Feast Of Trumpets And The Sacrifice Of Isaac

Dear friends,

Here in Israel, we are in a season called Chagim:  Feasts, or Holidays. There are two Hebrew words that one hears endlessly during this season: Acherey Hachagim – “after the Holidays”. Everything is “frozen”, postponed, delayed for this time (pretty much like the Christmas/New Year season, with a slight difference, that Christmas/New Year season lasts two weeks, and our Chagim lasts almost a month – the Jewish month of Tishrei).

Here on this Blog, we will also be celebrating the Holy Days. Even though in our last post, we asked the final and the main question of our Hidden Messiah study: Why was Yeshua hidden from Israel? – we will look for an answer “Acherey Hachagim” – after the Holidays.  For now, we will talk about the Feasts, and since this is the week of the Feast of Trumpets (this is the biblical name and meaning of this Feast), that will be our subject for today.

The biblical Hebrew name for this holiday is Yom Teruah (יוֹם תְּרוּעָה‎‎), literally “day [of] shouting/blasting”, translated as the Feast of Trumpets. You probably know this holiday as Rosh Hashanah – Jewish New Year. “Rosh” is the Hebrew word for “head”, “ha” is the definite article (“the”), and “shanah” means year. Thus Rosh HaShanah means Head [of] the Year, referring to the Jewish new year (by the way, one of four “new years” in Israel).

The term “Rosh Hashanah” in its current meaning does not appear in the Torah. Leviticus 23:24 refers to the festival of the first day of the seventh month as Zikhron Teru’ah  ([a] memorial [of] blowing [of Trumpets]); it is also referred to in the same part of Leviticus as ‘שַׁבַּת שַׁבָּתוֹן’ (shabbat shabbaton) and a “holy day to God”. Numbers 29:1 calls the festival Yom Teru’ah (“Day [of] blowing [the Trumpet]”), and specifies different sacrifices that were to be performed.

Rosh Hashanah is also the Day of Judgment: Yom HaDin. According to the Talmud tractate on Rosh Hashanah, three books are opened on this day: the Book of Life, for the righteous, the Book of Death, for the most evil, who receive the seal of death, and a third book, for an intermediate class. The intermediate class are allowed a period of ten days, until Yom Kippur, to reflect and repent – the final judgment not taking place until Yom Kippur.

The Torah reading for Rosh Hashanah is Chapters 21 and 22 of the book of Genesis. It is impossible to overestimate the significance of these chapters in God’s mystery. In the past, my attention had always been drawn to Akedat Yitzhak in Genesis 22 and to the fact that Genesis 22 is read every Jewish New Year.  Why do we read the story of Isaac’s sacrifice every Rosh Hashanah? One of the traditional explanations says that the shofar, made of a ram’s horn, reminds us of the binding of Isaac and the ram God provided as a sacrifice in his place . I personally believe, the connection is much deeper. I wrote a book based on this story, and here are a few paragraphs from the Prologue:

“I ask you to visualize that mountain, the location of one of the strangest events in the history of Israel. See the aging father, who with his own hands binds his beloved son and who, with his very own hands, lays him on the altar. Knife in hand, he has already stretched out his arm to slay him, but… halted by a voice from heaven, he looks up and sees a ram caught in a thicket by its horns, which he then sacrifices as a burnt offering in the place of the son originally intended for this sacrifice. When from the lofty height of millenniums afterwards, we look back down at this mountain and at these three figures, our hearts literally quiver with the awareness of near-physical contact with this special secret, with the foretaste of some incredibly important and only partially understood, not yet revealed, mystery of God. Here we brush up against something that without a doubt still belongs to God, but the incomprehensible inner turbulence, which agitates us to the point of outward trembling, testifies that this picture is like some episode from His forethoughts and plans for the history of the world, fashioned for our viewing. This long ago slaying of the sacrificial lamb, which took place perhaps even before the beginning of time but somehow still resounds today, exceeds all bounds of history, time and the passing world. Something incredibly important is taking place here. Something is taking shape against the backdrop of all the long ages of human history: an unsolved mystery stands behind these actions. Are you aware that every year during the holiday of Rosh Hashanah, at the beginning of every Jewish year, this story entitled “Akedah”, the story of the binding and sacrifice of Isaac, is read in the synagogues? Why? What is so important for us that every time we enter a new year of our earthly walk, we again look at this story? Why did the father have to sacrifice his son? Who was this son, laid on the altar by his father? And this ram, caught in the thicket by his horns – what does he symbolize? I found an interesting passage in the Haggadah: “I heard from behind the Heavenly Veil these words: ‘Not Isaac, but the ram predestined for the burnt offering.’” …

