Gen 22:1-8 God tells Abraham to take his son Isaac to the Land of Moriah and to offer him as a sacrifice. Child sacrifice was a common feature of many religions in Abraham’s time, and God is preparing Abraham for a radical move away from the traditional religious practice of his day.
Gen 22:9-19 Abraham prepares the altar for the sacrificial offering. At the last moment, God provides a ram for the sacrifice and Isaac is spared. Abraham calls the place Jehovah-jireh (meaning ‘the LORD provides’). Child sacrifice is to have no place in worshipping God.
The Mountains of Moriah are now known as the Jerusalem Hills. Subsequently, the rocky summit where Abraham built his altar became the site of Solomon's Temple in Jerusalem (see 2 Chronicles 3:1), now occupied by the beautiful Dome of the Rock (completed in 691AD) inside which the rock that served as Abraham’s altar can still be seen by visitors today. To Muslims, the Haram al-Sharif (the ‘Noble Sanctuary’) also marks the site of Mohammed’s night journey to heaven in c.620AD.
The story of Abraham’s sacrifice is told graphically on an ancient mosaic dating from 518AD on the floor of the Bet Alpha synagogue near Beit Shean. The beautifully preserved mosaic shows Abraham preparing to offer Isaac on the altar, while his two servants hold the donkey. In the centre of the mosaic, a ram gets caught in a thicket, beneath the hand of God’s providence.
Mosaic showing Abraham's sacrifice
Gen 22:20-24 Abraham’s nephew Bethuel becomes the father of Rebekah (who later becomes Isaac’s wife).