Back To Scripture Connections
A popular interpretation of Isa 53:11 is that 49:1-3 identifies the servant as the corporate people of Israel; viz; the Jews.
Christians have to accept that there's a kernel of truth in that interpretation because Christ testified that salvation is of the Jews (John 4:22).
However the Jews of Isaiah's day have to be ruled out of the equation because his prophecy portrays them as rotten to the core. Not one good thing is credited to the people of Israel in Isaiah's day anywhere in the whole book.
In point of fact, the very first chapter portrays them as rebellious children who have even less appreciation for God's providence than burros and oxen. The 49th chapter depicts them as needy of spiritual renewal (Isa 49:5-6) and in the 58th chapter they are depicted as lawbreakers, hypocritical, self righteous, wicked, oppressive, uncharitable, cruel, and unloving (Isa 58:1 7).
The 53rd chapter itself depicts them all as astray, transgressors, iniquitous, and deserving punishment, whereas the servant is depicted as in favor with God (Isa 53:2), and innocent (Isa 53:5, Isa 53:6, Isa 53:8, and Isa 53:9)
However, there is a day coming when every Jew residing in the State of Israel will be 100% righteous to a man (Isa 60:21). But of course not before the fulfillment of the sifting predicted at Ezek 36:24-27.
Now, the way I see it: there's a couple of ways we can go with this. Either we punish the whole kit and kaboodle of those future 100% righteous Jews in order to atone for the sins of their ancestors, or we punish just one. Well; the retribution is quite severe and results in the servant's death (Isa 52:13 14, Isa 53:8-9) so that punishing all of the 100% righteous Jews in total would result in an all-encompassing, nation-wide genocide in the State of Israel.
So in my estimation, it would be better for all concerned to seek out a particularly gifted individual-- the pick of the litter so to speak --to represent the righteous people of Israel and lay the sins of the their ancestors all on him. The man selected has to be a Jew though or it won't work because no other race of people can fulfill Isa 49:1-3 and John 4:22.
Option #2 was the choice of some of the old-time rabbis. The Talmud teaches that Isaiah 53 refers to Messiah (Sanhedrin 98). The Targum of Jonathan begins it with the words Ha yatslakh avdee Mashikha, which mean: Behold my servant the Messiah shall prosper. Others believed Isaiah 53 spoke of the sufferings of Messiah; e.g. Rabbi Moshe Kohen Ibn Crispin (a.k.a. Ibn Krispin).
Rabbi Mosheh El-Sheikh (a.k.a. Alshekh) claimed: "our Rabbis with one voice accept and affirm the opinion that the prophet [Isaiah] is speaking of King Messiah." (cf. Acts 8:26-36)
Common Jewish Affirmation: Writing in the 53rd chapter, Isaiah spoke for the Gentile kings of 52:15. So then "Who can believe what we have heard" (53:1) is a question asked by those kings; not by Isaiah. From that point onwards, the pronouns "we" "us" and "our" and "my people" refer to Gentiles whose sins were laid upon the righteous Jews of 53:11
Appropriate Response: For one thing, the grammar doesn't work. A problem arises with the pronoun "my" in verse 8: "For he was cut off from the land of the living through the sin of my people" The problem is, Gentiles are not a unified, singular family like Israel; no, they are a diversity of peoples of many bloods, races, ethnics, families, and cultures. It is impossible for Isaiah to speak for them singularly as "my people". If he were in truth speaking as the Gentile kings of Isa 52:15, then Isaiah would have to speak in the plural and say "our" people rather than my people.
But even more weighty is the fact that the possessive term "my people" is used numerously and consistently, throughout Isaiah's prophecy to identify Yhvh's people every time (e.g. 1:3, 3:12, 5:13, 19:25, 32:18, 40:1, 51:4, 51:5, 52:5, 57:14, 58:1, and 63:8). I find it very difficult to believe there would be one isolated exception to the rule. No, there are no exceptions. Here's how Isa 53:8 should read with the word "my" capitalized instead of lower case.
"For he was cut off from the land of the living through the sin of My people"
Yes, that really clarifies the 53rd chapter; and is consistent with Yhvh's negative remarks about His people's deplorable spiritual condition in 2Chrn 36:14-17, Isa 1:2-6, Isa 30:1-2, Isa 30:9-11, Isa 58:1-7, Isa 65:1-5, Jer 4:22, Dan 9:5-6, and Zech 7:8-14 .
Another problem is the phrase "the land of the living". A number of Jews take that to indicate the State of Israel; and apply it not to Gentiles cut off from the land of Israel; but to Jews cut off from the land.
