Please Explain the Incident in Gen. Where Abraham is tempted to Sacrifice His Son.


Why was Abraham tempted to place his son on an altar (Gen. 22:6)? The Bible teaches human sacrifice is wrong and certain other Scriptures that God does not tempt.


You are correct that the Bible condemns human sacrifice, and that it also states clearly that God does not tempt anyone. “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed” (James 1:13-14). The King James Version is perhaps the only translation that uses the word “tempted.” The Jerusalem Bible reads, “God put Abraham to the test.” The Revised English Bible reads the same. The Revised Standard Version reads, “God tested Abraham.” The Septuagint reads that “God tried Abraham.”

God does test those He is working with, to prove them, to develop them. Abraham being chosen as “the father of the faithful” was more than happenstance. He was tested severely and scored very high by God’s standards, hence was awarded the title on the basis of his merits.

There are several factors in the account of Abraham’s offering Isaac which we should observe. First of all, Abraham was not “tempted to place his son on an altar,” as you phrase it. God told Abraham to do it. He said clearly, “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” (Gen. 22:2).

Next, Abraham obeyed immediately. “Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son …. and rose up, and went unto the place of which God had told him” (v. 3). There is no indication that he delayed at all in his obedience.

We cannot fully appreciate the magnitude of this test. We who can read the end of the story know how it came out, that God’s angel intervened at the critical moment and stayed Abraham’s hand, and also had ready a suitable lamb for the sacrifice (Gen. 22:12-13). But these facts were unknown to Abraham until they happened.

God was indeed testing Abraham’s faith. Isaac was a child of promise, the means of the fulfillment of God’s Word: that “I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing…And in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed” (Gen. 12:2-3). Without Isaac, how could these promises be fulfilled’?

Two statements in the narrative show Abraham’s supreme confidence in God: (1), When he said to his young men, “Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you.” Notice that “I and the lad…[will] come again to you.” Abraham was confident that somehow God would send deliverance; and (2), When Isaac said to his father, “Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering? And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering” (Gen. 22:7-8). Abraham was putting all his trust in God, even when he could not see one step ahead.

We read of this in Heb. 11:19, that Abraham obeyed, “Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure.” This required great faith, for Abraham had not heard, so far as we know, of anyone being raised from the dead. But he believed that God could do it–indeed that He would. Somehow–he knew not how–God would be true to His Word.

Abraham’s faith teaches us that we can depend on God, that whatever God requires of us we can know it is for our best eternal interest.