"Journey to Moriah" (The story of Abraham)


The old man slowly lifted the flap covering the entrance to his tent. He looked down at his wife who was fast asleep on the large ornate rug covering the sandy dirt floor. If only she knew what the true purpose of this trip was. She would die a thousand deaths. There would be no turning back. He had to obey, no questions asked. It was just a matter of obedience. He had his orders from above. He would obey no matter what.

He walked outside into the early morning desert air. It was still cool and the ground moist from the night’s dew. Soon, the sun would arise over the eastern horizon and scorch the desert sand like a furnace.

The old man had a small ram’s horn tucked under his cloth belt that was wound about his tunic. He took it out and blew a long blast that resonated across the desert sands. He observed the many tents that covered the encampment. From two tents, two of his servants emerged, ready for the three-day journey that was ahead. They began folding and securing the tenting, poles, ropes, and wooden pegs to the backs of two donkeys.

Food was also secured for the trip. The servants packed dried fruit, dried lamb , goat meat, and skins of water. The old man personally bound sticks of wood to his donkey

And placed the piece of iron and a flint stone in a pouch on the donkey’s saddle. All was ready, only now he had to get his son up. He went over to his son’s tent and slowly lifted the flap that covered the entrance. His son was still asleep on the rug, covered with some blankets woven from sheep’s wool. Perhaps, he hadn’t heard the ram’s horn.

The father bent down and shook his son ever so softly.

“Son, it’s time.”

The son slowly opened his eyes and looked up at his father.

“Alright father, I’ll be ready in a few minutes” said the son, slowly pushing aside the woolen blankets, reaching for his sandals.

The father stepped out of his son’s tent and went over to the servants who were readying the asses and making sure that everything was tied and secure. The old man nodded his head in approval, seeing that everything was in order. He turned to look toward his son’s tent, seeing him emerging, rubbing the sleep from his eyes, but still ready for the long, three-day trip from Beersheva to the land of Moriah.

“Let’s go” shouted the old man, as he lifted his staff in the air. The four-man caravan started moving northward along a familiar trail which stood out among the desert sands.

Here and there, small desert animals would scurry around; serpents, scorpions, and lizards, all searching the sands for their morning meals.

Time passed slowly, as the caravan moved ever so slowly northward. The sun grew high into the clear, cloudless sky touching the travelers with its rays of intense heat.

At midday, the group stopped for a rest. There was a small oasis where the thirsty donkeys drank their fill of fresh, cool water. The group sat down and ate some dried fruit and a few strips of dried goat meat.

The old man, however, did not eat. He wandered a ways off from the group and just stood with eyes glued to the horizon in the east. He stood there deep in thought when he felt a hand on his arm.

“Father, will we continue our journey?”

“Now” replied the father, “we leave now.

Father and son returned to the two servants who were already waiting by the donkeys.

The servants were wondering about the full purpose of this trip, as the old man did not give a detailed explanation. They were just to be ready to make a three-day trip to the land of Moriah.

The old man gave the word, and the group of four moved out, continuing along the dry, dusty road northward to Moriah. The sun traveled across the clear, blue sky, its heat scorching the travelers with its intensity. The desert wind swirled columns of dust around and around them as they continued their trip north.

At the end of the first day, the old man gave the order to set up camp. The servants untied the tent poles with the ropes, and the tenting cloth from the backs of the weary donkeys. As soon as the camp was set up, the servants, the old man and his son sat down around a small fire and talked about the events of the day. Bread was broken and passed around along with strips of dried goats meat warmed over the fire. There was also a small sack filled with dried dates and figs.

The sun went down over the western horizon, the servants and the old man’s son went into their tents for the night. Only the old man continued to sit by the fire. After a while, he got up. With staff in hand he walked away form the camp until the camp fire was just a glowing speck in the distance.

He sat down one a large rock and stared into the star filled night sky toward the east.

He sat there thinking of God’s promise, the promise of a nation, a nation descending from his seed. But how would that be possible now? His thoughts turned to the past, a past of bitter memories. He remembered the once populous city of Sodom which lay toward the south of the great sea of the east. It was a sea which once teamed with life, but now, void of all living creatures

God had brought judgment to Sodom and Gomorra for their wickedness and vile sin.