However, I've yet to find an instance in Scripture where the words "land of the living" clearly, and without ambiguity, either allude to, or to give a label to, the State of Israel. Scripturally "land of the living" is a nondescript expression that simply identifies the overworld as opposed to the netherworld. For instance:
● Job 28:12-14 . .But where can wisdom be found; Where is the source of understanding? No man can set a value on it; It cannot be found in the land of the living. The deep says; It is not in me. The sea says; I do not have it.
● Isa 38:9-11 . . The writing of Hezekiah king of Judah, when he had been sick, and was recovered of his sickness: "I said in the cutting off of my days, I shall go to the gates of Sheol: I am deprived of the residue of my years. I said, I shall not see Yhvh, even Yhvh, in the land of the living: I shall behold man no more with the inhabitants of the world."
● Ezk 26:19-21 . .For thus said Yhvh God [of Tyre]: When I make you a ruined city, like cities empty of inhabitants; when I bring the deep over you, and its mighty waters cover you, then I will bring you down, with those who go down to the Pit, to the people of old. I will install you in the netherworld, with those that go down to the Pit, like the ruins of old, so that you shall not be inhabited and shall not radiate splendor in the land of the living. I will make you a horror, and you shall cease to be; you shall be sought, but shall never be found again— testifies Yhvh.
NOTE: This might be a good place to interject and make a comment about a kind of Judaism called "rabbinic Judaism" which can be concisely, and roughly, defined as a belief that the Torah cannot be properly understood, or properly applied, without recourse to a body of Jewish teachings and interpretations called Oral Law (eg. Mishnah, Gemara, and Halachah).
Rabbinic Judaism sincerely believes that the Oral Law was transmitted to Moses at Mount Sinai at the same time as the Written Law, and transmitted from generation to generation ever since. The Talmud is said to be a codification of the Oral Law, and is thereby just as binding as the Torah itself. So it's not unusual to encounter a Jew in Biblical discussions responding to a seemingly supportive proof text with the remark: "That's one interpretation; but it is not the Jewish interpretation." In other words; a well-trained Jew will accept no other interpretation but the interpretations found in the Oral Law; so convinced is he that the Talmud is 110% divine.
Just for the sake of argument; let's say the servant of the 53rd chapter of Isaiah is the corporate people of Israel; and the pronouns we, us, my, and our speak for the Gentile kings in Isa 52:15. If that position were to be true, it would create a dilemma for Jacob's family; and here' why.
Who will bear their
Who will bear their suffering?
Who will be wounded for their sins?
Who will bear the chastisement to make them whole?
Who will endure the bruises to heal them?
Upon whom will Yhvh visit the guilt of them all?
Who will bear the punishment they deserve?
Who will offer themselves for Israel's guilt?
Who will make intercession for them?
Common Jewish Affirmation: All of Yhvh's people are righteous right now. The phrase about righteousness in Isaiah 60:21 is NOT written in the future tense as found in Christian Bibles. It is written in the present tense. It says V'amcha kulam tzadikim which means: And your people are everyone righteous. If Isaiah had meant the future, he would have put "will be" in there instead of "are" but he didn't.
Appropriate Response: I sure hope that those who make that claim don't seriously think we are naïve, enough, ignorant enough, and gullible enough to actually believe they are more competent at translating Hebrew into English than actual Bible scholars.
The 1985 JPS Tanakh translates it like this:
"And your people, all of them righteous, shall possess the land for all time."
The Stone Tanach translates it like this:
"Your people will all be righteous; they will inherit the land forever"
Chabad.org translates it like this:
"And your people, all of them righteous, shall inherit the land forever, a scion of My planting, the work of My hands in which I will glory."
When the 1985 JPS, the Stone, and Chabad.org are considered together, it's easily seen that Isaiah didn't mean all of Yhvh's people are righteous now, but rather, all the ones who inherit the land forever will be righteous when the time comes (see Ezek 36:24-27). In point of fact, according to Ezek 20:33-44. a number of Jews will be barred from entering the land due to their failure to comply with the covenant that Yhvh's people agreed upon with God as per Deut 59:9-15.
The entire 60th chapter regards future events. Yhvh predicted that there is coming a day when every one of His people will righteous in that land rather than the way they are now: some righteous and some unrighteous. All the while that over 50% of modern Israelis are hiloni, the 60th chapter is obviously still waiting to happen.
Especially of concern to Jews is the phrase "they will inherit the land forever". The Jews' sovereign occupation of that land has always been conditional; viz: when Yhvh's people fail to honor their end of the covenant that their ancestors agreed upon with God as per Deut 29:9-15, then Yhvh leaves them vulnerable to foreign oppression and the curses of Lev 26:3-38, Deut 27:15-26, and Deut 28:1-69. So then, since roughly 50% of modern Israelis are hiloni (secular), then I think you can expect to see Yhvh's people lose control of that land yet once again because all the while there are covenant-breaking Jews in that land, Yhvh's people cannot be said to have gained control of it forever. When Isaiah 60, Ezk 20:33-44, and Ezk 37 come to pass, there will be no hiloni left anywhere in the State of Israel.
