Posted by: adventlife | October 24, 2013

Abortion and the Ancient Practice of Child Sacrifice, by Andrew White MD

Child Sacrifice & AbortionThis article was published in an abridged, full-color format in the Winter 2012 issue of Bible and Spade.

[Advent Life note: This is my excerpt from an excerpt. Emphasis was supplied and ellipsis indicate omissions for brevity sake. For a full version, use the link provided at the end.]

Excerpt The Winter 2012 issue of Bible and Spade may be the most important issue we have ever produced. It is dedicated to the subject of child sacrifice in the ancient world and Israel, and modern day abortion. In conjunction with the release of this issue, ABR will also be posting online articles to supplement Bible and Spade. In addition, ABR is offering the “180” DVD, featuring Ray Comfort.

This 33 minute video documents discussions with 8 individuals who are pro-abortion. With impeccable logic and grace, Mr. Comfort helps these folks change their minds about modern day child sacrifice taking place in abortion clinics all across our land. We pray that this DVD, Bible and Spade, and our online articles will help changes hearts and minds on this critically important subject.

Introduction

Despite considerable biblical evidence already summoned to support a strong pro-life position, more scriptural testimony seems to be needed to convince some Christians that anything less than such a position is unbiblical. One objection frequently raised to a dogmatic stand against abortion is that the Bible never specifically addresses the issue.

The reason for this omission has been pointed out by the Old Testament scholar Meredith Kline who, commenting on the lack of abortion legislation in biblical law says, “It was so unthinkable that an Israelite woman should desire an abortion that there was no need to mention this offense in the criminal code.”[1]

There was, however, a rite performed in ancient Israel which has many parallels to the modern practice of abortion and is specifically addressed in the Sciptures. It was the rite of child sacrifice and Moses said it was one of the “detestable things the Lord hates” (Deuteronomy 12:31). In this article the largely neglected parallels between the ancient rite of child sacrifice and the modern practice of abortion will be examined in detail.

Archaeological and Extra-Biblical Literary Data

Before the biblical texts which address the practice of child sacrifice are examined, it will be helpful to draw on some of the archeological and extra-biblical literary data for the background they provide.

In 1921 the largest cemetery of sacrificed infants in the ancient Near East was discovered at Carthage. It is well established that this rite of child sacrifice originated in Phoenicia, ancient Israel’s northern neighbor, and was brought to Carthage by its Phoenician colonizers.[2]

Hundreds of burial urns filled with the cremated bones of infants, mostly newborns but even some children up to age six years old, as well as animals have been uncovered at Carthage.

They were buried there between the 8th century B.C. and the fall of Carthage during the third Punic War in 146 B.C. On the burial monuments that sometimes accompanied the urns, there was often inscribed the name or symbol of the goddess Tanit, the main Phoenician female deity, and her consort Ba’al Hammon. Infants and children were regularly sacrificed to this divine couple.

Fulfillment of a vow was probably the most frequent reason an infant or child was sacrificed as witnessed by the third century B.C. Greek author Kleitarchos (paraphrased by a later writer):

Out of reverence for Kronos (the Greek equivalent of Ba’al Hammon), the Phoenicians, and especially the Carthaginians, whenever they seek to obtain some great favor, vow one of their children, burning it as a sacrifice to the deity if they are especially eager to gain success.[3]

A typical example of an inscription follows:

To our lady, to Tanit, the face of Ba’al and to our lord, to Ba’al Hammon that which was vowed (by) PN son of PN son of PN. Because he (the deity) heard his (the dedicant’s) voice and blessed him.[4]

Thus fulfillment of a vow before or after obtaining a special favor from the gods, a favor that brings blessing or success to the dedicant, appears to be the most common reason for child sacrifice. Occasionally, however, at times of civic crisis, mass child sacrifice was practiced as attested by the first century B.C. Greek historian Diodorus Siculus who reported the response of the Carthaginians to their army’s defeat by Agathocles in 310 B.C.:

