How to understand the scripture about God telling Abraham to kill his son Isaac?


This passage seems like a test of faith thing because God spared Isaacs life at the end,but looking at it through “today’s eyes” where the idea of a person killing their children is horrendous or irrational/mental Illness etc and Jesus teaching about love and not to murder etc-how do I make sense of this?



Yes, it was a test of Abraham’s faith, odd as it seems to us. What’s out of view here is that child or human sacrifice may already have been a practice of neighboring pagan religions in that area already at that time. So, it may not have seemed entirely implausible to Abraham, any more than people in the US have embraced abortion or euthanasia today for purely utilitarian purposes.

I recall that the book of Hebrews discusses this, from the angle that Abraham had faith that God could have raised Isaac from the dead, to be faithful to the covenant he made with Abraham. Isaac had to be alive to bring forth many generations of people.

The Jewish rabbis gave a lot of thought to this “binding” of Isaac. I haven’t read their commentary for some time, but I recall that it shows that human sacrifice was prohibited. They stretch the significance to “prove” that God didn’t want any human sacrifice, particularly Christ.


Jesus said Abraham saw His Day and was glad. The Lord’s Day is His Resurrection… I think we see Abraham being shown the resurrection in these excerpts of Genesis Ch 22

On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place far away. 5 Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; the boy and I will go over there; we will worship, and then we will come back to you.”

Abraham told them that him and the boy will return to them. Abraham is willing to sacrifice Isaac what is he thinking?.

7 Isaac said to his father Abraham, “Father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” He said, “The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” 8 Abraham said, “God himself will provide the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So the two of them walked on together.

When they came to the place that God had shown him, Abraham built an altar there and laid the wood in order. He bound his son Isaac, and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to kill[a] his son. 11 But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 12 He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” 13 And Abraham looked up and saw a ram, caught in a thicket by its horns.

I think this is Abraham seeing the Lord’s Day and putting His Faith in the Resurrection.


Isaac is a type of Christ.


Abraham had no reason to care what random people four thousand years in the future would think.

God is the author of human life, and consequently has the right to take it, or command it be taken.


I felt the same when I read this story. To my way of thinking the story doesn’t translate well into the modern era. To be willing to sacrifice your child speaks to me of cult like obedience. Those in religious cults learn to stop questioning and just obey a guru.

The God of love would not test us like that. He may ask us to lay down our own life though, which is much less abhorrent in my view.


One owes absolute obedience to God.

God had just as much claim on Isaac’s life as he had on Abraham’s.


But we are allowed to ask questions and sometimes he is happy to compromise. He’s not a tyrant.


God is the owner and Master of Life and gives it and takes it away.

Hebrews 11: 17-19:
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, of whom it was said, “Through Isaac descendants shall bear your name.” He reasoned that God was able to raise even from the dead, and he received Isaac back as a symbol.

Note that God had already promised Abraham that he would proliferate his lineage through Isaac.



But obviously,in reality,hypothetically if God asked someone today to kill their own child they wouldn’t do it.
(Likely people would think they were hearing voices etc but I mean if it was literally God.)


There are at least two Jewish interpretations. They both involve testing but in opposite directions. One is the majority interpretation consisting of G-d’s testing Abraham’s obedience despite the pain of such a sacrifice. The other, minority interpretation is testing Abraham to find out whether he will rightfully protest and NOT obey G-d. This latter interpretation I find more interesting. That is, G-d is essentially teaching Abraham to follow his own conscience rather than submit to an action that he believes to be immoral. By extension, Abraham learns not to blindly follow orders without using his reason and considering whether the orders being given are just and fair. One other point that has been noted: Abraham’s wife, Sarah, has not been informed of the sacrifice of Isaac. Doesn’t she, who is, after all, Isaac’s mother, have a right to know what her husband intends to do to their son?


Well, it was different time and era. As with Noah, it would be difficult to understand today that God would flood the earth to kill everybody.

What happened was a test of choices for Abraham – is it God or his child? And this has not changed today no matter how hard it is for us to accept that.

Fortunately for us, we may not have to make this choice today because arise from the would-be sacrifice of Abraham, a chain of events were instituted until we have Jesus who ultimately died on the cross.

If God, in His love could choose his people over His son, the same standard that was applied to Abraham seemed to be quite fair. God love His people over His son as Abraham loved God more than his son, Isaac.


Well that makes it even more confusing lol :upside_down_face:.
Interesting point about the mother not being told prior.


We know that God does not desire human sacrifice. So if someone today heard a voice telling them to kill their child, they could be certain it was not God.

Abraham on the other hand, had no reason not to believe what God was telling him, and in any case he wasn’t simply hearing a voice out of the blue. He’d had Isaac only by divine intervention in the first place.


Yes,it seems to be messing with his head a bit?


Not according to Judaism, which has a long tradition of challenging G-d, or rather having personal discussions and debates with G-d regarding the justice of G-d’s actions. Judaism believes strongly that G-d wants us to use our own reasoning and moral conscience to figure things out. Otherwise He would not have granted us the power of reason.


This God of Judaism sounds cool to me. Glad to hear God is not a control freak after all.


LOL Yes indeed, G-d is cool.


By not reading too much into it. You have answered your own question. Abraham’s obedience was a test of his faith - nothing more and the child “sacrifice” only a foreshadowing of God giving His only Son.

Keep it simple.


We have hindsight, so we can be sure that it was God’s intention that Isaac would not die.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit