Deceit and Abraham's Test


#1

I often hear it said that God cannot deceive, cannot lie, etc. I am wondering about the truth of this in light of the story in Genesis where God tests Abraham by telling him to sacrifice his son. Presumably, Abraham would have been under the impression that he did, indeed have to kill his son, but later, God rescinds, saying that it was only a test. Wouldn’t this be a form of deceit on God’s part?


#2

To deceive is to say something that isn’t true. God telling Abraham to perform an action is in
a WHOLE OTHER AREA, I think. Also, God didn’t tell Abraham that he ABSOLUTELY HAD
TO do this thing, He just told Abraham to do it. One more thought: Technically, Abraham did
in fact sacrifice Isaac, the reasoning being that God stopped Abraham and said that now He
knew that Abraham truly loved Him above all other things, meaning that Abraham WAS GO-
ING TO DO IT, he would have gone through it, which is enough of a sacrifice on his part.


#3

It seems to me that he did in fact sacrifice his son; if your father tried to kill you, do you think you’d really have the same relationship with him afterwards? He did not kill Isaac, but he probably shattered the trust between them.


#4

euhhh, probably not the perfect comparison. I’m sure that Isaac understood.


#5

A similar thread:
forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=502101


#6

One of the Jewish interpretations of this story (not necessarily the major interpretation) is that Abraham actually FAILED G-d’s test by blindly obeying G-d and not arguing with Him. What G-d told Abraham to do was contrary to moral behavior and Abraham should have debated G-d about that. Thus the lesson of the story, as told by G-d, is that blind obedience to ANY authority is dangerous. After this incident, G-d did not speak to Abraham directly. OTOH, it is also believed in Judaism that we should act or not act not merely because our reason tells us it is the right or wrong thing to do, but rather because G-d tells us to. As you can see, Judaism believes that good questions and debates are more important than answers.


#7

I leanred that he did pass the test (as one of his ten tests), but that because he didn’t debate this with Gd he wasn’t as great as Moshe Rabeinu.


#8

You may be right, Katrin. Let’s just say Abraham didn’t score as well as Moses and that neither was perfect.


#9

Interestingly, in Ezekiel 14:9, God says that He has (or has caused) the deception of false prophets:

And if the prophet is deceived and speaks a word, I, the LORD, have deceived that prophet, and I will stretch out my hand against him and will destroy him from the midst of my people Israel.

Then, we have 2 Chron 18:21: “I will go and be a deceiving spirit in the mouths of all his prophets,’ he said. ‘You will succeed in enticing him,’ said the LORD.” This is in response to God’s question to the spirits in Heaven about who will go and cause the King of Israel to fall in battle, if I recall correctly.

Now, I believe Scripture says that “God can neither deceive nor be deceived”. Also, St. Paul says that he had been sent “an evil spirit from God” to beat him and, thus, humble him because of “the abundance of the revelations”. King Saul also had an “evil spirit from God”.

In Isaiah 45:7, “I form the light, and create darkness. I make peace, and create calamity. I am Yahweh, who does all these things.”

In order for all this to be true, God, who himself can not lie, sends an evil spirit to deceive and/or torment His victims. That’s my understanding anyway.


#10

Judaism interprets Isaiah quite literally: that is, evil as well as good is created by G-d but that does not mean that G-d wishes evil to exist. Mankind must play its role in fighting against evil.


#11

For Christians, Abraham believed that God could and that he would raise Isaac from the dead.

God had promised Abraham that his descendants would be as numerous as the sand in the sea, and then God told Abraham to kill his son.

By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was ready to offer up his only son, of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your descendants be named.” He considered that God was able to raise men even from the dead; hence, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back. (Hebrews 11:17-19)

After being told by God that he would be the father of nations and also being commanded by God to kill his son, the only explanation that Abraham could come up with is that God would raise the boy from the dead.

Abraham knew that God was trustworthy and believed that he would have numerous sons through Isaac even though God told him to kill Isaac. Abraham trusted God’s word.

-Tim-


#12

Abraham did sacrifice his son...in his heart.


#13

Exactly! To both of those posts. When God saw Abraham was going to actually do it, that was all He needed, and He counted it as being done. Abraham showed that he trusted God enough to not put anything or anyone before God, not even his own son, and that test is tied into God Himself not with holding **His **only Son and allowing Jesus to die for our sins. :thumbsup: Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son for God so God was willing to sacrifice His Son for mankind, Jesus came from the line of Abraham. That’s what that test was about.


#14

That’s a Christian interpretation. One of the Jewish interpretations is that since G-d explicitly told Abraham NOT to sacrifice his son, this meant that G-d does not want human sacrifices or vicarious atonement for sins on His behalf, which was practiced by Pagans. What He wants is individual atonement for sins but not in the form of intentional self-destruction.


#15

I expect both Abraham and Isaac weren’t the least bit surprised that God at last required that Abraham sacrifice his firstborn. The surprise was that at the last moment Abraham’s God didn’t require it; nor would he ever require it of Abraham’s descendants.


#16

I’m truly curious. The Jewish faith fascinates me.

How does the yearly sacrifice for atonement by the high priest fit into God’s not wanting vicarious atonement?

-Tim-


#17

That ancient sacrifice was for unintentional sins only, not intentional sins. Further, not all Jews were even able to be present at the Temple. The poorer ones were also unable to offer their own animal blood sacrifices but used such things as flour instead. Finally, and perhaps most important, the Temple sacrifice was but a tangible manifestation of prayer without which it would be null and void, while prayer was always, in ancient Israel as today, the principal means of atonement toward G-d. And forgiveness from one’s fellow man had to be sought on a personal basis by means of corrective deeds as well as words.


#18

Thank you. I always appreciate your participation in these discussions.

-Tim-


#19

Re vicarious atonement, how does the ram work in lieu of Isaac?


#20

[quote="kkollwitz, post:19, topic:342651"]
Re vicarious atonement, how does the ram work in lieu of Isaac?

[/quote]

The point here is that an animal is given to G-d as a thanksgiving offering in lieu of a human being. But the ram does not serve as a sin offering to wipe away the sins committed by Abraham or any other human when the ram's horn is sounded during the High Holy Days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. On the contrary, it is a reminder that we and we alone as human beings are responsible for our own atonement. Why should this be so? Individual atonement is a means of drawing closer to G-d by not relying on others to change our sinful behavior for us. We must make the effort ourselves, even though we may not be entirely successful. When a Tzadik (holy man) atones for the people, he is not absolving them of their sins by his own suffering but rather becoming more sensitive to and understanding of their needs and thus being better able to communicate these needs to G-d. Further, no holy man or prophet, including Moses himself, was asked by G-d to die for the sins of His people, even though Moses begged G-d to do so, since no lesson would therefore be learned by such action. Therefore, based on Torah Law, Judaism states that G-d does not want substitutionary or vicarious atonement but instead desires that we ourselves strive to improve our lives through both prayer and deed.


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