Tag Archives: The Exact Proper Name of Baca/Bakkah

The Child Of Sacrifice was Ishmael, Not Isaac – A Textual, Historical & Geographical Analysis

The relation of Umm al-Qura [Makkah]  with Abraham (Ibraheem) is a  significant theme of the Qur’anic Da‘wah. The Prophet of Islam (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) was raised  from among Bani Ishma‘el, a branch of the descendants of Abraham (Ibraheem alayhissalaam). They were settled  in Makkah. Abraham (Ibraheem alayhissalaam) had himself settled this  branch of his descendants at this place. This is the site where he had offered his only son for sacrifice in the  vicinity of al-Marwah. This son was  Ishma‘el (Isma’eel alayhissalaam) who was the ancestor of Allah’s Last Prophet, Muhammad (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam). The corruption made by the  Jews in their scriptures had been  mostly pertaining to these themes. They incorporated the name of Isaac (Is’haaq alayhissalaam) in their scriptures as the only son offered for  sacrifice in lieu of Ishma‘el. They  have created great confusion regarding the place of Ishma‘el’s offering. They have also endeavoured to make the  relation of Abraham with the sanctuary of Makkah doubtful in every respect. It was essential to bring all these  corruptions to light to establish the reality upon the Jews and Christians  beyond any shadow of doubt.

According to the Jews and the  Christians the ‘Only Son’ whom God  had asked Abraham to offer for  sacrifice, was ‘Isaac’ and not ‘Ishma‘el’.  The Bible has recorded the story in a fairly detailed narrative. It is only once in the actual words of the Lord in the  whole of the narrative that the name of the ‘Only Son’ has been mentioned  as ‘Isaac’ which is quite misfit in, rather  contrary to, the context.  

It may be noted here that the name of  the son, required to be offered for  sacrifice, has been recorded five times  in the narrative. But it is only once in  the whole of the narrative that it has been made to be uttered by the  ‘Lord’ Himself. At the remaining four places (verses 3,6,7,9) it has been uttered by the redactor of the book.  The son has been mentioned three times by Abraham (verses 5,7,9); but at all these three places he has not mentioned the name of the son as ‘Isaac’. In verse 5 he used the words ‘I and the lad’ for him and in verse 7 and 8 he has used for him the words of ‘my son’. Even the angel of the Lord did not mention him by the name ‘Isaac’ at any place.

There are contradictions in the  narrative that render the stance of the  Jews and the Christians quite incredible. On the other hand a  majority of the Muslim scholars claims  that it was Ishma‘el, and not Isaac,  whom God had asked Abraham to  offer for sacrifice. But it does not mean that the Muslims claim any superiority for Ishma‘el over Isaac. According to the Muslims all the prophets are equal in status being the apostles of  Allah. It is also to be made clear that at  some places the writer of this book had to reproduce some Biblical authorities,  which imply comparison between the prophets. The Biblical scholars have taken much liberties with the interpretations of Biblical themes  while depicting the characters of Abraham, Ishma‘el, and Isaac. Similarly, noble Sarah has been depicted as a very cruel, jealous, and revengeful woman while dealing with noble Hagar and her son, Ishma‘el. It is only the viewpoint of the Biblical scholars. The writer of the present book holds all of these great personalities equally respectable, honourable and innocent.

An objective study has been undertaken to thrash out the theme of the book. It may be noted at the very outset that this event of the offering for sacrifice was committed to writing in the Bible more than a thousand years after its happening. It is quite unknown who its writer had been and what his credentials might be, but, of certain, he was not the eyewitness of the event. The writer being himself obscure, how can it be ascertained from whom he had taken it and what the status of the credibility of that reporter had been. It can also be appreciated what ‘corrections’ and ‘adjustments’ might have been exercised within this narrative by the chain of reporters of the oral tradition who had been admittedly jealous rivals to the progeny of Ishma‘el  and who were the claimants of the ‘privilege’ of the ‘chosen people’. It means that the narrative is to be analyzed rationally and critically and any of its statements can only be accepted on its own merit. 


It is recorded in the Bible that the Lord asked Abraham to offer his ‘only son’ as a burnt offering. It is quite clear that it was only Ishma‘el  who could have been called the ‘only son’, because it was only he who remained the ‘only son’ of Abraham for fourteen years, until Isaac was born. The Jewish scholars thought it an honour to be offered before the Lord; and they did not like it to be attributed to the actual ‘only son’, Ishma‘el, who was not their ‘real ancestor’, but was their ‘uncle ancestor’. So they managed to manipulate it in favour of their ‘real ancestor’, Isaac.  According to the narrative of the Bible the objective of the sacrifice was to ‘tempt’ (test/try) Abraham which has been explained in the very first sentence. In the Holy Qur’an, as well, there is the mention of ‘tempting’ Abraham:                   

And recall to mind when his Lord put Abraham to test with certain commands, all of which he fulfilled. He said: ‘I am going to make you the leader of the humankind.’ He asked: ‘Does this promise apply to my offspring!’ He answered: ‘My Promise does not apply to the transgressors.’   [Al-Quran, al-Baqarah 2:124].

It is to be noted that it was merely a test and was not meant to be carried out verbatim, which is evident from the story.

The  story  of  the  ‘Offering  of  Abraham  his  “only  son”  for Sacrifice’  goes  in  the  Bible  as  follows:

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.  (2)  And  he  said,  Take  now  thy  son,  thine  only  son  Isaac,  whom  thou  lovest,  and  get  thee  into  the  land  of  Moriah;  and  offer  him  there  for  a  burnt  offering  upon  one  of  the  mountains  which  I  will  tell  thee  of.  (3)  And  Abraham  rose  up  early  in  the  morning,  and  saddled  his  ass,  and  took  two  of  his  young  men  with  him,  and  Isaac  his  son,  and  clave  the wood  for  the  burnt  offering,  and  rose  up,  and  went  unto  the  place  of  which  God  had  told  him.  (4)  Then  on  the  third  day  Abraham  lifted  up  his  eyes,  and  saw  the  place  afar  off.  (5)  And  Abraham  said  unto  his  young  men,  Abide  ye  here  with  the  ass  and  I  and  the  lad  will  go  yonder  and  worship,  and  come  again  to  you. (6)  And  Abraham  took  the wood of  the  burnt  offering,  and  laid  it  upon  Isaac  his  son;  and  he  took  the  fire  in  his  hand,  and  a  knife;  and  they  went  both  of  them together.  (7)  And  Isaac  spake  unto  Abraham  his  father,  and  said,  My  father:  and  he  said,  Here  am  I,  my  son.  And  he  said,  Behold  the  fire  and  the  wood:  but  where  is  the  lamb  for a  burnt  offering?  (8)  And  Abraham  said,  My  son,  God  will provide  himself  a  lamb  for  a  burnt  offering:  so  they  went both  of  them  together.  (9)  And  they  came  to  the  place  which  God  had  told  him  of;  and  Abraham  built  an  altar  there,  and  laid  the  wood  in  order,  and  bound  Isaac  his  son,  and  laid  him  on  the  altar  upon  the  wood.  (10)  And  Abraham  stretched  forth  his  hand,  and  took  the  knife  to  slay  his  son.  (11)  And  the  angel  of  the  Lord  called  unto  him  out  of  heaven,  and  said, Abraham,  Abraham:  and  he  said,  Here  am  I.  (12)  And  he  said,  Lay  not  thine  hand  upon  the  lad,  neither  do  thou  any  thing upon  him:  for  now  I  know  that  thou  fearest  God,  seeing  thou  hast  not  withheld  thy  son,  thine  only  son  from  me. (13)  And  Abraham  lifted  up  his  eyes,  and  looked,  and  behold  behind  him  a  ram  caught  in  a  thicket  by  his  horns:  and  Abraham  went  and  took  the  ram,  and  offered  him  up  for  a  burnt  offering  in  the  stead  of  his  son.  (14)  And  Abraham  called  the  name  of  that  place  Jehovah-jireh:  as  it  is  said  to  this  day,  In  the  mount  of  the  Lord  it  shall  be  seen.  (15)  And  the  angel  of the  Lord  called  unto  Abraham  out  of  heaven  the  second  time, (16)  And  said,  By  myself  have  I  sworn,  saith  the  Lord,  for because  thou  hast  done  this  thing,  and  hast  not  withheld  thy  son,  thine  only  son:  (17)  That  in  blessing  I  will  bless  thee,  and  in  multiplying  I  will  multiply  thy  seed  as  the  stars  of  the  heaven,  and  as  the  sand  which  is  upon  the  sea  shore;  and  thy  seed  shall possess  the  gate  of  his  enemies;  (18)  And  in  thy  seed  shall  all  the  nations  of  the  earth  be  blessed;  because  thou hast  obeyed  my  voice. [Genesis  22:1-18]

the  lad  will  go  yonder  and  worship,  and  come  again  to  you:  Abraham  was  taking  his  son  to  offer  him  as  a  burnt  offering;  and  it  is  not  the  whole  truth  that  they  were  going  there  for  worship.  However,  if  the  worship  be  taken  here  to  mean  sacrifice,  it  is  clearly  false  to  say  that  he  and  the  lad  will  ‘come  again’  to  them.  He  was  taking  his  ‘only  son’  to  offer  as  a  sacrifice;  and  as  such  he  and  the  lad,  both  of  them  together,  could  not  have  ‘come  again’  to  them.  Having  Isaac  sacrificed,  it  could  have  been  only  Abraham  to  ‘come  again’.  Anyhow,  if  it  be  claimed that  Abraham  was  not  telling  a  lie,  and  he  before  hand  knew  that  a  lamb  was  to  be  provided  for  offering  in  lieu  of  the  lad,  then  the  whole  drama  of  the  so  called  offering  becomes  quite  insignificant  and  the  plea  of  ‘tempting’  becomes  quite  vague  and  meaningless.  It  shows  that  this  part  of  the  story  is  a  concocted  one,  because  it  depicts  Abraham  as  a  false  and  deceiving  person.  It  is  quite  contrary  to  the  status  of  a Prophet.  A  person  who  is  not  sincere  and  dependably  veracious  and  honest  cannot  be  taken  as  a  Prophet.

…he  took  the  fire  in  his  hand,  and  a  knife;  It  again  looks  unbecoming  of  the  patriarch  and  Prophet  Abraham  to  put  the  heavy  load  of  the  wood  on  the  shoulders  of  his  son  who  is  supposed  to  be  just  going  to  be  offered  for  a  sacrifice  and  keep  the  lighter  one  for  himself.  It  is  simply  an  indifferent  ruthlessness,  hence unbelievable  regarding  the  patriarch  and  Prophet  Abraham.  As  such  this  episode  of  the  story  loses  its  credibility.

And  Abraham  said,  My  son,  God  will provide  himself  a  lamb  for  a  burnt  offering: Here  again  it  is  not  true  on  Abraham’s  part  to  say   ‘God  will  provide himself  a  lamb  for  a  burnt  offering.’  He  was  asked  by  the  Lord  to  sacrifice  his  son  and  he  was  going  to  do  so.  He  did  not  know  before  hand  that  a  lamb  would  be  provided  to  be  sacrificed  in  his  son’s  stead; otherwise  the  ‘temptation’  would  have  been  a  mere  drama  and  should  have  lost  all  significance.  The  clause  ‘God  will  provide  himself  a  lamb for  a  burnt  offering.’  was  obviously  a  false  statement  if  claimed  to  be  uttered  by  the  patriarch  Abraham  and  as  such  it  can  be  taken  as  if  appended  by  some  redactor.  It  is  inconceivable  of  the  patriarch  and  Prophet  Abraham  that  he  would  try  to  appease  his  son  through  such mis-statements.  It  means  that  this  part  of  the  story  is  not  true.
The  phrase  ‘thine  only  son’  indicates  the  stress  and  significance  of the  event  of  the  ‘offering’  the  only  son  by  an  old  man  of  about  a hundred  years,  who  direly  needed  the  assistance  of  his  young  son  at  this advanced  stage  of  his  life;  and  who  had  no  other  son  so  far.  It  reveals the  gravity  of  the  situation  and  makes  the  ‘temptation’  perfect.

‘as  it  is  said  to  this  day’  is  obviously  a  later  interpolation  inserted,  may  be,  centuries  after  the  occurrence  of  the  incident  by  some  simple redactor.  Some  commentators  attribute  it  to  Moses,  e.g.  

This  name,  Moses  adds,  gave  birth  to  the  proverb,  ‘In  the  Mount of  Jehovah  it  shall  be  seen.’  [7th  Day  Adventist  BC,  ed.  Francis  D. Nichol  et  al.  (Hagerstown:  Review  &  Herald  Publishing Association,  1978),  1:353].  

But  now  no  credible  scholar  assigns  the  Pentateuch  to  Moses,  as  it  was  not  written  until  the  lapse  of  almost  half  a  millennium  after  him.

I  will  multiply  thy  seed…: The  context  dictates  that  this  promise  be  considered  to  relate  to  the  son  who  is  being  discussed  here  and  who  had  just  been  offered  to  be sacrificed  by  Abraham.  However,  when  ‘thy  seed’  be  spoken  in  such  an  indefinite,  unqualified,  and  absolute  manner,  it  can  also  be  applied  to  the  others  of  ‘his  seed’  as  well.  But  it  would  by  all  means  include Ishma‘el  and  his  descendants  in  the  first  place.  So  the  progeny  of Ishma‘el  is  definitely  included  in  the  promise  of  ‘Blessing’  and ‘multiplying’.   

‘thy  seed’  can  genuinely  be  applied  only  to  the  progeny of  Ishma‘el  among  whom  ‘a  Prophet’  was  to  be  raised  for  all  the  peoples  of  earth,  whereas  the  Jews  do  not  extend  the  blessings  of revelation  and  faith  to  the  whole  of  humanity.  They  rather  keep  it  restricted  unto  the  children  of  Israel  exclusively.

and  thy  seed  shall possess  the  gate  of  his  enemies… It  obviously  relates  to  the  progeny  of  Ishma‘el,  which  captured almost  all  of  the  Arabia  and  perpetually  dominated  there.  They  never went  under  the  captivity  of  any  of  their  enemies,  whereas  the  Jews  had  to  suffer  the  captivity  at  the  hands  of  Egyptian  Pharaohs.  The  progeny of  Ishma‘el  never  suffered  any  exile,  whereas  the  Jews  had  to  suffer  ethnic  cleansing  and  exile  at  the  hands  of  the  Assyrians  (in  722  BC) and  Babylonians  (in  586  BC).  As  such  the  clause  of  the  verse  cannot  be  applied  to  the  seed  of  Isaac.  Not  to  speak  of  possessing  ‘the  gate  of their  enemies’,  they  could  not  retain  and  protect  their  own  gates–and  even  the  gates  of  their  Temple–from  their  enemies  throughout  their  history  excepting  an  ignorably  short  period  during  the  united  kingdom.   

And  in  thy  seed  shall  all  the  nations  of  the  earth  be  blessed: As  far  as  the  Jews  are  concerned,  they  consider  ‘only’  themselves  as the  ‘Chosen  People’,  as  can  be  appreciated  from  the  following  excerpts:  

[i]  ‘You  only  have  I  singled  out  of  all  the  families  of  the  earth’ (Amos  3:2);  

[ii]  ‘Thou  art  an  holy  people  unto  the  Lord  thy  God,  and  the  Lord  hath  chosen  thee  to  be  a  peculiar  people  unto  himself,  above  all  peoples  that  are  upon  the  face  of  the  earth.’  (Deut.  14:2) 

The  Jewish  Enc.  4:45,  as  well,  has  recorded  the  following  lines:   Thou  art  an  holy  people  unto  the  Lord  thy God,  and  the  Lord  hath choseen  thee  to  be  a  particular  people  unto  himself,  above  all peoples  that  are  upon  the  face  of  the  earth.  (Deu.  14:2  RV)

It  has  further  quoted  from  ‘Mek.  Yitro,  Pes.  R.  K.  103b,  186a,  200a’:  The  Lord  offered  the  Law  to  all  nations;  but  all  refused  to  accept  it  except  Israel.  (The  Jewish  Enc.  4:45)

The  Jewish  people  virtually  take  it  to  be  their  special  privilege.  The  perpetually  prevailing  practice  among  them  also  endorses  it.  As  such  ‘And  in  thy  seed  shall  all  the  nations  of  the  earth  be  blessed;’  in  no  way  befits  the  Jewish  people;  and  has  nothing  to  do  with  the  entire  history  of  this  people.  It  can  thus  be  appreciated  that  ‘all  the  nations  of  the earth’  can  by  no  means  ‘be  blessed’  through  the  seed  of  Isaac.  The Jews  are  rather  like  a  curse  for  ‘all  the  nations  of  the  earth’.  It  is  only Ishma‘el  who  was  offered  for  sacrifice,  and  it  is  only  he,  in  whose  seed  all  the  nations  of  the  earth  have  genuinely  been  blessed. 
The  above  story  regarding  Abraham’s  offering  of  his  ‘only son’  for  sacrifice  had  been  subjected  ‘considerably’  to  a number  of  ‘alterations’  for  so  many  times,  as  is  evident from  the  following  quotation  from  the  Encyclopaedia Biblica,  which  is  admittedly  one  of  the  most  reliable authorities  on  the  subject:

It  has  become  certain  that  the  story  has  been  considerably altered  since  E  wrote  it.  The  editor  or  compiler  of  JE  not only  appended  vv.  14b-18  (an  unoriginal  passage,  full  of reminiscences),  but  also  introduced  several  alterations  into vv.  1-14a.  (2175…).  So  far,  however,  as  an  opinion  is  possible,  the  form  of  the  Elohist’s  story  is,  apart  from  the  detail  about  the  ram,  all  his  own.  It  was  suggested,  indeed,  by  circumstances  already  related  in  the  traditional  narratives;  but  it  was  moulded  by  himself,  and  it  is  bathed  throughout  in  an  ideal  light.  Evidently  this  pious  writer  felt  that  for  the  higher  religious  conceptions  no  traditional  story  would  be  an adequate  vehicle.  The  course  which  he  adopted  shows  the writer  to  have  been  a  great  teacher.  He  admits  the  religious feeling  which  prompted  the  sacrifice  of  a  firstborn  son.
[Encyclopaedia  Biblica,  ed.  Rev.  T.  K.  Cheyne,  (London:  Watts  and Co.,  n.d.),  2:2175,77.]

The  quotation  calls  for  a  conscientious  perusal.  Putting  it forward  under  separate  and  specific  clauses,  it  can  be categorized  as  below:  

(a)  ‘Alterations’  and  ‘additions’  have  been  freely  exercised  in the  story.

(b)  The  act  of  ‘alterations’  is  not  merely  a  supposition;  ‘It has,’  rather,  ‘become  certain’. 

(c)  The  ‘alteration’  is  in  a  ‘considerable’  amount.  

(d)  The  main  theme  of  the  story  relates  to  the  ‘Elohist’ narrative.

(e) The  editor  (or,  properly  saying,  ‘the  redactor’),  who compiled  the  story  from  the  ‘Elohist’  and  ‘Yahwist’  narratives  etc,  (a)  ‘not  only  appended  [added]    14b18,’  (b)  ‘but  also  introduced  several  alterations  into  vv. 1-14a.’  It  shows  that  (a)  vv.  14b-18  are  the  addition  from some  redactor  and  they  did  not  exist  in  the  original  story. (b)  The  redactor  ‘introduced  several  alterations  into  vv. 1-14a’  as  well.  It  can  thus  be  concluded  that  although  the story  relates  the  famous  event  of  Abraham’s  offering  his only  son  for  sacrifice,  the  credibility  of  none  of  its details  is  beyond  doubt.  Therefore  one  is  to  consider  any of  the  events  of  the  story  on  its  own  merit  after  a  careful and  critical  analysis.

(f)  The  editor,  being  a  ‘pious  writer’  and  ‘a  great  teacher’, seeing  that  ‘no  traditional  story  would  be  an  adequate vehicle’  exercised  full  liberty  and  ‘moulded  [it]  by himself”  as  he  deemed  fit  ‘for  the  higher  religious conceptions’  of  his  own.  

(g)  ‘Sacrifice  of  a  firstborn  son’  was  considered  ‘religious’.  

The  Bible  categorically  states  that  the  son,  who  was  required  to  be  offered  for  sacrifice,  was  Abraham’s  ‘only  son’.  It  is  a  very  conspicuous,  pivotal,  and  decisive  point and  is  not  to  be  ignored,  overlooked  or  taken  lightly.  The firstborn  and  the  ‘Eldest  son  of  Abraham’ was  Ishma‘el  

‘And  Abram  was  eighty-six  years  old  when  Hagar  bore Ishma‘el  to  him.’  The  Bible  says:  

(1) Now  Sarai,  Abram’s  wife  had  borne  him  no  children,  (…).

(3)  And  after  Abram  had  lived  ten  years  in  the  land  of Canaan,  Abram’s  wife  Sarai  took  Hagar  the  Egyptian,  her maid, and gave her to her husband Abram as his wife. (…).

(15) So Hagar bore Abram a son; and Abram called the name of his son, whom Hagar bore, Ishma‘el. (16) And Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore Ishma‘el to him.  [Genesis 16:1,3,15,16] 

Hagar  the  Egyptian,  her maid, and gave her to her husband… It  is  not  true  that  Hagar  was  a  maid,  or  a  slave-girl,  or  a  bond-woman of  Sarah.  She  was  a  princess,  being  the  daughter  of  the  Egyptian  king,  who  offered  her  to  Abraham  to  serve  him  and  his  wife  Sarah,  and  to  be  brought  and  reared  up  in  a  pious  atmosphere.  She  had  been  purposely  described  by  the  redactors  of  the  Bible  as  a  slave  girl,  as  can  be appreciated  from  the  following  excerpts:

That  Hagar  appears  as  a  slave-woman  is  a  necessary  consequence of  the  theory  on  which  the  Hebrew  myth  is  based,  the  notion being  that  Ishma‘el  was  of  inferior  origin.  (Enc.  Biblica,  p.  1933).  

It  purports  that  slavery  was  attributed  to  Hagar  to  prove  Ishma‘el inferior  to  Isaac.  Whereas  the  fact  is  that  she  was  an  Egyptian  princess;  as  is  clear  from  the  following  quotation  of  the  Jewish  Encyclopedia:

According  to  the  Midrash  (Gen.  R.  xiv.),  Hagar  was  the  daughter of  Pharaoh,  who,  seeing  what  great  miracles  God  had  done  for Sarah’s  sake  (Gen.  xii,  17),  said:  ‘It  is  better  for  Hagar  to  be  a slave in Sarah’s house than mistress in her own.’ In this sense Hagar’s name is interpreted as ‘reward’ (‘Ha-Agar’ = ‘this is reward’). (…). Hagar is held up as an example of the high degree of godliness prevalent in Abraham’s time, (…). Her fidelity is praised, for even after Abraham sent her away she kept her marriage vow, (…). Another explanation of the same name is ‘to adorn,’ because she was adorned with piety and good deeds (l.c.).  (Jewish Enc., 6:138). 

But when Isaac was born to Abraham, he was one hundred years old, which means that Ishma‘el was already fourteen years old when Isaac was born. The Bible states: 

(15) Then God said to Abraham, ‘As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. (16) And I will bless her, and indeed I will give you a son by her. Then I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.’ (17) Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said in his heart, ‘Will a child be born to a man one hundred years old? And will Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?’ (18) And Abraham said to God, ‘Oh that Ishma‘el might live before thee!’   [Genesis 17:15-18].

It reveals the great degree of Abraham’s love for Ishma‘el

Abraham was one hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him. [Genesis 21:5]

And as such Ishma‘el  retained the status of the ‘only son of Abraham’ until the age of fourteen years.

If the relevant passage of the Bible, given in the beginning of this book, be studied again, it will be noted that God has used in it the words ‘thy son, thine only son’ three times, qualifying  the  ‘lad’  to  be  offered  for  sacrifice;  but  He  has used  this  son’s  name  as  ‘Isaac’  only  once  in  all  His  speech. Setting  aside  the  words  that  have  been  added  by  the storywriter  and  the  redactor  to  complete  this  narrative,  the  words  ascribed  to  God  in  the  said  passage  are  as  follows:

Abraham:  …Take  now  thy  son,  thine  only  son  Isaac [stress added],  whom  thou  lovest,  and  get  thee  into  the  land  of Moriah;  and  offer  him  there  for  a  burnt  offering  upon  one  of the  mountains  which  I  will  tell  thee  of.  …  Abraham, Abraham:  Lay  not  thine  hand  upon  the  lad,  neither  do  thou any  thing  upon  him:  for  now  I  know  that  thou  fearest  God, seeing  thou  hast  not  withheld  thy  son,  thine  only  son [stress added]  from  me.  …  By  myself  have  I  sworn,  …,  for  because thou  hast  done  this  thing,  and  hast  not  withheld  thy  son, thine  only  son [stress  added]: That  in  blessing  I  will  bless thee,  and  in  multiplying  I  will  multiply  thy  seed  as  the  stars of  the  heaven,  and  as  the  sand  which  is  upon  the  sea  shore; and  thy  seed  shall  possess  the  gate  of  his  enemies;  And  in thy  seed  shall  all  the  nations  of  the  earth  be  blessed;  because thou  hast  obeyed  my  voice.  

The  son  to  be  offered  for  sacrifice  has  been  mentioned here:  

(a) For  three  times  with  the  pronouns:  ‘whom,  him’  (if  the interpolation  of  the  word  Isaac  be  ignored,  it  cannot  be determined  by  means  of  these  pronouns  which  of  the sons  is  here  meant);  

(b) Once  with  the  word  ‘lad’  (which  also  does  not  indicate which  of  the  two  sons  the  ‘lad’  was);  and  

(c) Three  times  with  the  words  ‘thy  son,  thine  only  son’ (Obviously,  it  can  be  none  other  than  Ishma‘el,  because Isaac  could  not  have  been  called  ‘thine  only  son’  at  any stage  of  his  life). 

It  is  only  once  that  the  word  Isaac  has  been  used  in  it;  and this  is  when  the  words  ‘thy  son,  thine  only  son’ have  been used  for  the  first  time.  Any  reader,  having  a  little  bit  of literary  taste  together  with  objective,  unprejudiced  and independent  thinking,  can  appreciate  that  the  word  ‘Isaac’ is  quite  superfluous,  irrelevant,  and  out  of  place  here.  Had  it  been  Isaac,  who  was  required  to  be  sacrificed,  it  had  been sufficient  to  say:  ‘Take  now  your  son  Isaac’.  God  would  not  have  used  the  phrase  ‘thine  only  son’,  because  it  was,  by  all  means,  a  false  statement  in  favor  of  Isaac  and  it  is unbecoming  that  God  may  have  made  a  false  statement. ‘Thine  only  son’  and  ‘Isaac’  cannot  stand  together  for  a single  entity,  and  could  in  no  case  have  been  used simultaneously,  because,  circumstantially,  they  are  quite contradictory  to  each  other.  The  structure  and  use  of  the words  make  it  quite  clear  that  originally  it  was  the  ‘only  son’  who  was  required  for  offering;  and  it  was  the  distinctive  trait  of  ‘singularity’,  which  was  conspicuously  a  pre-requisite  for  the  son  to  be  offered.  That’s  why  ‘Thine only  son’,  which  has  been  used  for  three  times  in  the  passage,  has  been  used  twice  without  ‘Isaac’  independently  and  only  once  with  ‘Isaac.’  The  structure  of  the  phrase  ‘thy son,  thine  only  son’  indubiously  declares  that  the  stress  is: (i)  on  the  ‘singularity  of  the  son’,  which  shows  the intention  of  the  speaker  that  the  son  required  is  the  ‘only’ one;  and  (ii)  on  the  qualifying  pronouns  ‘thy,  thine’,  which shows  that  the  son  required  to  be  offered  is  ‘your  son,  O Abraham,  and  your  own  one  only  (and  not  your  wife’s only)’.  Had  God  meant  ‘Isaac’  to  be  offered  for  sacrifice,  He  would  have  categorically  asserted:  ‘Sarah’s  only  son’  or ‘your  only  son  from  Sarah’;  and  would,  in  no  case,  have  said  ‘thy  son,  thine  only  son’,  to  confuse  him,  and subsequently  the  whole  of  the  religious  world  for  all  times to  come.  The  use  of  the  name  ‘Isaac’  in  such  an  ugly  and self-contradictory  way  shows  that  an  interpolation  has  been exercised  by  some  unwitty  redactor  quite  unbecomingly.

It  would  be  very  useful  if,  at  this  juncture,  the  reader  once again  goes  through  the  relevant  passage  (Genesis  22:1-18)  attentively,  and  without  any  reservations.  The  flow  of  the  passage  reveals  the  intent  and  purpose  of  the  speaker  quite  clearly.  The  speaker  (the  Lord)  uses  the  words  ‘thy  son,  thine  only  son’  for  the  boy,  required  to  be  sacrificed,  in  the  passage.  The  Lord  does  not  use  anywhere  in  the  passage  the  words  of  merely  ‘thy  son’  without  attaching  ‘thine  only  son’  to  them,  so  that  any  possibility  of  misunderstanding  be completely  ruled  out.  Obviously  the  words  ‘thine  only  son’ and  ‘Isaac’  are  mutually  opposed  and  contrary  words  and  cannot  be  used  together,  as  Isaac  had  never  been  an  ‘only  son’  at  any  stage  of  his  life.  That’s  why  Abraham  did  never  use  the  words  ‘only  son’  for  Isaac.  It  has  been  pointed  out  that  the  Jews  added  deleted,  altered,  and  interpolated  freely in  the  text  of  the  Bible  for  ‘theological’  or  ‘religious’ purposes.  They  saw  no  harm  in  it.  It  may  also  be  borne  in mind  that  it  was  the  ‘religious’  necessity  of  the  Israelites  to present  the  offspring  of  Isaac  as  a  chosen  and  superior people.  It  is,  therefore,  easy  to  understand  that  when  some ‘pious’  rabbi  would  have  seen  the  words  ‘thy  son,  thine only  son’  for  the  first  time,  he  must  have  inserted  the  word ‘Isaac’  as  an  explanation  under  his  ‘wishful  preconception’. Finding  it  useful  for  their  purpose,  the  later  scribes  would have  included  it  in  the  text.    

It  is  strange  that  the  Bible  claims  ‘Isaac’  to  be  the  ‘only’ son  of  Abraham.  Obviously,  it  is  one  of  the  interpolations, or,  as  the  Encyclopaedia  Biblica  puts  it,  ‘alterations’,  as quoted  above. The  scholars  and  commentators  of  the Bible  might  have  discerned  that  it  was  a  discrepancy (which, they, of course, discerned)  and they ought to have been bold enough to rectify it (but, alas, they have not been bold enough to rectify it). In spite of understanding that it was clearly an addition and adulteration of the redactor of the Bible, they willfully clung to it. Matthew Henry’s Bible Commentary suggested a revised and improved rendering of the Hebrew Bible by adding ‘one’ to the ‘only’: 

That son whom thou lovest. It was a trial of Abraham’s love to God, and therefore it must be in a beloved son, and that string must be touched most upon: in the Hebrew it is expressed more emphatically, and, I think, might very well be read thus, Take now that son of thine, that only one of thine, whom thou lovest, that Isaac. [Matthew Henry’s Bible Com.,1:80]

It suggests that the correct translation required the qualifying words ‘only one’ and not mere ‘only’. Even if the translation suggested by Matthew Henry be adopted, the sense remains the same. Even the suggested translation, ‘that only one of thine’, implies that Abraham had got only one son at that time and no other son had yet been born. Naturally, it could have been none other than Ishma‘el, who was really the only one son of Abraham until the second son, Isaac, was born; and by that time Ishma‘el  was already fourteen years of age. 

The  Biblical  scholars  have  fruitlessly  and  futilely  tried  to evade  the  real  sense  of  the  word.  It  is,  therefore,  imperative that  a  study  of  the  word  ‘only’  be  undertaken.  In  the Hebrew  Bible  the  word  ‘yaheed’  has  been  used  for  ‘only’.  The  meanings  of  the  word  ‘yaheed’  are:  ‘sole;  lonely;  only  (child,  son),  solitary’  (Strong’s  Dic.  p.49:3173,  Heb. & Aramaic  Dic.  of  OT,  Brill,  2001,  406).  In  the  whole  of  the  OT  of the  Bible  it  has  been  used  at  the  following  four  places  else:

When I was my father’s  son,  tender  and  the only  one (Pr  4:3).

Make  mourning  as  for  an  only  son (Jer  6:26).

I  will  make  it  like  mourning  for  an  only  son (Amos  8:10).

(…)  as  one  mourns  for  his  only  son (Zec  12:10).

At  all  these  places  it  can  only  be  translated  with  the  word ‘only’  and  no  other  meanings  go  well  with  the  context.  It can  thus  be  appreciated  that  the  Bible  uses  ‘yaheed’  only  in the  sense  of  ‘only’;  and  no  other  meanings  can  be  given  to this  word  according  to  the  usage  and  context  of  the  Bible.  

