How is the contradiction explained between 2 Chronicles 28:3 and Genesis 22:2 in the protestant tradition?

Genesis 22:2 NIV

Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”

2 Chronicles 28:3 NIV

He burned sacrifices in the Valley of Ben Hinnom and sacrificed his children in the fire, engaging in the detestable practices of the nations the LORD had driven out before the Israelites.

  • It's not a contradiction. The error is in you, man. God stopped Abraham at the last moment, as a test of faith. The wicked child-burning peoples had nothing to do with God. Abraham was going to sacrifice his son with an honest heart; those people were false and sought their own justification. They were evil. Abraham believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness. Or do you think that child sacrifice is some "Fundamental wrong of all existence"? God gave his son as a sacrifice on a tree for the sins of all men.
    – khaverim
    May 4, 2013 at 22:09
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    You use the "Scripture" to justify an act that has been abhorrent throughout 150,000+ years of human evolution (and even 500 milion years of animal evolution). This again shows that "for good people to do evil things, it takes religion". Jul 1, 2013 at 5:19
  • @khanahk Do you think that the other people who burnt their children did so because they thought that God wanted them to do that? Maybe they thought that God would stop them at the last second. Your assumption is that people knowingly do wicked things for the sake of doing something wicked. They are doing something that they understood as a requirment by their God. I doubt that knew of the God of Abraham and if they did, they felt that he was a false God. None of this has anything to do with the question, which is, "if this is a detestibe act, why would he even consider doing it?" Jul 1, 2013 at 12:58
  • and the apparent contradition in the bible. Jul 1, 2013 at 12:59

3 Answers 3


The problem here is that chronology matters.

In Abraham's time, child sacrifice was common. Reprehensible, but common. As God had never delivered the terms of the covenant to Abraham, he would not have been bound by them. For lack of a better way of explaining it, Abraham shouldn't have known any better - why wouldn't sacrificing your child be okay? Abraham knew one thing, and one thing only - God was in charge. Whatever God said, you do. As such, it would have been, in Abraham's mind, completely legitimate for God to ask Abraham to do this. (And, obviously, God made his intention and position known to Abraham through this incident, but I understand your desire to keep to the facts before this happened.)

By the time of Chronicles, however, the covenant had been given, and God's position on Molech (the local rival god who demanded such sacrifices) was well known. For Abraham, just getting to know this Yahweh God, it is understandable that he would have been unaware. For, say, Manesseh to "burn his son in the fire" was an overt, intentional act favoring Molech over Yahweh.

Intentions - especially those guided by chronology - matter here. Abraham was being obedient, Manesseh was being defiant. There was a world of difference to the practicers that exactly explains the "contradiction."

  • Just to be clear, if there are rules in the bible that come after others, they negate the previous? Should the bible be put in chronological order? I realize that this specific case is OT vs NT, but what about rules in the NT only? May 3, 2013 at 18:21
  • So, the question you are really asking is not how the rules of the bible should be ordered (because they already are!) but whether or not God is allowed to change his mind. In this case, God never intended for child sacrifice to happen - as evidenced by the story. I accepted your contention that to Abraham it would have seemed to be in favor of sacrifice, but in the case of God, the text even says that God set out to test Abraham - not to establish a rule. May 3, 2013 at 18:29
  • No, my comment started a new question. You answered the question very well. With this exception, "The problem here is that your chronology is off." My chronology is not off as much as the answer really is, "chronology matters." May 3, 2013 at 18:31
  • That's a much better edit, and I'll incorporate it. Thanks! May 3, 2013 at 18:35

There's no contradiction.

Keep in mind that, while God asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, he had absolutely no intention of letting him go through with it. He did it in order to show that he would provide a (quite literal) scapegoat. He would provide a replacement for Isaac on the altar. This was meant as something to predict what Christ would do on the cross for us. And, he did it in a world that existed before the Mosaic law. Again, he gave Abraham a command that didn't contradict any of his previous commands, and expected him to follow through with it, though God had other plans.

In 2 Chronicles 28:3, the practices were detestable, because by that time, God had given the Israelites the Mosaic law, and his prescription regarding how they were to worship Him. By sacrificing children, they were going outside the Mosaic law, which was given after Abraham.

It's pretty much the same answer as this question.

  • Yes, but to God, understanding that Abraham WOULD go through with it would be the same as he DID go through with it. That he had the ability in his heart. I agree that my two questions are similar (at least your answer is) however there are differences in the question. The first question is, "should we praise those who would be willing to do these things?" While the second is, "how do we explain the contradiction in the bible?" This one is also scoped to the protestant tradition. May 3, 2013 at 17:46
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    I would have to wrestle with God as Jacob did should he ask me to do such a detestable act. Bring the lightening bolts, I'm ready to fail this test. May 3, 2013 at 17:48
  • I'd be ready to fail it too. May 3, 2013 at 20:01
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    @Dan: And with the current revelation of God you should fail, because our revelation is vastly more complete that was Abraham's.
    – user32
    May 4, 2013 at 19:08
  • How do you people always find twisted explanations for what is plain and simple wrong, and was wrong for most of humanity even in ancient times (other criminal religions not withstanding) Jul 1, 2013 at 5:20

The incident with Abraham and Isaac is often misunderstood. It needs to be pointed out that this was a specific incident for which God had a specific purpose and not a general precedent.

As well as testing (proving) Abraham's faith (to Abraham, not to God), at least a part of that purpose was to present the nation of Israel a picture of the Messiah, Jesus, the one who would be sacrificed by his father. And the picture extends further with God himself providing the sacrificial lamb in the end.

Abraham was able to go commit to the act only because in his great faith he recognized that Isaac was the promised seed of a great nation and that God would raise him from the dead to keep his word. So in Abraham's mind by sacrificing Isaac to God, God would supernaturally return Isaac to him.

17 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, 18 of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 19 He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.

Heb 11:17-19

Thus there is no contradiction; the time, purpose and circumstances were completely different.

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