Child Sacrifice: More Violence Against Women

In a previous post, Violence Against Women, I mentioned the story of a young woman that was brutalized by her in-laws.  The case below comes from India:

NEW DELHI: Two men have been arrested in central India for allegedly killing a 7-year-old girl and cutting out her liver in a ritual sacrifice to ensure a better harvest, police said Monday.

Lalita Tati disappeared in October and her dismembered remains were found a week later, Rajendra Narayan Das, a senior police officer in the Bijapur district of Chhattisgarh, told The Associated Press.

Police arrested two men, both poor farmers, last week and they told police they killed the girl to appease their gods and get a better harvest, Das said.

Tati was walking home after watching television at a neighbor’s house when she was kidnapped, Das said. The two men confessed to cutting her open and removing her liver as an offering.

Das said the police had gathered enough evidence, apart from the confessions, to charge the two with murder. They would face life in prison or even the death sentence if convicted.

The men were described as “tribals,” a term referring to the region’s indigenous people, most of whom remain mired in poverty and illiteracy.

Human sacrifices are rare but get prominent attention every few years. A deep belief in traditional healers, or witch doctors, is common in mostly tribal Chhattisgarh

 

People today consider child sacrifice to be a primitive and barbaric ritual.  However, it is a fact that child sacrifice was a common practice in the ancient world.  It was even practiced by some people in  Israel (Judg. 11:30-31, 39; 1 Kings 16:34).

In the ancient world, child sacrifice was a ritual in which the worshiper offered to the gods a most precious gift, one’s own child.

In his book Human Sacrifice in History and Today (New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1981), p. 15, Nigel Davies, wrote that human sacrifice was a “killing with a spiritual or religious motivation, usually, but not exclusively, accompanied by ritual . . . performed in a sacred place or one that had been made sacred for the occasion.”

Ancient people believed that the gift of the first born or one’s own child was the highest gift one could give to the gods. In some situations, as in case of war, the sacrifice of one’s son was considered a necessity if victory was to be achieved against the enemy.

One clear example of child sacrifice as a means to achieve victory against an enemy is seen in the case of Mesha, the king of Moab, in his war against the army of Israel:

“When the king of Moab saw that the battle was going against him, he took with him seven hundred swordsmen to break through, opposite the king of Edom; but they could not. Then he took his firstborn son who was to succeed him, and offered him as a burnt offering on the wall. And great wrath came upon Israel, so they withdrew from him and returned to their own land” (2 Kings 3:26-27).

The king of Moab recognizing that he was about to lose the war, in his terrible predicament, made the supreme sacrifice of his firstborn son as an offering to his god.  The people of Israel were highly impressed that the king had made the supreme sacrifice by offering his son to his god.  As a result, the army of Israel was so filled with fear of the great wrath that Chemosh, the god of Moab, would bring upon them, that they gave up the victory that was theirs to win and withdrew in fear to their own land, believing that they would lose the war.

The sacrifice of children in the ancient world, as in this case in India, was based on the belief that something special was being given to god in exchange for a special favor. In the case of the sacrifice of the girl in India, those who sacrificed her expected a better harvest from their gods.

It is sad that violence against children, specially violence against girls, occurs all over the world.  This type of violence against powerless children is evidence of the depths of depravity human beings display when they are disconnected from the true God.

In their desire to please their gods, people today are still asking the same questions that were asked many years ago:

“What should I bring before the LORD when I come to bow before God on high? Should I come before Him with burnt offerings, with year-old calves? . . . Should I give my firstborn for my transgression, the child of my body for my own sin?” (Mic. 6:6-7 HCSB).

The answer is no: “Faithful love is what pleases me, not sacrifice; knowledge of God, not burnt offerings” (Hos. 6:6).  And the requirements to please God remain the same: “O people, the LORD has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love loyalty, and to walk humbly with your God” (Mic. 6:8).

Claude Mariottini
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary

 

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12 Responses to Child Sacrifice: More Violence Against Women

  1. Kelly Wunderlich says:

    Wow, crazy that this stuff is still happening in 2012… but it is… We know that these two men were poor and illiterate. We do need more educattion in the world, but even that… many people still need God, they have no hope……. Jesus is an answer to these sad, stories… People need hope, they need Jesus.

