Child Sacrifice in Ancient Israel

I've been doing some study of the Bible and ran across the problem of child sacrifice. Check it out, as well as this link, and that one.

37 comments:

John W. Loftus said...

And to think, we're supposed to trust what these ancient people wrote in a book? Not on my life.

Steven Bently said...

We must keep God appeased with human and goat sacrifice and burning flesh for atonement of sins and wickedness, lest we be damned by the wrath of God!

badger3k said...

gtekylI think it was Tim Callahan (or Friedman, perhaps) who said that there were remnants of two Abraham/Isaac stories, and that you can find no mention of Isaac after the supposed sacrifice, an indication that in the original story, Abraham does sacrifice Isaac and the redaction covered that up. I haven't had time to research this and see if I could see this, or if there is nothing to see. However, even without such evidence, this is similar to the story in the Illiad (Agamemnon, IIRC) - marking a change from human animal sacrifice.

IIRC, there has been more research into the sacrifices in canaan/israel/judah and I think it was implied that human sacrifice continued down into the Babylonian period (again, I am going by memory, and may be completely wrong on this).

badger3k said...

Edit - the first word of the last post should just be "I" - typed the word verification while trying to get google/blogger to take my password. Sorry.

Tim said...

John,

The first link you offered is ... well ... pretty strange. Joshua practiced foundation sacrifice!? How that one is wrested out of a curse in Joshua 6:26 is a really difficult question.

Or take the reference to Manasseh. The author of the webpage says: "We can safely assume that the practice was widespread among the people of Judah during his reign." He quotes 2 Chron 33:6:

And he burned his son as an offering, and practiced soothsaying and augury, and dealt with mediums and with wizards. He did much evil in the sight of the LORD, provoking him to anger.

Hardly a ringing endorsement of child sacrifice by Jehovah; yet the author of the page wants us to believe that the Jewish people had no problem with it except when it was done in the name of other gods.

The entire web page is full of this sort of distortion and misdirection. It is impossible to take it seriously as a piece of research.

John W. Loftus said...

Tim, as I said I'm just starting my search. I learn from you and I want to be kept honest, so thanks for your comment.

The whole passage from 2 Chron 33 says this:

4 Also he built altars in the house of the LORD, whereof the LORD had said, In Jerusalem shall my name be for ever. 5 And he built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of the LORD. 6 And he caused his children to pass through the fire in the valley of the son of Hinnom: also he observed times, and used enchantments, and used witchcraft, and dealt with a familiar spirit, and with wizards: he wrought much evil in the sight of the LORD, to provoke him to anger. 7 And he set a carved image, the idol which he had made, in the house of God, of which God had said to David and to Solomon his son, In this house, and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen before all the tribes of Israel, will I put my name for ever: 8 Neither will I any more remove the foot of Israel from out of the land which I have appointed for your fathers; so that they will take heed to do all that I have commanded them, according to the whole law and the statutes and the ordinances by the hand of Moses. 9 So Manasseh made Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to err, and to do worse than the heathen, whom the LORD had destroyed before the children of Israel. 10 And the LORD spake to Manasseh, and to his people: but they would not hearken.

Maybe in the context of that day you could show me where child sacrifice to God was condemned by God.

Exodus 22:29 actually commands it: “You shall not delay to offer from the fullness of your harvest and from the outflow of your presses. The first-born of your sons you shall give to me. 30 You shall do likewise with your oxen and with your sheep: seven days it shall be with its dam; on the eighth day you shall give it to me.

The concept of "redemption" is an interesting one that goes hand in hand with child sacrifice, because animals were substituted for the firstborn, but that says nothing against the idea that a better sacrifice was the firstborn child itself.

Furthermore, circumcision itself was probably a substitutionary child sacrifice.

After calling Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, God inexplicably seeks to kill him. In this enigmatic ancient passage, Zipporah circumcises someone (Moses, or his son, the text isn’t clear) and then smears the blood of the foreskin on someone (either Moses, his son, or on God himself, the text isn’t clear) to halt the divine attack. Apparently God flies off his rockers if a piece of penis isn’t removed. Understood within the context of that day, circumcision was considered as a kind of child sacrifice in substitute, which appeased the gods by offering up blood without actually killing the first-born son.