Some  of  the  commentators  of  the  Bible  have  afforded ridiculous  expositions  to  justify  this  adulteration.  One  of the  renowned  Jewish  Rabbis,  the  French-born  Shelomoh Yitschaki,  Solomon  ben  Isaac,  commonly  known  as  Rashi (1040-1105  AD),  has  recorded  some  interesting  observations on  this  passage  of  the  Bible  in  his  commentary  on  the Pentateuch.  He  has  given  it  the  shape  of  an  imaginative conversation  and  has  thus  exhibited  a  wonderful  skill  of subjectively  interpreting  or  twisting  a  simple  statement according  to  his  presumptions  in  his  following  exposition. No  comments  on  this  quotation  have  been  recorded  in  the body  text  of  the  book. 

Rashi’s  comments  (with  their  rejoinders  in  footnotes):  

thy  son.  ‘But  I  have  two  sons,’ Abraham said. Thine only son,’ was the reply.  ‘But each is the only one of his mother! ‘Whom  thou  lovest,’  he  was  told.  ‘But  I  love both!’  and the answer came ‘Even Isaac.’  Why did not God name Isaac at once?  Lest Abraham’s mind reeled under the sudden shock.  Further, to make His command more precious to him.  And finally, that he might receive a reward for every word spoken. [As quoted by Dr. A. Cohen in The Soncino Chumash, (Hindhead, Surrey: The Soncino Press, 1947), 108.]

The sentence, ‘But  I  have  two  sons,’ implies  that  God  was  mistaken. He  did  not  know  that  Sarah  had  already  given  birth  to  a  second  son  for Abraham.  It  means  as  if  Abraham  brings  to  the  notice  of  the  mistaken and  ignorant  God  [May  God  forgive  the  writer  who  used  these  words  to show  the  implications  of  the  wording  of  the  sentence.]  and  declares: ‘But  I  have  two  sons,’.  It  does  not  matter  to  the  worthy  commentator  if God  be  depicted  as  being  ignorant;  but  he  is  satisfied  that  he  has succeeded  in  depriving  Ishma‘el  of  his  genuinely  deserved  credit  of being  offered  for  sacrifice  as  the  ‘only  son’  and  has  tried  to  establish the  honour  of  being  offered  for  sacrifice  in  favour  of  Isaac.  

Thine only son,’ The  original  Hebrew  word  for  this  ‘only’  is  ‘’,  i.e.  ‘Yawkheed’. Strong’s  Dic.  of  Heb.  Bible,  entry  3173,  p.  49  has  recorded  its  meanings  as:  

from  3161;  sole;  also  lonely;  only  (child,  son),  solitary.  

Entry  3161  is  ‘’(yachad),  which  is  a  ‘primary  root’  of ‘’ (yacheed);  and  exclusively  means:  ‘to  be  (or  become)  one’.  It  is  the same  word  which,  in  Arabic,  is  ‘wahada’  with  the  same  meanings.  Heb. and  Aramaic  Dic.  of  the  OT  (Leiden:  Brill,  2001),  p.  406  has  also  recorded  its meanings  as:  

only,  single,  alone,  the  only  son,  the  only  one.  

It  is  quite  inconceivable  that  a  scholar  of  Rashi’s  calibre  may  not  have  discerned  the  significance  of  the  word.  Simply,  if  a  man  has,  at  a  time, two  sons,  none  of  them  can  be  called  his  ‘only  son’.  Each  of  them  can  be  called  ‘one  of  his  two  sons’.  Calling  one  of  them  ‘his  only  son’  is  as confusing  and  irrational  as  to  ascribe  the  word  ‘one’  for  ‘three’.  Even  some  commentators  of  the  Bible  have  noted  the  absurdity  of  the statement.  Richard  J.  Clifford  and  R.  E.  Murphy,  in  their  Commentary to  the  Book  of  Gen.  in  the  New  Jerome  Bible  Com.  (p.25)  assert:  

Only  son  is  inaccurate,  since  Abraham  will  have  other  sons.

From  the  above  discussion  it  can  be  safely  concluded  that  by  the  time  Abraham  offered  the  sacrifice,  he  had  only  one  son;  and  it  could naturally have been ‘Ishma‘el’ and  by  no  means ‘Isaac’. 

It  is  also  to  be  noted  that  a  few  of  the  Jewish  translations  (e.g.  The Torah  According  to  the  Masoretic  Text,  Philadelphia:  Jewish  Publn. Society  of  America,  1967,  pp.  35f;  and  The  Torah  A  Modern  Com., NY:  Union  of  American  Hebrew  Congregations,1981,  pp.  146f.  The  latter  contains  the  Hebrew  text  as  well  and  it  has  used  the  same  word yacheed  ‘’  in  it.)  have  rendered  this  word  ‘only’  as  ‘favored  one’,  ignoring  the  primary  root.  It  is  obviously  a  mala  fide  act.  
There  is  another  word  in  the  story  that  makes  the  point  more  clear  and  definite;  and  it  is  ‘lad’.  It  has  been  used  twice  in  the  relevant  narrative of  the  Bible  (Gen.  21:5,12:  the  former  by  Abraham  himself  and  the latter  by  the  angel  of  the  Lord).  The  original  Hebrew  word  for  ‘lad’  is  (na’ar)  which  means:  ‘a  boy,  from  the  age  of  infancy  to  adolescence;  by  imply  a  servant;  also  (by  interch.  of  sex),  a  girl  (of similar  latitude  in  age):  babe,  boy,  child,  damsel,  lad’  (Heb.  Dic.  in Strong’s  Exh.  Concordance,  entry  5288,  p.  79.).  

It  dictates  that  the  son  to  be  offered  for  sacrifice  should  both  be  a  boy  of  early  teens  and  the  only  son  of  his  father.  Both  these  pre-requisites  are promptly  met  in  the  person  of  Ishma‘el,  whereas  Isaac  meets  none  of  these  pre-requisites,  to  being  offered  for  sacrifice,  as  spelled  out  by  the Lord  while  commanding  for  the  offering.  As  to  the  age  of  Isaac  when he  was  allegedly  made  to  be  offered  for  sacrifice,  it  has  amazingly  been attributed  either  earlier  than  the  status  of  boyhood  or  after  his  teens.

The  Jewish  commentators  of  the  Bible  have  different  opinions  as  to  the  age  of  Isaac  when  he  was  allegedly  offered  by  Abraham  for  sacrifice. W.  Gunther  Plaut,  in  his  ‘The  Torah:  A  Modern  Commentary’  (NY: Union  of  American  Hebrew  Congregations,  1981),  p.  146  asserts:

According  to  the  Rabbis,  Isaac  was  thirty-seven  years  old. However,  the  story  should  be  read  not  in  chronological  order  but  rather  as  an  unrelated  unit;  here  Isaac  is  a  mere  boy.  The  Rabbis  took  the  death  of  Sarah  to  be  immediately  related  to  the  Akedah [sacrifice];  therefore,  with  Sarah  dying  at  127  years  of  age,  Isaac  would  be  37,  having  been  born  when  his  mother  was  90.

He  further  records  on  page  159:    

Abraham  returned  alone  from  Moriah,  and  Sarah,  believing  Isaac to have been sacrificed, died of grief.  Midrash.

Josephus  asserts  in  his  Antiquities,  Book  I,  Chap.  XIII,  para.  2,  p.  42:  

Now  Isaac  was  twenty-five  years  old.  And  as  he  was  building  the  altar,  he  asked  his  father  what  he  was  about  to  offer,  since  there was no animal there for the oblation:

The  Jewish  Enc.  (6:617)  records:  

In  Jose  ben  Zimra’s  opinion,  the  akedah  took  place  immediately after  Isaac’s  weaning  [at  the  age  of  2  or  3  years].

The  Bible  asserts:  

And  Abraham  took  the  wood  of  the  burnt  offering  and  laid  it  on Isaac  his  son.  

How  is  it  possible  that  a  child  who  had  just  been  weaned,  be  made  to  carry  such  a  load  of  wood?  Ellen  G.  White,  in  Seventh  Day  Adventist  Bible  Com.,  1:349,  asserts: 

‘Isaac  was  now  a  young  man  of  20.’

Whether  Isaac  be  made  to  be  allegedly  offered  for  sacrifice  when  he had  been  ‘just  weaned’  or  of  the  age  of  thirty  seven,  or  twenty  five,  or  twenty  years  or  whatsoever,  in  any  case,  he  cannot  be  called  a  ‘lad’.  Then  whatever  the  age  of  Isaac  be,  he  cannot  be  called  ‘Thine  only son’  at  any  stage  of  his  life,  whereas  Ishma‘el  retains  the  status  of  ‘Thine  only  son’  and  a  ‘lad’  until  the  age  of  fourteen  years.  And  as  such,  the  statement  ‘Thine  only  son’ becomes  quite  absurd,  if  Isaac  be  considered  as  required  to  be  offered  for  sacrifice.

‘But each is the only one of his mother!: Where  has  the  phrase  ‘his  mother’  stepped  in  from?  It  is  simply unbelievable  that  such  an  erudite  scholar  can  pass  so  absurd  a  comment, on  such  a  simple  statement:  ‘thine  only  son’.  It  is  to  be  noted  that  the dialogue  is  only between  God  and  Abraham.  No third  person  is  involved in  this  dialogue.  In  this  phrase,  God  is  the  first  person,  because  He  is addressing  Abraham,  and  Abraham  is  naturally the  addressee,  for  whom a  second  person  pronoun  is  required.  That’s  why  God  has  used  the  II person  pronoun  ‘thine’  for  Abraham,  which  by no stretch  of sense can  be attributed  to  Sarah,  who  is  a  III  Person  here.  God  had  not  left  the  ‘only son’  unqualified,  so  as  to  leave  room  for  some  speculations  or  selfassessments.  The  ‘only  son’  is  categorically  preceded  by  a  specific qualifying  word    ‘thine’:  which  unequivocally  means  ‘O  Abraham,  it  is “your”  only  son,  who  is  required;  and  not  any  mother’s  only  son.’  As  regards  Abraham,  it  is  quite  unconceivable  about  a  discreet  person  of  his  calibre  that  he  would  retort  so  indiscreetly  as  this  ‘But  each  is  the  only one  of  his  mother!’,  to  such  a  self-explanatory  phrase  as  this  ‘thine  only son.’  What  has  this  ‘of  his  mother’  got  to  do  with  this  ‘thine  only son!’.

‘But  I  love  both!’ The  learned  speculative  and  imaginative  commentator  has  made Abraham  speak  these  words.  He  put  the  words  ‘But  I  love  both’  into Abraham’s  mouth.  The  word  ‘both’  here  obviously  means  both Ishma‘el  and  Isaac.  If  a  man  has  two  sons,  none  of  them  can  be  called ‘only’.  It  is  queer  that  on  the  one  hand  Abraham  is  asked  by his  Lord  to offer  his  ‘only  son’  for  sacrifice;  and  on  the  other  hand  the  worthy commentator  puts  the  words  ‘But  I  love  both’  into  Abraham’s  mouth. These  statements  are  self-contradictory.  As  such  the  words  ‘But  I  love both’  are  absurd,  arbitrary,  and  quite  baseless.

As  far  as  the  words  ‘even  Isaac’  are  concerned,  they  are  obviously superfluous  to  and  inconsistent  with  the  flow  of  the  sentence.  Had  it been  Isaac,  who  was  required  to  be  offered  for  sacrifice,  God  should have  been  discreet  enough  to  say  ‘your  son,  Isaac’.  But  when  He  says ‘thy son, thine only son’, only ‘Ishma‘el’ can be meant. ‘Isaac’ is an unjustifiable interpolation by some crafty but indiscreet redactor. 

It should be noted here that all these imaginative questions and their sequence are the contrivance of  the commentator. There is no hint or mention of them in the Bible. Had some clumsy redactor not interpolated ‘Isaac’ here, how could the learned commentator exercise his imaginative creativity to give his desired meaning to an absurd statement.

‘Lest Abraham’s mind reeled under the sudden shock.’ What a rare skill of psycho-analysis!

‘Further to make His command more precious to him.’ The readers should note the technique of making their command more precious to someone! ‘And finally that he might receive a reward for every word spoken.’ What a justification of distorting the statement and disturbing the proper order and structure of the sentence!

It may also be noted in this connection that the words ‘thine only son’ signify that no other son (even Isaac) had been born by that time. It means that Abraham might have offered Ishma‘el  for sacrifice when he was about thirteen; because when Ishma‘el was fourteen, Isaac had already been born; and the status of Ishma‘el being the ‘only son’ of Abraham had come to an end.  

To recapitulate the theme of the second point, here are some salient features of it:

1) God had asked Abraham to offer ‘thy son, thine only son’ for sacrifice categorically and not one/any of his sons.

2) Abraham’s first-born son was ‘Ishma‘el’  and was born when Abraham was 86.

3) Isaac was Abraham’s second-born son and was born when Abraham was 100.

4)  As  such,  ‘Ishma‘el’  remained  Abraham’s  only  son  unto  the age  of  about  14  years,  during  which  period  Abraham  had  no  other son:  as  Isaac  was  born  when  Ishma‘el  was  already  of  about  14 years.  It  also  signifies  that  when  Abraham  offered  his  ‘only  son’  for sacrifice,  Isaac  should  not  have  been  born  by  that  time.  

5) God  had  asked  Abraham to  offer  his  own  ‘only’  son  for  sacrifice. In  the  whole  of  the  Bible,  God  had  no  where  asked  Abraham  to  offer  Sarah’s  ‘only’  son  for  sacrifice,  as  the  learned  commentators  of  the Bible  have  tried  to  make  God  purport.  So  the  son  required  to  be  offered  for  sacrifice  could have been none other  than ‘Ishma‘el’. 

6) As recorded above,  the Encyclopaedia  Biblica  has  asserted that the  story  of  the  offering  of  Abraham’s  only  son  for  sacrifice  had  been  subjected  ‘considerably’  to  a  number  of  ‘alterations’  for  so many  times.  The  addition  of  ‘even  Isaac’  to  ‘thy  son,  thine  only son’  looks  obviously  an  ‘addition’  by  the  redactor  of  the  Book.

7) The  ‘only  son’  required  to  be  offered  for  sacrifice,  was,  and  should naturally  have  been,  the  beloved  son  of  Abraham,  to  make  the  ‘test’ perfect;  or,  as  the  commentator  Rashi,  puts  it,  ‘to  make  His  command more  precious  to  him’.  And  it  has  been  discussed  in  detail  elsewhere  in this  book  that  Abraham’s  beloved  son  was  ‘Ishma‘el’  and  not  ‘Isaac’ .

8) The  son  required  to  be  offered  was  a  ‘lad’,  i.e.,  in  his  early  teens;  whereas  according  to  the  commentators  of  the  Bible  Isaac  was  either  a  child  of  approximately  3  years  (just  weaned)  or  a  young  man  of  20-37  when  he  was  allegedly  to  be  offered  for  sacrifice.  It  means  that  Isaac  was  not  a  ‘lad’  when  he  was  allegedly  required  to  be  sacrificed, whereas  the  Bible  uses  the  word  ‘lad’  or  ‘boy’  for  the  son  required  to  be  offered.  Besides  it  being  a  discrepancy,  at  no  stage  of  his  life  Isaac could have been an ‘only lad’ of his father.  

When a human sacrifice was required to be offered, it was desired to be the ‘first-born’ one. Even if the sacrifice required to be offered was not a human one, but was of an animal or a fruit, it had to be first-born animal or the first-fruit. Some of the authorities are being quoted here to elaborate the point. A New Commentary on Holy Scripture asserts:  

At the time of Abraham human sacrifice was customary and frequent among his Canaanite neighbors, and the early legislation of Ex 22:29, which states without modification that first-born sons are to be given to God, seems clearly to imply a stage in Israel’s thought which regarded such sacrifices as a religious duty. [Charles Gore, Goudge, Alfred Guillaume, A New Commentary on Holy Scripture, (London: 1928), 53]

The Rev. T.K. Cheyne, while discussing the sacrifice of Isaac in the entry ‘Isaac’, states:

The  course  that  he  adopted  shows  the  writer  to  have  been a  great  teacher.  He  admits  the  religious  feeling  which prompted  the  sacrifice  of  a  firstborn  son. [Enc. Biblica,  3:2177.]

Marcus  Dods  records  the  prevailing  tradition  of  the  time that  the  most  exalted  form  of  religious  worship  was  the  sacrifice of  the  first-born,  because  it  was  unbecoming  to  offer  to  God something  which  was  not  truly  valuable.  (Which  of  the  two sons  was  truly  valuable  to  Abraham,  has  been  discussed elsewhere  in  this  book  in  detail):  

Abraham  was  familiar  with  the  idea  that  the  most  exalted form  of  religious  worship  was  the  sacrifice  of  the  first-born. He  felt,  in  common  with  godly  men  in  every  age,  that  to offer  to  God  cheap  sacrifices  while  we  retain  for  ourselves what  is  truly  precious,  is  a  kind  of  worship  that  betrays  our low  estimate  of  God  rather  than  expresses  true  devotion. [Marcus  Dods,  The  Expositor’s  Bible,  (NY:  1903),  1:199,200.]

Stanley  A.  Cook  observes  that  the  offering  of  the  firstborn to  Yahweh  was  at  one  time  considered  strictly  to  be  as binding  as  the  offering  of  firstlings  and  first-fruits:  

The  firstborn  male  enjoyed  the  privileges  of  which  he  was not  to  be  deprived  (…).  Not  only  were  the  first-fruits  as acceptable  an  offering  as  the  firstlings,  but  when  (in exceptional  cases)  a  human  victim  was  required  it  was  a firstborn  that  was  preferred  (2K.  3:27).  (…).  No  doubt, strictly,  the  offering  of  the  firstborn  to  Yahweh  was  at  one time  considered  to  be  as  binding  as  the  offering  of  firstlings and  first-fruits,  and,  indeed,  the  evidence  goes  to  show  that in  exceptional  cases  the  offering  was  actually  made. However,  just  as  the  first-fruits  were  offered  as  a  part  of  the whole,  it  is  conceivable  that  originally  the  rite  of circumcision  was  instituted  upon  the  same  principle  to  typify the  offering  of  the  firstborn.  [Enc.  Biblica,  2:1525,26.]  

The  very  first  sentence  of  the  above  passage  asserts  that ‘The firstborn male enjoyed the privileges of which he was not  to  be  deprived’.  The  Bible  itself  has  also  laid  it  down categorically  in  the  following  terms:  

If  a  man  have  two  wives,  one  beloved,  and  another  hated, and  they  have  born  children,  both  the  beloved  and  hated;  and if  the  firstborn  son  be  her’s  that  was  hated:  then  it  shall  be, when  he  maketh  his  sons  to  inherit  that  which  he  hath,  that he  may  not  make  the  son  of  the  beloved  firstborn  before  the son  of  the  hated,  which  is  indeed  the  firstborn:  But  he  shall acknowledge  the  son  of  the  hated  for  the  firstborn,  by  giving him  a  double  portion  of  all  that  he  hath:  for  he  is  the beginning  of  his  strength;  the  right  of  the  firstborn  is  his.  [Deu.  21:15-17  KJV]

It  shows  that,  according  to  the  Bible  itself,  the  privilege  of the  firstborn  son  is  irrevocable.  Even  if  some  father,  on account  of  his  inclination  towards  one  of  his  wives,  wishes to  deprive  the  son  of  the  other  wife  of  his  due  and legitimate  right  of  the  firstborn  son,  he  is  not  allowed  to  do so.  And  the  exalted  form  of  sacrifice  was  to  offer  the firstborn  son.  Therefore  the  privilege  of  being  offered  to God  was  Ishma‘el’s  irrevocable  and  irreversible  right, which,  in  no  case,  could  have  been  transferred  to  Isaac.

The  Book  of  Jubilees,  of  course,  is  not  a  canonical  book; but  it  is  not  an  outright  rejected  book  either.  Scholars  of  the Bible  liberally  quote  from  it  to  establish  their  point  of  view without  much  reservation.  S.  Tedesche  has  dilated  upon  it in  his  article  on  Jubilees,  Book  of  in  the  Interpreter’s  Dic. of  Bible  Some  of  the  excerpts  are  afforded  below  to acquaint  the  reader  with  its  real  significance:

One  of  the  most  important  books  of  the  Pseudepigrapha.  It gives  a  graphic  picture  of  Judaism  in  the  two  pre-Christian centuries.  Its  purpose  was  to  show  that  Judaism,  as  it  then was,  had  been  the  same  from  the  very  beginning  of  known history.  (…).  Emphasis  is  also  placed  on  Jewish  tenets  and customs,  and  the  importance  of  preserving  the  difference between  Jews  and  Gentiles  is  stressed.  (…).  The  purpose  of the author was to do for Genesis what the Chronicler did for Samuel  and  Kings to  rewrite  the  facts  in  such  a  way  that  it would  appear  that  the  law  was  rigorously  observed  by  the patriarchs.  (…).  His  desire  was  to  save  Judaism  from  the demoralizing  effects  of  Hellenism  by  [i]  glorifying  the  law and  [ii]  picturing  the  patriarchs  as  irreproachable;  by  [iii] glorifying  Israel  and  [iv]  urging  her  to  preserve  the separateness  from  the  Gentiles;  and  by  [v]  denouncing  the Gentiles  and  also  Israel’s  national  enemies.  The  ‘Angel  of the  Presence’  reveals  to  Moses  on  Sinai  the  history  and religious  laws  of  Gen.  1-Exod.  3  in  the  form  of  sermonized translations,  or  Midrashic  Targums,  which  show  only favorable  practices  and  omit  anything  derogatory.  (…).  The contrast  between  Jews  and  Gentiles  is  sharply  drawn,  and Israel  is  warned  to  keep  separate.  (…),  and  anything  is omitted  that  would  put  the  patriarchs  in    an  unfavorable light.  [The  Interpreter’s  Dictionary  of  Bible  (1962),  s.v.  ‘Jubilees,  Book of’,  2:1002-3]

It  shows  about  the  Book  of  Jubilees  that:  

1)   It  is  One  of  the  most  important  books  of  the Pseudepigrapha.  

2)    Emphasis  is  placed  on  the  difference  between  Jews  and Gentiles  and 

3)    Every  effort  has  been  made  to  depict  the  superiority  of the  Jews  and  the  inferiority  of  the  Gentiles.  (…),  and  

4)    ‘The  purpose  of  the  author  was  to  do  for  Genesis  what the  Chronicler  did  for  Samuel  and  Kings’  which  means that,  as  far  as  the  themes  of  Genesis  are  concerned,  the Book  of  Jubilees  is  not  less  reliable  than  the  ‘Chronicles’ is  with  regards  to  the  ‘Samuel’  and  the  ‘Kings’.  

5)    The  desire  of  its  author  ‘was  to  save  Judaism  from  the demoralizing  effects  of  Hellenism  by  glorifying  the  law and  picturing  the  patriarchs  as  irreproachable;  by glorifying  Israel  and  urging  her  to  preserve  the  separateness  from  the  Gentiles;  and  by  denouncing  the  Gentiles  and also Israel’s national enemies.’ It means that  he  could  not  have  afforded  therein  anything,  which might  have  been  damaging  to  the  pride  and  interest  of the  Jews.  

6)    As  to  the  patriarchs,  he  has  tried  his  best  to  extend every  favour  and  respect  to  them,    

7)    ‘and  anything  is  omitted  that  would  put  the  patriarchs in  an  unfavourable  light’.  

It  can  thus  be  appreciated  that  the  Book  of  Jubilees  is  not  an unimportant  book  and  it  could  not  include  anything  in  it which  be  against  the  interest  of  the  Jews  and  the  patriarchs; and  that’s  why  the  scholars  of  the  Bible  liberally  quote from  it  to  strengthen  their  themes.  This  Book  of  Jubilees asserts:

And  he  drew  near  to  the  place  of  the  mount  of  God.  (…). And  I  called  to  him  from  heaven,  and  said  unto  him: ‘Abraham,  Abraham;’  and  he  was  terrified  and  said:  ‘Behold,  (here)  am  I.’  And  I  said  unto  him:  ‘Lay  not  thy hand  upon  the  lad,  neither  do  you  anything  to  him;  for  now  I have  shown  that  thou  fearest  the  Lord,  and  hast  not  withheld thy  son,  thy  first-born  son,  from  me.’ [ The  Book  of  the  Jubilees,  18:11,  in  The  Apocrypha  and Pseudepigrapha  of  the  OT  in  Eng.,  ed.  R.  H.  Charles,  (Oxford:  The Clarendon  Press,  1968),  2:40. ]

Then  again,  in  18:15  of  the  same  book,  it  is  stated:  

And  the  Lord  called  Abraham  by  his  name  a  second  time from  heaven,  (…).  And  he  said:  ‘By  Myself  have  I  sworn, saith  the  Lord,  Because  thou  hast  done  this  thing,  And  hast not  withheld  thy  son,  thy  beloved  son,  from  Me,  That  in blessing  I  will  Bless  thee, [The  Book  of  the  Jubilees,  18:15;  2:40.]

The  editor  has  afforded  a  footnote  to  ‘thy  beloved  son’.  He  asserts  in  it:  

But  here  c  d  have  ‘thy  first-born  son’.   

The  ‘c’  and  ‘d’  have  been  explained  in  the  introduction  of this version of the Book of Jubilees. According to it the  ‘c’  signifies  the  Ethiopic  MS  (Manuscript)  of  this  book which  belongs  to  the  University  Library  at  Tubingen,  and the  ‘d’  signifies  the  Ethiopic  MS  of  this  book  which belongs  to  the  National  Library  in  Paris.  It  makes  quite clear  that  according  to  verses  11  and  15  of  chapter  18  of  the  Book  of  the  Jubilees,  Abraham  was  asked  to  offer  ‘thy [Abraham  is  the  addressee  of  this  phrase]  first-born  son’  for sacrifice.  

The  authorities  have  thus  explained  that  if,  at  all,  a  physical  offering  was  required  under  some  special  circumstances,  it  should  have  been  only  the  first-born  son  of  his  father  or  the  first-born  animal.  Otherwise,  as  a  general  rule,  it  was  required  that  the  first-born  son  of  a  father  or  a  first-born  animal  should  be  ransomed  and  redeemed.  A  number  of  other  scholars  also  maintain  the  same  theme.  Some  of  them are:  Peake’s  BC. [Peake’s  Com.  On  Bible,  ed.  H.  H.  Rowley,  (London:  Thomas  Nelson & Sons  Ltd., 1967),  NJB. [ The  New  Jerusalem  Bible,  Christian  Community  B. [ Christian  Community  Bible,  ed.  Patricia  Grogan, (Catholic  Bishops’ Conference  of  the  Philippines,  1995). 

As  to  the  fact  that  Ishma‘el  is  Abraham’s  universally acknowledged  firstborn  son,  it  has  so  explicitly  been  stated  in  unequivocal  terms  in  the  Bible  and  other  relevant  record  that one feels embarrassed in putting forward some argumentation with regard to it. But it is a matter of grave concern that some scholars of the Bible have felt no hesitation in defying and defiling this plain fact. So the theme is being undertaken below quite briefly: 

Isaac as Abraham’s Son
Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: [Gen. 17:19 KJV.]

And Abraham was an hundred years old, when his son Isaac was born unto him.   [Gen. 21:5 KJV] 

Ishma‘el  as Abraham’s Son
And Hagar bare Abram [stress added] a son: and Abram called his son’s [stress added] name, which Hagar bare, Ishma‘el. And Abraham was fourscore and six years old, when Hagar bare Ishma‘el to Abram [stress added]. [Genesis 16:15-16 KJV]

And Abram took Ishma‘el his son [stress added], and all that were born in his house, and all that were bought with his money, every male among the men of Abraham’s house; and circumcised the flesh of their foreskin in the selfsame day, as God had said unto him. [Genesis 17:23 KJV]

But the son of the slave woman is also your son [stress added], and I will make his descendants into a great nation. [Genesis 21:13 CEV]

I will also give many children to the son of the slave-girl, so that they will become a nation. He too is your son [stress added]. [Gen. 21:13 GNB]

Stress  has  been  added  to  some  words  and  phrases  of  the above  sub-heading  ‘Ishma‘el    as  Abraham’s  Son’,  which shows  that  Ishma‘el  is  as  genuinely  and  legitimately Abraham’s  own  real  son  as  Isaac.  It  thus  abundantly  makes clear  that  according  to  the  Bible,  Ishma‘el  and  Isaac,  both of  them,  were  Abraham’s  equally  real,  legitimate,  and genuine  sons.  If  somebody  arbitrarily  claims  that  Ishma‘el was  not  Abraham’s  son,  or  had  ceased  to  be  his  son  after being  cast  away,  it  is  quite  against  the  facts  and  without  any justification.  God  told  Abraham  that  Ishma‘el  would remain  his  son  even  after  being  settled  elsewhere.  Ishma‘el  was  born  when  Abraham  was  eighty-six  years  old;  and  Isaac  was  born  when  Abraham  was  a  hundred  years  old.  As  such,  it  was  Ishma‘el  who  was  the  ‘First  Born  Son  of Abraham’.  The  privilege  of  being  his  father  (Abraham)’s first-born  son  was  Ishma‘el’s  irrevocable  and  irreversible  right  and  nobody  could  have  deprived  him  of  it.  Isaac  was Abraham’s  second-born  son  and  could  not  have  been  called  the  first-born  son  of  his  father  at  any  stage  of  his  life by  any  stretch  of  meanings.  Then  it  was  Ishma‘el  who retained  the  status  of  the  only  son  of  Abraham  for  nearly fourteen  years;  whereas  Isaac  could  not  enjoy  the  status  of an  only  son  of  Abraham  for  even  a  single  day  of  his  life. The  son,  asked  to  be  offered  for  sacrifice  had  to  be Abraham’s  ‘only  son’  (as  categorically  and  repeatedly directed  in  the  Bible)  as  well  as  his  ‘first-born  son’  (as required  by  the  prevalent  tradition  of  offering  to  make  the offering  precious).  Had  God  meant  to  require  some  ‘only heir’  or  ‘Sarah’s  only  son’,  as  some  scholars  have  tried  to put  these  words  in  God’s  mouth,  He  could  plainly  have used  these  words.  He  should  not  have  puzzled  Abraham  by asking  him  to  offer  ‘thy  son,  thine  only  son’.  How  can  a man  on  earth  say  that  it  could,  in  any  way,  or  by  any  stretch of  meaning,  be  Isaac  who  was  required  to  be  offered  for sacrifice!  Isaac  was  neither  Abraham’s  ‘only  son’  nor  his ‘first-born’  one  at  the  time  of  his  birth,  or  at  any  stage  of his  life.  He  was  not  the  ‘only  son  of  Abraham’  as  long  as Abraham  was  alive,  because  Ishma‘el  had  throughout  been very  much  alive  together  with  him  until  Abraham  breathed his  last.  Now  it  is  unto  the  reader  to  appreciate  the  truth.

It  can  thus  safely  be  concluded  from  the  fairly  detailed  above  data  regarding  the  privilege  of  the  first-born  son  that:

1. Human  sacrifice  was  customary  and  frequent  among Abraham’s  Canaanite  neighbours,  and  the  early  legislation of  Exodus  22:29  also  states  that  first-born  sons  are  to  be  given  to God.

2. Not  only  were  the  first-fruits  as  acceptable  an  offering  as the  firstlings,  but  when  (in  exceptional  cases)  a  human victim  was  required  it  was  a  first-born  that  was  preferred (2K.  3:27).

3. The  first-born  male  enjoyed  the  privileges  of  which  he  was  not  to  be  deprived.

4. One  of  the  most  important  books  of  the  Pseudepigrapha, the  ‘Book  of  Jubilees’,  reports  God  as  saying:  ‘for  now  I have  shown  that  thou  fearest  the  Lord,  and  hast  not withheld  thy  son,  thy  first-born  son,  from  me.’    It  means that  the  son  who  was  offered  for  sacrifice  was  the  ‘Firstborn  son  of  Abraham’;  not  only  according  to  the  Bible,  but also  according  to  all  the  available  record.

5. It  is  a  universally  acknowledged  fact  that,  inter  alia,  both Ishma‘el  and  Isaac  are  Abraham’s  real  and  legitimate  sons.

6. Only  one  son  of  a  person  can  be  called  his  ‘first-born son’;  and  it  was  Ishma‘el  who  was  Abraham’s  ‘first-born son’;  and  was  born  nearly  fourteen  years  prior  to  Isaac’s birth.

7. In  addition  to  being  Abraham’s  ‘first-born  son’,  Ishma‘el retained  the  status  of  being  Abraham’s  ‘only  son’  for nearly  fourteen  years,  whereas  Isaac  had  not  enjoyed  this privilege  at  any  time  of  his  life.  It  means  that  Isaac  could neither  have  been  called  ‘the  only  son  of  Abraham’  nor  his ‘firstborn  son’  at  any  stage  of  his  life.

