I know that Abraham came before Moses, and so there were no Ten Commandments yet. However, if Abraham killed Isaac out of obedience to God, would that be considered a sin in any way? I feel like the answer is clearly "no", but I would appreciate any input.

  • Can it ever be a 'sin' to obey the words of God who made one ? Is he not 'the possessor of heaven and earth' and all that is therein ? What 'law' can be greater than God, Himself ? Up-voted +1.
    – Nigel J
    Apr 7 at 19:07

5 Answers 5


There's a saying in logic, that almost anything can be proved if one is allowed even a single false premise. This question starts with the false premise that "Abraham killed Isaac", so from there it's possible to conclude whatever one wants.

The point is, that Abraham didn't kill Isaac, so any conclusion based on that event having happened is meaningless.

Keep in mind that God will never encourage anyone to sin:

Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone.
— James 1:13

  • 2
    I think you're mixing up contradictions, which lead to the principle of explosion, with counterfactuals, which don't. Apr 8 at 4:04
  • +1 I think this answer's on the right track. "God cannot be tempted by evil." It flows from God's nature. So it's not clear that God could have ordered Abe to off Ike and not stopped him beforehand. Apr 8 at 4:33
  • 1
    This question is proposing a counterfactual premise. The author obviously knows that Abraham did not kill Issac.
    – jaredad7
    Apr 8 at 14:20

No, for the same reason that it was not a sin when the Israelites obeyed God's command to kill the Canaanites to take possession of Canaan. As the Life Giver, God is the only one who can decide when to end life without it being a sin.


God warned Abraham not to harm Isaac just before he was about to strike Isaac.

Just then the angel of the LORD called out to him from heaven, “Abraham, Abraham!”

“Here I am,” he replied.

“Do not lay a hand on the boy or do anything to him,” said the angel, “for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your only son from me.”

So, simply put, if Abraham had killed Isaac, it would not have been out of obedience, and therefore a sin.

  • 1
    This is the correct answer. The question would have had to ask "if God had not stopped Abraham from killing Isaac, and Abraham had killed him, would Abraham have sinned in so doing?" The answer is obviously no. By definition, a sin is an act which contradicts the will of God. If God told Abraham to kill Isaac and didn't stop him, it is clear that Abraham would not, in that case, be acting against the will of God (to the best of anyone's knowledge). Hence, there would have been no sin. But, as such an act is evil, God cannot will it, hence there never could be a world in which this happens.
    – jaredad7
    Apr 8 at 14:24

The (a?) definition of 'sin' is: "an immoral act considered to be a transgression against divine law."

Since, in this context, God is the originator of 'divine law' nothing he orders one to do should be 'sin' ... since not doing as commanded represents a 'transgression' THAT could be considered 'sin'.

In the context of the Abraham/Isaac story, the whole thing is a test of Abraham's commitment to his God ... it is therefore reasonable to assume that socially, killing one's children was considered wrong/immoral. Otherwise it would be no test at all.

Simply put, obeying a direct order from God cannot be a sin.

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    – agarza
    Apr 8 at 13:06

First, do we consider all types of killing a sin?

We are smart enough to tell the difference between murder and killing. Soldiers are empowered to kill. People in the executive arm of government kill. When these people kill, we see them as discharging a duty of honor. We do not see them as murderers.

If God had not rescinded his order and Abraham had eventually gone ahead to obey God's command and killed Isaac, would that have been a sin? What law would he have broken?

On the contrary, if Abraham had decided not to follow God's command, would that have been a virtue? Would that have made him a God-fearing man?

Note: The people who lived before Moses lived under the natural law and understood they were not supposed to commit murder. God punished Cain for killing his brother. So, that there was no 10 commandments before Moses was no excuse.

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