Exodus 4 24 At a lodging place on the way the Lord met him and sought to kill him. 25 Then Zipporah took a flint and cut off her son’s foreskin, and touched Moses’ feet with it, and said, “Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me!” 26 So he let him alone. Then it was that she said, “You are a bridegroom of blood,” because of the circumcision.

Anyway, I'd appreciate your findings on these things. It's very troubling to me to find a perfectly good God not unequivocally condemning this sort of thing, don't you think?

Michael Ejercito said...

From that first link, I deduced that the problem of child sacrifice is a problem of people disobeying the LORD their God.

Evan said...

Sacrifice is the central belief of Christianity Michael.

Christians believe that the sins of the earth must be expunged by a sacrifice, and that sacrifice happened circa 30 CE by the death of one Jesus of Nazareth, whose blameless existence blotted out the sins of billions of other people through a cosmic calculus that includes the fact that the GOD of the universe caused his egg to begin dividing inside his mother without a sperm hitting it (or countering that thought is the belief that God's essence entered a sperm -- the Gospel writers are silent on this issue).

So try as you might to criticize child sacrifice -- God sacrifices his child as the central redemptive act of Christianity.

Now if God himself thinks that's immoral, he could be a lot plainer about it.

Harry McCall said...

What continues to be very interesting in the Bible is that Yahweh / God of the Old Testament is blood thirsty. He must have as much blood sacrifice as he can get (both of animals and at times humans). Descriptions of the massive slaughters at Passover where the streets ran red with blood and the snitch of disemboweled organs where intestines spilled fecal matter would bring to mind the pagan back ground of Yahweh who was equal to, or worst than Israel’s Semitic neighbors.

The New Testament editors turns this vengeful God into a “God who so loved the world that He gave in only begotten Son…” John 3:16. But never once did it occur to the Hellenistic author of John, and 1 John that God had a past built on hate and the need for blood.

All believers must remember that this same God of supreme love in the New Testament still seeks to fulfill His lust for human sacrifice by burning humans forever in the Lake of Fire for His pleasure!.

Moreover, if Yahweh was NOT into human blood sacrifice, than the human sacrifice of Jesus would not have been accepted. I have noted in several papers I read on the New Testament the impact of Ugaritic / Canaanite influences on the Synoptic Gospel writers particularly the motivation behind the acceptance of the human sacrifice of Jesus.

Steven Carr said...

According to the story, Abraham never said to himself that it can't have been God talking to him because God would never demand a child sacrifice.

Jedi Punk said...

Here is a verse where God accepts (does not prevent) a human sacrifice.

From Judges 11:

(30) And Jephthah made a vow to the LORD: “If you give the Ammonites into my hands, (31) whatever comes out of the door of my house to meet me when I return in triumph from the Ammonites will be the LORD's, and I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering.”

(32) Then Jephthah went over to fight the Ammonites, and the LORD gave them into his hands.(33)He devastated twenty towns from Aroer to the vicinity of Minnith, as far as Abel Keramim. Thus Israel subdued Ammon.

(34)When Jephthah returned to his home in Mizpah, who should come out to meet him but his daughter, dancing to the sound of tambourines! She was an only child. Except for her he had neither son nor daughter.(35)When he saw her, he tore his clothes and cried, “Oh! My daughter! You have made me miserable and wretched, because I have made a vow to the LORD that I cannot break.”

(36)“My father,” she replied, “you have given your word to the LORD. Do to me just as you promised, now that the LORD has avenged you of your enemies, the Ammonites. (37)But grant me this one request,” she said. “Give me two months to roam the hills and weep with my friends, because I will never marry.”

(38)“You may go,” he said. And he let her go for two months. She and the girls went into the hills and wept because she would never marry.(39)After the two months, she returned to her father and he did to her as he had vowed. And she was a virgin.
From this comes the Israelite custom40that each year the young women of Israel go out for four days to commemorate the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite.

Tim said...

