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HUMAN SACRIFICE IN THE BIBLE
by Dr Surya Kumar Daimari
4/19/2016 / Bible Studies
Human Sacrifice in the Bible:
There are ample evidence of the practice of human sacrifices mainly children as burnt offerings to gods and goddesses among the heathen in biblical times such as in the case of Ammonites to Molech and the Phoenicians to Baal. Lev 18:21; 20:2 cf Jer 19:5; 32:35 These practices were mostly found in Phoenicia and the Punic colonies of North Africa at Carthage. Albright in his book called, "Yahweh and the Gods of Canaan" has clearly indicated the practices #1. It was also practiced both by the Canaanites and their neighbors (Ps 106:37-38). There is a terrible example of such sacrifice in II Judge 3:27 where Nesha, the king of Moab sacrificed his own eldest son to the throne upon the city wall as a burnt offering when he completely lost his hope of victory over the Israelite. There are evidences that some Israelites fell into this abominable custom of the heathenism. Even Jepthah carried out a vow to sacrifice his daughter, his only child (11:30-40). Another example is of Manasseh who "made their sons to pass through the fire" (II Kings 21:6; II Chr 33:6). This is a term which expresses the horror of human sacrifice. The people of Israel might have been practicing this horrorful act at the time of Babylonian captivity. See Jer 7:31; 17:1-2; 19:5; 32:35; Ez 16:21; 20:31; 23:37 cf Is 57:5
Human Sacrifice is seriously forbidden in the Law of Moses (Lev 18:21; 20:2-5; Deut 18:10; Mic 6:7-8). The Central Law of Judaism known as TORAH revealed at Sainai, called for an animal sacrifice, never a human, Gen 22:12.God through Moses gave warning to the Israelites not to worship God in the manner of the pagans through human sacrifice, because, it is an abomination to the Lord. Deut. 12:30-32. During the time of Isaiah, Jeremiah (Jer 7:31-32), people sacrificed their children to Molech, a deity of Ammon especially at "Tophet" which was a high place in the valley of Hinnom, SW of Jerusalem. Tophet was the center of the cruel Molech cult where children were sacrificed.
FEW HIGH LIGHTS
The valley of Hinnom starts from the W side of Jerusalem and continues to SE of the city joining the valley of the Kidron. The valley is deep and narrow with steep and rocky hill tops. Hinnom is important in the Bible because , here was located Tophet, a place of abomination, where children were sacrificed to the idol Molech (II Chr 28:3; 33:6). Jeremiah called this place as the "Valley of slaughter" (Jer 7:31-34; 29:3-6; 32:35)
The Heb word for Hinnom is "Ge ben-Hinnom" , in Greek transliterated as "Geenna" which signifies the meaning of "hill". The place was later known as "the place of decay, putrefaction and burning". "The lake of fire" in the book of Revelation (Rev 14:10; 19:20; 20:10; 21:8) most probably comes from this "Ge-Hinnom" concept.
Tophet was an area in the valley of Hinnom, South to Jerusalem where children were sacrificed to the pagan deity, Molech (II Kings 23:10; Jer 7:31). The root meaning of "Tophet" supposed to have come from the Aromaic root "t-ph-t" meaning, "to burn",. Therefore , Tophet signifies "a place of burning and burying dead bodies" (Is 30:33). Molech was worshipped by the ancient Canaanites and later also by the idolatrous Israelites. Jeremiah calls this place as "valley of slaughter" (Jer 7:32- 33; 19:6).
Molech is an Ammonite deity worshipped by ancient Canaanites and later by the idolatrous Israelite by giving human sacrifices mainly children (II Kings 23:10 ; Jer 32:35). Even Solomon also built a sanctuary for Molech (I Kings 11:7,33).But it was desecrated by Josiah (II Kings 23:13). Zephaniah reproved the worship of Molech calling it an astral deity (Zeph 1:5). Originally sacrifices were made to Molech to confirm a vow. It was a votive offering . Children were to "pass through the fire to Moloch" (Lev 18:21)
Baal was the most important god of the Canaanite pantheon. Baal was the most serious rival god of the Israelites' "Yahweh". His titles were equaled with that of Yahweh. He was known as "the rider on the clouds" (Rokeb arufot) cf Deut 33:26; Ps 68:4; 104:3 where "Yahweh" is also called "the rider on the clouds". He is also called Zabul, "exalted Lord of earth" cf I Chr 29:11; Ps 46:10; Ps 18:46
His another name is Baal Shamen which means "Lord of Heaven" cf Ps 24:10 where Yahweh is called, "the Lord of hosts"; Also see Ps 59:5 "Lord God of hosts.
