Unsettled Christianity

Gloria Dei homo vivens – St Irenaeus
March 13th, 2015 by Joel Watts

Genesis Rabbah 56.3 on Isaac’s wooden burden

This is from בְְּרֵאשִׁית רַבָּה:

AND ABRAHAM TOOK THE WOOD OF THE BURNT-OFFERING (xii, 6) like one who carries his stake on his shoulder.  AND HE TOOK IN HIS HAND THE FIRE AND THE KNIFE (MA’AKELETH). R. Hanina said: Why is a knife called ma’akeleth? Because it makes food (oklim) fit to be eaten.  While the Rabbis said: All eating (akiloth) which Israel enjoy in this world, they enjoy only in the merit of that MA’AKELETH (KNIFE).

AND THEY WENT BOTH OF THEM TOGETHER (ib.): one to bind and the other to be bound, one to slaughter and the other to be slaughtered.

This is from the Freedom and Simon translation. They note “stake” is the “stake of one’s execution” (a Roman method… a cross).

In the Jewish Study Bible, 2nd Edition (Oxford), the editors in Genesis 22 note that sacrifice is not execution.

Discuss (while I make notes for my dissertation)

Joel Watts
Watts holds a MA in Theological Studies from United Theological Seminary. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians, as well as seeking an MA in Clinical Mental Health at Adams State University. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).


4 Responses to “Genesis Rabbah 56.3 on Isaac’s wooden burden”
  1. “Who Wrote the Bible”, Richard Elliott Friedman. “The function of sacrifice is one of the most misunderstood matters in the Bible. Modern readers often take it to mean the unnecessary taking of animal life, or they believe that the person who offered the sacrifice was giving up something of his or her own in order to compensate for some sin or perhaps to win God’s favor. In the Biblical world, however, the most common type of sacrifice was for meals. The apparent rationale was that if humans wanted to eat meat they had to recognize that they were taking life.”

  2. May your MA’AKELETH cut a nice piece of Pi today!

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