British Women and Children Interned in a Japanese Prison Camp, Syme Road, Singapore, 1945, by Leslie Cole. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Somewhere in Bernard Shaw’s Caesar and Cleopatra, the Irish Sage reminds us that when a stupid man does something he is ashamed of: he always claims it is his duty to do so. In our miserable times, when a shameless man or woman does something dreadful that they enjoy, they always claim the law commands them to do so, even when no law exists to that effect. And when they engage in acts of perverted humanity, actions that can only arise from the diseased topographies of the soul, they claim—in an inversion of the classic serial killer excuse—that God made them do it!(more…)
“The Angel of the Lord Preventing Abraham from Sacrificing his Son Isaac” (1616) by Pieter Lastman.
In the (Brome) Abraham and Isaac play (15th century) of the English Religious Theater, Isaac exclaims when confronted with Abraham’s purpose:
“Now I would my mother were here on this hill!
She would kneel for me on both her knees
To save my life.”
Like Iphigeneia at Aulis, Isaac eventually consents to the sacrifice. But when Abraham raises his hand to strike his son, an Angel appears and takes “the sword in his hand suddenly” (A.C. Cawley, ed., Everyman and Medieval Miracle Plays, 1967). In René Marqués’ allegorical play Sacrificio en el Monte Moriah (1969), Sara (Isaac’s mother) masquerades as the Angel, tricking Abraham into believing that God wants him to substitute a ram as a burnt offering for the boy. (more…)
The story is briefly told in the King James Bible (Genesis 22: 1-18): God “did tempt” Abraham by commanding him to take his only son to the Land of Moriah to be sacrificed as a burnt offering. On the third day of travel, Abraham “lifted up his eyes” and saw the mountain. He laid the wood for the pyre on Isaac’s back, and with fire in one hand and a knife in the other, he climbed up the mountain with his son. The text records only a single utterance by Isaac to his father: “Where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” To which Abraham replied: “God will provide himself a lamb.”
Abraham built an altar, prepared the wood, and bound Isaac on the altar. When he reached for the sacrificial knife for the slaughter, the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven: “Lay not thy hand upon the lad.” Once again Abraham “lifted up his eyes,” and saw a ram ensnared in a thicket. He caught the ram and offered it “in the stead of his son.” God blessed Abraham: (more…)