Sign 3 of Ibrahim: Sacrifice

The great prophet Ibrahim (PBUH) had been promised a son in the previous Sign. And Allah had kept his promise. In fact the Taurat continues the account of Ibrahim (PBUH) to describe how he got two sons. In Genesis 16 the Taurat tells how he got his son Ishmael with Hagar and then later Genesis 21 tells how he got his son Isaac with Sarai about 14 years later. Unfortunately for his household, this resulted in a great rivalry between the two women, Hagar and Sarai, and ended with Ibrahim sending Hagar and her son away. You can read here how this happened and how Allah blessed Hagar and Ishmael in another way.

The sacrifice of the Prophet Ibrahim: Basis for Eid al-adha

So with only one son left in his household Ibrahim (PBUH) encounters his greatest test but it is one that opens for us a greater understanding of the Straight Way. Please read the account from Taurat and Qur’an concerning the test of the sacrifice of his son here.  This story from the Books is the reason why the Eid al-adha is celebrated.  But this is not just a historical event.  It is more.

We can see from the account in the Books that this is a test for Ibrahim (PBUH), but it is more than just that. Since Ibrahim is a prophet this test is also a sign for us, so we could learn more about God’s care for us. In what way is this a sign? Please note the name that Ibrahim gave to the place where his son was to be sacrificed. This part of the Taurat is shown here so you can read it directly.

Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place ‘The LORD Will Provide’. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided.” (Genesis 22:13-14)

Allah had provided a ram so that his son would not have to be sacrificed.  But notice the name that Ibrahim (‘Abraham’ in the Taurat) gave to that place. He named it ‘The LORD will provide’. Is that name in the past tense, present tense or future tense? It is clearly in the future tense. And to be even more clear the comment which follows (which Musa – PBUH – inserted when he compiled this account into the Taurat about 500 years later) it repeats “…it will be provided”. Again this is in the future tense and looking to the future. Most people think that Ibrahim is referring to the ram (a male sheep) which was caught in the thicket and was sacrificed in place of his son. But when Ibrahim names the place the ram is already dead, sacrificed and burnt. If Ibrahim is thinking of the ram – already dead, sacrificed and burnt – he would have named it ‘The LORD has provided’, i.e. in the past tense. And Musa (pbuh), if he was thinking of the ram that took the place of Ibrahim’s son would have commented ‘And to this day it is said “On the mountain of the LORD it was provided”’. But both Ibrahim and Musa clearly give it a name in future tense and therefore are not thinking of the already dead and sacrificed ram.

So what are they thinking about then? If we look for a clue we see that the place where Allah told Ibrahim to go at the beginning of this Sign was:

Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.” (v.2)

This happened in ‘Moriah’. And where is that? Though it was a wilderness area in Ibrahim’s day (2000 BC), a thousand years later (1000 BC) the famous King Dawood (David) established the city of Jerusalem there, and his son Suleiman (Solomon) built the Temple there. We read in the Zabur about this that:

Then Solomon (Suleiman) began to build the temple of the LORD in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah, where the LORD had appeared to his father David (Dawood) 2Chronicles 3:1

In other words, ‘Mount Moriah’ in the time of Ibrahim (and later Musa) was an isolated mountain top in the wilderness but 1000 years later with Dawood and Suleiman it became Jerusalem (Al Quds), the central and capital city of the Israelites where they built the Temple to the LORD. And to this very day it is a holy place for the Jewish people.

Isa al Masih and the sacrifice on Mount Moriah

And here we find a direct connection to Isa al Masih (PBUH) and the Injil. We see this connection when we know about one of the titles of Isa. Isa had many titles given to him. Perhaps the most well-known is the title ‘Masih’ (which is also ‘Christ’). But there is another title given to him that is very important. We see this in the Injil when the prophet Yahya (John the Baptist in the Injil) says:

The next day John (i.e. Yahya) saw Jesus (i.e. Isa) coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. This is the one I meant when I said ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me’”. (John 1:29-30)

An important, but lesser known title of Isa (PBUH), given to him by Yahya was ‘The Lamb of God”. Now consider the end of Isa’s life. Where was he arrested and sentenced for execution?  It was in Jerusalem (which as we saw is the same as ‘Mount Moriah’). It is very clear stated during his arrest that:

When he [Pilate] learned that Jesus was under Herod’s jurisdiction he sent him to Herod, who was also in Jerusalem at the time.’ (Luke 23:7)

In other words, the arrest, trial and sentencing of Isa happened in Jerusalem (= Mount Moriah).

Back to Ibrahim. Why did he name that place in the future tense ‘The LORD will provide’? He was a prophet and knew that something would be ‘provided’ there. When he is tested, the son of Ibrahim is saved from death at the last moment because a lamb dies in his place. Two thousand years later, Isa is called ‘Lamb of God’ and is arrested and sentenced to death on the same spot!

Jerusalem Timeline
Timeline of events at Jerusalem / Mt Moriah

The Sacrifice ransomed Ibrahim: from death

Is this important to us? I note how this sign of Ibrahim ends. In ayah 107 from the Qur’an it says of Ibrahim (PBUH) that

And We ransomed him with a momentous sacrifice

What does it mean to be ‘ransomed’?  To pay a ransom is to make a payment for someone who is held as a prisoner to set the prisoner free.  For Ibrahim (PBUH) to be ‘ransomed’ means that he was a prisoner of something (Yes even a great prophet!).  What was he a prisoner of?  The scene with his son tells us.  He was a prisoner of death.  Even though he was a prophet, death held him as a prisoner.  We saw from the Sign of Adam that Allah had made Adam and his Children (everyone – including the prophets) mortal – they were now prisoners of death.  But somehow in this drama of the sacrificed lamb Ibrahim (PBUH) was ‘ransomed’ from this.  If you review the sequence of signs (Adam, Cain&Abel, Noah, Ibrahim 1) thus far you will see that animal sacrifice was almost always practiced by the prophets.  They knew something about this that maybe escapes us.  And we can see that because this act also points forward into the future to Isa ‘the Lamb of God’ that it has something to do with him.

The Sacrifice: A Blessing for us

And the sacrifice of the lamb on Mount Moriah is important for us as well.  At the end of the exchange Allah declares to Ibrahim that

“…and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed because you have obeyed me” (Genesis 22:18)

If you belong to one of the ‘nations on earth’ (and you do!) this has to concern you because the promise is that you then can get a ‘blessing’ from Allah himself! Is that not worthwhile?! How does this connection of Ibrahim’s story with Isa make a blessing to us? And why? We note that Ibrahim (PBUH) was ‘ransomed’ and this is a clue for us, but apart from that the answer is not readily apparent here so we will continue with the Signs of Musa (he has two) and they will clarify these questions for us.

But here I just want to point out that the word ‘offspring’ here is in the singular. It is not ‘offsprings’ as in many descendants or peoples. The promise of a blessing was through an ‘offspring’ from Ibrahim in the singular – singular as in a ‘he’, not through many people or a group of people as in ‘they’.  The Passover Sign of Musa will now help us understand further.