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The Sacrifice of Isaac

Dramatis Personae

Abraham
Isaac
Ishmael


[ABRAHAM and ISAAC are onstage, reading in front of mikes. ISHMAEL waits offstage until it is time for him to enter.]

Abraham

I am the old man who is Abraham, and I have a story that I must tell you.

Isaac

I am the old man who is Isaac, and my father's story is my story as well.

Abraham

Listen and attend: one day, God spoke to me and said, "Abraham!" And I replied, "Here I am." And God said to me, "Take your son Isaac, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains that I shall show you." What could I do? In the morning I set out with my son.

Isaac

I remember; you woke me early and put me on a donkey, and told me we were to go and worship God. I remember that I was excited to be going with you.

Abraham

All the way, I wept inside my heart; not only for my son Isaac, whom I loved, but also for my other son whom I had loved. "Your only son Isaac," God had said to me; but I had once had two sons. Was he dead now, by my hand, as Isaac would be soon? Would God leave me with nothing?

Isaac

I remember that as we began to climb the mountain, I said, "Father." And you answered me as you had answered God, saying, "Here I am." I asked you, "The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?" And you said—what was it you said then, father?

Abraham

I said, "God himself will provide a lamb for the burnt offering, my son."

Isaac

Yes, I remember. I wondered, but I still trusted you, my father. And when we reached the altar, you cut the wood and arranged it, and laid everything ready, and then—

Abraham

And then I bound you, my son, and I laid you upon the altar, upon the wood; my own son, to be sacrificed as a burnt offering to God. And then—

Isaac

And then, father, you took the knife, and you lifted it up. I remember. I remember lying there upon the altar, looking up at the sky, seeing only the knife. The knife in your hand, my father. And then—

Abraham

And then—

[ISHMAEL enters.]

Ishmael

And then I called out, "Abraham." And for the third time you answered:

Abraham

"Here I am."

Ishmael

You saw me, then, and you dropped the knife, and you said—

Abraham

"My son," I said. "My son, Ishmael."

Ishmael

Yes, my father, your first-born son Ishmael. Tell us, O my father, when you had last seen me?

Abraham

I had last seen you, my son, when I put you on the shoulder of Hagar your mother, and gave her a loaf of bread and some water, and I sent her away.

Ishmael

Where did you send us, O my father?

Abraham

Into the wilderness of Beersheba, my son.

Ishmael

And what did you believe would be our fate, O my father?

Abraham

I believed that you and Hagar your mother would die in the wilderness, my son. A thousand times I woke in the night and believed it.

Ishmael

Then why, O Father? Why send us to our deaths?

Abraham

Because God spoke to me and told me to do it; and I have been obedient to God always.

Isaac

Obedient even to the death of your sons, my father? You sent my brother to starve in the desert, and me you laid on the altar to butcher and burn. Is that your obedience to God?

Abraham

Yes, even that, my son.

Ishmael

But it was God who preserved Hagar my mother and me in the wilderness, and who made me an archer and a great prince among the people of Havilah and Shur. It was God who called me from my tent and sent me here, as a messenger of the Lord, to prevent the death of your son Isaac, whom you love even as you loved me. It seems that God does not wish you to slaughter your sons after all.

Isaac

Is it not truer faith towards God to refuse to do evil, even when it seems that God commands it?

Abraham

My sons, my sons whom I love more than life, you cannot know my grief when God commanded that I put you to death; and you cannot know my joy that God has saved you, yes, saved you even from my hand. But God is my God, and I can do nothing but be faithful and have faith that God will bring good from evil. As God has indeed, O my sons.

Isaac

God has saved us from your obedience, father.

Ishmael

Yes, and God has saved you from your obedience as well, O my father. Is that not a sign?

Abraham

Hush, my children, and attend. Whether it is that God desires our faithful obedience, as I have lived my life, or whether it is that God desires our faithful disobedience as you say, we can each of us only do what we think right. If we have faith in God, we must have faith that God will cause good to come from it. Is that not so?

Isaac and Ishmael

Yes, father.

Abraham

Then let us do as best we can, and pray always: God, in this and in all things, may thy will be done.

All

Amen.