Biblical Abraham To Be ‘Tried’ For Child Endangerment

It was a father-son hiking trip gone terribly wrong. When they reached the mountain peak, the father tied up his son, placed him on a pile of firewood and prepared to slash the boy’s throat—until he heard a voice telling him to stop.

This week, the father—also known as the biblical patriarch Abraham —will be brought up on charges of attempted murder and endangering the welfare of his son, Isaac, in a high-profile mock trial at Temple Emanu-El synagogue in New York .

Presiding over the Old Testament-inspired case will be U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan. Representing Abraham will be high-profile defense attorney Alan Dershowitz. Former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer will lead the prosecution.

“Let’s be honest here—if I put an ad asking people to come study Bible on a Sunday morning, not many people will come,” said Gady Levy, the new executive director of the synagogue’s Skirball Center, which is hosting the event.

With this program, he said, “people are going to come and study Torah. But they’re going to do it in a creative way—and in a way that makes religion relevant to their lives.”

The temple has sold more than 1,000 tickets at $36 each for the event.

“For me this is the ideal program,” Dr. Levy said. “It’s educational, it’s fun. We’re talking about a culture that is obsessed with celebrity trials. Who’s a bigger celebrity than Abraham?”

And few are in more dire need of a good lawyer, Mr. Dershowitz said, calling Abraham “one of my toughest clients. [He] ranks up there with Claus von Bulow and O.J. Simpson . ”

There is one difference from those other cases, Mr. Spitzer noted: “Abraham has a longer criminal record.”

He declined to elaborate, citing trial strategy.

In the biblical story, God commands Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. Abraham prepares to kill his son, but in most versions he is stopped at the last minute by an angel, who says Abraham has passed God’s test.


14 thoughts on “Biblical Abraham To Be ‘Tried’ For Child Endangerment

      • Dom,

        This is what the Scripture actually says:

        “And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.” Gen. 22:2

        No mention of the first born here. And this was written at least 2000 years before Islam came on the scene.

        This was corroborated by Josephus Flavius when he wrote his “Antiquities of the Jews”. And Josephus was hated by his countrymen before writing his work. That the son who was sacrificed was Isaac, is also corroborated by the apostle Paul in two of his writings (Galatians and Hebrews). He was also considered an enemy of Judaism. One of the tests that scholars use to test the genuineness of an event is to look for corroborative evidence from sources which at war with each other and seek to contradict each other at every opportunity. This was the case between Judaism and Christianity in the first centuries of the common era. Yet in spite of this, both corroborated and confirmed which son was sacrificed.

        What has Islam got to offer in its defence that it was Ishmael not Isaac that was sacrificed? Nothing. The Koran does not say it. No reputable scholars and/or scholarly records exist. Only Islamic opinions on the subject.

        Which is strange and illogical. Both Christians, Jews and Muslim believe that it was the same God that was at the centre of the sacrifice of Ishmael/Isaac. Yet somehow, this God forgot to tell the Jews and Christians that their historical record was incorrect, and waited some 2000 years before revealing it to the Muslims. And furthermore, God or Allah or whatever, forgot to tell Muhammad clearly which son was sacrificed, so he could set the record straight in the Koran, clearly and without any ambiguity?!


      • I know what it states, To take thy only son. Only one person fits the bill.

        As for it not stated in the Quran. God makes comments as God sees fit. It is stated in hadith 1400 years ago who the real person to be sacrificed was.

        Some reports and traditions from the Companions and Followers state that the Sacrificed is Ishmael(P).
        Narrated by al-Hâkim in Al-Mustadrak, and Ibn Jarîr [at-Tabarî] in his commentary with its isnâd, and others that cAbdullâh Ibn Sacîd al-Sâbihy said: “We were at Mu’âwiyah’s reception and the people started discussing [the story of] Ishmael and Isaac(P) and which one was the sacrificed. Some said Ishmael and some said Isaac(P).
        Mu’âwiyah said: I am the expert you need; We were at the Prophet’s(P) when a bedouin came to him saying “O Prophet of God, I have left the pasture dry and the life hard, the children died and the wealth is gone, so give me [something] of what God has bestowed on you, O Son of the two sacrificed.”
        The Prophet(P) smiled and did not blame/criticize what he said. The people asked: Who are the two sacrificed O Commander of the believers?
        He replied: When cAbdul Muttalib was ordered to dig Zamzam he vowed to sacrifice one of his sons if God helps him with his mission [i.e., Zamzam]. When he achieved the mission, he cast lots on his children, there were ten of them. The choice fell on cAbdullâh so he decided to sacrifice him but the child’s uncles, Banu Makhzûm, opposed the sacrifice and said satisfy your Lord and ransom your son. So, he ransomed him with a hundred camels. Mu’âwiyah said: this is one [of the two Sacrificed] the other is Ishmael(P).”