Therefore the Carthaginians, believing that the misfortune had come to them from the gods, betook themselves to every manner of supplication of the divine powers . . . In their zeal to make amends for their omission, they selected two hundred of the noblest children and sacrificed them publicly.[5]

The actual rite of child sacrifice at Carthage has been graphically described by Diodorus Siculus:

There was in their city a bronze image of Cronus extending its hands, palms up and sloping toward the ground, so that each of the children when placed thereon rolled down and fell into a sort of gaping pit filled with fire.[6]

Plutarch, a first and second century A.D. Greek author, adds to the description that:

the whole area before the statue was filled with a loud noise of flutes and drums so that the cries of wailing should not reach the ears of the people.[7]

There is conflicting evidence regarding the actual cause of death of the victims. Some reports suggest that they were burned alive[8] while other reports suggest that the infants and children were slaughtered first.[9] The victims themselves were members of both the wealthy mercantile and estate-owning class as well as the lower socioeconomic class as attested by the titles of the dedicants on the burial monuments.[10]

Occasionally, however, the upper class would substitute lower class children for their own by purchasing them from the poor and then sacrificing them as Diodorus Siculus reports:

in former times they (the Carthaginians) had been accustomed to sacrifice to this god the noblest of their sons, but more recently, secretly buying and nurturing children, they had sent these to the sacrifice.[11]

Two inscriptions at Carthage even show that occasionally the parents would sacrifice a defective child hoping to later receive a healthy one as a substitute. In one inscription a man named Tuscus says that he gave Ba’al “his mute son Bod’astart, a defective child, in exchange for a healthy one. “[12]

Child sacrifice probably became a standard practice for both religious and sociological reasons. Diodorus Siculus suggests that the:

ancient myth that Cronos did away with his own children appears to have been kept in mind among the Carthagians through this observance.[13]

The second and third century A.D. Roman lawyer and Christian apologist who was a native North African and spent most of his life in Carthage, Tertullian, wrote:

Saturn (the latinized African equalivant of Ba’al Hammon) did not spare his own children; so, where other people’s were concerned, he naturally persisted in not sparing them; and their own parents offered them to him, were glad to respond…[14]

According to the ancient myth, Saturn selfishly swallowed up the first five of his children in order to prevent his destined dethronement by one of them.[15] Hoping to gain Saturn’s favor and thus his blessing, the Carthaginians worshipped Saturn by imitating him. Serving a god with ungodly attributes, the Carthaginians were willing to submit to his murderous demands. Indeed Saturn’s demands may have assisted the Carthaginians in their own self-serving plans. The Syro-Palestinian archeologists Lawrence Stager and Samuel Wolff suggest that:

Among the social elite of Punic Carthage the institution of child sacrifice may have assisted in the consolidation and maintenance of family wealth. One hardly needed several children parceling up the patrimony into smaller and smaller pieces . . . for the artisans and commoners of Carthage, ritual infanticide could provide a hedge against poverty. For all these participants in this aspect of the cult, then, child sacrifice provided special favors from the gods.[16]

This suggestion is supported by archeological evidence at Carthage that the practice of child sacrifice flourished as never before at the height of its population as well as civilization.[17] …

Archaeologists have discovered upwards of 20,000 burial urns at the Carthaginian Tophet, which contain the incinerated remains of children sacrificed to Tanit and her consort, Ba’al Hammon. The Carthaganians came from Phoenicia (north of Israel in modern day Lebanon), and brought with them Canaanite customs and practices, including child sacrifice.

The Israelites were repeatedly warned by God not to adapt the despicable practices of the Canaanites. Failing to heed these warnings, God eventually brought judgment upon the Israelites. Wikimedia Commons

Biblical Citations

Child sacrifice was not confined to Phoenicia, Carthage and the western Mediterranean world. It was also practiced by the Canaanites and through the process of religious syncretism by some Israelites. The earliest reference to child sacrifice in the Bible is found in Leviticus where the practice is address by Moses in connection with Molech:

Do not give any of your children to be passed through (the fire) to Molech for you must not profane the name of your God. I am the Lord. (Lev. 18:21; see also 20:1-5).

