Child Sacrifice in Ancient Israel
It [religion] is a history of
wickedness that has served to corrupt and brutalize mankind;
and, for my part, I sincerely detest it as I detest everything that is cruel.
This page reports on the biblical history of child sacrifice and cannibalism from Joshua to the Exile. There were prohibitions against sacrifice, but only in the name of other gods. Child sacrifice was practiced throughout the world during ancient times. The ritualized murder of innocents carries right into Christianity.
Joshua practiced what is called "foundation sacrifice." In order to protect a structure from evil powers, a person was killed and buried at the foundation of a city or building. Sometimes the victim was walled in alive. In this case, Joshua's victim would be someone's first born.
27 (Josh. 6:26-27)
King David participated in the sacrifice of seven men at the beginning of a barley harvest with an eye towards ending famine in the land.
There was famine in the kingdom of David for three years. When David asked God what he could do about it. God explained that it was because of bloodguilt on Saul because he put the Gibeonites to death.
1(2 Sam. 21:1)
So David called for the Gibeonites and wanted to know what he could do to expiate for what Saul did.
23 (2 Sam. 21:2-3)
The Gibeonites replied that it was not a matter of money. What they wanted was seven of Saul's sons so they may hang them. David agreed.
45 6 (2 Sam. 21:4-6)
David picked two of Saul's sons and five of his grandsons. They were hanged on the mountain before God, at the beginning of the barley harvest.
78 9 (2 Sam. 21:7-9)
Solomon earned his reputation as a wise king by settling a maternity dispute between two women. His solution was to cut the child in half. The real mother prevented the execution by giving up her claim. We are left to wonder if Solomon would have done it.
2425 (1 Kings 3:16)
He built a place for Molech.The cult of Molech was associated with child sacrifice.
78 (1 Kgs. 11:7-8)
Israel and Judah
After the time of Solomon, the kingdom of Israel split up into two kingdoms, Israel and Judah.
When the kings of Israel and Judah were wining their invasion against the Moabites, the Moabite king made a burnt offering of his oldest son. A great wrath came upon Israel and they had to withdraw. In effect, the Moabite god, Chemosh, defeated Yahweh.
27 (2 Kings. 3:26-27)
The divided kingdom of Israel came to an end with its capture by the Assyrians. God is said to have made it happen because they worshipped alien gods, made burnt offerings of sons and daughters and practiced occultism.
17 18 (2 Kgs. 17:16-18)
Give this a second thought. In order to punish his chosen people, he showed favor towards the heathen Assyrians. By this logic, it is better not to believe in God. This way he won't harm you. He might even reward you.
Ahab and his Phoenician wife Jezebel were among God's most infamous royalty. He practiced "foundation sacrifice" in which a child in entombed in the foundation. We are told that Jericho could not be rebuilt without satisfying Joshua's curse (above). I leave it to readers to decide whether Hiel's sons were intentionally sacrificed according to Joshua's prescription or died accidently or by divine will.
3334 (1 Kgs. 16:33-34)
King Ahaz burned his son in an offering in accordance with the practices of other nations.
23 (2 Kgs. 16:2-3)
Hoshea was the last king of Israel before it split from Judah. Under his reign the people burned their sons and daughters.
17(2 Kings 17:7)
King Ahaz's grandson, Manasseh, reigned for 55 years, the longest in Judah's history. He is said to have burned his son as an offering. We can safely assume that the practice was widespread among the people of Judah during his reign.
16 (2 Kgs. 21:6, 2 Chron. 33:6)
King Josiah's reign began approximately 50 years before the exile and lasted 31 years. Yet at this late stage, he still had to devote effort to stopping the people of Judah from sacrificing their children to Molech.
10(2 Kgs. 23:10)
Jeremiah was a prophet during the time of King Josiah. He complained about the people of Judah burning their sons and daughters to Molech.
3031 (Jer. 7:30-31)
Many kings of Judah were condemned for burning their sons in offerings to Baal.