The 60th chapter of Isaiah predicts peace for Yhvh's people and 100% harmony with the peoples of the world. There is no peace in that land today, and Israel's popularity with its neighbors is in the tank. Israel has been in a state of war since the very day of its inception in 1948 and nobody is safe over there.
Yhvh also predicted Israel would be a blessing to the whole world; and that the whole world would contribute to its support. Currently, Israel is a blessing to nobody; on the contrary, it's been a thorn in everyone's side since day-one. And as for support? Who really has two cents worth of concern about Israel's welfare besides America and Britain?
Common Jewish Objection: Isaiah 53:8 says: And who can speak of his descendants? For he was cut off from the land of the living. And yet Isa 53:10 says: He will see his seed, and prolong his days. Your Jesus left no seed and died at a young age.
Appropriate Response: If the "my servant" of Isa 53:11 is Yhvh's people as a corporate unity, then pray tell how those predictions could possibly be true of them; especially since His people have never been exterminated, nor ever failed to produce a posterity. Modern Judaism acknowledges the difficulty of making Isa 53:8 & 10 fit Christianity's Jesus; while at the same time apparently blind to the reality that it's no less difficult to make those predictions fit the people of Israel.
Common Jewish Affirmation: Jewish prisoners in the German camps went to their deaths meekly as per Isa 53:7, "He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth."
Appropriate Response: The servant depicted in the 53rd chapter of Isaiah sacrificed his life voluntarily. Were the Jews in Nazi camps there to be starved, enslaved, abused, gassed, and incinerated of their own volition; of their own free will? NO. That issue is deprived of practical significance anyway since modern Judaism, for the most part, does not believe in human sacrifice.
Common Jewish Objection: The grammar and language of portions of Isa 53 are past tense; e.g. Isa 52:14, Isa 53:2, Isa 53:3, Isa 53:4, Isa 53:5, Isa 53:6, Isa 53:7-8, Isa 53:9, and Isa 53:12. So they had already taken place before Christianity's Jesus was even born.
Appropriate Response: The same holds true for the Jews who died in German camps during the middle of last century.
However, the objection is tenuous seeing as how Isaiah's prophecy is a "vision" (Isa 1:1). So recording portions of his vision in the the past tense makes sense seeing as how he wrote down them down not in real time while he was viewing them; but after he saw them.
Recording prophecy in the past tense is very common in the Old Testament; and is a practice; which I take, to indicate that the future events that the prophets were shown, are inevitable.
Be that as it may; Jews "marched" to their deaths meekly because it was futile to resist. Christianity's Jesus— a man who controlled the weather, restored dead people to life, walked on water, multiplied loaves and fishes, and healed every manner of serious malady including people blind from birth —could have easily escaped; but made no attempt.
● Matt 26:53-54 . . Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and He will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?
● Luke 4:28-30 . . And all they in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, and rose up, and thrust him out of the city, and led him unto the brow of the hill whereon their city was built, that they might cast him down headlong. But he, passing through the midst of them, went his way.
● John 18:3-6 . .Then Judas— having received a detachment of troops, and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees —came there with lanterns, torches, and weapons. Jesus therefore, knowing in advance all things that would come upon him, went forward and said to them: Whom do you seek? They answered him: Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus said to them: I am he. And Judas, who betrayed Him, also stood with them. Now when he said to them "I am He" they drew back and fell; landing on the ground.
The Gospels are somewhat silent about the general effect that Christ had upon crowds. He was a dear man; but sometimes people were really nervous around him. And who wouldn't be? I mean, if Christ could speak a word and cure paralysis, then he could just as easily speak a word to cause it. And if he could cure blindness, then what's to stop him from causing it? See what I mean? The man was scary. I seriously don't know from whence his opponents got the chutzpa to confront him.
And I can easily guarantee you one thing; though Jews on the inside of the camps may have been silent, the ones on the outside were not; nor have they been ever since; e.g. The Jewish Defense League, and The Anti-Defamation League.
Jews on the whole are the biggest cry-babies on earth and very jealous of their "victim" image. They haven't a clue what it means to turn the other cheek. As of this writing, sixty-five years after the Holocaust, instead of being humbled by the experience, they are still arrogant, conceited, indignant, complaining, sniveling, and blaming the Gentiles for misfortunes that befell them due to their own spiritual depravity. No doubt they perceive themselves as martyrs, but Yhvh perceives His people as worthy of punishment. (cf. Lev 26:14-39, Num 15:30-31, Deut 28:15-68, Jer 3:25, Dan 9:8-14 and Zech 7:11-14)
FYI: Jesus' curing of birth blindness was truly amazing; even far more amazing than the people of his own day fully realized. Eyesight isn't limited to the optical devices in the eyeball. No, it's produced mainly by areas in the brain that bear no resemblance to optical devices at all. Even the optical nerves leading from the back of the retina to the brain are not optical. Unlike fiber optics, which are man-made filaments that can actually transmit light; optic nerves transmit no light at all; and actually, neither does the retina, the nerve-rich tissue at the back of the eyeball positioned at the focal plain of the eye's lens.