In I Kings 11:7, Molech is identified as “the detestable god of the Ammonites” and recent archeological evidence in the former territory of the Ammonites from the period of the Conquest supports biblical testimony that child sacrifice was practiced in Jordan roughly contemporarily with Moses.”[18]

The Hebrew word Molech is the same Semitic root as the Punic word mulk which was found inscribed on several burial monuments at Carthage giving linguistic evidence for the continuity between the practice of child sacrifice in Canaan and at Carthage. But whereas at Carthage the word refers to the sacrificial offerings including human sacrifice, in Leviticus it refers to the god who demands child sacrifice.[19]

The “passing through” refers to sacrificing by burning in a fire.[20] For this “passing through to Molech” (same Hebrew words in Leviticus and Jeremiah) took place later in Israel’s history in the region of the high places of Ba’al in the Valley of Ben Hinnom in Jeremiah 32:35. This murderous scene was described by the Lord through the mouth of Jeremiah in earlier chapters:

For they have forsaken me and made this a place of foreign gods; they have burned sacrifices in it to gods that neither they nor their fathers nor the kings of Judah ever knew and they have filled this place with the blood of the innocent. They have built me the high places of Ba’al to burn their sons in the fire as offerings to Ba’al – something I did not command or mention, nor did it enter my mind. So beware, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when people will no longer call this place Topheth [possibly derived from an Aramaic word meaning hearth or fireplace but here referring to the precinct of child sacrifice] or the Valley of ben Hinnom, but the Valley of slaughter. (Jeremiah 19:4-6; see also 7:31-32)[21]

The history of child sacrifice in ancient Israel and God’s response to the practice can be uncovered by examining the biblical texts that address it in the Pentateuch, historical books and prophetic writings. In the Pentateuch, Moses warns the Israelites who will soon enter the land of Canaan (Leviticus 18:3 and 20:21-24) where they will be exposed to the cult of Molech not to sacrifice any of their children to the god:

The Lord said to Moses, say to the Israelites: “Any Israelite or any alien living in Israel who gives any of his children to Molech must be put to death. The people of the community are to stone him. I will set my face against that man and I will cut him off from his people; for by giving his children to Molech he has defiled my sanctuary and profaned my holy name. If the people of the community close their eyes when that man gives one of his children to Molech and they fail to put him to death, I will set my face against that man and his family and will cut off from their people both him and all who follow him in prostituting themselves to Molech. (Leviticus 20:1-5; see also 18:21).

The penalty for sacrifice to Molech is harsh, i.e., stoning to death (Lev. 20:2); for it is a serious offense against the Lord. …

In reference to the nations of Canaan that Israel was about to invade and dispossess (12:29) and the worship of their gods (12:30), Moses commands:

You must not worship the Lord your God in their way because in worshipping their gods, they do all kinds of detestable things the Lord hates. They even burn their sons and daughters in the fire as sacrifices to their gods. (Deuteronomy 12:31) …

The connection between child sacrifice and cultic prostitution is even clearer in Ezekiel where we read:

And you took your sons and your daughters whom you bore to me and sacrificed them as food to the idols. Was your prostitution not enough? You slaughtered my children and made them pass through (the fire) to the idols. (Ezekiel 16:20-21) …

Thus, the community was to be vigilant in guarding against the practice and was to take the severest community action against any offenders, i.e., stoning to death.

