Near Sacrifice of Isaac

Genesis 22:1-13 tells us that God tested Abraham’s loyalty to God by telling him to sacrifice “thy son, thine only son Isaac.”  Abraham obeys and is ready to kill Isaac with his knife when an angel interrupts him and provides him a ram caught in a thicket to sacrifice instead.

The Sacrifice of Isaac  – DIETRICH (1712-1774)

See for the source of the photograph of the painting and for notes.  As you will see, this painting was based upon an engraving by Rembrandt.  Rembrandt is known for his empathy for his subjects.  There is nothing in the above Bible passage to suggest that Isaac was suspicious of Abraham’s intention to make a sacrifice of him, but in this painting based upon that engraving, Rembrandt imagines Isaac’s unease in helping his father prepare to make a sacrifice for which there is no live object to sacrifice except himself.

Sacrifice of Isaac REMBRANDT (1635)

See for the source of the above photograph of the painting and for notes.  One of the characteristics of the Baroque period both in music and in art is a sense of drama.  One artistic means of providing that is through chiarascura, which spotlighs the subject out of a dark background for dramatic effect.  You see that in each of the paintings shown here, each of which is from that period.

The Sacrifice of Isaac CARAVAGGIO (1573-1610)

See for the source of the photograph of the painting and notes.

See for an excellent, scholarly Jewish perspective on this subject.

See for a wonderful interview by Krista Tippett of journalist, Bruce Feiler,  titled Children of Abraham.

See for an insightful expert analysis and comparison of Brunelleschi and Ghiberti panels on the subject.

I recall reading years ago in one of Eric Fromm’s books, perhaps Psychoanalysis and Religion, that he interpreted this story to be a statement that God did not want human sacrifices.  Wikipedia is not recognized as a scholarly source, lacking the review standards of formal research, however, in searching for Eric Fromm’s statement I came across an interesting Wikipedia site that has sufficient references that you may judge its credibility for yourself:  Apparently there is significant Jewish history to support Eric Fromm’s statement.

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