. . . 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