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The Aqedah Viewed from a Theodicean Perspective: A New Reading of Genesis 22:1-19 in its Final Form

KyeSang Ha 1

1삼육대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

It has been noted that Gen 22:1-19, the so-called Aqedah, has close relationships with other chapters in the Abraham cycle, not only with Genesis 12, 17, and 21, but also with Genesis 15-18. Genesis 12 is the beginning of Abraham’s spiritual journey and Genesis 22 is its climax, and thus the trajectories of the main theological themes or concepts in the cycle naturally converge in Genesis 22. Unfortunately, however, almost all the scholars have interpreted Genesis 22:1-19, without fully reflecting on such aspects. Besides, there is hardly any scholar who has tried to find out the reason in the cycle why Abraham needed the experience of the Aqedah. As a result, there has never been any research to interpret, in the light of the Abraham cycle as a whole, the Aqedah in terms of the evaluation of his life journey, as well as to answer the question why the Aqedah was a necessity for him. The purpose of this research is to find out in the cycle and its related texts the whys and wherefores of the Aqedah from a theodicean challenge to God, which was (or will be) made concerning Abraham’s spiritual odyssey, and ultimately to understand the Aqedah. The research was done mainly with a synchronic/literary approach, and an exegesis of the Aqedah itself was partially and briefly made, when necessary. The results may be recapitulated as follows:First, the Abraham cycle makes a chiastic structure with the covenant between God and Abraham centered in it, and thus the Aqedah should be interpreted in relation to the covenant. Second, Abraham did not show his full trust in God through his words and actions, which reveal his disbelief in God’s covenant promises, especially the promise of full protection for him and that of his offspring. The incidents in Egypt (12:10-20; right after the start of his spiritual journey) and in Gerar (20:1-18; just before the climax of the journey) show his disbelief in God’s promise of full protection for him. Above all things, the incident of his taking Hagar as a wife by hearing/obeying Sarah (16:2; between the two foci [Gen 15 and 17] of the Abraham cycle) reveals his distrust in God’s promise of his offspring. Third, even though in this way Abraham was not faithful to the covenant, God continued to protect, save, and even bless him by keeping His covenant promises. This apparent injustice must be the cause of a theodicean challenge to God which was (or will be) made in relation to Abraham’s spiritual odyssey, and his unfaithfulness to the covenant was the reason for his experience of the Aqedah. The Aqedah was God’s answer to such a theodicean challenge by testing Abraham and thus giving him the last opportunity to show his full trust in Him. Fourth, just as Abraham started his spiritual journey by hearing/obeying God (Gen 12:4a), so he climaxes the journey by hearing/obeying God’s voice (22:18b; cf. 26:5a). Because of his decisive obedience of faith, God renewed the covenant with Abraham, the promises of which are wider and more specific by far than before (22:15-18). Last but not least, the Aqedah of Genesis 22:1-19 is essentially the story of God, who by testing Abraham revealed the genuineness and fortitude of his faith, and also lovingly disciplined Abraham for his sins of disbelief, redeeming him with a sacrifice.

Citation status

* References for papers published after 2022 are currently being built.