“Isaac! Come yonder! The mountaintop is calling! Come, let’s jump together! One! Two! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH…”
“Son, get up.”
“Father, tis earlier than the normal time we go out into the field. Is something awry?”
“No, son. Nothing is awry, but something is afoot, and we must go early.”
“Yes father. If the hour is to be a reference, I surmise that a sacrifice must be made.”
“You have assumed correctly, son. The word of the Lord came to me, and a sacrifice shall be made this day.”
“Shall I wake the shepherds?”
“To choose the animal for the sacrifice. I assume that the Lord desires a very specific animal with very specific attributes. The shepherds are best suited to pick the animal, are they not?”
“Not this time, son. Indeed, the Lord gave very specific instructions concerning the sacrifice, but we will not need the shepherd. Now, arise. We are going with two of the servants.”
So, here’s the thing: I really don’t want to go with father to make this sacrifice. It has nothing to do with the sacrifice itself; I’ve seen enough of them not to be squeamish about them. It’s not about the hour, although I’d much rather continue to get my beauty rest. It’s not even about the fact that dad woke me up from this very dramatic dream I was having inasmuch as I really wanted to see how it would end. (I know that the other person jumped off the mountain, I don’t know if I was dumb enough to follow. That scream was not mine, people.)
It’s about the whole thing.
Father Abraham, son of Terah, was never one to explain any of his actions to me. He’d usually say something, then maybe answer the first question I had, and then I’d have to find out the rest as we go. He’s the kind of dad that would tell me to do the most insane thing, only for the most insane thing to turn out to be the most awesome thing ever. Mum told me about a day when he just packed everyone up and just moved them all, and he didn’t even know where he was moving them to! You really have to trust a guy an awful lot to leave a stable place without knowing where you’re headed. But I digress. The point is, this man never goes past question 1a on any quiz I give him when he gives me an instruction. And then today he answers every question I have without complaint?
Something is very, very wrong with this picture.
Okay, so here’s what our living arrangements looked like at the time: Father’s tent was in the middle of the camp. Mother’s tent was right next to it. That’s where I used to sleep until I was old enough to have my own tent, which was close to where the servants lived. Father and mother didn’t regularly sleep in the same tent. They only shared the same tent when mother went in to father’s tent to care for him when he fell ill, or when father went in to mother’s tent to know her. There were other reasons, but these were the two big ones. The servants stayed far enough from father’s tent to allow privacy, but close enough for him to reach them whenever he needed them. The men and women did not share tents. The women’s tents were surrounded on the outside by the men’s tents. The idea here was that in the event of any attack, the menservants would be able to protect the women while giving them time to flee to safety. The stables were on the outskirts of the camp in a large pasture area. The animals we killed to eat were left to graze in the open air, while the ones we needed for labour were kept in the stables.
It’s still dark outside, but there’s evidence that sunrise is almost here. Father and the two servants were already at the stables when I got there. I figured father would want to saddle an ass, so I went to help. When I got there, I saw another unusual sight: the servants were just standing about. Now, for the sake of context, let me point out that even though I am a son, my rank is still the same as that of a servant. The only thing that’s different about me is my future; I will run all of this one day. Anyway, there was this banging sound like someone was cutting wood behind the stables. I went around to look and saw father cutting the wood as though each log had insulted his father. When you see a man who is well past a hundred years old laying an axe to a log like he’s fifteen years old, you know that peace is not with him in any possible way. I tried to help him, but he simply refused. Try as I did, he would not let me help him. He wouldn’t even let me load up the donkey for him.
“I do not think I have ever seen Master Abraham like this before. He refuses to let us be servants this day, choosing to cut his own wood and load up his own donkey. Tis as though he fears to err before he makes this sacrifice.”
“No, tis as though he desires that the materials for the sacrifice be perfect, in like manner as a man does when the sacrifice is a thing dear to his heart and precious in his sight.”
“Fearest he that his favorite animal is the one the Lord had chosen?”
“Has he even a favorite animal?”
“Shh, here comes he.”
Servants stay gossips and these ones are no different! But in all their chattering, they made one good point. The way father is acting is the way someone acts when their sacrifice is so precious to them that they don’t want to make even the smallest mistake lest God hits them. What could possibly be the sacrifice? He’s loaded up the donkey with wood and he has a knife, but what exactly are we going to offer?
“Alright. You all know what to do. Isaac, you will be with me in front. The Lord has gone ahead of us and is ready for us, so let’s go meet him.”
And with that, we left home. I didn’t get to see mother before we left, and I wasn’t even sure that if I’d seen her, she’d be able to tell me why father was acting strange. While the servants kept their discussion going, father just walked in silence. I was a couple of steps behind him, caught up in my own thoughts. I replayed the dawn in my head over and over. He came in, woke me up, answered my every question. I went to the stables, he refused my help and any other help, he loaded up his own donkey. There was no rush, there was no tension, he just wasn’t talking. I played it again. Wake up. Stables. No help. Wake up. Stables. No help. Wake up. Stables. No help. Wake up. Stables. No help. Wake up. Stables. No… Wait a minute. That’s not normal. Throughout the whole thing, from the waking up to the right now, he has looked at everyone as he spoke to them. He has looked at the servants, he has looked at the wood, he has even looked at the ass as he loaded it. He has looked at everybody.
Everybody except me.
Is the sacrifice because of me? Does it have something to do with me? Am I the reason he’s been so alarmingly different? Did I sin somewhere along the line without knowing? No, that can’t be. If he was making the sacrifice because of my sin, he would need a specific animal. Only blood can be used for this kind of atonement, he taught me that. He can’t possibly think that there’s going to be an animal at the altar just ready for him to kill and offer up. That’s not impossible, but it is downright crazy. Who sacrifices a wild animal? But why hasn’t he looked at me? Why isn’t he looking at me now? What did I do?
Am I reading too much into this? Clearly he’s got a lot on his mind, and he probably didn’t do it on purpose. But I’ve gone over every detail of this and I’m sure I’m not crazy; he’s not looking at me. Okay, let’s test the theory and see.
“Dad, where exactly are we going?”
“We’re going to Moriah, son.”
He answered the question. He answered the follow-up. He didn’t look at me.
He just kept moving forward. He didn’t look back even once. I stopped to ask those questions, but he kept moving while he answered, like a man in a trance!
This definitely has something to do with me, right? Who doesn’t look back to answer someone who’s speaking to them from behind? Am I being paranoid? Do I just assume that this is one of his crazy things which ends up being awesome? Was that dream just a dream or a warning? Am I really jumping off a mountain today?
What am I trusting right now?