1. AND HE SAID, “TAKE YOUR SON, YOUR FAVORED ONE, ISAAC, WHOM YOU LOVE AND GO TO THE LAND OF MORIAH, AND OFFER HIM THERE AS A BURNT OFFERING…” (Genesis 22:2). It is written, “At a night encampment on the way, the LORD encountered him and sought to kill him. So Zipporah took a flint and cut off her son’s foreskin…” (Exodus 4:24-25). R. Esther said, “Isaac was the favored son as well as the circumcised son according to Jewish custom and law. For Ishmael was circumcised at thirteen years of age, as it is written, ‘and his son Ishmael was thirteen years old when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin’ (Genesis 17:25) but Isaac, who was born by our mother, Sarah, as it is written, ‘Sarah conceived and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the set time of which God had spoken…’ (Genesis 21:2), was circumcised on the eighth day like all Jewish males, as it is written, ‘On the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised…’ (Leviticus 12:5). As the properly circumcised son, the convent is contingent upon Isaac’s life and so G-d spared him.” R. Esther asserted, “Just as Zipporah protected her son through his circumcision, so Isaac, too, will be protected from being the sacrificial lamb, for Isaac was not sacrificed, but instead lived to fulfill G-d’s covenant, and his descendents, too, were blessed.” And it came to pass that Isaac was the FAVORED ONE.
Midrash Sarah: Commentary
In the exodus from Egypt Zipporah spared her son death by circumcising him, and thus protected him in the eyes of G-d. While the first-born Egyptian males fell, her son was saved by this very act. Thus, Sarah’s perceived absence in the Akedah should not be confused with her lack of presence. When Isaac was delivered to Abraham and Sarah, it is written, that “The LORD took note of Sarah as He had promised, and the LORD did for Sarah as he had spoken” (Genesis 21:1). One should take careful note that the LORD did for Sarah, not for Abraham. This, then, is a proclamation of Sarah’s active role in her son’s birth, and subsequently, his life. Her circumcised son, who was circumsiced according to Jewish law, on the eighth day of his life, was protected from being sacrificed, just as was in the case of Zipporah’s son. Both boys’ circumcision is indicative of their coveted relationship with G-d, one that ensured protection.
2. AND HE SAID, “HERE ARE THE FIRESTONE AND THE WOOD, BUT WHERE IS THE SHEEP FOR THE BURNT OFFERING?” AND ABRAHAM SAID, “GOD WILL SEE TO THE SHEEP FOR HIS BURNT OFFERING MY SON” (Genesis 22:7-8). It is written, “But his wife said to him, [Manoah’s wife] ‘Had the LORD meant to take our lives, He would not have accepted a burnt offering and meal offering from us, nor let us see all these things; and He would not have made such an announcement to us” (Judges 13:23). Rabbi Esther said, “Manoah’s wife was confident that they would not die at the hands of the LORD, but, on the contrary, she would give birth to a son after being barren for years; as it is written, ‘His wife was barren and borne no children.’ (Judges 13: 2).” Another interpretation, Rabbi Esther said, “She received this message through an angel of the LORD, as it is written, ‘An angel of the LORD appeared to the woman and said to her, You are barren and have borne no children; but you shall conceive and bear a son’ (Judges 13:3). Sarah, too, was unable to have children, only giving birth to Isaac in her old age. Similarly, Sarah and Abraham found out about the impending birth of their son through a messenger of G-d, as it is written, ‘Then one said, ‘I will return next year, and your wife Sarah shall have a son’ (Genesis 18:10).” Abraham and Sarah had fulfilled all of G-d’s requests, and so it said, GOD WILL SEE TO THE SHEEP FOR THIS BURNT OFFERING.
Midrash Sarah: Commentary
Although Manoah was not sure of the LORD’s intentions, his wife knew that He would bring them the child that He had promised. When Manoah realized that both he and his wife had seen an angel of the LORD he was sure they would die because they had seen a divine being. His wife, however, was certain that the LORD would not kill them, and was confident in G-d’s promise. They complied with the LORD’s requests and offered up a burnt offering and thus received the child they had so desired. This too is indicative of Sarah’s presence in the Akedah, although she is seemingly silent for Sarah, too, was more confident in G-d, and her absence should not be confused with her questioning of G-d. Her silence is representative of her utmost trust in G-d, as Manoah’s wife, too, was trusting. Sarah received Isaac from G-d after being barren for so long, and this was the child both she and Abraham had been longing for. Because they had followed all of
G-d’s demands and requests, she was confident that He would not kill Isaac, but let them keep the child He had promised and delivered.