086:1: The Sacrifice of Isaac; OT Lesson 9 (Core)

“God Will Provide Himself a Lamb”

Is the story of a parent attempting to kill his child an appropriate way to teach obedience and sacrifice? Familiarity can be comforting, but also dangerous. This episode wrestles with one of the most disturbing stories of the Bible, when God commands Abraham to kill his beloved son Isaac.

After modeling a way to push back against the standard approach to this story, we explore

  • how the biblical story builds up the tension and terror of this account
  • what we can learn and gain from the narrative
  • whether  Abraham pass or failed the test
  • how the story of Abraham and Isaac and Jesus/Atonement are similar and different
  • the relationship between God and goodness
  • how we can use this narrative in a constructive way

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Class Member Reading: Abraham 1; Genesis 15, 16, 17, 21, 22; Hebrews 11:17-19; James 2:21-23; Jacob 4:5

Additional Reading: Hebrews 11:8-19; D&C 132:34-36

Other Reading: Genesis 15-28, skimming to see how the (near) sacrifice of Isaac fits within the larger context.

Maxine and Heber provide a challenging but rewarding discussion.

You can access the Annotated Reading here (or PDF).

You can access the Lesson Notes here (or PDF).


Lesson Part 1

0:00        Horrifying Nature of the Lesson

6:20        Assigned Reading: Abraham 1, Genesis 15-17, 21-22

25:03     Questions and thoughts on the story

Discussion Part 1

30:00     Introductions

33:50     Sacrifice themes in Sunday School

48:05     Self Moderated Obedience

57:33     Role of the Angel

1:03:33  Acknowledge the Horror – Question the Interpretation

1:13:07  Question Amoral Commandments


Thanks to Jim Henderson for content editing and to James Estrada for sound editing, and as always to Steven Nelson for the beautiful bumper music.

Latest Comments

  1. Mama Rae says:

    The audio isn’t showing up for me. Could it be a problem on your end of things? If it’s just my computer, please disregard this message!


    • Jared Anderson says:

      I put up the post before we had the audio ready; the audio to both sections will be up tomorrow morning.

      I take it you are in one of those ambitious wards that started the OT curriculum a week early? 🙂


      • Mama Rae says:

        Ha! No, we didn’t. I actually taught a lot of the primer that you gave on the OT to used that last Sunday up in December (which, by the way, everyone LOVED). I was anxious to get listening to the sacrifice of Isaac b/c I teach next Sunday and I feel like I really want some extra time to think about it. Sorry to have bothered you about it. I didn’t know if maybe it was a problem with tech stuff. Thanks for all the time & work you and your staff put into this. It is a true blessing to me and our little branch. 🙂


  2. Cyrus says:

    Very good episode. However, have you considered Hebrews 11:19? Seems to imply that Abraham went along with the horrific directive to sacrifice his son because he had faith that God would raise him from the dead. And, I wonder if Abraham was hoping that the resurrection of Issac would take place three days later, also foreshadowing the messianic resurrection. Of course, the Angel stops the sacrifice knowing that Jesus must be the first resurrection.

    Within that framework/theory I’m able to see how Abraham might have been willing to do what he does.

    What say you? Am I way off with my reading of Hebrews 11:19? Is that what the author of Hebrews believed?


    • Jared Anderson says:


      Good close reading. I mentioned this specifically in the lesson. As I noted there, I think that the author of Hebrews didn’t believe Isaac died, but was using that language to create a closer parallel with Jesus, who did.


  3. Barbara says:

    I found this link of the sacrifice of Isaac by Hugh Nibley to be very interesting:



  4. Mama Rae says:

    This lesson went so well. Everyone loved the little insights given as we did a close reading together. We actually ended up finding a possible symbolism of God having to sacrifice Their two sons–Lucifer & Christ–just as Abraham had to do. I thought that was interesting. I did bring up how disturbing (and common) child sacrifice was and everyone agreed, and also challenged them to think about how we can be like the angel in the story. Thanks so much for all the time and effort put into this podcast.


  5. slsdm says:

    LOVED this take on such a disturbing story, to say the least.

    Maxine’s comments about the bigger takeaway being NOT to sacrifice your loved ones was such a great one, esp when past (but hopefully not as many present) members have thought it perfectly righteous to disown a child for making choices they felt went against God.

    Heber’s comments about the “smaller” voice of the angel that was sent to stop Abraham, compared to the bigger voice of God, and comparing all of that to communications from the Holy Ghost amidst what may seem like more authoritative voices was also such a great insight.

    What a great, fresh view to have on a story that always abhorred me (no matter how it get’s tied to God’s sacrifice of Christ). Thank you.


  6. Haggoth says:

    Loved Maxine’s comments about not sacrificing our children today. I was haunted in listening to her by how many faithful members sacrifice and sacrificed their relationship with their LGBT children by taking a stand for Prop 8 and other similar campaigns. I have watched some of that heartbreak and the separations it caused. The parents felt in some cases compelled to choose and in other cases called to “choose the right, let the consequence follow.” Our unquestioning obedience, even to sacrifice our children, has played out in our time, with painful consequences.


  7. Sharon says:

    You come across as very condescending to people of faith when you say, “I’m going to talk about how this lesson will probably go in most sunday schools.” You always say to challenge and be challenged by, but you never get to the second part of that equation. I have listened to many episodes and with each one I see less light and Godly knowledge. I really want to learn something new not doubt my faith.


    • Jared Anderson says:


      Thanks for listening. I take this feedback to heart. I can see how that wording could come across as condescending. I don’t mean it that way–I intend to anchor our discussion with acknowledgment of how these conversations usually go, a “starting point” so to speak so that listeners have ideas of how to integrate the conversations into a Sunday School environment.

      By “challenge by” I mean ask what the scriptures (and Mormon theology) ask or demand of us. Have you listened to the D&C and Book of Mormon episodes? Lots of examples there of being “challenged by”. And the Old Testament stories are certainly challenging! I would give this very episode as an example of *both* challenge and be challenged by. These scriptures challenge us because we need to wrestle with what they can mean in our own lives.

      And as for “learn something new not doubt faith”… the Old Testament is a very challenging book of scripture to pull that balance off. I am trying. Hopefully you find Part I more along those lines than Part II?

      Again, thanks for the feedback. Let me know if you have any clarification.


  8. Heber Longhurst says:

    This is the link to the article that I discussed in the podcast.



  9. Andrew Davis says:

    Isn’t it strange, that God who is Purely Good, would order Abraham to Kill his innocent son, Isaac?
    Would our loving Father, God, play a “Trick” like this on His loyal servant?
    Could it be that God NEVER told Abraham to Sacrifice Isaac?

    All of these questions are answered in this Teaching:

    • The Common Understanding of this record
    • Why is this “Test” Questionable?
    • Did God Tempt Abraham?
    • Burnt Offering vs. Sacrifice
    • Satan’s Deception
    • Not the first time Abraham Miscomprehended
    • How old was Isaac?
    • Other Important things to Note

    -Andrew Davis


    • Jared Anderson says:

      Yes, we address all these issues in this episode as well. Hopefully you took the time to listen as well as advertise your own site.


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