Commentary of Abraham ibn Ezra to Gen. 22-1-2


THAT GOD DID PROVE ABRAHAM. Some say that the word nissah (did prove, tested) is a variation of nissa (lifted up), with the sin replacing the samekh and the heh replacing the alef. However, the plain meaning of the entire chapter contradicts this interpretation. The word nissah is thus to be taken literally. The philosophers teach that there are two kinds of knowledge, knowledge of events prior to their occurrence, and knowledge of what is presently in existence. The latter is the meaning of God did prove, and for now I know (v. 12). Saadiah Gaon says that did prove means that God tested Abraham in order to demonstrate his piety to mankind; furthermore, he interprets for now I know that thou art a God-fearing man (v. 12) to mean that now I have made known to all that thou art a God-fearing man. But didn’t Saadiah know that even Abraham’s young men were not present when he bound Isaac and placed him on the altar? Others say that and offer him there for a burnt offering is to be interpreted as: bring him up to the mountain; this will be considered as if you brought him up as a burnt offering. However, Abraham did not understand his prophetic vision and hurried to sacrifice Isaac. God then told him, “I did not ask you to slay Isaac.”Still others say that God told Abraham: act as if you were bringing him up as a burnt offering. We find a similar occurrence in connection with the prophet Jeremiah, who was commanded to Go unto the house of the Rechabites…and give them wine to drink (Jer. 35:2). Now these geonim offered the above interpretations because they held that it is not possible that God would issue a command and then take it back. However, they overlooked the fact that God took the firstborn to serve Him and after a year replaced them with the Levites. In reality all questions are removed by Scripture’s first stating that God did prove Abraham. The reason God tested Abraham was in order to reward him.

The meaning of for now I know that (v. 12) is the same as and if not, I will know (Gen. 18:21). I will also explain, if God who knows all hidden things will help me, the secret meaning of this term in my comments on I know thee by name (Ex. 33:12).

UPON ONE OF THE MOUNTAINS. The temple was later built on this mountain. This is explicitly stated in Scripture: So Solomon built the house on Mount Moriah. It was not a very tall mountain. The threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite was on it.


Excerpted from Sefaria, Ibn Ezra’s commentary on the Pentateuch, tran. and annot. by H. Norman Strickman and Arthur M. Silver. Menorah Pub., 1988-2004.

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