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    The test of Isaac

    The binding of Isaac, by A Losenko

    The Akedah – the Binding of Isaac – is a 15-verse self-contained story with three main characters, God, Abraham, and Isaac.

    The narrative is called the Binding of Isaac but it is prefaced by God applying a test not to Isaac but to Abraham. In some way Isaac has a bearing on the story but we are not certain why.

    The traditional view is that the story is a test of Abraham’s faith, which somehow involves Isaac but we don’t know how.

    Sigmund Freud suggests that it is not the patriarch’s faith in general which is on the agenda. Instead, says Freud, it is a test of Abraham’s attitude to his son. Does the father love his son – or hate him?

    If we say Abraham deep down hates Isaac and is glad to see him killed, we can tentatively explain that their relationship is a sort of Oedipus complex.

    If on the other hand we say that the father loves his son, the explanation could be that God wants to test how far Abraham is prepared to go for the sake of Isaac.

    Some scholars think the point of the story is that Isaac has to die in order for Abraham to prove his love, and there are Midrashim that speak about Isaac’s death.

    Most Jewish commentators, however, disagree and say that Isaac does not die and does not have to. Abraham can prove himself by the way he loves his son.

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