The Elohist Source

There can be little doubt that the author of the Elohist text, which I think is the oldest of the four main sources of the Pentateuch, is one of the great Biblical voices. The “E” text contains some of the most compelling and vivid stories in the Bible–the Binding of Isaac, several of the plagues in Exodus, and scenes from the divine revelation at the Mountain of God.

To help readers better appreciate the contributions (and difficulties) of the E source, below I offer the E text for the Binding and a link to the Wikiversity text of the Elohist (KJV). Be prepared for lengthy gaps and abrupt ends to particular scenes–as the oldest of the sources, E has suffered more editing than any other material in the Hebrew Bible. It nonetheless remains a powerful work.

Part 4 – The sacrifice of Isaac


1 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;

3 And offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.

4 And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass,

5 And took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave the wood for the burnt offering,

6 And rose up, and went unto the place of which God had told him.

7 Then on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place afar off.

8 And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and I shall come again to you.

9 And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it upon Isaac his son;

10 And he took the fire in his hand, and a knife; and they went both of them together.

11 And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I, my son.

12 And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?

13 And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together.

14 And they came to the place which God had told him of;

15 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.

16 And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son.

(When the E text picks up again, we are at the Children of Keturah, Genesis 25:1-6)


& here is the link to the Wikiversity E text.


Image: Abraham’s Sacrifice; Rembrant; WikiCmns; Public Domain.

  1. April 1, 2012 at 12:49 pm

    This is one of many stories of the old testament “god” that made me sure that the Bible is full of stories about non-Divine gods. To me, God is pure love energy, not wrathful, not vengeful, does not create and then destroy in burning hells. My Creator is only Love and Light and has created me in the same image. Growing up in a hell-fire-and-damnation culture was difficult for me. Even as a very young child, these stories very contrary to my perception of the God who love and protected me. hugs, pat

    • April 2, 2012 at 9:15 pm

      Pat: the thing about the old testament is: it’s far more complex than it looks. The great surprise of the Elohist source is the degree to which it challenges our assumptions about “primitive” gods. In fact, the sacrifice of Isaac (& here I’m following Robert Graves and others) grows out of the Elohist’s concern with justice–I suppose that sooner or later I’ll offer an explanation of my view in a Bible & the Z Revolution post. The thing to hold on to is how heavily the Elohist source has been edited–by my count three major redactions–the E2 edit, the RJE edit, and the final R edit. But despite this, the power & structure of the original remains. RT

  1. February 7, 2012 at 4:05 am
  2. April 5, 2013 at 8:33 pm
  3. June 4, 2013 at 9:17 pm
  4. March 27, 2014 at 9:17 pm

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