86 Human Sacrifices in Israel Part One
Updated: Mar 26
Join us as we take a closer looks a human sacrifices in the Bible and discover that there is ample evidence that Israel was sacrificing more than just animals but also their very own children. God says he would never think of requiring such a thing. So how does that fit with he idea that God requires the death of His first born son before he is able to save us and forgive our sins? We begin this journey in this episode and will continue for a few more as we struggle to see the God that Jesus knew in the whole idea of sacrifices.
Human Sacrifices in Israel
How do we distinguish between sacrifice and execution? The difference is the cause of the death. If the person is guilty of some crime then it is an execution. If the death is to appease some deity or person then it is a sacrifice. A wanted baby which is put to death is a sacrifice. Were the innocent firstborn of Egypt a sacrifice? The execution of a scapegoat is a sacrifice because the group of the has decided to blame the scapegoat for their problem. Is consent necessary by the victim sacrifice? Isaac and consent.
nearly sacrifices Isaac (Genesis 22:1-8). He would not have invented this idea. It must have been a practice around him in Mesopotamia, Canaan and Egypt. The participants in the story and most readers of Genesis seem to have no question about the morality of Abraham sacrificing his firstborn son. This is surprising. Motivation for Abraham.
sacrifices his daughter. Probably the unexpected happened and he was caught in his own vow (Judges 11:30-31, 34-35). Keeps his vow. Is this a folk tale? Like Beauty and the Beast?
was thrown overboard as a human sacrifice to appease YHWH who sent the storm. The idea was suggested by an Israelite, Jonah (Jonah 1:7-17).
gives up 2 sons of Saul and 5 grandsons for execution to alleviate a drought caused by Saul’s attempted genocide against the Gibeonites (2 Samuel 21:1-14).
forbids human sacrifices (Leviticus 18:21, 20:4-5). Implies it was happening or going to happen.
Destruction of Jericho involved human sacrifice or execution (Joshua 6). They were an offering to the LORD (6:17). This must mean they were a sacrifice.
‘Harem—Deuteronomy 2:31-35; 7:2, 16, 24; 20:10-14. Canaanites are horribly wicked. Is this rhetorical strategy to allow their destruction?
given with Ten Commandments (Exodus 13:12; 22:29-30; Leviticus 22:26). Firstborn of your sons and cattle and sheep belong to me. You give it to me on eighth day. This could mean the child would die. There was no nutritional formulae for kids. This was at a time when infant mortality was at about 50% so parents did not attach to newborns as we do. Bonding took place later. If you believe that giving God the first of your produce then giving the first born to God makes sense.
However, the firstborn could also be redeemed with money (Numbers 3:46-8).
Firstborn sons were mandated to be redeemed
(Numbers 18:15-17; Exodus 13:13).
King of Moab sacrificed his firstborn son and Israelite army was so impressed they stop fighting the Moabites (2 Kings 3:27). Did the Israelites always offer the first born or only when under stress?
Were children sacrificed to Molech? Hebrew Bible refers to passing over fire “la molech.” In Carthage, the Punics (Phoenicians not living in Phoenicia), understood that molech was not a god but a type of offering, “a molech” offerings to YHWH. This was not good. Laws were made against this practice. Probably during the reign of Ahab these type of sacrifices were imported into Israel. Josiah got rid of them (2 Kings 23). Dr Heath D Dewrell “Child Sacrifice in Ancient Israel.” Utube.
people are asking God what he wants. Thousands of cattle, rivers of oil, my firstborn? (Micah 6:6-7). This means that firstborn were considered as sacrificial.
Not clear how many Israelites were involved in child sacrifice. Ahab and Manasseh probably were involved. Dr Heath D Dewrell “Child Sacrifice in Ancient Israel.” Utube.
Leviticus 18:21 NLT
“Do not permit any of your children to be offered as a sacrifice to Molech, for you must not bring shame on the name of your God. I am the LORD.”
1 Kings 11:5-7 NLT Solomon worshiped Ashtoreth, the goddess of the Sidonians, and Molech, the detestable god of the Ammonites. 6 In this way, Solomon did what was evil in the LORD’s sight; he refused to follow the LORD completely, as his father, David, had done. 7 On the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem, he even built a pagan shrine for Chemosh, the detestable god of Moab, and another for Molech, the detestable god of the Ammonites.
2 Kings 23:20 King Josiah executed pagan priests on their altars in Samaria during his reformation. Parallel to Elijah executing the 450 priests of Baal. 15. 2 Kings 23:4, 10 NLT Then the king (Josiah) instructed Hilkiah the high priest and the priests of the second rank and the Temple gatekeepers to remove from the LORD’s Temple all the articles that were used to worship Baal, Asherah, and all the powers of the heavens. The king had all these things burned outside Jerusalem on the terraces of the Kidron Valley, and he carried the ashes away to Bethel. 10 Then the king defiled the altar of Topheth in the valley of Ben-Hinnom, so no one could ever again use it to sacrifice a son or daughter in the fire as an offering to Molech. 16. Isaiah 30:33 NLT Topheth—the place of burning—has long been ready for the Assyrian king; the pyre is piled high with wood. The breath of the LORD, like fire from a volcano, will set it ablaze.
Jeremiah 32:35 NLT
They (Judah) have built pagan shrines to Baal in the valley of Ben- Hinnom, and there they sacrifice their sons and daughters to Molech. I have never commanded such a horrible deed; it never even crossed my mind to command such a thing. What an incredible evil, causing Judah to sin so greatly! (This could have been expected of Israel but not Judah.)
Ezekiel 16:20-21 NLT
“Then you (Israel named but it actually refers to Judah) took your sons and daughters—the children you had borne to me—and sacrificed them to your gods. Was your prostitution not enough? 21 Must you also slaughter my children by sacrificing them to idols?”
Ezekiel 20:26 NLT I let them (Israel) pollute themselves with the very gifts I had given them, and I allowed them to give their firstborn children as offerings to their gods— so I might devastate them and remind them that I alone am the LORD.
Zephaniah 1:5 NLT For they (Judah) go up to their roofs and bow down to the sun, moon, and stars. They claim to follow the LORD, but then they worship Molech, too.
Acts 7:42-43 NLT Then God turned away from them and abandoned them to serve the stars of heaven as their gods! In the book of the prophets it is written, ‘Was it to me you were bringing sacrifices and offerings during those forty years in the wilderness, Israel? 43 No, you carried your pagan gods— the shrine of Molech, the star of your god Rephan, and the images you made to worship them. So I will send you into exile as far away as Babylon.’ (Amos 5:25-27 Septuagent)
Human sacrifices were not invented by the Israelites as we have evidence that these were offered in Mesopotamians, Chinese, Indians (Sati), Inca’s, Mayans, and Aztecs. The Celts and the Etruscans also offered human sacrifices.
There is a legal progression in the concept of sacrifices as given by Moses. Poor people brought a handful of flour or a pigeon. Rich powerful people brought a bull. Perhaps this is why some kings offered human sacrifices. It was symbolic of their power and position. This idea comes to conclusion that when God, the most powerful being, offers a divine sacrifice it must be his firstborn human/divine son.
This is the problem with postulating that the sacrificial system was God’s idea. It is more realistic that the sacrificial system was imposed on God by the Israelites in the same way divorce, slavery, war, and the monarchy were imposed on God.