It's not all about child sacrifice, but a lot of it is. The first mention of it is subtle:
Genesis 15:16 “Then in the fourth generation they shall return here for the sin of the Amorite is not yet complete.”
According to historians, Abram ben Terah, later Abraham, lived from approximately 2150 BCE to 1975 BCE. This is the Abraham of old who is revered as the patriarch of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. During this time people groups of the Levant worshiped many different gods. A good number of them, such as Moloch, demanded the sacrifice of the children of their followers. In some cases, it was done as a one-off sacrifice in order to gain something in return, such as when Mesha the king of Moab sacrificed his first-born son, which occurred around 860 BCE:
2 Kings 3:26-27 "When the king of Moab saw that the battle was too fierce for him, he took with him 700 men who drew swords, to break through to the king of Edom; but they could not. Then he took his oldest son who was to reign in his place, and offered him as a burnt offering on the wall. And there came great wrath against Israel, and they departed from him and returned to their own land."
And again in Judges where Jephthah ignorantly obligates himself to the Hebrew God YAWEH so that he may win a battle, and ends up sacrificing his daughter.
But it is no stretch at all to presume that most cases of child sacrifice to these gods was conducted regularly as ritual for the sake of the community. Imagine living your childhood in fear that you would be chosen as the sacrifice. It was like the Hunger Games but there was no game. One was chosen to die for the sake of the many, and that was that. Now imagine being the parent of that child and being fully obligated to surrender them because the neighbors next door had to do it last month and now it's your kid that got picked. It’s your turn. And who would be the most likely candidate to deliver the child to their death? I would say probably the father. The child's very picture of security and strength carrying them to the altar or to the fiery arms of Moloch. Without doubt the most horrible experience any human being has had to endure.
Now imagine this belief system’s impact on the cultures of these people groups after nearly 1000 years. With the ritual killing of children a centerpiece of their religion and culture, this is the making of a sick and twisted society. This is the “sin of the Amorite” in Genesis 15. It appears as though God gave the people of the region of Canaan over 700 years (from Abraham to Moses) to get their shit together. This is also the reason God was such an asshole to the Canaanites in telling the Israelites to destroy every man, woman, and child of them when they retook the land. It was so that there would be no possible way for this diseased culture, its religions, and tenants to persist. It was in order to erase a very dark stain on humanity. A rotting sickness.
Deuteronomy 12:29-31 “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, 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?’ 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, what's the deal with God asking Abraham to sacrifice his only son? It is, in fact the second mention of child sacrifice in the Bible, after the sin of the Amorites.
Genesis 22:1-2 "Now it came about after these things, that God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you.”"
Genesis 22:10-13 "Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.” Then Abraham raised his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him a ram caught in the thicket by his horns; and Abraham went and took the ram and offered him up for a burnt offering in the place of his son."
There are many reasons for this trial of Abraham. A very important one is that God was showing Abraham who He is. God had made a covenant with Abraham, but Abraham had nothing but personal encounters with God to inform him of who this God is, of His character. He had no scriptures to go by, no priest or teacher to tell him. All that Abraham knew about God is what was spoken to him personally or demonstrated to him through events such as this. A very large part of this is to show Abraham that this God is different. He’s not like the other gods. He does NOT demand of his people the lives of their children, ever.
“That ain’t Me.”
Jeremiah 7:31 “They have built the high places of Topheth, which is in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire, which I did not command, and it did not come into My mind.”
So, what’s the point? What is the significance of this sick theme all throughout the Bible? Well, if there really is a God - this nebulous incomprehensible thing of ominous power and sentiment - and this God wanted to relate to mankind in a very meaningful and profound way, how would a God, more specifically, how would this God do that?
But wait a minute, we have not yet discussed the most significant case of child sacrifice mentioned in the Bible. Not of an infant but certainly of a child of a father, a son. The great significance of child sacrifice is that it is the most depraved act of humanity. And with the greatest depravity comes the greatest pain. Pain. The one and only thing that every single human on earth can relate to. That’s where God chose to meet us. To relate to us. Because He knew that’s the only way we’d all get it. And He chose the harshest and most brutal pain that any human has ever had to endure so that He could relate to every human being who will ever live. He gave up His son as a sacrifice. He, without obligation, carried His own son to the altar and laid Him on it. And watched.
This God seems to be able to relate to us.
In and through the darkest part of humanity He’s there.
Trying to tell us something:
“I’m real, I get it, I get you, and I’ve got you… no shit”
By Jason Lee Morrison ©2022