Genesis 22:1-2 - "Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you."

Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, "Abraham!" "Here I am," he replied. Then God said, "Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you." (Genesis 22:1-2)

Is this allegory or literal?

Like so many of the other stories that are told within the Book of Genesis, we find it difficult to believe that the Supreme Being would test Abraham by instructing him to murder his son as a sacrifice.

We must ask: Who would request such a cruel thing? Just consider whether a mother or father would test their child's allegiance to them by telling their child to kill the child's pet for them. Would this truly be an act of allegiance if the child were to go ahead and begin to kill the pet?

Such a request by God would surely equate to a form of cruelty - to test His servant by instructing him to kill his own beloved son.

We can only reflect upon the many other stories told in the Book of Genesis, and how these stories came to be told to discern their intent.

This and other fantastic stories were passed on orally over the centuries from one generation to the next. They would be likened to some of the stories that have been continuously passed down orally from one generation to the next by North American Indians and Pacific Islanders and even the Greeks. All of these and other cultures passed down legendary tales of heroism and allegory regarding figures from higher realms.

And just as those allegorical stories tell of fantastic things that may only partially reflect on historical figures and actual events, we find similarities in this and other stories of Genesis. They are allegorically developed stories that discuss historical figures in expansive ways.

We can understand this because there is no plausible witness to these events. Who was there to witness God reveal Himself to Abraham and speak these things to him? Who would have witnessed this and portrayed it to the next generation? And who was there to see Abraham almost slaughter his son?

If God or Abraham had portrayed this story, it would have been portrayed in the first person from that particular perspective. Other than those two, the only people who could have even witnessed Abraham bringing his son up to the place God had theoretically instructed Abraham to slaughter his son at could have been his servants. But his servants were instructed by Abraham to wait while he left them and went to the site. This means that they also did not witness this event:
He said to his servants, "Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you." (Genesis 22:5)
This means there were no witnesses to the event, or witnesses to God instructing Abraham to murder his son.

So who could have accurately portrayed such an event if this were a historical event?

The reality is that this is an allegorical story meant to teach a lesson about devotion to the Supreme Being. It was taught by masters to their students to illustrate that a person should focus their attention on pleasing God. It is not a story meant to teach that the Supreme Being goes around telling people to murder their children in order to test them. And it surely is not meant to instruct others to commit murder on behalf of the Supreme Being.

What is the allegorical lesson?

This notion that God wanted Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac is symbolic in that it illustrates a very important lesson about the physical world and the real self - the spirit-person beneath this physical body.

What plays out in the story is that just as Abraham begins to sacrifice his son, God and His angel stop him:
But the angel of the LORD called out to him from heaven, "Abraham! Abraham!" "Here I am," he replied. "Do not lay a hand on the boy," he said. "Do not do anything to him." (Genesis 22:11-12)
What is being taught here is the extreme devotion that the loving servants of God have towards the Supreme Being. A person who commits themself to the Supreme Being must be prepared serve God. This means making sacrifices within their personal life sometimes - but this doesn't mean murdering someone - because God also instructs us to love each other.

The teaching of this verse is that the physical son of a father is typically the most important thing in that father's life. We can see this all around us, as fathers become attached to their sons - their sons become everything to the father - the center of the father's life.

Yet we must also understand that these physical bodies are not us. They are temporary vehicles each of us wears. Thus the physical son of our physical body does not belong to us. The son is also a spirit-person within that body - who belongs to God just as we do.

While this does not diminish the love or commitment a father should have for his son, the father must understand that the son is not his possession. At one point the son will leave the father, and one day the father's body will die and leave the son. Therefore, becoming attached and possessive of a physical son only leads to sorrow and suffering. This is one of the lessons in this story.

This might be intellectually understood, but it cannot cancel the attachment a father has to his son or vice versa. In fact that only way a person can understand the real relationship between father and son is to have a loving relationship with the Supreme Being.

Such a person can then see that they belong to God and the son also belongs to God. The father might be the caretaker of the son for awhile but does not possess the son. Only in this state can a person truly care for and love the family members of their body: They must become unattached to them, and understand who their real family is - God and all of God's children.

This story of Abraham and his son Isaac illustrates the importance of trusting God. It means that we know for certain that God always has our best interests in mind, even if we cannot see it at the moment.

What about testing us?

Some time later God tested Abraham. (Genesis 22:1)
This story is analogous to the testing that takes place for each of us. Every day we are being asked to trust in the temporary things of this physical world. Jesus called this temptation. To trust in the things of this temporary world is to become tempted by them. This is the same as being tested.

In reality, it is the mechanisms of the physical world that constantly test us. They test our integrity, our character, our willingness to be honest and our faith in the Supreme Being - these are all being tested throughout our lives through the mechanisms of the physical world.

Yet many have taught that some kind of a devil is at large who is doing the tempting (same as testing). As if this Satan guy has gotten out of God's control somehow.

God never loses control. He is always in control of everything. Therefore, there is no tempting going on here in the respect that such tempting is not within God's purvey or control.

What is going on is that God has set up the physical world in such a way that it constantly tests us. God is running this show. It is not as if someone is running loose that God cannot control.

This doesn't mean that there are not personalities who have been delegated with some of the responsibilities of managing the physical world. The fact is, God utilizes numerous personalities - who are His servants - to help manage some of the operations of the physical world.

Therefore the concept of a personalized "Satan" who tests us is not totally inaccurate, but we must understand the symbolic nature of this entity, and realize that nothing occurs outside of God's ultimate control.

The reality is that in the end it is the Supreme Being who designed and oversees the physical world, and every test is ultimately His doing.

That is what this story about Abraham, God and Isaac is all about: It is a testament to Abraham's commitment to the Supreme Being.

Throughout Abraham's life the Supreme Being tested him in various ways and he passed so many tests. But in the end, one of Abraham's remaining attachment was his son Isaac. So Abraham's attachment to Isaac was tested by God in this allegorical story.

Each of us will be tested in various ways, but the tests are not for God to understand us. He can see our heart.

Rather, the tests of the physical world are meant to show us where we are.