The Story of Abraham: What's That All About?

Author: ludofl3x ,

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  • ludofl3x
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    I'm referring specifically to the tale in Genesis about the guy who god tells to take his only son up a mountain to kill then burn as a sacrifice. It's come up in another topic and is threatening to derail that. Some possible talking points:

    • What's the moral of the story?
    • Did god ask Abraham to kill his son or not? 
    • Was god being serious? 
    • Did Abraham believe him
    • Is this a story about the depth of Abraham's faith?


  • ludofl3x
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    -->@RoderickSpode
    Daniel was thrown in the furnace because he was doing God's will. So in that sense God pretty much sent Daniel into the furnace. Was God sending him there to be killed? Under normal circumstances, that would be the case.

    We're talking about Abraham, not Daniel, and god ordering one human to kill another human. 

    Then we really wouldn't have much to discuss because to me they're not fictional characters until demonstrated otherwise. Are we on the same page that the characters' actual existence (and non-existence) is a key factor in our argument?
    Why is it important if they're fictional or historical, in your view?  Besides eternal damnation I mean. I don't see it as a big factor really if you take that condition out, because what we're talking about is just analyzing a piece of text. 

    God was not kidding. The text in Hebrews states that Abraham, through faith, offered his son as a sacrifice. That's all that was required of him.
    The story of Abraham isn't in Hebrews, it's in Genesis, and in Genesis, god commands (not asks) Abraham to take his only son to the top of a mountain to be offered as a burnt sacrifice. God's word IN THIS STORY and TO ABRAHAM sounds like "slit your son's throat as you would a ewe, then burn the body in my honor on an altar, as you would a ewe." God then not following through with this command leads logically to only two conclusions: he never intended Abraham to sacrifice and burn Isaac (generously, he was kidding, cynically, we has fxcking with Abraham for no reason), or the ever unchanging god CHANGED HIS MIND.  THis all leaves aside the notion that this is a demonstration of FAITH to god at all, as he would know if ABraham was faithful or not without having to test him. Is he trying to demonstrate ABraham's faith to Abraham? What's the point of that? 

    But as far as whether or not God commands the killing of another human, then yes. In the case of capitol punishment, and wartime.
    And here, with Isaac. 

    I don't ultimately know for sure how, but there were other written documents to glean from. We know a number of documents have been lost. And there's also the possibility that like a number of people and authors in the bible, they received information by revelation.
    This is your response to how do the writers of Hebrews know what Abraham is thinking. You refer to potentially lost documents (like...what, Abraham's ancient blog? The entire area was 99.9% illiterate and they were largely concerned with how to not die overnight, not writing a diary), the 'possibility' that a number of people received a heretofore unspecified revelation. This is why you have to stick with the text of the story: none of those things are remotely reliable sources. A document that might have existed or a dream someone might have had but not written down doesn't exactly stand up to  your insistence that these are factual accounts. Imagine if I tried to present YOU with such an agument: well, documents may have been lost that showed JEsus was just basically the BC equivalent of a guy with a sandwich board, muttering on the streetcorner, therefore it's likely that I'm right. You'd not accept that, you'd as for more substantiation, right? If you're not sure how the writer of Hebrews knew, why are you treating it as if unequivocally THEY DID KNOW?  

  • Stephen
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    --> @ludofl3x
    I find it odd that Abraham had such a short memory and was probably a nice obedient  chap, but very dim.

    God makes a covenant with Abram and promised to make him a great nation Genesis 12: 2.  God then provides his old barren wife with a son and is  ordered to name him Issac and also promises  Abram _ " I will confirm my covenant with him (Issac) as a perpetual covenant for his descendants after him. Gen17:19  So we have a covenant to carry on with the unborn son Issac who became IS_RA_EL

    BUT then!  god orders Abram to sacrifice this only son Issac,   the very son from which  he promised a great nation would come.

      Thicko Abraham didn't stop to think at all that if he was to kill his son as commanded, then there would be no great nation from Issac and that god would be breaking his sacred covenant that he made with him and his son Issac?  He didn't even have the brains to remind god of the covenant that he  had struck just 20 short verses before.

    The apologists will no doubt have it that god can change his mind at any time because he is god, while telling us that god never changes his mind.

    But this won't alter the fact that Abram was as thick as two short planks.


