Abraham's Dilemma. Would you do it?

March 20, 2020

A lot of times I get a question that sounds a lot like this: "Just like God in the Abraham/Isaac story, If you received a clear command like that from God wherein there was no question whatsoever it came from Jehovah, and the command was to do something like murder your entire family and set their own house on fire, would you do it?"

 

At first I would see how if I answered yes, then I would need to be put into a psychiatric hospital for being crazy. But if I said no, then by that I would have to conclude that my morality is better than God's. It's a dilemma that most people do not know how to deal with in the modern age, just as some would think Abraham would of had as well. But looking into this you would see that there is more behind the bases of where this question comes from in the first place. Let's take a look and see the comparison to Abraham's Dilemma in the ancient world verses someone looking at it with a modern day scope. 

 

Concerning Genesis 22:1-3 To modern readers God’s command appears unusually cruel. But to Abraham it would not have seemed peculiar. Abraham lived in a land of fanatical idol worship, Idolaters, desperate to gain their god’s favor, would sacrifice their firstborn children on alters. (For ex: Amonites & Milkom) In essence God’s command would prove whether or not Abraham was as committed to his God as the people around him were to theirs. If Abraham was to be father of the faithful, it would require of him a deeper faith in God than possessed by the average person. But notice, Abraham is obedient. Yet before he strikes, God stops him showing he has proven himself faithful but that he did not need to sacrifice his son as the culture did in his time. Which would make God actually better than the culture who says its good to sacrifice their sons.

 

In the culture of Abraham, that was the norm. When you look at the background context of the passage which was just pointed out, you see that the circumstances differ for specific reasons and it is not needed for me to draw a deeper faith than the average person of my time. But no that’s not the case today. Indeed, what is also happening is an inconsistency from the opposing side. When asking these types of questions, what they first do not realize is it is imposing cultural values on another society (if morality is subjective). Moving on. So, when people are saying God would not command such a thing today, they are exactly right. They may understand the circumstances demonstrated that it is not the way people demonstrate their commitment to their god today in where we are, the US.

 

Contending that ancient biographies were written according to modern historical standards would be a claim that is unreasonable. It would be evaluating ancient works by a standard that did not exist in their day. Yet this is exactly what is happening to the Abrahamic story here.  

 

Today based on the story of Abraham/Isaac, it would without a doubt, not happen. Cultural circumstances differ and that's the crux of the entire story. The question creates a false dichotomy. The point is that the entire theme of YHWH sparing Isaac is a polemic statement against child sacrifice. In an environment where this kind of behavior was common, this story is about a deity observing his servants loyalty before demonstrating to him that murder in this context wasn't the right way. So this much isn't hard to understand. This doesn't mirror a story about some scary ghost that would walk up to you in the US and say "Hey, kill your child", and then wait for you to do it.  Interpreting the story like this is just a way of re-inventing the story to make a case for modern day people to say "God is a moral monster" and is not handling the word of truth with precision.

 

 

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