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Moriah (Hebrew: מוֹרִיָּה, Modern Moriyya, Tiberian Môriyyā; "ordained/considered by the LORD", Arabic: مروة Marwah) is the name given to a mountain range by the Book of Genesis, in which context it is the location of the sacrifice of Isaac. The Vulgate renders the location specified by God for the sacrifice as terram Visionis, traditionally rendered "land of Vision" in Catholic translations. Traditionally Moriah has been interpreted as the name of the specific mountain at which this occurred, rather than just the name of the range.
Muslims have known the historical mount as Marwah in Arabic, as mentioned in the Qur'an, located close to the Kaaba in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. There has been an historical account of rams' horns preserved in the Kaaba until the year 683, which are believed to be the remains of the sacrifice of Ishmael.
In the Hebrew Bible, the name Moriah occurs twice:
- Genesis 22:2: "And He said: 'Take now thy son, thine only son, whom thou lovest, even Isaac, 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.'"
- 2 Chronicles 3:1: "Then Solomon began to build the house of the LORD at Jerusalem in mount Moriah, where [the LORD] appeared unto David his father; for which provision had been made in the Place of David, in the threshingfloor of Ornan [Araunah] the Jebusite."
Speculation and debate
In the book of Chronicles it is reported that the location of Araunah's threshing floor is "in mount Moriah" and that the Temple of Solomon was built over Araunah's threshing floor. This has led to the classical rabbinical supposition that this is at the peak of Moriah.
There is debate as to whether the two references (Genesis 22:2 and Chronicles 3:1) are correctly translated as the same word. For example, in the LXX, these verses are translated as:
- Genesis 22:2: "And he said, Take thy son, the beloved one, whom thou hast loved—Isaac, and go into the high land (Koine Greek: εἰς τὴν γῆν τὴν ὑψηλὴν), and offer him there for a whole-burnt-offering on one of the mountains which I will tell thee of"
- 2 Chronicles 3:1: "And Solomon began to build the house of the Lord in Jerusalem in the mount of Amoria, where the Lord appeared to his father David, in the place which David had prepared in the threshing-floor of Orna the Jebusite."
Some interpretations of a biblical passage concerning Melchizedek, king of Salem, would indicate Jerusalem was already a city with a priest at the time of Abraham, and thus is unlikely to have been founded after this, at the site of a sacrifice made by Abraham in the wilderness. However the view that Salem refers to Jerusalem (in David's time, Jebus) and not peace (shalome, shelomo) is of heavy debate between many sects of Jews and Christians.
In consequence of these traditions, Classical Rabbinical Literature theorised that the name was a (linguistically corrupted) reference to the Temple, suggesting translations like the teaching-place (referring to the Sanhedrin that met there), the place of fear (referring to the supposed fear that non-Israelites would have at the Temple), the place of myrrh (referring to the spices burnt as incense). Targum Pseudo-Jonathan interprets the name as land of worship, while the Samaritan Targum regards it as being land of vision.
Most modern biblical scholars, however, regard the name as a reference to the Amorites, having lost the initial a via aphesis; the name is thus interpreted as meaning land of the Amorites. This agrees with the Septuagint, where, for example, 2 Chronicles 3:1 refers to the location as Ἀμωρία – Amōriā. This would give it the same etymological root as Hamor, a person's name in the narrative at Genesis 34 which concerns Shechem. Some scholars also identify it with Moreh, the location near Shechem at which Abraham built an altar, according to Genesis 12:6. Hence a number of scholars believe that Moriah refers to a hill near Shechem, supporting the Samaritan belief that the near-sacrifice of Isaac occurred on Mount Gerizim – a location near Shechem.
Some scholars reference the conversation Jesus had with the Samaritan woman at the well, where He stated that the Samaritans were inaccurate in their knowledge of the worship of God (John 4:21–24). Acknowledging the intended similarity between the sacrifice of Isaac and the crucifixion of Jesus, they make the connection that Moriah would be the same location where Jews made sacrifices at the Temple of Solomon. Isaac carrying the wood for the sacrificial fire as Jesus carried the cross; the reference in Hebrews 11:17–19 to Abraham believing God could raise Isaac from the dead; Isaac being Abraham's "only" son and Jesus being God's only begotten Son; all make the correlation between the two events point to Moriah being the Temple site.
