Giving up our Subjective Thinking for the Logos (Parsha Vayera)

This weeks Torah reading is Parsha Vayera (Gen. 18:1-22:24) which includes the account of the binding of Isaac known as the Akeda:

[1] And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am.
[2] 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.
[3] And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went unto the place of which God had told him.
[4] Then on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place afar off.
[5] And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you,
[6] And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it upon Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife; and they went both of them together.
[7] And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?
[8] And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together.
[9] And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood.
[10] And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son.
[11] And the angel of the LORD called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I.
[12] And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me.
[13] And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a 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.
[14] And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovah-jireh: as it is said to this day, In the mount of the LORD it shall be seen.
[15] And the angel of the LORD called unto Abraham out of heaven the second time,
[16] And said, By myself have I sworn, saith the LORD, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son:
[17] That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies;
[18] And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.
[19] So Abraham returned unto his young men, and they rose up and went together to Beer-sheba; and Abraham dwelt at Beer-sheba.
[20] And it came to pass after these things, that it was told Abraham, saying, Behold, Milcah, she hath also born children unto thy brother Nahor;
[21] Huz his firstborn, and Buz his brother, and Kemuel the father of Aram,
[22] And Chesed, and Hazo, and Pildash, and Jidlaph, and Bethuel.
[23] And Bethuel begat Rebekah: these eight Milcah did bear to Nahor, Abraham’s brother.
[24] And his concubine, whose name was Reumah, she bare also Tebah, and Gaham, and Thahash, and Maachah.
(Gen. 22 KJV)

The first century Jewish writer Philo of Alexandria understood the Akeda as an allegory by which Avraham was prepared to offer up to YHWH his “self-taught wisdom” (represented by Isaac) but YHWH instead substituted the LOGOS “The Word” or “divine reason” represented by the ram:

(4) For the appropriate progeny of God are the perfect virtues, but that offspring which is akin to the wicked, is unregulated wickedness. But learn thou, if thou wilt, O my mind, not to bear children to thyself, after the example of that perfect man Abraham, who offered up to God “The beloved and only legitimate offspring of his soul,” the most conspicuous image of self-taught wisdom, by name Isaac; and who gave him up with all cheerfulness to be a necessary and fitting offering to God. “Having bound,” as the scripture says, this new kind of victim, either because he, having once tasted of the divine inspiration, did not condescend any longer to tread on any mortal truth, or because he saw that the creature was unstable and moveable, while he recognised the unhesitating firmness existing in the living God, on whom he is said to have believed.
(On the Unchangeableness of God 4)

(133) Let us therefore consider what it is that he who is seeking doubts about, and what he who answers reveals, and in the third place what the thing is which was found. Now what the inquirer asks is something of this kind:–Behold the efficient cause, the fire; behold also the passive part, the material, the wood. Where is the third party, the thing to be effected? (134) As if he said, –Behold the mind, the fervid and kindled spirit; behold also the objects of intelligence, as it were so much material or fuel; where is the third thing, the act of perceiving? Or, again, –Behold the sight, behold the colour, where is the act of seeing? And, in short, generally, behold the external sense, behold the thing to be judge of; but where are the objects of the external sense, the material, the exertion of the feeling? (135) To him who puts these questions, answer is very properly made, “God will provide for himself.” For the third thing is the peculiar work of God; for it is owing to his providential arrangement that the mind comprehends, and the sight sees, and that every external sense is exerted. “And a ram is found caught by his horns;” that is to say, reason (LOGOS “The Word”) is found silent and withholding its assent; (136) for silence is the most excellent of offerings, and so is a withholding of assent to those matters of which there are not clear proofs; therefore this is all that ought to be said, “God will provide for himself,”–he to whom all things are known, who illuminates the universe by the most brilliant of all lights, himself. But the other things are not to be said by creatures over whom great darkness is poured; but quiet is a means of safety in darkness.
(On Flight and Finding 133-136)

Last week we learned that Avraham’s faith was in the Logos. This week we see that Avraham was willing to sacrifice his own objective thinking, and that God will provide the man willing to give up his self taught wisdom, with the Logos in its place.

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For a more theological exploration of Philo’s view of the Akeda see my blog Philo on the Akeda

And for more on the Akeda and Rosh HaShanna see my blog The Akeda and Rosh HaShanna

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