I heard a sermon on Genesis 22.  The peacher stated that the ram in the story symbolized man's pride and that pride must be eliminated from one's life.  He hooked up this passage and Daniel 8.  Have you ever heard anything like this?  I believe that it would tied to the Day of Atonement.




For something to function properly as a symbol, the communicator and the audience have to share the same meaning commonly ascribed to that symbol.  Think for example, of how much death and mayhem would be wreaked if it were not universally recognized that red means "stop" and green means "go".  These are not inherent, intuitive meanings: there is nothing within either of these colors that require that they mean "stop" and "go" respectively.  Rather, those meanings must be assigned to them and that assignment of meaning must be universally accepted.  Because this process has actually taken place in modern culture, wherever they are used, everyone recognizes the "meaning" of these symbols.


Proper hermeneutical (interpretative) question: If God intended the "ram" to symbolize "pride", is it possible that Abraham would have immediately understood it as meaning "human pride"?  To appeal to a text in Daniel is absolutely irrelevant, since it was not written until about 1500 years after the time of Abraham.  Abraham did not have access to the book of Daniel, regardless of the symbolic meaning attached to "ram" therein.  The proper question is: Was there anything in God's previous revelations to Abraham that would suggest that communicator (God) and audience (Abraham) shared the common understanding of this symbol as representing "human pride"?  Scripture gives no such indication.  Next: Is there anything within the common language pool/contemporary culture(s) that would indicate that the figure of a ram was a typical symbol used to represent "Human pride?"  Based on my exposure to the ancient literature and the archeology of that period, I have to answer "No" to that as well.  Thus, we are required by the lack of any supporting evidence to reject the preacher's suggested meaning as deriving from his own imagination/creativity rather than arising naturally from the text, previous revelation, current literature, or current material culture.


This is and example of idiosyncratic, overly-creative, arbitrary exegesis (actually "eisegesis"-the exercise of reading into a text meanings not intended by the original author).


Wave Nunnally, Ph.D.