I went to the Hunger Games premiere last night (along with apparently every tween in America) and enjoyed it very much. From a theological standpoint there are several themes that stand out in this film: disparity in wealth, systematic oppression, rebellion, sacrifice, and authenticity. At the moment though I have one of the songs from the soundtrack, “Abraham’s Daughter,” by Arcade Fire playing on repeat in my head. The theological questions raised by it are rather jarring.
Abraham took Isaac’s hand and led him to the lonesome hill.
While his daughter hid and watched,
She dare not breathe.
She was so still.
Just as an angel cried for the slaughter,
Abraham’s daughter raised her voice.
Then the angel asked her what her name was,
She said, “I, have none.”
Then he asked, “How can this be?”
“My father never gave me one.”
And when he saw her, raised for the slaughter,
Abraham’s daughter raised her bow.
How darest you, child, defy your father?
You better let young Isaac go.
What I hear in this song is Abraham’s daughter’s refusal to allow Abraham to sacrifice Issac, even to the point of aiming a bow at her own father, thus threatening his life.
Within the book (and film) of the Hunger Games this can be seen as a way that Katniss challenges the oppressive governance of the Capitol, wanting to stop them from the continual systematic sacrifice of the children of the districts.
However, when comparing this situation to the Biblical account of Abraham bringing Isaac to be sacrificed, God is compared to the murderous regime of the Capitol. This is a terrifying idea: that God would make people sacrifice their own children. However, that is what God asks of Abraham in Genesis 22:
God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains that I shall show you.” So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac; he cut the wood for the burnt offering, and set out and went to the place in the distance that God had shown him. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place far away. Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; the boy and I will go over there; we will worship, and then we will come back to you.” Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. So the two of them walked on together. Isaac said to his father Abraham, “Father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” He said, “The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” Abraham said, “God himself will provide the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So the two of them walked on together. When they came to the place that God had shown him, Abraham built an altar there and laid the wood in order. He bound his son Isaac, and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood.Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to kill his son. But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven, and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” And Abraham looked up and saw a ram, caught in a thicket by its horns. Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son.So Abraham called that place “The LORD will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the LORD it shall be provided.” The angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time from heaven, and said, “By myself I have sworn, says the LORD: Because you have done this, and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will indeed bless you, and I will make your offspring as numerous as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of their enemies, and by your offspring shall all the nations of the earth gain blessing for themselves, because you have obeyed my voice.”
This is the important difference to note about the comparison drawn by this song: God does ask Abraham to sacrifice his son, but ultimately stops him. God desires full obedience from us, but not sacrifice. In Hosea 6:6, Hosea brings these words from God:
“For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.”
The only sacrifice of a child in the Bible is Jesus’ death on the cross. God does not ask us to make the same sacrifice.