The LORD rained down fire and brimstone so much that, save for his nephew Lot and his daughters, not so much as one soul escaped the inferno. Now Sodom and Gomorra are no more. Their inhabitants as well as the sea near it, dead. The once living sea became a sea of salt. A sea which witnessed the wickedness of its vile neighbors, the children of sin who perished under the weight of the fire of God, to arise no more.

The old man continued to stare into the east, his head filled with those memories. He lifted his head up to gaze into the starry sky. His eyes followed a star as it streaked across the heavens. His thoughts again returned to the promise, a promise made to him so many years ago. Some how, it would come to past. A nation would come from his son.

Suddenly, the old man heard footsteps. He looked toward the encampment to see a figure walking toward him in the light of the moon. The moonlight revealed the figure of his son.

“You can’t sleep father?” asked the son as he walked up beside the old man.

“No” said the old man as he embraced his son. “I have a lot on my mind” looking again towards the east.

“You’re thinking of Sodom, aren’t you?” said the son, also turning to look towards the east.

“Yes son”, replied the old man, “the LORD is not willing that anyone perish, but because of the extreme wickedness of the people of Sodom and Gomorra, their destruction was imminent”.

“Were the little children and babies of Sodom and Gomorra wicked too father?” asked the son, looking deeply into his father's eyes.

The old man thought for a while, gazing again toward the east. His son asked an interesting question which needed to be answered with wisdom. He turned again to face his son.

“What would have been better son?” asked the father, “that innocent children grow up to be wicked and vile sinners, to be destroyed and for ever be separated from the presence of God? Or that the LORD take the innocent children to be with him and so avoid becoming vile and wicked sinners, and thus destroyed , for ever to be separated from his holy presence?”

The old man’s son thought for while. His father’s wisdom made sense. “I understand father” replied the son, slowly nodding his head. The two continued to stare off into the eastern sky, their thought now like- minded. Above them, the twinkling stars slowly moved across the night sky, reminders of the promise made years ago. Both father and son were very much part of that promise.

“let’s go back to our tents son” said the old man, turning again toward the small encampment, “the night is still young”. Walking side by side, both the old man and his son walked back to their encampment for a good night’s rest.

By mid-morning, the small caravan was on its way again heading north to Moriah. The group trudged on and, stopping to rest at midday when the strong desert sun was directly overhead, bearing down with all of its intense heat. The group refilled the water skins with fresh, cool water from an oasis. The beasts also had their rest, drinking the cool, refreshing water from the oasis together with the grain that the servants had brought for them.

After the rest stop, the small caravan continued on the journey. Little by little, they made their way toward the land of Moriah, it wouldn’t be long now. As the sun set at the end of the second day, the group pitched their tents. As the evening before, the old man wandered off a distance to pray and meditate on the strange task before him. Could he dare deny God anything?

The old man’s son looked across the desert from the entrance of his tent. He saw the outline of his father in the light of the moon. This night, he did not join him. He had the feeling that his father wanted to be alone with his thoughts.

On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place afar off (Gen 22:4) He turned to watch his two servants who were following close behind him. As they got closer, he lifted up his hand for them to stop. There was a shallow well beside the road. Abraham pointed to the well. The servants went over to refresh themselves and their beasts also.

Abraham proceeded to untie the bundle of firewood from the back of his donkey. He also took out the iron and flint to start the fire. He then walked over to where his two servants were watering their donkeys. He walked slowly, pondering his mission. A test, could it indeed be another test of his faith?

“Stay here with the donkey” Abraham said to his young men, “the lad and I will go yonder and worship, and we will come back to you” (Gen 22:5) Abraham thought about the words which just proceeded from his mouth. WE will come back to you? Indeed WE?

So Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son, and he took the fire in his hand, and the knife, and the two of them went together. (Gen 22:6)

Slowly, both father and son ascended the small mountain called Moriah. Abraham lead the way and his son Isaac followed close behind. When they neared the top of Moriah, Isaac looked around . He had a puzzling look on his face, as if something were missing. He finally revealed his thoughts to Abraham his father.

“My father” and he said “Here I am my son”. Then Isaac responded;

“Look, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” (Gen 22:7)

Abraham looked at his son, his eyes filled with love and compassion. He loved his boy but he also loved God. Could he dare deny the creator of life, a life that he himself created? Then Abraham said;

“My son, God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering”.