Baal was worshipped in the high places of Moab (Num 22:4). Many of the Israelites also worshipped him. See Judges 2:13; 6:28-32;I Kings 16:32; 18:17-40. The most important cult of Baal was that children were sacrificed to him by fire, Jer 19:5
Mesha was a king of Moab. He was subjected to Israel in the days of Omri and Ahab. But he rebelled against Israel after the death of Ahab and eventually he was free from the yoke (II Kings 1:1; 3:4-5). After Jehoram succeeded the throne of Israel, three combined forces came together to invade Edom. These three forces were Jehoram, the King of Israel, Jehoshaphat, the King of Judah and the King of Edom. Mesha could not confront the combined forces and the siege of the Moabite city. So he sacrificed his own son on the wall of Kir-hareseth.
Manasseh, the son of Hezekiah became the king of Judah (II Chr 33:1) after the death of his father. He is an abominable example of idol worship of the heathen. He went to place an idol in the temple of God itself and offer human sacrifices before Baal.
"he made his son pass through the fire" II Kings 21:6
6.Abraham goes to offer his own son:
﴾A typical of human sacrifice﴿
Human sacrifice was the evil and abominable practice of the pagan nations that surrounded the Israelites. But God has strictly forbidden human sacrifice in the Bible. "Let no one be found among you who sacrifices their son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination-------Anyone who does these things is detestable to the Lord; because of these same detestable practices the Lord your God will drive out those nations before you." Deut.18:10-12(NIV). But the case of Abraham going to sacrifice his own son to God is also a typical of human sacrifice. The question is 'Why did God command Abraham to sacrifice his own and only son to him?
Gen 22, therefore, is a very significant chapter and cannot be bypassed or overlapped. The chapter itself is a vast storehouse of divine revelation of God. A deep insight into it will reveal God's purpose and plan of the ages for the fallen man.
God tested Abraham's faith and he said to him, "Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him therefore a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of. And Abraham rose up early in the morning.. went unto the place of which God had told him.. Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it upon Isaac his son: and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife and they went both of them together. And Isaac spoke unto Abraham his father and said, My Father..Behold the fire and the wood but where is the Lamb for a burnt offering ? And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering : so they went both of them together. And they came to the place which God had told him of, and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood on order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood. And Abraham stretched forth his hand and took the knife to slay his son. And the angel of the Lord called unto him out of heaven and said, Abraham, Abraham,. .. lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou anything unto him; for now I knew that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withhold thy son, thine only son from me. And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son. And Abraham called the name of the place Jehovah Jireh." Gen 22:2- 14
Abraham had had a tremendous experience on the Mount Moriah where he went to sacrifice his only beloved son for a burnt offering to the Lord. None but God could understand the suffering of a father, how great a sorrow it was in yielding up his own son to death. It was only by the grace of God that Sarah could give birth to a son even in her old age. Isaac was her glory, her pride and her joy. Her life and all her love was bound in him. Abraham was afraid to tell her that God wanted their Isaac back and unburden his sorrow lest she be hindered. Any declaration of the need of sacrifice might make her refuse the sacrifice. So Abraham bore the sorrow all by himself. Sorrow stricken Abraham started his journey from Beersheba which was three days journey to Mount Moriah because he cannot refuse God's demand. Abraham could not have understood at all why God needed his only son. He might have remembered His marvelous promise saying,
"In Isaac shall thy seed be called" Gen 21:12
"..a seed numberless as the stars of the sky, Gen 15:5
"as the sand which is upon the sea shore." Gen 22:27
God changed his name from Abram to Abraham. Abram in Hebrew means "exalted one" but Abraham means "father of multitude". God changed Abram's name to Abraham because God promised to make him the father of many nations. The whole families of the earth should be blessed through his posterity. Gen 17:5
When the father and the son were climbing the mountain Moriah and the son asked his father , "Behold the fire and the wood but where is the lamb for a burnt offering ?" Abraham might have been shocked at his words as if they were thunderbolts. Who knows, he did not take pains in answering him, "God will provide himself a lamb." And when they reached the place, Abraham by faith built an altar and laid the wood in order and bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar upon the face of his son who offered himself willingly to his mystery , kissed him for the last time, closed his eyes, offered his last sacrificial prayer and then stretched his hand up holding the knife to slay his son and we can imagine what could be his heart at this juncture. But suddenly the angel of the Lord from heaven said, "stop, stop.". Abraham was taken aback, lifted his eyes and saw a ram caught in a thicket. And the Lord said, "Now take the ram and put him in the place of your son." Abraham could not have understood all about these things. He might have asked God , "Why Lord, Why are you making this change from my son to the ram? " And God was explaining him through His action, "Your son will not have to die, but my sacrifice will die in the place of your son." O, what a blessed God, He needs a sacrifice and He Himself provides the sacrifice. And Abraham took the ram and offered a burnt offering for the Lord. Abraham called the place Jehova-Jireh which means God provides.
