The story of the offering of Isaac in Genesis 22 is one of the most well-known passages in scripture, and among the most influential in Jewish tradition. The shofar (ram’s horn) has as its root the substitute ram from this story. Jewish morning prayers, as well as the liturgy for Rosh Hashanah concerning mercy has this story as its basis. Mt. Moriah, the location of the story, was the future location of the temple Solomon built (2 Chronicles 3:1). There is no shortage of history or references to this.
Judaism and Christianity, for all they have in common, often seem worlds apart. The lack of willingness for one to bridge the gap in understanding to the other doesn’t help matters. We must remember that Abraham is the father of both religions – Judaism and Christianity – as well as the ‘Father of Faith’ as we like to call him.
In Christian tradition, this is a story about Abraham’s faith, as well as a picture of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus, the Messiah. For Jews, it is a story about Abraham’s obedience to his final trial, and an illustration of the mercy of God.
Though what is gleaned from the story may be different, there are unifying themes between the faiths. The willingness of Isaac for instance, shows an obedience on his part which can be likened to that of Christ going to Golgotha. And though likely unknown to Christians, the idea of atonement by human sacrifice is not altogether foreign to Jewish thought: There are even some versions of this story (non-biblical) in which the sacrifice is completed, and the sins of Israel are atoned for and Isaac is miraculously resurrected from the dead.
It is a vivid and haunting story to be certain, but one that is meant to offer hope in God’s promises.