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    An immoral ethic?

    Q. How do you justify the proposed killing of Isaac by his father when the Ten Commandments say, “Thou shalt not kill”?

    A. We all know that in the end no killing took place, and a ram was offered up instead of Isaac, but Abraham and Isaac were not to know that in advance.

    The commentaries are all exercised about the events and God’s part in them. How, they ask, could God even talk about child murder when it clearly contravened His own moral law?

    We cannot say that God is above His own law, since He accepts Abraham’s rebuke, “Does the Judge of all the earth not act justly?” (Gen. 18:25).

    It is possible that God deliberately organised the events so that anyone who thought that child sacrifice was pleasing to the Creator would find the Almighty decisively intervening to prevent it happening and showing that what He really wants is for His children to live and grow and bring blessing to the world.

    Another possibility is that the story is a paradigm of Jewish readiness to be martyrs for God: we do not invite or relish the fearful possibility that we and/or our children will have to make the ultimate sacrifice, but if there is no way out we are prepared even to lose life for the sake of our faith and people.

    From this point of view the Akedah is a test of readiness, but in this case no martyrdom was called for and nothing more was required of Abraham and Isaac than to be willing.

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