      • There were folk tales earlier than the OT account, where Abraham sacrificed his son, and this was completed with no intervention. Perhaps there were two incidents, or perhaps the account of God’s intervention was a later embellishment, as was the covenant rainbow to the older flood story. These were teaching strategies, using old tales to teach concepts of God’s grace.

        Many OT characters, supposed to live for so long and have numerous descendants, were in fact families, or direct male line, rather than the individual. Some even survived longer as clans, and some , like Israel are alive now.


      • Dom, I think I discussed with you before the problems you have in Islam because you interpret the Koran through the lens of the Hadiths. Hadiths are not the Koran. Secondly, you still haven’t given me a reputed source of evidence that the Jews and Christian narrative was wrong. Neither has Strewth.

        How come we don’t find any evidence of Ishmael having been the one to be sacrificed in the writings of the Church Fathers. These individuals were in constant conflicts with heretics, and were quoting scripture to sustain their position against heresies. To the point that if the New Testament was to be destroyed today, we could reconstruct it from the quotes of the Church Fathers.

        In fact the reason why Ishmael was substituted for Isaac was because of the fact that this narration was one of the greatest illustration of God’s redemption of humanity at Calvary. For those who wish to strike at the plan of salvation, there is no better way of doing this, but to substitute Ishmael for Isaac.

        Paul made it clear that Isaac was child born of faith/grace, whilst Ishmael was the child born of works (Galatians). Strike at this, and you produce a religion that is not based on salvation by faith/grace but by works.


      • Da Vinci

        As I stated earlier. Maybe you were not around. In Islam you cannot get to paradise by your works alone. You need the grace of God. It blows your your grace versus works analogy out of the water.


        Let me approach this from a different angle and we go from there.

        How can Isaac be Abraham’s only son ?


      • “How can Isaac be Abraham’s only son ?”

        – Because the promise was made to Abraham and Sarah, not Abraham and Hagar (see Genesis 18:10- 15).
        – Because Hagar was given in marriage to Abraham so that Sarah could get a son through her (See Genesis 16). This was similar to todays surrogate mothers.
        – Because God did not recognise surrogacy as a legitimate means of getting an heir. Notice that the Bible specifically talks about Sarah bearing a child, after Ishmael was born, and God establishing a covenant with this child instead of Ishmael (Genesis 17:18,21)
        – Because the Bible does not record any other son by Sarah. Ishmael who was conceived for the purpose of being adopted by Sarah, was eventually disowned by Sarah, so he doesn’t count.
        – Because God agreed to Ishmael and Hagar being banished, indicating that they were not part of the covenant between Himself and Abraham.

        Once again, do you have any sources of information from within Jewish or Christian sources that predate Islam, which support your theory? I might not have been there, but then neither was Mohammed or his hadith writers. Do you have any ancient sources (independent of Jewish and Christian sources) that predate Islam and confirm Islam’s position on this matter?


      • Da Vinci

        What supports my theory is the bible itself. I am willing to step away from this debate not to offend anyone.


    • Of course many scholars carry the conviction that the fable of Abraham nearly murdering his own son, was designed to represent the stage or time in ‘history’ when the worshippers of the One God came round to ceasing the literal sacrifice of their firstborns.

      It was in response to this that the obligation and practice developed of having pious Jewish fathers pay a nominal sum of money to the Temple Priests as the cost of Redeeming their firstborn. And as usual the real meaning of the Abrahamic story was carefully forgotten and the tale given new significance. No-one really wants any more to admit that the claim that the firstborn belongs to God ever meant sacrificing him.


  1. From the story of Abraham we can see that the higher level you are, the more you are tested. All the prophets and even the disciples test were difficult. The test brings you closer to God.

    Nowadays when people receive a test from God, the people around them assume they are being punished rather than being brought closer to God.


  2. My conversations with Dom should be a warning against this debate whether Abraham was guilty of child abuse, etc.

    If people can’t agree on key points of the story as related in the Bible, how can Abraham be brought in judgment? Isn’t the whole trial of Abraham an exercise in cerebral self abuse?


  3. I’m pretty sure that if it gets too heated the defence will call for a mistrial… For myself, I think that the different accounts do point to one of the central differences and disagreements between the Jewish/Christian faiths and Islam- the tension between works and grace. Within Islam (if my understanding is correctish), works are key to attaining salvation- which is itself something like a prize to be won. Within Judaism/Christianity (and more explicitly within Christianity I understand), grace is key to salvation- its a gift which is given and received, and works are a response to it. The question of who was (nearly?) sacrificed defines the nature of the covenant between God and his chosen people. They are so closely linked that to suggest to a Christian that Ishmael was the chosen one causes just as much difficulty as to suggest to a Moslem that Ishmael was nowhere near the mountain top in the event we’re thinking about.
    Anyway, the trial idea sounds like a fun way to get people thinking…


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