▪ As recorded in the Bible book of Genesis, Jehovah God asked Abraham to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice. (Genesis 22:2) Some Bible readers struggle to understand that account. “When I first heard this story as a child, I was outraged,” says a professor named Carol. “What kind of God would ask such a thing?” While such feelings are understandable, we do well to keep a couple of points in mind.
First, consider what Jehovah did not do. He did not allow Abraham to go through with the sacrifice, even though Abraham was prepared to do so, nor has God ever again made such a request of anyone. Jehovah wants all of his worshippers, including children, to continue living—to enjoy a long and satisfying life.
Second, the Bible suggests that Jehovah had a special reason for asking Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. God knew that many centuries later, He would allow His own Son,* Jesus, to die in our behalf. (Matthew 20:28) Jehovah wanted to convey to us just how much this sacrifice would cost him. He provided a powerful demonstration of that future sacrifice by what he asked of Abraham. How so?
Consider Jehovah’s words to Abraham: “Take, please, your son, your only son whom you so love, Isaac, and . . . offer him up as a burnt offering.” (Genesis 22:2) Notice that Jehovah referred to Isaac as the son “whom you so love.” Jehovah knew how precious Isaac was to Abraham. God also knew how He felt about his Son, Jesus. Jehovah loved Jesus so dearly that he twice spoke from heaven, directly referring to Jesus as “my Son, the beloved.”—Mark 1:11; 9:7.
Note, too, that Jehovah’s request to Abraham included the word “please.” One Bible scholar suggests that God’s use of this word indicates that “the LORD appreciates the costliness of what he is asking.” As we can imagine, that request would have grieved Abraham deeply; in a similar way, we can barely imagine the intense pain that Jehovah must have felt as he watched his beloved Son suffer and die. It was undoubtedly the greatest pain Jehovah had ever experienced or ever will experience.
Really, then, although we may recoil at the thought of what Jehovah asked Abraham to do, we are wise to remember that Jehovah did not allow that faithful patriarch to go through with the sacrifice. He spared Abraham the worst loss a parent can suffer; he protected Isaac from death. Yet, Jehovah did not shield “his own Son but delivered him up for us all.” (Romans 8:32) Why did Jehovah submit himself to such a terrible ordeal? He did so in order that “we might gain life.” (1 John 4:9) What a powerful reminder of God’s love for us! Are we not moved to show our love for him in return?*
The Bible does not teach that God literally fathered Jesus by means of a woman. Rather, Jehovah created the spirit creature who was later sent to the earth to be born to the virgin Mary. As the Creator of Jesus, then, God may rightly be called his Father.
To learn more about why Jesus’ death was necessary and how we can demonstrate our appreciation for it, see chapter 5 of the book What Does the Bible Really Teach?