If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten. — Rudyard Kipling

Story of the Chosen People - Helene Guerber




Abraham's Sacrifice

Abraham had already undergone many trials, and his faith had been tested in many ways; but the greatest test was made when Isaac, his son, was about twenty years of age. God now asked him to offer up this son, upon whom rested all his hopes.

In those days a man had the right of life and death over his wife and children, and human sacrifices were not uncommon. Abrahamís conscience, therefore, did not trouble him about killing Isaac in this way; but what almost broke his heart was that he was called upon to give up the dearest thing he had on earth, the son for whom he had waited so long.

In spite of his grief, he nevertheless prepared to obey the command which he had received; and he "took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it upon Isaac, his son." The young man strode ahead without any fear, while his aged father slowly followed him up the mountain, carrying the fire, and also the knife which was to be used for the sacrifice.

Isaac, who had often gone with his father in such journeys, soon noticed something unusual, and said: "Behold the fire and the wood; but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?"

His fatherís heart must have been wrung with anguish at this innocent question; but his faith in God made him strong, and prompted the answer which he now gave to Isaac: "God will provide."

When they came up on the mountain, and the wood had been properly laid upon the altar, Isaac allowed himself to be bound and placed upon it. The last moment had come, and Abraham "took the knife to slay his son."

But an angel of the Lord stopped him, crying: "Abraham, Abraham, lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou anything unto him; for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son, from me."

Looking up at these welcome words, Abraham saw a ram in the thicket near him, and, as God commanded, he now took it and offered it up in sacrifice instead of his son. The Lord had provided a victim, and the patriarchís heart overflowed with joy as he gave thanks with Isaac beside him.

Then the angel of the Lord spoke again, repeating the promise which had already been made to Abraham about his seed, or descendants: "Because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son . . . in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of heaven and as the sand which is upon the seashore; . . . and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because thou hast obeyed my voice."

The spot where Isaac was thus nearly sacrificed in obedience to Godís command, was later the site of the Temple of Jerusalem, of which you will hear much. Abraham now said that it should have for its name the Hebrew words meaning "the Lord will provide." Then he joyfully wended his way down the mountain, with the son who had been given back to him from the dead, and returned to his home at Beersheba.

While he was still living there, Abraham heard of the death of his brother Nahor, who left twelve sons. A few years later Sarah died, when she was one hundred and twenty-seven years old. To bury her, Abraham bought the cave of Machpelah, and thus his first real possession in the promised land was a family tomb.

After Sarah had died, Abrahamís chief care seems to have been to find a good wife for Isaac, his son. As he did not wish the young man to marry any of the heathen women around there, he finally bade Eliezer, his faithful steward, journey to Mesopotamia, where his kinsmen still lived, and bring back a wife from there.

When Eliezer reached the country where the sons of Nahor dwelt, he sat down by a well. He was perplexed and did not know how to make a good choice. In his trouble he began to pray with great fervor, and said:

"O Lord God of my master Abraham, I pray thee send me good speed this day, and show kindness unto my master Abraham. Behold, I stand here by the well of water, and the daughters of the men of the city come out to draw water; and let it come to pass that the damsel to whom I shall say, 'Let down thy pitcher, I pray thee, that I may drink;' and she shall say, 'Drink, and I will give thy camels drink also,' let the same be she that thou hast appointed for thy servant Isaac; and thereby shall I know that thou hast shown kindness unto my master'.