Damien F. Mackey
Certain questions or statements posed, but unanswered, in the Old Testament, such as Isaac’s: ‘But where is the lamb?’ (Genesis 22:7), or Jacob’s (to the angel): ‘Please tell me your name’ (32:29), may not actually be accounted for until much later, in the New Testament.
The first one of these, ‘But where is the lamb?’, is well-known, and its perfect link-up with the New Testament has been explained by able commentators such as Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen.
- ‘But where is the lamb?’Deacon D. McManaman, for instance, gives this account of it in “Behold the Lamb of God” (http://www.catholiceducation.org/en/culture/catholic-contributions/behold-the-lamb-of-god.):Sometimes students will ask: How is it that Christ dying on a cross forgives sins? What does it mean to say that Christ died for our sins? How does a death forgive sins?
Over 2000 years before John the Baptist said those words, God revealed himself to Abraham and made a covenant with him. He promised Abraham that he would be the father of a great nation, that his descendents would be as numerous as the stars of the sky. When Sarah finally gave birth to Isaac, their first born son, God commanded Abraham to sacrifice the child as an offering to Him. Abraham obeyed, and set out for the land of Moriah: “Thereupon Abraham took the wood for the holocaust and laid it on his son Isaac’s shoulders, while he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two walked on together, Isaac spoke to his father Abraham. “Father!” he said. “Yes, son,” he replied. Isaac continued, “Here are the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the holocaust?” “Son,” Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the holocaust.”
The angel of the Lord stopped Abraham and revealed that God was pleased with his faith. Instead, a ram was sacrificed.
But Abraham said to his son that God would provide the lamb for the holocaust. That promise had to be fulfilled. It was not fulfilled then. In this gospel, written 2000 years afterwards, John the Baptist calls attention to the fulfillment of that promise [John 1:29]: “Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world”.
The sacrifice of Isaac would not have taken away the sins of the world, and neither would the sacrifice of the ram have done so. The entire scene of the sacrifice of Isaac foreshadows the sacrifice that is to come, and that future sacrifice would also be of a first born son, and he too would carry the wood for the sacrifice on his shoulders, as Isaac did, and the sacrifice will take place in the land of Moriah, on the Moriah mountain range, which is where Mount Calvary is located.
Only the lamb of God could take away the sins of the world.
[End of quote]
A brief comment on Isaac
This will have some degree of relevance for what will follow.
We read far less about Isaac in the Book of Genesis than we do about his father Abraham, or about Isaac’s son, Jacob.
I tried to locate Isaac in a real historical context in my:
Pharaoh of Abraham and Isaac
And I also read recently an interesting journal article according to which Isaac, but not Jacob, was a priest, and that it was through Isaac that Jacob’s son Levi had attained to the priesthood.
Isaac’s son, Jacob, appears to have had many more children than had his father.
We know from Genesis 27:1 that Isaac’s eyes became so weak when he was very old that he could no longer see. Now blindness will be the subject matter of our final consideration below, “(iii) Healing of Blindness”.
- ‘Please tell me your name’.The patriarch Jacob famously wrestled with an angel, or a man, or God (Genesis 32):24 So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. 25 When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. The Hebrew word here means “man” (אִישׁ֙). The patriarch will baulk at letting go of the angel until the latter has blessed Jacob, who then insists upon knowing the angel’s name:26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”
- In the Book of Hoshea this person is variously called (12:4) “a god-like being” (אֶת-אֱלֹהִים), or (12:5) “an angel” (אֶל-מַלְאָךְ).
But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”
27 The man asked him, “What is your name?”
“Jacob,” he answered.
28 Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”
29 Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.”
The angel appears to withhold his identity from Jacob, however:
But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there.
30 So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.”
31 The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel, and he was limping because of his hip.
Samson’s father, Manoah, will similarly inquire of an angel, and with a like result (Judges 13):
17 Then Manoah inquired of the angel of the Lord, “What is your name, so that we may honor you when your word comes true?”
18 He replied, “Why do you ask my name? It is beyond understanding.”
Answer in Tobit?
I think that we have to wait until the New Testament (Catholic) Book of Tobit to learn the answer to Jacob’s query.
Tobit, ageing and blind like Isaac – though Tobit had become blind due to an accident – and well aware of Isaac and Jacob (Tobit 4:12):
‘Remember that Noah, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, our earliest ancestors, all married relatives. God blessed them with children, and so their descendants will inherit the land of Israel’.
would verbally wrestle with the angel Raphael prior to the latter’s accompanying Tobit’s son, Tobias, on a long journey (Tobit 5):
11 Tobit said to him, “Brother, which family and which tribe do you come from? Tell me, brother!”
12 The young man answered, “Why do you need to know about my tribe?”
Tobit replied, “I would like to know in all honesty, brother, who your father is and what your name is.”
