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Biblical Commentary: The Book of Genesis

  • Subject: Literature
  • Category: Books
  • Essay Topic: Genesis
  • Pages: 2
  • Words: 1070
  • Published: 08 April 2022
  • Downloads: 40
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The Bible is a well preserved portrayal of ancient culture and history dating back to thousands and thousands of years ago. This historical text doesn’t only contain stories but poems, songs, and letters. The Bible consists of two sections; the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Book of Genesis is the first book of both the Old Testament and the Hebrew Bible and did not originate from any other sources. It is also apart of the formation of the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible). The Book of Genesis tells the story and events of the history of early Israel and Judaism’s views with the creation of the world. In Genesis 22, it explains the story of when God commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac, also known as the Binding of Isaac.

The author of the book of Genesis is not directly mentioned but scholars have concluded that four authors contributed to the creation of the Pentateuch which includes the Book of Genesis. The four sources, also known as the Documentary Hypothesis are: Yahwist (J), Elohist (E), Priestly (P), and Deuteronomic (D). There are different forms in the Book of Genesis or how it was written and its connection to how it is interpreted. One form is narrative and according to The Collegeville Bible Commentary, it’s “simply a story”. Furthermore, a key form in the narrative is saga and “sagas are stories that have a basis in fact” and are complemented as they are passed down orally. The time period in which the Book of Genesis was written is not stated but most scholars believe that it was the first book to be written down. This would probably be around one to three thousand years ago.

The story of Abraham almost sacrificing his son Isaac is accredited to the Elohist source or tradition. According to The Collegeville Bible Commentary, the commentary focuses on the emotional aspect of Abraham’s response to God’s commandment. The commandment was for Abraham to take his son, his only son to a mountain in the region of Moriah and sacrifice him as a burnt offering. “Human sacrifice was commonly practiced….few ocassions in Israel but it was forbidden” [Viviano 38]. Burnt offering was first described in the Hebrew Bible and in Judaism, it was a form of sacrifice usually involving animals. “We feel the silence as father and son walk together….moment of ultimate decision” [Viviano 38]. This gives the reader a feeling of suspense and raises questions about what is going to occur next. Additionally, this commentary centers on the way Abraham responds rather than the unimaginable fear of what has been asked of him by God. Another example is when Isaac asks his father Abraham where the lamb for the burnt offering is. “We smile at Isaac’s innocent question and sympathize with Abraham in his tender but evasive answer” [Viviano 38]. This quote from the commentary displays the emotions that are most likely to occur when we read these lines. Isaac doesn’t fully understand the situation but Abraham continues to put his faith in God as he replies back.

Abraham is guided to “give up the future and promise as well” when it comes to sacrificing his son, Isaac. The Harper’s Bible Commentary focuses on the use of “highlighted dialogue” and literary elements which adds more significance to the story and ultimately catches the reader’s attention. For example, “in which “father” and “son” are each used twice” [Kselman 96]. This quote picks up on the relationship of Abraham and his son Isaac with the use of repetition in verses 6-9. Repetition is also seen towards the end of Genesis 22 (verses 17-18). Right after the divine intervention, The angel of the Lord calls out to Abraham not once but twice saying that he will be blessed. “I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky….because you have obeyed me” (Genesis 22:17-18). The repetition helps the reader identify the importance of Abraham and Isaac’s relationship and the greatness of the reward as a result of Abraham’s obedience.

With the story of the sacrifice, The International Bible Commentary highlights the theme of test or testing when it comes to faith. This story is the climax of Abraham’s life in a serious and direct narrative. Regardless of the difficult commandment of sacrificing Isaac, Abraham still followed through and had strong faith in God. “Despite all that Abraham has endured, God still tests him” [Boadt 377]. This shows how God usually tests those who have gone through a lot and whether they pass or not shows their true faith. Moreover, Boadt revealed that Abraham’s response “here I am” was repeated three times (verses 1,7,11) which shows his trust in God and adds more to Abraham’s strong faith. Although Abraham was counting on Isaac for the promise, he had to give that up with God’s commandment. Boadt’s perspective underlines the importance of putting your faith in God and that it “is the only way to prosperity and success” [Boadt 378]. This commentary reminds us to think of God’s test as a way to deepen our connection to Him. Despite the challenges that we are faced with, we have to look beyond them and try to identify the lesson God wants us to see just like with this story.

Biblical commentary creates a sense of understanding beyond simply reading biblical verses and develops deeper thinking. Commentary comes in a variety of forms and have different focal points. The Book of Genesis is the first book of the Gospel and paves the way for the countless texts we see in the Bible today. It provides us with new insights as it explains the meaning of each passage line by line. In relation to this passage, these commentaries each have distinct focuses and provide different interpretation perspectives of Genesis 22. These authors covered aspects including literary elements, emotional appeals, and real life situations in the Genesis 22 commentaries I have read. These factors assist the reader in comprehending the Bible in unique ways and builds on their knowledge of this historic text.

Works Cited

  1. Bergant, Dianne. “Genesis” In The Collegeville Bible Commentary, ed. Pauline A. Viviano, 36–39. Collegeville, Minn: Liturgical Press, 1985.
  2. Mays. James L. “Genesis.” In Harper’s Bible Commentary, ed. John S. Kselman, 83-96 San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers, 1988.
  3. Farmer, William R. “Genesis.” In The International Bible Commentary, ed. Lawrence Boadt, 348-353; 377, Collegeville, Minn: Liturgical Press, 1998. 

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