  • Lemming
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    --> @ludofl3x @Stephen
    Just for novelties sake, why don't you try 'not taking the anti-theist approach?
    And making an 'earnest effort to understand what positive views or values someone could take from such a story, or it's relation to their culture and history?

    Some people's antitheism wouldn't bother me 'so much, if I didn't find it so shallow.
    You can oppose a viewpoint without straw manning and insulting it.
    . . .

    Stating the obvious to atheists and being jerks, are two reasons I've never been impressed much with the 'New 'Atheists.
  • ludofl3x
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    --> @Lemming
    I guess duly noted, but I think the original post (not the one I directed to Mr. Spode, with whom I was discussing on another thread) was pretty benign. I'm not taking an anti0theist approach, I'm asking a Christian to explain to a former believer why they think the story means what it means. I guess you don't have a case to make? I'm not straw manning anything. 
  • Lemming
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    --> @ludofl3x
    Fair point.
    And no, don't have a case to make at this moment.
  • Lemming
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    --> @ludofl3x
    I'm not religious, and I haven't read about other people's interpretations much.
    But the way I 'take it, (Not the way it 'is, as I don't know what it 'actually 'is)

    Is if I was a Christian big on it being 'literal, then God chose some fellow (Abraham) who was known for his devotion to God, as a means to show and say to his people, it's great that you follow me, even to the point of sacrificing your children when I ask, but stop that, I've seen your faith, and that's great, but the true God is not like these other false Gods, so stop sacrificing your children.
    In this interpretation Abraham is flawed, but devoted to God, and is thus rewarded, but the lesson 'I'd take away is human sacrifice is wrong, rather than do everything God says.

    If I was 'less big on it being literal, then I could interpret it as some devout guy, without being 'literally spoken to by God, instead being 'spoken to by God by less literal means, whatever those might be. Making the motions to sacrifice his son as might have been common in the land he was currently in, and then 'not doing it, instead 'substituting the sacrifice of a human with an animal, and encouraging others to do likewise, speaking as it were that he believed it was not in the nature of God to demand such of man.
    In this interpretation Abraham is devoted to God, but does not believe God would 'truly want such, but the lesson 'I'd take away is human sacrifice is wrong, rather than do everything God says.

    If I was even 'less literal, then I might look on it as a story based on realities of the time more or less, but a story speaking of a people who believe that human sacrifice is wrong, and that their God does not actually want that.

    But I'm sure there's people with different opinions of it than I.
    . . .
    I often doubt that the. . . media is 'everything so to speak. Some media is powerful and tends to evoke certain patterns of thought in people, but in the end it's just a mirror that reflects us.
    . . .
    Also I'm sure some people might want to complain what about Christ as a human sacrifice, well, I'm not a historian/theologian.
  • Lunatic
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    Basically, God was the original creator of Punk'd before Ashton Kutcher took over for the show. He thought it would be a hilarious prank to tell Abraham non ironically to kill Isaac, and last second runs out saying "You've been punk'd", this starting the "It's just a brank bro" generation of youtube.

    Good times.
  • Lunatic
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    Nobody could outdrink God in the local frat parties back in the day
  • Tradesecret
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    --> @ludofl3x
    I'm referring specifically to the tale in Genesis about the guy who god tells to take his only son up a mountain to kill then burn as a sacrifice. It's come up in another topic and is threatening to derail that.
    I have found this always to be a fascinating story.  I have always understood this this passage to a be a test of Abraham's faith in God.  God had covenanted with Abraham - had promised him that he would have son and that through his son ISAAC he would be the father of many children. God's promise to Abraham was difficult in the first place because he and Sarah were old. Too old too have children. Yet, God promise to Sarah and Abraham was completed. They had a child.  But this faith did not require a test - really - because they could do nothing about it.  In fact when they tried to do something - it was to get a maid to have Abraham's child - Ismael. Yet he was not the child of promise. And this child has caused pain for the family of Abraham since.  Abraham faith had been shown wanting. Then when he had the child of promise - God tested his faith in respect of the child.  After all, how could God keep his promise to Abraham if Isaac died prematurely? God tested Abraham's faith.  God as the author life was also the author of resurrection. Hebrews 11:17-19 reveals that Abraham did believe in the resurrection of the dead and that Isaac would be raised again. Even in the text of Genesis there is a hint in 22:5 that Isaac would not die. "We will worship and we will come back to you". 

