THE AKIDAH - The Sacrifice a very different take…
In many interpretations and rabbinic writings we are told that this is a test of Abraham’s faithfulness to God.
Now in many of the cultures around Abraham human sacrifice was the normal form of worship of the various Gods. So by agreeing to this act, Abraham was in effect doing what was expected within the cultural context of his time and place. I see nothing worthy or unusual about that. That would have been a standard element in his childhood environment. Nothing here to indicate an individual who has broken with his past cultural teaching.
Abraham agrees to perform the sacrifice in the place to which he will be led. He takes Issac and a servant in the morning and sets out for the distant mountain.
Once there he prepares the necessary accoutrements, alter of stone and fire wood.. When he is ready to perform the act, with knife in hand, arm drawn for the sacrificial death cutting of the throat, he is suddenly halted by an angel, and a ram is instead placed nearby in place of Issac.
OK, END of story.
Traditional Judaism tells us that Abraham has bravely passed the divine test. He demonstrated his total obedience to God, he has committed an heroic act by proving his readiness to do whatever is asked of him by the Master of the Universe.
Well, I am not convinced! It seems to me that the human sacrifice was a not uncommon practice among human beings of that distant era, it was not such a heroic act. It was widespread, from the high Andes to the hills and deserts surrounding Canaan. It was practiced among certain Native American tribes as well as by the Incas of South America. I believe even on some idyllic Pacific islands it was also an accepted method of placating the Gods and assuring adequate necessities from the unknown realms from which came the rains or the migrating herds, what ever was needed for survival.
Now, as I do not believe in anything out there to speak to Abraham and instruct him to commit the deed I come to believe that it is in fact Abraham’s voice that he is hearing. A voice of doubt…does he really believe this nonsense of there being only one deity, who created heaven and earth, and everything else as well? How can he be sure that he truly believes…so he sets himself a test, “If I do this most terrible thing than it is a sign that I believe, that I have faith.” …and so he tries, he succeeds in proving to himself and anybody else watching that indeed he believes, that he is a man of true faith. He has met his challenge and passed the test.
BUT the message is; one is not actually required to commit an abominable act as proof of belief. Just because I have a bulldozer capable of destroying a mountain, does not mean I am compelled to commit that act, to destroy that mountain.
An additional factor in the story: For thousands of years the animals that became human beings underwent profound evolutionary physical change. Then began the evolution of emotional spiritual capabilities. The development of religion.
At the point of the Akada story/event we humans had “progressed” to the stage of sacrificing/killing other humans as a point of contact with the “Gods”, the rulers of the universe we ourselves could not control.
Now, at this moment that Abraham is ready to continue the tradition of human sacrifice; a paradigm change takes place. The next step “up” the ladder of spiritual evolution is replacing human sacrifice with animal sacrifice.
This is a profound moment in the development/evolution of the human spiritual process; on the road from our animal beings towards our eventual potential of divine consciousness.
We next evolve beyond even that and create the substitute to killing animals.