8.  God  had  asked  Abraham  to  offer  his  ‘only  son’  for sacrifice.  Moreover,  it  should  have  been  the  ‘first-born son’  who  was  customary  to  be  offered.  These  prerequisites naturally  nominate  Ishma‘el  to  be  offered  for  sacrifice. Isaac  does  not  fulfil  any  of  these  conditions.  So  it  could have  been  only  Ishma‘el  who  was  required  to  be  offered for  sacrifice;  and  it  could,  by  no  means,  have  been  Isaac.    

9. The  above  discussion  further  suggests  that  to  make  the sacrifice  more  significant,  precious,  and  for  attesting  the fidelity  of  Abraham  in  true  sense  of  the  word,  it  could  have been  his  ‘first-born  and  the  only  son’  whom  God  might have  asked  Abraham  to  offer  for  sacrifice.  He  was  very old.  His  wife  Sarah  was  also  very  old,  past  menopause, and  barren.  He  did  not  expect  any  further  offspring.  He had  only  one  son  who  had  now  become  of  a  reasonable age  to  extend  him  a  helping  hand  that  he  extremely  needed at  such  a  stage  of  his  life.  He  had  no  ray  of  future  hope  if  he  be  deprived  of  his  youthful  son  Ishma‘el.  Had  it  been one  of  his  two  sons  who  was  required  to  be  offered  for sacrifice,  and  that  too  his  younger  son  Isaac,  who  was  less  useful,  less  vigorous,  less  versatile,  and  less  helpful  to  him; the  test  could  not  have  been  so  grave,  meaningful,  and perfect;  as  it  could  have  been  in  case  of  the  ‘only  and  the first-born  son’  to  be  required  for  sacrifice.

10. In  a  situation  like  this:  where  God  is  going  to  ‘tempt’ Abraham  through  asking  him  to  offer  his  firstborn  and  the only  son  for  sacrifice;  and  that  too,  at  such  a  stage  of  his life:  it  would  be  redundant  if  God  adds  the  name  of Abraham’s  son  to  ‘your  son,  [your  firstborn  son,  who  is]  your  only  son’.  Making  the  expression  grim-grimmer-grimmest  with  the  words  ‘your  son,  [your  firstborn  son, who  is]  your  only  son’  the  command  has  been  taken  to  its  climax.  It  would  rather  mar  the  effectiveness  and significance  of  the  command  if  ‘even  Isaac’  be  inserted  into  it.  The  mention  of  the  name  of  the  only  son  is  a useless  addition,  and  cannot  be  expected  by  some eloquent,  impressive  and  intelligent  communicator.  This  is an  ugly  instance  of  interpolation  incorporated  by  some committed  but  naive  redactor  that  exposes  his  guilty conscience  and  ulterior  ‘holy  and  pious’  motives.  

The  theme  of  the  chapter  is  that  Abraham  was  required  to  offer  his  ‘Beloved  Son’  for  sacrifice  and  his  ‘Beloved  Son’  was  Ishma‘el  and  not  Isaac.  It  by  no  means  implies  that  Ishma‘el  was  superior  to  Isaac and  Isaac  was  inferior  to  Ishma‘el.  Both  of  the  Prophets  are  equally  honorable  and  innocent  and  the  Muslims  do  not  claim  any  superiority  for  one  upon  the  other.

The  Bible  states  that  the  son,  who  was  to  be  offered  for sacrifice,  was  the  only  son  whom  Abraham  loved.  It  is  a conspicuous  point  and  is  to  be  taken  properly.

‘Whom  did  Abraham  love?’  is  to  be  keenly  explored  before passing  some  judgement  on  it.  The  first  thing  to  be  noted  is that  ‘Whom  thou  lovest,’  is  not  a  simple  remark  about  the relevant  son;  it  is  rather  a  distinguishing  attribute.  It  should  not  be  loosely  applied  to  any  of  the  sons  of  Abraham.  It  should  be  applied  very  conscientiously  to  the  pertinent  son  of  Abraham  after  thrashing  out  his  relevance  carefully.  

As  far  as  Isaac  is  concerned,  the  phrase  ‘Whom  thou  lovest,’  cannot  positively  be  applied  to  him.  No  doubt  Abraham  might  have  been  showing  due  paternal  affection  towards  Isaac—which  he  ought  to  have  shown—but  he  did  not  have  any  extra-ordinary  love  and  attachment  for  him.  When  Abraham  was  told  about  the  birth  of  Isaac:  

As  for  Sarai  your  wife,  you  shall  not  call  her  name  Sarai, but  Sarah  shall  be  her  name.  And  I  will  bless  her,  and  indeed I will give you a son by her. Then I will bless her, and she shall  be  a  mother  of  nations;  kings  of  peoples  shall  be  from her; [Genesis 17:15-16]

he  was  not  pleased  with  it.  He  rather  showed  indifference towards  the  forthcoming  son—his  sole  desire  and  topmost priority  being  Ishma‘el  —as  has  been  reported  in  the  Bible:  

And  Abraham  said  to  God,  ‘Oh  that  Ishmael  might  live  before  you!  [Abraham’s  deep  concern  for  Ishma‘el  and  his indifference  towards  Isaac  is  particularly  to  be  noticed]’ (…).  And  as  for  Ishma‘el,  I  have  heard  you.  Behold,  I  have blessed  him,  and  will  make  him  fruitful,  and  will  multiply him  exceedingly.  He  shall  beget  twelve  princes,  and  I  will  make  him  a  great  nation. [Genesis:17:18,20]  

Commentators  of  the  Bible  have  genuinely  taken  it  as  a love  token  by  Abraham  in  favor  of  Ishma‘el.  The Nelson Study  Bible  has  observed:  

What  is  more,  he  still  loved  his  son  Ishma‘el  (16:15; 17:18). [The Nelson Study  Bible,  footnote  p.  43].

The  Wycliffe  Bible  Com.  has  noted  it  as:  

Sarah  may  have  feared  that  Abraham,  out  of  love  for Ishmael,  would  give  the  older  lad  the  prominent  place  in  the inheritance.  (…).  To  drive  them  out  must  have  been  exceedingly  grievous  to  Abraham,  for  he  loved  the  boy.

It  shows  that  Abraham’s  love  for  Ishma‘el  was  so  obvious that  even  Sarah  was  fully  aware  of  it.  J.  Fawsett  puts  it  as:  

He  [Abraham]  bears  Ishma‘el  upon  his  heart,  and  expresses  a  laudable  concern  for  him.

Marcus  Dods  has  recorded  beautiful  comments  to  show  that  Ishma‘el  was  the  son  whom  Abraham  loved  very  much.  He  has  also  recorded  the  justifications  for  this  immense  love.  He  comments:  

Abram’s  state  of  mind  is  disclosed  in  the  exclamation: ‘Oh,  that  Ishmael  might  live  before  Thee!’  He  had  learned  to love  the  bold,  brilliant,  domineering  boy.  (…).  But  there  he  was,  in  actual  flesh  and  blood,  full  of  life  and  interest  in  everything,  daily  getting  deeper  into  the  affections  of  Abram,  who  allowed  and  could  not  but  allow  his  own  life  to  revolve  very  much  around  the  dashing,  attractive  lad  [It  may be  noted  that  when  Ishma‘el  was  still  a  ‘lad’,  Isaac  had  either not  been  born,  or  would  have  been  still  a  suckling  baby]. (…).  ‘Oh,  that  Ishmael  might  serve  Thy  turn!’  Why  call  me  again  off  from  this  actual  attainment  to  the  vague,  shadowy,  non-existent  heir  of  promise,  who  surely  can  never  have  the  brightness  of  eye  and  force  of  limb  and  lordly  ways  of  this  Ishmael?  Would  that  what  already  exists  in  actual  substance  before  the  eye  might  satisfy  Thee  and  fulfil  Thine  intention and  supersede  the  necessity  of  further  waiting!  Must  I  again loosen  my  hold,  and  part  with  my  chief  attainment? [The  Expositor’s  Bible, 1:160 ]

It  may  be  appreciated  that  Abraham  shows  profound  love for  Ishma‘el  on  account  of  his  being  full  of  promise,  potentate  and  talent,  as  has  been  recorded  above.  Seventh Day Adventist  BD  asserts:

When  13  years  later,  God  announced  the  imminent  birth  of  Isaac  (ch  17:1-8,  15-17),  Abraham  interceded  on  behalf  of  Ishma‘el,  whom  he  dearly  loved.  [Seventh  Day  Adventist  Bible  Dictionary].  

Dr.  Cohn  asserts:  

I  (…)  would  be  satisfied  if  only  Ishma‘el  lived  before Thee. [The  Soncino  Chumash, 81].

As  for  Isaac,  Abraham,  according  to  Hasting,  showed  an  indifference  towards  him  due  to  lack  of  these  traits  in  him.  Scholars  have  plainly  acknowledged  the  weaknesses  of  Isaac.  J.  Hastings  states  in  his  DB: 

Isaac  is  a  less  striking  personality  than  his  father  is. Deficient  in  the  heroic  qualities,  he  suffered  indisposition  from  an  excess  of  mildness,  and  the  love  of  quiet  (…).  He  was  rather  shifty  and  timid  in  his  relations  with  Abimelech (26:1-22),  too  easily  imposed  upon,  and  not  a  good  ruler  of  his  household–a  gracious  and  kindly  but  not  a  strong  man. [Dictionary  of  Bible]

Similar  views  have  been  expressed  by  William  Neil  about Isaac:  

Isaac  is  generally  referred  to  in  the  commentaries  as  a colourless  personality.  Certainly  when  we  compare  him  with Abraham  and  Jacob  it  is  impossible  to  form  a  clear  picture  of  him.  Few  stories  are  recorded  about  him,  presumably because  there  was  little  known  of  him  that  was  worth recording,  and  in  those  stories  in  which  he  does  feature  he  is generally  a  minor  participant  in  the  narratives  dealing  with  his  more  notable  father  or  son.    [Pocket  Bible  Com]

It  shows  that  according  to  the  scholars  of  the  Bible  Isaac  had  a  less  attractive  and  impressive  personality  than  Ishma‘el,  although,  according  to  the  Islamic  tradition  one  cannot  endorse  it.  According  to  Islam  both  of  them  were  the  prophets  of  equal  status  and  it  is  not  proper  to  prefer one  on  the  other.  It  may  only  be  due  to  physical  strength and  practical  support  that  Abraham  felt  more  love  and  attachment  towards  him.  

There  is  another  evidence  that  confirms  the  love  of  Abraham  for  Ishma‘el.  When  Sarah  asked  Abraham  to  expel  Ishma‘el  and  his  mother  Hagar,  Abraham  was  very  much  disturbed  at  it, which showed his grave concern for  his  son  Ishma‘el.  The  event  has  been recorded  in  the  Bible as  follows:  

Therefore  she  said  to  Abraham,  ‘Drive  out  this  maid  and her  son,  for  the  son  of  this  maid  shall  not  be  an  heir  with  my son  Isaac.’  And  the  matter  distressed  Abraham  greatly because  of  his  son. [(Genesis  21:10-11) The  editor  has  recorded  here  a  note:  ‘lit., was  very  grievous  in  Abraham’s  sight.’].  

The  love  of  Abraham  for  his  son  Ishma‘el  is  so  evident here  that  even  the  Jewish  commentators  of  the  Bible  did  not  fail  to  appreciate  it.  Dr.  Cohen  makes  the  following comment  on  it:  

Scripture  points  out  that  this  grief  was  caused  not  by  the prospect  of  loosing  the  woman  but  on  account  of  Ishmael.  [Soncino  Chumash, 102] 

It  will  be  appreciated  from  the  entire  above  discussion  that ‘Whom  thou  lovest,’  could  have  only  been  spoken  of  Ishma‘el  and  not  of  Isaac;  and  it  was  only  Ishma‘el  who  was  really  offered  for  sacrifice  by  Abraham  because  it  was Ishma‘el  who  was  Abraham’s  ‘beloved  son’.

As  far  as  the  theme  of  Abraham’s  offering  his  ‘only  son’  for  sacrifice  is  concerned,  fairly  sufficient  discussions  have been  undertaken  in  the  above  four  chapters.  Some  relevant points  will  be  studied  in  detail  in  the  coming  chapters. 

The story concludes with the following last sentence:

So Abraham returned unto his young men, and they rose up and went together to Beer-sheba; and Abraham dwelt at Beer-sheba.   [Genesis 22:19]

The reflective and conscientious consideration of the verse guides the heedful reader to these points:

(1) ‘So Abraham returned unto his young men’ shows that during his return home, the ‘only son’, whosever the ‘only son’ had been, was not with him. W. Gunther Plaut observes: 

The text says that Abraham returned from Moriah but omits a mention of Isaac. (…) Isaac did not come back with his father. 
[The Torah A Modern Commentary, 152] 

Ignoring the word Isaac, as discussed in detail in this article at various places, the verse asserts that the ‘only son’ did not return with Abraham, because his abode was here near Moriah. Had it been Isaac who was to be offered for sacrifice, he must have returned with his father. It shows that the ‘only son’ was Ishma‘el, who dwelt near Moriah, and as such he had not to return with Abraham. 

(2) It may be noted here that Abraham’s family lived at Hebron; but he spent most of his time at Beer-sheba with his herds and flocks. He went back there leaving his only son, Ishma‘el, at his residence at Moriah.

(3) Had it been Isaac who was to be offered for sacrifice, it was not like him to show any displeasure or disregard towards his father by parting company with him.

The Bible states that Abraham was asked to offer his only son for sacrifice ‘upon one of the mountains’ which was situated ‘into the land of Moriah;’. It has been recorded in the Bible as follows:

and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you. [Genesis 22:2] 

It shows that the place of offering of the lad for sacrifice was some ‘mountain into the land of Moriah’. The word ‘Moriah’ has been mentioned in the whole of the Bible at only two places:

(i) Genesis 22:2, i.e. and get thee into the land of Moriah;


(ii) II Chronicles 3:1, i.e. Then Solomon began to build the house of the Lord at Jerusalem in mount Moriah, where the Lord appeared unto David his father, in the place that David had prepared in the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebosite.  

Scholars have different opinions as to whether the mention of Moriah at both the places of the Bible indicates one and the same place, or they denote different locations. Harper’s BD has assigned two different places for ‘Moriah’ (p. 654). The Jewish Encyclopedia asserts:

Modern  scholars  who  distinguish  between  these  two places  advance  different  theories  as  to  the  meaning  of  the word  ‘Moriah.’ [The  Jewish  Encyclopedia  9:17]

‘Moriah’  has  been  located  at  the  following  places  by different  scholars  of  the  Bible  and  religious  devotees:

1)  A  mountain  near  Hebron,  as  Hastings  Revised  Dic.  of  Bible  asserts:  ‘some  scholars  have    proposed  a  location  for  Moriah  on  a  mountain  near  Hebron.’. [Hastings  Dictionary  of  Bible  674-5]
2)  Mount  Gerizim  near  ‘modern  town  of  Nablus,  4  km NW  of  ancient  Shechem,’  [New  Bible  Dictionary, 415]  (Shechem  is  ‘about  50 km  N  of  Jerusalem  and  9  km  SE  of  Samaria’  (New  Bible  Dic., II  ed., 1099)  where  ‘Samaritan  Temple’  was  built.

3)  Mount  Calvary,  where  Christ  was  afterwards claimed  to  have  been  crucified  as  the  Devotional Family  BC  Asserts:  ‘There  is  no  improbability  in  the  general  opinion,  that  the  very  spot  was  mount Calvary i.e. When  they  reached  the  place  called  Golgotha  (or  Calvary)  which  means  the  Skull,  they  offered  him  wine  mixed  with  gall.  Jesus  tasted  it  but  would  not  take  it.  where  Christ  the  great  anti-type  was  afterwards  crucified.’  [The  Devotional  Family  Bible  Commentary]

4)  The  threshingfloor  of  Araunah  the  Jebosite  near Jerusalem, which  was  bought  from  him  by  king David,  and  where  subsequently  the  ‘Temple’  was built by Solomon.

The  first  three  ‘Moriahs’  are  being  discussed  in  this  chapter.  The 4th  ‘Moriah’ will be discussed in the next chapter.

As  regards  the  1st  ‘Moriah’ located  on  a  mountain  near Hebron,  no  discussion  is  required  on  it,  because: 

(i)  No notable  scholar  of  the  Bible  considers  it  discussible, noteworthy,  or  mentionable  either. 

(ii)  It  is  contradictory  to the  Bible.  Abraham  had  settled  either  at  Hebron  itself,  or  at Mamre, which is  4 km  N  of Hebron. The Bible says that Abraham  had  started  his  journey  from  his  residence  for ‘Moriah’  early  in  the  morning  and  after  three  days’  earnest journey  he  was  ‘afar  off’  from  his  destination.  Is  it conceivable  that  even  after  three  days’  earnest  journey  he could not cover so meager a distance!

The  place  ‘Mamre’  should  not  be  confused  with  ‘Moriah’.  Both  the places  have  quite  different  significance  and  are  located  at  different sites.  F.  F.  Bruce  writes  in  The  Illustrated  Bible    Dic.  on  page  940:  

A  place  in  the  Hebron  district,  W  from  Machpelah  (Gn.  23:17,  19; 49:30;  50:13),  associated  with  Abraham  (Gn.  13:18;  14:13;  18:1)  and Isaac  (Gn.  35:27).  Abraham  resided  for  considerable  periods  under the  terebinth  of  Mamre;  there  he  built  an  altar,  there  he  learnt  of the  capture  of  Lot,  there  he  received  Yahweh’s  promise  of  a  son and  pleaded  for  Sodom,  and  from  there  he  saw  the  smoke  of Sodom  and  its  neighbor  cities  ascend.  The  site  has  been  identified at  Rametel-Khalil,  4  km  N  of  Hebron. 

The  same  scholar,  F.  F.  Bruce,  explains  in  his  book  ‘Places  Abraham Knew’  on  pp.  41,  43,  46:  

In  so  far  as  Abraham  had  a  place  in  Canaan  which  could  be  called  his  home,  it  was  at  Mamre.  His  family  and  household  could  stay  here  while  he  was  leading  caravans  or  taking  part  in  pastoral activity  elsewhere.  (…).  To  Jews,  Christians  and  Muslims, however,  its  fame  is  based  on  the  fact  that  it  was  here  that Abraham  stayed  and  had  those  dealings  with  God  which  have won  for  him  the  name  ‘The  Friend  of  God’.  

It  is  also  to  be  noted  here  that  this  Mamre  is  associated  with  some  terebinth  tree  or  ‘oaks  of  Mamre’.  It  means  that  it  was  not  an  inarable or  barren  land,  fuel  wood  was  abundantly  available  there,  and  Abraham  would  not  have  needed  to  carry  wood  there  for  the  burnt  offering.  It can,  therefore,  be  safely  concluded  that  this  Mamre  has  nothing  to  do  with  Moriah,  the  place  of  Abraham’s  offering  his  only  son  for  sacrifice, as  some  scholars  have  asserted.

As  regards  the  2nd  Moriah, which  is  allegedly  located  at Mount  Calvary  where  Christ  is  claimed  to  have  been  crucified,  no  discussion  is  required  on  it  too,  because: 

(i) No  notable  scholar  of  the  Bible  considers  it  discussible, noteworthy,  or  mentionable  either.   

(ii)  It  is  also  not agreeable  with  the  contents  of  the  Bible.  It  was  either  situated  somewhere  in  the  modern  city  of  Jerusalem,  but  outside  the  walls  of  the  ancient  city;  or  quite  close  to  it.  It is  not  more  than  twenty  miles  either  from  Jerusalem,  Beersheba,  Hebron  or  Mamre.  It  too  could  not  have  taken  Abraham  more  than  a  few  hours  to  reach  here.  How  can  it  be  conceived  that  even  after  three  days’  earnest  journey  he  could not cover so meagre a distance!

Harper’s  Bible  Dic.  has  explained  the  word  ‘Calvary’  (p.  150)  as:  the  site  of  Jesus’  crucifixion.  Three  gospels  recorded  both  the  Semitic  name  of  this  site,  ‘Golgotha,’  and  a  translation,  ‘Place  of the  Skull’  (Matt.  27:33;  Mark  15:22;  John  19:17).  Luke  23:33  records  only  a  shorter  and  more  accurate  translation,  ‘Skull.’  The  name  ‘Calvary’  derives  from  the  Vulgate’s  Latin  translation  of this  word  (calvaria).  It  is  likely  that  the  site  was  so  named  because of  its  habitual  use  for  executions.  Less  likely  is  an  explanation rooted  in  the  physical  appearance  of  the  place.  Apart  from  the  name  very  little  is  confidently  known  about  Calvary.  John  19:20  and  Jewish  and  Roman  execution  customs  indicate  that  it  was  located  outside  Jerusalem’s  city  walls.  Roman  crucifixion  customs  and  the  reference  to  passers-by  (Matt.  27:39)  also  suggest  it  was  near  a  thoroughfare,  while  the  fact  that  the  cross  was  visible  from  afar  (Matt.  27:55)  could  indicate  an  elevated  location. Nevertheless  its  precise  location  remains  in  dispute.

As  regards  the  3rd  ‘Moriah’,  claimed  to  be  situated  at Mount  Gerizim  near  the  ancient  city  of  Shechem,  the Samaritans  attached  it  to  the  site  of  the  Temple  to  establish the  sanctity  and  importance  of  their  sanctuary.  The Illustrated  Bible  Dic.  records: 

‘The  Samaritan  tradition identifies  the  site  with  Mt.  Gerizim  (as  though  Moriah  =  Moreh; cf.  Gn.  12:6)’.   

Dummelow’s  Commentary  On  Bible  has  also  noted the  similar  remarks  about  it:

The  Samaritans  assert  that  Mt.  Gerizim  was  the  scene  of  the event,  regarding  Moriah  as  Moreh  in  Shechem.     

7th  Day  Adventist  Bible  Dic. has  afforded  a  fairly  detailed  account  of  the  theme:

The  Samaritans,  who  consider  Mount  Gerizim  the  holy mountain  of  God,  place  the  sacrifice  of  Isaac  on  that mountain,  and  believe  that  Moriah  was  Moreh  near Shechem;  and  that  it  was  the  site  of  the  first  encampment  of Abraham  in  the  land  of  Canaan,  where  he  built  an  altar  to  the  true  God  (Genesis  12:6,7).  Such  an  identification,  they  believe,  justifies  their  separation  from  Jerusalem,  and  their  right  to  worship  God  on  Mount  Gerizim  (see  Jn  4:20,21).  It  is,  of  course,  entirely  without  support. [7th  Day  Adventist  Bible  Dictionary,  Revised  edn.,  ed.  Siegfried  H.  Horn (Hagerstown:  Review  &  Herald  Publishing.  Association,  1979),  760].     

Hastings  Revised  Single  Volume  Dic.  of  the  Bible  has  also afforded  a  similar  observation:

There  is  some  similarity  between  the  names  of  Moriah  and ‘Moreh,’  the  latter  located  near  Shechem  (Gn  12:6,  Dt  11:30)  and  Mount  Gerizim.  And  it  may  have  been  owing  to  this  that  the  Samaritans  have  claimed  Gerizim  as  Abraham’s mountain  (cf  Jn  4:20).  Gn  22:4  has  been  often  cited  to  suggest that Gerizim, a mountain visible for some distance, must be the  Moriah  of  Abraham,  because  he  ‘lifted  up  his  eyes  and saw  the  place  afar  off.’    [Hastings  Dictionary  of  Bible  Rvd.,  674-5].

The  Samaritans  were  bitterly  against  the  Southern  kingdom of  Judah.  When  the  Chronicler  attached  the  name  of ‘Moriah’  to  Solomon’s  Temple  to  establish  the  sanctity  and importance  of  the  Judean  sanctuary,  the  Samaritans,  in response  to  it,  attached  the  name  ‘Moriah’  to  their sanctuary  at  Mount  Gerizim  or  vice  versa.  S.  R.  Driver’s observations  in  J.  Hastings’  Dictionary  of  Bible  conform  to  this opinion:

In  view  of  the  rivalry  which  prevailed  in  later  times between  the  Samaritans  and  the  Jews,  the  preference  of  the  former  for  Gerizim  does  not  count  for  much;  and  with  regard  to  the  other  arguments  it  may  be  doubted  whether,  in  a narrative  which  cannot  be  by  an  eye-witness  or  contemporary  of  the  facts  recorded,  the  expressions  used  are not interpreted with undue strictness. [Hastings  Dictionary  of  Bible,  s.v.  ‘Moriah’  by  S.  R.  Driver,  3:437]. 

The  fertile  brains  of  the  Samaritans  tried  to  explore  the probabilities  for  their  claim.  It  is  a  common  phenomenon  that  every  idea,  howsoever  absurd  it  be,  attracts  some  curious  ‘scholars’  and  gains  their  support.  By  the  passage  of  time  even  some  unprejudiced  scholars,  unmindful  of  the ulterior  motives  of  the  innovators,  consider  the  queer  idea  quite  objectively  and  discover  some  logic  in  it.  In  the  same  way  a  few  scholars  do  not  outright  reject  the  possibility  of  its  carrying  some  logic;  but  most  of  the  scholars  do  not  find  any  difficulty  in  appreciating  its  absurdity.  The  name  ‘Moriah’  has  never  been  used  for  Mount  Gerizim  in  the whole  of  the  Bible.  The  annals  of  history  and  the  realm  of knowledge  are  totally  void  of  any  ground  for  this  purposeful  fabrication  of  the  Samaritans.    
From  all  the  above  discussion  it  would  be  appreciated  that the  Samaritans’  claim  about  the  location  of  Abraham’s offering his only son for sacrifice at Mount Gerizim was forged  due  to  some  regional,  sectarian,  cultic  and  ethnic rivalries;  and  is  without  any  real  ground.  It  is  to  be  noted that  this  Moreh  was  not  a  barren  wilderness.  It  is  a  beautiful  and  fertile  hilly  area  with  thick  forests  and  abundant  greenery  all  around  it  (the  Bible  has  also  associated  it  with ‘oaks’).  Not  very  far  in  its  West  is  the  great  sea  (Mediterranean);  at  some  distance  in  the  East  is  the  river  Jordan;  within  the  parameters  of  twenty  to  twenty  five  miles  to  its  NNE  and  SSE  are  the  Sea  of  Galilee  and  the  Dead  Sea.  Abraham  having  lived  here  for  a  fairly considerable  time,  should  have  definitely  been  aware  of  it.  It  is  sheer  absurdity  if  he  carries  a  load  of  fuel  wood  to  Moreh  for  some  so-called  burnt  offering.  It  is  rather  carrying  coal  to  New  Castle.  Putting  aside  all  the  above  discussion,  only  this  single  plea  rules  out  every  possibility  of  Abraham’s  taking  his  only  son  to  this  place  to  offer  him  for  sacrifice.

After  migrating  from  his  homeland  in  Mesopotamia, Abraham  traveled  North  West  and  reached  Haran  through  Paddanaram  (i.e.,  the  plain  of  Syria).  After  staying  there  for  some time  he  again  started  his  journey  to  SSW.  Through  Halab, Hamath,  Damascus,  etc  he  entered  the  land  of  Canaan. Moreh  was  his  first  camping  station  in  Canaan  where  he encamped  his  family  for  some  time.  He  then  proceeded further  to  Egypt  (It  may  either  be  the  North  Eastern  Egypt  or  the  peninsula  of  Sinai)  to  explore  some  suitable  base  for  his  missionary  activities.  Seeing  that  Egypt  was  not  a  fertile field  for  his  mission,  he  came  back  to  Moreh  and  stayed there  for  some  time  to  explore  new  horizons  for  his  missionary  activities.  His  nephew,  Lot,  remained  with  him  throughout  this  missionary  exploration.  It  was  here  at Moreh  that  they  decided  to  extend  their  missionary activities  in  different  lands.  Lot  chose  to  work  in  Edom  and Abraham  made  his  base  camp  for  his  mission  about  twenty miles south of (Jeru-) Salem [the name of Jerusalem, in those days, was mere ‘Salem’] and settled his family in the area of Mamre, Hebron, and Machpelah. Beersheba, about twenty-five miles SSW of Hebron, was the pasture of his herds and flocks. The family of Abraham had now permanently settled here and had left Moreh for good.

The above information about Moreh has been carefully collected from authentic sources such as atlases, commentaries, dictionaries, encyclopedias, and the proper text of the Bible. Only two brief excerpts are being provided hereunder. W. Smith ’s DB states: 

The oak of Moreh was the first recorded halting-place of Abram after his entrance into the land of Canaan. Gen. 12:6. It was at the ‘place of Shechem,’ ch. 12:6, close to the mountains of Ebal and Gerizim. Deut. 11:30.86  

Rev. A. H. Gunner and F. F. Bruce explain in The Illustrated BD:

Dt. 11:30 makes reference to the ‘oak of Moreh’ in the district of Gilgal (i.e. the Shechemite Gilgal). It is recorded that Abraham pitched his camp there on arriving in Canaan from Harran, and it was there that God revealed himself to Abraham, promising to give the land of Canaan to his descendants. [The Illustrated Bible Dic., 2:1025] 


The claim of the Biblical Scholars regarding the site of Moriah, at Jerusalem, requires a fairly detailed discussion. It was given the name of ‘Moriah’ to attach importance and reverence to the house of the Lord, commonly known as the ‘Temple’. McKenzie’s Dic. of Bible explains: 

The hill on which Solomon’s temple was built is called Moriah (2 Ch 3:1), the only other incidence of the name; but this is in all probability due to the theological invention, which identified the Temple, the place of Yahweh’s dwelling and of Israel’s worship, with the site of the sacrifice of Isaac. [John L. McKenzie’s Dic. of Bible, 586] 

In fact the site of the Temple had previously been without any proper name. It was simply called ‘the threshingfloor of Ornan the Jebosite.’ The name ‘Moriah’ was ascribed to it usurpingly to attach reverence and importance to it. G. A. Barrois has expounded the point in the Interpreter’s DB as below:

Since the name Moriah appears nowhere else in the texts relative to the topography of Jerusalem, there is good reason to suspect that the author of Chronicles intended to ascribe an early origin to the royal sanctuary, by identifying the unnamed hilltop formerly used as a threshing floor with the mountain in the land of Moriah, where Abraham had made ready to sacrifice his son. [The Interpreter’s Dic. of Bible, 3:438-9]

The  Chronicler  himself,  who  has  attributed  the  name  of ‘Moriah’  to  the  place,  does  not  use  this  name  for  the  place anywhere  else  in  his  narratives,  whereas  he  has  referred  to  this  place  at  a  number  of  times.  Had  the  place  had  its identification  with  the  proper  name  ‘Moriah’,  it  must  have been  used  by  the  Chronicler  at  other  places  as  well.  Moreover,  it  was  claimed  to  be  situated  in  the  city  of  Jerusalem,  which  was  the  most  important  city  for  the  Jewish  people.  Then  it  was  claimed  to  be  the  site  of Solomon’s  Temple,  which  had  always  remained  the  most important  building  to  the  Jewish  community  ever  since  its construction.  How  could  it  be  that  it  had  nowhere  been mentioned  with  the  nomenclature  of  ‘Moriah’  in  the  whole  of  the  Bible  except  this  forgery.  Here  is  the  fairly  lengthy  text  of  the  narrative  from  the  Bible  to  acquaint  the  reader with the background of the event:

(15)  And  God  sent  an  angel  unto  Jerusalem  to  destroy  it:  and as  he  was  destroying,  the  Lord  beheld,  and  he  repented  him  of the  evil,  and  said  to  the  angel  that  destroyed,  it  is  enough,  stay now  thine  hand.  And  the  angel  of  the  Lord  stood  by  the  threshingfloor  of  Ornan  the  Jebusite.  (…).  (18)  Then  the  angel of  the  Lord  commanded  Gad  to  say  to  David,  that  David  should  go  up,  and  set  up  an  altar  unto  the  Lord  in  the  threshingfloor  of  Ornan  the  Jebusite.  (…).  (21)  And  as  David  came  to  Ornan,  Ornan  looked  and  saw  David,  and  went  out  of  the  threshingfloor,  and  bowed  himself  to  David  with  his  face on  the  ground.  (22)  Then  David  said  to  Ornan,  Grant  me  the  place  of  this  threshing-floor,  that  I  may  build  an  altar  therein unto  the  Lord:  thou  shalt  grant  it  me  for  the  full  price:  that  the  plague  may  be  stayed  from  the  people.  (23)  And  Ornan  said  unto  David,  Take  it  to  thee,  and  let  my  lord  the  king  do  that  which  is good  in  his  eyes:  lo,  I  give  thee  the  oxen  also  for  burnt offerings,  and  the  threshing  instruments  for  wood,  and  the wheat  for  the  meat  offering;  I  give  it  all.  (24)  And  king  David said  to  Ornan,  Nay;  but  I  will  verily  buy  it  for  the  full  price:  for I  will  not  take  that  which  is  thine  for  the  Lord,  nor  offer  burnt  offerings  without  cost.  (25)  So  David  gave  to  Ornan  for  the  place  six  hundred  shekels  of  gold  by  weight.  (26)  And  David  built  there  an  altar  unto  the  Lord,  and  offered  burnt  offerings  and  peace  offerings,  and  called  upon  the  Lord;  and  he  answered  him  from  heaven  by  fire  upon  the  altar  of  burnt  offering.  (27)  And  the  Lord  commanded  the  angel;  and  he  put up  his  sword  again  into  the  sheath  thereof.  (28)  At  that  time  when  David  saw  that  the  Lord  had  answered  him  in  the threshingfloor  of  Ornan  the  Jebusite,  then  he  sacrificed  there. [I Chronicles 21:15-28]  

(Originally  the  story  had  been  recorded  in  II Samuel  24:16-25,  which  is  the  source  of  the  Chronicler.  Some  of  its excerpts  have  been  afforded  in  this  chapter  below  to  enable  the  reader to  make  a  comparative  study.  It  will  be  appreciated  that  II  Samuel  has  referred  to  this  place  for  a  number  of  times,  but  he  has  never  used  the  word  ‘Moriah’  for  it).