    We know God is not in favour of human sacrifice - he directly prohibits it in Lev 18:21 and Deut 12:31.  And the fact is even in this passage - the intention whatever it was - is that Isaac was going to live - and become the father of many people - even if he dies, he would live. This was the promise that God made to Abraham. And Abraham according to this text and to the book of Hebrews was clearly of the view that Isaac would live and come back and worship with his family. 

    • What's the moral of the story?
    I know we like to talk about morals in stories - but the bible is not about producing morals.  The better way is to ask what is the author trying to convey to us in the passage.  The story is demonstrating that GOD is the author of life and of the resurrection.  He who gives has the power to take away and give it back. 

    • Did god ask Abraham to kill his son or not? 
    My opinion is that God was asking Abraham to trust Him - that his promise could be trusted.  The question here of course is what is death? Is death final or not? Is there a resurrection or not? For the author of life to take a man's life away is not the same as a man taking a life away. In Abraham's mind - it seems that he believed that Isaac would come back and worship with him. 

    Hence "kill" is superfluous in the context.  In the text it does not use the word kill.  He is asked to take his son and sacrifice him there as a burnt offering. In my view this would conjure up images of a death and honestly I think it needs to conjure up this image. After all, people cannot rise from the dead if they do not die first.  Yet in the context - it is clear that God never wanted him to die - which is why he provided a lamb. 

    • Was god being serious? 

    It depends what you mean? Was God serious about testing Abraham's faith? Absolutely.  Was God serious about keeping his promise to Abraham that his son ISAAC would be the father of many? Absolutely. Was God serious in his request to Abraham to sacrifice his Son? Absolutely.  

    • Did Abraham believe him

    Absolutely - not only did Abraham believe God in respect of the command, but also in relation to what would happen and moreover in that Isaac would come back with from the Mountain to worship God.  

    • Is this a story about the depth of Abraham's faith?
    Yes.  And God's promise. The promise of death and resurrection.  

    One of things we need to get our head around is that God is the author of life.  You and I are not.  Since GOD can bring back to life anyone he chooses - death does not have power over him.  Death does have power over us.  When we kill - we know it is permanent.  For God it is more a relocation. 

  • Utanity
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    --> @ludofl3x
    • What's the moral of the story?
    • Did god ask Abraham to kill his son or not? 
    • Was god being serious? 
    • Did Abraham believe him
    • Is this a story about the depth of Abraham's faith?

    If you read the bible in Genisis you will find all the answers there.
    The moral of the story is that God tells you to kill your real son not just because he is a son because Abraham really had 2 sons.
    God was serious because he was really practicing for when Jesus was going to be killed so he could see how it would go.
    Abraham was a good man and always believed in God and God was really testing him too.
  • Dr.Franklin
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    --> @ludofl3x
    What's the moral of the story?
    to establish the human ended relationship with God and covenants, it also sets the stage for judaism

    • Did god ask Abraham to kill his son or not? 
    yes as a test

    • Was god being serious? 
    • Did Abraham believe him
    • Is this a story about the depth of Abraham's faith?
    yes yes yes



  • Stephen
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    --> @Lemming
    Just for novelties sake, why don't you try 'not taking the anti-theist approach?

    Why?  It cannot be denied that words in the scriptures may cause great comfort and hope to believers . I have known people that tell me that  the bible caused them to change lives.  Ex convicts are for ever telling us that the words they read in the bible had caused them completely turned their lives around. The bible is an influential and powerful book.
    But this doesn't make those comforting words of hope  true. . And this doesn't address the OP question.


    And making an 'earnest effort to understand what positive views or values someone could take from such a story, or it's relation to their culture and history?

     Its a horrible story about a test of loyalty and obedience to god.  It is  right up there with that other EVEN MORE horrific test of loyalty by god  in  Job 1 where children were murdered for a bet and gods ego.


    Some people's antitheism wouldn't bother me 'so much, if I didn't find it so shallow.
    You can oppose a viewpoint without straw manning and insulting it.
    There is nothing about my point that  "straw-manning" . The text is there for anyone to read for themselves.  I called Abram dim because he didn't see because of his blind loyalty to god that his god would have been breaking his convenient had Issac died. It didn't even register with him. Regardless of the out come of this savage test and the mental torture this man had endured.  Only  fkn sadist would do such a thing .


