In James 1:13 it says:

Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man:

But in Genesis 22:1 it is written:

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.

So did God actually tempt Abraham or not?

  • possible duplicate of Does God test us? – Narnian Mar 13 '13 at 17:59
  • Temptation is not the same as testing. The fact that the top answer there explains temptation (because someone asked in a comment) doesn't mean that the two questions are the same. – Alypius Mar 13 '13 at 18:04

No, God does not.

In hebrew the word there is נָסָה the KJV translates it as "tempt", but strong's translates it as "to test". In fact if you check out other translations you'll find thats how they translate it as well.

So what was God doing in Genesis 22? Was he tempting Abraham or testing him? Reading on in the chapter God makes it clear.

2 “Take your son, your only son—yes, Isaac, whom you love so much—and go to the land of Moriah. Go and sacrifice him as a burnt offering on one of the mountains, which I will show you.”


12 “Don’t lay a hand on the boy!” the angel said. “Do not hurt him in any way, for now I know that you truly fear God. You have not withheld from me even your son, your only son.”

God was testing Abraham to see if he feared Him. And because of Abraham's obedience and faith he was blessed and so were we.

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  • 2
    The mistake I see here is that you are making a distinction between tempting and testing, however the Rabbis who translated the Septuagint - the Greek translation of the Old Testament which would have been used by James use the word πειράζω in Gen 22:1 - the same word (though different conjugation) as is used by James in 1:13. James clearly understood whatever he was referencing (tempting or testing) to be the same thing as what Abraham experienced. – James Shewey Mar 26 '17 at 2:28

The text in James uses the Greek word πειράζω (peirazō), which in fact is exactly the same word in the Septuagint used in Genesis 22:1. Because the Septuagint (and not any Hebrew text) was the Old Testament text used by Christians in the early Church, an early Christian would have seen the same words being used literally, and perhaps had the same question that you raise. The word is translated as "tempt" in English, but can also mean "test".

The western Church Father Bede (672-735) recognized exactly the same duo of verses that you bring up in his commentary on James (Bede is commenting on his Latin translation of the Scripture, but in Latin the same word - tentare - also appears in both verses). Bede explains that there is a difference between the kind of "tempting" of Abraham (really "testing") and the "temptation" with evil by the devil that James is writing of:

Up to this point he has discussed temptations which we bear outwardly with the Lord's assent for being tested. Now he begins to treat of those which we sustain inwardly at the devil's instigation or even a the persuasive frailty of our own nature. Here first he refutes the error of those who think that, just as it is clear to us that good thoughts are inspired by God, so also evil ones are produced in our mind at his instigation. Let no one, therefore, when he is tempted, say that he is tempted by God, with that temptation, which the rich man falling into will languish in his ways [James 1:11]; that is, let no one, when he has committed robbery, theft, calumny, murder, rape, or other things of this kind, say that he felt he had to perpetrate them because of God's compulsion, and therefore, that he was quite unable to avoid doing them. For God is not the intender [intemptator] of evil- there is understood - temptations; for he himself tempts no one with that temptation, namely, which deceives the unfortunate into sinning. For there is a twofold kind of temptation, one which deceives, the other which tests. According to that which deceives, God tempts no one; according to that which tests, God tempted Abraham [Genesis 22:1]. About that, too, the prophet begs, Test me, Lord, and tempt me [Psalm 25:2 LXX].1

1 Commentary on the Seven Catholic Epistles, tr. Dom David Hurst, OSB (Cistercian Press, 1985), pp.13-14

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God did not need to tempt Abraham to see Abraham's faith, let's look at the story again.

In verse 2 of Genesis 22, it is recorded that God called Abraham and set him to sacrifice Isaac, but let's see from verse 11:

And the angel of the LORD called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I. 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. (Genesis 22:11-12)

Was it God? He feared God and did not with hold his only son from me, who? The angel. Let's not forget that in the old testament, Satan the devil was not often identified.

Let's compare:

And again the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he moved David against them to say, Go, number Israel and Judah. (2 Samuel 24:1)

Now this verse seems to suggest God moved David to sin, but let's look at another report of same incident:

And Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel. (1 Chronicles 21:1)

Now if we don't know God, we accept the first report, but indeed it was the devil. The same who tempted Jesus.

In the New Testament, the devil and deceiver is exposed, so we know that the temptations were not of God, hence James 1:13:

Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man:

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God did not test or tempt Abraham in genesis 22. The problem is no one in here knows the hebrew language. I challenge everyone to read the Hebrew words. The prefix "ha" is the equivalent of our English word "the". The hebrew of genesis 22 is written as "ha elohim" which means "the gods". The only time the word elohim becomes singular is when the angel of Yahweh appears to stop Abraham. If you don't believe me then read it for yourself. Get an interlinear and check it out.

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