221 After these events, it was God who tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!”
Abraham answered, “Here I am.”
2 God said, “Do take your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go-you-forth to the land of Moriah (“Seeing”). There, offer him up as a burnt offering on one of the mountains that I will tell you of.” 3 Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two lads with him, together with his son Isaac. He split wood for the offering, set out, and went to the place God had told to him.
4 On the third day, Abraham raised his eyes and saw the place from afar. 5 Abraham said to his lads, “You sit here with the donkey. The lad and I will walk up yonder, bow in worship, and return to you.”
The previous scene indicated, “And Abraham settled in the land of the Philistines many days” (21:34). Thus ends the story begun in Haran. All’s well that ends well!
Well, no such settlement lasts long. With the covenant fulfilled, there is a test of its continuity. Is the deal between Abraham and YHWH still viable or will there be a parting of the ways? The story of the “Binding of Isaac” will mark a risky and traumatic transition to next generations.
In Haran there was no calling of a name, only a call received directly. With a change in name comes a test, not unlike that of Abram who had a dark dread with a fire moving between split-open animals.
This emotionally fraught experience will set another stage. Further distance is put between Ishmael and Isaac with G*D’s identifying Isaac as Abraham’s only son (Sarah’s only son, Abraham’s second) as the one he loves (Abraham could claim his love of both sons), and, finally, just Isaac. The command is to take Isaac to a wilderness place of seeing or discerning, and there divide him and burn him as a sacrificial offering. The promise to Abraham was only that he would have a son who would become a nation. That is already underway with Ishmael. With Isaac removed, G*D and Abraham will be back to their buddy-movie.
This command comes only to Abraham, not Sarah, and he does not pass this latest state-of-affairs to his wife.
There is an overtone of kidnapping as the instructions indicate a general location and later instructions about where to drop the ransom. Except here the kidnapper uses the parent both to kidnap their own child and to kill the child before getting their cut.
Abraham makes preparations and begins on his way. Some three days later (three being a symbol for just enough days to arrive) the entourage arrives in the general location. Leaving the rest behind Abraham takes Isaac, and they go to listen for further instructions.
The claim is “worship”, the picture is “they will both return.” Readers are recommended to engage their suspension of disbelief.