    Stating the obvious to atheists and being jerks, are two reasons I've never been impressed much with the 'New 'Atheists.


     "New Atheist"?  There have been atheist around for a long time pointing out the "obvious" and challenging and scrutinizing and questioning these  unreliable scriptures and many have paid with there lives and liberty for doing so.  

    Indeed it was much more simpler in past times of ignorance and fear,when priests faced less doubt and opposition to totally control persons daily life not to mention to enable them to extort ones hard earned earthly goods and steal widows houses from them. Luke 20:47New International Version

    The bible for now can be scrutinized and question without fear.  But it won't be long before that freedom is taken away, but it won't be  in defence of Christianity.

  • zedvictor4
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    --> @ludofl3x
    Given the nature of the location and the availability of narcotics....Abraham was probable of his head.

    Seriously.

    We tend to overlook the fact that shamanism is often linked to narcotics use.

    And back in the day, and given peoples lack of knowledge, this would more than likely have been considered to be acceptable behaviour.

    Getting in touch with the spirit world and all that kind of stuff, people love it.
  • Lemming
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    --> @Stephen
    Well, from your reply to my question, I have my answer.
    I'd just as soon leave it at that, then.
  • ludofl3x
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    --> @Tradesecret
    My opinion is that God was asking Abraham to trust Him - that his promise could be trusted.  
    Doesn't the text say "offer as a burnt sacrifice," and not "trust me"? You're talking about the moral of the story, actually, not what's the text of the story. The 'trust' part is only apparent at the end of the story, do you see what I'm saying? At the time in the story god says go kill and burn your son in my honor, to Abraham, it can only sound to Abraham like that's exactly what god wants to happen.  Abraham doesn't doubt it, and he doesn't think "God won't let that happen, so I'll go along with this because I trust him." That's read into the story later, and interpreted in Hebrews apparently, but Hebrews isn't the text in question, and no one who wrote Hebrews was present or interviewed Abraham, so at best, the interpretation is conjecture after the fact. 

     In Abraham's mind - it seems that he believed that Isaac would come back and worship with him. 
    I see your reading of verse 5, where he says to servants to stay here, we'll come back to you, as a way to keep the servants from trying to do the right thing and stop him from killing his only child, thinking he'd gone crazy.  Reading it your way, Abraham DOES NOT have faith in the direct communication with god, because he was told to sacrifice his son, and not believing that was how things would end would mean that he thinks god is lying to him. 

     Was God serious in his request to Abraham to sacrifice his Son? Absolutely. 
    So god WAS serious when he said " Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering"? Why did Isaac not get sacrificed then?

    Absolutely - not only did Abraham believe God in respect of the command, but also in relation to what would happen and moreover in that Isaac would come back with from the Mountain to worship God.  
    So he believed god's command BUT believed god wouldn't go through with the command? That would mean god wasn't serious about it, and Abraham didn't believe thepart about killing his son, and nowhere does god tell Abraham Isaac would come back down the mountain. 

    • Is this a story about the depth of Abraham's faith?
    Yes.  And God's promise. The promise of death and resurrection.  
    Why did god require a test at all, doesn't god know Abraham's faith?
  • Lemming
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    --> @zedvictor4
    Not unreasonable thought,
    (Though it isn't 'my view of Abraham)
    Some theists seem to like the view that sorcery in the Bible was a reference to drugs.
    And some atheists enjoy joking about the burning bush.

  • Stephen
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    --> @ludofl3x
    Why did god require a test at all, doesn't god know Abraham's faith?

     The same could be asked about Job. Why would god need to kill all ten of Jobs children to prove a point to Satan of all beings!? "Satan who he had once condemned to crawl on his belly eating  dirt for the rest of his days" thousands of years before for corrupting mankind!!!!!??Genesis 3:14

  • FLRW
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    The life expectancy of an Ancient Egyptian is very different to that of a modern day person. While undoubtedly, people lived to an older age, it was somewhat uncommon to live over the age of around 40 years of age. To them, 18 years old (The age of King Tutankhamun at his death) was seen as mature to their society for his kingly and family responsibilities. Yet the Bible says Abraham lived to 175.
  • Stephen
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    --> @FLRW
    Yet the Bible says Abraham lived to 175.