John,

You ask where, in 2 Chron 33:4-10, human sacrifice is condemned. That would be in the blanket condemnation of all that Manasseh is described as having done, e.g. in verse 6:

[H]e wrought much evil in the sight of the LORD, to provoke him to anger

and in verse 9:

So Manasseh made Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to err, and to do worse than the heathen, whom the LORD had destroyed before the children of Israel

and in verse 10:

And the LORD spake to Manasseh, and to his people: but they would not hearken

If your response is that this is condemnation of child sacrifice but not of child sacrifice to God, then two questions arise:

1. Why are we discussing this passage at all? The only thing one can get from this is a condemnation of child sacrifice as actually practiced by Manasseh, who is described as doing (and by his example promoting) worse things than the heathen nations whom God had destroyed for their wickedness (Deuteronomy 9:4,5; Leviticus 18:21,27).

2. If child sacrifice was anathema, as it clearly was, why would one expect an explicit prohibition of such sacrifice to God? That would be understood; indeed, it would be irreverent even to bring it up, unless it were clearly independently suggested and required refutation. But whether there is any competent evidence that it was ever envisaged as a part of Judaism is what is in question here.

You say:

Exodus 22:29 actually commands it

-- by "it" here meaning, apparently, child sacrifice. But Exodus 22:29 says nothing about child sacrifice, and the attempt to read it into the passage is more than strained. For an explicit account of what it meant to "give" a child to the Lord, see 1 Sam 1:11ff.

The circumcision discussion looks to me like a red herring. I have no idea whether it was a "substitutionary child sacrifice." But assuming that it was a cultural substitute for child sacrifice -- which was unquestionably widespread in the ancient Near East -- circumcision certainly seems to me to be a moral improvement on actually sacrificing a child. Doesn't that seem right to you?

Tim said...

John,

It occurs to me that we actually do have, in one passage, something pretty close to a condemnation of human sacrifice to God in Deuteronomy 12:30-31:

29 "When the LORD your God cuts off before you the nations which you are going in to dispossess, and you dispossess them and dwell in their land,

30 beware that you are not ensnared to follow them, after they are destroyed before you, and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, ‘How do these nations serve their gods, that I also may do likewise?’

31 "You shall not behave thus toward the LORD your God, for every abominable act which the LORD hates they have done for their gods; for they even burn their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods."


So it looks like that specific form of transferrence of abominable practices into Judaism was anticipated and nipped in the bud right in the Pentateuch.

Evan said...

Tim, if I grant that all you say is true, why did God need to sacrifice his own son to expiate the sins of mankind?

Tim said...

Evan,

That would take us off into a theological discussion that is not germane to this post. You know where you can find the relevant literature if you are interested.

My point in this thread is that the attempt to argue that Judaism endorsed child sacrifice involves the sort of extravagant misreading and bad scholarship that give atheism a bad name.

John W. Loftus said...

Tim, thanks for your thoughtful response.

Exodus 22:9 is dealt with in Claus Westermann’s commentary on Genesis, and he says that is was indeed a command for parents to sacrifice their firstborn, although he also says it was quickly abrogated by offering people a chance to substitute something else in his place, seen in some other passages, but not in this one. That’s what troubles me. The whole concept of redemption of the firstborn implies that child sacrifice is in fact commanded by God, otherwise why the need for redemption? And who says a parent needs to redeem their firstborn, anyway? Wouldn’t a sacrifice of a firstborn child be more pleasing to God than a mere substitute? People in the Old Testament, plenty of them, thought so. That’s why they chose to do it.

And there are more ways than one to dedicate a child to God. I Samuel 1 is about the Nazarite Vow. But what about devoting sons to God by killing them, as in Leviticus 27? Look specifically at these verses, in the Pentateuch:

28 “But no devoted thing that a man devotes to the LORD, of anything that he has, whether of man or beast, or of his inherited field, shall be sold or redeemed; every devoted thing is most holy to the LORD. 29 No one devoted, who is to be utterly destroyed from among men, shall be ransomed; he shall be put to death.

Circumcision itself was another way to have a substitute sacrifice, in my opinion, even if you don’t share this view. But when you say it “seems to be a moral improvement on actually sacrificing a child,” I must demur. To answer your question, yes, it would be an improvement. But if the fundamental reason behind it was that God demanded the sacrifice of the firstborn, then that’s a repulsive immoral reason to do anything, including circumcision. Doesn't that seem right to you?