It  may  be  observed  in  the  above  narrative  that  the  alleged place  of  ‘Moriah’  has  been  mentioned  in  these  few  lines  for  eleven  times  with  the  names  of: 

(1)  the  threshingfloor  of Ornan  the  Jebusite,  or  merely 

(2)  the  threshingfloor,  or 

(3) the  place  of  this  threshingfloor,  or  simply 

(4)  the  place,  or  the  pronouns 

(5)  it, 

(6)  there,  and

(7)  therein. 

But  the  proper  name  ‘Moriah’  has  not  been  attributed  to  it  even  for  a  single  time  in  the  whole  of  the  narrative.  It  may  further  be  observed  that  these  different  words  for  the  place  have  been  used  by  different  persons  as  detailed  below:

a)    The  phrase  ‘the  threshingfloor  of  Ornan  the  Jebusite’:

(1)  once  by  the  redactor  of  the  book, 

(2)  once  by  David,  and 

(3)  once  by  the  angel  of  the  Lord  [which  shows  that  even  the  angel  of  the  Lord  (and  as  he  was  speaking  on  behalf  of  God,  that  even  the  Lord  Himself)  did  not  know  that  the  name  of  the  site  of  the  Temple  was  ‘Moriah’]. (Total:  3  times).

b)    The  phrase  ‘the  threshingfloor’:  only  once,  and  that  by  the  redactor  of  the  book.

c)    The  phrase  ‘the  place  of  this  threshingfloor’:  only  once, and  that  by  David.  

d)    The word  ‘therein’:  only  once,  and  that  also  by  David.  

e)    The  word  ‘it’: 

(1)  twice  by  David,  and 

(2)  once  by  Ornan  the  Jebusite. (Total – 3 times).

f)  The  word  ‘there’:  only  once,  and  that  by  the  redactor  of the  book.

g)  The  Words  ‘the  place’:  only  once,  and  that  also  by  the redactor  of  the  book.

It  means  that  neither  the  angel  of  the  Lord  (and  as  he  was  speaking  on  behalf  of  God,  so  it  would  mean  that  even  the Lord  Himself)  knew  that  the  name  of  the  place,  where  the  Solomon’s  Temple  was  to  be  built  later  on,  was  ‘Moriah’,  nor  the  redactor  of  the  book,  or  King  David,  or  Ornan  the  Jebusite  knew  it.  It  is  simply  unbelievable! 

Had  ‘Moriah’  been  the  name  of  the  place,  and  that  too,  from the  times  of  the  Patriarch  Abraham  or  even  before  that;  and  that  too,  in  connection  with  such  a  conspicuous  event  as  that  of  the  offering  of  his  only  son  for  sacrifice  at  this  place;  how  could  it  be  possible  that  the  angel  of  the  Lord,  and  king  David,  and  the  redactor  of  the  book,  and  the  owner  of  the  place,  Ornan  the  Jebusite,  might  so  indifferently,  rather  disdainfully,  have  disregarded  even  the  mention  of  the  proper  name  of  this  place  throughout  the  narrative! Flavius  Josephus  has  also  afforded  a  narrative  of  the  event  in  his  ‘Antiquities’,  which  will  further  elaborate  the  point:
When  God  heard  his  [David’s]  supplication,  he  caused  the pestilence  to  cease;  and  sent  Gad  the  prophet  to  him,  and commanded  him  to  go  up  immediately  to  the  threshing-floor  of  Araunah  the  Jebosite,  and  build  an  altar  there  to  God,  and  offer  sacrifices.  When  David  heard  that,  he  did  not  neglect his  duty,  but  made  haste  to  the  place  appointed  him.  Now  Araunah  was  threshing  wheat;  and  when  he  saw  the  king  and  all  his  servants  coming  to  him,  he  ran  before,  and  came  to  him  (…).  Now  Araunah  inquired,  Wherefore  is  my  lord come  to  his  servant?  He  answered,  To  buy  of  him  the  threshing-floor,  that  he  might  therein  build  an  altar  to  God, and  offer  a  sacrifice.  He  replied,  That  he  freely  gave  him  both  the  threshing-floor,  and  the  ploughs  and  the  oxen  for  a burnt  offering;  and  he  besought  God  graciously  to  accept  his  sacrifice;  (…);  and  when  Araunah  said  he  would  do  as  he  pleased,  he  bought  the  threshing-floor  of  him  for  fifty  shekels;  and  when  he  had  built  an  altar,  he  performed  divine  service,  and  brought  a  burnt  offering,  and  offered  peaceofferings  also.  (…).  Now  when  king  David  saw  that  God  had  heard  his  prayer,  and  had  graciously  accepted  of  his sacrifices,  he  resolved  to  call  that  entire  place  The  Altar  of all  the  People,  and  to  build  a  temple  to  God  there; [The  Works  of  Flavius  Josephus,  Tr.  William  Whiston  (Boston:  D Lothrop  &  Co.,  n.d.):  Antiquities  XIII:  4,  pp.  203-4].

In  the  above  passage,  as  in  the  previous  one,  the  place allegedly  named  ‘Moriah’  by  the  Chronicler  has  been mentioned  seven  times;  but  has  nowhere  been  mentioned with  the  name  of  ‘Moriah’.  Amazingly,  when  King  David himself  prescribes  a  name  for  the  place,  he  gives  it  the name  of  ‘The  Altar  of  all  the  People’.  Had  it  been  the sacred  place  whose  name  had  been  ‘Moriah’  even  before  Abraham,  having  such  a  significant  tradition  attached  to  it  as  the  sacrifice  of  Abraham’s  ‘firstborn,  and  the  only,  and  beloved  son’,  king  David  would  definitely  have  known  it  and  would  certainly  have  used  it  for  the  place.  He  could  never  have  dared  to  ignore  the  mention  of  this  important  name  and  could  never  have  dared  to  change  it  with  a  second  rate  name  as  ‘The  Altar  of  all  the  People’.

Another  aspect  of  the  proposition  is  also  to  be  looked  into.  Abraham  lived  either  at  Hebron  (Al-Khaleel  of  today),  or  at  Mamre  which  is  about  three  kilometre  North  of  Hebron.  The  pasture  of  his  herds  and  flocks  was  at  Beersheba,  which  is  about  twenty-five  miles  South  of  Hebron.  The  distance  between Jerusalem  and  Hebron  is  not  more  than  twenty  miles. Abraham  had  set  out  for  journey  early  in  the  morning,  which  shows  his  steadiness,  eagerness,  promptness,  and  sense  of  duty  towards  God.  If  he  started  his  journey  from  Hebron,  he  had  to  travel  twenty  miles.  If  he  started  from  Mamre,  he  had  to  travel  only  eighteen  miles.  If  he  started  from  Beersheba,  he  had  to  travel  for  about  forty  miles.  Whatever  the  starting point  of  his  journey  be;  as  he  was  travelling  on  his  donkey, and started the journey early in the morning, and undertook the  journey  earnestly (W.  Gunther  Plaut,  The  Torah,  A  Modern  Com.  (NY:  Union  of  Am. Heb.  Congregations,  1981),  154  explains:  Abraham  and  his  followers  rose  ‘early  in  the  morning’  and  ‘went  unto’  the  place  of  which  God  had  told  him;  (…);  it  is  as  if,  while  he  traveled  on,  Abraham  had  looked  neither  to  the  right  nor  to  the  left,  had  suppressed  any  sign  of  life  in  his  followers  and  himself  save  only  their  footfalls);   it  may  have  taken  him  merely  a  day or  so  to  reach  his  destination,  had  it  been  in  Jerusalem  (which  was  between  eighteen  to  about  forty  miles  from  his  every possible  place  of  residence).  But  the  Bible  asserts  that  even after  three  days’  journey  he  was  still  ‘afar  off’  from  the appointed  place.  It  means,  as  ‘The  New  Jerome  Bible Commentary’  has  well  observed,  that  the  total  journey  might have  taken  him  well-nigh  seven  days  to  reach  his  destination (Raymond  E.  Brown,  The  New  Jerome  Bible  Com.,  (Bangalore, India:  TPI,  1994),  25  explains:  This  may  be  the  halfway  point  of  a  seven-day  journey  ending  in the  arrival  at  the  mountain),  which  could  in  no  case  have  been  Jerusalem,  because  the  actual  destination  was  at  such  a  long  distance  as  to  require  such  a  long  time.  One  may  not  agree  with  the  ‘New  Jerome  BC’,  but  nobody  can  deny  the  fact  that  after  three  consecutive  days’ (John  Fawcett,  The  D.  Family  Bible,  1811,  Vol.  I,  no  paging,  notes: and  after  that  long  journey  (…)  the  place  was  far  distant:  Mount  Moriah;  (…).  He  travels  three  successive  days)  earnest  journey  they  had  not  reached their  destination  and  were  still  ‘afar  off’  their  destination.  It  rules  out  the  idea  of  the  ‘Moriah’  being  situated  at  the  hilltop  at  Jerusalem,  which  was  almost  one,  or,  at  the  most,  two  day’s  journey.  This  ambiguity  has  also  been  noted  by  the scholars  of  the  Bible.  The  Illustrated  Bible  Dictionary  explains:  

The  only  other  mention  of  the  name  occurs  in  2  Ch.  3:1, where  the  site  of  Solomon’s  Temple  is  said  to  be  on  mount Moriah,  on  the  threshingfloor  of  Ornan  the  Jebusite  where  God  appeared  to  David  (…).  It  should  be  noted  that  no  reference  is  made  here  to Abraham in connection with this site.  It has been objected  that  Jerusalem  is  not  sufficiently  distant  from  Southern  Philistia  to  have  required  a  3  day’s  journey  to  get  there;  whereas,  in  view  of  the  earnestness  of Abraham  and  the  distance  to  be  covered  being  small,  it  could  not  have  taken  him  more  than  about  one  day,  had  the  destination  been  Jerusalem),  and  that  one  of  the  characteristics  of  Jerusalem  is  that  the  Temple  hill  is  not  visible  until  the  traveler  is  quite  close,  so  that  the correctness  of  the  Biblical  identification  is  called  in  question. [The  Illustrated  Bible  Dic., 2:1025. ]

Peake’s  Com.  on  the  Bible  has  also  discussed  the  theme  in  a reasonable  way.  It  asserts:

In  verse  2  the  scene  of  the  episode  is  said  to  be  a  mountain  ‘in  the  land  of  Moriah’,  and  it  is  possible  that  these  words  and  the  obscure  phrase  in  verse  14,  ‘in  the  Mount  (i.e  the  Temple Mount)  where  Yahweh  is  seen.’  (where  the  Hebrew  text  has  evidently  suffered  some  corruption),  may  have  been  inserted  by  the  Priestly  editor  to  carry  back  the  sanctity  of  the  Temple  site  to  the  age  of  Abraham.  But  it  is  impossible  that  the  Temple  Mount  at  Jerusalem  could  have  been  the  scene  of  the  incident  for  various  reasons. [Peake’s  Com.  on  the  Bible,  193]

In  the  light  of  the  above  information,  it  can  be  asserted  that  the  name  of  the  hilltop  on  which  the  Solomon’s  Temple was  built,  had  been  ‘the  threshing-floor  of  Ornan  the Jebusite’,  and  not  ‘Moriah’;  and  it  had  wrongly  been  ascribed  to  it  by  the  Chronicler  to  attach  sanctity  and  significance  to  the  site  of  the  ‘Temple’.  The  concept  of  some  ‘Moriah’  at  the  site  of  the  Solomon’s  Temple  is  completely  void  of  any  ground  reality  and  is  merely  a  fabrication.  S.  R.  Driver  observes  in  Hastings  DB  that  the  location  of  ‘Moriah’  at  Jerusalem  is  the  idea  of  the Chronicler.  He  asserts  that  it  is  obviously  a  matter  of doubtful  nature.  He  rules  out  the  possibility  of  Jerusalem being  the  place  of  Moriah  due  to  the  fact  that  it  cannot  be seen from a distance, whereas the Bible asserts, ‘Then on the  third  day  Abraham  lifted  up  his  eyes,  and  saw  the  place afar  off.’  His  observations  are  being  recorded  hereunder:

What  was  originally  denoted  by  this  designation  is  very obscure.  It  is  indeed  evident  that  in  2 Chronicles  3:1  the  Temple  hill is  referred  to;  but  this  does  not  settle  the  sense  of  the expression  ‘land  of  Moriah’  in  Gn  22:2:  the  Chronicler  may,  in  common  with  the  later  Jews,  have  supposed  that  was  the  scene  of  the  sacrifice  of  Isaac,  and  borrowed  the  expression  from  Gn  22:2—perhaps  to  suggest  that  the  spot  was  chosen  already  by  J”  in  the  patriarchal  age.  (…).  It  is  remarkable  that,  though  it  is  here  implied  that  it  is  well  known  to  Abraham,  the  region  is  not  mentioned  elsewhere  in  the  OT.  It  is  difficult,  under  the  circumstances,  not  to  doubt the  originality  of  the  text;  (…);  Gerizim,  moreover,  is  an elevation  which  a  traveler  approaching  from  the  S.  might ‘lift  up  his  eyes’  (22:4)  and  see  conspicuously  at  a  distance, which  is  not  the  case  with  Jerusalem. [Hastings  Dictionary  of  Bible,  3:  437,  s.v.  ‘Moriah’  by  S.R.  Driver]  

L.  Reed  and  A.  H.  McNeile  in  their  article  on  ‘Moriah’  in the  Hastings’  Revised  (One  Volume)  Dic.  of  Bible  assert  that  the  tradition  of  identifying  ‘Moriah’  with  the  site  of  the  Solomon’s  Temple  is  not  traceable:

The  Chronicler  (2  Ch  3:1)  leaves  no  doubt  concerning  the Jewish  tradition  that  Mount  Moriah  was  the  Temple  hill where  Solomon  built  the  house  of  the  Lord  in  Jerusalem  and the  place  of  David’s  theophany.  Efforts  to  identify  the  source of  this  tradition  have  been  unsuccessful. [Hastings  Dictionary  of  Bible,  Revised  Single  volume  edn.,  674-5]  

Michael  Avi-Yonah  observes  in  the  Encyclopedia  Judaica  that  the  identification  of  Moriah  with  the  threshingfloor  of Ornan  the  Jebusite  at  Jerusalem  is  farfetched  and  is  aimed  to  attach  importance  to  the  Solomon’s  Temple:  

The  assumption  that  Abraham  intended  to  sacrifice  Isaac  on  the  threshing  floor  of  Jebus  (Jerusalem),  in  full  view  of  the  Canaanite  city,  is  farfetched;  nor  is  the  Temple  Mount  visible from afar, as it is hidden by the higher mountains around  it.  It  seems  more  probable  that  the  biblical  story  left  the  location  of  Moriah  deliberately  vague;  the  importance  of  the  sacrifice  of  Isaac  in  the  series  of  covenants  between  God  and  Israel  made  it  natural  [to  the  later  redactors  of  the  Bible] that  at  an  early  time  this  supreme  act  of  faith  was  located  on  the  site  destined  to  become  the  most  holy  sanctuary  of  Israel, the  Temple  of  Solomon,  just  as  the  Samaritans  transferred  the  act  to  their  holy  mountain,  Mt.  Gerizim.!  [Encyclopedia  Judaica  1997  ed.  CD-ROM. Version  1.0,  Judaica  Multimedia (Israel)  Ltd.,  S.v.  ‘Moriah’. ]

International  Standard  Bible  Encyclopedia observes:

This  land  is  mentioned  only  here  [Genesis  22:2],  and  there  is  little  to  guide  us  in  trying  to  identify  it.  A  late  writer  (2  Chronicles  3:1)  applies  the  name  of  Moriah  to  the  mount  on  which  Solomon’s  Temple  was  built,  possibly  associating  it  with  the  sacrifice  of  Isaac.  A  similar  association  with  this  mountain  may  have  been  in the  mind  of  the  writer  of  Genesis  22  (see  22:14),  who,  of  course, wrote  long  after  the  events  described  (Driver).  (…).  The description  could  hardly  apply  to  Jerusalem  in  any  case,  as  it could  not  be  seen  ‘afar  off’  by  one  approaching  either  from  the  South  or  the  West.  (…).  With  our  present  knowledge  we  must  be content  to  leave  the  question  open  (W.  Ewing). [International  Standard  Bible  Encyclopedia]

It  is  only  the  book  of  Chronicles  in  the  whole  of  the  Bible,  which  designates  ‘Moriah’  as  the  site  for  the  Solomon’s  Temple (II  Chronicles  3:1).  Curiously,  as  already  stated,  the  Chronicler,  while narrating  earlier  the  purchase  of  the  site  by  David  from  Ornan  the  Jebusite  in  his  I  Chronicles  21:15-28,  does  not  mention  the  name  of  ‘Moriah’  for  the  place  where  the  Solomon’s  Temple  was  to  be built  later.  He  simply  uses  the  ‘thresingfloor  of  Ornan  the Jebusite’  as  the  name  of  the  place  throughout  the  narrative  for  a  number  of  times.  Had  ‘Moriah’  been  the  name  of  the  place,  he  must  have  used  this  name  categorically.  Actually  the  source  of  the  Chronicler  for  this  narrative  is  II  Samuel  and  he  retells  the incident from II Sam. 24:16-25. There too the name ‘Moriah’ has nowhere  been  mentioned  for  the  place,  as  can  be  appreciated from the  following  quotation:

And  when  the  angel  stretched  out  his  hand  upon  Jerusalem  to  destroy  it,  the  Lord  repented  him  of  the  evil,  and  said  to  the  angel  that  destroyed  the  people,  It  is  enough:  stay  now  thine  hand.  And  the  angel  of  the  Lord  was  by  the  threshingplace  of  Araunah  the  Jebusite. (17)  And  David  spake  unto  the  Lord  when  he  saw  the  angel  that smote  the  people,  and  said,  Lo,  I  have  sinned,  and  I  have  done  wickedly:  but  these  sheep,  what  have  they  done?  let  thine  hand,  I  pray  thee,  be  against  me,  and  against  my  father’s  house. (18)  And Gad came that  day  to  David,  and  said unto him,  Go up,  rear  an altar unto  the  Lord  in  the  threshingfloor  of  Araunah  the  Jebusite. (19) And David,  according  to  the  saying  of  Gad,  went  up  as  the  Lord commanded. (20)  And  Araunah  looked,  and  saw  the  king  and  his servants  coming  on  towards  him:  and  Araunah  went  out,  and  bowed himself  before  the  king  on  his  face  upon  the  ground.  (21)  And Araunah  said,  Wherefore  is  my  lord  the  king  come  to  his  servant? And  David  said,  To  buy  the  threshingfloor  of  thee,  to  build  an  altar unto  the  Lord,  that  the  plague  may  be  stayed  from  the  people.  (22) And  Araunah  said  unto  David,  Let  my  lord  the  king  take  and  offer of  what  seemeth  good  unto  him:  behold,  here  be  oxen  for  burnt sacrifice,  and  threshing  instruments  and  other  instruments  of  the oxen  for  wood. (23) All  these  things  did  Araunah,  as  a  king,  give unto the  king.  And  Araunah  said  unto  the  king,  The  Lord  thy  God  accept  thee.  (24)  And  the  king  said  unto  Araunah,  Nay;  but  I  will  surely  buy  it  of  thee  at  a  price:  neither  will  I  offer  burnt  offerings  unto  the  Lord my  God  of  that  which  doth  cost  me  nothing.  So  David  bought  the  threshingfloor  and  the  oxen  for  fifty  shekels  of  silver. (25)  And  David  built  there  an  altar  unto  the  Lord,  and  offered  burnt  offerings and  peace  offerings.  So  the  Lord  was  intreated  for  the  land,  and the plague was stayed from Israel. [II Samuels 24:16-25]

Prior to the Chronicler, the details of the plan of the Temple, the stages and style of the construction with meticulous drawings, measurements and other details of the building, had been recorded in I Kings vi-viii and Ezekiel xl-xlvii. The word ‘Moriah’ has nowhere been used in both of these accounts. The Chronicler was not an eye-witness of the event. He wrote the details after the lapse of seven centuries of the event as elaborated later. He gave the name ‘Moriah’ to the place to sanctify the site of the Temple. Nobody else had ever used the word ‘Moriah’ for the site of the Temple before him. Afterwards, any one else who used the name ‘Moriah’ for the site of the Temple, copied it from the ‘Chronicles’. It was the sole source of all the later credulous writers of so called ‘histories’, who eagerly picked it up without undertaking any objective and analytical appraisal of the statement and its sources. This is not ‘history’. ‘Wishful thinking and imaginative creativity’ may be good qualities for the writer of a piece of literature, but they are plainly a demerit for a sober and genuine historian and are bound to damage his credibility. 

Instead of Moriah, the Bible locates the Temple at mount Zion at some places, but it is not a unanimous opinion.

Hastings’ Dictionary of the Bible (4:983) writes:

Throughout the OT there are passages which have no meaning, if Zion and the temple hill were two separate topographical features. Zion is the holy hill or mountain (Ps26), the chosen habitation of Jahweh (Ps 911 742 762 847 13213, Is 818 6014, Jer 810, Zec 83). There He manifests Himself (Ps 147202 536 1285 1343, Am 12); and there He must be worshipped and praised (Ps 651,2, Jer 316). (….). In 1 Maccabees, written c. BC 100 by some one who was well acquaited with the localities, Zion is identified with the temple hill (437,38 534 733 etc), and so it is in 1Es 881 2Es525 Sir2410, and Jth 913 [See also Ps 78 68,69 and Jer 50 28].  

The sole place in the whole of the Bible where the site of the Solomon’s Temple has been attached to ‘Moriah’ is the book of  Chronicles  (II Ch. 3:1).  It  has  been  explained  above  that  it was  not  based  on  any  objective  reality  or  historical  facts.  It  was  a  ‘theological  invention’  and  was  fabricated  to  attach  reverence  and  importance  to  the  ‘House  of  the  Lord’.    

(a)    The  statement  of  the  Solomon’s  Temple  having  been built  at  ‘Moriah’  is  a  blatant  forgery  of  the  Chronicler;  and   (b)    The  status,  canonicity,  historicity,  and  credibility  of  the  Chronicler  is  not  above  board.  

The  claim  that  ‘Moriah’  was  the  site  of  Solomon’s  Temple  is  quite  baseless,  absurd  and  arbitrary;  and  the  mention  of Moriah  in  II  Chronicles  (3:1)  should  be  considered  as  null and  void,  being  a  baseless  invention  of  the  Chronicler.  

As  the  last  four  locations  (according  to  the  above categorization)  claimed  by  the  Bible  scholars  to  be  the  spot of  Abraham’s  offering  his  ‘only  son’  for  sacrifice  stand ruled  out  through  ample  argumentation,  there  remains  only  one  site  in  the  whole  of  the  Bible  (Gen.  22:2);  which  can  be  claimed  as  the  genuine  ‘Moriah’  where  Abraham  had offered  his  ‘only  son’  for  sacrifice.  A  detailed  study  on  the subject is being undertaken in the next chapter.

As  regards  this  Moriah,  which  is  pronounced  by  the  ’Arabs  as  ‘al-Marwah’,  it  is  the  only  one  genuine  ‘Moriah’  (Genesis 22:2);  that  is  the  actual  place  where  Abraham  was  asked  to  offer  his  ‘only  son’  for  sacrifice.  The  fact  is  that  the  site  of Abraham’s  offering  his  ‘only  son’  for  sacrifice  is  unknown  to  the  scholars  of  the  Bible.  An  objective  and  analytic  study has  been  undertaken  in  the  following  lines  to  thrash  out  the  real  position  of  the  theme.

Some of the quotations from the authorities on Biblical literature are being afforded hereunder, which show that the scholars of the Bible are at a loss to locate the actual place where Abraham had offered his only son for sacrifice:

(i) W.Gunther Plaut, observes in ‘The Torah, A Modern Commentary’: 

The original name is obscure and the actual location unknown.  [The Torah, A Modern Commentary, 146]

(ii) L. Reed and A. H. McNeile in their article on ‘Moriah’ in Hastings’ Revised Dictionary of Bible assert that ‘evidence is not available for locating Moriah of Abraham’s time’:

Because the place of origin of the journey is not stated in Genesis, it is best to conclude that evidence is not available for locating Moriah of Abraham’s time.   [Hastings Dic. of Bible, 674-5]

(iii) New Jerusalem Bible states that the site of ‘Moriah’ is unknown: 

But the text speaks of a ‘land of Moriah’, of which the name is otherwise unattested: the site of the sacrifice is unknown. [The New Jerusalem Bible, 41]

(iv) A New Commentary on Holy Scripture explains:

The land of Moriah is an unknown locality. [A New Com. on Holy Scripture, 54]

(v) The 7th Day Adventist Bible Com. observes: 

The name seems to have been rather uncommon. [7th Day Adventist Bible Com., 1:349]

(vi) The New Oxford Annotated Bible asserts that the place is unknown: 

The mountain in the land of Moriah is unknown. [The New Oxford Annotated Bible, footnote on p. 27]

(vii) Dummelow’s Commentary on the Holy Bible indicates the uncertainty regarding the identification of both the places: 

The land of Moriah only mentioned again 2 Ch 3:1, ‘Then Solomon began to build the house of the Lord at Jerusalem in Mount Moriah.’ It is uncertain whether the two places are to be identified. [Com. On Holy Bible, (1956), 30]

(viii) The New Bible Commentary states that there is no ground reality to certify the exact location of this place: 

The land of Moriah (2). There is nothing in ancient topography to certify the exact location of this place, nor yet the mountain itself, [New Bible Com., 94]

(ix) The Wycliffe Bible Com.’s remarks are: 

The place of the sacrifice cannot be positively identified. [The Wycliffe Bible Com., 27]

(x) The Interpreter’s Dic. of Bible asserts: 

The location is otherwise unspecified. [Interpreter’s Dic. of Bible, 3:438]

(xi) The ‘Harper’s Bible Dic. has recorded the similar views about it:

An unidentified site in rugged terrain three day’s travel from Beersheba where Abraham was to sacrifice Isaac. [Harper’s Bible Dic., 654]

(xii) T. K. Cheyne observes in the Encyclopedia Biblica:

Great obscurity hangs about this name, [Enc. Biblica, 3:3200]

(xiii) Rev, B. Vawter, Professor of Sacred Scripture, De Paul University, Chicago, has asserted in A New Catholic Commentary:

‘The land of Moriah’ has never been identified. [A New Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture, 195] 

(xiv) Michael Avi-Yonah has also recorded the same viewpoint in the Encyclopedia Judaica:

MORIAH (Heb. ), an unidentified locality mentioned in the Bible. [Enc. Judaica, 1997]

(xv) The Encyclopedia of Judaism has also made the similar observation:

Moriah; a place, originally unidentified, to which God sent Abraham: [The Judaic CD ROM Reference Library Vol. I]

(xvi)  The Jerome Bible Com. has observed:

The ‘district of Moriah’ is unknown. [The Jerome Bible Com., 23]

(xvii)  Peter R. Ackroyd, Samuel Davidson Professor of OT Studies, University of London, King’s College, in his article ‘The OT in the Making’ has entered a footnote on his  sentence  ‘So  we  have  sanctuary  legends  (…)  and  a  high place  at  Jebus  (Jerusalem,  2  Sam.  24)  subsequently  rightly or  wrongly  identified  with  the  site  of  the  Jerusalem  temple (I Chrn. 21-22:1)’:

The  identification  must  remain  uncertain,  and  indeed suspect,  since  the  Chronicler  also  identifies  the  same  site  with  Moriah  (2  Chron.  3:1,  cf.  Gen.  22). [The  Cambridge  History  of  the  Bible,  (1970), 1:69]

(xviii)    The  same  writer  further  asserts:

What  is  clear,  however,  is  that  the  Chronicler  sees  this narrative  in  I  Chron.  21  as  providing  an  appropriate introduction  to  his  account  of  how  David  prepared  for  the building  of  the  Temple  by  Solomon  (I  Chron.  22:2-19;  2829:9.  The  intervening  section,  chs.  23-7,  may  well  be  a  later insertion,  but  it  too  illuminates  the  ideas  concerning  David’s  organising  of  the  worship  of  the  Temple).  Whereas  the  2 Sam.  narrative  makes  no  link  with  the  building  of  the Solomonic  Temple–and  this  strongly  suggests  that  the  narrative  originally  had  to  do  with  another  sacred  place–the Chronicler  identifies  the  site  precisely  (22:1),  explains  why David  could  not  go  to  Gibeon (Gibeon  is  the  scene  of  the  victory  by  David  over  the  Philistines. Before  the  Temple  was  built  the  Tabernacle  and  brazen  altar  stood  here (Collins  Gem  DB,  1974,  p.195)  where  the  Tabernacle  was (21:29-30),  and  subsequently  also  identifies  this  site  explicitly with  the  Mount  Moriah  of  Gen.  22  (2  Chron.  3:1),  an  even more  improbable  identification. [The Cambridge History of the Bible, 1:89] 

(xix)  International  Standard  Bible  Encyclopedia  has  also dilated  upon  the  theme.  It  explains  the  site  as  follows:

This  land  is  mentioned  only  here  Genesis  22:2,  and  there  is little  to  guide  us  in  trying  to  identify  it.  A  late  writer  (2 Chronicles  3:1)  applies  the  name  of  Moriah  to  the  mount  on  which  Solomon’s  Temple  was  built,  possibly  associating  it with the sacrifice of Isaac. A similar association with this mountain  may  have  been  in  the  mind  of  the  writer  of  Genesis 22  (see  22:14),  who,  of  course,  wrote  long  after  the  events  described  (Driver).  (…).  The  description  could  hardly  apply  to  Jerusalem  in  any  case,  as  it  could  not  be  seen  “afar  off”  by   one  approaching  either  from  the  South  or  the  West.  (…). With  our  present  knowledge  we  must  be  content  to  leave  the  question  open.  W.  Ewing [International  Standard  Bible  Encyclopedia,  1997,  7:924 ]

No  doubt  it  is  an  uninteresting  practice  to  quote  so  many authorities  on  a  theme;  but  it  was  essential  to  show  that  it  is  not  a  rare  or  minority  opinion.  That’s  why  ample  evidence  has  been  afforded  from  almost  every  school  of  thought.  It  may  also  be  noted  that  those  who  do  not  acknowledge  the  unidentified  nature  of  the  location  of  Moriah,  locate  it  at  various  places  and  are  dubiously  confused.  It  would  thus  be appreciated  that  the  objective  study  of  most  of  the  scholars of  the  Bible  reveals  that,  according  to  the  Bible,  the location  of  Abraham’s  offering  his  ‘only  son’  for  sacrifice cannot  be  identified  with  exactness  and  certainty.  

Having  failed  to  locate  the  place  in  the  written  annals  of history  pertaining  to  the  Bible,  one  should  try  to  trace  it through  some  ground  realities  or  some  perpetual  traditions, commemorations,  celebrations,  rituals,  sites,  buildings,  etc. of the relevant nations on the theme.

SOME QUESTIONS TO TRACE  THE ACTUAL SITE OF MORIAH Here  are  some  questions,  which  would  help  in  thrashing  out  the  solution  to  the  problem:

1)  Had  Abraham  any  son  who  could  genuinely  have  been  claimed  to  be  his  ‘only  son’  upto  the  age  of  his being  circumstantially  suitable  to  be  offered  for  sacrifice?

2)  Did  that  ‘only  son’  permanently  live  with  his  father  Abraham  or  had  he  been  shifted  to  somewhere  else  to  be  settled  there?  What  was  the  name  and  location  of  that  place?

