Genesis 22 as “Ring composition”

In her book “Thinking in Circles” (Yale University Press, 2007, pg 21) the late Mary Douglas proposed that Genesis 22 is a ring composition, a form of chiasmus but with  a subtle difference in the way she sets it out:

B.          B’
C           C’
D          D’
E           E’
F           F’

I have presented the symmetries in the usual way below but this does not capture the concept fully. The pivot point is the second call to Abraham to stop his actions. 

A . 1 And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am.

B. 2  And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.

C. 3  And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went unto the place of which God had told him. 4 Then on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place afar off.  5 And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you.

D.  6 And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it upon Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife; and they went both of them together.

E. 7   And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering? 8 And Abraham said, My son,  God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together.

F. 9 And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood. 10 And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son.

A’. And the angel of the LORD called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I.

F’.  12  And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me.

E’. 13 And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns:

D’. and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son.

C’. (14) And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovahjireh: as it is said to this day, In the mount of the Lord it shall be seen.

 B’.  15 And the angel of the LORD called unto Abraham out of heaven the second time, 16 And said, By myself have I sworn, saith the LORD, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son: 17 That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; 18 And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.

19 So Abraham returned unto his young men, and they rose up and went together to Beersheba; and Abraham dwelt at Beersheba.

One thought on “Genesis 22 as “Ring composition””

  1. Thanks!
    Perhaps not surprising as it describes the participation of Isaac in the feast day 21:6; Ex 12:14. The hebrew חג or (c)hag (Haggai) has the idea of a circle, from the periodic repetition of the feast, for seasons and for signs Ex 13:10; Gen 1:14 The inclusion of the heifer eglah in the offering in Gen 15:9 carries the same idea, as the animal was used for the ploughing of a field in circles Deut 21:3,4. The ascent of the Lord on his final journey to Jerusalem likely started at Beth-Hoglah and enacted the consecration to priesthood as described in the inheritance of the tribe of Judah Josh 15:6f achieved through the actions of the feast of passover to which Gen 22 predicted

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