As far as Deuteronomy 12:30-31 goes, the sin being condemned is apostasy, and the example given is that of sacrificing to the Canaanite gods. God is saying don’t believe in their gods nor sacrifice to them. Perhaps a good commentary might back this reading of mine up.

But even if not, we’d have an additional debate about exactly when Deuteronomy was composed and finally edited. We’d also have inconsistency issues in the Pentateuch as well as the whole Old Testament itself on this issue.

Historically it’s the case that after the Babylonian captivity the Jews didn’t practice child sacrifice, I think. Maybe their morality just became heightened just as their concept of God evolved. That’s a good thing, and it would be no surprise to see this reflected in the Bible.

We even read when a child sacrifice by the King of Moab to Moloch actually was the cause of the defeat of Israel’s armies. In II Kings. 3:26-27 we read:

26 When the king of Moab saw that the battle was going against him, he took with him seven hundred swordsmen to break through, opposite the king of Edom; but they could not. 27 Then he took his eldest son who was to reign in his stead, and offered him for a burnt offering upon the wall. And there came great wrath upon Israel; and they withdrew from him and returned to their own land.

Now why would God’s word admit that child sacrifice worked so well for Moab? And wouldn’t God’s people conclude that it would work for them as well, if they sacrificed their children to him instead, especially if there is no clear condemnation of it, just like there is no clear condemnation of slavery?

Evan said...

That would take us off into a theological discussion that is not germane to this post. You know where you can find the relevant literature if you are interested.

It's VERY germane.

You are saying that God is against child sacrifice.

I am saying that God sacrificed his son.

If God thinks child sacrifice is barbaric and evil -- isn't it wrong for he himself to do it?

John W. Loftus said...

Tim, here are some additional thoughts from a Jewish site:

About Abraham being told to sacrifice Isaac:

In this story there seems to be nothing in the text that argues against child sacrifice, that questions how God could make such a request, or that shows that the biblical writers disapproved of it. In fact, it could be argued that the text represents Abraham as quite enthusiastic about sacrificing his son.

In the book of Numbers, however, instead of animal substitutes for the human firstborn, God asks for the Levites to be His (Numbers 3:11-13; 8:14-19; 18:15).

In Ezekiel 20: 25-26 seems to acknowledge that God ordained human sacrifice, unaccompanied by any reference to the option of substitution, a fact that He comes to regret: "And I also gave them laws that were not good and rules by which they could not live. I defiled them with their very gifts when they set aside every first issue of the womb, in order to destroy them so that they might know that I am the Lord." Thus, here destruction of human life is associated with God's desire for recognition.

In Micah 6:6-8 similarly raises the possibility of child sacrifice: "With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow down before God on high. Should I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Does the Lord want a thousand rams, with myriads of rivers of fat? Should I give by oldest son as a sin offering, the fruit of my belly as a sin offering for my soul?"

The questions thus become not whether in the Bible child sacrifice was not acceptable, but under what circumstances?


Additional questions are these:

...was it acceptable, as long as it was not to other gods? Was child sacrifice part of a popular religion but shunned by the official religion? Were the laws of the Bible against this as in other matters actually followed?

However we struggle to answer these questions today, it could not have been made crystal clear to the Israelites in their day, otherwise there would be crystal clear injunctions against the practice, and the practice itself would not have been so widespread. Perhaps too they just did not fear the prophets and their God. If this is the case then God didn't reveal himself to the people with enough evidence that they should fear him over the other deities.

Andrew said...

Whats the beef?

A million and a half mothers sacrifice their unborn babies to the standard of "a better life" every year.

You don't cry about that.

John, you know why?

Because you are one of the most abysmal hypocrites I have ever read.

You are so full of it we can smell it over here in St. Louis.

Jennifer said...

Maybe their morality just became heightened just as their concept of God evolved. That’s a good thing, and it would be no surprise to see this reflected in the Bible.

Amen! This is what I see happening in the Bible from beginning to end. It take a long time to undo false perceptions based upon fear which is fed to each generation by their parents.

