By November 4, 2008 0 Comments Read More →

Binding of Isaac, Hispano-Moresque Haggadah, Castile, Spain, c.1300.

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Because of the stern injunction against representing God, images depicting the Almighty are rarely found in Jewish book art. However, artists did find other ways of depicting divine presence, as in this illustration of one of the most momentous episodes in the Hebrew Bible, in a Haggadah from about seven centuries ago.

According to the Biblical text (Genesis 22- 1-13), God put Abraham to the test by ordering him to sacrifice his beloved son Isaac. He was stopped from slaying the boy by an angel of God calling from heaven. (Islam has the same story, but in that version, it is Abraham’s other son Ishmael who is almost sacrificed.)

In this illustration there is no trace of God’s angel, nor of the ass or the two servants who, in the story, accompanied Abraham and Isaac on their journey to the Land of Moriah. Isaac is shown lying down on a brick altar. Holding the knife in his right hand, Abraham tries to keep Isaac steady, while pressing his left hand firmly over his son’s mouth.

Miraculously, from behind a dark blue drape, God’s hand appears, pointing a warning finger at Abraham and stopping him in his tracks.

British Library- Picturing God’s presence

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