34 5 (Jer. 19:3-5)
Ezekiel was a prophet during and after the Babylonian Exile, 586 BCE.
As God's spokesman, Ezekiel complained about the people of Judah burning their children to death.
2021 (Ezek. 16:20-21)
God purposively gave bad laws which discouraged life and made them offer gifts of their first born by fire. All this was to horrify them and show them he is the Lord. We can presume that God gave these bad laws to Moses too.
2526 (Ezek. 20:25-26)
He tells us that from the time when the people of Israel were in the wilderness, to his day they sacrificed their sons by fire.
3031 (Ezek. 20:30-31)
Take notice. In one case Ezekiel says God made the Israelites offer their children by fire to horrify them. In the other, he complains when they do the same for other gods.
While sacrifice was practiced as a matter of appeasement, cannibalism was imposed as a matter of punishment, and maybe at times it was a matter of hunger.
A woman complained to the king about being tricked by another woman to share in eating their sons. After they boiled the first son and ate him, the second woman refused to give up hers.
2627 28 29 (2 Kings 6:26-29)
Speaking through Jeremiah, Yahweh threatened to make the Israelites eat the flesh of their sons and daughters. They were to eat their warring neighbors too
As judgment, Yahweh will make fathers eat their sons and sons shall eat their fathers.
910 (Ezek. 5:9-10)
Speaking through Isaiah, Yahweh will make Israel's oppressors eat their own flesh and drink their own blood.
Micah complained about the Israelites being eaten by their enemies. Their skins were torn off and their bones were broken to make them fit in a kettle.
3 (Micah 3:2-3)
Let the survivors devour the flesh of one another.
Child sacrifice was considered evil when it was done in the name of foreign gods. It wasn't a morality issue. The priests saw it as a violation of the First Commandment: You shall have no other gods before me.
Ahaz burned his son as an offering according to the abominable practices of hostile nations.
23 (2 Kings 16:2-3)
The sons of Judah burnt their sons and daughters, without approval from Yahweh.
3031 (Jer. 7:30-31)
They offered their sons and daughters to Molech without approval from Yahweh.
You slaughtered my (Yahweh's) children and offered them to fire.
2021 (Ezek. 16:20-21)
The psalmist complained about the people sacrificing their sons and daughters to demons.
39 (Ps. 106:37-39)
Human sacrifice was not confined to Middle East countries, it was practiced worldwide. There is evidence of ritual murders in ancient Greece. The Romans practiced it during various periods. The Phoenicians at Carthage in North Africa routinely conducted child sacrifices. When Julius Caesar conquered Gaul and Britain, he found copious evidence of Celtic human sacrifice. In Scandinavia, the Norsemen sacrificed both animals and humans to their deities. The ancient Gnostic sect opposed childbirth in an "'evil" world.
When European explorers discovered new parts of the globe, they found almost every land pursuing diverse forms of human sacrifice. The South American Mayans, Aztecs and Incas were probably the record holders. Whole societies existed for the purpose of conducting human sacrifice en masse, relying on a steady stream of slaves and prisoners of war to keep their crimson altars occupied. One lapse, they feared, would blight their harvests, cause catastrophes, and even prevent the sun from rising.
Theistic religions in one way or another were founded upon ritualized murder. What made children susceptible to sacrifice, was their virginity and their innocence. This concept is embedded in Judaism and Christianity to this day.
Paradoxically, child sacrifice ended when Judah was captured by the hated Babylonians in 586 BCE. Jews don't practice their canonical obligation to sacrifice anymore, but there is still one remaining legacy where they celebrate child sacrifice every year. And that is the Passover when Yahweh killed firstborn Egyptians and their firstborn livestock. To ease their conscience they label it as their release from Egyptian bondage.
2425 26 27 (Ex. 12:24-27)
Christians may feel that their religion is above such barbarous practices. That is only because they have been dulled into ignoring the immorality of the torturous sacrifice of one innocent man.