It is well known now that if babies don't start exercising their eyesight within a certain time frame soon after birth, their brain will never, for the rest of their lives, efficiently process stimulations sent to it via optic nerves even if the baby's eyes are 100% perfect. So Jesus really had his work cut out for him. He first had to correct any defects in the eyeball; which includes, but are not limited to, the shape of the eyeball, the cornea, the lens, and the retina. He also had to correct any defects in the bundle of optic nerves, and their connection to the retina, plus any defects in the sight centers of the brain. Then he had to activate the brain's ability to process stimulations sent to it via the optic nerves so the person born blind could see.
● John 9:30-33 . .The man answered and said to the Jews; Well, here is an amazing thing, that you do not know where He is from, and yet He opened my eyes. We know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is God-fearing, and does His will, him He hears. Since the beginning of time it has never been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, He could do nothing.
Common Jewish Affirmation: You say: The servant of Isa 53 sacrificed his life voluntarily when the text says nothing of the sort.
Appropriate Response: When people refuse to accept information unless it's stated in their own choice words, it inevitably leads to dissatisfaction.
Tuesday, Oct 19, 2010; Republican candidate Christine O'Donnell challenged her Democratic rival to show where the Constitution requires separation of church and state. The trick is; she was fully aware of the language of the US Constitution's first amendment. What she was doing is simply pointing out that the words "separation of church and state" are nowhere in the amendment; and of course she was right. However, the amendment's language clearly implies that very thing.
Though the word "voluntarily" is not in the passages below, it is clearly implied.
● Isa 53:10 . .That, if he made himself an offering for guilt
● Isa 53:11 . .He shall enjoy it to the full through his devotion
● Isa 53:12 . .For he exposed himself to death
Common Jewish Affirmation: The text of Isa 53 says the servant was silent as a sheep led to slaughter— which certainly describes the vast majority of millions of Jews who marched into the gas chambers. It does NOT describe Jesus, who, upon his death, screamed so loudly that it caused an earthquake.
Appropriate Response: For the Nth time, modern Judaism doesn't believe in human sacrifice so any attempts to construe the servant of Isa 53:11 to be Holocaust Jews is whipping a dead horse.
Before proceeding, it's necessary to clarify Isaiah's statement that the servant "was silent as a sheep led to slaughter". Isaiah's focus is upon "led" not the actual slaughter. If you've seen the Jodi Foster movie Silence Of The Lambs you know that sheep are anything but silent when they're being killed. To reinforce the emphasis upon the leading rather than the slaughtering, Isaiah also compares the servant to "a ewe, mute with those who shear her" Female sheep, as a rule, are very docile animals and I'd have to say it would be pretty rare for one to squeal like a stuck pig when they're being either sheared or led about.
Anyway: Holocaust Jews may have marched to their deaths quietly but they certainly did not go to their deaths quietly. According to eye-witness accounts, they were herded into garage-like buildings and the doors shut tightly behind them. Then a canister containing a toxic fuming substance was lowered into the room through a small hole in the roof just big enough for the canister to fit.
After the initial panic, and all the screams and shrieks subsided, and no movement could be detected from inside, the doors were opened and the sight that greeted the Nazis was as typical as it was ghastly. What the Jews did was try to climb on top of each other in a frantic attempt to reach the little hole in the roof for some fresh air. The pile of bodies resembled a conical shape like the paper cones stacked in dispensers alongside water coolers: except the tip of the conical pile of corpses was up instead of down, so that the last Jews standing ended their lives atop the corpses of their fellow Jewish prisoners.
In some instances, prisoners attempted to burrow their way out by breaking lumber at the base of walls with their bare hands; but weren't fast enough. I've seen pictures of them with their lifeless arms protruding outside from trying to claw their way to safety.
If Christianity's Jesus is to be disqualified from being the servant of Isa 53 for his at-death scream, then the Holocaust Jews more so. The point is, he could have escaped; but chose not too. Had the Holocaust Jews been given the option to walk away from the gas chambers, they would have taken it.
Christianity's Jesus could walk on water, restore withered limbs, multiply loaves and fishes, control the weather, shrivel a fig tree, walk through solid walls, cure leprosy and genetic blindness, turn water into wine, and command evil spirits to do his bidding. Does anybody seriously think it would have been possible to crucify a man with those capabilities without his consent? I don't think so.
