“If Child Sacrifice Is Sinful, Why Did God Require It of Abraham?”

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According to Deut 18:10-12, “Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire…” OK, so at least as far back as Moses’ time, human sacrifice was wrong – sinful.

But…why then would God test Abraham by asking him to make a human sacrifice of Isaac? It seems to me that God is asking him to do something sinful to prove his obedience and devotion. That goes against God’s character, doesn’t it?

Thanks for your question. Much has been written about Gen. 22. Let me mention a few important points and refer you to some more extensive answers.

First, notice Gen. 22:5: “So he said to his servants, You two stay here with the donkey while the boy and I go up there. We will worship and then return to you.

The NET Bible comments, “It is impossible to know what Abraham was thinking when he said, We will. . .return to you.” When he went he knew (1) that he was to sacrifice Isaac, and (2) that God intended to fulfill his earlier promises through Isaac. How he reconciled those facts is not clear in the text. Heb 11:17-19 suggests that Abraham believed God could restore Isaac to him through resurrection.”

Second, notice vv. 7-8, “Isaac said to his father Abraham, My father? What is it, my son? he replied. Here is the fire and the wood, Isaac said, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering? 22:8 God will provide for himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son, Abraham replied. The two of them continued on together.”

Again, the NET Bible comments, “God will provide is the central theme of the passage and the turning point in the story. Note Pauls allusion to the story in Rom 8:32 (how shall he not freely give us all things?)” (See http://www.bible.org/netbible/gen22_notes.htm).

Finally, we must remember that God never allowed Abraham to actually carry out the sacrifice. God never intended that he actually sacrifice his son. He apparently intended to test Abraham’s faith in, and love for, God. It’s a radical test, to be sure, but one which God never intended for Abraham to actually carry out.

For more information, please visit:

  1. www.tektonics.org/gk/humansac.html
  2. www.christian-thinktank.com/qkilisak.html
  3. www.tektonics.org/whatis/whatfaith.html

Shalom,

Michael Gleghorn
Probe Ministries

© 2006 Probe Ministries

Dr. Michael Gleghorn

Dr. Michael Gleghorn is a research associate with Probe Ministries. He earned a B.A. in psychology from Baylor University, a Th.M. in systematic theology from Dallas Theological Seminary, and a Ph.D. in Theological Studies (also from Dallas Theological Seminary). Before coming on staff with Probe, Michael taught history and theology at Christway Academy in Duncanville, Texas. Michael and his wife Hannah have two children: Arianna and Josiah. As a family, they attend Frisco Bible Church, where Michael and Hannah are involved in various ministries. His personal website is michaelgleghorn.com.

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