Within this scene, this prologue not only to the history of Israel, but in fact to the entire history of mankind, is encapsulated the entirety of God’s design for the ages, His complete plan for humanity. It is not by coincidence that the location where all this takes place was later to become the main focal point of God in the visible world. It is the mountain of Moriah, the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, on which the Temple will be built that the Lord will one day fill with His glory. ‘God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering,’[1] Abraham tells Isaac, and although there on the mountain at first we see only two figures – Abraham and Isaac, father and son – after a time it turns out that there is someone else in the picture: the ram caught in a thicket by its horns.[2] The lamb, which God provided for Himself for the burnt offering!  Neither Abraham nor we the readers could see how and when he got there; he simply was there, and had been from the very beginning. In Jewish sources it says that the ram, this lamb, had already been slain before the creation of the world. This is why each time at the rebirth of the year we read about this story that somehow echoes from beyond the realm of time. In its light we can discern how, in God’s plan for the salvation of mankind, at first there are two: God, and Israel who is called the son and firstborn, but in the dispensation of the fullness of the times[3] it turns out that there is also ‘the Lamb’, who from the creation of the world was destined for sacrifice. Remember the portion I quoted earlier from the Haggadah: “I heard from behind the Heavenly Veil these words: ‘Not Isaac, but the ram predestined for the burnt offering.’” The Lamb slain from the foundation of the world replaces, on the altar, the one whom God Himself has called His son and firstborn.” [4]

[1] Gen. 22:8

[2] Gen. 22:13

[3] Eph. 1:10

[4] If you are Son of God, Come down from the Cross; here is the link to the  book: https://www.amazon.com/Julia-Blum/e/B00LUY0JN8/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_8?qid=1474990243&sr=8-8

 

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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  1. Luis Enrique Antolín

    First of all,excuses by my bad english. I think that must be appointed that akedat,binding,oo Isaac doen´t mean exactly a sacrifice, by sins,for instance,but an offering. Offering of ascension is tranlated into ispnish in my bilingual Tanaj, hebrew and spanish,came from Israel,from e-Teacher.
    Perhaps the “God will provide” points some kind of hope in Abraham that God finally preservres his son but Abraham acts whit “no trick”, he is in fact about to kill isaac till the moment he hears the voice from heaven.

    I believe is just in that key of offering the own,only and promise son as a christian have to read this story in its relationshp with the cross of the Christ.

  2. Sharon Stern

    Well, I just wonder if Avraham, in the midst of his crushing turmoil and anguish on Mt. Moriah; knife in hand and his son of promise; through whom his covenant with HaShem to have descendants innumerable to count about to slay —- how could any of it made sense to him? Did he have faith enough to believe that HaShem would resurrect his son so that the promises would be fulfilled? And I wonder even more; did HaShem pull back the veil of time, that Heavenly Veil you quote from the Hagaddah – “Not Isaac, but the ram predestined for the burnt offering” —- and did he perhaps have a glimpse at or even a long look at the future redemption that would take place at this exact same location and see ‘the lamb who was slain before the creation of the world?”

    Yes, Abraham knew in his heart that somehow, in some way, HaShem would provide for Himself the burnt offering. As Francois so eloquently stated in an earlier post, indeed, only man is sinful. The ram is sinless, doesn’t deserve to die for my/yours/all of our torahlessness! And yet, before the foundation of the earth, HaShem saw the need for such substitutionary sacrifice and hints/shadows/images dimly cast from the mirror of time give us flashes of recognition of this theme; this reality that ‘all have fallen short of the glory of HaShem’ and that atonement requires the shedding of blood.

    What is stunning, breathtaking, and heartbreaking is that this redemption would be through the sacrifice of His sinless and only begotten Son, Yeshua, the Messiah – our Redeemer; and that His ‘other Son – Israel – shares in this redemptive sacrifice as ‘the word of HaShem goes forth from Jerusalem to all the nations”.

    May we all drink deeply from this well of painful truth as we examine ourselves carefully during these Days of Awe. May we all ask HaShem to cast His penetrating light deep into the corners of our hearts and be privileged to see those areas that are not pleasing to Him and rectify them so we may ‘enter through the gates of repentance’ and find ourselves written in the Book of Life for one more year. May we be infused with fresh oil to live the redeemed life, sowing life and hope into those around us who so desperately need the love of the Father and the Redemption that flows from what happened on the lonely and sad outcrop in Jerusalem so very long ago. May the theme of this prologue come to completion in our times, swiftly and soon — v’imru —- Amen!