This is what is different about Jesus, in my opinion. Leaving aside any textual disputes, Jesus wiped this need for sacrifice away once and for all. Man no longer needs to appease an angry God. This is where I would go back in history and see that as the influence of Christianity spread (in all it's forms) people have increasingly stepped away from any desire or need to appease a deity.

I think this is part of "Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven". Man is free to be human.

Tim said...

John,

Westermann's reading seems perverse to me. It certainly isn't given any time in the various commentaries I've read, so it seems I am not alone.

The Jewish site you've found does not seem to be a scholarly site -- the author is just recycling some pretty strange works. If I found the analysis at all plausible I would say more about this.

I will just mention that the verb nathan ("give") in Exodus 22:29 will not bear the weight being placed on it; the same root is used in other places for mere transferral of property. (See Gen 24:36; Gen 25:5; Job 42:15.)

As for 2 Kings 3:26-27, it appears that the Israelites took fright and ran -- not all that surprising when one recalls that at the time of Jephthah many of them shared some of the superstitions of surrounding nations (Judges 11:24). This is the interpretation of a number of commentators, including Dentan, Gray, Rawlinson, and Brown.

Tim said...

Evan,

Nobody thinks that God the Father burned his infant son as a child sacrifice. Since you haven't taken the hint, try going here, or here, or here, or here. If you don't like it, fine -- but give up trying to turn it into evidence that Judaism condones child sacrifice.

Evan said...

Tim,

Try as you might, you just can't get rid of the problem.

Child sacrifice was done based on the concept that sin required expiation.

It is indisputable that the majority of Christians believe in a doctrine of original sin.

It is indisputable that the majority of Christians have a soteriology that is based on the sacrifice by God of his Son for the sins of mankind -- which is EXPLICITLY based on OT Palestinian sacrifice.

If you have such hatred for the concept, I can fully agree, because it is indeed primitive barbarism.

But what you can't say is that sacrifice has no role in Christianity.

God sacrificed his Son for the sins of mankind.

Tell me how that's irrelevant to this?

John W. Loftus said...

Tim, From Brown, Driver and Briggs dealing with the word nathan ("give") that we see in Exodus 29:29:

k. give offerings, לְי׳ Nu 18:12 (P), תְּרוּמַת י׳ Ex 30:15 (P), cf. give spoil to (לְ) י׳ Dt 20:14 (י׳ subj.); לָ֑ךְ מִיָּֽדְךָ נָתַנּוּ 1 Ch 29:14; offering to (לְ) idols Ez 6:13; especially to Moloch Lv 20:2, 4, to pass through fire to (ל) M 18:21, etc.

Besides, linguists know that the basic unit of meaning is the sentence. That a particular word is used doesn't tell us its definition until we consider the sentence we find it in, which is part of a larger context.

John W. Loftus said...

Tim, and as far as the word "wrath" goes in II Kings 3:27 it usually refers to divine wrath, or wrath of the gods (keep in mind that kings and judges were considered "gods"). Check these passages out (from Brown,Driver, & Briggs):

†i. קֶ֫צֶף S7110 TWOT2058a, 2059b GK7912, 7913 n.m. 2 K 3:27 wrath;—abs. ק׳ Nu 1:53 +; קָ֑צֶף Jos 22:20 +; cstr. קֶצֶף Je 50:13 +; sf. קִצְפִּי Is 60:10; קֶצְפְּךָ ψ 38:2, קִצְפֶּ֑ךָ 102:11, קִצְפֹּו Je 10:10;—1. of God: abs. Nu 17:11 (P), Dt 29:27 Is 60:10 Je 10:10; 21:5; 32:37; 50:13 ψ 38:2; 102:11 Zc 7:12; c. עַל against Nu 1:53; 18:5 Jos 9:20; 22:20 (P), 2 K 3:27 1 Ch 27:24 2 Ch 19:2, 10; 24:18; 29:8; 32:25, 26 Is 34:2 Zc 1:2, 15; בְּשֶׁצֶף ק׳ Is 54:8. 2. of man (late), Est 1:18 Ec 5:16.—Ho 10:7 v. ii. קֶצֶף.

