Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Genesis 22

This passage occurs in the Narrative Lectionary, Year 4, most recently Sept 15, 2013.
Summary:  This story is obviously challenging and the Hebrew offers no easy way out.  The Hebrew (and Greek translation) does have some fascinating connections to other stories in the Bible.  One helpful point for this story is that God does provide; yet Abraham cannot fully "see" this provision, but has his eyes lifted by the Word of God.  In the one case, the Word of God immediately changes his course of action (vs 11); in the other case, Abraham needs time to see God's plans unfold (vs 4).  While none of us are asked to sacrifice our sons, we are called to go where we do not want to.  God provides a means for us, but we don't always see it.

Key words:

הנני ("henney", "behold", 22:1):  Typical response of a willing servant in the Bible. 

ולך-לך ("lake-lakah", "get up and go"; 22:2):  Two theological points.  In Hebrew, sections of the "scrolls" were not divided by numbers but instead by key words that summarized or set-up a story-line (or series of stories, what we would call chapters).  This section of the Bible is called
"לך-לך" named after this story.  Furthermore, this is not the first time Abraham has been given this command; God told Abraham to get up and go in verse 12:2 to a new land.

Note on Hebrew:  This is a repeated verb:  "Go - go"; because Hebrew uses a small vocab, the first verb in series of verbs is an adverb.  So in this case, "Go in a going way" or "Hurry up!"

עלם:  ("olim", whole sacrifice, 22:2)  A whole sacrifice meant that everything was burned; nothing was given to the priests.  All that remained were ashes.

αγαπητος ("agapetos", "beloved", 22:2)  The Hebrew (and English) do a dramatic build up:  son, only son, Isaac, your beloved.  This phrase "beloved" is used rarely in the Old Testament, but will be picked up in the New Testament to refer to God's view of Jesus:  Jesus Baptism, his transfiguration and finally Mark 12 and a vineyard parable.

נער ("na'ar", "young boy, or servant", 22:3)  Fascinatingly, the two young men could be simply young boys, and not young male servants.  This makes for a number of scary thoughts...

ראה ("ra-ah", "see", 22:4).  It is on the third day that Abraham finally sees where God called him to go.  Sometimes we cannot see where God wants us to be until we get there...I find this curious that it takes until the third day to see the mountain of sacrifice.

אמר ("omer", "say", 22:2 and 3). The NRSV mistranslates:  God never shows Abraham where to go; he simply speaks to him.  In short, Abraham is living on God's word and that is all he has!!

"We will return" (22:5); the English is correct -- Abraham says they will return.

נשא  ("nassah", "looked up", 22:4, 13)  Abraham had to raise his eyes to see what God would provide.  In one case, it took time to see what God's Word meant; in the other case it took the Word of God calling him by name to change his path.

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