  3. Migdalah

    Hi Julia,

    ‘In Jewish sources it says that the ram, this lamb, had already been slain before the creation of the world’, could you give references of where this idea is presented in Judaism.

    Shalom

    1. Julia Blum

      Great question, Migdalah, I’ve been waiting for someone to ask this question! The Jewish tradition equates the redemption of Isaac with that of the entire people of Israel: “…since Isaac was redeemed it is as though all Israel had been redeemed”. Therefore, the ram is thus considered a creature of great importance and is included in the list of the things created at twilight at the end of the 6th day of Creation (Pirkey Avot, 5:9). That means that it is both in and outside of Creation. The text doesn’t say explicitly: “it was slain” – however, its importance and significance come from the fact that it would be the ram of Akedah and would replace Isaac on the altar. It means that in fact, the ram was “created to be slain” – and it was created on the very first Sabbath eve at twilight.

      1. Migdalah

        Thank you Julia.

  4. Luis Enrique Antolín

    A mistake,it lacks the word “sin”.Because the clear parallelism betwenn akedat Yittzhak,the binding,the sacrifice of Isaac and the cross of Christ for a christian,the commentaries have been based on sin and sacrifice. My argument as a christian is that,even according thisparallelism appears a significant difference.

    In the case of Christ, the son isn´t preserved from death. God does not demand the sacrifice of the son but offers His own Son,and both of them,the Father and the Son,Yehoshua ,a human being in full communion with God, get directly involved in such an important matter as evil,sin, and also pain and suffering.God does not stay outside as just a witness, He and the Christ penetrate into the very,very inside of the matter. Perhaps,Ithink,the real and actual way to solve such a serious problem and to answer such a difficult question.

    1. Julia Blum

      Thanks for the explanation. First of all, re your comments: as a moderator of this blog, first I have to “approve” the comments, and only then they are published, Your comments came at my night time (I live in Israel), and therefore they were not approved and published immediately ( and you didn’t see them right away).

      As for Isaac’s sacrifice – of course, in the original story, in Genesis 22, we don’t have a single word about sin. But this is exactly my point: this is the Prologue not only to the history of Israel, but in fact to the entire history of mankind – and as in every prologue, there are themes which are heard already, but are not really developed yet. The main theme: Father sacrifices his Son – won’t be fully developed and understood until Yeshua’s sacrifice on the Cross.

  5. Lus Enrique Antolín

    I´ts a mistake,it lacks the word “sin”. The matter of sacrifice, and sacrifice for sin,occupies a very important place in commentaries, it´s because of that my reflection. There is a clear parallelism between akadah,binding of Isaac and tehe cross of Yeshua and I try to reflect on a very important diference,even according to that parallalism. In christian view, God doesn´t demand the sacrifice of the son but offers the sacrifice of His own son, and also there is not a substitute ram.

    God and Yeshua,His son, the human being in whom both God and human being are in a full communion, get directly involved,do not stay away as just witness, in such an important matter as evil,sin,and also pain and suffering. God not out of the matter but in the very inside of it perhaps means the real and factual way to solve and answer such a hard and difficult problem and question.

  6. Luis Enrique Antolín

    Actually, Akedah,binding or sacrifice of Isaac has nothing to do with ,at least in a proper and inmediate way. It means a kind of offering to God and,above all,the complete disposal, opening and offering of Araham himself to the will,and mystery, of God.

    The ram means the preservation of Isaac and the proof ,confirmed and proclaimed by God,of Abrahams faith,fully faith. But certainly it has happenned a sacrifice,the one of the ram.

    In christians terms, that at the end the son wnt´be preserved, it´ not God who demands but who offers it, His own Son, without preservation nor substitution. God and the Christ ,a human being in absolute and entire communnion with God, get completely involved, whithot substitutes.

    1. Julia Blum

      I am not sure I follow your argument, Luis Enrique. Can you please clarify: “binding or sacrifice of Isaac has nothing to do” – with what? Genesis 22 is Torah reading for Rosh Ha Shanah, Jewish New year, and this is the only connection this writing is based on.

  7. Luis Enrique Antolín

    Un saludo,María Ruth. Ithink isn`t a matter of God´s angry, Paul says that God recomciles the world with Him by His own iniatiative, reconciliation is then a matter of love and no of anger.

    About substitution. Certainly the Chris is symbolically called “the Lamb of God”, but He is a human being,not a lamb or ram. In the caso of Isaac,he, a human being,is in fact substitiuted by a ram,he doesn`t die, in the case of Yeshua he himself is put on the croos and he himself dies, there is not ram or lamb substitute.