The only question left unresolved is whose "wrath" sent the Israelites away as the direct result of Moab's child sacrifice? Molech, or Yahweh? But it doesn't matter to me, for it shows that the author believed child sacrifice works.

Jennifer said...

John,
for it shows that the author believed child sacrifice works.

How do you come to this conclusion?
I don't think we have to assume it means the author believed child sacrifice worked so much as the author recorded what people commonly did to appease the gods in their own understanding.

I agree with Tim and think the articles and the points being made for this view of the Israelites practicing child sacrifice at God's command is trying to study the forest by looking at a couple of trees.

This is what I am curious about...

Let's say the Hebrews did practice human sacrifice. Given the number of times God warned them about their idol worship it is conceivable that some evidence could be found that they did when not following the Law.

I am using the NASV which has this in Ezekiel 20:25-26
"And I also gave them statutes that were not good and ordinances by which they could not live; and I pronounced them unclean because of their gifts, in that they caused all their first born to pass through the fire so that I might make them desolate, in order that they might know that I am the Lord."

Here is a commentary by a Professor Hyam Maccoby that deals with this extensively. I think you'll find it's very thorough and is written for Jews from a Jew, and
it's an honest look at the passage.

Here is good old Matthew Henry's commentary on Micah 6:6-8. I was surprised to see that singled out of the text as the next part is:
"He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God."

John W. Loftus said...

Jennifer, all that Micah said is that he considered child sacrifice along with the other sacrifices God ordained to please him. The fact that God tells Micah he only wants justice and mercy does not undercut that Micah believed child sacrifice was acceptable to God, for it’s listed among other types of sacrifices that ARE pleasing to God, nor doesit undercut that God had previously demanded these sacrifices. And God certainly did not condemn Micah for suggesting such a thing as child sacrifice, which is what any perfectly good God would do. I would do say so to Micah, and I’m not a perfectly good God!

It just appears to me that you and Tim are taking a caviler approach to the extremely nasty God you claim to worship, when he's supposed to be perfected love itself.

How do you reconcile that view you have of him with this passage, where by the way, it only seems to only condemn child sacrifice to "other" gods:

Jeremiah 19
3 You shall say, ‘Hear the word of the Lord, O kings of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem. Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, Behold, I am bringing such evil upon this place that the ears of every one who hears of it will tingle. 4 Because the people have forsaken me, and have profaned this place by burning incense in it to other gods whom neither they nor their fathers nor the kings of Judah have known; and because they have filled this place with the blood of innocents, 5 and have built the high places of Baal to burn their sons in the fire as burnt offerings to Baal, which I did not command or decree, nor did it come into my mind; 6 therefore, behold, days are coming, says the Lord, when this place shall no more be called Topheth, or the valley of the son of Hinnom, but the valley of Slaughter. 7 And in this place I will make void the plans of Judah and Jerusalem, and will cause their people to fall by the sword before their enemies, and by the hand of those who seek their life. I will give their dead bodies for food to the birds of the air and to the beasts of the earth. 8 And I will make this city a horror, a thing to be hissed at; every one who passes by it will be horrified and will hiss because of all its disasters. 9 And I will make them eat the flesh of their sons and their daughters, and every one shall eat the flesh of his neighbor in the siege and in the distress, with which their enemies and those who seek their life afflict them.’

How do you reconcile the God of reason, the God of love, with the ways he plans to deal with people who worship other Gods? This is some nasty stuff here. And how do you reconcile the number of lives lost as a result of God's actions with the number of children sacrificed? Let's see, a few children are being killed, so I'll slaughter them all. As a result of God’s actions many more children will die and/or be fatherless. It does not make any sense at all. There are better ways to handle such things out of love, too. Merely send a prophet who can do great miracles in their midst and let him tell them this is plainly forbidden. Better yet why not just make one of the ten commandments: "Thou shalt not sacrifice, or kill any man, woman or child to me," and say it as often as he needed to without the conflicting messages and lack of condemnation for such practices as he requested of Abraham and as Jepthah did.

The God we're talking about is based upon the reflections and musings of an ancient superstitious barbaric people, plain and simple.

