Questions From Readers
● If Isaac was willing to serve as a sacrifice victim, why did Abraham have to tie him hand and foot?—J. D., U.S.A.
The Biblical account tells us about Abraham and Isaac: “Finally they reached the place that the true God had designated to him, and Abraham built an altar there and set the wood in order and bound Isaac his son hand and foot and put him upon the altar on top of the wood. Then Abraham put out his hand and took the slaughtering knife to kill his son.”—Gen. 22:9, 10.
Both Abraham and Isaac are listed in Hebrews chapter 11 as men of faith and true worshipers of Jehovah God. So if Jehovah directed them to do something, those faithful men would obey voluntarily. Thus, we can conclude that Isaac was willing to give himself to be a sacrifice, since that was what Jehovah instructed.
The fact that Genesis 22:9 mentions that Abraham bound Isaac hand and foot does not change this conclusion; rather, it supports it. According to the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus, Isaac was twenty-five years old when this incident took place. (Antiquities of the Jews, Book I, chap. XIII, par. 2) If that is correct, then Abraham was about 125 years old. Plainly, aged Abraham did not overpower his young and healthy son in order to bind him. If Isaac had been unwilling to be sacrificed in obedience to God and his father, there is little question that he could have resisted. That he allowed himself to be bound establishes his willingness to serve as a sacrifice. He knew that Jehovah had performed a miracle in restoring his parents’ reproductive powers, and so he no doubt rested his hope in a resurrection as his father did.—Heb. 11:19.
Even if a person were willing to serve as a sacrifice, there might be violent involuntary reactions when the slaughtering knife was used. Abraham’s binding of Isaac hand and foot would prevent or control such involuntary reaction. Interestingly, in describing the sacrifice of a lamb in Herod’s temple courtyard, Dr. Edersheim writes: “Then the sacrificing priest, surrounded by his assistants, fastened the lamb to the second of the rings on the north side of the altar. . . . The sacrifice was held together by its feet, the fore and hind feet of each side being tied together.” (The Temple, p. 132) And the real “Lamb of God,” foreshadowed by Abraham’s sacrifice, was nailed to the torture stake even though offering himself willingly as a sacrifice.—John 1:29; Heb. 10:9, 10.
● I would like to become one of Jehovah’s witnesses, but some years ago I got divorced and remarried. What steps must I take to be acceptable for baptism?—D. C., U.S.A.
We regularly receive inquiries of this type. It is fine to see that the truth recorded in the Bible has touched the hearts of the ones inquiring and has moved them to want to live in harmony with God’s righteous requirements so as to be able to serve him acceptably. Such individuals are to be commended.
The past circumstances of those coming to an accurate knowledge of God vary greatly. Some have been married, divorced and remarried (even a number of times) before learning of God’s will and moral requirements as to marriage. Not attempting to deal with each particular situation here, we will set out some general comments that probably will cover most cases.
In regard to marriage, Christians are responsible to live in accord with two sets of law. The first, and most important, is the law of God. Obviously, Jehovah as the Creator and Lawgiver has the right to direct how his creatures should conduct themselves. (Isa. 33:22) The other is the law of the land where one lives. By direct statement and by example the Bible indicates that the legal requirements for registration of marriage are to be complied with by those desiring God’s favor. (Matt. 22:21; Titus 3:1; Luke 2:1-5) Neither law can be ignored by Christians.
Thus, a person who gets married must do more than acknowledge that he is taking on responsibility before God; he must also conform to the legal requirements of the land where he lives. In a Christian sense he is not really married and entitled to the privileges of marriage until he has done so.
Now let us turn this matter around and consider divorce. In view of the above, it should be clear that the requirements of both God and the state must be met as to divorce. The law of the land may permit divorce on many grounds, but God’s law allows for divorce only on the ground of adultery. (Matt. 19:9)* If a person obtains a divorce on any ground other than adultery (because no adultery has been committed), he is not free, according to God’s law, to marry again. Carrying this further, if a person with such a legal, but unscriptural, divorce then marries another person, this would be a serious violation of God’s law; it would be adultery. (On the other hand, if adultery has been committed, the innocent mate is not free to seek another mate until a legal divorce has been completed. The requirements of both God and the state must be met.)
So if a person in ignorance as to God’s law got a legal divorce on some unscriptural ground and then remarried, the requirements of the law of the land would have been met, but by remarrying the person would have committed adultery according to divine law. This adultery terminates the former marriage according to God’s law, but it does so by a serious violation of Jehovah’s own law. What is to be done in such a case?
Many persons committed sins prior to learning of God’s requirements. Before becoming Christians, some in the Christian congregation in ancient Corinth had been adulterers, fornicators, homosexuals and drunkards. But they changed! By the time they dedicated their lives to God and got baptized they were living in a clean moral condition. What about their past sins? Those sins were forgiven; the individuals were “washed clean” by faith in the ransom sacrifice of Jesus Christ.—1 Cor. 6:9-11.
Consequently, if a person today learns God’s law and realizes that in the past he committed the serious sin of adultery, he ought to go to God in prayer and seek forgiveness on the basis of the ransom sacrifice of Jesus Christ. As the apostle Peter declared: “Everyone putting faith in him [Jesus] gets forgiveness of sins through his name.” (Acts 10:43; Eph. 1:7) Then he ought to prove the sincerity of his repentance. But how? He cannot go back to his former mate. He no longer has any claim legally or Scripturally on that person. Nor can he go back and live his life over again. But he can live in harmony with Bible laws and principles from this time onward. He can show that he now appreciates the sacredness of marriage by living up to the responsibilities that he now has as a married person, and he can move forward in learning God’s will and doing it.—Col. 1:9, 10.
For details, see chapter 8 of Life Everlasting—in Freedom of the Sons of God, published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society.