Abraham, Isaac, and Honour Killings

Over the last few hours, I’ve been involved in a discussion over twitter with a colleague named @eikonos about the biblical story of Abraham and Isaac:

Genesis 22

Abraham Tested

 1 Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!”
      “Here I am,” he replied.  2 Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.”
 3 Early the next morning Abraham got up and saddled his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. 4 On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. 5 He said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.”
 6 Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, 7 Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?”
      “Yes, my son?” Abraham replied.
      “The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”
 8 Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together.
 9 When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. 11 But the angel of the LORD called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”
      “Here I am,” he replied.
 12 “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”
 13 Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram <sup class="footnote" value="[a]”>[a] caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called that place The LORD Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided.”
 15 The angel of the LORD called to Abraham from heaven a second time 16 and said, “I swear by myself, declares the LORD, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, 18 and through your offspring <sup class="footnote" value="[b]”>[b] all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.”
 19 Then Abraham returned to his servants, and they set off together for Beersheba. And Abraham stayed in Beersheba.

@eikonos’ main point in the discussion was that Abraham’s intended sacrifice of Isaac was an “honour killing.”  I couldn’t disagree more.

Using the disgusting story of Asqa Parvez as an example, you can clearly see the differences between the story of Abraham and Isaac and this one.  Asqa was killed because her father and brother, in their twisted minds, felt her refusal to wear traditional Islamic dress somehow dishonoured their family in the eyes of their peers.

Compare that to Abraham and Isaac, where Abraham took Isaac to an altar to kill him as a sacrifice to God at the command of God (who, as you can see, then stopped him before he actually did kill Isaac.)

The differences don’t stop there – Ms. Parvez was Islamic, not Jewish, but as Islam, Christianity, and Judaism are all “Abrahamic” religions, the roots are the same.  Jewish tradition required a sacrifice to be “unblemished,” which is why a young, unblemished lamb was usually what was killed and burnt on an altar.  Ms. Parvez, being human, and in her teenage years, certainly would have progressed past the point of remaining “unblemished” in terms of having sinned. 

Another point is that Ms. Parvez wasn’t sacrificed – she was killed.  The theme and circumstances are completely different.  God wanted a sacrifice as a form of atonement, Ms. Parvez was killed because of a perceived dishonour to her family by her behaviour.  Isaac hadn’t done anything to warrant, in Abraham’s eyes, killing him; Ms. Parvez, in her family’s eyes, had.

So the stories are totally different, right down to the thematic basis.