The Testing

Isaac was Abraham's beloved son,

yet Abraham bound him on a sacrificial pyre

in fulfillment of God's command.

Perhaps Abraham had abiding faith in God's past promise,

that through Isaac would his line continue

to breed a multitude, a people,

and therefore of necessity his son would be saved.

Perhaps boys, as men-to-be, could accept such treatment

as tests of strength or manhood in a wilder age

and not complain or protest.

I have daughters, not sons,

and they are strong,

but I could not treat them so

in shocking violation of my fatherhood.

Were their mouths stopped,

yet their eyes would scream

"WHY?!" and "NO!" at such betrayal.

And perhaps Isaac's spoke the same.

Perhaps Abraham so quickly saw the angel,

even before it called his name,

for he could not face his son's innocent eyes.

Afterwards, after they walked back down the mountain

and returned to their tents,

did they ever look into each other's eyes?

Did Isaac have full faith in his father's faith

as well as in his God?

Or did he ever wonder if he could have died

by his father's hand at God's command?

Did he watch his father warily by day,

and listen for his footsteps at night?

And when at last he and Ishmael laid their father in the cave,

was there an ending, too, of filial fear

and a resurgence in an uneasy bond of brothers

both so threatened once with death?

Our Father Abraham was father to our peoples,

but was he to his sons?

* * * * *

I, Abraham, have been misunderstood

in the telling of the attempted but aborted sacrifice

of Isaac, my beloved son.

It is said that God tested me and I thus became

the high example of unquestioning faith in God.

Yet others have asked

how I could so meekly offer up my son.

The truth is that as I bound my son

and laid him on the logs,

I whispered quietly in his ear

that I was testing God,

it was a game we played

and Isaac could help.

For God expected me to reveal my worth

in reasoned appeal and protestation,

as for the few innocent souls in Sodom and Gomorrah.

Should I not do the same for my own son?

But instead I did what God bid me do,

deliberately and without protest.

And when I raised the knife,

God had to answer, to reveal Himself

as a God of life,

not one of the old gods of death.

Then I knew that this was indeed the God

to follow, to worship,

Who would keep faith with my son and my son's sons.

How better could I in love have protected them

for generations.

Keith Tornheim, September 24, 2006