Human sacrifice in the Bible
People in the Bible accuse their enemies of child sacrifice but the Bible only records one instance where a Jewish hero killed his own child as a human sacrifice.
In the Book of Judges, a soldier called Jephtah swears to God that if God gives him victory in battle, he will sacrifice the first creature that meets him when he returns home.
Alas, it is his only child, a daughter, who runs out to greet him. Jephtah keeps his promise, but his action is heavily condemned in the Bible. He sacrifices the nameless daughter, and in doing so becomes one of the great tragic figures of the Bible - as does his daughter.
The other famous Bible story involving child sacrifice is about Abraham and his son Isaac. Abraham is commanded by God to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice, and nearly does so. The Bible tells us nothing about Abraham's internal struggle or horrified misgivings about the act, or the terror and trauma experiences by Isaac.
This story is held up by modern God-attackers as proof that God is not good but evil, and that Abraham was a fool for worshipping Him. Not so. The story is not about human sacrifice, but about our faith in God's ultimate wisdom, even when we do not understand it at all and cannot see any sense in what is happening around us. We accept what we believe is God's plan for us, and keep on living our lives as best we can.
These are the only two examples of human sacrifice in which the Jewish people participate.
Foreigners and human sacrifice
But the Bible has several mentions of human sacrifice being carried out by enemies of the Jewish tribes. We hear for example that Josiah defiled a religious sanctuary in the valley of Hinnom because he believed that girls and boys had been sacrificed there (2 Kings 23:10). Hinnom was enemy territory, and the Bible accuses the Hinnomites of immolating their children in fire.
The king of Moab, a country bordering the kingdoms of Israel and Judah, gave his eldest son as a burnt offering.
The Bible also implies that the Ammonites offered child sacrifices to Moloch, god of fire.
In fact, an
actual human sacrifice is only ever mentioned when an enemy is supposed to
have done it - which makes the evidence unconvincing, to say the least.
The only really convincing argument to support the practice of human sacrifice is the fact that
the Bible repeatedly forbids it. The Bible rarely forbids something unless it is
evil and already happening. It never forbids us to float in the air or eat
rainbows, for example, because no-one does it.
are fascinated by the idea of human sacrifice. The Carthaginians are said to have practiced
it, but the accusation was made by the Romans who were their
enemies, and so the evidence is unreliable. Modern-day archaeologists claim that burial urns containing the burnt remains of children show that these children were human sacrifices - despite cremation being the normal form of burial for
Carthaginians, and there being a high infant and child mortality
rate. So the idea that Carthaginians, or indeed any ancient society,
practised human sacrifice should be treated with caution.
Bible References to Human Sacrifice