3)  Is  there  any  evidence  of  this  ‘only  son’s’  progeny  having  been  perpetuated  at  the  place  of  his  new  settlement  [Paran  and  Beersheba]?

4)  Is  there  any  tradition  related  to  this  ‘only  son’s’ having  been  offered  there  for  sacrifice  by  his  father  Abraham?

5)  Is  this  tradition  of  Abraham’s  offering  his  ‘only son’  for  sacrifice  related  to  any  mountain  in  that  land of  Moriah?

6)  Are  there  any  physical  remains  pertaining  to  the  act  of  the  sacrifice  near  this  mount  ‘Moriah’  of  the  Bible  (al-Marwah  of  the  Arabs)?    

7)  Is  there  any  Concrete,  Physical,  and  Material  evidence  of  the  presence  of  Ishma‘el,  his  mother  Hagar,  and  his  father  Abraham  at  the  site  of  this  ‘Moriah’?

8)  Are  there  any  festivities  having  perpetually  been celebrated  to  commemorate  this  great  event  of  Abraham’s  offering  his  ‘only  son’  for  sacrifice  there;  and  are  these  festivities  related  to  some  places  around  this  ‘Moriah’?  

9)  Is  there  any  other  tradition  among  the  Arabs  that  confirms  their  relation  to  Abraham  and  Ishma‘el?

10)  Is  there  any  building  or  sanctuary  in  the  vicinity  of  this  ‘al-Marwah’  (‘Moriah’  of  the  Bible),  whose  construction  has  been  assigned  to  the  patriarchs  Abraham  and  Ishma‘el;?

11)  Are  there  any  traces  which  confirm  that  the  construction  of  al-Ka’bah  had  been  undertaken  by  Abraham  and  Ishma‘el?

12)  Is  there  any  evidence  of  Isaac  or  his  progeny  having  ever  been  to  some  ‘Moriah’  to  commemorate  Isaac’s  having  been  offered  for  sacrifice?  

13)  Does  the  Bible  state  where  Ishma‘el  and  his  mother  Hagar  had  breathed  their  last  and  what  is  their  burial  site;  in  the  way  as  it  gives  these  details about  Abraham,  his  wife  Sarah,  and  his  son  Isaac; and  why?

14)  Is  there  any  established  tradition  regarding  the  burying  place  of  Ishma‘el  and  his  mother  Hagar  amongst  the  Arabs,  who  are  the  historically established  progeny  of  Ishma‘el?

15)  Why  has  this  ambiguity  been  created  by  the redactors  of  the  Bible?


As  regards  the  1st  question  (Had  Abraham  any  son who  could  genuinely  have  been  claimed  to  be  his  ‘only  son’  upto the  age  of  his  being  circumstantially  suitable  to  be  offered  for sacrifice?),  Ishma‘el  was  Abraham’s  firstborn  son,  who remained  his  ‘only  son’  for  nearly  fourteen  years.  The  age of  thirteen  years  circumstantially  suits  and  is  compatible  to  all  considerations  for  his  being  offered  for  sacrifice.  

As  regards  the  2nd  question  (Did  that  ‘only  son’ permanently  live  with  his  father  Abraham  or  had  he  been  shifted  to  somewhere  else  to  be  settled  there?  What  was  the  name  and  location  of  that  place?),  Ishma‘el,  together  with  his  mother  Hagar,  had  been  shifted  by  his  father  Abraham  to  the  wilderness  of  Paran  in  the  land  of  Moriah,  near  Beersheba  (Well  of  Seven);  and  they  had  settled  there  permanently. Abraham  himself,  along  with  his  first  wife,  Sarah,  had  settled  in  Hebron  and  Beersheba  (Well  of  Oath)  in  Southern  Canaan. 

As  regards  the  3rd  question  (Is  there  any  evidence  of  this  ‘only  son’s’  progeny  having  been  perpetuated  at  the  place  of  his  new  settlement  [Paran  and  Beersheba]?),  it  is  the  factual  position  that  Ishma‘el’s  progeny  has  been  living  in  Makkah  and  other  parts  of  Arabia  since  time  immemorial,  and  is  still  living  there.  The  Bible  claims  that  Hagar  and  Ishma‘el  had  been  settled  by  Abraham  in  the  Wilderness  of  Paran  and  Beersheba,  and  both  of  these  places  have  allegedly been  claimed  to  be  located  in  Sinai.  But,  even  according  to the  Bible,  there  are  no  traces  of  any  Ishma‘elites  in  Sinai. That  they  have  been  living  around  Makkah  in  Arabia,  has been discussed in detail in the next chapter of this article. 

As  regards  the  4th  question  (Is  there  any  traditioin related  to  this  ‘only  son’  having  been  offered  there  for  sacrifice  by  his  father  Abraham?),  it  is  a  ground  reality  that  millions  of pilgrims  travel  to  Makkah  in  the  lunar  month  of  Dhu  al-Hijjah  to  offer  sacrifice  in  commemoration  of  Abraham’s offering  his  ‘only  son’,  Ishma‘el,  for  sacrifice.  Hundreds  of  millions  of  people  offer  the  same  sacrifice  in  their  hometowns  at  the  same  time.  This  tradition  has  come  down  for centuries  before  the  advent  of  Islam.  Nowhere  on  earth  is celebrated  any  such  tradition  to  commemorate  any  socalled  offering  of  Isaac  for  sacrifice  by  his  father  Abraham.

The  horns  of  the  ram  offered  in  place  of  Ishma‘el  remained preserved  in  al-Ka’bah  until  64  AH/683  AD,  when  the  Ka’bah  was  rebuilt  by  Abd  Allah  b.  Zubayr.  The  Encyclopedia  of Islām  has  recorded:

The  two  horns  of  Abraham’s  ram  did  not  crumble  to  dust until  the  rebuilding  of  the  Ka’bah  by  ‘Abd  Allah  b.  al-Zubayr. [The  Encyclopedia  of  Islam  New  Edition, 4:320]

It  is  recorded  both  in  Biblical  and  Muslim  tradition  that  the son  going  to  be  offered  for  sacrifice  was  ransomed  with  a ram.  A  renowned  Muslim  scholar  and  commentator  of  the Holy  Qur’an,  Mawlana  Amin  Ahsan  Islahi,  while  explaining  the  Qur’anic  verse  37:107  in  his  magnum  opus  Tadabbur-e-Qur’an  asserts: 

Allah  asserts:  ‘We  ransomed  Ishma‘el  with  a  great sacrifice.’  It  indicates  that  We  instructed  Abraham  to  offer  a ram  as  sacrifice  in  lieu  of  this  son.  And  this  act  of  offering shall  perpetually  be  commemorated  as  the  memorial  to  this great  event  in  the  form  of  a  great  ritual  of  offering  throughout  the  nations  of  the  world.  It  is  this  very  offering  which,  being  included  in  the  rituals  of  pilgrimage,  has  been perpetuating  the  memory  of  the  event  since  the  times  of Abraham  and  shall  endure  for  ever  till  the  doomsday  —  It should  be  borne  in  mind  here  that  although  the  ritual  of offering  is  being  performed  in  all  the  religions  of  the  world since  the  times  of  Adam,  but  no  ritual  of  offering  could achieve  such  significance,  importance,  expansion,  and universality  in  the  world;  as  Abraham’s  this  act  of offering.   [Tadabbur-e-Qur’an, 5:485]

The  event  has  been  recorded  in  the  Bible  in  the  follwing words:

And  Abraham  stretched  forth  his  hand,  and  took  the  knife to  slay  his  son.  (11)  And  the  angel  of  the  Lord  called  unto  him out  of  heaven,  and  said,  Abraham,  Abraham:  and  he  said, Here  am  I.  (12)  And  he  said,  Lay  not  thine  hand  upon  the  lad, neither  do  thou  any  thing  upon  him:  for  now  I  know  that thou  fearest  God,  seeing  thou  hast  not  withheld  thy  son, thine  only  son  from  me.  (13)  And  Abraham  lifted  up  his  eyes, and  looked,  and  behold  behind  him  a  ram  caught  in  a  thicket by  his  horns:  and  Abraham  went  and  took  the  ram,  and offered  him  up  for  a  burnt  offering  in  the  stead  of  his  son. (…).  (15)  And  the  angel  of  the  Lord  called  unto  Abraham  out of heaven the second time, (16) And said, By myself have I sworn,  saith  the  Lord,  for  because  thou  hast  done  this  thing, and  hast  not  withheld  thy  son,  thine  only  son:  (17)  That  in blessing  I  will  bless  thee,  and  in  multiplying  I  will  multiply thy  seed  as  the  stars  of  the  heaven,  and  as  the  sand  which  is upon  the  sea  shore;  and  thy  seed  shall  possess  the  gate  of  his enemies;  (18)  And  in  thy  seed  shall  all  the  nations  of  the  earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice. [Genesis  22:1-18]

As  regards  the  5th  question  (Is  this  tradition  of Abraham’s  offering  his  ‘only  son’  for  sacrifice  related  to  any mountain  in  that  land  of  Moriah?),  it  is  only  the  mountainous region  in  the  land  of  ‘Moriah’  at  Makkah,  to  which  the  tradition  of  Abraham’s  offering  his  ‘only  son’,  Ishma‘el,  for  sacrifice  is  related.  The  Arabic  word  for  Moriah  is  Marwah.  In  Hebrew (It  may  be  noted  that  the  Hebrew  language  is  written  from  right  to  left  like  the  script  of  her  other  sister  Semitic  languages  (Syriac, Aramaic,  Arabic,  etc.)) ‘Moriah’  is  composed  of  five  letters,  whereas  ‘Marwah’  is  composed  of  four  letters.  The  first  and  the  last  letters,  i.e.,  ‘Meem’  (M)  and  ‘He’  (H)   are  common  in  both  the  words.  The  middle  letters  ‘R’ (Res)  and  ‘W’ (Waw)  are  resembling  letters  in  Hebrew,  as  can  be  appreciated  through  observing  them.  They  are  often  interchanged  by  the  scribes.  As  far  as  the  letter ‘Yodh’ or  ‘Y’  is  concerned,  it  is  a  very  small  letter  in  Hebrew  alphabet  and  is  likely  to  be  omitted  or  inserted  due to  some  negligence  or  misunderstanding  of  a  scribe.  It  is  quite  probable  that  the  actual  word  may  have  been ‘Marwah’,  which  would  have  been  mistakenly  recorded  as ‘Moriah’  in  the  Bible  by  some  scribe,  because  Moriah/Marwah  was  not  a  commonly  used  word  in  the  Biblical  literature.  There  can  be  another  possibility:  the  difference  in  ‘Moriah’  and  ‘Marwah’  may  be  the  variations  of  pronunciation  between  the  Arabic  language  and  the  Hebrew  language  due to the change of the geographic conditions;  as  is  common  in  so  many  cases.  A  construing reader might be aware of some instances of such cases.

As  regards  the  6th  question  (Are  there  any  physical remains  pertaining  to  the  act  of  the  sacrifice  near  this  Mount ‘Moriah’  of  the  Bible  —  al-Marwah  of  the  Arab  tradition?),  it  is  interesting  to  note  that  the  horns  of  the  ram  which  was  offered  in  the  stead  of  Ishma‘el  had  been  preserved  in  the  Ka’bah  and  they  remained  there  until  64  AH/  AD  683.  Wensinck  and  Jomier  have  reported  in  the  Encyclopedia  of  Islam  in their  article  on  the  ‘Ka’bah’  that  at  the  time  of  the  conquest  of  Makkah  in 8/629:  

All  the  pagan  trappings  which  had  adhered  to  the  Ka‘ba  were  now  thrust  aside.  (…).  The  two  horns  of  Abraham’s  ram  did  not  crumble  to  dust  until  the  rebuilding  of  the  Ka‘ba  by ‘Abd Allah bin Zubayr. Enc.  of  Islam,  New (1997)  edn.,  s.v.  ‘Ka‘ba’,  4:320]  

As  regards  the  7th  question  (Is  there  any  Concrete, Physical,  and  Material  evidence  of  the  presence  of  Ishma’el,  his mother  Hagar,  and  his  father  Abraham  at  the  site  of  this ‘Moriah’?),  there  exists  a  lot  of  such  evidence.  There  exist the  Black  Stone,  the  Mi’jan,  Maqam  Ibrahim,  the  well  of  Zamzam,  and  the  Graves  of  Hagar  and  Ishma’el  in  Hateem  in  close  vicinity  of  the  Ka’bah.  

About  the  ‘Black  Stone’,  which  is  claimed  to  have  been  fixed  at  a  corner  of  the  Ka’bah  by  the  patriarchs,  the  Encyclopedia  of  Religion  states:  

The  Black  stone  is  of  unknown  pre-Islamic  origin, possibly  meteoric. [The  Encyclopedia  of  Religion  (NY:  Macmillan  Publg.  Co,  1987),  8:225,26]

There  is  the  Mi’jan  in  very  close  vicinity  of  the  Ka’bah.  A. J. Wensinck has provided the following details about it:

(…);  a  depression  in  it  [the  Ka’bah]  just  opposite  the  door has  still  to  be  mentioned;  it  is  called  al-mi’djan  ‘the  trough’; according  to  legend,  Ibrahim  and  Isma’il  here  mixed  the mortar  used  in  building  the  Ka’bah. [Encyclopedia  of  Islam,  New (1997)  edn.,  s.v.  ‘Ka‘ba’,  4:318-20]

There  is  the  Maqam  Ibrahim,  about  which  ‘The  Encyclopedia  of  Religion’  explains:  

Near  the  Ka’bah  stands  a  gilded  glass  case  (replacing  an earlier  simple  wooden  framework)  that  contains  a  stone  marking  the  station  of  Ibrahim  (Abraham).  This  stone  is  said  to  have  miraculously  preserved  the  footprint  of  Ibrahim,  Who  stood  on  it  in  order  to  complete  the  construction  of  an  earlier  Ka’bah:  it  is,  as  it  were,  the  builder’s  mark. [The  Enc.  of  Religion  (NY:  Macmillan  Publg.  Co,  1987),  8:225,26]

A.  J.  Wensinck  has  explained  the  Maqam  Ibrahim  as follows:

Between  this  archway  [al-Hatim]  and  the  facade  (N.E.)  is a  little  building  with  a  small  dome,  the  makam  Ibrahim.  In  it is  kept  a  stone  bearing  the  prints  of  two  human  feet.  The patriarch  Ibrahim,  father  of  Isma’il,  is  said  to  have  stood  on  his  feet  when  building  the  Ka’bah  and  the  marks  of  his  feet  were  miraculously  preserved. [Encyclopedia  of  Islam,  New (1997)  edn.,  s.v.  ‘Ka‘ba’,  4:318-20]

There  is  The  well  of  Zamzam,  which  stands  quite  close  to the  Ka’bah.  ‘The  Encyclopedia  of  Religion’,  although  arbitrarily names  it  as  a  myth,  explains:  

Opposite  the  corner  of  the  Black  Stone  is  a  small  building housing  the  sacred  well  of  Zamzam,  from  which  pilgrims drink  water  at  the  conclusion  of  their  circumambulations  and prayers.  Its  origin  is  mythically  associated  with  Hajar  (Hagar)  and  Ismail  (Ishmael),  for  whom  God  provided  water  in  this  desert  place  after  commanding  Ibrahim  to  abandon  mother  and  child  and  promising  to  care  for  them  in  his place. [The  Enc.  of  Religion  (NY:  Macmillan  Publg.  Co,  1987),  8:225,26]

Then  there  are  the  Graves  of  Hagar  and  Ishma‘el  in  Hatim. A.  J.  Wensinck  explaining  the  rituals  and  places  of  the Islamic  Pilgrimage  in  its  article  on  the  ‘Ka’bah’  in  ‘The Encyclopedia  of  Islam’  has  given  the  following  details  about  it:

Opposite  the  north-west  wall,  but  not  connected  with  it,  is  a  semi-circular  wall  (al-hatim)  (…).  The  semi-circular  space  between  the  hatim  and  the  Ka’bah  enjoys  an  especial consideration,  because  for  a  time  it  belonged  to  the  Ka’bah; (…).  The  space  bears  the  name  al-hijr  or  hijr  Isma’il  [lap  of  Ishma‘el].  Here  are  said  to  be  the  graves  of  the  patriarch [Isma’il] and his mother Hagar. [Encyclopedia  of  Islam,  New (1997)  edn., ‘Ka‘ba’  4:318-20] 

As  regards  the  8th  question  (Are  there  any  festivities having  perpetually  been  celebrated  to  commemorate  this  great  event  of  Abraham’s  offering  his  ‘only  son’  for  sacrifice  there;  and  are  these  festivities  related  to  some  places  around  this ‘Moriah’?),  there  have  been  a  number  of  festivities related  to this  offering  having  perpetually  been  celebrated  by  the  Arabs  centuries  before  the  advent  of  Islam.  These  festivities  are  related  to  a  number  of  places  around  this  ‘Moriah’.  There  are  the  seven  rounds  of  running  between  ‘al-Safa’  and  ‘al-Marwah’  called  sa‘y.  This  sa‘y  is performed  by  millions  of  pilgrims  undertaking  Hajj  in  the month  of  Dhu  al-Hijjah  or  performing  ‘Umrah  the  whole year  through.  It  is  performed  to  commemorate  the  similar running  by  Hagar  in  search  of  water  for  her  son  Ishma‘el. The  ritual  of  sa‘y  so  meticulously  depicts  and  retains  the  event  that  in  the  course  of  their  sa‘y  the  pilgrims  resort  to jogging  at  a  certain  space,  marked  with  green  lights  these  days,  where  Hagar  had  resorted  to  it.  It  is  in  the  declivity  of  the  Mas‘  where  Hagar  had  to  run  fast,  because  she  could  not  see  his  son  in  that  slope. Then  there  is  the  offering  for  sacrifice  of  goats,  sheep,  rams,  camels,  etc.  on  the  festival  of ‘Eid al-Adh’a by hundreds of millions of Muslims  throughout  the  world  and  by  millions  of  Muslim pilgrims  at  Makkah  during  the  days  of  Hajj.  Again  there  is  the  water  of  ‘Zamzam’  or  ‘Beersheba’  (Well  of  Seven) taken  by  the  pilgrims  as  a  sacred  drink.  It  is  the  very  spring  which  gushed  out  for  the  relief  of  Ishma‘el  in  that  waterless  terrain.  It  wonderfully  supplies  the  water  for  a  large population  the  whole  year  through  and  is  also  taken  home  by  the  millions  of  pilgrims  throughout  the  world  in  large  quantities  as  souvenir.  Then  again  there  is  a  ritual  of  the  Islamic  Pilgrimage  called  ‘Talbiyah’.  According  to  it  the pilgrims,  when  put  on  the  proper  uniform  of  the  Pilgrimage called  ‘Ihraam’,  begin  to  assert  this  ‘Talbiyah’  until  they  enter  into  the  ‘Holy  Mosque’:

Here  I  am,  O  Allah,  here  I  am;  here  I  am,  there  is  no associate  to  You,  here  I  am;  verily  all  the  praise,  and  all  the grace,  and  all  the  kingdom  belong  to  You,  there  is  no  partner to  You.

It  is  to  commemorate  the  alacrity  (quickness  and  readiness)  of  Abraham  to  offer  his  only  son  for  sacrifice  when  God tempted  him.  When  God  called  him,  he  said, ‘Behold,  here I am’. [Genesis 22:1]

As  regards  the  9th  question  (Is  there  any  other tradition  among  the  Arabs  that  confirms  their  relation  to Abraham  and  Ishma‘el?),  there  does  exist  the  tradition  of  circumcision  which  had  been  strictly  observed  amongst  the  Arabs  to  represent  the  tradition  of  their  ancestors,  Abraham  and  Ishma‘el.  Islam  extended  the  continuation  of  this  tradition  amongst  its  followers  in  the  same  way  as  it  has  been  observed  amongst  the  Jews  as  a  sign  of  Abraham’s  covenant.  Had  the  Arabs  not  been  the  descendants  of  Abraham  through  his  son  Ishma‘el,  there  had  been  no  question  of  their  observing  this  tradition  and  their  attributing  it  to  Abraham  and  Ishma‘el.  It  is  not  without significance  that  the  Encyclopedia Biblica has observed that the rite of  circumcision  may  have  been  the  typification  of  the tradition  of  offering  the  firstborn:

(…),  and,  indeed,  the  evidence  goes  to  show  that  in exceptional  cases  the  offering  was  actually  made.  However, just  as  the  first-fruits  were  offered  as  a  part  of  the  whole,  it  is conceivable  that  originally  the  rite  of  circumcision  was  instituted  upon  the  same  principle  to  typify  the  offering  of the  firstborn. [Encyclopaedia  Biblica,  2:1525-6]  

Flavius  Josephus  has  also  observed  in  his  ‘Antiquities’ (written  more  than  five  hundred  years  before  the  advent  of  Islam)  that  the  rite  of  circumcision  had  been  exercised  amongst  the  Arabians  to  commemorate  the  circumcision  of  the  founder  of  their  nation,  Ishma‘el:

And  they  circumcised  him  upon  the  eighth  day.  And  from  that  time  the  Jews  continue  the  custom  of  circumcising  their sons  within  that  number  of  days.  But  as  for  the  Arabians, they  circumcise  after  the  thirteenth  year,  because  Ismael,  the  founder  of  their  nation,  who  was  born  to  Abraham  of  the  concubine,  was  circumcised at  that  age; [Flavius  Josephus,  Antiquities,  Book  I,  Ch.  xii:  2,  4,  p.41]

As  regards  the  10th  question  (Is  there  any  building or  sanctuary  in  the  vicinity  of  this  ‘al-Marwah’  [‘Moriah’  of  the Bible],  whose  construction  has  been  assigned  to  the  patriarchs,  Abraham  and  Ishma‘el?),  there  is  the  sanctuary  of  ‘al-Ka’bah’  in  the  vicinity  of  this  ‘al-Marwah’  or  ‘Moriah’,  whose  construction  has  been  assigned  to  the  patriarchs,  Abraham  and  Ishma‘el;  and  there  is  reasonable  evidence  of  the  perpetuity  of  this  tradition.  The  renowned  translator  of the  Qur’n  into  English,  George  Sale,  has  recorded  in  his  ‘The  Preliminary  Discourse’  the  existence  of  this  sanctuary of  ‘al-Ka’bah’  at  Makkah  as  follows:

The  temple  of  Mecca  was  a  place  of  worship,  and  in singular  veneration  with  the  Arabs  from  great  antiquity,  and many centuries before Mohammed (…) the Mohammedans are  generally  persuaded  that  the  Caaba  (…)  was  rebuilt  by  Abraham  and  Ismael,  at  God’s  command,  (…).  After  this  edifice  had  undergone  several  reparations,  it  was  a  few  years after  the  birth  of  Mohammed,  rebuilt  by  the  Koreish  on  the  old  foundation,  (…).  Before  we  leave  the  temple  of  Mecca, two  or  three  particulars  deserve  further  notice.  One  is  the celebrated  black  stone,  which  is  set  in  silver,  and  fixed  in  the  south-east  corner  of  the  Caaba,  (…).  Another  thing observable  in  this  temple  is  the  stone  in  Abraham’s  place, wherein  they  pretend  to  show  his  footsteps,  telling  us  he stood  on  it  when  he  built  the  Caaba,  and  that  it  served  him for  scaffold,  (…).  The  last  thing  I  shall  take  notice  of  the temple  is  the  well  Zem-zem,  on  the  east  side  of  the  Caaba, (…).  The  Mohammedans  are  persuaded  that  it  is  the  very spring  which  gushed  out  for  the  relief  of  Ismael,  when  Hagar  his  mother  wandered  with  him  in  the  desert,  and  some pretend  it  was  so  named  from  her  calling  to  him,  when  she spied  it,  in  the  Egyptian  tongue,  Zem,  zem,  that  is,  ‘Stay, stay,’ [‘The  Preliminary  Discourse’  to  the  ‘AL-KORAN  OF MOHAMMED’, 90]  

Professor  Palmer,  the  well  known  translator  of  the  Qur’an into  the  English  language,  says  in  his  introduction  to  the Qur’an:

The  traditions  of  Abraham  the  father  of  their  race  and  the founder  of  Muhammad’s  own  religion,  as  he  always  declared him  to  be,  no  doubt  gave  the  ancient  temple  a  peculiar sanctity  in  the  Prophet’s  eyes,  and  although  he  had  first settled  upon  Jerusalem  as  his  Qiblah,  he  afterwards  reverted to  the  Kaabah  itself.  Here,  then,  Muhammad  found  a  shrine,  to  which,  as  well  as  at  which,  devotion  had  been  paid  from  time  immemorial;  it  was  one  thing  which  the  scattered Arabian  nation  had  in  common the  one  thing  which  gave  them  even  the  shadow  of  a  national  feeling;  and  to  have dreamed  of  abolishing  it,  or  even  of  diminishing  the  honours paid to it, would have been madness and ruin to his enterprise.  He  therefore  did  the  next  best  thing,  he  cleared  it  of  idols  and  dedicated  it  to  the  service  of  God. [The  QUR’AN, by  E.  H.  Palmer]

Some  more  evidence  is  being  noted  below  which  testifies the  existence  of  al-Ka’bah  at  Makkah  from  times immemorial.  C.  E.  Bosworth  attests  the  antiquity  of  al-Ka’bah  in  Encyclopedia  Americana  in  the  following  words:

The  Kaaba  was  almost  certainly  an  important  shrine  of  a well  attested  Semitic  pattern,  in  pre-Islamic  times.  It  is  not clear  when  it  was  first  associated  with  the  rites  of  the Pilgrimage,  which  itself  must  be  of  pre-Islamic  origin. Muslim  tradition  traces  it  to  Abraham  and  Ishmael.  The Prophet  Mohammed  cleansed  the  Kaaba  of  its  idols  and  its pagan  features  in  630. [The  Encyclopedia Americana  International, 16:254]

Edward  J.  Jurji  asserts  in  Colliers  Encyclopedia  that  the Quraysh  were  the  custodians  of  al-Ka’bah  and  preservers  of the  Ishma‘elite  tradition:

As  custodians  of  Kaaba  and  preservers  of  the  Ishmaelite tradition,  the  Quraysh  tribe  presided  over  its  pagan  worship until  Mohammed  appropriated  it  for  his  new  faith, [Colliers  Enc.  In  24  Vols.  (NY:  1995),  13:695]

The  Encyclopedia  of  Religion  states  that  the  Ka’bah  had undoubtedly  existed  for  several  centuries  before  the  birth  of Muhammad:

The  historical  origin  of  the  Ka’bah  is  uncertain,  but  it  had undoubtedly  existed  for  several  centuries  before  the  birth  of Muhammad  (c.  570  CE).  By  his  time  it  was  the  principal religious  shrine  of  central  Arabia  and,  located  at  the  centre  of a  sacred  territory  (haram),  had  the  characteristic  of  a  Semitic  sanctuary. [The  Encyclopedia  of  Religion,  8:225-6]

The  renowned  Egyptian  geographer  of  the  ancient  times,  Claudius  Ptolemaeus  (commonly  known  as  Ptolemy,  c.  90-168 AD)  has  also  mentioned  the  existence  of  a  temple  near  Makkah,  for  which  he  uses  the  word  ‘Macoraba’:

It  is  to  be  noted  that  Ptolemy  (Geography,  vi.7)  in  place  of Mecca  mentions  Macoraba,  which  is  probably  to  be interpreted,  as  does  Glaser,  as  the  South  Arabian  or  Ethiopic mikrāb,  ‘temple’.  From  this  one  may  conclude  that  the  Ka‘ba already  existed  in  the  second  century  A.  D. [Concise  Enc.  Of  Islam, s.v.  ‘Ka‘ba’,  193]

Shorter  Encyclopedia  Of  Islam  has  noted  some  other  evidence  to  it as  well:

The  information  available  regarding  the  distribution  of  the  offices  among  the  sons  of  Kusaiy  shows  that  the  worship  of  the  sanctuary  had  developed  into  a  carefully  regulated  cult several  generations  before  Muhammad. [Concise  Enc.  Of  Islam, 193]

The  Ka‘ba  had  offerings  dedicated  to  it  in  the  heathen  as  well  as  the  Muslim  period.  Al-Azrak  devotes  a  detailed chapter to this subject (ed. Wustenfeld, p. 155 sqq.).   [Concise  Enc.  Of  Islam, 193] 

As  regards  the  11th  question  (Are  there  any  traces which  confirm  that  the  construction  of  al-Ka’bah  had  been undertaken  by  Abraham  and  Ishma‘el?),  there  had  been  a depression  in  the  Mataf  just  opposite  the  door  of  the Ka’bah  where  Ishma‘el  and  Abraham  mixed  the  mortar used  in  building  the  Ka’bah.  The  Encyclopedia  of  Islām  has recorded  it  as  follows:

The  pavement  on  which  the  tawaf  is  performed  is  called mataf;  a  depression  in  it  just  opposite  the  door  has  still  to  be  mentioned; it is called al-mi‘djan  ‘the trough’;  according to legend,  Ibrahim  and  Isma‘il  [q.v.]  here  mixed  the  mortar used  in  building  the  Ka‘ba. [The  Enc.  of  Islam,  4:318]  

Then  there  is  the  Maqam  Ibrahim,  which  is  another evidence  of  the  Ka‘bah  having  been  built  by  Abraham.  The Encyclopedia  of  Islām  explains:  

Between  this  archway  and  the  facade  (N.E.)  is  a  little building  with  a  small  dome,  the  makam  Ibrahim.  In  it  is  kept  a  stone  bearing  the  prints  of  two  human  feet.  The  patriarch Ibrahim,  father  of  Isma‘il,  is  said  to  have  stood  on  this  stone when  building  the  Ka‘ba  and  the  marks  of  his  feet  were miraculously preserved. [The  Encyclopedia  of  Islam,  4:318]    

As  regards  the  12th  question  (Is  there  any  evidence of  Isaac  or  his  progeny  having  ever  been  to  some  ‘Moriah’  to commemorate  Isaac’s  having  been  offered  for  sacrifice?),  there  is  neither  in  the  Bible  or  in  the  traditions  of  the  Arabs  any  evidence  of  Isaac  having  ever  been  to  some  ‘Moriah’;  nor  is  there  any  evidence  in  the  Bible  or  the  annals  of  history  in  favour  of  the  progeny  of  Isaac  having  frequented  to  ‘Moriah’  for  offering  sacrifices  and  performing  any  pilgrimage.  On  the  other  hand  this  ‘Marwah’  is  a  celebrated  spot  of  offering  sacrifice  by  the  pre-Islamic  Arabian  tribes  from  the  times  immemorial  and  subsequently  by  the  whole of  the  Muslim  world,  in  memory  of  Abraham’s  offering  his  ‘only  son’  for  sacrifice.  Of  course,  the  descendents  of  Ishma‘el,  the  Arabs,  have  been  observing  the  ritual  centuries  rather  millennia  before  Islam,  following  their  Ancestor’s offerings.

As  regards  the  13th  question  (Does  the  Bible  state  where  Ishma‘el  and  his  mother  Hagar  had  breathed  their  last  and what  is  their  burial  site;  in  the  manner  as  it  gives  these  details about Abraham, his wife Sarah, and his son Isaac; and why?), it is interesting to note that the Bible is totally silent about Ishma‘el and Hagar’s burying place; whereas it states categorically that the cave of Macphelah at Hebron in Canaan was the burial ground of Abraham (Gen. 25:9-10), his wife Sarah (Gen. 25:10), and his son Isaac (Gen. 49:29-30). As to the question ‘why’, it can only be assumed that it was due to the disregard, disinterest, unconcern, indifference, and apathy, rather rivalry and jealousy, of the Israelites towards their brethren or cousins, Ishma‘elites.  

