And The Lord Saw …

 My dear readers, this blog  had never been meant to be a reaction to the events around us – and in all these years I’ve done my best to stick with biblical studies only, and not comment on events which, at one point or another, were filling the media (and trust me, that’s not an easy task when you live in Jerusalem). But of course the crisis that the whole world is now facing can’t be ignored, even on these pages, so for the past few weeks, I have been trying to find a balance between commenting on the situation in the world, and the teaching that I am supposed to present here.  It’s not so difficult, in fact, since the Bible does give us the answers.

Last time, we spoke about the plague in the book of Numbers – and how this plague was stopped; this time, we will speak about the plague in 1 Chronicles – and how this plague was stopped. I hope and pray that somehow, the words of this blog might bring hope and encouragement (and maybe even revelation) to you in these trying days.

In 1 Chron. 21 we learn about a plague that was sent on Israel:

 14 So the Lord sent a plague on Israel, and seventy thousand men of Israel fell dead. 15 And God sent an angel to destroy Jerusalem.”

– and then we read a very enigmatic line:

 “But as the angel was doing so, the Lord saw it and relented concerning the disaster”[1]

What did the Lord see? The English translations usually insert “it” here, and even though it is not clear at all  what this “it” might mean, an English reader can still suppose that the Lord saw some object  – some  concrete, tangible item. However, when we read it in Hebrew, it is very obvious that the sentence doesn’t specify just what the Lord saw. The Lord saw (ראה יהוה) —but, what did He see? What did stop Him? Why did He stop the plague and relent concerning the disaster? Isn’t that the most vital question for us today?

Of course, Jewish commentators noticed this omission and asked this question long ago. For instance, these are the comments that we find in Midrash Mekilta de-Rabbi Ismael:

“And as he was about to destroy, the Lord beheld and He repented Him of the evil” (1 Chron. 21:15). What did He behold? He beheld the blood of Isaac’s Aqedah—and immediately His compassion conquers His anger and He redeems and delivers.”

What does this comment refer to? During our Discovering the Hebrew Torah classes, I would usually tell my students about a haggadic tradition that not many Christians are aware of: at some point, a tradition existed in Judaism, stating that Isaac was actually slain or burnt and then rose from the dead. In these midrashim, Isaac is explicitly said to be the lamb of burnt offering:  אתה השה לעלה בני – “You are the lamb, my son”.  “The ashes of Isaac” and “the blood of Isaac,” though contradicting the plain meaning of Scripture, are carefully preserved by this tradition. Some midrashim clearly state that Abraham offered up two sacrifices—he began with the sacrifice of his son and ended with the sacrifice of the ram—but even the commentaries that don’t state this explicitly, still share the same intuition: the important common point is that “the blood of Isaac’s Aqedah'” is to serve forever as atonement and advocate of Israel in every generation. “And whenever Isaac’s descendants are in straits, He… beholds the blood of his Aqedah, and pity fills Him so that He turns away the wrath of His anger from His city and His people” (1,57). According to the midrashim, that is exactly what Abraham is asking for on Mount Moriah.  For instance, in midrash Bereshit Rabbah, R. Phineas said in R. Banai’s name: “He prayed: Sovereign of the Universe! Regard it as though I had sacrificed my son Isaac first and then this ram instead of him (in the stead, tahat, being understood as in the verse And Jotham his son reigned in his stead (2 Kings 15, 7),” where the meaning must be after  him). Abraham continues (at least in midrash): Even so it may be Thy will, O Lord our God, that when Isaac’s children are in trouble, Thou wilt remember that binding in their favour and be filled with compassion with them!”

According to scholarly opinion, sometime between the middle of the second century BC and the beginning of the Christian era, a new doctrine established itself: the atonement for the sins of Israel resulted both from Isaac’s self-offering and from the spilling of his blood. Not only was the Aqedah indeed considered a true and genuine sacrifice, but because of the free consent of the victim – a unique feature distinguishing it from, and raising it above, all other sacrifices – it became the sacrifice par excellence, whose lasting benefits would be felt for all time. Since that time, the Binding of Isaac was thought to have played a unique role in the whole economy of the salvation of Israel and to have a permanent redemptive effect on behalf of its people – and we can see this clearly from our story in 1 Chronicles 21.

Why are we discussing this story today? Even though modern Christianity, whatever its form (Catholic, Orthodox or evangelical), is worlds apart from modern Judaism, we cannot miss the important point here: that nascent Christianity (which at that time was not “Christianity”), and nascent Judaism shared the same intuition of development of the biblical theory of Redemption—a fact that brings both religions closer together, because we see the same motif of redemptive death of the Righteous bringing salvation—but with a different redemptive personage in the center. I believe that now, with all that being said, you are able to read the story from 1 Chronicles in a different light: What did the Lord see?


