Answering The Atheist
January 25, 2004 / Volume 4, Issue 4
THE ATHEIST'S COMPLAINT:
Does God approve of human sacrifice? Some verses indicate "yes" (Gen 22:2; Ex 22:29; Lev 27:28-29; Num 31:25-29; 2 Sam 21:1, 8-9, 14; Jdg 11:29-40; 1 Ki 13:2; 2 Ki 23:20). Other verses indicate "no" (Lev 18:21; Lev 20:2; Deut 18:10). Is there a contradiction?
God did not approve of human sacrifice. Such was the manner of the pagans, and condemned by the Lord. Let us therefore look at the texts which the questioner presents as support that God does approve of human sacrifice.
Gen 22:2 – read on in the context, and you will note that God did not allow the sacrifice. It was a test of Abraham's faithfulness to God (Gen 22; Heb 11:17-19)
Ex 22:29 – This is a repeat of Ex 13:2, where the Lord asks that the Israelites sanctify their children unto the Lord. Such was fulfilled through an animal sacrifice, not a human sacrifice (Lk 2:23; Ex 13).
Lev 27:28-29 – This is not a command to perform human sacrifices, but a stern regulation regarding things devoted to the Lord. The man devoted was not sacrificed, but remained the Lord's till death.
Num 31:25-29 – Moses is distributing the plunder from victory in war to the Israelites. A portion was to be given to the priests as a heave offering. All that was given to the priests was not killed (v 30, 47, 50-54).
2 Sam 21:1, 8-9, 14 – Famine was upon Israel because of the evil deeds of Saul's house. The hanging of Saul's sons was not a human sacrifice, it was justice being served against an evil family.
Jdg 11:29-40 – Jepthah made a foolish vow to the Lord. She bewailed her virginity for two months, then returned to her father, and he carried out his vow. Does that mean he sacrificed her as a burnt offering? Certainly not. Such would be contrary to God's will. She was given to the Lord, remaining a virgin, and perhaps serving in the temple the remainder of her life.
1 Ki 13:2 – The word translated "offer" (KJV) is the Hebrew zabach, meaning to kill or to slaughter. This was not a sacrifice, but divine justice exercised against those who would do evil before God.
2 Ki 23:20 – This is the fulfilment of the text above. Again, it is divine justice, not a sacrificial offering.
There is no contradiction.
This article is a response to Skeptic's Annotated Bible