Despite the covenantal stipulations and warnings against child sacrifice, Scripture records that some Israelites did in fact practice child sacrifice. Of Ahaz, the 8th century B.C. king of Judah, we read:

He walked in the ways of the kings of Israel and even made his son pass through the fire, following the detestable ways of the nations the Lord had driven out before the Israelites. (2 Kings 16:3)

Sadly Ahaz’s grandson Manasseh followed in his footsteps (2 Kings 21:6). But these accounts of child sacrifice were not isolated as recorded by Jeremiah (see above). Being a prophet of God, it was Jeremiah’s obligation to prosecute on behalf of God the covenant lawsuit against those who had broken the covenant. The evidence against the Israelites was incontestable for it was publicly visible to all. As the Lord’s mouthpiece, Jeremiah testifies against Judah:

They have set up their detestable idols in the house that bears my Name and have defiled it. They have built the high places of Topheth in the Valley of Ben Hinnom to burn their sons and daughters in the fire, something I did not command nor did it enter my mind. (Jer. 7:30-31; see also 19:4-5)…

Mannaseh’s grandson Josiah had tried to bring about reformation among the Israelites. After renewing the covenant between God and His people (2 Kings 23:1-3), Josiah:

desecrated Topheth which was in the Valley of Ben Hinnom, so no one could use it to make his son or daughter pass through the fire to Molech. (2 Kings 23:10)

But Josiah’s reformation was short-lived as evidenced by Jeremiah’s prophetic witness (see above). God used Rome to judge Carthage in 146 B.C., bringing an end to child sacrifice there.[27b] Hundreds of years earlier God used Babylon to judge Israel when the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem, leveling God’s temple which signified God’s just abandonment of His people, and leading Israel into captivity.

While exiled in Babylon, Ezekiel reminded the two prostituting sisters Oholah (representing Samaria in Ezekiel 23:4) and Oholibah (representing Jerusalem) of the reason they had been exiled. In confronting the two with “their detestable practices” the Lord through Ezekiel said:

they have committed adultery and blood is on their hands. They committed adultery with their idols, they even made the children they bore to me pass through the fire as food for them (Ezekiel 23:36-37)….

Parallels of Child Sacrifice and Abortion

At the risk on the one hand of pointing out obvious parallels and on the other hand of suggesting parallels which some may say are forced, we compare the ancient practice of child sacrifice with the modern practice of abortion.

However, before going any further it should be noted that the parallels between the two have been recognized for centuries. Tertullian, for example, commenting on the Roman practice of infanticide by comparing it to the Carthaginian practice of child sacrifice, admonishes:

there is no difference as to baby killing whether you do it as a sacred rite or just because you choose to do it.

In the same context Tertullian describes the Christian attitude towards both abortion and infanticide saying:

For us murder is once for all forbidden; so even the child in the womb, while yet the mother’s blood is still being drawn on to form the human being, it is not lawful to destroy. To forbid birth is only quicker murder. It makes no difference whether one take away the life once born or destroy it as it comes to birth. He is a man, who is to be a man, the fruit is always present in the seed.[30]…

It is no secret that in American society extramarital sexual intercourse (fornication and adultery) is the cause of most pregnancies that end in abortion. Pregnancy is a risk many are willing to take knowing that any undesired consequences can be eliminated by abortion.[30c] The theologican Carl Henry recognizes this fact in calling abortion “the horrendous modern immolation of millions of fetuses on the alter of sex gratification.”[31]

As suggested earlier, child sacrifice in Canaan may have been a convenient way to dispose of the consequences of the illicit sexual practice of temple prostitution associated with the cult of Molech. If so, the modern practice of men irresponsibly engaging in sexual intercourse with women to whom they do not intend to commit themselves and provide for parallels the wayward Israelite man engaging in extramarital relations with a temple prostitute.

In both cases the men leave the women to bear the consequences of their aberrant sexual practices. New England Christian Action Council executive director John Rankin rightly calls this irresponsible behavior of men towards women as “the ultimate male chauvinism.”[32] …

More: http://www.biblearchaeology.org/post/2012/01/05/Abortion-and-the-Ancient-Practice-of-Child-Sacrifice.aspx

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