The Evangelical Universalist Forum

The Akedah: early hints of Universal Restoration?

While not sure if this qualifies as a legitimate “typology” – seems fairly close so…

I am in the slow (and expected to be lifelong) process of re-looking at the entire bible through the window of Universal Restoration. And I’m wondering if that haunting story of Abraham offering up his son Isaac on Mt Moriah as sacrifice is really an early hint of eventual UR. I understand that I am not trained to massage original meanings and intent out of text the way our theologians here are, but here is what I’ve been thinking…

For years, the story of Abraham obeying the command of God and his willingness to offer his own son Isaac up in sacrificial death has bothered me. First, why would God even ask such an abhorrent thing if He intended to stop Abraham anyway, and second, how certain can we be that this event somehow foreshadowed Christ’s death on the Cross as penal substitution? (That’s the way I always heard the story; God was showing Abraham what the eventual death of Christ was going to be about. A sacrifice is demanded, a perfect one no less, and Christ becomes that sacrifice thereby taking our sins away. etc. Penal substitution imagery.)

My tentative peace with this story slowly started when I admitted that I could not accept an image of a God who needed blood, innocent blood at that, to cause Him to change His attitude towards me. Something else must be in play beyond simple substitution. As I began to see sacrifice in terms of covenantal relationship – signifying intent to again “draw near” – it became possible to see the death of Christ as God’s sacrifice for – and “to” – us, signifying His intent to continue and never abandon relationship! Christ as God’s promise never to leave us alone or lost. Not about our failures but about His Victory.

As this was evolving I also looked to Jewish sources for understanding into this story they call the Akedah. It surprised me to discover that many in that tradition see Abraham’s actions as a monumental failure instead of the great act of faith that so many Christians bless it with. God would never ask such a heinous thing of Abraham; Abraham should have known that, so his acquiescence to kill his own son demonstrated how flawed he was – not how faithful. God, as He so often and so graciously does with all of us, came to Abraham’s rescue, and provided a way out. God’s purpose was to educate Abraham that violence was not part of what he wanted, or needed. He provided an escape for Abraham’s perceived dilemma as He demonstrated His ability to guide circumstances and thus engender deeper trust.

So my question is something along these lines:
Is it reasonable to look back on the Akedah, in light of the cross, and see hints of Universal Restoration on that distant Mount in the actions of God??
In the Akeday, can we see a type of eventual Universal Restoration?
A type of God doing whatever necessary to accomplish His purposes?
A symbol of God’s incredible willingness to guide us through difficulties so we may grow?

Given the breadth of the promise that was to be fulfilled through Abraham, given how sweeping was to be the effect of this one faithful man of God on the world, given that God had unilaterally initiated this reality, can we not suggest this was a significant hint at future Universal Restoration??


I should mention that there is one key detail (that I myself never noticed until a few months ago) which argues for this being a triumph of faith and not a failure: Abraham tells his servant that he and Isaac would both be returning.

So on the one hand, Abraham was faithful in the sense that he was obeying what he thought he understood God to be asking for. But no the other hand, Abraham was in fact also being faithful in the sense that he didn’t believe God would be so arbitrarily cruel as to take away the son of YHWH’s promise. (I think one rabbinic interpretation is that Abraham expected God to resurrect Isaac.)

Abraham, after all, has already shown he’s quite capable of trying to “Jew God down” (if you’ll pardon the phrase :mrgreen: ) in favor of God’s mercy, back just after God announces that Sarah will finally at long last be having Abraham’s promised son: as Abraham is walking with YHWH on the road to Sodom and Gommorrah, he gets God to promise to spare the cities on account of an increasingly smaller amount of people. (The irony being, I suppose, that once Lot and his household leave… But then, they turn out to be not so righteous after all themselves.)

Another strikingly beautiful thing about this incident is that when Isaac asks where the sacrificial lamb is that they’re supposed to be worshiping with, as they’re hiking uphill, Abraham answers: “God Himself sees the lamb for the sacrifice.” Which is why Abraham later names the hill Adonai-jireh, the Lord sees.

I think the most likely place this is being promised (if it’s being mentioned here at all), is in the promise of God regarding the singular-yet-plural “seed” of Abraham, Who will be as numerous as the stars of heaven and the sands of the sea, and Who shall seize the gates of His foes; and all the nations of the earth shall bless themselves by Abraham’s seed because of Abraham obeying the Lord’s command (vv 17:18.)

That being said…

…I don’t see anything in the holocaust itself (the word for sacrifice in that story) pointing to eventual universal restoration per se. (In the promise afterward, maybe yes. In the events of the sacrifice, not really.)

That, however, I can pretty easily see. :slight_smile:

(And notably, you focused on the scope of the subsequent promise, too.)

The sceptical side of my head, however, would like to mention that Abraham also looks like some crazy coot who thinks he talks to God, and thinks he hears God say to sacrifice his own son as a burnt offering, and almost does it, even though he expects God to quickly restore his son at worst. (I’m just saying, if God wasn’t really dealing with Abraham, the whole incident looks dangerously psychotic. :wink: )

[Too much coffee, too late at night … so I’m up browsing old threads. I missed a lot of great posts and discussions before I joined …]

Akedah … that’s a new term to me … always more to learn! :wink:

This has been a fascinating and puzzling story through the ages. I wonder exactly what Abraham is thinking? He knows God is righteous and doesn’t approve of human sacrifice … yet he is convinced that God has commanded him to sacrifice his son–the same child who is the promised son whom God has said will be the father of a nation.

I’m reminded of CS Lewis’ often repeated description of Aslan: “He isn’t a tame lion.” But He is Good.