Jesus once said that if men had faith as a grain of mustard seed they could command a mountain to be uprooted and cast into the sea. Well, he was a man who really did have that kind of faith. His scream alone caused an earthquake; and had he been so inclined; Jesus could have cast the entire Roman garrison into the Mediterranean along with the moronic Jews who turned him in. The New Testament's Jesus is truly a terrifying man.
Common Jewish Affirmation: According to Deut 4:2, Deut 5:29-30, and Jer 33:19-22; once law is enacted, it has permanent jurisdiction. So then, how can the human life of the servant of Isa 53:11 be a legal sin offering for Yhvh's people since Isaiah's prophecy came along something like 600 years after the covenanted law was chipped in stone?
Appropriate Response: Under the terms and conditions of Israel's covenanted law, Christ's crucifixion is indeed an illegal sin offering; no doubt about it. Why? Because human sacrifice is wrong? No, primarily because— as the affirmation aptly points out —the Law cannot be revised or amended; in other words, since human sacrifices are not stipulated for use in Aaron's catalogue of atonement options; they cannot be offered by his constituents.
A technical point that is often overlooked in the "human sacrifice" issue is that in every instance banning the practice, it is underage children that are condemned as offerings— innocent children; viz: babies; not adults; and in particular, one's own children. (e.g. Lev 18:21, Lev 20:2-5, Deut 12:31, Deut 18:10, cf. 2Kgs 16:3, 2Kgs 17:31, 2Kgs 23:10, 2Kgs 21:6, Ps 106:34, Ezk 20:31, Ezk 23:37, Jer 7:31, Jer 19:4, Jer 32:35)
So then, adult human sacrifice is a possibility; but definitely NOT within the jurisdiction of Moses' covenanted law.
However— and this is another technical point —be careful to note that the syntax of portions of Isaiah 53 are primarily in the past tense; indicating that before Isaiah even spoke of the rservant, his life had already been offered for the sins of Yhvh's people.
● Isa 53:6 . .Yhvh visited upon him the guilt of all of us
● Isa 53:8 . . For he was cut off from the land of the living through the sin of my people, who deserved the punishment.
● Isa 53:10 . . But Yhvh was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief: by rendering himself as a guilt offering, He will see his offspring. He will prolong his days, and the good pleasure of Yhvh will prosper in His hand.
● Isa 53:11-12 . . My righteous servant makes the many righteous, it is their punishment that he bears . .he exposed himself to death and was numbered among the sinners, whereas he bore the guilt of the many and made intercession for sinners.
The past-tense syntax is a dead give-away that Yhvh decreed the offering of His servant sometime in the distant past before Mr. Isaiah even heard about it. The implications of this pre-decreed human sacrifice are earth shaking. For one, it means that Aaron's atonement system was obsolete even before the hand of God chipped it in stone because as the objection pointed out, law that comes later, cannot reach back and invalidate the will of God that came before it; in other words, the servant's sacrifice has priority over Aaron's sacrifices.
So then, now we know how God got away with pardoning David for the unpardonable sins of adultery and pre-mediated murder without compromising His integrity. Israel's covenanted law prescribes mandatory capital punishment for both of those sins, but the servant's sacrifice pre-satisfied justice for David, thus allowing God to pardon him for otherwise 100% unpardonable sins.
● Acts 13:38-41 . . Brothers, listen! In this man Jesus there is forgiveness for your sins. And by him, all that believe are rendered innocent of all the things from which you could not be pardoned by the law of Moses.
. . . Be careful then! Don't let the prophets' words apply to you. For they said: Look on, you mockers, scoff and perish! For I am doing something in your own day, something you wouldn't believe even if a man were to tell you.
That's an interesting observation. In so many words, the speaker of Acts 13:41 is saying something that everybody already instinctively knows without being told— that it is easier for men to trust each other than it is for men to trust organized religion. However, the efficacy of Christ's crucifixion is so unbelievable that men can't believe it even when they hear about it from each other; let alone when they hear about it from organized religion.
The Akedah: The Binding of Isaac
Below are some items to note about Isaac and Abraham.
Abraham lived a pretty good number of years before Israel's covenanted law was instituted. Therefore, he wasn't obligated to comply with its restrictions because Bible law doesn't have ex post facto jurisdiction; viz: it isn't retroactive. (Deut 5:1-3, Rom 4:15, Rom 5:13, and Gal 3:17)
So then, Abraham was in a position to offer a human sacrifice without breaching the covenant; which he did.
● Gen 22:1-2 . . Now it came about after these things, that God tested Abraham, and said to him: Abraham! And he said: Here I am. And He said: Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah; and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you.
Did Abraham slay Isaac? No; but did Abraham offer Isaac? Yes.
