Judah Magnes Museum, Berkeley, California

The sacrifice of Isaac (Genesis 22) decorates one panel of a 19th–20th century mizrach. The mizrach (Hebrew for “east”) is a traditional form of Jewish folk art which decorates an eastern wall to remind people of the direction of prayer, which is toward Jerusalem in the east (from Europe). This one is by an anonymous artist.

Shown here is the second of four horitontal panels illuminating the life of Isaac. Isaac appears naked, bound and in full beard—a representation in accordance with one Jewish interpretation that Isaac was a grown man at this time. An angel grabs the weapon with which Abraham is about to strike Isaac, preventing him from sacrificing his only son.

Above the tree on the far right a line of Hebrew informs us: “The dress of Isaac hung on a tree.” Over Abraham’s head is his name; next to the angel is the word “angel”; and above Isaac’s torso is his name. At the foot of the altar is a stylized torch, labeled “fire,” and next to the fire stands the ram (with the word “ram” over its back) which God has sent to Abraham to sacrifice in place of his son.