Then Abraham raised his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him a ram caught in the thicket by his horns; Genesis 22:13
Behind – If you’re reading this verse in English, you may discover two curious things. The first is here in the NASB with the addition of the word “him.” The second curiosity is found in translations like the NIV where the word “behind” is simply left out of the translation. Both options should cause us to pause. Something strange is happening and the English translations are stumbling over it.
The Hebrew actually says, “and behold a ram behind” (vehine-ayil achar). The word behind is achar meaning “behind, after or afterwards.” In order to make sense of this word, English translations like the NASB add the assumed pronoun “him.” But the text doesn’t say that. It says the Abraham looked and saw a ram achar. In order to understand what is implied here, we need to know that the Hebrew concept of the future is tied to the idea of behind. Achariyt comes from the same root. It is about the last time, the end or the future. It paints a picture of a man in a rowboat with his destination behind him so that he cannot see where he is going but only where he has been. This is the Hebrew idea of the future. When Abraham looked up, he peered into the behind and saw a sacrificial ram. It’s possible that Abraham saw a ram behind him, but that is not what the text says. It says that he saw the afterward-ram. In other words, in the moment that the Angel of the Lord called to Abraham to stop the sacrifice of Isaac, Abraham was allowed to see something deep in the afterward, far in the behind, hidden in the future. Abraham saw the coming sacrifice provided by God, the ram that would act as God’s own provision on the altar. Abraham caught a glimpse of the future.
It’s disappointing that this special view is lost in English translations. In an effort to make the words compatible with English grammar, we obscure the depth of the Hebrew. No Hebrew word is an accident. Unless we stick to the text exactly as it is written, we miss what God has to say. But now you know. Now you know that Abraham’s sacrifice connects us directly to Yeshua. Perhaps you always saw the implication. Now you see something even more wonderful. The secret was hidden long ago in the very word that describes the ram.
Once in awhile God allows a man or woman to see what’s coming. The occasions are rare. There is a reason for this. Human beings are preoccupied with knowing the future. It is a form of idolatry. Why? Because the motivation behind wanting to know what will happen is the motivation to control our destiny and that is based in a desire to be God. The reason the future lies behind us is so that we learn to depend on what we already know; namely, the long history of God’s faithfulness with us clearly seen in the past. As we learn of His reliable care, we trust Him. We find contentment. We reject independence. We stop worrying about tomorrow. We become children of the man who, when he was ready to sacrifice all, looked behind and saw the God who provides.
Topical Index: Future