. . . then God put Abraham to a test.
He called to him by name, “Abraham,
and he answered, “Yes, I am here.”
Then God said, “Take your son, your only one,
your beloved, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah
to sacrifice him there as a burnt offering
on the hill that I will point out to you.”
— Genesis 22:1-2
Isaac Tells Of His Journey
My eyes at times fill up with dark like caves,
and memory stumbles to a heap of stones and stops.
How bright it was that morning when Father
took me with him, a morning marked among mornings.
For Father is a man of affairs and covenants,
wells, and lands for grazing. And Father has little time.
While I am a boy who passes time,
lonely in our heavy tent that writhes
in angry winds contending over patrimony.
And I have been a quiet boy, sad and grieving
that Ishmael, so quick with smiles and laughter,
Ishmael the guardian and delight of my childhood,
is banished. My almost brother,
of whom I must not speak. And now I am left, child
of my mother's age, alone in her silence,
alone in the silence of my father,
who talks so boldly with strangers of the land,
while here it is Mother only who has the saying,
Mother, dark and close over her hearth.
It was early in the morning that Father arose
to send away Hagar, Hagar and lively Ishmael
my dear companion. How I wept, and was rebuked.
And it was early, early, in the morning that Father arose
to saddle his ass for our journey together, Abraham with Isaac,
the journey marked for father and chosen son,
Abraham's seed to be multiplied.
And I was bright with promise of the morning,
to be journeying with my father,
so much a busy man of plans and covenants.
Two servants came, pleased
for Isaac at last to bear his father's notice
and accompany his father on a sacred journey.
For at thirteen a boy longs for his father's notice,
he will do what he can to please his father
and win his praise. And surely a boy obeys
his father, holds faith in the wisdom
and righteousness of all his father's plans and requirements,
a boy hastens to help his father serve his god.
For it is by doing, not by questioning and talk,
that a boy is made into the man he will become.
First my father chopped the wood that bright morning.
It is good for a boy who reveres his father to see him
thus strong and skilled in the arts of men. And when,
on the third day of our journey, my father
sent back the servants and the ass
and laid the wood on my back, I rejoiced silently
that my father called me to this task,
desired me to strive
and win favor in his eyes.
And my father carried the knife and the fire. Together
we went onward toward the mountain, to worship Elohim,
my father's god, who when I was grown would be my god,
when I became seed of our lineage.
We climbed and climbed, and I stumbled
in the burden with which Father had honored me,
yet I rejoiced with all my heart that I
and my father were at last together
and alone, so much and so long
had I desired my father's notice and favor.
Then we reached the top of the mountain, and we drank
water that the servants, laughing, had given
to their master Abraham, and I ate the bread and dates
they had thrust into his tunic, chiding him,
the master who contrives grand schemes but is ignorant
in the ways of a household, not provident
when he leads his untried son into the wilderness
without provender for the journey.
I was hungry and ate. But Father did not eat.
I judged my father to be sad
and feared my father's sadness, not knowing
what failed to please him, yet knowing that never
had I pleased him. This journey, too, I feared
would end in sadness. We would return
from our worship silently and I would dwell
in loneliness forever. Father was not with me,
he was in the house of Elohim, I thought.
And so great was my grief it overcame my fear
of displeasing my father as he brooded with Elohim,
and I spoke, calling, “My father.” And he turned
and slowly he saw me and knew that I had spoken;
and he said, words I will ever hold close to my heart,
“Here am I, my son.”
And I rejoiced that Father should address me
in this way, should look entirely into my eyes and speak.
Emboldened was I, and my eyes opened
as I understood the strangeness of our journey,
for my father, sure to forget the water
and bread and dates, would as surely bring
what was meant for Elohim. And I said, “I see
the fire and the wood, and I rejoice, dear father,
that you have honored me with the wood to carry, but
where is the lamb for the offering?”
And Father replied—Father so sure
to be blessed and sustained, “Elohim
will see to the lamb for his offering, my son.”
We went on together, and I opened my heart
to my father, my father powerful
in Elohim, Elohim who had promised us much
and had made my father a man accomplished
in covenants. My awe was great that my father
should speak to me and look with tenderness
into my eyes, which are large and dull
and not beautiful. And I was content, and my limbs
were very tired from our journey,
and Father said I could remove the burden
of faggots from my back, and I removed
my heavy load and lay down there and slept.
I must have slept deeply. For I dreamed
and was frightened in my dream but could not
wake to know it. It was a blackness,
I feel it still in my limbs, tightened as if
bound in a strong man's hate or haste. I felt
too an icy sharpness, a cold
that never will leave me to the end of my days.
And I heard murmuring, a voice that was my father's
saying, “Here am I,” the very words that so
delighted me and yet in this black dream of fear
and cold they were troubling words, and I heard
another voice, like a king's, a father of fathers.
Then when I woke, Father had accomplished his service.
I had no part in the worship, and that is understandable
for I am not a man, I am only a boy, and Elohim
speaks only with my father. One day
I will have to understand, and I am sad
to think that Father has explained to me so little
about the conduct of affairs. I do not feel
it seemly to question him, to tell him
that I do not know what I must do. I know
I am not a man like him, for I
am but Isaac, and Abraham's is all the greatness and honor.
Naomi Myrvaagnes, © 1993