086.2: The Sacrifice of Isaac; OT Lesson 9 (Study Notes)

“God Will Provide Himself a Lamb”

In Part 2 we touch on the place of Isaac in history and then delve into the terrible but widespread practice of human sacrifice in the Ancient Near East.

In Part 3 we wrestle further with the issues of God’s goodness and healthy approaches to obedience. The importance of context is discussed, including that of Mormonism’s own history which also has dark moments. We conclude with some reflections on the relationship of this story to Jesus’ death.

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Class Member Reading: Abraham 1Genesis 1516172122Hebrews 11:17-19James 2:21-23Jacob 4:5

Additional Reading: Hebrews 11:8-19D&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 continue the discussion and I recorded a separate section with Allen.


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

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


Lesson Part 2

0:00        Broader Covenant Themes

4:37        Human Sacrifice

13:56     Jewish Interpretations

Study Notes

16:26     Euthyphro’s Dilemma and Obedience
21:36     Parallel to the Atonement

Discussion Part 2

25:07     Academic and Historical Perspective

37:50     Move to Less Harmful Practices

49:04     Jewish Interpretations (Allen)

57:24     Atonement without Jesus’ Death (Allen)

Lesson Part 3

1:15:26  Critical Reading

Discussion Part 3

1:23:30  Euthyphro’s Dilemma




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:

    I like your thoughts, Jared, on the non-necessity of Jesus’ death. It hasn’t ever made sense to me, while the idea of atonement (eternal forgiveness, infinite healing, peace, etc) has always made sense to me. Obviously, I understand that I am outside of traditional Mormonism in saying this, but it is an area of of agnosticism for me as to whether Jesus’ death was necessary and even if He was necessary for that atoning power to be activated in the universe.


    • James N. says:

      Hay, amazing job this time.

      I had some thoughts to develop the discussion further. Look at literature’s example of those who had to do hard moral actions. Hamlet. He was told by a ghost/his father (insert here the voice of God) to kill his uncle. Most of the play is if Hamlet will go through with it. But he demurs, has his doubts, has his soliloquies, he just can’t bring himself to kill another person. As you read Abraham you can imaging his delaying like Hamlet, as Abraham smashes up the wood for the sacrifice he may be thinking, to kill or not to kill, that is a pretty good question.
      Then look at Huck Finn who reacts courageously to his moral dilemma. He thinks over what it means to go against the law and all that his society would demand of him. He thinks of his friendship with Jim and of Jim’s humanity. After a minute, he decides, “All right then, I’ll go to hell!” and resolves to “steal Jim out of slavery.”


  2. James N. says:

    Following up last comment,

    In Sunday school we portray Abraham and the others with shinning heroic virtues, which seems to be one dimensional, leaving us feeling like we will never measure up. So I like to see the binding of Issac in the light of Abraham struggling to work himself up to do the act. With Shakespeare as the guide you see Hamlet struggling over the order by his father’s ghost to kill his uncle. It takes days possibly weeks before Hamlet is able to overcome his moral inhibitions soliloquizing along the way. Any normal human being which I believe Abraham is to be, should anguish over such an order from God. That is what the human experience is. To brake the moral order that one has for so long held one has to go into the dark side of the psyche, one has to enter a kind of fantasy world, to the point where one has to detaching one’s humanity from the moral order. Macbeth, before he attempts to kill says he has a “heat oppressed brain”. Hamlet thinks that “self slaughter” is possibly better than murder. Before accepting polygamy Brigham Young would rather be in a coffin than to brake his moral order. I would almost say that if Abraham did really put that knife up in the air he had hit that threshold where he had lost his humanity.

    Another idea with the Akedah, I could be wrong but no one ever in the Old Testament nor and even stranger in the New Testament uses the Akedah in the light of the similitude of the Only Begotten Son. What in the world! I mean this is vital to Christians but no one sees it. Not Peter, Paul, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and not even Jesus? Wouldn’t this have been a pretty good way for Jesus to teach about His atonement and about the revealing the Father to us? I looks like it developed in the 2nd century AD or so. Just an idea to think about.


  3. Heber Longhurst says:

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



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