     He was only a embryo then compared to Methuselah 969 years Genesis 5:27  You'd have thought that god would have let him round that up wouldn't you.
  • zedvictor4
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    --> @Lemming
    You have an influenced view of Abraham...Though not influenced by reality.....Same as me,  same as everyone.

    Events as described, do not suggest to me a sober guy who actually met a God.
  • Lemming
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    --> @zedvictor4
    Well, I'm an atheist.
    An 'objective and 'deep understanding of the Bible, seems to me too vast an undertaking for me to have an interest in it.
    Would have to read 'records, and records, and records, learn languages, read history books, travel to places perhaps, be educated in various other fields.
    Understanding the Bible as it is in 'reality, just too much effort to my eyes.
    I'm happy enough staying out of the deep end, just reflecting on it (To my eyes) a mix of history, fiction, nonfiction, law, game theory, social understanding, philosophy.
    And even 'that I don't do but on occasion.
    . . .
    It's 'really not the 'objective understanding of Abraham that interests me, as those who wrote the Bible are dead, so too those who 'experienced it, in the parts that I think be real.
    . . .
    It's the subjective that interests me, how do we interpret it 'now,
    It's the aesthetic in me that feels resonance with some of it's ideas,
    The loyalist to his ancestors, who appreciates tradition.
    The scheming fellow who appreciates parts of human earnest, society, and game theory.
    . . .
    Heh, but truthfully I don't think on the Bible but on rare occasions, such as a debate site forums, or perhaps while walking and pondering on 'bits I remember.
    The wicked flee when no man pursueth, makes me think of Edgar Allan Poe's beating heart for instance, or Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment.
  • Tradesecret
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    --> @ludofl3x
    My opinion is that God was asking Abraham to trust Him - that his promise could be trusted.  
    Doesn't the text say "offer as a burnt sacrifice," and not "trust me"? You're talking about the moral of the story, actually, not what's the text of the story. The 'trust' part is only apparent at the end of the story, do you see what I'm saying? At the time in the story god says go kill and burn your son in my honor, to Abraham, it can only sound to Abraham like that's exactly what god wants to happen.  Abraham doesn't doubt it, and he doesn't think "God won't let that happen, so I'll go along with this because I trust him." That's read into the story later, and interpreted in Hebrews apparently, but Hebrews isn't the text in question, and no one who wrote Hebrews was present or interviewed Abraham, so at best, the interpretation is conjecture after the fact. 
    Surely you would agree that the context of the story is bound to the promise that God made to him that he would become the father of many people through the child of promise ISAAC? How and indeed why would you even attempt to divorce this story from that context? After all, this story would make no sense unless the promise was being put at risk.  The author of the writer of Hebrews is a legitimate interpretation of this text and is not inconsistent with it. Because of God's prior promise to Abraham I think it is legitimate to read the trust part from the start and not at the end. Only by ignoring completely God's promise to Abraham would any try and add it to the end - to try and give it some context. 

     In Abraham's mind - it seems that he believed that Isaac would come back and worship with him. 
    I see your reading of verse 5, where he says to servants to stay here, we'll come back to you, as a way to keep the servants from trying to do the right thing and stop him from killing his only child, thinking he'd gone crazy.  Reading it your way, Abraham DOES NOT have faith in the direct communication with god, because he was told to sacrifice his son, and not believing that was how things would end would mean that he thinks god is lying to him. 
    I suppose if one wants to ignore God's prior promise to Abraham that might be a plausible reading. Yet it also ignores Abraham's and indeed the Jewish view on resurrection.  I think your conjecture and adding of motivation on Abraham's part is partly based on the atheist position of no-resurrection and no God.  Abraham trusted God with his promise to him.  He did not need to know all the ins and outs of it. Yet God had promised that Isaac as the promised child would be his seed and heir. If Isaac died and had no children, then the promise would be broken. In Abraham's mind - and I suggest all believers minds - would be the question- why would God promise something if he did not mean to keep it? Now an atheist may attribute all sorts of bad motives to God, but believer's don't. We really don't. We believe God is good. And when he promises to do something that he always keeps his word.  And in Abraham's case, the very pregnancy of Sarah and then the birth of Isaac confirmed this totally. 