As regards the 14th question (Is there any established tradition regarding the burying place of Ishma‘el and his mother Hagar amongst the Arabs — who are the historically established progeny of Ishma‘el?), the answer is a positive ‘Yes’. A. J. Wensinck and J. Jomier in their article on ‘Ka‘ba’ in the ‘Enc. of Islām’ write: 
The space (al-hatim) bears the name al-hijr or hijr Isma‘il. Here are said to be the graves of the patriarch and his mother Hagar.   [The Enc. of Islam, 4:318]

The New Standard Encyclopaedia observes: 

Ishmael Son of Abraham and Hagar. He was exiled with his mother to the wilderness on account of Sarah’s jealousy of him. He married an Egyptian, was famed as an archer and was buried in Mecca. Mahomet claimed him as an ancestor.  [The New Standard Enc. and World Atlas, 699]

As regards the 15th question (Why has this ambiguity been created by the redactors of the Bible?), the answer is quite clear. It is merely because they wanted to attach reverence and respect to their forefather Isaac. The Chronicler forged for them the basis for this ambition through arbitrarily attributing the name of ‘Moriah’ to the site of the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite. This ambiguity would never have gained ground, had the Chronicler not fabricated and imposed it in his ‘Chronicles’ to attach sanctity to the Solomon’s Temple. It is interesting to note that the ‘Chronicles’ had long been a non-canonical and rejected book. There is another aspect of this theme. In fact Abraham’s offering cannot be treated as a merit for the son, if the son is not taken into confidence for the task. Isaac did not know that he was going to be offered even to the last momet. That’s why he asks his father Abraham, ‘Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering? [Gen. 22:7] Even then, Abraham did not think it advisable to disclose to him that it was him whom he was going to offer for the sacrifice; and rather says, ‘My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering. [Gen. 22:8] Thus the act of offering could only have been to the credit of Abraham who was going to be ‘tempted’ by God; and no credit could have been attributed to Isaac who had been totally ignorant of his going to be offered for sacrifice by his father. But, as regards Ishma‘el, he was not only taken into full confidence by his father Abraham, but he willingly endorsed the idea, surrendered to the will of God, and offered himself for sacrifice at the hands of his father. The Qur’an records the event as follows:

Said they, ‘Build for him [Abraham] a pyre, and throw him into the flaming hell!’ They desired to plot against him, but we made them inferior. Said he, ‘Verily, I am going to my Lord, He will guide me. My Lord! Grant me (a son), one of the righteous;’ and we gave him glad tidings of a clement and patient boy. And when he reached the age to work with him, he said, ‘O my boy! Verily, I have seen in a dream that I should sacrifice thee (The translator, Palmer, has inserted a footnote here as: ‘The Mohammadan theory is that it was Ishma‘el and not Isaac who was taken as a sacrifice), look then what thou seest right.’ Said he, ‘O my sire! Do what thou art bidden; thou wilt find me, if please God, one of the patient!’ And when they were resigned, and Abraham had thrown him down upon his forehead, we called to him, ‘O Abraham! Thou hast verified the vision; verily, thus do we reward those who do well. This is surely an obvious trial.’ And we ransomed him with a mighty victim; and we left for him amongst posterity, ‘Peace upon Abraham; thus do we reward those who do well; verily, he was of our servants who believe!’ And we gave him glad tidings of Isaac, a prophet among the righteous; and we blessed him and Isaac; – of their seed is one who does well, and one who obviously wrongs himself. [Qur’an, 37:95-113]

Ishma‘el’s progeny has been living in Makkah and other parts of Arabia since time immemorial, and is still living there. The Bible claims that Hagar and Ishma‘el had been settled by Abraham in the Wilderness of Paran and Beersheba, both of which have been claimed to have located in Sinai. But, even according to the Bible, there are no traces of any Ishma‘elites in Sinai.  ‘The New English Bible’ has recorded: 

Ishma‘el’s sons inhabited the land from Havilah to Shur, which is east of Egypt on the way to Asshur, having settled to the east of his brothers. [Genesis 25:18]

‘King James Version’ has recorded the theme in the following words: 

And they [Ishma‘el’s sons] dwelt from Havilah unto Shur, that is before Egypt, as thou goest toward Assyria and he died in the presence of all his brethren. [Genesis 25:18]

Almost all the translations and versions of the Bible have recorded the same statement about the settlement of the Ishma‘elites. There is no other statement about their settlement.
It means that, according to the Bible, the progeny of Ishma‘el had settled in the area ‘from Havilah unto Shur’. To determine the dwelling place of the progeny of Ishma‘el, the  exact  location  of  ‘Havilah’  and  ‘Shur’  is  to  be  explored. The  word  ‘Havilah’  was  used  for  the  land  of  Yemen  and  ‘Shur’  was  situated  somewhere  near  the  Gulf  of  ’Aqabah,  at  the  north-eastern  end  of  the  Red  Sea.  It  can  thus  be  deduced  that  according  the  Bible  the  progeny  of  Ishma‘el  had  settled  in  the  area  of  Al-Hijaz,  which  is  a  strip  of  land  in  the  Western  Arabia  North  of  Yemen.

A  brief  account  of  the  sites  of  Havilah  and  Shur  has  been afforded hereunder: 

As  far  as  ‘Havilah’  is  concerned,  it  is  the  name  of  South  Arabia  or  ‘Yemen’,  which,  in  the  ancient  days  was  named ‘Arabia  Felix’,  as  recorded  by  the  renowned  geographer  of Alexandria,  Ptolemy  (d. 140  AD).  Easton’s  BD  asserts:

A  district  in  Arabia-Felix. (…).  It  is  the  opinion  of  Kalisch,  however,  that  Havilah  ‘in  both  instances,  designates  the  same  country,  extending  at  least  from  the  Persian  to  the Arabian  Gulf,  and  on  account  of  its  vast  extent  easily  divided  into  two  distinct  parts.’  This  opinion  may  be  well  vindicated. [Easton’s  1897  Bible  Dic.  in  ‘Power  Bible’]

Arabia  Felix’  is  the  classical  name  of  SW  Arabia  or  the  ‘Yemen’. J.  A,  Thompson  explains  in  the  Interpreter’s  Dictionary  of  Bible,  1:179-80:

Classical  geographers,  following  Ptolemy  (2nd  century  A.D.), divided  the  country  into  three  parts: [1] Arabia  Patrea,  whose  main  city  was  Petra  and  which  included  Sinai,,  Edom,  Moab,  and  East  Trans-Jordan;  [2]  Arabia  Deserta,  the  Syrian  Desert;  and  [3]  Arabia  Felix,  ‘Fortunate  Arabia,’  the  Southern  portion.  

W.  Smith  has  also  expressed  almost  similar  views  in  his BD:

A district in Arabia Felix, Genesis 10:7, named from the second son of Cush; probably the district of Kualan, in the northwestern part of Yemen. [W. Smith’s Bible Dic., 235]

Encyclopedia Judaica has noted that one of Havilah’s location is in South Arabia:  

The latter Havilah, the son of Joktan, apparently stands for a locality in South Arabia as do Hadoram (Genesis 10:27), Sheba (Gen. 10:28), and Ophir (Genesis 10:29). [Enc. Judaica]

The Jewish Encyclopedia has explained as below:

HAVILAH: Name of a district, or districts, in Arabia. (…); the Ishmaelites are also placed in the same locality (Genesis xxv.18), (…). In Genesis x.29 and I Chron. i.23, Havilah is a son of Joktan, associated with Sheba and Ophir in the southern portion of the peninsula. (…). Havilah was identified by Bochart Niebuhr with Khaulan in Tehamah, between Mecca and Sana; [The Jewish Enc., 6:266]

All the above data make it quite clear that Havilah stands for Yemen, which is situated in the south-west of the Arabian Peninsula.  

‘Shur’ can be located somewhere near the Gulf of ’Aqabah, i.e. north-eastern end of the Red Sea. W. Smith has explained it as follows:

Shur may have been a fortified town east of the ancient head of the Red Sea; and from its being spoken of as a limit, it was probably the last Arabian town before entering Egypt. [W. Smith’s Bible Dic., 627]

Most  of  the  authorities  locate  it  in  Sinai  to  the  South East  of  the  Gulf  of  Suez.  Whatever  the  case  may  be,  it  can  safely  be  said  that  Shur  or  the  Wilderness  of  Shur  is  situated somewhere  outside  the  South West  corner  of  Canaan,  which  may be  in  the  vicinity  of  the  North Weat  corner  of  Arabia.

It  means  that,  according  to  the  Bible,  Ishma‘el’s  descendants  had  settled  in  Arabia  between  Shur  (north western  corner  of  Arabia)  and  Havilah  (southern  coast  land of  Arabia,  i.e.,  Yemen  and  Hadramawt),  which,  according to  the  Arabs,  is  the  region  of  al-Hijaz.  The  cities  of  Makkah,  al-Madnah,  and  Taif  are  also  situated  in  this  al- Hijaz.  Most  of  the  Ishma‘elite  tribes  (Arabs)  had  settled  in and  around  this  al-Hijaz.  It  has  been  noted  above  that, according  to  the  Bible,  Hagar  and  Ishma‘el  had  been  settled by  Abraham  in  the  Wilderness  of  Paran  and  Beersheba.  It requires  that  the  ‘Wilderness  of  Paran  and  Beersheba concerning  Hagar  and  Ishma‘el,  and  the  land  of  Moriah  as well’,  must  be  located  in  Arabia  and  not  in  Sinai.

That  most  of  the  Arabs  are  the  descendants  of  Ishma‘el,  is  a  universally  acknowledged  historical  fact  and  needs  not  to  be  discussed  in  detail.  A  few  lines  are  reproduced  below from  the  ‘Antiquities’  of  Josephus:

And  they  circumcised  him  upon  the  eighth  day.  And  from  that  time  the  Jews  continue  the  custom  of  circumcising  their sons  within  that  number  of  days.  But  as  for  the  Arabians, they circumcise after the thirteenth year*, because Ismael the founder of their nation, who was born to Abraham of the concubine, was circumcised at that age; (….). Of this wife were born to Ismael twelve sons; Nabaioth (Nabaioth was the firstborn of Ishma‘el and may be the ancestor of the Nabatians of Petrea, after whom the northern Arabia was named ‘Arabia Petrea’ by the ancient geographers like Ptolemy), Kedar (Kedar was the ancestor of the great Arabian tribe of Quraysh, to whom belonged the Prophet of Islam. (See The Jewish Enc. n.d., 7:462, s.v. ‘Kedar’)), Abdeel (‘Abdeel’ means ‘the slave of God’; which, in Arabic, is ‘Abd Allah’; but the Bible has named it as ‘Ad-beel’ (Gen. 25:13 KJV), which might have been a scribal mistake), Mabsam [or Mibsam], Idumas (Which, according to the Bible, is ‘Dumah’ (Gen. 25:14 KJV); after whom was named the famous Arabian town of ‘Dumat al-Jandal’, which was besieged by the Prophet of Islam himself during the adventure of ‘Tabuk’.), Masmaos (Which, in the Bible, is ‘Mish-ma’ (Gen. 25:14 KJV)), Massaos (Which, in the Bible, is ‘Mas-sa’ (Gen. 25:14 KJV)), Chadad (Which, in the Bible, is ‘Ha-dar’ (Gen. 25:15 KJV)), Theman (Which, in the Bible, is ‘Te-ma’ (Gen. 25:15 KJV)), Jetur, Naphesus (Which, in the Bible, is ‘Na’-phish’ (Gen. 25:15 KJV)), Cadmas (Which, in the Bible, is ‘Ke-de-mah’ (Gen. 25:15 KJV). ). These inhabited all the country from Euphrates to the Red Sea, and called it Nabatene. They are an Arabian nation and name their tribes from these, both because of their own virtue, and because of the dignity of Abraham their father. [Flavius, Antiquities, Book I, Ch. xii: 2, 4, p. 41]

* It  may  be  noted  here  that  the  writer  of  this  ‘Antiquities’,  Flavius  Josephus  (c.37-c.100),  had  died  more  than  five  centuries  before  the advent  of  Islam.  F.  L.  Cross  writes  in  his  Oxford  Dictionary  of  the  Christian  Church  (London:  Oxford  University  Press,  1974), 759:

He  brought  out  c.  94  his  second  great  work,  the  ‘Antiquities  of  the  Jews’,  the  20  books  of  which  trace  the  history  of  the  Jews  from the creation of the world to the beginning of the Jewish war.  

It  shows  that  his  observation  ‘But  as  for  the  Arabians,  they  circumcise after  the  thirteenth  year’,  if  it  be  so,  might  have  been  true  regarding  the  pre-Islamic  Arabs,  whereas  the  Muslims  generally  get  their  children  circumcised  in  their  early  days,  preferably  on  the  seventh  day,  as  the  Prophet of Islam had got his grand children, al-Hasan and al-Husayn circumcised on the 7th day of their birth (Hakim and al-Bayhiqi reported by ‘A’ishah) .  

The Book of Jubilees has also recorded that the progeny of Ishma‘el is of Arabian origin. Here is an excerpt to this effect:

And Ishma‘el and his sons, and the sons of Keturah, and their sons, went together and dwelt from Paran to the entering of Babylon in all the land which is towards the East facing the desert. And these mingled with each other, and their name was called Arabs, and Ishma‘elites.   [The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the OT, Volume II, 43] 

Lawrance Boadt, while explaining Gen 25:1-18, writes:

These names also represent a variety of Arabian Tribes.   [International BC, Ed. William R. Farmer (Bangalore: TPI, 2004), 431]

New Jerusalem Bible asserts:

Ishmael’s descendents are the North Arabian tribes. [Footnote ‘b’ on Genesis 25:18 New Jerusalem Bible, p.47]

McKenzie writes in his DB:

He is the ancestor of a number of Arabian tribes. [McKenzie, Dictionary of Bible, 1984, s.v. ‘Ishmael’, p.403]

It has also been abundantly recorded in the legends and poetry of the Arabs. The ‘Quraysh’ was one of the most important tribes of Ishma‘el’s progeny from the line of his second son Kedar; and it had been living in Makkah for centuries, rather millennia, before the advent of Islam. 

This  prophecy  recorded  in  chapter  LX  of  the  Book  of Isaiah  of  the  Bible  is  reproduced  below. 

Dr.  W.  Fitch,  Minister,  Church  of  Scotland,  Glasgow,  remarks  in  his  Commentary  to  the  book  of  Isaiah  in  the  New  Bible  Commentary  (p.604):  

This  is  a  prophecy  of  great  beauty,  thrilling  [make  someone  feel  excited  and  happy]  with  the  joy  of  a  great  assurance  that  the  purpose  of  God  is  so  triumphantly  to  be  fulfilled  in  the  earth.

A  renowned Muslim  scholar,  Qadi  Sulayman  Mansurpuri,  has  quoted  this  prophecy  in  his  magnum  opus Rahmatulli’l-‘Alamiin and  has  explained  it  in  a  few  lines  there.

It  is  pertinent  to  undertake  a  thorough  study  of  it.  Exhaustive  footnotes  having  sufficient  references  and  relevant  excerpts  have  been  afforded  on  the  spot,  so  that  it  may  not  be  said  that  the evidence  is  scanty.  They  are  to  be  carefully  studied  along  with  the  text  to  appreciate  the  significance  of  the  observations  recorded  at  the  end  of  the  passage.  In  some cases  they  may  not  be  directly  relevant  to  the  theme,  but  they  are  important  to  make  the  concept  clear.  It  would  be advisable  that  after  initially  going  through  the  whole  of  this  theme,  the  verses  alongwith  their  footnotes  be  studied  once  again.  It  would  thus  be  appreciated  that  the  conclusions drawn from the verses are absolutely pertinent:

Arise,  shine;  for  thy  light  is  come,  and  the  glory  of the  Lord  is  risen  upon  thee.  (2)  For,  behold,  the  darkness shall  cover  the  earth,  and  gross  darkness  the  people;  but  the Lord  shall  arise  upon  thee,  and  his  glory  shall  be  seen  upon thee.  (3)  And  the  gentiles  shall  come  to  thy  light,  and kings to the brightness of thy rising.  (4) Lift up thine eyes  round  about,  and  see:  all  they  gather  themselves together,  they  come  to  thee;  thy  sons  shall  come  from afar,  and  thy  daughters  shall  be  nursed  at  thy  side.  (5)  Then thou  shalt  see,  and  flow  together,  and  thine  heart  shall  fear, and  be  enlarged  [NKJV  translates  these  italicized  words  as: ‘swell  with  joy’];  because  the  abundance  of  the  sea  shall  be converted unto thee, the forces of the Gentiles shall come unto thee. (6) The multitude of camels shall cover thee, the dromedaries [young camels] of Midian and Ephah; all they from Sheba shall come; they shall bring gold and incense and they shall shew forth the praises of the Lord. (7) All the flocks of Kedar shall be gathered together unto thee, the rams of Nebaioth shall minister unto thee; they shall come up with acceptance on mine altar, and I will  glorify  the  house  of  my  glory. (8)  Who  are  these  that  fly  as  a  cloud,  and  as  the  doves  to  their  windows?  (9) Surely  the  islands  shall  wait  for  me,  and  the  ships  of  Tarshish  first,  to  bring  thy  sons  from  far,  (…).  (11) Therefore  thy  gates  shall  be  open  continually;  they  shall  not be  shut  day  nor  night;  that  men  may  bring  unto  thee  the forces  of  the  Gentiles,  and  that  their  kings  may  be  brought. (12)  For  the  nation  and  kingdom  that  will  not  serve  thee  shall perish; yea, those nations shall be utterly wasted. (…). (14) The sons also of them that afflicted thee shall come bending unto thee; and all they that despised thee shall bow themselves down at the soles of thy feet; and they shall call thee, The city of the Lord, The Zion of the Holy One of Israel. (15) Whereas thou hast been forsaken and hated, so that no man went through thee, I will make thee an eternal excellence, a joy of many generations. (…). (18) Violence shall no more be heard in thy land, wasting nor destruction within thy borders; but thou shalt call thy walls Salvation, and thy gates Praise. (…). (20) Thy sun shall no more go down; neither shall thy moon withdraw itself; for the Lord shall be thine everlasting light, and the days of thy mourning shall be ended. (21) Thy people also shall be all righteous;  they  shall  inherit  the  land  forever,  the  branch  of my  planting,  the  work  of  my  hands,  that  I  may  be glorified. [Isaiah 60:1-21]

Carroll  Stuhlmueller  asserts  in  The  Jerome  Bible  Commentary  (p.382):  

These  chapters  (60-62),  especially  ch.  60  according  to  Dhorme  (op.  cit.,  xlvii),  are  a  lyrical  description  of  the  new  Jerusalem.   He  assigns  the  explanation  of  Chapter  60  the  title  of  ‘GLORY  OF  THE NEW  JERUSALEM’.  It  means  that  this  Chapter  60  is  considered  to  be related  to  the  ‘Second  Temple’.  

It  may  be  noted  here  that  Jerusalem  is  a  meaningful  word  comprising  of two  segments:  Jeru  =  city  or  place;  and  Salem  =  peace.  As  such  Jerusalem  means:  ‘city  or  abode  of  peace’.  The  Bible  mentions  two Jerusalems  without  any explanation.  In  fact  the  first  and the ancient  ‘City of  Peace’  is  the  Jerusalem  of  Canaan  which  existed  there  even  before Abraham.  The  second  and  the  new  ‘City of Peace’  is  Makkah  which  was  founded  by  Abraham  and  has  been  mentioned  in  the  Qur’an  as  ‘al-Balad  al-Amin’.  It  is  only  Makkah  which  is  Jerusalem  (City  of  Peace)  in  the  true  sense  of  word. 

The  Jewish  Commentary  Soncino  Chumash’s  footnote  (p.1134)  is:

This  is  addressed  to  Jerusalem.  Light  being  the  symbol  of  joy  and  salvation,  Jerusalem  is  told  that  the  light  had  been  rekindled  (K).

NIV  translates  it  as:  ‘Nations’.  Generally  this  word  ‘gentile’  means  all  the  nations  and  people  other  than  the  Jews.

The  Rev.  Dr.  I.  W.  Slotki,  Eng.  Translation  &  Commentary  on  Isaiah  (London: The  Soncino  Press,  1949),  p.  292  has  recorded  a  footnote  on  it:  

The  nations  will  learn  the  ways  of  God,  religion  and  morality, from  [you].

Matthew  Henry’s  An  Exposition  of  the  OT  &  NT  (5:351),  explains:  

‘kings’  means:  ‘men  of  figure,  power,  and  influence’.

Dr.  W.  Fitch  asserts  in  New  Bible  Commentary  (p.  604):  

Then  will  the  city  be  the  centre  of  the  world’s  light,  for  the  glory of  the  everlasting  God  will  rest  upon  her  and  will  radiate  around the  world.   

It  may  be  noted  here  that  after  Isaiah  the  2nd  Temple  never  gained  such  glory  as  has  been  indicated  here.  It  is  only  the  Temple  of  Makkah  which  can  claim  this  glory  through  the  advent  of  the  Prophet  of  Islam.

Matthew  Henry  asserts  in  his  An  Exposition  of  the  O  &  NT  (NY: Robert  Carter  &  Bros.,  530,  Broadway,  1712),  5:350:

When  the  Jews  were  settled  again  in  their  own  land’  after  their captivity,  many  of  the  people  of  the  land  joined  themselves  to  them;  but  it  does  not  appear  that  there  ever  was  any  such  numerous  accession  to  them  as  would  answer  the  fulness  of  this prophecy;  and  therefore  we  must  conclude  that  this  looks  further, to  the  bringing  of  the  Gentiles  into  the [naturally,  the  forthcoming  words  should  have  been  ‘fold  of  that  altar  or  sanctuary’;  but  it  is  the  dexterity  and  adroitness  of  the  worthy  commentator  that  he manipulates  to  interpret  it  in  the  following  terms] gospel  church,  not  their  flocking  to  one  particular  place,  though  under  that  type  it  is  here  described.  There  is  no  place  now  that  is  the  centre  of  the church’s  unity;  but  the  promise  respects  their  flocking  to  Christ,  and  coming  by  faith,  and  hope,  and  the  holy  love,  into  that  society  which  is  incorporated  by  the  charter  of  his  gospel,  and  of  the  unity of  which  he  only  is  the  centre.    

This  is  an  example  how  the  Christian  scholars  mould  any  simple  statement  of  the  OT  to  be  applied  to  Jesus  Christ  or  the  ‘Church’.

NEB: ‘your  daughters  walking  beside  them  leading  the  way.’   Matth.  Henry’s  An  Exposition  of  the  O  & NT,  5:351: ‘Sons  and  daughters shall  come  in  the  most  dutiful  manner’.

Both  of  these  translations  make  a  reasonable  sense  in  this  context.  It  depicts  the  true  picture  of  the  caravans  and  groups  of  men  and  women  coming  together  for  the  pilgrimage  of  this  sanctuary  of  Makkah.

New Jerusalem  Bible (p.1282)  translates  it  as:

since  the  riches  of  the  sea  will  flow  to  you,  the  wealth  of  the  nations  will  come.

NIV (p. 779) has translated it as: 

the wealth on the seas will be brought to you, to you the riches of the nations will come.  

The Soncino Chumash (p.1134) has recorded a footnote here:

Whereas in the past the Land of Israel was desolate and forsaken, it will now be crowded with multitudes like a roaring sea (K).

But it could never come true as far as the Second Temple is concerned.

The Wycliffe Bible Commentary explains (p.651): 

It is quite remarkable that, in origin, all these offered treasures are preponderantly [being superior in power, numbers, etc] Arabian.

But, in his wishful thinking, he interprets it as: 

Perhaps there is a suggestion here that Islam will some day turn to the Cross.   

This remains a mere dream and wishful thinking of the worthy scholar. 

7th Day Adventist BC (4:314) explains the word ‘Midian’ as ‘A region in the desert of Arabia   (Ex. 2:15).’ In fact Midian was one of the six sons of Abraham from his wife Keturah (whom he had taken as wife after the death of Sarah). Abraham had settled these Keturah’s sons (Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak and Shuah) in Arabia.

7th Day Adventist Bible Commentary (4:314) explains the word ‘Ephah’ as: A Midianite tribe (Gen. 25:4; 1 Chron. 1:33), and here the region they inhabited. In fact Ephah was one of the five sons of Midian (Ehpah, Epher, Hanoch, Abida and Eldaah). Midian was one of his sons from Keturah.

The New Jerusalem Bible (p.1283) explains:

Midian, Ephah and Sheba are peoples of Arabia.  

The 7th Day Adventist Bible Dictionary (p.1015) explains:

(…) it is now generally held that it was a queen of this Arabian Sheba, in the area now called Yemen, who made a visit to Solomon (1Ki 10:1-13). The Sabeans were one of the most important peoples of all Arabia. (…). They built large dams and an extensive irrigation system, which made their country the most fertile in ancient Arabia. This is why it was known in classical times as Arabia Felix, ‘Happy Arabia.’

Derek Kidner, Warden of Tyndale House, Cambridge, in his Commentary on the Book of Isaiah in the NBC Revised (p. 621) asserts: 

v. 7 is crucial to the understanding of the chapter [60].  

Dummelow (p.450) has explained the word ‘Nebaioth’ in his commentary as:

‘a tribe allied to Kedar, descended from Ishmael (Gn 2513).’

The New Jerusalem Bible (p.1283) explains Nebaioth as ‘an Arabian people, see Gn. 25:13; 28:9; 36:3.’

A New Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture (p.597) explains: 

The tribes of ‘Kedar’ and of ‘Nebaioth’ were of Ishmaelite origin, and were mainly shepherds.   

The Wycliffe Bible Commentary (p.651), after remarking that: 

It is quite remarkable that, in origin, all these offered treasures are preponderantly Arabian. makes a wishfully predictive assertion: Perhaps there is a suggestion here that Islam will some day turn to the Cross.

The actual Hebrew word for this ‘minister’ or ‘serve’ is תרש ‘sharath’ or ‘shareth’, which, according to Strong’s Dictionary of the Hebrew Bible, p. 122, entry 8334, 35, means:

to attend as a menial or worshipper;  to contribute to, minister, wait on; or service (in the temple).   

J. H. Hertz’ The (Jewish Commentary) Pentateuch and Haftorahs (p. 875), translates the Hebrew Word as ‘minister’; and explains it in his footnote as ‘By providing animals for sacrifices ’.  
NIV (p. 779) translates it as: They will be accepted as offerings on my altar, and I will adorn my glorious temple.  

Dummelow (p. 450) has recorded a footnote here in his Com. on B: 

The nations are pictured as coming in a long train, to bring their riches for the service of the sanctuary.

Matthew Henry’s An Exposition of the O & NT, 5:351 notes:

Great  numbers  of  sacrifices  shall  be  brought  to  God’s  altar, acceptable  sacrifices,  and,  though  brought  by  Gentiles,  they  shall  find  acceptance.    

If  related  to  the  Second  Temple,  these  are  mere  wishful  imaginations.  

NIV  (p.  779)  translates  it  as:  ‘and  I  will  adorn  my  glorious  temple.’ The  Soncino  Chumash  (p.  1134)  has  recorded  a  footnote  here:  ‘By causing  the  nations  to  bring  their  gifts  and  offerings  to  it  (K).’

Who  are  these  that  fly  as  a  cloud,  and  as  the  doves  to  their  windows?: It  depicts  a  true  picture  of  thousands  of  aeroplanes  coming  and  landing  at  the  airport  of  Jeddah  daily  like  clouds,  with  hundreds  of thousands  of  pilgrims  on  board  who  come  here  to  perform  ‘Umrah (short  Hajj),  and  during  the  Hajj  season  in  even  greater  multitude.  

and  the  ships  of  Tarshish  first,  to  bring  thy  sons  from  far: Carroll  Stuhlmueller  explains  the  word  ‘Tarshish’  in  The  Jerome Bible  Com.  (p.  383)  as:  ‘A  Phoenician  colony  in  southern  Spain  (Jon 1:3).’

It  is  to  be  noted  here  that  it  had  been  ruled  by  Muslim  Arabs  for  about  eight  centuries.  These  Muslims  travelled  in  ships  to  the  sanctuary of  Makkah  to  perform  pilgrimage.    
Dr.  W.  Fitch,  Minister,  Church  of  Scotland,  Glasgow,  remarks  in his Commentary to the book of Isaiah in the NBC (p. 604):

The  gates  will  not  be  shut  by  day  nor  night,  a  symbol  of  absolute  security  under  the  blessing  of  her  God.  

But,  under  any  stretch  of  sense,  they  cannot  be  applied  to  the  Second Temple.  On  the  other  hand  it  is  exactly true  of  the  sanctuary  at  Makkah, whose  gates  remain  open  day and  night  and  the  pilgrims,  most  of  which  are  gentile,  and  their  kings  as  well,  keep  circumambulating  around  Ka‘bah  without  any  break  of  even  a  single  minute  during  day  and  night  with  absolute  security  and  under  the  blessings  of  their  God.    

The New Jerusalem Bible (p. 1283) has inserted a footnote on V. 12:

Interrupting the continuity, [v. 12] is very probably additional.  

A  New  Catholic  Com.  on  Holy  Scripture  (p.  597)  has  also  recorded similar observation on this verse:

In a context of this kind, the threat mentioned in 12 is astonishing, and is probably a gloss inserted later.  

A brief account of the word ‘Zion’ has been afforded at the end of ch. XI of this book.   

In the words of The New Jerusalem Bible (p. 1283) it may also be, like v. 12, ‘very probably additional’. But even if vv 12 and 14 be not additional, interpolated, and corrupt in entirety and their theme be intact and unpolluted, it is safely applicable to the sanctuary of Makkah and depict the true picture of the conquest of Makkah at the hands of the Prophet of Islam. 

Dummelow (p. 450) has recorded a footnote here in his commentary: ‘The figure is that of a forsaken wife (546),’.

The 7th Day Adventist Bible Com. (4:315) notes, ‘Like a forsaken wife.’ It clearly relates to Hagar, the mother of Isma‘el.

The Nelson Study Bible asserts in the footnote to v.15 (p.1209):

The new sanctuary will be greater than the old one because it is eternal, rich, and spiritual (verses 17, 18); which is exactly true of the sanctuary of Makkah.

The Soncino Chumash (p.1137) has recorded a footnote here: 

Israel’s sovereignty and glory will never again depart (K).

It is nothing more than a wishful expectation, which could never be materialized . On the other hand it is exactly true of the sanctuary of Makkah.

The  Soncino  Chumash  (p.  1137)  has  recorded  a  footnote  here:

Israel’s  national  glory  will  endure  for  ever,  because  the  restoration will be the work of God (K). It  also  remained  a  mere  dream,  because  even  after  the  construction  of the  Second  Temple,  the  restoration  of  the  glory  of  Israel,  which  is mentioned  here  as  ‘the  work  of  God’,  was  not  materialized.  They  could only  enjoy  a  limited  ‘Internal  Autonomy’  under  the  Persian,  Greek, Syrian,  or  Roman  empires  and,  subsequently,  the  Temple  was completely  destroyed  in  AD  70  for  good;  and  the  dream  of  ‘Israel’s national  glory  will  endure  for  ever’  remained  a  mere  dream,  as  it  was.  

Here  are  some  observations  which  would  help  the  reader  to appreciate  the  real  status  of  the  above  verses  and  their implications:

1.  Changes  have  been  made  in  the  above  passage  by  the redactors  of  the  Bible,  as  is  evident  from  the  New Jerusalem  Bible’s  observation  on  verse  12  and  14  reproduced  in  the  relevant  footnotes  above.  Each  and  every  verse,  therefore,  should  be  considered  on  its  own  merit.

2.  Most  of  the  commentators  of  the  Bible  attach  these verses  to  the  rebuilding  of  the  Solomon’s  Temple  that  is generally  called  the  ‘Second  Temple’  or  the  ‘Temple  of Zerubbabel’.

Dr. W. Fitch in his Com. on Isaiah in the NBC (p. 604) asserts:

Jerusalem  is  to  be  rebuilt  (…).  Then  will  the  city  be  the  centre  of  the  world’s  light  [unfortunately  the  city  could  never  become  ‘the centre  of  the  world’s  light’], for  the  glory  of  everlasting  God  will rest  upon  her  and  will  radiate  around  the  world [the  world  never saw  this  dream  come  true]. (…)  iii.  Jerusalem  to  be  built again.  (lx.  10-14).  (…).  When  rebuilt  the  gates  will  not  be  shut by  day  nor  night  (11),  a  symbol  of  absolute  security  under  the blessing  of  her  God  [of  course,  it  is  quite  true  that  ‘the  gates  will not  be  shut  by  day  nor  night’  because  they  do  not  even  physically exist on earth.  As such, the question of their being ever shut does not arise, because it is ‘a symbol of absolute security under the blessing of her God.’ How can someone dare to comment on it!], and also implying the warmth of the welcome that will be given to those that seek an entrance therein.

