Attention to the Names of God Can Explain the Binding of Isaac

Few biblical passages have provoked as much theological handwringing as the one, read in synagogues tomorrow, in which the Almighty commands Abraham to sacrifice his own son. Of particular concern to many commentators is God’s countermanding at the end of the passage the order he gave at the beginning. By noting the text’s use of both Elohim (God) and the tetragrammaton (rendered here as “Lord”), Jerome Marcus proposes a fresh approach:

The first half of the story (Genesis 22:1-10) presents God’s command that Abraham sacrifice his son. Throughout this section of the story, God is referred to as Elohim. However, in the second half (Genesis 22:11-19), where the sacrifice is ultimately averted, all references to God [save one] use the tetragrammaton; [likewise] the command to Abraham [not to go through with the sacrifice] comes from a “messenger of the Lord.” Abraham thus hears God in two different modes. [Put differently], Abraham’s understanding and experience of God . . . changes midway through the story.

The text emphasizes this shift clearly by a striking altered repetition. . . . When Isaac asks his father where the lamb is, Abraham answers “God will see to (i.e., provide) the lamb Himself.” But after the crucial shift, Abraham . . . names the place where the binding had occurred not “God will see” but instead “the Lord will see.” . . .

[The talmudic sages frequently] distinguish between these two names of God: Elohim portrays God as unyielding, expressing the characteristic of inflexible justice. The tetragrammaton is understood as representing mercy. The apparent contradiction between what God wants in the two halves of Genesis 22, then, may map onto the difference between these two understandings of God. . . .

Read more at Lehrhaus

More about: Abraham, Binding of Isaac, Genesis, Religion & Holidays, Torah

Iran’s Options for Revenge on Israel

On April 1, an Israeli airstrike on Damascus killed three Iranian generals, one of whom was the seniormost Iranian commander in the region. The IDF has been targeting Iranian personnel and weaponry in Syria for over a decade, but the killing of such a high-ranking figure raises the stakes significantly. In the past several days, Israelis have received a number of warnings both from the press and from the home-front command to ready themselves for retaliatory attacks. Jonathan Spyer considers what shape that attack might take:

Tehran has essentially four broad options. It could hit an Israeli or Jewish facility overseas using either Iranian state forces (option one), or proxies (option two). . . . Then there’s the third option: Tehran could also direct its proxies to strike Israel directly. . . . Finally, Iran could strike Israeli soil directly (option four). It is the riskiest option for Tehran, and would be likely to precipitate open war between the regime and Israel.

Tehran will consider all four options carefully. It has failed to retaliate in kind for a number of high-profile assassinations of its operatives in recent years. . . . A failure to respond, or staging too small a response, risks conveying a message of weakness. Iran usually favors using proxies over staging direct attacks. In an unkind formulation common in Israel, Tehran is prepared to “fight to the last Arab.”

Read more at Spectator

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Syria