Q.

Had Abraham ever been an idolater? Was his offering of Isaac the same as the heathen practice of offering children on an altar? If so, why did God ask Abraham to do this?

A.
It would seem that Abraham was an idolater before God called him to follow Him. Joshua 24:2, which tells of Joshua’s death, reads:

And Joshua said unto all the people, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Your fathers dwelt on the other side of the flood in old time, even Terah, the father of Abraham, and the father of Nachor: and they served other gods.

Abraham’s life is a clear testimony of the grace of God in reaching a sinner. Abraham lived in Ur of the Chaldees when God saved him. Ur, especially as we have come to understand through archaeological discoveries, was a great place for the worship of false gods. One authority stated that Terah, Abraham’s father, worshiped no less than 12 deities!

But the command God gave Abraham to sacrifice Isaac was totally unrelated to the practice of heathens in sacrificing their children. Remember that God knew ahead of time that He was going to intervene—there was no intent whatsoever that Abraham would succeed in carrying out the request of this test. God was testing Abraham’s obedience. When the moment came that Abraham was about to bring his knife down on Isaac, God, of course, stepped in.

In fact, any knowledge Abraham had of the heathen sacrificing of children would only show in a greater way Abraham’s obedience. He may have wondered what God was up to and why He asked such a strange requirement of him, but to Abraham God’s command meant unquestioned obedience, regardless of how unusual it was or how contrary to God’s holy ways it seemed. And, of course, he must have wondered how God was going to keep His promise concerning Abraham’s seed if his son was to be slain. But, again, Abraham had confidence in God and His commands.

Do you have feedback or a Bible question to submit? Send to nolson@garbc.org or mail to Norman A. Olson in care of the Baptist Bulletin, 1300 N. Meacham Rd., Schaumburg, IL 60173-4806.

Reprinted from the Baptist Bulletin (November 1988).
© 1988 Regular Baptist Press. All rights reserved.
Used by permission.