● Gen 22:9 . .Then they came to the place of which God had told him. And Abraham built an altar there and placed the wood in order; and he bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, upon the wood.
You see, once a gift dedicated to God is placed on an altar, it's a done deal— whether the offering is dead or alive makes no difference. In point of fact, the letter to Hebrews credits Abraham with offering his son in obedience to God's command.
● Heb 11:17 . . By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son
Q: Was Isaac a consenting adult?
A: Isaac was old enough to shoulder a load of wood (Gen 22:6) so he wasn't a little boy like so many people like to think he was. Plus, he was mature enough to understand the particulars of a burnt offering. (Gen 22:7-8)
● Gen 22:8b . . And the two of them walked on together.
What do you suppose they talked about on their way up the hill? Well; it's not too difficult to figure out. I think it was right about then that Abraham and Isaac took time-out for a heart to heart. And I don't think it was pleasant. Abraham informed his son of their real purpose there that day and of what God required. Isaac must have been shocked and terrified. How could he not be?
It must have taken quite a bit of salesmanship to convince Isaac that taking his life was the right thing to do. He was much younger and could easily outrun his dad. So if this was going to work, it would require his son's whole-hearted consent because there was no one there to assist Abraham in the event that Isaac chickened out. Besides, Isaac had to agree or the whole affair would disintegrate into a ritual murder.
The servants were behind, guarding the burro. And God could not interfere because that day was meant to test the quality of Abraham's willingness to comply with Yhvh's wishes. So all in all, the success of this entire event hinged upon the free will of just two people that day: Abraham and Isaac; a father and his son.
If you were Abraham, how would you approach Isaac to convince him to let you slit his throat and incinerate his body to ashes?
Fortunately, Abraham was a man of God who walked with God. So his influence with Isaac was fully functional and effective. If there was one thing about his dad that Isaac knew was definitely not artificial, it was his relationship with Yhvh. If his dad said that God wanted Abraham's boy for a burnt offering, then by thunder that is what God said. I believe Isaac was confident his dad would never lie about such a thing. He might lie about other things, but not about that one especially since Isaac was a son whom Abraham dearly loved.
Isaac is quite the hero among instructed Jews. To this day; a prayer included in the additional service for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, culminates with these words: "Remember today the Binding Of Isaac with mercy to his descendants."
Ancient rabbis attested that the final resurrection of the dead would take place "through the merits of Isaac, who offered himself upon the altar." (Pesikta deRav Kahana, 32)
In other words: the closing prayer of Rosh Hashanah, and Pesikta deRav Kahana, 32 assume that Isaac was not only offered; but also consenting; which indeed he was; no doubt about it.
Q: But God stopped Abraham from cutting his son with the knife. Doesn't that prove God abhors human sacrifice?
A: See above in regards to the status of offerings after once they're laid upon an altar. Had God actually abhorred human sacrifice back then, He would have stopped Abraham before he got that far.
Modern Judaism attests that the concept of human sacrifice has always been repulsive to God's people; but that is just not true. Abraham and Isaac started a tradition called mitatan shel tsaddiqim mekapperet (the death of the righteous atones) and a good number of modern Jews truly believe that Jewish deaths in Nazi camps during WW2 somehow atoned for the sins of their countrymen.
To begin with, there are no human sacrifices stipulated in Moses' covenanted law; so then, it is would be a grievous sin to sacrifice a human being upon the Temple's altar because The Law is closed, and cannot be amended.
● Deut 4:2 . .You shall not add anything to what I command you or take anything away from it, but keep the commandments of Yhvh your God that I enjoin upon you.
● Deut 5:29-30 . .Be careful, then, to do as Yhvh your God has commanded you. Do not turn aside to the right or to the left: follow only the path that Yhvh your God has enjoined upon you, so that you may thrive and that it may go well with you, and that you may long endure in the land you are to possess.
● Deut 27:26 . .Cursed be he who will not uphold the terms of this Teaching and observe them. —And all the people shall say, Amen.
In addition; Moses' covenanted law does not have ex post facto jurisdiction; viz; it isn't retroactive. (Deut 5:1-3, Rom 4:15, Rom 5:13, Gal 3:17)
Prior to Moses' day, there were no laws regulating offerings. In point of fact, Abraham, the progenitor of the Jews, under direct orders from God, was prepared to offer his own son Isaac to God as a burnt offering— without protest —and that's extremely important to note because some of God's men have not been reluctant to challenge His conduct if they think it's not right (e.g. Ex 32:9-14). Abraham had three days to think the matter over, and by that time, he surely would have protested at least once if he thought at all that what God required of him was wrong.