3. Most of the scholars of the Bible hold that according to the above passage this ‘Second Temple’ had to be more magnificent than the ‘First One’. The New Oxford Annotated Bible remarks:

‘The new Jerusalem will surpass Solomon’s city in beauty and tranquillity.’ [Footnote on Isa. 60:17-18 NOAB, p. 950]

The actual position is quite contrary to it. McKenzie’s Dic. of Bible explains: 

It [The Second Temple] was no doubt of the same dimensions and structure as the temple of Solomon but much inferior in the richness of its decorations (Ezr 3:12; Hg 2:3). [J.L. McKenzie’s Dic. of Bible, 875]

W. Smith’s Dic. of Bible asserts: 

From these dimensions we gather that if the priests and Levites and elders of families were disconsolate [i.e. unhappy, downcast] at seeing how much more sumptuous [i.e. lavish, magnificent, costly] the old temple was than the one which on account of their poverty they had hardly been able to erect, Ezra 3:12, it certainly was not because it was smaller; but it may have been that the carving and the gold and the other ornaments of Solomon’s temple far surpassed this, and the pillars of the portico [i.e. covered walk; row of columns] and the veils may all have been far more splendid; so also probably were the vessels; and all this is what a Jew would  mourn  over  far  more  than  mere  architectural splendor. [W.  Smith’s  Dictionary  of  Bible,  680]

R.  J.  McKelvey  explains, ‘but  even  the  foundations  showed  that  it  [the  Second  Temple]  would  be  inferior  to Solomon’s  Temple.’ [New  Bible  Dictionary 1170] 

The  7th  Day  Adventist  Bible  Dic.  explains  that  it  was  of  poorer  construction  as  compared  to  the  Solomon’s  Temple. [See 7th  Day  Adventist  Bible  Dic., 1100] 

Prof.  Dr  George  A.  Barton asserts:

The  dimensions  of  the  building  were  probably  the  same  as  those  of  Solomon’s  Temple,  though  the  edifice  was  apparently  at  first  lacking  in  ornament.  It  was  probably  because  the  building  was  less  ornate  that  the  old  men  who  had  seen  the  former  Temple wept  at  the  sight  of  its  successor. [The  Jewish  Encyclopedia  12: 97]  

4.  If  someone  undertakes  a  sincere  and  objective  analytic study  to  ascertain  the  implications  and  purport  of  the verses,  he  will  reach  only  one  conclusion:  these  verses plainly  and  obviously  relate  only  to  the  sacrifices  offered  since  time  immemorial  by  the  pilgrims  of  the  Ka’bah  at Makkah.  These  verses  can  in  no  way  be  attached  to  the Second  (or  Zerubbabel’s)  Temple  because: 

(i)  It  was  not more  glorious  or  magnificent  than  the  Solomon’s Temple,  even  if  the  glory  be  considered  to  be  the  spiritual  glory  as  some  of  the  scholars  take  it  to  be. 

(ii) The  Gentiles  and  kings  never  came  to  the  ‘light’  and  ‘the brightness  of  the  rising’  of  the  Second  Temple  (v.3).  It were  only  a  small  number  of  Jews  who  visited  it  after  they  were  allowed  to  return  from  their  exile,  for  only  the  period  of  515  BC  to  AD  70,  whereafter  the  Jewish  Second  Temple  had  been  destroyed  and  it  does  not  exist  there  for  almost  the  last  twenty  centuries.  Even  during  this period of 515 BC to 70 AD the Temple and the Jews had to  suffer  great  distress  for  a  number  of times. 

(iii)  Neither  the  abundance  of  the  sea  was  ever  converted  unto  the  Jewish  clan;  nor  the  forces  of  Gentiles  ever  came  or  entered  to  the  fold  of  the  Jews  or  their  Second  Temple  (v. 5).  The  wealth  of  the  nations  was  never  brought  to  this  Second  Temple  on  the  seas. 

(iv) There  is  no  tradition  that  any  herds  of  camels  of  the Arabian  pilgrims  (the  people  of  Midian,  Ephah,  and Sheba,  the  progenies  of  Abraham  through  his  wife  Keturah)  ever  visited  this  Second  Temple  for  pilgrimage  ‘proclaiming  the  praise  of  the  Lord’  (v.  6). 

Isa.  60:6f  GNB:  Great  caravans  of  camels  will  come,  from  Midian  and  Ephah. They  will  come  from  Sheba  (…)!  All  the  sheep  of  Kedar  and Nebaioth  Will  be  brought  to  you  as  sacrifices  And  offered  on  the altar to please the Lord.

Isa.  60:6f  CEV:   Your  country  will  be  covered  with  caravans  of  young  camels  from  Midian  and  Ephah.  The  people  of  Sheba  will  bring  gold  and spices  in  praise  of  me,  the  Lord.  Every  sheep  of  Kedar  will  come to  you;  rams  of  Nebaioth  will  be  yours  as  well.  I  will  accept  them as  offerings  and  bring  honor  to  my  temple.    

The  contents  of  the  above  statement  are  merely  a  wishful  imagination  as  far  as  the  Second  Temple  is  concerned.  The  phenomena  of  the  above verse  are  only  a  dream  of  some  credulous  redactor  of  the  Bible,  which  could  never  turn  into  a  ground  reality  to  console  the  poor  person!

(v)  There  is no  tradition  that  Abraham’s  progenies  from  Ishma‘el’s sons  Kedar  and  Nebaioth  (the  people  of  Arabia)  ever  gathered  around  the  Second  Temple  or  offered  any  sacrifices  of  flocks  and  rams  on  the  Second  Temple, which  would  be  accepted  as  offerings  on  God’s  altar  (v.7). 

(vi)  It  is  in  no  way  applicable  to  the  Second  Temple  that  ‘thy  gates  shall  be  open  continually;  they  shall  not  be shut  day  nor  night;  that  men  may  bring  unto  thee  the  forces  of  the  Gentiles,  and  that  their  kings  may  be brought.’  (v.11).  Not  to  say  of  the  gates,  there  is  not  even  a  building  of  the  Temple  on  earth  for  the  last  two  thousand  years.

(vii) It never happened at any time in the history  of  nations  that  ‘The  sons  also  of  them  [the Babylonians]  that  afflicted  thee  [the  Jews]  shall  come  bending  unto  thee;  and  all  they  that  despised  thee  shall  bow  themselves  down  at  the  soles  of  thy  feet.’, as  the verse  14  claims;  whereas  the  Yemeni  forces  that  were  utterly  wasted  due  to  their  ill-will  towards  Ka‘bah  but  their  descendants  regularly  visit  the  sanctuary  with  respect  and  fervour.   

(viii)  It  can  in  no  way  be  said  of  the  Second  Temple  or  the  Jews  ‘I  will  make  you  an  object  of  eternal  pride, (New Jerusalem  Bible, 1283 )  and  the  joy  of  all  generations. (NIV  (p.  780))’  (v.15).

(ix)  It  is  also  not  true  about  the  ‘Second  Temple’  that  ‘Violence  shall  no  more  be  heard  in  thy  land,  wasting  nor destruction  within  thy  borders;  but  thou  shalt  call  thy  walls  Salvation,  and  thy  gates  Praise.’ (v.18). 

(x)  It  can  also  not  be  claimed  about  the  ‘Second  Temple’  or  the  Israelites  that  ‘Thy  sun  shall  no  more  go  down;  neither shall  thy  moon  withdraw  itself;  for  the  Lord  shall  be  thine  everlasting  light,  and  the  days  of  thy  mourning shall  be  ended’ (v.20);  for  the  ‘Second  Temple’ and  the  Israelites  have  undergone  so  many  vicissitudes  and  misfortunes  that  plainly  belie  the  assertion  ‘the  Lord  shall  be  thine  everlasting  light,’ 
(xi)  The  conduct  and  status  of  the  Israelites  is  quite  contrary  to  the  claim  made  in  v.  21  ‘Thy  people  also  shall  be  all  righteous;  they  shall  inherit  the  land  forever,’.  Whereas  the  actual  fact  is  that  instead  of  being  ‘righteous’  they  became  evildoers,  usurers,  and  wealth-worshippers;  and  instead  of ‘inheriting  the  land  forever’  they  had  been  thrown  out  of it  disgracefully.  Now,  that  they  have  again  been  given the  control  of  their  land,  they  have  resorted  to  cruelty,  plunder,  corruption,  and  sin,  instead  of  sympathy,  God-cautiousness,  and  virtuousness.  It  can  by  no  means  be  attributed  as righteousness.  

From  the  analytical  study  undertaken  above  it  can  be concluded that the words of Ch. LX of the book of Isaiah,  with  all  shades  of  their  meanings  and  implications have  nothing  to  do  with  the  ‘Second  Temple’  or  the Israelites.

5.  The  application  of  chapter  LX  of  the  book  of  Isaiah  to the  Jews  or  the  ‘Second  Temple’  being  categorically ruled  out,  a  probe  into  its  exact  significance  is  to  be made.  If  someone  undertakes  a  sincere  and  objective  study  to  ascertain  the  implications  and  purport  of  the  verses,  he  will  reach  only  one  conclusion:  these  verses plainly  and  obviously  relate  only  to  the  sacrifices  offered  since  time  immemorial  by  the  pilgrims  of  the  Ka’bah  at  Makkah  to  commemorate  the  offering  of  Abraham  his  only  son  Ishma‘el.  Here  are  some  observations  based  on the  analytic  study  of  the  verses  that  will  be  useful  in appreciating  their  real  status,  purport,  and  significance. (a)  Verse  3  asserts,  ‘And  the  Gentiles [according  to  NIV and  many  other  translations:  ‘Nations’]  shall  come  to  thy light,  and  kings (It  may  be  noted  here  that  According  to  Matth.  Henry’s  An  Exposition  of  the  O  &  NT,  5:351,  ‘kings’  means:  ‘men  of  figure,  power, and  influence’). to  the  brightness  of  thy  rising.’  It  is  to  be  noted  that  as  long  as  the  Temple  belonged  to  the  Jews,  the  Gentiles  were  not  permitted  to  enter  the  main Temple,  and  if  some  Gentile  dared  to  enter  the  sanctuary, he  was  to  be  sentenced  to  death.  No  doubt  there  existed  a  ‘Court  of  the  Gentiles’  with  the  Temple,  but  it  lay  outside  the  sanctuary.  ‘The  court  of  the  Gentiles  was  accessible  to  anyone.  It  was  separated  from  the  temple  and  the  other  courts  by  a  balustrade  (row  of  short  pillars  surmounted  by  rail)  with  inscriptions  prohibiting  Gentiles  from  entering  the  interior  courts  under  pain  of  death.’ (Mckenzie’s  Dictionary  of  Bible,  875) 

When  the  Jews  got  ejected  from  the  temple  for  good,  its  building  was  also  destroyed  and  there  does  not  exist  any  temple  on  this  planet  for  the  last  twenty  centuries.  If  the  Government  of  Israel  gets  the  temple  reconstructed,  for  which  it  is  trying  hard,  and  there  are reasons to believe that it may succeed in it, its main sanctuary would again become prohibited for the Gentiles. It is only the sanctuary of Makkah, where Muslims of all nations from all over the world have been coming regularly since time immemorial.

(b) The contents of v.4, ‘Lift up thine eyes round about, and see: all they gather themselves together, they come to thee; thy sons shall come from far, and thy daughters shall be nursed at thy side. [GNB has well translated it as, ‘Your daughters will be carried like children’]’ had never been applicable to the ‘Second Temple’. But as far as the Ka’bah is concerned, they are fully applicable to it in every sense of the words. It would be interesting to note that the Qur’an has described the phenomenon of the Pilgrimage and the sacrifices to be offered there as:

And when We settled for Abraham the place of the House [the Ka’bah]: ‘Thou shall not associate with Me anything. And do thou purify My House for those that shall go about it and those that stand, for those that bow and prostrate themselves; and proclaim among men the Pilgrimage, and they shall come unto thee on foot and upon every lean beast, they shall come from every deep ravine that they may witness things profitable to them and mention God’s Name on days well-known over such beasts of the flocks as He has provided them: So eat thereof, and feed the wretched poor. Let them then finish with their self-neglect and let them fulfil their vows, and go about [circumambulate] the Ancient House.’ [A. J. Arberry,  The  Koran Interpreted,  p.  336,  (22:26-29)]. 

(…).  ‘Such  (is  the  Pilgrimage):  Whoever honours  the  sacred  Rites  of  God,  for  him  it  is  good in the sight of his Lord’   [A  Yusuf  Ali,  The  Holy  Qur’an,  p.  858,  (22:32)] 

(c)  It  can  by  no  means  be  said  of  the  ‘Second  Temple’  as the  v.  5  claims, ‘the  abundance  of  the  sea  shall  be  converted  unto  thee,  the  forces  of  the  Gentiles  shall  come unto  thee.’   It  is  true  only  of  the  Ka’bah  at  Makkah,  that  although  it  is  situated  in  a  barren  land,  yet  it  is abundantly  provided  with  every  sort  of  the  provisions  of the  world.  Again  it  is  Makkah  that  the  faithful  Muslim Gentiles  (men  and  women)  from  all  over  the  world assemble  there  together  with  all  their  utilities  through  sea routes,  land  routes,  and  by  air.  It  has  been  recorded  in verse  8:  ‘Who  are  these  that  fly  as  a  cloud,  and  as  the doves  to  their  windows?’ The  landings  of  the  aeroplanes carrying  the  millions  of  pilgrims  for  the  sanctuary  of  Makkah  depict  the  exact  picture  of  the  verse.  No  planes coming  to  any  sanctuary  on  earth  present  this phenomenon. 

(d)  Who  can  claim  about  the  Second Temple  as  has  been  asserted  in  v.6, ‘The  multitude  of  camels  shall  cover  your  land,  The  dromedaries  [young camels]  of  Midian  and  Ephah;  All  they  from  Sheba  shall come:  They  shall  bring  gold  and  incense;  and  they  shall proclaim  the  praises  of  the  Lord. [The  Nelson’s  Study  Bible,  1208]’  It  never  happened  at any  stage  of  the  history  of  the  world  that  such  great multitudes  of  the  Arabian  people  might  have  visited  the sanctuary  of  Jerusalem  in  the  form  of  the  camel  caravans.  As  regards  the  sanctuary  of  Makkah  and  the  sacrifices being  offered  there,  it  is  true  to  the  letter.  It  will  also  be appreciated  that  the  pilgrims  utter  the  ‘Talbiyah’  (a  part of  which  is  ‘All  praise  belongs  to  you,  O  God.’)  loudly  as  the  Bible  has  noted  ‘they  shall  proclaim  or  shew  forth [i.e.  declare  loudly  or  openly]  the  praises  of  the  Lord.’   

(e) No man on earth can endorse to the claim of v.7 regarding  the  ‘Second  Temple’  that:  ‘All  the  flocks  of Kedar  shall  be  gathered  together  unto  thee,  the  rams  of  Nebaioth  shall  minister  unto  thee:  they  shall  come  up with  acceptance  on  mine  altar,  and  I  will  glorify  the house  of  my  glory.’ Kedar  and  Nebaioth  are  the  sons  of Ishma‘el  and  their  descendants  have  been  living  in  Arabia  for  thousands  of  years.  There  had  been  no  tradition  amongst  them  to  visit  Jerusalem  and  to  offer  sacrifices  there.  On  the  other  hand  every  informed  citizen  of  the  modern  world  knows  that  they  have  been  coming  to  the  sanctuary  at  Makkah  for  Pilgrimage  since  time immemorial.  Isn’t  it  a  sufficient  proof  of  the  fact  that  the  above  verses  of  chapter  LX  of  the  book  of  Isaiah  exclusively  refer  to  the  offering  of  sacrifices  at  the sanctuary  of  Makkah  by  the  descendants  of  Abraham’s  son  Ishma‘el.  It  is  further  to  be  considered  how  God  can  glorify  the  house  that  does  not  even  exist  on  earth.  It  is only  the  house  of  God’s  glory  at  Makkah  that  has  been  safely  existing  since  time  immemorial  which  can  be glorified  and  is  physically  glorified  in  every  sense  of  the word.  Page  H.  Kelley  has  explained  this  verse  as, ‘The tribes  of  Arabia  also  bring  sacrificial  offerings  of  flocks and  rams.’ [Page  H.  Kelley  in  the  Broadman  Bible  Commentary.,  ed.  Clifton  J.  Allen etc.,  (Nashville,  Tennessee:  Broadman  Press,  1971),  5:360]  And  the  fact  is  that  the  tribes  of  Arabia  never  took  their  sacrifices  to  Jerusalem.  The  tradition  amongst  them  has  prevailed  to  bring  sacrificial  offerings to  Makkah,  which  is  an  important  ritual  during  their Pilgrimage. 

(f)  It  has  been  claimed  in  v.  9  that, ‘Surely  the  isles  shall  wait  for  me,  and  the  ships  of  Tarshish  first, to  bring  thy  sons  from  far.’ Tarshish  was  situated  on  the  south  coast  of  Spain,  as  explained  above.  As  long  as  the  Jerusalem  Temple  existed,  there  was  no  question  of  any  Spaniards  coming  to  it  for  offering  any  sacrifices.  On  the  other hand,  Spain  had  been  conquered  by  the  Arabs  in  the  first  century  of  Hijrah  and  they  had  settled  there.  These  sons of Abraham through his son Ishma‘el, as the Arabs are, regularly  visited  the  sanctuary  of  Makkah  to  perform Umrah  (small  Pilgrimage,  which  is  performed  the  whole year  through)  and  Pilgrimage  and  offered  their  sacrifices there  to  commemorate  Abraham’s  offering  their  forefather  Ishma‘el  for sacrifice. 

(g)  As  regards  v.11, ‘thy gates  shall  be  open  continually;  they  shall  not  be  shut  day nor  night’, this  writer  has  himself  visited  the  sanctuary  at Makkah.  It  has  been  noted  that  it  remains  open  around the  clock.  It  has  been  a  perpetually  celebrated  tradition through  the  ages.  As  regards  the  ‘Second  Temple’,  when there  does  not  exist  any  building  thereof,  how  the  gates can  remain  open  day  or  night. 

(h)  Verse  14  asserts, ‘The  sons  also  of  them  that  afflicted  thee  shall  come  bending unto  thee;  and  all  they  that  despised  thee  shall  bow themselves  down  at  the  soles  of  thy  feet;  and  they  shall call  thee,  the  city  of  the  Lord,  the  Zion  of  the  Holy  One of  Israel.’ It  is  true  of  the  sanctuary  of  Makkah  verbatim et  literatim.  It  physically  happened  in  January,  630  at  the  time  of  the  Conquest  of  Makkah  by  the  Prophet  of  Islam.  As  regards  the  phrase  ‘The  Zion  of  the  Holy  One  of  Israel’,  it  does  not  fit  in  the  context.  It  is  obviously  an  interpolation  by  some  redactor  or  a  gloss  by  some  commentator.  ‘The  city  of  the  Lord’  is  the  exact translation  of  ‘Baytullah’  which  is  the  Arabic  name  of ‘Ka’bah’ 

(i)  The  opening  clause  of  v.  15, ‘Whereas  thou hast  been  forsaken  and  hated,’  plainly  refers  to  Hagar.  In  the  relevant  footnote  above,  it  has  been  noted  with  reference  to  Dummelow  and  the  7th  Day  Adventist  Bible Commentary  that  ‘The  figure  is  that  of  a  forsaken  wife.’  As  regards  the  last  sentence  of  the  verse, ‘I  will  make  thee  an  eternal  excellency,  a  joy  of  many  [in  fact  this  word  should  have  been  ‘all’  as  has  been  translated  by  NIV, etc.]  generations’  the  words  ‘eternal  excellency’  and  ‘a joy  of  all  generations’  can  in  no  way  be  applied  to  the  temple  of  Jerusalem.  It  is  only  the  sanctuary  of  Makkah  that  the  words  can  be  attributed  to  in  true  sense. 

(j)  Verse 18  reads  as, ‘Violence  shall  no  more  be  heard  in  thy  land, wasting  nor  destruction  within  thy  borders;  but  thou  shalt call  thy  walls  Salvation,  and  thy  gates  Praise.’ Not  to  say of  Jerusalem’s  Temple  being  secured  from  ‘violence, wasting,  and  destruction’  it  does  not  even  exist  on  earth  for  the  last  two  thousand  years.  The  contents  of  this  verse  can  in  no  way  be  applied  to  the  Temple  of  Jerusalem. On  the  other  hand  it  is  applicable  to  the  sanctuary  of  Makkah  in  true  sense  of  the  words. 

(k)  V.21  says, ‘Thy  people  also  shall  be  all  righteous;  they  shall  inherit the  land  for  ever.’ Who  can  claim  the  Jewish  people  to have  inherited  the  land  of  Jerusalem  forever?  On  the  other  hand  every  knowledgeable  person  knows  that  the  Arabs  have  been  holding  the  land  of  the  sanctuary  of  Makkah  since  time  immemorial.  As  to  the  last  clause  of the  verse,  ‘that  I  may  be  glorified’,  anybody  who  has  happened  to  perform  a  Pilgrimage  or  Umrah  at  the sanctuary of Ka’bah, would verify the statement. 

King  David  has  mentioned  the  Pilgrimage  of  Bakkah  in  his 84th  Psalm.  He  wishes  that  he  could  also  have  the opportunity  of  accompanying  the  pilgrims.  He  envies  at  the  birds  who  make  nests  and  reside  there  in  the  house  of  the  Lord,  whereas  he  cannot  even  pay  a  visit  to  it.  He  longs  for  the  Lord  and  the  courts  of  His  house  and  exclaims, ‘A  day  in  thine  courts  is  better  than  a  thousand.  I  had  rather  be  a  doorkeeper  in  the  house  of  my  God.’ What  an  ardent  desire!  An  objective  study  of  the  Psalm  has  been  undertaken  in  this  chapter.

As  to  the  authorship  of  this  song,  it  can  safely  be  considered  as  a  genuine  work  of  King  David  himself.  Some  of  the  authorities  are  given here. 

Matthew  Henry’s  An  Exposition  of  the  O&NT,  (4:324)  explains  in its  introduction:  

Though  David’s  name  be  not  in  the  title  of  this  song,  yet  we  have reasons  to  think  he  was  the  penman  of  it,  because  it  breathes  so much  of  his  excellent  spirit  and  is  so  much  like  the  sixty-third  psalm  which  was  penned  by  him;  (…),  witness  this  psalm,  which contains  the  pious  breathing  of  a  gracious  soul  after  God  and  communion  with  him.   

7th  Day  Adventist  Bible  Commentary (3:827)  writes  in  its  introduction  to  this  psalm:

Psalm  84  was  composed  by  David,  the  Lord’s  ‘anointed’ (…).  It  is  a passionate  lyrical  expression  of  devotion  and  love  for  the  house  of  Jehovah  and  His  worship.  The  psalm  seems  to  describe  the blessedness  of  those  who  dwell  in  the  sacred  precincts  (vs.  1-4,  911);  the  blessedness  of  those  who  make  pilgrimages  to  the  sanctuary (vs. 5-8).   

Peake’s Com. on the Bible (p. 431) observes: 

The period of its composition is clearly that of the monarchy.  It shows that the commentators take it to be written by David himself.

Most  of  the  points  have  been  explained  at  the spot in the footnotes. The Psalm is reproduced hereunder:

1. How amiable are thy tabernacles, O Lord of hosts! 2. My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the Lord: my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God. 3. Yea, the sparrow hath found an house, and a swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, Even thy altars, O Lord of hosts, my king, and my God. 4. Blessed are they that dwell in thy house: they will be still praising thee. Selah. 5. Blessed is the man whose strength is in thee; in whose heart are the ways of them. 6. Who passing through the valley of Baca make it a well; the rain also filleth the pools. 7. They go from strength to strength, every one of them in Zion appeareth before God. 8. O Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer: give ear, O God of Jacob. Selah. 9. Behold, O God our shield, and look upon the face of thine anointed. 10. For a day in thine courts is better than a thousand. I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness. 11. For the Lord God is a sun and shield: the Lord will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly. 12. O Lord of hosts, blessed is the man that trusteth in thee.

1. How amiable are thy tabernacles(a), O Lord of hosts! (b)

(a) The actual Hebrew word used here is ‘mishkawn’ which is the exact synonym for the Arabic word ‘maskan’, i.e, residence. According to the Strong’s Dictionary (Entry 4908, p. 74), it means: ‘a residence; dwelling (place), habitation.’ So ‘thy tabernacles, O Lord of hosts’ would literally mean: ‘Your house O Lord of nations.’ It would be ‘Baytullah’ in Arabic, which is al-Ka’bah of Makkah. Keeping in view the fact that the Solomon’s Temple had not so far been built, it becomes certain that it refers to only Ka’bah of Makkah, as there did not exist any ‘House of Lord’ on earth except it by that time.

(b) ‘Lord of hosts’ may imply here that He is not the Lord of Israel only; but He is the Lord of all the nations. 

2. My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the Lord(c): my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God.

(c) Gray & Adams Bible Com., 2:611 explains: 

David says not, Oh how I long for my palace, my crown, my sceptre, my kingdom; but oh how I long to return to the house of God!  [the word ‘return’ shows that King David had previously been to this place.] It may, however, be noted that the construction of Solomon’s Temple had not yet begun. By the time of King David, there existed only one ‘House of God’, which had been built at Bakkah (the name of Makkah at that time), by his forefathers, Abraham and Ishma‘el.

3. Yea(d), the sparrow hath found an house, and a swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young(e), Even thy altars, O Lord of hosts, my king, and my God(f).

(d) NOAB (p. 747) has afforded a very beautiful footnote on vv. 3-4, ‘Envy of the birds and servitors [a male servant] who live there.’   The comments by the Collegeville Bible Com. (p. 772) on these vv 3-4 are also noteworthy, ‘All living things are safe from threat in the presence of the Lord.’  

(e) Matthew Henry’s An Exposition of the O&NT, (4:24, 25) observes at this point:

He would rather live in a bird’s nest nigh God’s altars than in a palace at a distance from them. It is better to be serving God in solitude than serving sin with a multitude. (…). Observe, David envies the happiness not of those birds that flew over the altars, and had only transient view of God’s courts, but of those that had nests for themselves there. David will not think it enough to sojourn in God’s house as a way-faring man that turns aside to tarry for a night; but let this be his rest, his home; here he will dwell.

4. Blessed are they that dwell in thy house: they will be still(g) praising thee.(h) Selah.(i)

(g) According to Gray & Adams Bible Com., 2:611, ‘still’ here means, ‘all the day long’.

(h) NIV, (p.621) translates it as: ‘they are ever praising you’, instead of: ‘they will be still praising thee.’

(i) A New Catholic Com. on Hebrew Scripture (p.473) renders this v. as, ‘Blessed [be] those who dwell in thy house, still they praise thee.’ It further observes, ‘Yet the idea of “They are pilgrims at heart” is consistent with the theme of the psalm.’

5. Blessed is the man whose strength is in thee;(j) in whose heart are the ways of them. (k)

(j) NIV, (p.621) has well translated it as: ‘who have set their hearts on pilgrimage’, instead of: ‘in whose heart are the ways of them.’

(k) The 7th Day Adventist Bible Com. (3:828) explains the verse:

The second blessing is bestowed on those who hold God in their hearts as they make the pilgrimage.  

It may be noted at this point that some of the translations have arbitrarily inserted the word ‘Zion’ here; e.g. NOAB (p.849) and Praise Songs of Israel: a Rendering of the Book of Psalms (John DeWitt), as recorded in OT books of poertry from 26 translations, ed. Curtis Vaughan (Michigan: Zondervan Bible Publishers, 1973), p. 334, write: ‘in whose heart are the highways to Zion.’ NOAB has also recorded a footnote to it saying, ‘Heb. lacks to Zion’ (p. 849). But this word ‘Zion’ does not exist in most of the English translations. The original Hebrew also lacks it as quoted above with refence to NOAB. On the contrary most of the translations use here the word of ‘pilgrimage’ or ‘pilgrim’. 

The Holy Bible Containing O & N T: An Improved Edition (American Baptist Publication Society), as recorded in OT books of poertry from 26 translations), p. 334, translates it as, ‘In their heart the pilgrim-way.’ A New Translation of the Bible by James Moffatt (as recorded in OT books of poertry from 26 translations, p. 334) translates it as, ‘Set out on pilgrimage.’ 

New English Bible translates (p.441) it as, ‘Whose hearts are set on the pilgrim-ways’

NIV translates it as, ‘Who have set their hearts on pilgrimage.’

CEV (p. 707) translates it as:

You bless all who depend on you for their strength and all who deeply desire to visit your temple.

And the Temple of the Lord, by that time, was only the Ka‘bah at Makkah.

6. Who passing through the valley of Baca(l) make it a well(m); the rain also filleth the pools.(n)
It clearly shows that the theme of the Psalm 84 is the ‘Pilgrimage’.

(l) Matthew Henry’s An Exposition of the O&NT, (4:326) here observes:

Our way to heaven lies through a valley of Baca, but even that may be made a well if we make due improvement of the comforts God has provided for the pilgrims of the heavenly city.

(m) Gray & Adams Bible Com., 2:612 explains:

To such a one, whose soul is athirst for God, the valley of Baca becomes a well, while the hot rock pours out its streams of blessing.

(n) The Peshitta, (p.628): 

They have passed through the valley of weeping [the word ‘weeping’ shows that the actual word here was ‘Baca’, because its meaning, if not taken as a proper noun, is ‘weeping’], and have made it a dwelling place; the Lawgiver shall cover it with blessings.

7. They go from strength(o) to strength, every one of them in Zion appeareth before God.
8. O Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer: give ear, O God of Jacob. Selah.
9. Behold, O God our shield, and look upon the face of thine anointed.
10. For a day in thine courts is better than a thousand. I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness.(p)
11. For the Lord God is a sun and shield(q): the Lord will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.
12. O Lord of hosts, blessed is the man that trusteth in thee. [Ps. 84: 1-12]

(o) The actual Hebrew word used here in the Bible is  ‘khahyil’. According to Strong’s Dictionary, (Entry 2428, p. 39), it means, ‘an army, strength, band of men, company.’

(p) Gray & Adams Bible Com., 2:612 explains: 

The poet would rather be the humblest of the guests of Jehovah than dwell at ease among the heathen.   

It depicts the honour and esteem which the poet attaches to the ‘House of God’.

(q) The Peshitta (p. 628) presents it as: 

For the Lord God is our supply and our helper;  

It would be advisable that a verse to verse study be undertaken to ascertain the theme of the Psalm.
Verse 1, as translated by NIV (p. 621) and NOAB (p. 747) asserts, ‘How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord Almighty! (NOAB: O Lord of hosts!)’ It means that the Psalm relates to some dwelling place of the Lord Almighty, which  physically  existed  at  that  time.  The  Arabic  version  of the  ‘dwelling  place  of  the  Lord  Almighty’  is  ‘Bayt  Allah’,  which  means  the  ‘House  of  the  Lord’.  It  had  been  built  by his  primogenitor  Abraham  and  physically  existed  there  in Makkah  with  the  same  name  as  a  ground  reality.  It  was, however,  also  called  ‘The  Ka’bah’  by  the  Arabs.  On  the other  hand,  there  existed  no  ‘dwelling  place’  of  the  ‘Lord Almighty’  or  ‘Bayt  Allah’  anywhere  else  on  earth  at  that time.  The  ‘Solomon’s  Temple’  did  not  exist  at  that  time.  It was  built  almost  half  a  century  later.  Its  construction  could not  even  be  started  during  the  lifetime  of  King  David.  So  there  obviously  remains  no  option  but  to  consider  this ‘dwelling  place’  of  the  ‘Lord  Almighty’  as  the  ‘Bayt  Allah’ or  ‘The  Ka’bah’  situated  at  Makkah.  And  there  are  other reasonable  grounds  as  well  in  the  body  of  this  very  Psalm which  make  the  proposition  quite  certain.

Verse  2  shows  the  passionate  earnestness  of  the  king  for  the courts  of  the  Lord,  the  Living  God.  It  reveals  that  the  ‘courts  of  the  Living  Lord’  already  existed  somewhere,  but  are  not  situated  within  his  empire,  and,  as  such,  he  cannot  visit  them.  Therefore  he  can  only  long  for  ‘the  courts  of  the Lord’.  

As  regards  verses  3-4,  the  comments  recorded  in  the  relevant footnotes  above  sufficiently  make  the  theme  clear.  NOAB (p.  747)  has  afforded  a  very  beautiful  footnote  on  vv.  3-4, ‘Envy  of  the  birds  and  servitors (Servitor  means:  A  man  servant)  who  live  there.’ The comments  by  the  Collegeville  Bible  Com.  (p.  772)  on  these  verses  3-4  are  also  noteworthy,  ‘All  living  things  are  safe  from  threat  in  the  presence  of  the  Lord.’   The  7th  Day  Adventist Bible  Commentary  (3:828)  explains  these  verses  in  the  following words:  

The  general  meaning  of  the  verse,  whose  conclusion  the poet  only  implies,  is  that  even  the  birds  have  free  access  to the  sacred  precincts  of  the  sanctuary,  they  make  their  homes there undisturbed, while the psalmist is exiled from the source  of  his  joy,  is  denied  the  privilege  of  worshipping within  the  sacred  enclosure  [stress  added].  The  nostalgic appeal  of  this  verse  is  one  of  the  most  delicately  beautiful expressions  of  homesickness  in  the  whole  realm  of  literature.

Verses  1-4  can  be  summed  up  as  follows:

1.  King  David  is  paying  homage  to  such  a  sanctuary which  pertained  to  God  and  which  physically  existed  there  as  a  ground  reality.

2.  King  David  had  an  earnest  desire  to  visit  this  sanctuary,  but  he  could  not  accomplish  it.  Obviously,  it  could  have  been  due  to  the  fact  that  this  sanctuary  might  have  been  outside  the  territorial  boundaries  of  his  state.  

