Saturday, April 6, 2013

Mt. Moriah: Isaac's Journal?

Danish Cathedral Fresco (photo by Calvin)

And [God] said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.

And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took… Isaac his son… and went unto the place of which God had told him.

… And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it upon Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife; and they went both of them together.  

…And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood.

And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son.

And the angel of the Lord called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham… now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me.

Genesis 22:2-12

I never doubted that my parents would have passed God’s test of loyalty. And like Isaac, my siblings and I bore the weight of the wood for our own sacrifice. The Genesis account never hints at what Isaac thought of this day. Was he permanently scarred? Did he ever discuss the trip with his mom? How did the memory of Mt. Moriah affect his relationship with his father? Did they ever go hiking together again? How did it influence Isaac’s understanding of parenthood?


  1. I know this post is from a while back, but it reminded me of a poem by Eleanor Wilner called "Sarah's Choice." It imagines an alternate version of the story and what Sarah and Isaac might have been thinking. The part I like the most is "The voice of the prophet grows shrill. / He will read even defeat as a sign / of distinction, until pain itself / Becomes holy. In that day, how shall we tell / The victims from the saints, / The torturers from the agents of God?"

    I first read the poem in a book called "Abraham on Trial" which is about the role of that story in people's attitudes about family and children and faith.

    Here's an online copy I was able to find of the poem:

    1. What a striking piece! I had not heard of that poet before--thanks for posting.