Abraham believed God–which is one of Abraham’s stand-out qualities. He is a man of faith. He believed what God had told him about the future of this son. He believed it would be true in spite of the sacrifice he was on his way to make. Is it his obedience to God’s command that is being tested, or his faith? I think it was his faith. He believed his son could not stay dead because God had promised him a future.

This is the point that the author of Hebrews is making: *By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son,of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back. *

I think it would be legitimate to say that it is verification that we can trust God to keep his promises, just as Abraham trusted God to keep his promises about Issac. God promised to bless all families of the earth through Issac–Abraham believed God. I wouldn’t call it anything like a ‘proof’ for UR–but a hint, yes–to those of us who look for such hints! :sunglasses:


When the prodigal son left home, imagine how his father must have felt. But he didn’t rant and rave. He didn’t cut the boy off or demand future repayment. Instead, he absorbed the terrible loss. In love and profound wisdom, he willingly paid for the sins of his son. He bore the punishment that rightly belonged to another. The suffering of the father was the father’s forgiveness. Because the father was willing to suffer the loss, the son was free to return home from his hell in the pig-pen.

The shedding of innocent blood doesn’t change God’s attitude towards us. Rather, it reveals what his attitude has been all along. When we hurt God, He doesn’t cut us off or demand retribution. Rather, He absorbs the pain into himself. He bleeds for us. Christ reveals the suffering of God. This suffering doesn’t bring forgiveness. It is forgiveness.

The value of a sacrifice depends on the degree upon it is valued. It must be remembered that for the most part, Old Testament sacrifices consisted of that which comes from their own possessions or flock. Livestock was a primary means of commerce and great value was placed on them in financial transactions (example Jacob and Laban). So it is no small thing when one selects the best of the flock to be ceremonously killed as you are giving up something of value. For one, your breeding stock is depleted by one. Two, your food supply is depleted by one. Three, your financial equity is depleted by one.

Simply put: Sacrifice costs something. Or more precisely, sacrifice costs YOU something.

In order for Abraham to appreciate the magnitude of what was promised in bringing forth a nation in which all the nations of the world would be blessed, that promise had to be sacrificed in Abraham’s eyes. It was more that just giving up his son, which in anyone in Abraham’s case would deem as unimaginable, to say the least. More than the potential of giving up his only (promised) son in death, Abraham was giving up everything in becoming a great nation that God had promised him. Jesus said “whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.” (Matthew 16:25). Abraham needed to be lost before he could be found.

Christ’s sacrifice does not have to be viewed as penal substitution. Rather that when Christ is lifted up, He will draw all men to Himself. Instead of seeing Christ as being placed on the Cross in our place, we ought to see it as ourselves up on the Cross with Him!!! It is that thing that we value most, that is our life, that is sacrificed. We lose ourselves on the Cross. What did Paul say? “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)

The reason why the blood of bulls and goats is impossible to take away our sins is because the bulls and goats only constitute our substance, not our lives. But when Christ is crucified, it is His very life that is also our life, so we are in a real sense sacrificing ourselves with Him. We lose our life in Him, so that we may find it.We’ve taken the very thing that is of value to us and placed it on the Cross with Him. When Christ is lifted up, we are literally drawn up to Him.

Therefore, like the sacrifice of Isaac, which symbolize the sacrifice of the nation of Israel, and by extension the whole world, Christ’s sacrifice IS the sacrifice of the every single person who has ever lived, and will live, from the foundation of the world. Yes, He died for our sins, not just that those sins would be numbered up there with Christ (if indeed that has happened), but that the perfect life may be ours in Him. A life free from sin and the power of it. The Lamb takes away the sins of the world because the new life we have in Him breaks sins powerhold on us as we sacrifice ourselves with Him.

This goes far above mere penal substitution, my friends. This enters into the realm of the Eternal Life of God in which we become apart of. It is the power of Christ’s life that overcomes sin. His blood from which the pure oxygen of His breath comes from gives us the vitality needed in the Holy Spirit to live like Him, even the same Spirit that will raise us to life.

Yehovah’s plan for all people is written in the stars and was also known in other ways to His people. I think it is reasonable to say that Abraham knew Yehovah’s plan, knew the Savior would come through his line, that all people would be reconciled through his seed. He knew that the Savior would die and be resurrected to life. Even back then, God’s people were awaiting the Redeemer. When God told Abraham to take Issac to the mountain, Abraham may have believed Issac was to be that Redeemer. If so, Abraham reasoned that God would raise him from the dead, as that is what is told in the stars and from the time of Adam. I think Abraham totally knew what was going on. I think Yehovah ultimately shows us in Abraham, Himself. The Father who brokenhearted but, in confidence of the outcome, would willingly sacrifice His Son to establish the godly seed, that we may have victory over death and take part in being the first fruits, ultimately, walking in resurrected bodies, presently, experiencing reconciled relationship that had been lost by the sin of Adam. Issac is a foreshadow of that restoration, as mentioned in earlier posts. Issac turns out to be a foreshadow of us, the one that should have been sacrificed, until the appearance of the Ram which, I think gives the illusion to animal sacrifice but, ultimately, the true sacrifice to come, the Messiah. The Ram is the image of the constellation, Aries. The principle stars being El Nath (the Wounded), El Natik (the Bruised), Al Sharetan (the Slain). All pointing to the Lamb of Pesach (or the Passover Lamb). We may even surmise that the Ram caught in the thicket by his horns looks like a possible foreshadow of Christ with a crown of thorns.

“And Abraham called the name of that place Yehovahyireh: as it is said to this day, In the mount of Yehovah it shall be seen.” (Gen 22:14).
Interestingly, this is a reference to Mount Moriah. This is where Abraham sacrificed the Ram, where the Temple would later be built and animal sacrifice take place, and where Yeshua Messiah would be sacrificed.