3.  Solomon’s  Temple  had  not  so  far  been  built.  There  existed  only  one  sanctuary  on  earth  devoted  to  the  worship  of  the  only  one  God  whose  construction  was  attributed  to  Abraham,  i.e.  the  Ka’bah  at  Makkah,  and  there  did  not  exist  any  such  other  sanctuary  on  eart  by  that  time.    

4.  King  David  expresses  his  yearnings  that  even  the  birds  can  set  their  dwellings  in  the  courts  of  the  Lord,  but  he  is  deprived  of  the  privilege  of  the  pilgrimage  of  this  house  of  the  Lord.  

The  translation  of  the    second  clause  of  verse  5  in  the  KJV  (‘in  whose  heart  are  the  ways  of  them’)  is  not  clear.  Most  of  the  other  translations  have  rendered  the  theme  as  who  have  set  their  hearts  on  pilgrimage  or  the  like.  Here  is  a  list  of  some  translations,  versions,  and  commentaries  of  the  Bible  which  relate  the  theme  of  the  verse  and  the  Psalm  with pilgrimage:                        

(i) Bible  Knowledge  Commentary  p.  855.  

(ii) Christian Community  Bible,  p. 1000.  

(iii) Collegeville  Bible  Commentary,  p.772.  

(iv) Contemporary  English  Version,  p.  707.  

(v) Good  News  Bible,  p.  900.  

(vi) Jerome  Bible  Com.,  p.  591.  

(vii) New  American  Bible,  p.  615.  

(viii)  New  Bible  Commentary  p.  472.  

(ix)  New Bible  Commentary  (Rvd),  p.  504.    

(x) New Catholic  Commentary,  p.  473. 
(xi) New Commentary  on  Holy  Scripture,  p.  264.  

(xii) New  English  Version,  p.  441.

(xiii) New  International  Version.,  p.  621.

(xiv) New  Jerome  Commentary,  p.540.  

(xv) New Jerusalem  Bible,  p.900.

(xvi) New  KJV  (Nelson  Study  Bible),  p.  966.  

(xvii) Peake’s  Bible  Commentary  p.  431.

(xviii)  Today’s  English  Version,  p.  607.  

(xix) Wycliffe  Bible  Commentary,  p.  526.  

(xx)  7th  Day  Adventist  Bible  Commentary,  p.  828.  

(xxi) The  Holy  Bible  (Old  and  New.  Testament):  An Improved  edn.  (American  Baptist  Publication Society),  as  quoted  by  ‘The  Old  Testament  Books  of Poetry  from  26  Translations’,  p.  334.  

(xxii)    A  New  Translation  of  the  Bible  (James  Moffatt),  as  quoted by  ‘The  OT  Books  of  Poetry  from  26  Trans.’,  p.  334.

It  can  be  appreciated  from  the  above  data  that  the  Psalm refers  to  some  pilgrimage  which  has  traditionally  been performed  at  some  sanctuary  for  a  long  time.  First  of  all King  David  is  bestowing  the  blessings  in  this  psalm  upon those  ‘that  dwell  permanently  in  the  house  of  the  Lord  and  are ever  praising  Him.’  Secondly  he  is  bestowing  the  blessings upon  those  ‘who  have  set  their  hearts  on  pilgrimage  [but are  not  the  permanent  residents  of  it].’  It  shows  that  the sanctuary  physically  exists  there.  It  is  practically  dedicated to  the  Lord  and  not  to  any  thing  else  whatsoever.  People travel  to  it  to  perform  ‘Pilgrimage’.

It  is  to  be  noted  that  the  sanctuary  of  Jerusalem,  the Solomon’s  Temple,  did  not  exist  there  by  that  time.  It  was built  about  half  a  century  later.  The  sanctuary  of  Ka’bah, called  the  ‘Bayt  Allah’  or  the  ‘House  of  the  Lord’  by  the Arabs,  existed  there  at  Makkah  in  Arabia  as  a  ground  reality  for  the  last  about  one  thousand  years  (before  King David).  The  descendants  of  his  primogenitor  Abraham  through  his  son  Ishma‘el  and  the  tribes  of  the  whole  of  the  Arabian  Peninsula  travelled  to  perform  pilgrimage  there  in  large  multitudes.  They  pronounced  (which  they  still  pronounce)  the  praise  of  the  Lord  during  their  pilgrimage saying,  

I  am  present,  O  my  Lord,  I  am  present;  (…);  of  course,  all praise  is  for  you,  and  all  grace,  and  all  sovereignty;  there  is no  partner  to  you.  

David  should  have  had  deep  love,  longing,  and  reverence  for  it,  because  it  had  been  built  by  his  primogenitor, Abraham.  But  it  was  outside  his  empire  and,  being  a  king  of  another  land  and  engaged  in  constant  battles,  he  could  not  visit  it  then.  So  he  wishes  he  could  have  attended  the  sanctuary  and  performed  pilgrimage  there  with  offering  sacrifice  on  it.  There  was  another  genuine  reason  for  David’s  longing  for  the  Pilgrimage  of  Bakkah,  which  is  being  stated  under  the  next  heading.

From  the  perusal  of  the  material  of  the  chapter  provided  so  far,  it  would  easily  be  appreciated  that:

i)   Some  ‘House  of  the  Lord  of  nations’  already  existed  during  the  days  of  King  David.

ii)   It  was  a  sanctuary  and  was  abundantly  visited  by  pilgrims  from  far  and  near.

iii)  King  David  had  happened  to  stay  there  for  a considerable  period  of  time.

iv)  It  was  situated  in  the  valley  of  Bakkah.

v)  After  going  back  to  his  motherland  he  could  not  have an  opportunity  to  visit  this  sanctuary  due  to  some  reasons.

vi)  He  expressed  his  earnest  desire  to  visit  this  sanctuary.  

vii)  He  envies  the  birds  which  uninterruptedly  make  their nests  in  this  sanctuary  and  reside  there.

viii)  He  is  so  fond  of  this  ‘house  of  the  Lord’  that  he  would  prefer  to  be  a  doorkeeper  there  than  to  live  in  his  own  homeland,  whom  he  calls  the  land  of  wickedness  as  compared  to  the  sanctuary.

ix)  According  to  him  ‘a  day  in  the  court  of  Lord’  is  better than  a  thousand  (else-where).

x)  The  Jewish  sanctuary  (i.e.  the  Solomon’s  Temple)  did  not  exist  at  that  time.  It  was  built  by  his  son  Solomon  after  his  death.  By  that  time  there  existed  only  the  sanctuary  of  Ka‘bah  at  Makkah,  which  was  built  by  his  primogenitor  Abraham,  and  Ishma‘el  about  ten  centuries  earlier  and  hundreds  of  thousands  of  people  visited  it  all  the  year  through.  

David  had  rendered  great  services  to  King  Saul  but, accoreding  to  the  Bible,  Saul,  seeing  David’s  popularity and  power,  became  jealous  of  him  and  wanted  to  kill  him. Smith’s  BD  explains:

Unfortunately  David’s  fame  proved  the  foundation  of  that unhappy  jealousy  of  Saul  towards  him  which,  mingling  with  the  king’s  constitutional  malady  [illness],  poisoned  his whole  future  relations  to  David.  (…).  He  [David]  also  still performed  from  time  to  time  the  office  of  minstrel  [singer  or musician  of  the  king’s  court];  but  the  successive  attempts  of  Saul  upon  his  life  convinced  him  that  he  was  in  constant danger.  (…),  he  escaped  by  night,  (…).  David’s  life  for  the  next  few  years  was  made  up  of  a  succession  of  startling  incidents.  (…);  he  is  hunted  by  Saul  from  place  to  place  like a  partridge. [Smith’s  Bible  Dic.,  138]

In  the  mean  time  David’s  patron,  Prophet  Samuel  died. David  fled  to  the  wilderness  of  Paran  to  remain  out  of Saul’s  reach.

Then  Samuel  died;  and  the  Israelites  gathered  together  and lamented  for  him,  and  buried  him  at  his  home  in  Ramah.  And David  arose  and  went  down  to  the  Wilderness  of  Paran. [I  Sam, 25:1 NKJV] 

This  Paran  can  obviously  be  the  place  where  Ishma‘el  and  Hagar  settled  after  Abraham  had  left them  there.  Had  it  been  the  other  Paran  (of  Sinai),  it  would have been in approach of Saul; and David would not have been safe there. It can thus only be that Paran which has been described in the Bible in the following words: 

And God heard the voice of the lad; and the angel of God Called to Hagar out of heaven, and said unto her, What aileth thee, Hagar? fear not; for God hath heard the voice of the lad where he is. Arise, lift up the lad, and hold him in thine hand; for I will make him a great nation. And God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water; and she went, and filled the bottle with water, and gave the lad drink. And God was with the lad; and he grew, and dwelt in the wilderness, and became an archer. And he dwelt in the wilderness of Paran: and his mother took him a wife out of the land of Egypt. [Genesis 21:17-21]

Had it been the other Paran (of Sinai), it would have been quite in approach of Saul, and David would not have been safe there.

It is a historically admitted fact and ground reality that the Ka’bah was built by Abraham and Ishma‘el. The Ishma‘elite Arabs performed pilgrimage there. David had the opportunity to live there and perform the pilgrimage of al-Ka’bah during his stay at Bakkah in the wilderness of Paran. That’s why he yearns to have the opportunity to visit the place of his refuge and perform its pilgrimage once again.

Verse  6  ‘Who  passing  through  the  valley  of  Baca  make  it  a well;  the  rain  also  filleth  the  pools.’ points  out  the  exact  proper  name  of the  place  from which  the  pilgrims  have  to  pass  through  for  the  accomplishment  of  their  pilgrimage  at  ‘Arafat.  It  is  to  be  noted  that  some  of  the  translations  have  changed  the  word  ‘Baca’  with  some  other  word.  The  New  Jerusalem  Bible  (p. 900, 901)  has  translated  it  as  ‘Balsam’  and  has  remarked  in  the  footnote,  ‘In  seven  MSS  and  in  versions,  ‘the  valley  of  Tears’ (the  Hebrew  words  for  these  two  words  are  identical  when spoken).’  Some  other  translations  have  not  taken  the  word  ‘Baca’  as  a  proper  noun  and  have  translated  it  to  ‘misery’,  ‘Weary-glen’,  ‘thirsty  valley’,  etc.  All  the  26  translations  of  Dr.  Curtis  Vaughan’s  ‘The  OT  Books  of  Poetry  from  26 Translations’  have  basically  considered  the  original  Hebrew word  as  ‘Baca’.  The  7th  Day  Adventist  Bible  Com.  reports:

The  LXX  and  the  Vulgate  translate  the  phrase ‘valley of Baca’ as  ‘valley of Tears.’

It means that according to these Greek and Latin translations of the Bible as well, the original Hebrew word here is ‘Baca’. Here is a list of some more translations, versions, and commentaries of the Bible that have used the word ‘Baca’ at this place:

1. Bible Knowledge Commentary, p.855.   
2. Dummelow’s Bible Commentary, p.363. 3. GNB, p. 585.
4. Gray & Adams Bible Commentary, 1:612.
5. Matthew Henry’s Exposition, 4:324. 
6. NAB, p. 615.
7. NASB, p. 747.
8. NBC, p. 472.
9. NBC (Rvd), p. 504.
10. New Catholic Com., p.473, (Baka).
11. New Com. on Holy Scripture, p.364.
12. NIV, p. 621.
13. NKJV (Nelson Study Bible), p. 966.
14. New Oxford Annotated Bible, p. 747.
15. Paragraph Bible, p. 621.
16. Peake’s Bible Com., p. 431.
17. Readers Digest Bible, p.306. 18. RSV, p. 539.
19. TEV, p. 607.
20. Thompson’s Bible, p. 666.
21. 7th Day Adventist Bible Com., 3:827. 

The  fact  is  that  most  of  the  scholars  of  the  Bible  do  not know  the  location  of  Bakkah/Baca  and  they  clearly  admit this  fact.  Some  observations  of  some  of  these  authorities are  reproduced  hereunder:  

1.  Contemporary  English  Version  (p.  707)  has  recorded  a footnote  to  it:  

Dry  Valley:  Or  ‘Balsam  Tree  Valley.’  The  exact  location is not known.

2.  The  New  American  Bible  (p.  615)  says  in  its  footnote  to the  verse:  Baca  valley: 

Hebrew  obscure;  probably  a  valley  on  the way  to  Jerusalem.  
3.  The  Jerome  Biblical  Com.  (p.591),  taking  versus  7-8 collectively,  has  afforded  the  footnote:  

A  description  of  the  pilgrim’s  journey.  The  MT  is uncertain.   

4.  7th  Day  Adventist  Bible  Dictionary  has  afforded  a  fairly detailed  explanation  of  the  word.  Concluding  his  remarks he  could  not  help  asserting  its  uncertainty:

Baca  (baka).  [Heb.  Baka,  possibly  ‘balsam  tree.’]  The name  of  a  valley  in  Palestine  (Psalm  84:6),  possibly  so  named because  balsam  trees  grew  there.  Some  have  thought  that  it is  another  name  for  the  Valley  of  Rephaim,  where  trees  of that  species  were  found,  but  this  is  pure  conjecture.  There were  doubtless  many  valleys  in  which  balsam  trees  grew. Another  interpretation  names  it  the  valley  of  ‘weeping’  from the  Hebrew  bakah,  ‘to  weep,’  a  word  that  differs  only slightly from baka. However, neither interpretation helps to identify this place. [7th Day Adventist Bible Dic. Revised 1979 edn., 114] 

5. The New Oxford Annotated Bible (p. 747) in the footnote to verses 5-7 indicates: 

Baca, some unknown, desolate place through which the pilgrims must go.  

6. The Harper’s Bible Dictionary also holds the similar opinion:

Baca [bay’kuh], unidentified valley associated with weeping or balsam [Ps. 84:6]. The term is derived from the verb ‘to drip,’ hence its association with weeping. [Harper’s Bible Dictionary: 89]

7.  W. Smith’s A Dictionary of Bible although calls it ‘a valley in Palestine’, yet the air of uncertainty can be smelt from its following remarks:  

That it was a real locality is most probable from the use of the definite article before the name.   [William Smith, A Dictionary of the Bible, 73]

8. Collins Gem Dictionary of Bible has also expressed the similar views about it:

It may simply be a valley in Palestine (Ps. 84,6). It may simply be the Valley of the balsam trees, or it may be the Valley of Weeping (Heb. Bakah) or the Valley of little water. [Rev. James L. Dow, Collins Gem Dic. of the Bible, 54]

9.  J. Hasting’s Dictionary of the Bible Revised One Vol. edn. throws a shadow of doubt on it:

An allegorical place-name, found only in Ps. 846 (AV, RSV), where RV renders ‘Valley of Weeping.’ Most probably it is no more an actual locality than is the ‘Valley of the Shadow of Death’ in Ps 234. [J. Hasting’s Dictionary of the Bible Revised One Vol. edn., 84]

10. A.S. Aglen,  in  his  article  on  ‘Baca’ in Hasting’s Dictionary of  Bible,  discovers  nothing  but  uncertainties  about  the  valley:

If  an  actual  valley  (the  article  is  not  quite  conclusive),  it may  be  identified  either  with  ‘the  valley  of  Achor,  i.e. trouble’;  ‘the  valley  of  Rephaim’;  a  Sinaitic  valley  with  a similar  name  (Burckhardt);  or  the  last  station  of  the  caravan route  from  the  north  to  Jerusalem.

Perseverance  and  trust  not  only  overcome  difficulties,  but turn  them  into  blessings;  this  is  the  lesson,  whether  the valley  be  real  or  only  (as  the  Vulg.  Vallis  lacrymarum  has become)  an  emblem  of  life. [J.  Hastings,  A  Dictionary  of  the  Bible,  1:230]

11.  W.  H.  Morton  is  also  of  almost  the  similar  views.  In  his article  on  ‘Baca’  in  Interpreter’s  Dictionary  of  Bible  he  observes:
No  valley  of  such  a  name  has  yet  been  identified,  (….).  In the  same  vein,  it  is  quite  possible  that  the  valley  was  entirely symbolic. [Interpreter’s  Dictionary  of  Bible,  1:338]  

12.  Dr.  Frants  Buhl  (Copenhagen  Univ.)  and  Dr.  Morris Jastrow  (Univ.  of  Pennsylvania),  have  noted:

(…);  but  it  signifies  rather  any  valley  lacking  water. [Jewish  Encyclopaedia,  2:415]

13.  A  New  Commentary  on  Holy  Scripture  is  also  not  certain  as  to where  this  valley  of  Baca  is  to  be  found:

Baca  was  the  name  of  some  valley [Note  the  air  of uncertainty  regarding  the  location  of  the  valley!]  on  the  way to  the  city.  [A  New Commentary  on  Holy  Scripture,  364]

14.  Peake’s  Com.  On  Bible  observes:  

The  valley  of  Baca;  this  rendering  is  better  than  ‘valley  of weeping’ (LXX, RV). The location of the valley is unknown. Baca may mean ‘balsam tree’, which grows in dry soil. The point at all events seems to be that the valley is arid. [Peake’s Com. on Bible, 431] 

The above information makes it quite clear that the scholars of the Bible cannot confidently claim to locate the exact site of the ‘Valley of Baca’. It is because they relate it to the pilgrimage of the sanctuary at Jerusalem and don’t try to trace it somewhere else. It is to be regretted that they either forget or knowingly ignore that: 

(a) This Psalm was written by King David. 
(b) There did not exist any sanctuary during the lifetime of King David.
(c) The language and the composition of the Psalm reveal that King David is mentioning some sanctuary which physically existed there. 
(d) King David passionately desired to visit the sanctuary but it being outside his empire, he was unable to attend it. 

Had they not ignored the plain words and the purport of the Psalm, and had they sincerely tried to locate the place, they would have easily located it.

It  is  unanimously  accepted  that  the  original  word  in  the Hebrew  Bible  is  ‘Baca’.  The  context  clearly  indicates  that  it has  been  used  as  a  proper  noun  and  most  of  the  versions and  translations  of  the  Bible  have  retained  this  status.  Some of  the  translations  and  versions  have  misconceived  its status  and  have  taken  it  to  be  a  common  word.  Then  they tried  to  translate  it  whimsically  as:  weeping,  tears,  balsam tree,  mulberry,  some  of  the  other  trees,  dry  valley,  etc.  It does  not  seem  to  be  a  proper  approach  and  is  based  on some  misunderstanding.  

The  Hebrew  word  ‘Baca’  is  composed  of  three  alphabetical letters  =   (bka).  According  to  the  Strong’s  Dictionary  of the  Heb.  Bible  it  means:  

‘weeping’ (Strong’s  Dictionary  of  the  Hebrew  Bible,  p.  21,  entry  1056)  or  ‘the  weeping  tree  (some  gum-distilling tree,  perhaps  the  balsam,):— mulberry  tree.’ [Strong’s  Dictionary  of  the  Hebrew  Bible,  p.  21,  entry  1057]. 

‘Bakah’  is  also  composed  of  three  alphabetical  letters  =   (bkh), meaning  ‘to  weep;  gen.  to  bemoan,  to  bewail,  complain, mourn,  with  tears,  weep’.   [Strong’s  Dictionary  of  the  Hebrew  Bible,  p.  21,  entry  1058] 

The  vowel  symbols  had  not  been  introduced  in  the  Hebrew writing  system  until  the  seventh/eighth  century  AD.  It was  only  after  their  introduction  in  the  Qur’an  in  the  7th century  AD  that  some  proper  vocalization  system  for  the Bible was developed somewhere in the beginning of the seventh  century.  Before  the  introduction  of  the  vocalization system  in  Hebrew  writing,  the  words  ‘Baca’  and  ‘Bacca’; or  the  words  ‘Bakah’  and  ‘Bakkah’  were  to  be  written  in the  same  way.  King  David  had  actually  and  naturally  used the  word  ‘Bakkah’  in  his  Psalm.  Because  the  words  ‘Bakah’  and  ‘Bakkah’  were  written  in  the  Hebrew  script  in the  same  way,  it  got  the  pronunciation  of  ‘Baca’  or  ‘Bakah’  instead  of  the  correct  pronunciation  of  ‘Bakkah’  in  the  later Jewish  ages.  This  ‘Bakkah’  was  the  ancient  name  of ‘Makkah’  and  was  given  to  it  by  Abraham.  Originally  the city  was  called  by  this  name.  Here  are  some  of  the  Arab authorities  to  elaborate  it:

‘Lisan  al-‘Arab’  (the  language  of  the  ‘Arabs),  a  renowned Arabic  Dictionary  in  18  volumes,  explains:

Ya’qub  says,  ‘Bakkah  is  what  is  situated  in  between  the  two  mountains  of  Makkah,  because  the  people  crushed  one  another  during  the  circumambulation  or  overcrowded  there. (…).  It  is  said  that  Bakkah  is  the  name  of  the  interior  of  Makkah  and  it  was  given  this  name  due  to  the  crowding  and  swarming  of  the  people.  The  tradition  of  Mujahid  states, ‘Bakkah  is  among  the  names  of  Makkah.’  And  it  is  said,  ‘Bakkah  is  the  site  of  the  House  of  the  Lord,  and  Makkah  is  the  whole  of  the  city.’  It  is  also  said,  ‘Both  [Makkah  and Bakkah]  are  the  names  of  the  city;  and  [the  alphabetical letters]  “B”  and  “M”  succeed  (can  replace)  one  another.’ [Ibn  al-Manzur,  Lisan  al-‘Arab  (Beirut:  Dar  Sadir,  1300  AH), 10: 402]

Tahdhib  al-Lughah  (in  16  volumes)  is  one  of  the  most reliable  dictionaries  of  the  ‘Arabic  language.  It  explains  the word  as  follows:

Al-Layth  says:  al-bakk  means  breaking  the  neck.  It  is  said that  Makkah  was  named  Bakkah  because  it  broke  the  necks of  oppressors  when  they  deviated  from  the  right  course.  And it  is  said  that  Bakkah  was  named  Bakkah  because  the  people  crushed  or  pushed  away  one  another  in  the  paths.  ‘Amr reports  from  his  father:  Bakka  something,  i.e.  tore  or disjointed it; and from it was derived  Bakkah, because it broke  the  necks  of  the  oppressors  and  tyrants  when  they transgressed  in  it.  It  is  also  said  that  it  was  named  Bakkah because  people  crushed  one  another  in  its  routes.  (…).

Zajjaj  says:  It  is  said  that  Bakkah  is  the  site  of  the sanctuary,  and  what  is  all  around  it,  is  Makkah.  He  [Zajjaj]  said:  and  there  is  consensus  on  it  that  Makkah  and  Bakkah  are  the  place  where  the  people  resort  for  pilgrimage;  and  it  is the  city.  And  he  [Zajjaj]  said:  And  as  far  as  its  derivation  in the  lexicon  is  concerned  it  would  be  appropriate  to  say  that ‘the  people  crushed  one  another  in  the  circumambulation,  i.e. pushed  away  one  another.’  And  it  is  said:  Bakkah  was  given this  name,  because  it  crushed  the  necks  of  the  tyrants. [Abu  Mansur  Muhammad  bin  Ahmad al-Azhari,  Tahdhib  al-Lughah (al-Qahirah:  Al-Dar  al-Misriyah  littalif  wattarjamah,  n.d.),  9:463,64]  

‘Mu‘jam  al-Wasit’  says,  ‘Bakkah  =  Makkah’. [Mu‘jam  al-Wasit  (Beirut:  Dar  Ihya  al-Turath  al-‘Arabi, 1972), 1:67 ]

Al-Sihah  explains: ‘Bakkah’  is  the  name  of  the  inner  portion  of  ‘Makkah’.  It  was  thus  named  because  of  the  overcrowding  of  the  people  [in  it].  It  is  also  said  that  it  was  thus  named  because  it  crushed  and  broke  the  necks  of  the  oppressors. [ Ismail  bin  Hammad  al-Jawhari, Taj  al-Lughat  wa  Sihah  al‘Arabiyyah  (Beirut:  Dar  al-‘Ilm  lil  Malayin, 1984),  4:1576]  

Tartib  al-Qamus  al-Muhit  has  also  explained  ‘Bakkah’  in  a fair  detail: ‘Bakkah’  stands  either  for  ‘Makkah’;  or  for  what  lies between  its  two  mountains;  or  for  the  field  of circumambulation  [Mataf],  because  it  crushes  and  breaks  the necks  of  the  arrogant  or  because  of  the  overcrowding  of  the people  in  it. [Al-Ustadh  al-Tahir  Ahmad  al-zavi,  Tartib  al-Qamus  al-Muhit  ‘ala Tariqah  al-Misbah al-Munir, 1979, 1:308]

Muhit al-Muhit  is  also  one  of  the  authorities  of  the  ‘Arabic lexicons. It is a revised and advanced version of Firuzabadi’s  renowned  ‘Qamus’.  It  has  also  recorded similar explanation of the word:

It  is  the  name  of  what  lies  between  the  two  mountains  of Makkah  or  of  the  circumambulation  field  [Mataf].  It  is  said that  it  was  so  named  because  it  crushes  and  breaks  the  necks of  the  arrogant  or  because  of  the  overcrowding  of  the  people in  it. [Al-Mu‘allim  Butrus  al-Bustani,  Muhit  al-Muhit (Beirut: Maktabah Lubnan    Nashirun, 1993), 50]

Mu‘jam  Maqayis  al-Lughah  is  an  authority  as  regards  the basic  roots  of  the  Arabic  words.  It  explains  the  word  as follows:

‘Al-Khalil’  says  ‘Al-Bakku:  crushing  the  neck’,  and  it  is said  that  ‘Bakkah’  was  named  so  because  it  used  to  crush  the necks  of  the  oppressors.  When  they  inclined  towards oppression,  they  were  erased  from  the  scene.  It  is  also  said that  it  was  named  ‘Bakkah’  because  the  people  crush  one another  during  the  circiumambulation  or  pushed  them away. [Ahmad  bin  Faris,  Mu‘jam Maqayis  al-Lughah  (Beirut:  Dar  Ihya  al-turath  al-‘Arab,  2001),  92]  

Al-Khall  bin  Ahmad  (100-175  A.H.)  is  one  of  the  greatest, if  not  the  greatest,  authorities  on  Arabic  lexicon.  The  first Arabic  lexicon,  Kitāb  al-‘Ayn,  was  compiled  by  him.  He explains:

Al-Bakku:  to  crush  the  neck.  Makkah  was  named  Bakkah because  people  crush  one  another  in  the  Tawaf (circumambulation  of  Ka‘bah),  or  push  one  another  due  to overcrowding.  It  is  also  said  that  it  was  so  named  because  it crushed  the  necks  of  tyrants  when  they  deviated  (from  the right path) in it by way of oppression. [Al-Khall  bin  Ahmad,  Kitāb  al-‘Ayn,  (Beirut:  Dar  Ihya  al-turath  al‘Arabi,  2001),  84]

‘Akhbar Makkah’ is a detailed history of ‘Makkah’ in six volumes in the Arabic language. Here are some excerpts from its section on ‘Names of Makkah’:

One of the residents of Makkah (…) gave me a book written by some of his forefathers. In it were stated the names of Makkah which the residents of Makkah claimed to be, i.e. Makkah, Bakkah, Barrah, Bassasah, Umm al-Qura, al-Haram, al-Masjid al-Haram, and al-Balad al-Amin. Some people say that ‘Salahi’ is also among its names. Some of the Makkans claim that ‘Kutha’ is also one of its names. [Al-Imam Abi ‘Abd Allah Muhammad bin Ishaq al-Fakihi, Akhbar Makkah fi Qadim al-Dahr wa Hadithihi (Makkah: Maktabah al-Nahdat al-Hadithah, 1987), 2:282-3]

It is written beneath ‘al-Maqam’, I am Allah, Lord of ‘Bakkah’. I sanctified it on the day when the heavens and the earth were brought into existence. [Akhbar Makkah, 2:293]  

The Qur’an has used both ‘Makkah’ and ‘Bakkah’ for the name of the place. When it is mentioned as a place of the ancient times it has been named as ‘Bakkah’, as it has been used in surah Al ‘Imran (3) of the Qur’an:  
The first House ever to be built (as sanctuary) for men was that at Bakkah (Makkah), a blessed place, a beacon for the nations. In it, there are clear signs and the spot where Ibrahim stood. Whoever enters it is safe. Pilgrimage to the House is a duty to Allah for all who can make the journey. [The Quran, An Eng. Trans., tr. N. J. Dawood, revd. Dr. Zayid, (Beirut: Dar Al-Choura, 1980), 3:96,7; p. 43]

There is another occasion in the Qur’an where it has been mentioned in the perspective of the period contemporary with the Prophet of Islam:

It was He who restrained their hands from you and your hands from them in the valley of Makkah after He had given you victory over them. Allah was watching over all your actions. [The Quran, An Eng. Trans., tr. N. J. Dawood, al-Fath 48:24; p.43]

Here it has been mentioned with the name of ‘Makkah’, which shows that in the times of the Prophet of Islam the city was named as ‘Makkah’.

The source of the sounds (vocal organ) of the alphabetical letters ‘b’ and ‘m’ is one and the same: the lips. So by the passage of time ‘Makkah’ replaced ‘Bakkah’. It can thus be appreciated that the original and ancient name of the place was ‘Bakkah’. King David used this ancient name as it was in vogue during his days. It was only in the later centuries that it was replaced by Makkah.

The verse says, ‘passing through the valley of Baca [they] make it a well;’ Hagar passed through the valley of Baca in search of water for her son Ishma‘el. Consequently she was given a well [Beersheba or Zamzam]. Those who have happened to visit this valley of Bakkah know it well that ‘Ka‘bah’ is situated in a low lying area. Previously, when there was a heavy rain it turned into a pond. Now, a very sophisticated drainage system has been constructed there and the rain-water is quickly swept away. So every clause of the verse is perfectly pertinent to the ground realities of Makkah. 

Verse 7 asserts, ‘They go from strength to strength.’ It depicts the zeal of the pilgrims. As they draw nearer and nearer to the sanctuary, their fervour is increased, which gives them new strength and impetus instead of fatigue.

The  second  clause  of  the  verse  is,  ‘every  one  of  them  in Zion  appeareth  before  God’  or,  as  NIV  states,  ‘till  each appears  before  God  in  Zion.’  The  word  ‘Zion’  needs  to  be studied  in  a  fair  detail.

As  regards  its  meanings,  Encyclopaedia  Biblica  observes:  

Various  explanations  of  the  name  have  been  given. Gesenius  (Thes.  1164)  and  Lagarde  (Ubers.  84.  n)  derive from  [a  Hebrew  word  meaning]  ‘to  be  dry’  (…)  Wetzstein derives  from  ‘to  protect’  so  that  the  name  would  mean  ‘arx, citadel’;  cp  Zin.  

Interpreter’s  Dictionary  of  Bible  explains:  

The  etymology  of  the  name  is  uncertain.  It  may  be  related to  the  Hebrew  (sayon),  ‘dry  place’  ‘parched  ground’  (Isa. 25:5;  32:2).’ [Encyclopedia  Biblica, 4:5421]  

It  would  be  appreciated  that  ‘dry  place’  or  ‘parched  ground’ can  be  only  applied  to  arid,  barren,  and  sterile  land  of ‘Makkah’.  It  can  by  no  means  be  applied  to  the  verdant  and fertile  land  of  ‘Jerusalem’.

Like  other  Bible  names  ‘Zion’  may  also  have  more  than one  significations.  There  may  have  been  a  ‘Zion’  of  Makkah  and  the  other  of  Jerusalem.  But  in  the  sense  of  ‘dry  place,’  or  ‘parched  ground’  it  can  only  be  applied  to  ‘Makkah’  in  the  present  context.  It  is  not  possible  for  the  writer  of  this  book  to  dilate  upon  this  theme  here.  It  may,  however,  be  noted  that  the  implication  of  the  Zion  of  Jerusalem  is  to  be  ruled  out  due  to  the  fact  that  there  did  not  exist  any  sanctuary  at  Jerusalem  at  that  time.  The  rest  of  the  Psalm  depicts  the  strong  yearnings  of  King  David  to  have  some  opportunity  to  visit  the  sanctuary  of  the  Lord  like other  pilgrims.    

It  can  thus  be  appreciated  that  as  far  back  as  the  annals  of  history  and  tradition  can  be  traced,  there  has  been perpetually  commemorated  the act  of  Abraham’s  offering  his  genuinely  ‘only  son’,  Ishma‘el,  for  sacrifice  at  the mountainous  area  in  the  land  of  Moriah  (a  mountain situated  in  Makkah).  But  there  is  not  even  a  single  place,  or  a  ritual,  or  a  festivity,  or  a  trace,  or  a  building  amongst  the  Jewish  people  or  the  Christians  to  commemorate  the  event  of  the  offering  of  Abraham  his  ‘only  son’  for  sacrifice. 

It  is now  unto  the  reader  to  derive  an  objective  conclusion.