Was It Wrong for God to Command Abraham to Sacrifice Isaac?

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Some argue that it was immoral for God to command Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac in Genesis 22:1-2. However, this objection is based upon an unbiblical, arbitrary, and unjustified moral standard that is ultimately irrelevant. The fact is that God had the right to command Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, and he had a reason for commanding this.

Scriptures – Was It Wrong for God to Command Abraham to Sacrifice Isaac?

1 After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 2 He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.”

Genesis 22:1-2

By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son,

Hebrews 11:17

Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar?

James 2:21

The Answer – Was It Wrong for God to Command Abraham to Sacrifice Isaac?

God Has the Right to Command Abraham to Sacrifice Isaac

It is important to note that there is nothing inherently wrong with God’s command itself because God himself is the standard for what is moral. By definition, whatever God is, says, and does is morally right—otherwise, there would be a moral standard external to God that God must submit to, which would be self-contradictory, since the Bible teaches that God is ultimate in authority. However, at the same time, God’s actions are limited to only that which does not contradict with his nature and character. For a fuller discussion on this topic, see [[What Does It Mean that God Is “Ex Lex”?]]. Regarding God commanding Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, it was not wrong for God to do this because all life belongs to God in the first place and he has the right to end any life at any time. That God appointed Abraham to be a means for his decision was not wrong for God either.

Isaac Was Not Actually Sacrificed

At the same time, it is significant to note that God ultimately did not want Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, so it was always part of God’s plan that Abraham would not ”actually” sacrifice Isaac. Also, Hebrews 11:19 tells us that Abraham himself believed that God was just and “considered that God was able even to raise him [Isaac] from the dead.” This means that Abraham had great hope that God would not ultimately have him kill his son, and he was right.

God’s Command Had a Purpose

God commanding Abraham to sacrifice Isaac was not arbitrary or cruel, but rather had a purpose, which was both to test Abraham’s faith and to communicate something about Jesus as savior. Regarding the testing of Abraham’s faith, Hebrews 11:7 and James 2:21 are relevant passages. Abraham, through this command to sacrifice his son Isaac, was able to demonstrate his great faith in God, which glorified God and would be an example for other believers. Regarding communicating something about Jesus as savior, although the Bible is not explicit about this, the ram that was sacrificed in Isaac’s place was a substitutionary sacrifice, similar to how Jesus became a substitute sacrifice for his people.

More Answers to “Contradictions” in the Bible

To read more answers to alleged and apparent contradictions in the Bible, see “Contradictions” in the Bible Answered.

These books are also excellent resources:

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