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Ann Naffziger, M.A., M.Div.
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Our readers asked:

Are there other versions of the Abraham and Isaac story where Abraham actually kills Isaac?

Ann Naffziger Answers:

Unknown to many Christians are several ideas, legends, and lore in the Jewish tradition concerning the story in Genesis 22. Christians often refer to this story as “the sacrifice of Isaac,” while Jews generally call it “the binding of Isaac” in order to emphasize that Isaac was not ultimately sacrificed.

Still, other lesser-known alternative endings cropped up outside of the biblical literature in Jewish midrash — commentaries or interpretations of biblical stories usually written by rabbis in the first 10 centuries. In one such midrash, Isaac was wounded when Abraham began the sacrificial act. Isaac was then carried to Paradise where he remained for three years while he healed. In another story, Isaac literally died of fright while he was bound upon the altar and his soul flew out of him before Yahweh restored it to him with dewdrops for the Resurrection of the dead. In yet another one, Isaac’s body was reduced to ash on the sacrificial pyre and the Holy One again revived him with life-giving dew.

If you want to learn more about this, you might read The Last Trial by the Jewish scholar Shalom Spiegel. His book researches these and other texts, legends, and commentaries on this passage in Genesis.

The Author : Ann Naffziger
Ann Naffziger is a scripture instructor and spiritual director in the San Francisco Bay area. She has has written articles on spirituality and theology for various national magazines and edited several books on the Hebrew Scriptures.
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  • Doris Smith

    Interestingly, in the Quran, it is Ishmael, his son by the servant Hagar, whom Abraham is directed to sacrifice. Abraham, refusing to do so without his son’s consent, consults Ishmael, who encourages him to obey Allah’s command. As in the Bible, however, Abraham is not required to complete the sacrifice, and instead a ram is slaughtered. The birth of Isaac is Abraham’s reward.

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