GOD'S PURPOSE OF ASKING ABRAHAM TO SACRIFICE HIS SON:
God's purpose was clear and plain as mentioned in Gen 22:1,
"To test Abraham." It means that God wanted to test Abraham's faith on Him. After God was satisfied with Abraham in terrible experiment God had said to him,
".for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withhold thy son, thine only son from me." Gen 22:12
And "it was reckoned to him for righteousness" Rom 4:3
God's promises to Abraham were not limited to his offspring and land only but beyond that. The greatest promise that God had for Abraham was,
"in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed" Gen 22:18
And this was because of his obedience to Him.
"because thou hast obeyed my voice." V 18
God did not want to bless just Abraham but the whole world. Thousands of years later, the same has been fulfilled in the time of Jesus, our Savior in whom we are blessed.
"..God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying , in thee shall all nations be blessed. So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham." Gal 3:8,9
THE TYPOLOGICAL SIGNIFICANCE:
﴾i﴿ The picture of Abraham giving his only son, Isaac for sacrifice on the altar on mount Moriah foreshadows our God who gave His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ on the cross on the Mount of Calvary. Abraham prefigures God as the Father who "spared not his Son, but delivered him up for us all." Rom 8:32
Isaac pictures Christ, "Obedient unto death." Phil 12:5-8
﴾ii﴿ When we see the picture of Abraham giving his only son from another angle, we see that the cords that bound Isaac to the horns of the altar for sacrifice represent sin. Death is a sure penalty of sin. So Isaac has no way of escape until he fulfills the requisite for sin.
"The demand laid on Isaac's life re-affirmed God's verdict on man as sinner and so proclaimed the need for deliverance." Says Kline. *1
Isaac could have been an excellent sacrifice for God. But God did not want Isaac should die for his sin. God prepared a ram to die in his place who bore all the burdens and sin of Isaac. There is a prophetic and messianic message in this chapter.
"Behold the ram"--- "In the combination of God's self valedictory oath of Gen 15:17 and this divinely provided substitute, the vicarious bearing of God's own unspared Son was Prefigured." Kline *2
Cf Rom 8:32,
"He that spared not his own son, but delivered him up for us all----"
God might have spoken to Abraham in another way, "I will send my only begotten Son, who will die for the sins of the world." When Abraham said, "God will provide", he meant only an animal. But God really sent his Son to die on the cross in our place. John 3:16 says,
"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son"
By an ultimate consecration of Isaac to God in death judgment he must demonstrate the truth of his oath of allegiance.
Right here, another vital question comes up, "Why did God sacrifice Christ on the cross and how could the blood of Jesus be a payment for our sins? Or What does it mean when the Bible says, "Jesus died for our sins"? Rom. 5:8-11
There is no doubt that a sacrifice for sin is needed if people are to be saved and have eternal life. God Himself established the necessity of the shedding of blood to cover sins (Heb. 9:22). But God also established the fact that no sacrifice whether animal or man can save a man from his sins (Heb. 10:3-4). Christ Himself came down from heaven to offer Himself as the ultimate and perfect sacrifice as ransom for all people. His death on the cross is therefore justified on the following grounds,
1. Christ willingly and voluntarily offered Himself as the sacrifice for sin. Heb.
Jesus Himself said," I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep" Jn 10:11
"I lay down my life" Jn 10:17
" --- lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me) to do
Thy will, O God." Heb 10:7
2. Jesus is the only one who could pay the penalty for the sins of the world, Rom 5:8-11. Jesus Christ was not merely human but the God Incarnate. Jn 1:14
3.To make a new covenant.
"Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance" Heb 9:15 (NIV)
And "this New Covenant was sealed with the blood of Christ." Heb 9:14
While instituting the Lord's supper, Jesus spoke of the cup, as "the new covenant in my blood." LK 22:20 cf MK 14:24; I Cor 11:25
4.To make a final atonement eternal redemption.
"--------- he entered the most Holy place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption." Heb 9:12 (NIV)
" ------ in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins." Col 1:14
"In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness Eph1:7
"He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world." I Jn 2:2
See Rev 5:9; I pet 1:18-19; Mt Rev 7:14-15
5.To set free from the sins committed under the first covenant.
"--------- he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant." Heb 1:5
"--------- has freed us from our sins by his blood." Rev 1:15
6.To sanctify us, to make us holy.
"--------- we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all." Heb 10:10
"Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood" Heb 13:12 see Heb 2:11
7.To justify us before God.
"By the blood of Christ we have been justified." Rom 5:9
8.To be a propitiation.
"whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness." Rom 3:25
9.To receive eternal life.
"Jesus said to them," I tell you that truth, unless you eat the flesh of the son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day." Jn 6"33,54 (NIV)
10.To restore the fellowship with God, i.e., for reconciliation. "since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him"
For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his son, how much more, have been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life." Rom 5:9,10 (NIV) see Col 1:20-22 for peace and reconciliation.
11.To make us perfect,
"---- by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those whom are being made holy" Heb 10:14 (NIV)
12.To cleanse our conscience, our guilt.
"How much more, them, will the blood of Christ, ------------- cleanse our conscience from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God." Heb 9:14
13.To bring us close to God.
"But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ." Eph 2:13 also see Heb 10:19-22
14.To enter God's presence with boldness.
"Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus ---------" Heb 10:19
15.To purify our heart
"The blood of Jesus, his son, purifies us from all sin" I Jn 1:7
16.It is through his blood that Christ purchased the church.
"Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood," Acts 20:28
See I cor 6:19,20; I Tim 2:6
It is the precious blood of Jesus (I Pet 1:18) that made all these possible. It was only the blood of Jesus that only was satisfactory and expiatory to God. . God took much pain to establish the necessity of the death of His son for the fallen man before the sinful world. It is manifested on the day when Christ died on the cross of Calvary where God has shown His Agape Love, so that we may believe in His Son, our only Lord, who only is worthy to receive glory and honor as He is our only Savior, the Christ, the only Heir of his eternal Father, the only Lord of Lords and the king of kings and that we may live with Him for ever in the eternal state in Heaven
Thus, the exclusive study of the Lamb of God in the OT Sanctuary and later in the Heavenly Sanctuary reveals the wonderful providence of God for man. It is seen that God has declared His works of eternal providence through the sufferings of the Lamb throughout the history of mankind from the beginning culminated in the person of Jesus Christ as a living sacrifice.
"He chose one nation, Israel and made it the means of His self revelation, gave it His word in the scriptures of the OT, Promised the Messiah through it and covenanted to preserve it and to bring it through every trial into His millennial kingdom. At the same time He broke down the middle wall of partition between Jew and Gentile and revealed the mystery of the expansion of His church by the death of Christ to include both. The theme of the whole Bible is God's plan to save His elect and set up His kingdom, in its first phase in the millennial reign of Christ and in its second and final one in the New Jerusalem. Nothing can thwart God's final consummation of His plan."#1
#1 Killer R Allan
"Providence" in Wycliffe Bible Encyclopedia. P1422
(This article is an extract from the author's book, "The Lamb of God in the Old Testament Sanctuaries" )
*1. Meredith G. Kline,
In New Bible Commentary, p 99
*2. Ibid, p 99
Name of the Author of this article: Dr. Surya Kumar Daimari, MA,M.Ed, PGDTE,D.Min.(Doctor of Ministry)
The author is a freelance writer.
Book published: The Names of the Believers in the Bible in Types and Symbols .
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Read more articles by Dr Surya Kumar Daimari
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