The Book of Songs – Some Poems Inspired by the Hebrew Scriptures

Photo: Zvonimir Atletic/Shutterstock


Let’s get this straight:

I didn’t ask the boy here
to cross the waste of sand
pursued by his brother’s wrath
and his old man’s regret.
But when I heard what he’d done
I thought: He’s a cunning one,
to so deceive his own flesh.
Maybe I can use someone
like him. 

Well, what do you expect?
Isaac is my kith and kin
and maybe where you come from
people behave like that –
But not here! No
Jacob should have known
he’d bring wrath upon his head
for doing something like that.

And what’s the harm, afterall?
Fourteen years of solid work
improves character. 
he’s got two wives and two concubines
to breed the boy a whole tent of brats.

So the lineage is secure, you see;
I did the kid a favour
my generosity
flows like a river.  And who knows,
he may yet make something of himself,
even if he can’t go back. 
He brought
that on himself; I didn’t do a thing.

What do you mean, he’s stolen
All the spotted lambs and goats?


I thought I knew it all.
Afterall, as Eliphaz declared
I’d helped others in their distress,
lead them to the truth. 
Why then
did my own wisdom
fail me in my grief?

Such a fool, to think I knew it all!
I raved against the LORD,
demanded YHWH offer proofs
to justify his assault
on my good life:
then, when God and I were face to face,
I’d tell Elohim Adonai a thing or two!

How was I to know he’d pull this stunt?
This whirlwind
maybe the same divine wrath
that flattened my eldest child’s home
and killed my kids?
Then God spoke,
shoved the cosmos in my face,

displayed its majesty, and said:
Okay wise guy, explain this!
And if
you make account of all that is,
I’ll condescend
to justify myself to you!

Well, I shut up there and then.
Closed my mouth with my own hands
mumbled apologies. 
I mean, be fair:
I didn’t know God was going to do this!
You only regret

what’s come to pass
when it’s the very thing you longed
to have; and God, in God’s own
sovereignty, deigns to grant
your every wish.


Go, and sacrifice your son.

For three days I’ve plotted course
between my home and Moriah,
where God dwells.  Beside me
Isaac my son
uncomplaining trudged.

Now the peak looms above.
Time to unburden the beast
take wood and knife and flint
make the ascent, to sacrifice
my love
my hope
to God.

I trust you, LORD, and yet –
in this oblique mystery
this call of faith
that drags me down dark roads
and bends me to your will;
LORD, in all of this
there’s one thing you’ve not explained:

before I cut his throat
what will I tell the lad?

(c) Copyright Brendan E Byrne 2018. All right reserved.