[1] 1 Chr.21:14,15 (NIV)


My dear readers, in these trying  days we all need encouragement .  Besides, the Passover is approaching – and this is the time of gifts! Therefore,  once again and just for  a few days  before Passover (starting tomorrow , April 3),   you can freely download from Amazon   my book , this time “Unlocking the Scriptures” .  I  really hope it would bless and encourage  you – and if you liked the book and want to bless me also, please take a few minutes to write a review on this book on Amazon. 

 If these articles whet your appetite for discovering the hidden treasures of the Hebrew Bible,  I would be happy to provide more information (and also a teacher’s discount for new students) regarding  eTeacher courses  ( .

About the author

Julia BlumJulia is a teacher and an author of several books on biblical topics. She teaches two biblical courses at the Israel Institute of Biblical Studies, “Discovering the Hebrew Bible” and “Jewish Background of the New Testament”, and writes Hebrew insights for these courses.

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Israel, Isaac, And The Lamb

By Julia Blum

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  1. SanndraC

    I humbly put this up…God had maybe seen Himself in Abraham who was someone who loves God above everything and who was a God-fearing person. God had maybe been touched by His unconditional love for Him and it had reminded Him of what He was about to do decades later when He would send us Lord Jesus as a Living sacrifice for us to be redeemed and received our salvation by having faith in Him.

    God has maybe seen both Himself in Abraham and His Son Jesus in Isaac. He had seen that there was still one among so many who was ready to give up everything out of his love for his God.

    God bless you all…

  2. Luis

    What did He see? He saw Adam, as he was created to be, in Isaac. Isaac was obedient to his father to the point of death-something Adam was unable to do. It was an AWESOME (I use this word carefully) sight to God. I dare say God wept at the sight. So awesome in fact, that not only did it remind him to be be compassionate when Israel misbehaved but also so awesome that He sent His own son to the same mountain to fulfill that act again. And how fortunate I am that Jesus was like Isaac. I wept when I heard the Gospel the first time. How AWESOME that an innocent person would freely choose to die in obedience to His Father to give me a chance to live. God’s compassion is beyond measure! Jesus is Lord and God Almighty is our Father!

  3. LRaine

    Thank you for another great teaching! I’m not sure it was Isaac’s Aqedah He saw, but David’s, which is also in line with Isaac’s; both are a righteous willing sacrifice.

    At the end of the same paragraph:

    17 David said to God, “Is it not I who commanded to count the people? Indeed, I am the one who has sinned and done very wickedly, but these sheep, what have they done? O Lord my God, please let Your hand be against me and my father’s household, but not against Your people that they should be plagued.”

    This is what I believe the Lord saw.

    Again, thank you for the insight!

    Have a blessed day,


  4. Henrietta wisbey

    Dear Julia I read your blog just prior to retiring last night. The words ringing in my ear, when I see the blood I will passover you. Ex.12:23.

    I read the story from 1 Chr.21 I love the story and the life of king David. He has always been one of my favourite Bible characters, and I have often considered this passage.
    May I share some thoughts that spring to mind this morning.

    During the course of my meditations i was directed to Psalm 73 and the words nevertheless I am continually with thee. I think there are some connections here.
    I noticed the psalmist too was plagued by events around him.
    Until he comes into the sanctuary.
    He finds, he sees the Presence, the Glory, the Power.
    All that show us and tell who God is.

    I love this psalm and the word nevertheless. May we pause and consider, reflect and remember.
    Israel was commanded to remember the Passover.
    Maybe this is a time for us all to remember again the sacrifice. David offered to the Lord that which cost him something. I am reminded of the sin that can so easily beset and forget.
    May I be called daily to remember and so offer myself afresh to be transformed.


  5. Dorothy Healy

    Thank you Julia, for drawing our attention to this profound chapter, and also bringing out how the Jewish sages have viewed the Aqedah. I do believe they too were inspired by the Holy Spirit.
    When David was given three choices for punishment, he said: he said to Gad, his seer, “I am in deep distress. Let me fall into the hands of the Lord, for HIS MERCY IS VERY GREAT (v13). According to Rev. 13: “the Lamb was slain from the creation of the world”, although this only became clear to mankind after His beloved son had been crucified on the cross, of which the Aqedah was a prophetic picture. So I absolutely agree with your premise: This is what the Lord saw, and therefore He was able to apply His mercy to His beloved David – who already knew the merciful side of God, but had been “incited by Satan to take the census” (v.1)
    Again, as in your previous post, this Scripture points to the Cross, so let us, in the midst of this plague, lift up the shed blood of Yeshua, who is King of Kings and wears the crown of Heaven – especially at Passover – to defeat this false crown of Satan – Corona.

  6. anne

    To me the sacrifice was the fact that Abraham was willing to relinquish his most cherished and loved earthly thing in order to gain the lesson of right order placing God first so as to be able to fulfill that destiny he was chosen for with a full faith and trust in its True place.