The Concept of Sacrifice
As part of life, sometimes people have to make sacrifices to achieve the desired goal or for the sake of those that they love. This idea of sacrifice and duty for the sake of oneself and others is a prominent theme in many stories, both fictional and based on real-life events. Some of the stories covered in class also feature these ideas prominently. For example, in the New Testament of the Bible, the death of Jesus Christ is a perfect example of sacrifice and duty. God sacrificed his only son, Jesus Christ, to die to save humankind from their sins. In addition to the New Testament, The theme of sacrifice and duty is evident in the Old Testament of the Bible, the Epic of Gilgamesh, and the Koran.
The New Testament of the Bible revolves around the teachings of Jesus Christ. Throughout his adult life, he went around preaching to others about the teachings of Christianity. Jesus Christ is the ultimate example of sacrifice in the Bible. God sent him to earth to die for the sins of humankind, and Jesus agreed. Even when he was suffering before his death, he was still willing to go through with the plan until he was crucified on false claims (Matthew 27: 48). Jesus wanted to obey God’s will at all times, even when it was at great pain and cost to him. Jesus was arrested and severely beaten on his way to be crucified. Although he could have stopped all this suffering at all time, he knew that his death would save humanity. God also made a sacrifice in sending his only son to die on behalf of humankind. Any parent would keep their child from unnecessary suffering, but God made the sacrifice to save human beings.
In addition to Jesus’ sacrifice, his disciples also made a lot of sacrifices to be with him. Jesus traveled with his disciples across the countries he taught, and they had to leave behind their families and worldly wealth to accompany Jesus on his journey. Jesus taught his followers that they had to leave behind everything else if they were to obey his teachings. Being his follower left no room for earthy worries, such as material possessions and family responsibilities. Many could not imagine leaving everything behind; therefore they could not follow him. Jesus and his disciples also faced ridicule and rejection from people for their choices. Despite this, they did not abandon their cause, which is a perfect example of their sacrifice. They stood by Jesus, and even though they sometimes faltered, they did their best to get back on their chosen path.
The Old Testament of the Bible also features some prominent examples of duty or sacrifice. One of these is the story of Abraham and his son Isaac. Abraham and his wife Sarah had no children until their son Isaac was born in their old age. After decades of waiting, they eventually had a child. For this reason, the parents must have been overly protective and possessive of the son for whom they had waited so long. Unfortunately, God asked Abraham to offer up his only son as an offering (Genesis 22:2). Being a staunch believer and follower of God, Abraham was willing to make this painful and impossible sacrifice. He took his son Isaac all the way to the mountains to sacrifice him. God saw that Abraham would have done anything asked of him, and he was pleased. God sent a ram for Abraham to sacrifice instead of Isaac, and the boy was saved. The main point of this story is that Abraham would have sacrificed anything, including his only son, at God’s request.
The story of Job in the Old Testament is an example of duty and sacrifice. Job was a wealthy man from the land of UZ, living with his family in abundance. He was a blameless man, always careful to stay away from evil, and believed firmly in God (Job 1:1). On seeing this, the devil approached God to test Job’s faith. God permitted Satan to do this. Job lost his family and wealth, yet his faith in God remained strong despite all this. His wife and friends all mock his faith in God, but Job never abandoned his faith. This story is an example of sacrifice because Job was willing to sacrifice everything to preserve his faith in God. Even when those around him told him that God abandoned him, he stuck by his faith. After all the trials, God blessed Jacob with even more wealth and children than before because he remained faithful even in the most challenging times.
The epic of Gilgamesh contains several examples of sacrifice or duty. Gilgamesh is the king of the kingdom of Uruk, a king who mistreats his subjects. The people cry out to the gods to save them from their tyrannical king, and they send Enkidu to save them (George 33). Enkidu and Gilgamesh strike up a great friendship afterward. After Enkidu’s death, Gilgamesh goes on a journey to seek eternal life. Gilgamesh is willing to sacrifice his life on earth to gain eternal life. When he finds a plant that would give him eternal life, he sacrificed it so that the older men of the town would have it. Given his desire for eternal life, this was undoubtedly a significant sacrifice for Gilgamesh to make. However, despite his honorable intentions, a snake steals the plant from Gilgamesh.
Enkidu’s death in the epic is another example of sacrifice. Gilgamesh and Enkidu entered a forest forbidden to mortals and cut down some trees. They kill the demon Humbaba guarding the forest, and after cutting down the trees, they return to Uruk. Upon their return, Gilgamesh becomes the subject of Ishtar’s love, but he rejects her. Ishtar, the goddess of love, is angry at Gilgamesh’s rejection, and she asks her father to punish him. Her father sends the Bull of Heaven to fight Gilgamesh, but Gilgamesh and Enkidu kill the bull (George 109). For this, the gods decide that one of the two must die, and Enkidu is the chosen one. This part of the story shows the sacrifices that the two friends made for each other. Enkidu sacrificed his life to help his friend fight the Bull of Heaven, and he dies as a result. Gilgamesh also sacrifices Enkidu’s life, although the situation was between Gilgamesh and Ishtar.
Just like the other three texts, The Koran also offers some examples of duty and sacrifice. The fifteenth verse of Chapter 49 of the Koran speaks about the value of sacrifice. The verse states, “Without doubt the true believers are only those who have faith in Allah and His Messenger (Muhammad) and then do not change their belief into doubt, and (the believers are those) who struggle with their wealth and their lives in the way of Allah.” (The Dwellings, 49:15)This verse emphasizes the value of self-sacrifice. A person must be willing to give up all of their wealth and even their lives for their faith. In the Koran, there are several examples of people who lay down their lives for the Prophet and Allah. One of these is Sa’ad bin Ar Rabbi, who died in the battle of Uhud. In his final moments, Sad Rabi was grateful to have given his life to protect the Prophet and urged all the Prophet’s other companions to be willing to sacrifice anything for Allah and the Prophet.
The second example from the Koran is the sacrifice of Abu Bakar for the Prophet Mohammad during the Hijrah to Medinah. Through the perilous journey, Abu Bakar was ready to sacrifice his own life to save that of the Prophet under any circumstances. Through the journey, Abu Bakar remained on the lookout for any impending danger that might threaten the Prophet’s life. When they stopped at the cave of Thur, Abu Bakar went inside first to check that everything was safe (Surah 9:40). Abu Bakar put his own safety and comfort last to ensure that the Prophet was safe through the journey. Abu Bakar’s story follows the concept of sacrifice outlined in the Koran, where a person must give his life and wealth for Allah and the Prophet.
In conclusion, the concept of sacrifice and duty is found in many works of literature, religion, and everyday life. The Bible, Koran, and the epic of Gilgamesh all contain several examples of people willing to make sacrifices, both big and small, for those around them. For religious texts, sacrifice is regarded as a crucial component of faith. A believer must always put others before oneself. Self-sacrifice is a virtue like no other. In other stories, self-sacrifice is an admirable trait that not all people are capable of. Human nature leans more towards selfishness and self-preservation, and that is why the concepts of duty and sacrifice matter so much.
Bible, King James. King James Bible. Proquest LLC, 1996.
George, Andrew, ed. The epic of Gilgamesh: the Babylonian epic poem and other texts in Akkadian and Sumerian. Penguin, 2002.
Qur’an, Holy. Holy Qur’an. Tahrike Tarsile Qur’an, Incorporated, 1985.