  8. Francois Aerts

    Julia, this beautifull explanation of yours makes perfect sense, because a ram, due to its animal nature, is as much sinless as Yeshua was. Only people can commit sin. The scene of Awraham, sacrificing his only son Yitschak, would therefore be meaningless, because they are both sinners. They both deserve to die for their sins. The story might as well have been a story in which Yitschak sacrificed his unique Father Awraham. The Tanach offers a solution for this problem by referring to the Azazeel from Leviticus 16:10, the scapegoat (“But the goat on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat shall be presented alive before the Lord, to make an atonement with him and to let him go as a scapegoat into the wilderness.”). The Tanach itself confirms (through Mosheh) that atonement for sin inevitably means the spilling of blood. That’s why Yeshua was predestined to become our scapegoat, the scapegoat for all the sinners, he who takes away the sins of this world, to throw them into the depths of the sea. On the other hand I would certainly not underestimate the significance of Genesis 22:12 as a precursor of the words of Yeshua : “Who are my mother and my brothers?” Looking at those seated around him he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the Will of God is my brother and sister and mother” (Mark 3:31–35). Verse 12 of Genesis stresses thus the fact of the primacy of the Will of God being done by mankind : “for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son, from Me.”.
    It seems to me that the price for the removal of our Sins is the Unconditional Obedience to the Will of God and the repentance of our sins as they are repented for during Yom Kippur or in the Sacrament of Confession.
    Shalom Julia, and May your Name be inscribed in the Book of Life. Have a good and significant Yom Kippur.

    1. Julia Blum

      Shalom Francois,thank you for your profound comment. It’s so good to hear from you. I look forward to hearing you more here, you have a lot of knowledge to contribute to the discussions on these pages. Blessings and Shanah Tovah!

  9. Angelika Walter

    Shalom Julia, I wish you a joyful season in the knowledge, that our Lord Yeshua was willing to be sacrificed on our behalf. I pray, God will give you opportunity to share the Good News with people by pointing out the parallel between Isaac and Yeshua in your unique compassionate way.
    God bless you
    Angelika

  10. Luis Enrique Antolín

    I can´t exprees myself in english the way I woul like but,well,I´ll try to do my best. As a christian (very,very interested in judaism) that episode means a lot, tells a lot about God.For a christian there is not a ram,lamb,sustitute of the son, the knife falls finally on him.

    The Father and His Son take over themselves the task and responsabilty of Redemption, they get entirely and directly implicated,not by any kind of substitution. Perhaps just as the real and actual way to bring face to the darkness of evil,sin and also the pain and suffering (for a christian the cross tells abaout that,too).

    Greetings, Julia.

    1. Maria Ruth Gomez Lozano

      May I replay into Spanish, Luis Enrique Antolín? I will translate it later.
      Dices en tu comentario que no había sustituto? Míralo desde este punto y verás como sí: Dios, el Padre , en su ira demandaba el sacrificio por el pecado de la humanidad (Isaac), en él estábamos toda la humanidad representada pero….apareció el Cordero (Cristo) Yeshua, y Él fue quien murió en nuestro lugar para que pudiésemos VIVIR. Bendiciones.
      The translation: You say that there wasn’t any substitute? Jut look at it from this point and you’ll see that there was: God, the Father, in His anger was demanding a sacrifice for the humankind’s sin (Isaac), in him we all were represented but….a Lamb appeared blinded by its horns (Christ) Yeshua, and He was who died in our place so that we could LIVE. Blessings.

  11. Premkumar Samuel

    Jesus Christ the Lamb that was slain before the foundations of the world,became a sin offering with a crown of thorns on the very same mountain.
    He ushered in a new beginning,a new era for the whole world .
    Festival of trumpets one day will announce His arrival.
    Wonderful thoughts thanks

  12. Sheila Dale

    So beautuful…the Lamb slain before the foundation pf the world. And to know Jewish sources acknowledge this concept…it brings new significance to the New Covenant scriptures. Wishing you abundant Blessings during this time of Chagim. Miss you and the classes you so skillfully taught.

    1. Julia Blum

      Thank you Sheila! So good to hear from you, I hope to hear your voice more on these pages! I miss you too – and I wish you a wonderful year, sweet with His presence and blessings! שנה טובה!

  13. Jesse Kana Dass

    Thanking you for the thoughtful insight on the sacrifice that God provided, First at the Garden of Eden to cover the sin of mankind and in this passage sacrificial Lamb and at the Cross of Calvary He Redeemed Mankind from Sin. Thank you you for this teaching I’m indeed grateful for your foresight in His Word. Shalom

  14. Eric

    Incredible Julia. Stupendous fact of the Lamb slain for sinners. Thank you for bringing the account afresh to thankful saved people.