Rabbi’s Reflections – Saturday, September 19, 2020
Shabbat Shalom and Gut Yontov

God’s Love Revealed in the Binding of Isaac by David Harwood

Today is a special day. It’s the beginning of Yom Teruah/Rosh HaShanah.

During Rosh HaShanah the story of Abraham offering up his son Isaac as a sacrifice is traditionally retold. It’s called the “Akedah”: the binding of Isaac. The word comes from ’qd (aqad) defined as tying an animal’s legs together in preparation for a sacrifice. It is translated, bound. Here is where the word is found:

Abraham built the altar there, laid out the wood, bound up Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. (B’resheet/Genesis 22:9b TLV) 

In Genesis 22 there are a couple of first mentions of important concepts. They provide part of a significant foundation for understanding the rest of the Bible. For instance, if you are looking for the first time the words “love” and “worship” are found look no further.

Here they are:

Then He said, “Take your son, your only son whom you love (B’resheet/Genesis 22:2 TLV)

“As for me and the young man, we’ll go over there, worship and return to you.” (B’resheet/Genesis 22:5b TLV) 

I want to review some of this chapter to open us up to a greater understanding of God’s love. Take a look…

1 Now it was after these things that God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham.”  “Hineni,” he said.  2 Then He said, “Take your son, your only son whom you love —Isaac—and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains about which I will tell you.” (B’resheet/Genesis 22:1–2 TLV) 

From a Messianic perspective there is a lot to be said concerning the typological value of this terrifying crisis in Abraham and Isaac’s lives. Isaac was Abraham’s unique son who was uniquely loved. He was being offered as a sacrifice and was symbolically received back in a form of resurrection.

17 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac. Yes, he who had received the promises was offering up his one and only son— 18 the one about whom it was said, “Through Isaac offspring shall be named for you.” 19 He reasoned that God was able to raise him up even from the dead—and in a sense, he did receive him back from there. (Hebrews 11:17–19 TLV) 

To believers in Yeshua this incident is filled with meaning. It reminds us of the Father giving up His unique and beloved Son and the Messiah Yeshua’s resurrection from the dead. However, I want us to take some time to focus on the way this passage informs us about the nature of God’s love.

In this verse the Hebrew word translated “love” is “Ahavah.”

Then He said, “Take your son, your only son whom you love (B’resheet/Genesis 22:2 TLV) 

Here is some significant background to help the believer understand God’s love as it is revealed in the New Covenant Scriptures.

David Trail:  What follows is some brief introductory information about the Septuagint.

Approximately two centuries before the Messiah came the Hebrew Scriptures were translated into Greek. This translation is called the Septuagint. It is commonly believed that Genesis was translated into Greek around the middle of the 3rd century BCE.

As we mentioned, the Hebrew word for love in Genesis 22 is “Ahavah.”  This is the most common word in the Tanakh (the Hebrew Scriptures) that indicates this emotion. Many may not know that in the Septuagint “Ahavah” is practically universally translated into the Greek word “Agape.”  We should note that the New Covenant Scriptures generally use the same word for love as the Septuagint: “Agape.”

This word is used to describe God’s love for lost humanity and the faithful community of believers in Yeshua. Here are three examples of the use of agape:

For God so loved (agape) the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16 TLV)

But God demonstrates His own love (agape) toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Messiah died for us. (Romans 5:8)

Husbands, love (agape) your wives just as Messiah also loved (agape) His community and gave Himself up for her (Ephesians 5:25 TLV)

Over time “Agape” was wrongly defined. We can recover its meaning by returning to the roots of how it was used to translate “Ahavah.”  Like “Ahavah,” “Agape” describes all of the nuances of the emotion we call love.

Let’s begin this year by recognizing that “Agape” can indicate the type of profound affectionate attachment Abraham had for Isaac.  “Agape” can be deeply emotional.  In this context it certainly is!  It describes a powerfully felt love that makes the story of the Akedah (the binding of Isaac) so gripping.  This was not an emotionally insignificant sacrifice.  Abraham loved (ahavah/agape) Isaac.

This use of agape is a window into the nature of God’s love for you, your family, your neighbors, and your enemies.

When you approach God try to bring to mind that His love for you is heartfelt.  He loves you, values you, and wants the best for you.  Because He loves you and you trust Him through Yeshua He has written your name in the Scroll of Life (Philippians 4:3).  Rest confidently in His abiding love and remain there. He will be with you throughout this next year.

L’Shanah Tovah!