One of the hardest stories in the Bible to swallow, especially for mothers, is when God asks Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. The whole idea of God asking Abraham to kill his most beloved son conjures up all kinds of monstrous thoughts about a being that is supposed to be the very essence of love. I recently received an e-mail from a reader about an article written by James Goodman in the Huffington Post, entitled, The Five Most Terrifying Words in the Bible. The title comes from five words quoted Genesis 22:7 where Isaac asks his father, “…but where is the lamb…” for the sacrifice. It does a good job of illustrating the emotional turmoil this Biblical scene has caused. Mr. Goodman’s very own mother was quoted as saying, “I hate that story. I can’t listen to another word.”
I believe this reader sent me the article because she shares that mother’s sentiment. Like many others who have read the story, she wonders if it really happened, and if it didn’t, why is it in the Bible?
Granted, God stops Abraham right before he stabs his son and we find out the entire incident was a test of faith. But if this scene historically happened, it poses two big problems for God:
1) God commands us not to kill. Why would he contradict his very nature by telling Abraham to kill his own son?
2) Why would an omniscient God need to put Abraham through such a test in the first place?
Most Christians will defend God on the second point by saying that the incident had nothing to do with God. Rather, the test was for Abraham. But we must ask ourselves why would Abraham benefit from passing such a test? The emotional turmoil alone at the thought of killing your own son would be justification enough to say, “No, God, I can’t do it,” thus rendering any potential lesson learned obsolete. Any mother could understand that. At least this is the sentiment I get from many women.
So what’s this story really about? What’s the deeper meaning?
First of all I would like to say that this story was not meant to be taken literally. Just as God would never ask his people to kill innocent women, children, and animals when his people entered the Promised Land, a God of love would never ask one of his people to kill their own son. The story is one of metaphor and symbolism to teach us the deeper truths of reality. Like all Biblical stories, its true nature lies in the involution and evolution of the soul, and if we were taught the proper meanings of these symbols in church, we wouldn’t have so many people that cringe at portions of the Old Testament because of its seemingly barbaric nature.
The Story of the Christ in the Old Testament
Most Christian theologians believe that this story foreshadows the coming of Jesus who would take the place of humanity on the cross. The central theme of this Old Testament story then becomes the great faith of Abraham in knowing that God will provide the sacrifice. This is a wonderful way of viewing the story, but I want us to see the more correct way of understanding it. The truth is, the two stories of Abraham being asked to sacrifice Isaac and the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross are actually one and the same. Abraham and Isaac’s story isn’t so much of a foreshadowing of Jesus’ sacrifice as it is the same story being told again! What’s even more is the fact that both of these stories and the characters involved are telling YOUR story as well! Remember, each Biblical story brings us closer to the truth within us (the nature of the Christ) when we apply them to ourselves instead of thinking they are about someone else in another time and place.
Let’s begin by discussing some important concepts in theosophy. Then we’ll apply them to Abraham’s story. When we’re finished, the story of Abraham asking to sacrifice his own son won’t sound so barbaric anymore.
The First, Second, and Third Logos
Most people are familiar with the Greek term “logos.” It’s translated as the “Word” in English, but this translation hardly does it justice. Today we’re going to expand the definition of the logos into three components.
Please bear in mind the terms first, second, and third logos were not used when the New Testament was written, but nonetheless the concepts will help us better understand the complicated nature of chapter one in the Gospel of John.
Within that chapter, the first logos represents the unmanifested Father, whereas the second logos represents the first ray (the son/the word/latent reason and thought) sent forth from the father into manifestation and duality, and the third logos represents the fully manifested son, or the “word (second logos) made flesh” (third logos).
Did you get that? Reread it again if you didn’t. Digest it for a moment. It will become important later.
If the above concepts still seems foreign to you, think of it like this, exactly as it is written according to the first chapter in the Gospel of John:
“In the beginning was the word (second logos), and the logos was with God (the first logos).
