Myth of the Patriarch Isaac

With the character of Isaac, we come to the second person of the Hebrew Scripture’s trinity (Abram/Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob/Israel).  The birth of Isaac (Genesis 21) is briefly covered in only eight verses.  He is depicted as having been born when Abraham and Sarah were in advanced years; something of an afterthought fulfillment of God’s promise to grant Abraham posterity.  And, typical of myth, little is recorded of Isaac’s formative years, jumping quickly, as myths always do, to how he was willing to be a sacrifice to Yahweh, but was spared that responsibility by the peculiar appearance of a ram provided by God to substitute as the ritual burnt offering (Genesis 22).  This attempted sacrifice is projected to have been sometime around 1898 BCE.  The story (the Agueda) of Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his only begotten son Isaac to the Lord has been of prime importance in Judaism, finding in it a reminder of the precariousness surrounding Isaac’s son, Jacob/Israel, having been chosen as progenitor: thus the Jewish New Year ritual commemorates the binding of Isaac.  And Christians accept the story as indicating the form of sacrifice that was expected of Jesus.  Strangely, few of these devout ones are aware of the story’s parallel to the Greek account in which Athamas attempted to sacrifice his son Phrixus to Zeus.  In that older tale, the sacrificial performance was interrupted by the unexpected arrival of Heracles and the miraculous appearance of a ram.  If the ram from that myth is recalled at all it is because it is the ram which had borne the Golden Fleece that in later myth inspired Jason and the Argonauts to undertake the holy quest of acquiring that pelt.  In Roman myth the god Saturn (god of sowing seed) was about to sacrifice his only begotten son to his father Uranus (who presided over primordial conditions), but was furnished a substitute.  In India, Siva, the third god of the Hindu triad, was about to sacrifice his son on a pyre when a rhinoceros was sent as a substitute.  But even older references to a ram caught in a thicket can be traced back to the fourth millennium BCE nation of Sumer where the theme was common in their art.

After Isaac’s dramatic escape from being an altar offering, and Sarah his mother dies to remove her from the plot, things jump quickly to how Isaac acquired his wife, Rebekah (Genesis 24).  Abraham was anxiously insistent that his son’s wife must come from his own people (primary elements), and to accomplish this Abraham’s older servant, Eliezer, was sent back to the city of Nahor where Abraham’s brother, Haran, lived.  Genesis 24:10 says, “And the servant took ten camels of the camels of his master, and departed…” to go to Nahor in Mesopotamia.  The timeframe in which a bride was sought for Isaac is traditionally placed at c. 1857 BCE.  Isaac then gets shuffled into more of secondary role, with prime attention placed on the servant and Rebekah’s family.

Abraham’s servant Eliezer encounter the lovely Rebekah while she is drawing water from a well.  In all biblical tales that have a well scene, it refers in  some way to the waters of life, and here Rebekah is drawing water to nourish the dimensions of energy-substance necessary for development as defined life forms.  This also explains why in Genesis 26:18 Isaac is portrayed as the well-digger.

Oddly, Rebekah, like Isaac’s mother Sarah, remains “barren.”  For a people so proud of their “begatting” power, this seems strange.  But if the material upon which these “history” tales were constructed are again consulted, the divine mystery is explained: Female characters in these tales always symbolize primordial energy-substance that is not yet activated with the genetic principle of life.   This comes from ancient cosmological lessons which taught of primal energy-substance forming as planets—and biological life does not bud out of these until settled into a defined form.  Thus Rebekah remained barren for twenty years, and Isaac had to pray to God to lift the curse, after which she was soon pregnant with twins.  But the fetuses were so competitive and struggled so with each other that Rebekah yearned for death.  And again  God says to Isaac exactly what he allegedly had said to Abraham (in Genesis 22:18); “And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed (repeated to Isaac Genesis 26:4).  This is deliberately worded to make it seem that the Israelites, and by extension the Jews, glorify any nation they may inhabit.  History has not supported that idea.  Of the “seed” which is repeatedly stressed, God allegedly said this to Abram, not to Abraham: “And I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth: so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be numbered (Genesis 13:16).  This is cosmic seed that is being blessed, i.e. the earth, which is why it had been stated, “For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and  to thy seed for ever” (verse 15).  It is, therefore, life which blesses all nations; it is not some land grant to some god-favored part of the human species as seems implied. 

 It is in chapter 26 that Isaac and Rebekah become embroiled in an episode involving “Abimelech king of the Philistines” that is like a distorted echo from the account of Abram’s wife, Sarai, taken into the king’s harem.  Isaac, like Abram, deceives the king, saying his lovely wife is his sister, but after the king discovers the immoral lie, Isaac is then rewarded with land ownership in Gerar!  From these examples from the “good  book” we are supposed to learn moral conduct and ethics?  The common excuse given for this alleged happening is that the use of deception was alright when Israelites were in danger abroad.  Huh?  All actions in the stories of Genesis take place in amoral primordial stages of Creation.

As is common in myth telling, time is surreal, and  Isaac has quickly become a near-blind old man (Genesis 27), and he is deceived by his son Jacob into giving Jacob the blessing of the firstborn that properly belonged to his twin brother Esau.  It is Rebekah that allegedly counseled Jacob into deceiving Isaac, and the reason for this assertion is that Rebekah, as we have seen, personifies the  process of energy-substance attaining materialization.  That process is not accomplished by deception, however,  but through involvement of primal energies.  Blind Isaac, although deceived, foresaw cosmological consequences, saying to Esau, “…and it shall come  to pass when thou shalt have the dominion, that thou shalt break his yoke from off thy neck (verse 40).  There is a secret of Creation processes hidden in Isaac’s words: It is that breaking the devotion to matter is the means of gaining higher potential.  The spiritual value in Isaac’s words rests in recognizing that focusing one’s consciousness on material things is the cause of most of life’s pains, conflicts and “sins.” 

With this, Isaac’s role is fulfilled, but the saga of primal energies forming into mass must advance so they may pass over into defined matter form.  But the time of famine (energies not yet defined), mentioned at the opening of chapter 26, was not yet over.  There it had said, “…there was a famine in the land, besides the first famine that was in the days of Abraham…”  It is here that Isaac’s son, Jacob, then moves to center stage.

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