Ancient Judaism considered Abraham's obedience as a righteous deed and even though God stopped Abraham at the last second, the ancient Jews did in fact credit the father, Abraham, for following through and they also credited the son, Isaac, for not only willingly offering his body, which was reckoned turned to ashes, but also for offering ¼ of his blood too. (Midrash HaGadol on Genesis 22:19), (Sifra, 102c; b. Ta'anit 16a) and also (Mekhilta d'Rashbi, p.4; Tanh. Vayerra, sec.23)
For what, or for whom, did Isaac willingly offer his body and blood? Was it for himself? Was it for his father Abraham? No; neither. According to the Targums, it was for his future posterity, the people of Israel.
T. And Abraham prayed in the name of the Word of the Lord, and said, Thou art the Lord who seest, and art not seen. I pray for mercy before Thee, O Lord. It is wholly manifest and known before Thee that in my heart there was no dividing, in the time that Thou didst command me to offer Izhak my son, and to make him dust and ashes before Thee; but that forthwith I arose in the morning and performed Thy word with joy, and I have fulfilled Thy word.
. . . And now I pray for mercies before Thee, O Lord God, that when the children of Izhak offer in the hour of need, the binding of Izhak their father Thou mayest remember on their behalf, and remit and forgive their sins, and deliver them out of all need. That the generations who are to arise after him may say, In the mountain of the house of the sanctuary of the Lord did Abraham offer Izhak his son, and in this mountain of the house of the sanctuary was revealed unto him the glory of the Shekinah of the Lord. (Jerusalem Targum)
and in another Targum:
T. Now I pray for mercy before You, O Lord God, that when the children of Isaac come to a time of distress You may remember on their behalf the Binding Of Isaac their father, and loose and forgive them their sins and deliver them from all distress. (Fragmentary Targum)
This concept— mitatan shel tsaddiqim mekapperet (the death of the righteous atones) —is deeply imbedded in ancient Jewish tradition and has been extremely helpful in lending a degree of sanity to horrors like the Holocaust. The six million Jews who died under the heels of Fascist oppression are reckoned by many pious Jews as effecting the salvation of the whole world. (The true reason for the Holocaust is on display at Deut 28:15-68)
Common Jewish Affirmation: God stopped Abraham from killing Isaac because human sacrifice is morally wrong.
Appropriate Response: The scripture's reason for stopping Abraham is that Yhvh had seen enough to convince Him that Abraham was a faithful man who put God's wishes above all else. (Gen 22:10-12)
Had human sacrifice been morally wrong in Abraham's day, he would have objected; after all, the man was a prophet (Gen 20:7) and had three days to think about it.
A detail often overlooked is Isaac's opinion about the matter. It is impossible to determine Isaac's precise age at the time of the Akedah— all that's really given is that he was old enough to shoulder a load of wood, trek three days on foot, and mature enough to understand the purpose of he and his dad's journey; though he was unaware at first of the nature of the lamb that God commanded Abraham to sacrifice.
Abraham was an old geezer: 100 years old at the time of Isaac's birth (Gen 21:5) and Isaac could have easily overpowered Abraham and escaped once his dad informed him he was to be the lamb that day. That tells me Abraham obtained Isaac's prior consent to slay him and burn his body to ashes. Sans Isaac's consent, the act would have been a ritual murder.
Someone always asks me how on earth Abraham managed to persuade his son to submit to the knife. Well, it was easy for me to figure that out. God had early-on promised Abraham that his son Isaac would become a great nation too numerous to tally. Obviously Isaac believed in that promise just as strongly as his dad; ergo: both men were confident God would have to raise Isaac from the dead in order for Yhvh to make good on His promise. So then, neither Abraham nor his son expected the younger to remain dead for very long.
When people pontificate that something is "morally" wrong they are making a subjective judgment call. People's morals are arbitrary, molded by cultural influences, and open to debate. In the Bible, morals are absolute— they're spelled out. If a "moral" is not spelled out, then biblically it simply does not exist.
● Rom 4:15 . .Where there is no law there is no transgression.
● Rom 5:13 . . Before the law was given, sin was in the world. But sin is not imputed to one's account when there is no law.
In conclusion: Moses' covenanted law wasn't instituted for Yhvh's people till something like 400+ years after Abrahams' day; and since law isn't retroactive (Gal 3:17) then Moses' covenanted law had no jurisdiction in the Akedah. Thus Yhvh was at liberty to require Abraham to sacrifice whatever God wanted; and Abraham had no biblical justification to refuse.
In a well known Talmudic discussion (b. Mo'ed Qatan 28a) the question is asked why the book of Numbers records the death of Miriam immediately after the section on the Red Heifer (Num 19:1-20:1). The answer is, that just as the Red Heifer atones, so also the death of the righteous atones. (see also Rashi on Numbers 20:1) And why, the Talmud asks, is the death of Aaron recorded in conjunction with the Torah's reference to the priestly garments? (Num 20:25-28) The answer is, that just as the garments of the high priest atone (Ex 28 especially verse 38) so also the death of the righteous atones.