    Like

  2. Claude Mariottini says:

    Kelly,

    I agree with you: the gospel of Jesus Christ provides hope for a lost world. It is sad that these two men believed they had to sacrifice a little girl in order to have a better harvest. This kind of ignorance reflects the darkness present in their lives.

    Claude Mariottini

    Like

  3. Kwesi Adarkwa says:

    In the story of Mesha’s sacrifice on the wall of Moab, the bible says ‘and the wrath against the Israelites was great so that they withdrew’. The writer seems to say that Israel was being defeated (and had to withdraw) because of the sacrifice.

    Did the writers, then, believe that Chemosh was a potent god? I don’t believe the Israelites were ‘impressed’ by the sacrifice. The verse doesn’t point to that

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    • Claude Mariottini says:

      Kwesi,

      Thank you for your comment. The Israelite were winning the war, but after the sacrifice by the king of Moab, they left and went home. This means that they believed the sacrifice would work against them. You have to remember that many people believed that the gods had power to affect events. This is the reason many Israelites worshiped Baal, Asherah, and even the sun.

      Claude Mariottini

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      • Kwesi Adarkwa says:

        Thanks, Prof Mariottini, for your reply. What do you make then, though, of the phrase ‘then the anger burned greatly against Israel’. It does not make sense in the passage if your explanation is right.

        I read the writer as saying this: Israel is winning. Sacrifice to Chemosh. Moab begins to win. Israel withdraws.

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      • Claude Mariottini says:

        Kwesi,

        The idea here is that there was great indignation in Israel for what had been done. The word “against” can be translated also as “on,” or “upon.” Maybe in the near future I will write a post on this passage and go into more detail on what happened.

        Claude Mariottini

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  4. namer98 says:

    In Judg. 11:30-31, he was wrong for sacrificing his child, every Jewish commentator says so. It is murder to sacrifice a human being, but the father not knowing better did so anyways.

    In 1 Kings 16:34, it is referring to a curse given by Joshua that he who rebuild Jericho shall die.

    But thank you for trying to twist the bible.

    Like

    • Claude Mariottini says:

      Namer,

      I am not twisting the Bible. Jephthah sacrificed his daughter even though Jewish commentators say it was wrong, but he sacrificed his daughter. In 1 Kings 16:34 Hiel sacrificed his son as a foundation sacrifice. I am not twisting the Bible; the evidence is right there in the Bible.

      Claude Mariottini

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      • namer98 says:

        That does not mean God wanted it. It is an unfair comparison when you write things like

        “However, it is a fact that child sacrifice was a common practice in the ancient world. It was even practiced by some people in Israel (Judg. 11:30-31, 39; 1 Kings 16:34).

        In the ancient world, child sacrifice was a ritual in which the worshiper offered to the gods a most precious gift, one’s own child.”

        it might seem to other readers who are unfamiliar with the commentaries that God desired such things, when it is not the truth.

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      • Claude Mariottini says:

        Narmer,

        If you read my post correctly, I never said that God wanted or desired child sacrifice. The Akedah clearly teaches that God does not want human sacrifice. However, you cannot deny the fact that in ancient Israel some Israelites practiced child sacrifice.

        In addition to the two cases I mentioned in my post, take for instance the case of king Ahaz (2 Kgs. 16:3) and king Manasseh (2 Kgs. 21:6). Josiah had to defile the tophet located in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom so “that no one might burn his son or his daughter as an offering to Molech” (2 Kgs 23:10).

        It is clear from the Torah that God opposed child sacrifice. This is the reason there are laws forbidding the practice:

        “You are not to let any of your children be sacrificed to Molech” (Lev. 18:21).

        “There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering” (Deut. 18:10).

        With so much evidence that some Israelites practiced child sacrifice, I think it is wrong to deny that such a thing existed in Israel. Again, I emphasize that God did not approve this practice, but the practice existed among those Israelites who did not observe the laws of the Torah.

        Claude Mariottini

        Like

  5. namer98 says:

    I would appreciate you letting my comment through.

    Thank you,
    moderator of r/Judaism.

    Like

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