Human Sacrifice #1: Genesis 22

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“Many primitive societies, ruled by demons, engage in human sacrifices. They throw people into volcanoes, or light them on fire, or cut their throats. Isn’t that sick?”

Shirlee looked around the classroom. Everyone seemed to agree . . . the one time she didn’t really want them to.

“Did you know that God demanded human sacrifice? And even got it?”

“No way!” Ginny cried. “That’s not true!”

“Most people already know this story, Ginny, which sounds more like God playing a practical joke than anything else. This isn’t the one where God actually gets the human sacrifice, just where He demands someone be willing to perform one for Him!”

After Abraham cast out his first son, Ishmael, and Ishmael’s mother the slavewoman Hagar, God appeared to Abraham and told him to take Isaac up into the mountains and offer the child as a burnt offering. (Genesis 22:1-2)

“That’s a pretty lousy thing to do, if you ask me,” said Mark.

“Did I ask you, Mark? I don’t remember asking you. Did anyone hear me ask Mark his opinion of God’s actions?”

“No, Shirlee,” groaned Ginny and John.

“Now, Mark, let’s suppose God appeared to you and told you to kill your little brother? Would you ask God to change His mind?”

“Of course! That, or check myself into an asylum.”

Ignoring Mark’s blasphemous attempt at humor, Shirlee continued, “What do you think Abraham did?”

“Um . . . obey without question?”

“My mother told me this story once,” Ginny slowly said. “I remember now, Abraham begs God to change His mind, and then only goes through with it because he believes God is just testing him, and won’t actually let Isaac die.”

“I’m sorry, Ginny. Many Bible story books and websites do say things like that. Not just storybooks for kids, but even sermons for grownups. But that’s not what the Bible says,” she continued, whacking her large-print Bible for emphasis. “NOT whack AT whack ALL!” There was nothing that got Shirlee riled like people “revising” Bible stories to make them more palatable to weak-faithed individuals. “Here’s what really happened!”

Isaac on the death march in a Johann Heinrich Ferdinand Oliver painting, 1817

Abraham, obedient fellow that he was, didn’t weep, didn’t beg God to let him sacrifice something else. He just got up the next morning and packed up stuff, his son, wood for the offering, and a couple of young men to assist in the journey.

After traveling three days, Abraham found the mountain where God wanted him to butcher and then set fire to his son. He left the two young men behind, and made Isaac carry the wood for the offering as they hiked up the mountain. (Genesis 22:3-6)

“I think I saw that in a movie once, Shirlee.”

“Really, Mark? What movie was that?”

“I forget. Something about gangsters, where they made a guy dig his own grave before they killed him.”

“Are you calling Isaac a mobster?” Shirlee glared at Mark over her reading glasses.

“Mobster, monster . . . so close, only one letter off.”

“Why don’t you hear the rest of the story before you pass judgment on Abraham?”

“We already know the guy is a pimp, why not add murderer to the list?”

“That’s enough, Mark! Do you want a time out?” Shirlee pointed to the supply closet. A new, heavy-duty hasp and padlock now secured the door. It had taken quite some persuading for Shirlee to convince Pastor to put a lock on an interior door, but it had been well worth it. Now, nobody could get . . . in. And steal things. Like the overhead projector and the Elmer’s Glue.

Shirlee held up the key to the padlock.

“Squeeek, squeeeek,” said John, knowing Mark was freaked out by the mouse he’d seen in the closet a few weeks earlier. Shirlee was counting on that fear to shut Mark up . . . and it worked.

“I – I think I’d like to hear the rest of the story,” mumbled the suddenly pale Mark.

Wait, I was just kidding! Rembrandt shows Abraham's hand being grabbed -- but the Bible doesn't say that happened.

As they were hiking, Isaac realized something was missing. He pointed out that they had fire and wood, but no lamb. Isaac asked Abraham where the lamb was . . . and Abraham told him that God would provide the lamb Himself.

They got to the spot, and built an altar. Then Abraham tied up his son, put him on the altar, and raised the knife to butcher Isaac.

Abraham then heard God calling to him from Heaven, telling him not to harm Isaac, and how pleased He was that Abraham wouldn’t even withhold his only son (other than the other son, Ishmael) from Him.

Then a ram appeared, stuck in a thicket nearby. So Abraham killed that instead and burned it up. God told him yet again how great a nation He was going to make of Abraham, and father and son went home. (Genesis 22:7-19)

“That’s really scary,” said John. “It doesn’t say that Isaac could hear anything God was saying, does it?”

“No, not at all. Why?”

“So he’d have no idea if his father was just crazy, tying him up and preparing to cut his throat and burn his body!”

“And Isaac still went home with him after,” Ginny objected. “I’d be calling Child Protective Services!”

“That’s because you have no faith, Ginny,” scolded Shirlee. “It’s a shame you can’t put your faith in God instead of the things you see and hear for yourself.”

“Yes,” added Mark, “because evidence is evil.”

Shirlee jingled her keys, and Mark stared at his desk.

“So, what do you think? If God tells you do to something vicious and evil, is it good to do it, or bad? Abraham was a Godly man, and when God told him to murder his own son, he went ahead to do it without question. Doesn’t that make it a Godly thing to do?”

“But Shirlee, what if it’s not God?”

“How could it not be God, John?”

“Well, we don’t know what He looks like, and Satan is supposed to be able to appear as an angel of light, so what if we got tricked?”

“God wouldn’t let that happen, John. He’s not going to let you be tricked into doing evil things against His Will!”

“Strong delusion,” mumbled Tom. “Delusion. God send. Strong. Two thess.”

“Ginny, what’s he on about now?”

“Something about sending a strong delusion? Who knows.” Ginny turned to her cousin, patting his hand. “Shhhhhh. It’s OK. No delusions here, you’re fine.”


The cracked church bell clanged its sour note just as realization hit Shirlee. 2 Thessalonians 2:8-12. God will cause believers to be fooled by a false Messiah who will come with great wonders and miracles. Because they believe, He will damn them.

She glanced at the class, all bewildered by Tom’s outburst. It hadn’t registered; they weren’t familiar enough with the Scriptures. Good, this would take too long to explain.

“Maybe you want to give Tom a sedative before Sunday School in the future, Ginny,” Shirlee gasped, as a deep unease gripped her. “See you next week!” She grabbed her coat and hurried down the hall.

Feet barely touching the floor, Shirlee flew out the door. Her head spun. How could a boy like Tom — never speaking a full sentence, dropped out of middle school, and could barely read — quote a seemingly random Scripture that refuted exactly what she’d just said? And what about his “continuity” outburst back when they’d discussed Creation? Something wasn’t right.

Maybe . . . Yes, maybe the boy was possessed. Satan could quote Scripture! She’d have to talk with Pastor Gardner about this. But she’d just reached her car, and saw the children coming out the door. They’d have questions that she didn’t want to answer.

Later for Pastor. Time for home and a nice Irish coffee right now!

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