Akeidat Yitzchak and the Covenant at Sinai

This topic has not yet undergone editorial review


As noted by Yonatan Grossman,1 there are several similarities between the Sinaitic Covenant described in Shemot 24, and the story of Akeidat Yitzchak.  The analysis below will attempt to analyze whether these are intentional allusions and what significance they may have.

Content Parallels

The two stories have a number of content similarities. In both, Hashem's representative (Avraham or Moshe) is ordered to go to a heavenly mountain (Mt. Moriah or Mt. Sinai) for a Divine revelation and sacrifice. They are joined by a companion (Yitzchak or Yehoshua) and a group of followers (Avraham's servants or the priests and elders), although the latter are left behind and do not actually climb the mountain. At the mountain there is a ritual sacrifice involving youths (Yitzchak and נערי בני ישראל), followed by a revelation where they encounter God but are not harmed.

Literary Allusions

  • Waiting until the return ("שְׁבוּ לָכֶם... וְנָשׁוּבָה אֲלֵיכֶם", "שְׁבוּ לָנוּ... נָשׁוּב אֲלֵיכֶם") – Avraham (Bereshit 22:5) tells his servants to "sit here" ("שְׁבוּ לָכֶם פֹּה") until he and Yitzchak return ("וְנָשׁוּבָה אֲלֵיכֶם"), just as Moshe (Shemot 24:14) tells the elders to "sit here" ("שְׁבוּ לָנוּ בָזֶה") until he and Yehoshua return ("נָשׁוּב אֲלֵיכֶם").
  • Bowing ("וְנִשְׁתַּחֲוֶה", "וְהִשְׁתַּחֲוִיתֶם") – Avraham describes his actions at the mountain as simple bowing (Bereshit 22:5), just as Hashem commands Moshe to go up to Him and bow (Shemot 24:1).  In reality, the process in both cases was much more complicated.
  • From afar ("מֵרָחֹק") – In both stories (Bereshit 22:4, Shemot 24:1), the term "מֵרָחֹק" is used with regard to the mountain.
  • Morning awakening ("וַיַּשְׁכֵּם... בַּבֹּקֶר") – Both Avraham (Bereshit 22:3) and Moshe (Bereshit 24:4) awaken early in the morning to prepare for the rite.
  • Building of altar ("וַיִּבֶן... מִזְבֵּחַ") – Both Avraham (Bereshit 22:9) and Moshe (Bereshit 24:4) build altars in preparation for the sacrifice.
  • Youths ("נְעָרָיו", "הַנַּעַר", "נַעֲרֵי") – In both stories, there are characters referred to as youths. Avraham's servants are called "נְעָרָיו" (Bereshit 22:3,5,19), and Yitzchak is called "הַנַּעַר" (Bereshit 22:5,12). Similarly, the Israelite representatives who offer the sacrifice are referred to as "נַעֲרֵי בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל" (Shemot 24:5).
  • Offering burnt-offerings ("וַיַּעֲלֵהוּ לְעֹלָה", "וַיַּעֲלוּ עֹלֹת") – In both cases (Bereshit 22:13, Shemot 24:5) burnt-offerings are sacrificed.
  • Seeing God ("י"י יִרְאֶה", "י"י יֵרָאֶה", "וַיִּרְאוּ אֵת אֱלֹהֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל") – In both cases (Bereshit 22:14, Shemot 22:10), seeing God is part of the revelation.
  • Sending a hand ("אַל תִּשְׁלַח יָדְךָ", "לֹא שָׁלַח יָדוֹ") – Avraham is commanded by the angel to not harm Yitzchak, using the term "אַל תִּשְׁלַח יָדְךָ" (Bereshit 22:12), while God is said to not have harmed certain Israelite representatives with the language "לֹא שָׁלַח יָדוֹ" (Shemot 24:11).
  • Heavenly mountain ("הַר י"י", "הַר הָאֱלֹהִים") – Avraham (Bereshit 22:14) refers to the mountain as Hashem's mountain, just like the Shemot (Shemot 24:13) speaks of Moshe ascending God's mountain.
  • Consuming and fire ("הָאֵשׁ וְאֶת הַמַּאֲכֶלֶת", "כְּאֵשׁ אֹכֶלֶת") – In both cases, the word fire appears next to a term connected to consuming:  Avraham carries with him the fire and the מַּאֲכֶלֶת (Bereshit 22:6), while Hashem's glory is described as a consuming (אֹכֶלֶת) fire (Shemot 24:17).


  • Non-uniqueness of similarities – Most of the words of the linguistic parallels between the stories are not unique or even rare: the verb "bow" (שׁחה) appears 175 times in Tanakh; the term "from afar", even in the exact form "מֵרָחֹק" appears 12 times; the combination "וַיַּשְׁכֵּם... בַּבֹּקֶר", even in that exact form, appears 13 times; building an altar can be found 48 times; the noun "youth" (נער) appears 239 times; offering (עלה) a burnt-offering appears 63 times; the use of the verb see (ראה) in connection to a Divine revelation is extremely common; a refusal to send a hand can be found 12 times; Hashem's (or God's) mountain appears 14 times; and the combination of consuming with fire can be found in at least 43 places.
  • Distinctive phrases – The phrase "שְׁבוּ לָכֶם/לָנוּ" is unique,2 as is "וְנָשׁוּבָה/נָשׁוּב אֲלֵיכֶם‎".3

Points of Contrast


While at first glance, the parallels between Akeidat Yitzchak and the Covenant at Sinai seem to be plentiful, a closer analysis shows that many of them are superficial and not particular to these stories. It is thus questionable whether there is enough evidence to support the claim of a fundamental relationship between the stories.