The Mosaic Law and Human Sacrifice

12 Nov
from Google Images

from Google Images

Does the Mosaic Law ever condone human sacrifice? I must conclude the answer to that question is no. The idea that the Mosaic Law does condone such a thing is born in the hearts and minds of the Biblical critic, whose bias simply will not permit a proper and contextual reply to Biblical difficulties, They draw their conclusions by reading into the text that God simply didn’t like it when Israel sacrificed their children to other gods,[1] thus, emphasizing their bias against a proper and contextual point of view. Nevertheless, I’ll try to point out a few more of their common claims and show where their understanding deviates from the context of Scripture.

In 2Kings 3:27 we are apparently told that the King of Moab in desperation sacrificed his son on the wall of the city and thus forced Israel to return to their land. Israel returned due to great wrath against them, and this is interpreted as God taking the side of the King of Moab, showing he accepts human sacrifice. There are problems with this interpretation, not the least of which is that God condemns humans sacrifice (Leviticus 18:21; Deuteronomy 12:31, 18:10). Therefore, whatever the reason for wrath or the return of Israel to its own land, the fact remains God does not accept human sacrifice. So, why was Israel subject to wrath and was the wrath from God. An interpretation can be either way. For example, in verse-26 the King of Moab tried to break through the siege by attacking the flank held by Edom. In doing so, it may be that he captured the King of Edom’s son and sacrificed him on the wall, thus demoralizing Edom whose wrath burned against Israel and they (Edom) returned to their land, which perhaps ended the siege, forcing Israel to do the same.

It could also mean that when Israel saw what the King of Moab had done, they assumed guilt for causing the king to use such desperate measures. Since human sacrifice is forbidden in the Law of Moses, Israel feared the wrath of God, and thus returned to their land. No matter what point of view one holds to, it is clearly seen in the Law of Moses that God condemns human sacrifice, and what the King of Moab did cannot be construed to mean that God approved.

Another Scripture used to conclude that the Law of Moses condones human sacrifice is:

‘Nevertheless, anything which a man sets apart to the LORD out of all that he has, of man or animal or of the fields of his own property, shall not be sold or redeemed. Anything devoted to destruction is most holy to the LORD. No one who may have been set apart among men shall be ransomed; he shall surely be put to death.’ (Leviticus 27:28-29 NASB)

This Scripture is taken out of context in order to satisfy the Biblical critic’s point of view that God condones human sacrifice. The problem with such a point of view is that God shows that anything that is devoted to him for destruction is a ‘holy’ thing. That is, it is set apart to be destroyed, whether in war (Numbers 21:1-3; Joshua 6:17) or in the execution of a criminal (Exodus 22:18-20). These people cannot be redeemed with money or with burnt offering. They are condemned (judged or devoted) to death.

Finally, some try to use Number 31:25-40 to show that God is pleased with human sacrifice, even though he clearly condemns it in Deuteronomy 12:31 and 18:10. Nevertheless, what can be said of the 32 virgins who were offered to the Lord for a heave offering (Numbers 31:29, 40)? First of all, nothing is said in this Scripture that the heave offering was to become a burnt sacrifice on the altar of God. Secondly, Numbers 18:24 shows that the tithes were Israel’s heaving offering to the Lord, and the Lord gave heave offerings to the Levites as their inheritance. Thus, when Numbers 31:29 says the heave offering was given to Eleazar, the priest, it was given him for distribution among the Levites (perhaps priests) according to the Law.


[1] As I said HERE, this current theme about “making sense of the Old Testament God” is based upon the book: Is God a Moral Monster by Paul Copan. These are my thoughts about his book. He may or may not agree with the impression his book has made upon me, but I thoroughly enjoyed reading what Paul wrote and recommend his book to anyone who is looking for a good read concerning defending our faith.

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Posted by on November 12, 2015 in apologetics


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