This principle is fairly common in rabbinical literature. At Leviticus Rabbah 20:12, repeated elsewhere verbatim ( y. Yoma 2:1, Pesika deRav Kahana 26:16) Rabbi Hiyya Bar Abba said: The sons of Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, died the first day of Nisan. Why then does the Torah mention their death in conjunction with the Day Of Atonement? (which occurred on the tenth of Tishrei; Lev 16:1) It is to teach that just as the Day Of Atonement atones, so also the death of the righteous atones.
It's stated in Midrash Assereth Memrot: The Messiah, in order to atone for them both, [for Adam and David] will make his soul a trespass offering, as it is written next to this, in the Parash [scriptural passage] Behold My servant 'shm ('shm = guilt offering)
The *servant* the midrash refers to is the servant of Isaiah 52:13-53:12; whom the midrash taught was none other than Messiah and whom the midrash also taught was to be a human offering for both guilt and trespasses.
Rabbinical scholar Solomon Schechter summarizes the Talmudic teaching that human suffering and death atone for sin:
"The atonement of suffering and death is not limited to the suffering person. The atoning effect extends to all the generation. This is especially the case with such sufferers as cannot either by reason of their righteous life or by their youth possibly have merited the afflictions which have come upon them. The death of the righteous atones just as well as certain sacrifices [with reference to b. Mo'ed Qatan 28a] They are caught (suffer) for the sins of the generation. If there are no righteous, the children of the schools (that is, the innocent young school children) are caught for the sins of the generation. [b. Shabbat 32b]
Applied to Moses [personally] are Scriptural words— And he bore the sins of many (Isa 53:12)— because of his offering himself as an atonement for Israel's sin with the golden calf, being ready to sacrifice his very soul for Israel when he said: And if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book (that is, from the Book Of The Living) which thou has written. (Ex 32:32, b.Sotah 14a; b. Berakhoth 32a)
This readiness to sacrifice oneself for Israel is characteristic of all the great men of Israel, the patriarchs, and the Prophets acting in the same way, whilst also some Rabbis would, on certain occasions, exclaim; Behold, I am the atonement of Israel. [Mekhilta 2a; m. Negaim 2:1] "
That same thought is also carried over in a prayer, still included in the additional service for the Jewish new year, Rosh Hashanah, which culminates with these words: Remember today the Binding Of Isaac with mercy to his descendants.
The rabbis taught that the final resurrection of the dead would take place "through the merits of Isaac, who offered himself upon the altar." (Pesikta deRav Kahana, 32)
Rabbi Shem Klingberg, known among his followers as the Zaloshitzer Rebbe, when led out to be slaughtered by the Nazis, an instant before his death lifted up his eyes to heaven and cried out in a piercing voice: Let me be an atonement for Israel! To this very day, when a leading rabbi dies, it is quite common for his mourners to say: May his death serve as an atonement for us.
Common Jewish Affirmation: You quote sources of Midrash Agadah, or interpretation by legend and parable. The sources of Midrash Agadah are to be taken as parables; this is evident both from a study of it and from a knowledge of Jewish study. Midrash Agadah is 90% fable and 10% truism; or "kernel of truth." The implication from these four sources would be that Isaac was completely ready to sacrifice himself for God if that were God's demand.
Appropriate Response: Objectors may interpret the writings of the sages any way they please, and may construe them to imply whatever they like; that is their privilege and I will not deny them the right to do their own thinking. But I would remind them that the Midrashim are a precious Jewish heritage, and they show unthinkable disrespect for those traditions by discrediting them. I would also like to emphasize it is very clear that ancient Judaism believed in a degree of human sacrifice and I've provided plenty of Jewish references to prove it.
Common Jewish Affirmation: You provided four sources supposedly proving that Isaac was actually sacrificed. I have told you that these four were Midrash Agadah, or legend-interpretations, meaning that a story has been created and based on a hidden message, or kernel of truth. Thus, it is not true to say that Isaac was sacrificed, but it is true to say that the parables claiming he was are the kind like Aesop's.
Appropriate Response: First off,
we did not say Isaac was actually sacrificed.
Second, we provided more than just Midrash commentary. There was also Targum,
Talmud, and Rabbinical commentary as well. Look, if modern Judaism doesn't
believe that the death of the righteous atones: fine; okay by
us. But modern
Judaism should not try to repeal its own history and say the ancients didn't
believe in it. There is just too much evidence to the contrary.
Objections To Jesus
by Michael L. Brown
Volume 1 ISBN 0-8010-6063-X
Volume 2 ISBN 0-8010-6334-5
Volume 3 ISBN 0-8010-6423-6
The Sun In The Stream