Begotten of Faith

Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering, loaded it on Isaac, and carried in his own hands the fire and the knife. Then the two of them set out together. Isaac spoke to his father Abraham ‘Father’ he said. ‘Yes, my son’ he replied. ‘Look,’ he said, ‘here are the fire and the wood, but where’s the lamb for the burnt offering?’ Abraham answered: ‘My son, God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering.’ Then the two of them went on together. When they arrived at the place God had pointed out to him, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood. Then, he bound his son Isaac and put him on the altar on top of the wood. Abraham stretched out his hand and seized the knife to kill his son, but the angel of Yahweh called to him from heaven. ‘Abraham, Abraham’ he said. ‘I am here,’ he replied. ‘Do not raise your hand against the boy,’ the angel said. ‘Do not harm him, for now I know you fear god. You have not refused me your son – your only son.’ From that passage Leonard Cohen has woven a song – Story of Isaac. A lyric that’s true to the original and true to humanity. The original is seen in Cohen’s song through the eyes of the nine year old Isaac. From the point when the door opens slowly, surrepticiously even, and Abraham comes in, the boy remembers every detail. His father tall above him, his blue eyes shining, the coldness of his voice. And Abraham is burning with the fire of the believer. He’s had a vision, he’s strong and holy, he must do what he believes. And going up the mountain to his possible death, Isaac is aware of details too: I was running, he was walking, the trees were getting smaller, the lake was like a lady’s mirror, that hovering eagle might have been a vulture. But the song is more than a simple story, more than a simple statement. —Leonard Cohen Files

Reference Notes:

Featured Image [Header]: “Sacrifice of Isaac-Caravaggio (Uffizi)” by Caravaggio – scan. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

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