When you read in the Hebrew Bible, there are stories that will always keep you up at night, not because they are like a scary movie- they make you think about the scenes that are missing, or what we call the gaps.
As a Biblical Hebrew teacher, I always try to teach my students that one word could be understood with few meanings. In the story that we are going to read today there are gaps of time, emotions and characters, which will help us in trying to complete the uncompleted. We are going to read from the sacrifice of Isaac in Genesis 22.
We need to remember that Abraham had to deal with some experiences that G-d tested him with; the first was to leave his land to come to a land that is called today the Promised Land. The last before this chapter is when his first born, Ishmael, left his house with his mother, Hagar the maid, due to the words of his wife, Sarah.
Some scholars said that Ishmael was also scarificed in Genesis 21, but though that there are resemblances between the stories in Genesis 21 and Genesis 22, only in the latter Abraham needed to face the experience actively and directly.
Let us see the first two verses in Genesis 22 and we will try to fill the first gaps in our story, as written:
"וַיְהִי אַחַר הַדְּבָרִים הָאֵלֶּה, וְהָאֱלֹהִים, נִסָּה אֶת-אַבְרָהָם; וַיֹּאמֶר אֵלָיו, אַבְרָהָם וַיֹּאמֶר הִנֵּנִי. וַיֹּאמֶר קַח-נָא אֶת-בִּנְךָ אֶת-יְחִידְךָ אֲשֶׁר-אָהַבְתָּ, אֶת-יִצְחָק, וְלֶךְ-לְךָ, אֶל-אֶרֶץ הַמֹּרִיָּה; וְהַעֲלֵהוּ שָׁם, לְעֹלָה, עַל אַחַד הֶהָרִים, אֲשֶׁר אֹמַר אֵלֶיךָ"
"Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied. Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”
Few questions can be asked to fill the gaps here:
What happened before this story?
Why G-d tested Abraham?
Why didn't Abraham talk with G-d after those two verses?
Well, dear friends, the Jewish tradition gave a few answers to the questions above:
Before the story started, some say that Satan decided to test Abraham like he did with Job, and G-d accepted. This story appears in the Babylonian Talmud and also in the Book of Jubilees 17:19-22-
" ויהי בשבוע השביעי בשנה הראשונה בחודש הראשון ליובל ההוא בשנים עשר יום בחודש הזה נדברו בשמים דברים אחדים על אודות אברהם. ויאמרו כי נאמנה רוחו בכל אשר ידבר ה' אתו, וכי יאהב אותו ונכון לבו בכל פגע. ויבוא השר משטמה ויאמר לפני האלוהים, הנה אברהם אוהב ומוקיר את בנו יצחק מכל. אמור אליו להקריב אותו לעולה על המזבח, וראה תראה אם יעשה את הדבר הזה, למען תדע אם נאמנה רוחו בכל אשר תנסהו "
" During the seventh week, in the first year during the first month—on the twelfth of this month—in this jubilee there were voices in heaven regarding Abraham, that he was faithful in everything that he had told him, (that) the Lord loved him, and (that) in every difficulty he was faithful. Then Prince Mastema came and said before God: ‘Abraham does indeed love his son Isaac and finds him more pleasing than anyone else. Tell him to offer him as a sacrifice on an altar. Then you will see whether he performs this order and will know whether he is faithful in everything through which you test him’."
Another story is that the test wasn't related to Abraham's belief, but to Isaac, who fought with Ishmael for their friendship. Every one of them said that he is the one who is friendlier and Isaac bragged that The Lord can come and cut one of his organs, and then The Lord started with Abraham's test.
When G-d asked Abraham to take his son – he asked- which one?
When G-D said: your only son – Abraham said: but I have two.
When G-d said the one you loved, Abraham said: I love them both.
Only then The Lord said to Abraham: you need to take Isaac.
This conversation is not written in the bible. Also the age of Isaac and the conversation between Satan and Abraham during the next three days and the conversation between Abraham and Isaac, when the son understood that he is going to be dead soon.
When you learn Biblical Hebrew, you learn not just the words, you learn also to identify with the difficulty in the text, when words are missing and you need to complete the gaps!