Ancient mythology brings us news of human sacrifices as a means to placate the wrath and furor of the gods of the peoples. Children were innocent victims of these horrible worships. In the year 2,214 BC, in many places (Ur, Mari, Assyria, Ugarit, Amou), they worshipped the god Moloch with the sacrifice of children. These innocent victims were burnt alive. This macabre worship got into the history of Israel with Solomon, the king who had the wisdom given by Yahweh, or Jehovah, the god of the Hebrews. Jehovah had forbidden this worship in the Law of Moses. “Neither shall you give any of your offspring to offer them to Moloch, nor shall you profane the name of your God” (Lev.18:21). Whoever did this was condemned to death; and if anyone, friend or relative, knowing about it, did not denounce the one guilty of this crime, and did not kill him; such person and his family were condemned to death and extinction (Lev.20:2-5).
Solomon was nymphomaniac, having a thousand women: three hundred were concubines, all of them forbidden by Yahweh (Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Hittites, Sidoneans, and the Pharaoh’s daughter). Those women corrupted him to the extent that he built a statue of Moloch, an abomination of the sons of Ammon (1 Kings 11:1-6). Solomon did not die, because he was favored of Jehovah. Many kings offered their children to the fire of Moloch. King Ahab (2 Kings 16:1-3), Manasseh (2 Kings 21:1-6). This horrible worship became a practice among the people of Israel (2 Kings 2:16-17).
The issue we propose is the following: Jehovah, the one who killed those who committed this crime of sacrificing to Moloch, also accepted sacrifices of children. Or not? Let us analyze the Old Testament.
Israel was warring against the sons of Ammon, the people of Moloch, and Jephthah was the chosen general (Judges 11:1-5). Afraid of being defeated, Jephthah vowed to Jehovah the following: “If Thou wilt indeed give the sons of Ammon into my hand, than it shall be that whatever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me when I return in peace from the sons of Ammon, it shall be the Lord’s, and I will offer it up as a burnt offering” (Judges 11:30-31). Jephthah had an only daughter, and she went out from his house to meet him. Jephthah, when he saw her, rent his garments, crying, for he was going to fulfill his promise; and he did it 60 days after that. The question is: Does Jehovah accept human sacrifices or not? Did Jehovah accept the sacrifice of Jephthah? Follow me.
When Israel, led by Joshua, was at the doors of Canaan, Achan saw among the spoil a Babylonian mantle, two hundred shekels of silver, and a bar of gold, and hid them in the earth. For this reason, Israel began to lose the battle, and thirty-six Israelite soldiers died. Joshua tore his garments and fell, praying, before Jehovah, who said: There is sin. Joshua cast lots and the tribe of Judah was appointed. From the tribe of Judah, the family of the Zerahites was taken, and among the Zerahites, Achan. This was all done under the instruction of Jehovah. After Achan had confessed his sin, all the people got Achan, the silver, the mantle, the bar of gold, his sons and his daughters, his oxen, his donkeys and his sheep, his tent and all he had, and took them to the Valley of Achor, and stoned them to death and burnt them with fire. By this “JEHOVAH TURNED FROM THE FIERCENESS OF HIS ANGER” (Josh.7:1-26). If the sacrifice of the family of Achan placated the wrath of Jehovah, he accepts human sacrifices.
The second is the case of the first-born. After Jehovah freed Israel from the Egyptian yoke through the death of the first-born, he demanded that all the first-born of Israel, both human and animal, were handed over to him. The first-born had to be redeemed by five shekels in silver. If they were not redeemed, they were sacrificed to Jehovah (Ex.13:11-16; Num.18:15-16). In this way, Jehovah accepted sacrifices of children, just as Moloch did. The omission of the ransom resulted in sacrifice. The other case is the circumcision. The child that was not circumcised was sacrificed to Jehovah (Gen.17:14).
For forty years as they wandered through the desert, the people of Israel prostituted with the Moabites. Furious, Jehovah sent a plague that killed 24,000 Moabites. He was prepared to go on killing, but Phinehas the son of Eleazar, grandson of Aaron, took a spear and pierced a man of Israel and the woman through the body. Jehovah then said, “Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, has turned away My wrath from the sons of Israel” (Num.25:11). Jehovah accepted human sacrifice to appease him.
The fifth is the case of Saul. Jehovah chose Saul, and Jehovah rejected Saul (1 Sam.9:17; 16:1). The prophet Samuel gave the news of the rejection, but the announcement of the death of Saul and his three sons, Jehovah gave by the mouth of a sorcerer (1 Sam.13:14; 28:6-19; 31:1-2). The death of Saul and his three sons did not put out the vengeful fury of Jehovah, for thirty years more. Jehovah, very angry, sent three years of famine over Israel. David prayed and Jehovah answered that the responsible for it was Saul and his bloody house. They had wished to kill the Gibeonites forty years before. David called the Gibeonites to clear things up and end the famine in Israel. The Gibeonites asked for the seven sons of Saul to hang them in sacrifice to Jehovah. All seven innocent men were hung unto Jehovah, and the text finishes, “and after that God was moved by entreaty for the land” (2 Sam.21:1-14).
Let us analyze the last of the cases of this study. The kingdom of Israel enjoyed years of glory under the rule of David, and under peace. The kingdom was strengthened and the ark was taken to Jerusalem and placed in a tent that David put up (1 Chr.16:1). David said, “I am dwelling in a house of cedar, but the ark of the covenant of Jehovah is under curtains”. Then David decided to edify a house for the ark of God (1 Chr.17:1-12). At this time of glory for David and his kingdom, the wrath of Jehovah was kindled against Israel, apparently with no reason. Jehovah was angry, and only human sacrifices would bring him peace. Since there was no reason for sacrifices, Jehovah incited David to number the people, and David obeyed, and that gave Jehovah reason to kill 70,000 Israelites.
Those 70,000 souls were sacrificed to appease the spirit of Jehovah (2 Sam.24:1; 1 Chr.21:1-16).
In reality, Jehovah was never against human sacrifices. When he forbid the sacrifices done to Moloch, he did so because this privilege, only he, Jehovah, could have.
When Jesus died on the cross, this sacrifice was not done unto the Father, but to Jehovah. The Father gave his Son in sacrifice, and the blood that was shed delivered us from Jehovah. Peter said, “Knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold…but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ” (1 Pet.18-19). No one ransoms himself.
By Pastor Olavo Silveira Pereira