From a Muslim point of view, the well-known site of Mount Marwah (Arabic مروة), the hill just outside the perimeter of the Kaaba in Mecca, may be identified with the biblical Moriah (Hebrew מוריה) from Genesis 22:2. It is irrelevant from a Muslim point of view that the Hebrew Bible identifies the Temple Mount in Jerusalem as Mount Moriah, as early in the biblical narrative as the chapter dedicated to the construction of the First Temple in the book of Second Chronicles (see 2 Chronicles 3:1-2), around 1,700 years predating Islam's account.
The sacrifice story in Islam
The Islamic version differs from the Bible: in Islamic sources, when Abraham (Ibrahim) tells his son about the vision, his son accepts to be sacrificed for fulfillment of God's command and no binding to the altar occurred.
The Quran states that when Abraham asked for a righteous son, God granted him one possessing forbearance; this son is not however named directly in the Quran. When he was able to walk and work, Abraham saw a vision about sacrificing him. When he told his son about it, he accepted to fulfill the command of God in the vision. When they both had submitted their will to God and were ready for the sacrifice, God told Abraham he had fulfilled the vision, provided him with a ram to sacrifice instead, and He also promised to reward Abraham. The next two verses state that God also granted Abraham the righteous son Isaac and promised more rewards.
Muslim scholars have endorsed the belief that it was the first-born son Ismail, not Isaac, who was asked to be sacrificed in the vision and that the second one, Isaac, was born later as one of the rewards for Abraham's fulfillment of his vision.
Among early Muslim scholars, however, there was a dispute over the identity of the son. The argument of those early scholars who believed it was Isaac rather than Ishmael (notably Ibn Ḳutayba, and al-Ṭabarī) was that "God's perfecting his mercy on Abraham and Isaac" referred to his making Abraham his friend and saving him from the burning bush, and to his rescuing Isaac. On the contrary, the other parties held that the promise to Sarah of a son, Isaac, and a grandson, Jacob, excluded the possibility of a premature death of Isaac.
Muslims consider that visions experienced by prophets are revelations from God, and as such it was a divine order to Abraham. The entire episode of the sacrifice is regarded as a trial of God for Abraham and his son, and both are seen as having passed the test by submitting to God and showing their awareness that God is the Owner and Giver of all that we have and cherish, including life and offspring. The submission of Abraham and his son is celebrated and commemorated by Muslims on the days of Eid al-Adha. During the festival, those who can afford and the ones in the pilgrimage sacrifice a ram, cow, sheep or a camel. Part of the sacrifice meat is eaten by the household and remaining is distributed to the neighbors and the needy. The festival happens marks the end of the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca.
Notes and citations
- Imam Farahi, Hamiduddin (November 1, 1995). ""The Great Sacrifice" (3)". Al-Mawrid. Retrieved December 5, 2015.
- Ghawri, Abdus, Ihsanur Ghauri (2010). The only son offered for sacrifice, Isaac or Ishmael. Gyan Publishing House. ISBN 8-121210-29-1. p. 115
- "Moriah". Easton's Bible Dictionary. Retrieved 2008-07-14.
- English Translation of the Greek Septuagint Bible (Genesis)
- English Translation of the Greek Septuagint Bible (2 Chronicles)
- Peake's commentary on the Bible
- Jacobs, Joseph; M. Seligsohn. "Moriah". Jewish Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2008-07-14.
- Encyclopedia of Islam, Ishaq.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Seligsohn, Max (1901–1906). "Moriah". In Singer, Isidore; et al. Jewish Encyclopedia. New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Easton, Matthew George (1897). "Moriah". Easton's Bible Dictionary (New and revised ed.). T. Nelson and Sons.