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
Keith Tornheim, September 24, 2006