Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The Bible-God and Child Sacrifice

Wow. John Loftus has a couple of very interesting posts on child sacrifice here and here. Is this right? I've had my suspicions, but I've never been sure. Sometimes the text is a little ambiguous. Here's one example.

Exodus 22:29 “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."

Does this mean these firstborn are "set apart" or offered as burnt offerings. In light of the other information at the links above it seems very plausible to think this means burnt offerings. Worth looking into.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hey, Jon, I can answer this one for you. For absolute certain, this is not about sacrificing your child.

From Deuteronomy 18:10 (Deuteronomy is the retelling of the Law recorded in Exodus): "Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire."

And Deteronomy 12:31 (God finds such a thing detestable): "You must not worship the Lord your God in their way, because in worshiping their gods, they do all kinds of detestable things the Lord hates. They even burn their sons and daughters in the fire as sacrifices to their gods."

So we see here that the problem was not just that they were sacrificing to other gods (and that sacrificing children would be perfectly fine if you did it to the right God), the problem was in their sacrificing children, period. He says specifically there that we're not to worship him that way.

What the Law actually commanded that they do was to redeem their firstborn child who rightly belonged to God. This was already explained earlier in the Law. Here's one example from Exodus 13:

"When the Lord brings you into the land of the Canaanites, as he swore to you and your fathers, and shall give it to you, you shall set apart to the Lord all that first opens the womb. All the firstborn of your animals that are males shall be the Lord’s. . . . Every firstborn of man among your sons you shall redeem. And when in time to come your son asks you, 'What does this mean?' you shall say to him, 'By a strong hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt, from the house of slavery. For when Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us go, the LORD killed all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both the firstborn of man and the firstborn of animals. Therefore I sacrifice to the Lord all the males that first open the womb, but all the firstborn of my sons I redeem.' It shall be as a mark on your hand or frontlets between your eyes, for by a strong hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt."

There are many other places that make it clear that you do not sacrifice the firstborn child, but redeem him.

And, wow, that blog you cited gets a few things wrong! For example, he says Ezekiel 20:25-26 is a place where God demanded child sacrifice. Here's the passage: "I also gave them over to statutes that were not good and laws they could not live by; I let them become defiled through their gifts— the sacrifice of every firstborn— that I might fill them with horror so that they would know that I am the LORD."

This passage is talking about God's judgment on them because of the practice of child sacrifice (and other "abominations") they had taken up in direct opposition to God's commands that were given to them to give them life, not this kind of death. Since they insisted on going against God, He let them go their own way--He "gave them over" to the laws they had chosen and let them suffer the consequences.

And read through Micah 6:6-8. Micah is listing all the things they most value--"thousands of rams," "rivers of oil," and the "firstborn," and he's asking what God requires of him--what does God really want from him? None of these things. The conclusion is that God wants him "to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God." There's no suggestion that God wants them to sacrifice children.

And also, Jephthah is cerainly condemned. The entire book of Judges is an indictment of Israel. The point of it is to describe how bad Israel had become, and the damning conclusion of the book is that "everyone did what was right in his own eyes" instead of following God. Jephthah is just one example of this. He's condemned by the final line just as those are condemned who raped the woman, or worshipped the golden ephod, or betrayed God in numerous other ways. He's condemned because his actions went directly against God's explicit command to never do this.

I don't think this guy is reading very carefully.