So God has promised Abraham and Sarai a multitude of descendants–and unlikely as that sounds for a couple in their 90s, Sarai does conceive, and bears a son she names Isaac, for “he laughs.” Once again, she has Abraham cast out Hagar and Ishmael, and they leave, to live henceforth in the wilderness.
Then God calls on Abraham, and Abraham answers “here I am.” In Hebrew, Hineni (dots are vowels).
And God tells Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac, seed of his descendants, as a burnt offering. And Abraham prepares to slaughter Isaac.
At the last minute an angel stays Abraham’s hand (photo is of Donatello’s sculpture) and provides a lamb.
The Danish philosopher Soren Kiergaard wrote Fear and Trembling to grapple with this behavior in the face of this command. The title, “fear and trembling,” comes from Psalm 55.5. The speaker is beset by enemies:
My heart is convulsed within me;
terrors of death assail me.
Fear and trembling invade me;
I am clothed with horror.
Kierkegaard noted in a journal (IIIC4): “We ought to note in particular the trusting and God-devoted disposition, the bold confidence in confronting the test, in freely and undauntedly answering: Here I am. Is it like that with us.”