So the two of them went together. Then they came to the place of which God had told them. And Abraham built an altar there and placed the wood in order and he bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, upon the wood. (Gen 22:8, 9)

Isaac looked up at his father with tears in his eyes. He could hardly believe what was happening. The lamb for the sacrifice, the lamb, he, Isaac, would be the lamb. A human lamb? How could such a sacrifice be?

“Father” said Isaac quietly, “how can the God of the universe, of all creation, the creator of all that is good want a human sacrifice? Does he not detest such practices?”

Abraham, with tears in his eyes looked down at his son who was bound with rope, laying on the wood. What words could he say to his son, the chosen son of the covenant?

“Yes my son” said Abraham, his voice cracking, “God does indeed detest such practices, but I still must trust him in all things.

“Is there nothing you can refuse him father?”

“nothing” replied Abraham with tears flowing from his eyes.

“Go ahead then father” replied Isaac, “I am ready to be the sacrifice he demands of you”. Abraham slowly nodded.

“I love you son”

“I love you too father” replied Isaac.

And Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the Angel of the LORD called to him from heaven saying; "Abraham, Abraham!"

“Here I am” replied the patriarch.

“Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do any thing to him; for now I know that you fear God since you have not withheld your son, your only son from me." (Gen 22:11-12)

“Thank you LORD” whispered Abraham, “Thank you”.

Isaac opened his eyes and looked up at his father. Both were smiling now. Both had passed the test. A test of obedience, a test of faith, a test of courage.

“It’s all right son” said Abraham, “God did not really intend for you to be the sacrifice”

Abraham sat Isaac up on the wood. He then cut the ropes that bound Isaac hands and feet. As Isaac got down from the stone altar, he looked at something moving in some bushes behind his father.

“Father, look behind you, there’s something moving.”

Then Abraham lifted his eyes and looked and there behind him was a ram caught in a thicket by its horns. So Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up for a burnt offering instead of his son. (Gen 22:13)

Father and son stood there by the altar of stone. The body of the perfect ram was bloodied and bursting with bright, orange flames. Soon it was just a charred skeleton completely consumed by the flames.

“This was a lesson about faith my son” said Abraham as he held his son by his side.

“God had intended all along that this ram be the sacrifice that would take your place on the pile of wood. He wanted to see if I was willing to offer you up my son”

“Would you…..would you have brought down the knife upon me really father?” asked Isaac, looking up deeply into his father’s eyes.

“Yes son” replied Abraham, “I would have, and the LORD knoweth all thoughts and all deeds even before hand. Thus he prepared the ram for the burnt offering. Can you understand that my son?”

“Yes father” replied Isaac, meditating on what his father had just said, “I think so.”

“Now” said Abraham, “Let’s go back down and return home. I believe your mother is awaiting our return.”

As father and son started back down the mountain, Isaac looked back one more time at the altar and the ram, which was now only a small pile of smoldering ashes.

“Only the future will reveal the true meaning of this lesson today son” said Abraham embracing his son Isaac.

And Abraham called the name of the place, The LORD-will-provide, as it is said to this day. In the mount of the LORD it shall be provided. (Gen 22:14)

As father and son stood there that day upon the summit of the LORD’s mountain, they heard the voice of the Angel of God calling out a second time from heaven saying:

“By myself I have sworn, says the LORD because you have done this thing and have not withheld your son, your only son; blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heavens and as the sand which is on the seashore, and your descendants shall possess the gate of your enemies. In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed because you have obeyed my voice.” (Gen 22:15-18)

Father and son smiled at each other. “Blessed be the LORD” said Abraham lifting up his hands toward heaven. “Blessed be his Holy Name” replied Isaac also lifting up his hands toward heaven.

So Abraham and Isaac returned to the servants who were awaiting them at the foot of the Mount of God, and went together to Beersheva, and Abraham dwelt at Beersheva. (Gen 22:19)

By Rabbi J. Ben Avraham

Such a powerful story..that points to Jesus. God did not withhold his only begotten son. And Jesus himself knew that God would raise him up in three days, so he was willing to be that sacrificial lamb and face death for us.

You get a sense of how innocent and good Isaac was, although it is not mentioned how old he was at the time. He did not run away, he implicitly trusted his father.

Mount Moriah, is that where Jerusalem is now? There are several mounts mentioned in the Bible. I dont know how big they are, whether they are truly mountains or just hills. All of them seem significant in some way as places that are closer to God.

Mount zion, mount of olives, mount sinai, mount gerazim, mount horeb..

Thanks you Ben avraham.