How did God tempt Abraham? - BibelCenter [apparent] contradictions
How did God tempt Abraham?
von Wolfgang Schneider

Gen 22:1 — „After these things God did tempt Abraham and said to him …"
Jam 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:"

These two scriptures appear to contradict one another. One declares that God "did tempt" Abraham, the other declares of God "neither tempteth he any man". In order to solve this apparent contradiction we must especially determine where the cause for this seeming contradiction is to be found, then we can determine which of the statements perhaps needs some correction or needs to be understood differently in order to not have a contradiction.

Jam 1:13 gives the general facts and truths about God and temptation in very definite words. No man is to say that he is being tempted of God because it is impossible for God to tempt someone, and the meaning of "tempt" is then narrowed down to "tempted with evil". This of course is what mostly is understood when speaking of "tempting someone". God cannot be tempted with evil, nor can or will he ever tempt anyone with evil. Such temptations have their origin with the devil and serve in the end solely the purpose of deceiving man away from God and to ungodly deeds. God would never do such a thing!

However, Gen 22:1 does say that God did tempt Abraham. What was this about? What does "did tempt" mean in this context and what is the story about? Abraham was commanded by God to sacrifice Isaac as a burnt sacrifice unto God. This event is spoken of in other sections of the Bible, and in Heb 11 we can read about this event that Abraham believed and trusted God and sacrificed Isaac by believing. What God asked of Abraham was not something "evil", it would not have caused Abraham to be disobedient against God, no! Just the opposite, it was something which required in a very special way Abraham's obedience and believing. This would mean that the word "tempt" here must be used with a different meaning from that which we read in Jam 1:13. Here "tempt" refers to a "testing" or "proving".

This matter was a test, a proving situation for Abraham, as becomes evident from the further development of the events that happened. It was not a "real thing", it was a "test" from which it also becomes clear that God from the very start did not want Isaac to be actually killed. Abraham passed the test with commendation. He trusted and believed God even to the point that he was convinced that God would soon after Isaac's sacrificial death raise him up again from the dead, as is indicated in the record in Heb 11. That was the way in which both God's commandment to kill Isaac as a sacrifice and God's promise that out from Isaac would come Abraham's seed could be true! Isaac did not have any seed or progeny as of yet when he was supposed to die as a sacrifice. What a faith what trust Abraham had in his God!

God did not tempt Abraham with evil, because that He cannot do. God commanded Abraham to do something which was necessary as part of God's plan of redemption and which was for Abraham a tremendous test, an extraordinary difficult test. We must recognize that in these verses we have two different usages of the word "tempt". "Tempt" in one case means "to test" or "to prove" in a good sense; in the other case "tempt" means a "deceiving" or "luring to do evil". This way the apparent contradiction is solved easily, and we can learn some tremendous truths from the example of Abraham about believing and trusting God.

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Last changed: 10.02.2009