The Hebrew word for “binding,” and the common designation for Genesis 22.1–19, in which God tests Abraham by commanding that he sacrifice his son Isaac. Abraham binds Isaac (v. 9). When he is about to slaughter him, an angel calls to him to desist, whereupon Abraham offers a ram instead. Although the Aqedah is the climax of the Genesis narratives about Abraham, a final testimony to his faith in, obedience to, and fear of God, it is not mentioned elsewhere in the Hebrew Bible. Isaac's role in Genesis 22 is passive, but postbiblical Jewish interpretations of the first to the eighth centuries CE transform him into an adult, voluntary sacrificial offering. Some texts give reasons for the episode, including Satan's questioning of Abraham's devotion to God (b. Sanh. 89b; cf. Job 1–2) and Isaac's and Ishmael's arguments concerning who was the more righteous (Gen. Rab. 55.4). During this period, the Aqedah became associated with the Roʾsh ha‐shanah liturgy, with the shofar recalling the substituted ram. Mount Moriah, where the Aqedah took place, was identified with the site of the Temple. Isaac emerges both as the paradigm of the martyr and as the perfect sacrifice whose act brings merit to and has redemptive value for his own descendants. Some rabbinic traditions maintain that Isaac, as a sacrificial victim, shed blood, and others conclude that he also died and was resurrected; thus wrote the twelfth‐century rabbi Ephraim of Bonn, in the context of the martyrdom of many Rhineland Jews and the destruction of their communities.
The New Testament refers to the Aqedah not as an example of a redemptive sacrificial death but rather as an example of faith (James 2.21; Heb. 11.17–19; possibly Rom. 4.16–18). Echoes of the former may however be found in Paul's understanding of the significance of the death and resurrection of Jesus, and the Septuagint of Genesis 22 may be alluded to in Romans 8.32, Mark 1.11, and Matthew 3.17. Early church fathers such as Clement and Tertullian understood Isaac's sacrifice as a prototype of the sacrifice of Jesus (See Typology). The divine testing of Abraham and the subsequent near sacrifice of his son also appear in the Qurʾān (37.101–113). Early Muslim exegetes disagreed as to whether the son, unnamed in the Qurʾānic passage, is Isaac or Ishmael. Some of the earliest traditions declare him to be Isaac, but by the ninth or tenth century the consensus was that Ishmael, increasingly associated with Mecca and identified as the ancestor of the northern Arabs, was the voluntary sacrificial offering.
From antiquity to the present, the Aqedah has been portrayed in the arts. For example, it appears on a wall painting of the third‐century CE synagogue at Dura‐Europos and on a floor mosaic of the sixth‐century synagogue at Beth Alpha. During the Renaissance, such sculptors and painters as Ghiberti, Donatello, Titian, Caravaggio, and Rembrandt included the Aqedah among their depictions of biblical subjects. Among notable modern literary treatments of the Aqedah is Søren Kierkegaard's Fear and Trembling (1843).
See also Suffering.
Barbara Geller Nathanson