The Tobacco Field Retelling of the Binding of Isaac (Genesis 22:1-14)


Do you want to hear a story?  Boy, do I have one to tell.  My daddy was always one to go off and do crazy things.  There was this one time, when before I was born, he decided to move half way across the world because God told him to.  He took my mama, his friend Lot, Lot’s wife, and some other people and decided to move from what you would call Iraq to what I call Israel.  How many Babylonians just up and move to Israel?   Other than us, I can’t think of that many.

One time daddy got so mad at Lot, they had to split up and go their own way.  I don’t know the whole story.  Like I told you, it was before I was born.  It did end well for Lot.  His wife, she was a cauldron of evil and lust.  Winsome for all the sins of the flesh about to be destroyed in Sodom and Gomorrah, she looked back just before God blew the place off the map, and got turned to salt, sodium chloride.  Now remember, I wasn’t there.  I’m just going off what I been told.  I’ve never met Lot.  I’ll tell you the truth about his wife. We ain’t never run out of salt.

Where was I?  Yeah, I was going to tell you my story.  You want to hear about one that happened after I was born, was alive for, and received front row tickets.  I can tell you that story.  This one happened not too long ago, after we finally got to where we were going.  Daddy didn’t believe in maps.  He intuited his way between trees, rocks, and mountains because God said keep walking west.  Mama, she didn’t have much faith in his sense of direction.  “Abraham, where are you going?” she would ask.  “God is telling me,” he would reply.  The longer the pause between replies we were sure that daddy was lost or this God feller was taking a nap.  “Talk louder, I don’t think he hears you,” Mama would yell back at Daddy.  “I don’t think you understand the complexities of our relationship,” was the look he’d shoot back our way.  So we would wait until God spoke his message straight into Daddy’s head.  It might be in the middle of the night or lunchtime.  Whenever it was, that was the time we moved.

Where was I?  My story, the story, the one that happened after I was born, was alive, for and had front row tickets.  Stop me if you’ve heard it before.  I hear it’s being told by some hack has been story tellers from down by Sinai and across into Egypt.  The way they’ve been telling it, I was eight years old.  When I was eight, we were still in the desert living in a double wide in a trailer park outside of Damascus.  Daddy worked third shift at the salt mines and Mama knitted baby quilts.  Hagar still lived with us.  I ain’t been eight in forever.

This story happened about a month ago.   I’ll be 38 next month.  So Daddy’s been talking to God.  I didn’t find this part out until much later (say three weeks ago.)  He gets it in his really old brain that God is telling him to take me up Mount Moriah (that big ol’ hill up yonder) and sacrifice me to God as if I were a goat, sheep or ram.  Let me say that again.  My Daddy believes God has told him to take me, his son, up to the top that there mountain, and gut me like a ram then burn me alive as a religious offering to God.  That’s the craziest thing I’ve ever heard.  I’m a grown man but I’m still his child.  He don’t argue, debate, or negotiate.  What is he thinking?  Do you know how long he and Mama tried to have a baby?  Now he’s just going to go up there and kill me because God says so.  Remember, at the time, I don’t know any of this.  He says we going camping, we might sacrifice something when we get there, and I help him load the stuff up on the animals.  Who honestly thinks you’re carrying the wood for your own human sacrifice?

It took us almost three days to get to the top of the mountain.  On the morning of the third day, daddy let the rest of the group go back down and we pressed on toward the summit.  It was just the two of us.  I didn’t want to be a pain in the butt though I noticed he’d neglected to bring an animal to sacrifice.  We had the whole kit:  wood and knife.  Sacrificing was simpler in those days.  Daddy, where’s the animal we going to sacrifice?  He said, “God will see to it.”  Now, maybe I’m as dumb as I look.  I still hadn’t caught on the plan.  Yes, perhaps there’s a pen of sacrificial goats waiting at the top of the next hill.  Who knows?  God acts in mysterious ways, right?  But I ask you, would you ever consider that one of your parents would sacrifice you?

Once we got there, we started building a stone altar for the sacrifice.  You take rocks and build them up about waist high.  The action really started while I was in the middle of moving some of the larger rocks.  I turned to place this one big stone toward the end and out of nowhere something hit me in the head.  Daddy knocked me out.  He hit me in the head with a baseball bat.  The next thing I knew, I was tied up and laid out on that altar.  What in the world?  I’m the sacrifice.   You’ve got to be kidding me.  Daddy, have you lost your mind.  He kind of shrugged his shoulders.

Daddy drew out the big killing knife like he was going to slit my throat.  That’s what you did.  You slit the throat watch the life drain from the animal and then light it on fire.  For a moment, I hoped I was being punked.  This had to be a sick, sick joke.  Then I realized it wasn’t.  He was going to kill me.  God demanded blood and Daddy was doing to give him mine.  What was going on?  My life flashed before my very eyes.  Would Ishmael remember my name?  Did Mama know anything about this?  If she did, surely she would have objected.  I was her baby boy.  How would he explain this to her?  What kind of God tells you to murder your own children?

About that time and angel showed up.  I don’t know what else to call a dude in white who saves you life.  I was as good as dead when the guy says, “Don’t kill the young man.  I now know that you really respect God and didn’t hold back your most precious only son from me.”  So that’s it?  Like magic, a ram appeared in the bushes to my left and Daddy untied me and he (not me) offered it as a new sacrifice.

This was some kind of loyalty test.  There’s got to better way to show God how much you revere, love, and respect God without nearly murdering the people you love.  Trust me; I’m the guy who was under the knife.  The knife was at my throat.  I had to live with my Daddy for years after that day and life was never the same.  When someone says, “God made me do it”, it don’t make forgiving or loving them any easier.  In fact, it makes it harder.    Anyway, that’s my story.  I told you it was a good one.  I got to go now.  I need to find a ride into town.  I got to get to my therapy session.   After that, my “Biblical Characters Who Were Abused and Nearly Murdered Anonymous” group meets tonight at the fire station.  See you later.