The First Reformation Abraham and Issac
Genesis 22 "After these things God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 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..."
Abraham and Isaac,
Rembrant, 1634, Hermitage, St. Petersburg, Russia.
We are told that the Lord is about to test Abraham. But this is not a test, Abraham was about to sacrifice his child, in the manner of the primitive religion, in that area and time. Abraham was stopped by an “angel of the Lord”. This was a step in the evolution of the religion of man that would lead to a more civilized state - the elimination of human sacrifice. And, most likely, the "angel" was Abraham's own inner consciousness.
The prevented sacrifice of Isaac was one of the first great reformations of man's religion.
But the view of God in Genesis is still split between angry and forgiving.
Much like the inner self of man.
|Numbers 31:19 “Camp outside the camp for seven days; whoever of you has killed any person or touched a corpse, purify yourselves and your captives on the third and on the seventh day. You shall purify every garment, every article of skin, everything made of goats’ hair, and every article of wood.“
|Illustration of the Black Death in the Toggenburg Bible, printed 1411.
Numbers 31 is about revenge and conquest and power. It is about ethnic cleansing and also about purification and cleansing sexually transmitted diseases. At the time, these purges certainly helped the Hebrew tribes survive - survival of the fittest. The plagues in Moses’ time may have been the work of God, but our medical community knows that the Black Death plague of the 15th century was probably the Bubonic plague caused by bacteria carried by fleas on rats and other such health disasters have biological and physical causes. Apparently, Moses did order an efficient week long purification process. In the Old Testament writings, laws of real social and moral value are interspersed with brutal warfare and revenge. And some of these are the basis of our culture.
|Leviticus 18 "You shall not do as they do in the land of Egypt, where you lived, and you shall not do as they do in the land of Canaan to which I am bringing you .... None of you shall approach anyone near of kin to uncover nakedness ....You shall not give any of your offspring to sacrifice them to Molech,... You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination. You shall not have sexual relations with any animal and defile yourself with it ..."
|Canaanite fertility goddess. Found in Ugarit. Musee du Louvre, Paris.
In Leviticus we can see the evolution of moral codes in the cultural warfare of the Canaanites and Hebrews. Moses was given by the Lord several moral laws or guidelines that has helped set higher, healthier standards. The religious rites of the Canaanite enemy of the Hebrews probably included drunken sexual orgies, temple prostitution, self-mutilation and child sacrifice. And elimination of these abominations was the justification for the Old Testament wars by Moses, Joshua and others. They were commanded by God and the enemy was accursed, and attacked with unflagging zeal and no quarter given.
This also was used as the model for the Crusades, and the war against heretics by the Church. But can the means (slaughter) justify the ends (elimination of abominations) ? Perhaps. But in our time and in view ofthe teachings of Jesus, it can not be acceptable.
Moses proudly declared - many times - that they killed everyone - men, women and children with the Lord’s help. These are atrocities that we never hear preached about, or see in the movie “The Ten Commandments”. Can this be a true view of God?
Abraham did eliminate child sacrafice and to Moses’ credit, he did lead the Hebrews out of Egypt and he did institute significant health and moral laws in spite of genocide. But, all this ethnic cleansing and vengeance was not successful because the Midians came back and Gideon had to defeat them again according to the book of Judges. And we still have the unclean humans and the barbarians and idol worshipers among us.