Sacrifice of Children: Past and Present


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What reason would a father or mother have to burn a son or daughter as a sacrifice to a god (Deut 12:32)? A practice of these today seems monstruoso, unacceptable and even incredible. One wonders how the people of antiquity could be so gross as to do such a thing. But if you think about it, there is a possibility that they were not more brute than us.
The first thing to say is that in ancient times the sacrifice of children to the gods did exist; throughout the Canaanite territory it was a relatively common practice. Two reasons have been suggested for the sacrifice of children: control of population growth and as a religious rite in emergency situations (2R 3: 26-27). There is evidence that in indigenous America the sacrifice of children was also practiced. (1) The second is that Israel was tempted to do so and probably did (2R 23:10) (2), not because the event was particularly beautiful, but because they assumed that they would receive benefits from God. (3) One of the best known cases is that of Jephthah, who offers his daughter as a sacrifice if God gives him victory in a battle; wins the battle and offers the daughter on fire. This would be a typical case of syncretism, according to which God is worshiped with beliefs and practices of pagan gods. (4) Third, we ask ourselves if there is such a thing today and in what way. Surely we do not have exact coincidences in terms of beliefs and rites, but today there are also ways to deliver children and young people to death because that way you get some benefit. Along with the trafficking of children, many children and young people are today engaged in various activities in order to guarantee through them the survival and prosperity of the family or group to which they belong.
Recall the work of Jonathan Swift (5) The essence of this work is that economic and social injustice is a way to kill people systematically, especially children. As people do not believe it, then Swift proposes a "very human and rational" system of fattening children for sale in the market and human consumption.
It would be immoral to propose the fattening of children to practice shooting with efectivo bullets; but that is what we are doing when we see so many young people opting for crime with the encouragement and complacency of their family group, only to end up killed in the streets of our cities. These deaths do little or nothing to the rest of society.
We think we are very civilized and developed, but from the human point of view, it seems that we have not made much progress. Today we do not sacrifice children to Moloc, because we do not believe in Moloc; but we continue to sacrifice children. In whom or in what do we believe those of us who remain indifferent, seeing as "other evils" the deaths of so many children and young people daily in our cities? Can we still call ourselves Christians?
© 2011Milton Acosta, PhD

Author: Milton Acosta
Professor of Old Testament in the Biblical Seminary University Foundation of Colombia (www.unisbc.edu.co); Old Testament Editor for the Contemporary Biblical Commentary; M.A. Wheaton College Graduate School- Ph.D. Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (Old Testament).


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