What did God “know” after the Binding of Isaac?

After the binding of Isaac, כִּי עַתָּה יָדַעְתִּי כִּי־יְרֵא אֱלֹהִים  אַתָּה  — “now I know that you fear God?” What does this passage really mean?

The verse would seem to imply that God did not know whether Abraham feared God. But, now as a result of the Akedah, God’s personal knowledge has been expanded.[1] But such a limited view of omniscience  was something many rabbis found theologically scandalous, for how can a human being grasp the nature of God’s omniscience, since God’s thoughts are higher than man’s (Isa. 55:9). Ramban offers a more sober theological answer.  Abraham’s “awe of God” existed only in potentia, but now as a result of his [selfless] deed, his “awe of God” became actualized.[2] Some scholars bypass this theological question altogether. Rashi paraphrases the verse to mean “Now I can give reason why I love you.” This use of “know” may parallel the use suggested in Genesis 4:1, where the text says, “And Adam knew Eve . . .”  There, the expression clearly implies intimacy; by the same token, here too,  God was  intimate with Abraham.

What it means to “fear God”?  The Hebrew concept of yare, when used in association with God denotes something far more profound. Most importantly, “fearing God” means more than having a sense of awe or reverence; it also involves a kenosis an emptying or  surrendering to the mysterious will of the Divine.[3] Martin Buber develops this important theme in his book, The Eclipse of God. Many of his ideas provide an important perspective to understanding the visceral power  of the Akedah and its historical effect in shaping the Jewish psyche. Buber writes: Continue reading “What did God “know” after the Binding of Isaac?”