all that should hear of or read this account of things, that he was a man that feared God, loved him, believed in him, and obeyed him, of which this instance is a full and convincing proof Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible


It doesn’t have to be verbatim, but it should be the same gist from one reading to another. When it’s claimed a passage’s meaning varies greatly from its plain understanding, that leads to all sorts of problems. Personally, if the creator of the universe commanded me to pass on something verbally I’d do as little adlibbing as “angelly” possible :smiley:

Oh, I definitely think it’s a test for Abraham. He’s the one making the difficult decision. The question is to whose benefit was the test. “Now I know” indicates a lack of knowledge until that moment. A few here on this thread have suggested it was for Abraham’s benefit, but the “now I know” would be “now you know”.

Why would God need to justify his divine foreknowledge of what Abraham was going to do? This apologist wants to have it both ways, that God is perfect in knowledge while at the same time that knowledge has improved after Abraham passed the test.

Let’s take these one by one. Augustine is literally saying X is not X, that now I know doesn’t indicate a change in knowledge but that there was absolutely no change in knowledge. Lange is trying to suggest that I means you. If God wanted to say “now you know” he would have said that and not “now I know” I’m questioning whether Lange knew that Hebrew can construct the sentence “Now you know”. Calvin, by suggesting this was used anthropomorphically means that it was figurative. The problem is the Catechism teaches that everything in the Bible is true, even in one of three non-literal sense. Just saying in essence “oh that’s not literal” doesn’t mean an apologist doesn’t have to show the truth of the passage.

(end of part 1)


This is just like Augustine trying to giving different levels of knowledge yet somehow still claiming that God has perfect knowledge.

This is just Lange’s excuse, claiming that “I” means “you”. Anytime an apologist tries to undercut language in defense of one passage it undercuts the value of all of the text.

And this is a typical case of Special Pleading. Apologetics more or less is a series of ways to say, “Oh, that doesn’t count!” One of the classic ways to do that is claiming that words don’t mean the same – or even the complete opposite – but only for the deity that’s being defended. When God says he is a jealous, oh jealous doesn’t mean jealous when it comes to Jehovah. This is no different, claiming that a lack of knowledge doesn’t mean a lack of knowledge. When a basic reading of a passage would suggest a logical trouble, we’re told not to worry about it – that it literally doesn’t count when dealing with the Christian God


You make it sound like, if it is the standards of the times, then it is acceptable. That is twisted reasoning. By those “standards of the times” criteria then abortion today is completely the acceptable norm.


Why do you think this is twisted reasoning?

I think the point trying to be made here is what makes the “killing” of Isaac an immoral act?

The “standard of the times” by the pagans was that it was not an immoral act but it was something good and required to be performed for the gods. No one at that time thought this was immoral. So why do you think it is unacceptable? The only answer here is because God tells us thou shalt not murder.

This is kind of the point of the story here. By His command, to sacrifice Isaac, God here is proclaiming, to Abraham and all of us, his absolute dominion over the lives of men who are the work of his hands. He is telling us that He is the author of life He can create it and He can take it away.

Then by His revocation of the order He teaches us that He does not wish this dominion to be acknowledged by the actual sacrifice of human life.

The point here is Abraham came from a land where killing children was not immoral. God was showing Abraham that although He has the power to ask for Isaac’s life that is not what He wants, He was showing him that what is most important is obedience and faith.

To me it would be similar to stealing someones money out of a vault. We would both agree this is an immoral act, however is the act still immoral if the owner of the vaults asks you to break in and steal the money?

The answer to this question lies in the intent of the owner (God). If the intent is to have you take the money so the owner can defraud his insurance company then it is immoral. If the intent is to see the security of the safe, then it isn’t immoral.

In the end God knew that Isaac wasn’t going to die He was testing, to prove to Abraham, how strong his faith really was. It all comes down to intent.

This comparison is confusing? Don’t many believe abortion is an acceptable norm in this day and age? Don’t they justify that they aren’t killing anyone? Don’t they believe it is not a sin?

Personally I don’t think it should be an acceptable norm. But why? For me because God says it is murder.

God Bless


The killing of Issac, if it had been done, would have simply been the murder of an innocent man by his father who did it because someone he assumed was God told him to. Today he might get off with a manslaughter conviction or an insanity plea. Would you say it was a moral act today if your neighbor killed his son because he said God told him to do it?? I doubt it.

The pagans were completely wrong in considering it a moral act. One cannot judge the morality of an act using the “standard of the times” Those standards change but the morality of an act does not.


I have no problem with this. I am not arguing that you are wrong here. My point I was getting at was the intent.

Even though God asked for the Sacrifice He never intended for Abraham to kill Isaac and the “murder” never happened.

