Archie Rand

The showdown. Knife in hand, Abraham topples over backward as his son Isaac, prepared as a sacrifice, lies bound on the mound before him, in New York artist Archie Rand’s acrylic painting entitled “Vayera” (1989), the first Hebrew word of the weekly Torah reading that includes the story of the binding, or near-sacrifice, of Isaac.

By directing Abraham to sacrifice Isaac on Mount Moriah, God presses Abraham to admit that he cares for his son and for God’s covenant with him and his descendants. But Yahweh loses this bout: Isaac is more important to Yahweh than he is to Abraham. When Abraham calls his bluff and willingly picks up the knife to slay Isaac, Yahweh relents, sending an angel to tell Abraham, “Do not raise your hand against the boy” (Genesis 22:12).