This time the angel will yield to the request, but only to provide Tobit with a symbolic, not real, name:
13 Then he answered, “I’m Azariah, the great Hananiah’s son, one of your relatives.”
14 Tobit said to him, “May you come in health and safety, brother! Don’t be offended, brother, that I wanted to know the truth about your family. But you happen to be a relative, and you are from a good and honorable heritage.
The Hebrew name, “Azariah” is nevertheless an appropriate description of the angel, as it means,
“God (יה) helped (עָזַר, azar)”. He is son of “Hananiah” about which name we read (http://www.abarim-publications.com/Meaning/Ananias.html#.VfJclGcVg_w): “… it’s probably a pretty safe bet to assume that Ananias is the same as Hananiah. And the name Hananiah consists of two part, the final end being יה (Yah), which is an abbreviated form of the Tetragrammaton יהוה, YHWH, or Yahweh. The first part of Hananiah comes from the verb חנן (hanan), meaning to be gracious”.
Finally, only after the angel and Tobias have completed the journey, and the angel, thought to be Azariah, has cured Tobit of his blindness, will the angel will divulge “a king’s secret” (Tobit 12):
11 I have already told you that a king’s secret ought to be kept, but the things God does should be told to everyone. Now I will reveal to you the full truth and keep nothing back. 12 Tobit, when you and Sarah prayed to the Lord, I was the one who brought your prayers into his glorious presence. I did the same thing each time you buried the dead. 13 On the day you got up from the table without eating your meal in order to bury that corpse, God sent me to test you. 14 But he also sent me to cure you and to rescue your daughter-in-law, Sarah, from her troubles.
The angel’s real name is “Raphael”:
15 I am Raphael, one of the seven angels who stand in the glorious presence of the Lord, ready to serve him.
16 Tobit and Tobias were terrified and fell to the ground, trembling with fear. 17 But Raphael said to them, Don’t be afraid; everything is all right. Always remember to praise God. 18 He wanted me to come and help you; I did not come on my own. So sing God’s praises as long as you live. 19 When you thought you saw me eating, I did not really eat anything; it only seemed so. 20 While you are on this earth, you must praise the Lord God and give him thanks. Now I must go back to him who sent me. Write down everything that has happened to you.
21 Then Raphael disappeared into the sky. Tobit and Tobias stood up, but they could no longer see him. 22 They began to sing hymns of praise, giving thanks for all the mighty deeds God had done while his angel Raphael had been with them.
And I wonder if that, ‘I am Raphael’, might also be, finally, the answer to Jacob’s insistent, ‘Please tell me your name’.
One might also like to read my related article:
Tobit, a new Isaac perhaps, certainly has various likenesses to the patriarch, including a lamb (kid or sheep) motif (2:19-23; 7:9); steadfastness and righteousness; an intervention by an angel of the Lord (Genesis 22:11-12); and the aforementioned blindness.
And Greek drama may, in turn, have picked up on the blind holy man, Tobit, and ‘re-issued’ him as the blind seer, Teiresias. For, as I wrote in:
Similarities to The Odyssey of the Books of Job and Tobit
…. some readers have found in Tobit similarities to still other pagan themes, such as the legend of Admetus.
More convincing, I believe, however, are points of contact with classical Greek theater. Martin Luther observed similarities between Tobit and Greek comedy … but one is even more impressed by resemblances that the Book of Tobit bears to a work of Greek tragedy — the Antigone of Sophocles. In both stories the moral stature of the heroes is chiefly exemplified in their bravely burying the dead in the face of official prohibition and at the risk of official punishment. In both cases a venerable moral tradition is maintained against a political tyranny destructive of piety. That same Greek drama, moreover, provides a further parallel to the blindness of Tobit in the character of blind Teiresias, himself also a man of an inner moral vision important to the theme of the play. ….
[End of quote]
- Healing of blindness.Tobit, as we found, was temporarily afflicted with blindness, and later cured by the angel Raphael in his guise of “Azariah”.
- And blindness will be the temporary fate also of Saul (later Paul), famously converted on the way to Damascus (Acts 9).
3 As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”
5 “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.
“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. 6 “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
7 The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. 8 Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. 9 For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.
I think that we may again be meant to make a connection with the Book of Tobit, for just as Saul will be cured of his blindness by one Ananias (Acts 9):
10 In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!”
“Yes, Lord,” he answered.
11 The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. 12 In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.”
13 “Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. 14 And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”
15 But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”
17 Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, 19 and after taking some food, he regained his strength.
so – as we have read – was Tobit himself cured by one who had claimed to be a son of Ananias (or Hananiah).