This is the best and simplest explanation for what we find in the Bible.

Tim said...

John,

The question is whether nathan carries the connotation of death or of transferral of ownership in the passage in question. It is widely agreed that this cannot be settled by the linguistic data alone, though some authors have tried to place great weight on nathan. This was the point I was trying to make.

As for qetseph, again we have a word that can be translated "wrath" or "indignation." The entire construction in 2 Kings 3:27 is very difficult to unravel. One could, with Keil and Farrar, read the passage as indicating that God's wrath was stirred against Israel, resting on the fact that this is the most common meaning of qetseph. However, this interpretation creates more problems than it solves in the wider context. These problems are resolved if we take the word to refer to a subjective, human reaction -- and indeed, we find that qetseph is sometimes used for human emotion, as in Gen 40:2, Gen 41:10, Esther 1:18, Esther 2:21, etc.

So I don't think the passage "shows that the author thinks child sacrifice works," though on my reading it suggests that at least some of the Israelites believed that child sacrifice works. Again, Judges 11:24 helps to put this in context.

For Deuteronomy 12:30-31, though the passage is undoubtedly speaking against apostasy, one of the forms the prohibition takes is to forbid the use of the forms of worship used by these pagans in the worship of God. At least that is strongly suggested by this phrase:

You shall not behave thus toward the LORD your God

This is the interpretation taken in, e.g., The Shorter Catechism of the Church of Scotland (1860), p. 298. It was also the interpretation given by Owen, Leland, Whiston, etc. For a Jewish endorsement of this interpretation, see Letters of Certain Jews to Monsieur Voltaire, 3rd ed. (1848), p. 360.

John W. Loftus said...

Tim, You said...The entire construction in 2 Kings 3:27 is very difficult to unravel.

Maybe it's because you're trying to explain the plain meaning of the text away?

In any case, I'll have to do more study on these issues.

Thanks to you and Jennifer for the challenges. The widest context to use in interpreting a text is the worldview context along with which hypothesis we think best explains the whole Bible.

That's why we won't see eye to eye on this. I cannot convince you by continuing to ask you to look at this tree or that tree, for each single tree can be accounted for by the whole, but that's all I can do. I cannot make you see the whole forest the way I do. But that’s what is needed.

Cheers.

Lee Randolph said...

anyone know what the Jewish community says about these passages? Its their heritage, I presume they would be experts.

Jennifer said...

John,
This is my only problem with your view of the forest.

At some point, something changed people's minds about the need to make an atoning sacrifice to a god. At some point in history, someone came up with the idea of a God of love even though everyone in the world that we know of believed in some sort of angry god.
At some point grace entered the human psyche. Even if it had been an idea mentioned somewhere by someone obscure, the concept of grace has changed the trees in the forest over time until we now don't even see a need for a god because our psyche has been released from the power of the need for redemption.

The only logical conclusion I can make is that it was Jesus who made that difference and that Jesus came out of Jewish culture. It has been said that the Jews gave the world a conscience and I'd have to agree to some extent through the reading I've done. Not saying there isn't more to learn, but what I've read is pretty convincing.

Jennifer said...

Lee,
Did you read the link I gave? The author gave several rabbi commentary which covered around a thousand years.

I agree it would be a benefit to have some Jewish teaching here.

Tim said...

Lee,

You ask:

anyone know what the Jewish community says about these passages? Its their heritage, I presume they would be experts.

I already gave a link to this discussion. Jennifer has given another.

Tim said...

John,

I wrote:

The entire construction in 2 Kings 3:27 is very difficult to unravel.

To which you responded:

Maybe it's because you're trying to explain the plain meaning of the text away?

Not at all: I'm simply passing on what various commentators have said about the difficulties in construing the language. Poke around a bit in the literature and you'll see what I mean.

John W. Loftus said...

Tim, Check this out.

Tim said...

John,

Yes, this topic has become quite a cottage industry over the past decade or so, with a few other books and a spate of articles on the subject.

John W. Loftus said...

Tim if you accept the Documentary Hypothesis I don't see why there is a problem. It just took scholars a while before they were willing to admit it, that's all.