Do you understand the point I was trying to make? Because what you say here makes no sense…

The answer is no because like I said the point of the story was God taught here that even though He is the author of like and He could ask for this He doesn’t and wouldn’t because that is not what He wants.

I’m not trying to defend that murder can sometimes be moral, I’m trying to help you see that it is the intent of the outcome that is the point of the story.

Your thoughts?

God Bless


No. Being the custom of the time does not make it acceptable.

My point was that Abraham, being a man of his time, did not understand it the way we do. We say “Human sacrifice is always evil” and we’re right. But Abraham would not have seen it the way we do.
Abraham would have said “God commands this. I must obey God, however much I will grieve for the loss of my son…”

And God was not committing evil because God never intended the sacrifice to be carried out.


That’s your choice. This input could serve the purpose of pointing out angels were part of the others in “made […] others to know.” I still hold this as a possibility.

In English. Using the little I do know, in ancient Hebrew they don’t have past, present and future tenses like we do in English.
I looked at the interlinear again and it showed the “know” is a perfect verb rather than imperfect, which often results in an equivalent English past tense though not necessarily. This is likely why the 19th century Pulpit Commentary had “now I knew - literally, have known” instead of “now I know…”. Why “know” is the chosen word is beyond my pay grade but it highlights the challenges in transferring nuances in other languages when translating

I believe this was an extrapolation of what he wrote about reading Scripture. Calvin wrote quite about this and how there are aspects where a God well beyond us tries to relate to us and the author was throwing it out there but didn’t go further on it.

God isn’t just an extension of humanity and superimposing human nature and experiences onto Him isn’t the best approach. That of course is unfathomable for those who don’t believe there is a God. You start with the assumption that God is very much like people whereas Christians start with the assumption God is radically different from us. There are comparisons with humans that can be made to help understand a bit better but like most metaphors and analogies, they aren’t perfect and gloss over many details.


I have to disagree. There are words in Hebrew to explain an action caused others to know. We wouldn’t use the pronoun I in any language as a way to denote someone else.

You’re forgetting that the word “now” is there to fix it in a point in time. “Now I knew” makes no sense. Such a translation reeks of desperation by the Pulpit Commentary. Take something like Exodus 18:11 where after Moses told his father-in-law about the things Jehovah had supposedly done, Jethro said, “Now I know that the LORD is greater than all other gods,” That doesn’t mean that Jethro always knew it. It was only after Moses explained it to him. “Now” is the key. Apologists claim words mean their exact opposite because they want them to say those things.

In other words Calvin had a preconceived notion as to what occurred in the passage then shoehorned a reading that is 180 degrees off from its plain reading. It’s like saying a critic can’t use the passages to show flaws in the Bible solely because doing so would show flaws in the Bible.

Even with a limited understanding of how a deity works there are far better choices that relate to understanding that could have been used. An infinite-everything deity would know how to explain himself better.

And to “start with [an] assumption” is not the way to truth. That isn’t to say that Christianity can’t be true. I allow for that possibility simply because it can’t be disproven. But to apply a filter to any text that in any way might cast doubt on a certain position is not the honesty and integrity needed in truthseeking.

To sum up, my reading of these passages are because of what those passages say. Apologists read those same passages far differently despite what those passages say.


[quote=“MT1926, post:37, topic:522770”]
Even though God asked for the Sacrifice He never intended for Abraham to kill Isaac and the “murder” never happened……Do you understand the point I was trying to make? Because what you say here makes no sense…[/quote]

Sounds like you are saying then, God lied to Abraham by saying, 1) I want you to kill your son. 2) But thinking, I don’t really want you to kill your son. If statement 1) was false then technically it was a lie. Is God capable of such a deception ?


I’ll take your response to mean you don’t understand the point I am trying to make and have no desire to have a civil discussion to even remotely try to understand anything other than your own made up mind.

Your logic makes no sense. So are you saying every time someone puts someone else to a test, to see what type of person they are, they are technically lying or committing deception?

So every person God put to the test in the Bible equates to God either lying or committing deception.

Seriously, are you really so closed minded on this subject?

Good luck with that.

God Bless


I’m not going further with ancient Hebrew vs. English. I can only give you this for your own inquiry, which unfortunately isn’t open access but surprisingly raised my angel point:
There are other books available you could find yourself as this verse, apparently, has been discussed over and over again for a long time. Apparently, this isn’t even a new problem.

Calvin wasn’t writing about that passage. It’s a reference to part of his approach to Scripture which was found in a book he wrote. The author was citing Calvin’s work as a possible approach to that passage.
Plain reading also leads to young Earth creationism. Even Augustine didn’t take a pure plain reading approach.

He could but He can choose to withhold.

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