     Was God serious in his request to Abraham to sacrifice his Son? Absolutely. 
    So god WAS serious when he said " Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering"? Why did Isaac not get sacrificed then?
    I noticed you took a part of my response here.  I said it depends what you meant by serious. God commanded Abraham to offer Isaac. The words in the Hebrew text indicate as "a burnt offering".  I also said - and again you omitted it, that God did not intend for Isaac to die - we know that because he provided a lamb for the sacrifice. The reason that Isaac did not get sacrificed is because the thing that God was serious about was his promise to Abraham that he could be trusted. 

    Absolutely - not only did Abraham believe God in respect of the command, but also in relation to what would happen and moreover in that Isaac would come back with from the Mountain to worship God.  
    So he believed god's command BUT believed god wouldn't go through with the command? That would mean god wasn't serious about it, and Abraham didn't believe thepart about killing his son, and nowhere does god tell Abraham Isaac would come back down the mountain. 
    I never said that Abraham did not believe that God would not go through with his command.  I never indicated that God was not serious nor that Abraham did not take God seriously.  Abraham believed that God is the author of life. That God can give and take and give again.  Abraham knew that even if Isaac died that he would rise again. Abraham trusted God that his promise would be fulfilled. You need to need to misread the entire story of Abraham to miss this point.  


    • Is this a story about the depth of Abraham's faith?
    Yes.  And God's promise. The promise of death and resurrection.  
    Why did god require a test at all, doesn't god know Abraham's faith?
    A testing of one's faith is never about God - it is about the person who is being tested.  It is like prayer. Prayer is not about getting God to change his mind - it is about the person praying - understanding that he is totally dependent upon God for everything. 

    In this particular story - the Jewish doctrine of resurrection is partly developed.  It also reveals in part - the anguish of a Father and his son. A picture of GOD who sacrificed his own son for the sins of the world.  A God who understands the power of life over death.  



  • EtrnlVw
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    --> @ludofl3x
    If we are to take the account as a literal tale that Christians generally accept, then I would say....


    • What's the moral of the story?
    The moral of the story is pretty much the underlying theme of the Bible. That is, to put God first in all things. That is...to also stay in line with righteousness, so that doesn't include breaking commandments or losing sight of principles, it's just a mindset or commitment when approaching the trials of life. Some of the stories could appear pretty savage or immoral at first glance, ironically, but at the heart of them is the same basic theme. To trust God and to seek God first before anything else. 

    • Did god ask Abraham to kill his son or not? 
    It's probably hard to deny that, but the term I would use is sacrifice. Is there a difference? only that the motivation here is at play, generally killing someone is done out of rage and selfishness. On the other hand sacrifice is done out of love and unselfishness. Seems like I'm making excuses possibly, but honestly I'm just being genuine. I believe that the only real difference here is literally the meaning of terms, or the intention of each. 

    As a kid reading this account at the time, I never got the feeling something bad was happening. I suppose that's just the feel of the story, it didn't come across as brutal or immoral. I kinda got the idea that God was just testing the man, and of course I knew how the ending would go. Don't get me wrong I know where you're going with this, I don't believe in sacrificing people in the name of God lol, and I wouldn't watch someone kill their child. 

    • Was god being serious? 
    Lol, it depends.....if God actually knew He wasn't going to let him do it. I do believe God was serious about testing his resolve, as morbid as it may appear. Again, keeping in mind that sacrifice is doing something you don't wish to do. Or something that takes a lot of courage to carry out, complete trust and willingness. 

    • Did Abraham believe him
    I would have to say yes, doesn't mean that Abraham didn't have some hope that it was just a display and God would change the scenario either. Which is what happened in the end. 

    • Is this a story about the depth of Abraham's faith?
    I would say probably yes. It could have also been a foreshadow of future events. 
    At the core of the story, Abraham had to completely let go of any fears or apprehensions and that's hard to do. If you have kids you should know what I mean, on one hand it was the ultimate sacrifice, no other test would prove something so great. As well, it's very scary and nothing I would ever do. I guess that's the point though, that is what made it the ultimate test. Keeping in mind no one was killed. 


  • ethang5
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    Hi Etrnl!

    Another very good post!

    How have you been?