“And the word (second logos) was made flesh (third logos) and dwelt among us (in the physical world)…”
Before we go any further, it is important to point out that the first, second, and third logos are ONE. The differentiation between the three seeks to convey how the energies of God manifest creation. It is similar to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in Christianity. Many of the early Christian fathers understood this, but the meaning has been lost through centuries of distortion.
Once you’ve digested the concept of the first, second, and third logos, we can define the symbol of the ram. In the story of Abraham being asked to sacrifice Isaac, the ram represents the second logos. The ram symbolizes the divine life involved (descending) down into matter, just as Jesus was sent from the father and descended to take on flesh in the first chapter of John.
Remember, before the Word became “flesh,” it was simply “with God,” but was also separate from God. Everything in the world was made by this Word, meaning that this divine life was the energy blueprint of all creation. This is why “everything” was made through the Word.
If the ram represents the second logos, then Isaac represents the third logos, or “the son” fully manifested, as did Jesus and all of us who are also in the flesh. Therefore, the ram is sacrificed (involved life) for the son (evolved life), so that the evolution of the soul can take place. The sacrifice has to take place in order for the soul to evolve. There is always a sacrifice in order to grow. Whether this is the consumption of energy from food or the consumption of raw material, everything requires a sacrifice. For the soul, this sacrifice comes in the form of experience on the lowest plane of manifestation.
Now consider the scene that takes place after God tells Abraham not to go through with the sacrifice:
“And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in the thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son” (Gen. 22:13).
This story utilizes the symbol of the thicket because the thicket represents the world of matter and duality, where the soul is caught is trapped until it completes its cycle and can cast off the flesh.
The Hebrew word for thicket comes from the word seb-awk, which means entwined, wrapped up. It is the soul that is entwined in matter and duality.
Abraham sacrifices the ram (the second logos involved in matter) so that the evolved life (the son and third logos) can begin the process of ascension back to God.
The Number Three
The number three denotes the completion of a period of activity. Jesus was three days and nights in the tomb (symbolic of the body of flesh) before his resurrection. In other words, it was three days before his resurrection because three represents the completion of his cycle of activity in the flesh.
In the story of God asking Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, the number of three is also used.
“And Abraham rose up early in the morning…and went unto the place of which God had told him. Then on the third day, Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place afar off” (Gen. 22:3-4).
Just as Jesus was three days in the tomb, so did Abraham travel for three days before reaching the destination where Isaac was to become the sacrifice. Abraham is symbolic of the phase of the divine nature active in the soul. That is why he is the central figure of this story. It is through the divine phases of involution and evolution that the process of God manifests as man and then man ascends back to God. If we are honest, the New Testament teaches that we are to become the image of Christ, the one who ascended. WE are to ascend, as shown in the story of Christ, back to the father through the death, burial, and resurrection of the ego.
The Lamb of God
We have all heard the expression, “The Lamb of God.” This expression represents Christ, of course, who was “crucified before the foundation of the world.”
In the story of Genesis 22 Abraham tells Isaac not to worry about the lamb, because “God will provide himself the lamb.”
What many people who read the Bible fail to realize about reality is that we have all been crucified since the foundation of the world. This is the divine plan all along. The very fact that our eternal souls have taken on flesh and come into the world of duality or matter from the first and second logos means that all of us have our cross to bear if we wish to ascend.
This is what Jesus meant when he said, take up your cross and follow me. It is a call for us to realize that HIS story is our story. His ascension is to become our ascension. Abraham’s sacrifice for Isaac to become the “promised son” is also our story because we are to manifest the Son within us.
The real meaning of the story then is not that a higher being asked his devotee to kill his son, but rather the story reveals that within us is contained the divine nature of God. The story brings a whole new meaning to the famous phrase by the Greek philosopher Protagorus, who stated that “Man is the measure of all things.”
Think of it like this: contained within all men is the truth of the first, second, and third logos.
Hopefully you now see this story as one of peace and comfort instead of the barbarism of a supreme being! And if you know any mothers who have struggled with this story, don’t forget to send them this article!