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Child Sacrifice: The Bible and Covid

Child sacrifice in Canaan to stave off defeat by Egypt

Child sacrifice is in the news. Not in those words, of course. Rather it is the willingness of various governors and parents to risk the lives of children rather than to vaccinate them. Sometimes, people hide behind the Bible as a way of claiming a religious objection. Such protestations are intended to cover-up the real reason or reasons whatever they may be. Still, it is worth examining some biblical stories to see how the issue of child sacrifice was handled in ancient times.


One of the most famous stories involving child sacrifice occurs in the story of Abraham and Isaac (Gen. 22). This story of the binding of the son or Akedah is read yearly as part of the Rosh Hashanah holiday meaning last week. It is a powerful and emotionally gut-wrenching story. It lives on in storytelling and art and packs a punch. In my opinion, the story originally was performed before a live audience so whoever played the role of Abraham may be considered one of the great ancient actors. It is a role to die for.

In the story, God commands Abraham to sacrifice his only son in a burnt offering. The purpose here is not to provide an exegesis of the story. Instead, I simply note its existence in the canonical text. Spoiler alert: just in the nick of time a ram is discovered entangled in the thicket and is sacrificed instead. Scholars debate whether or not in the original story the son was sacrificed, how old he was at that time, and if the change involved legitimating temple sacrifice in Jerusalem since the event occurred at the future location of the ram sacrifice. My perspective is that the original audience witnessing the story was meant to be revolted by the prospect of the child sacrifice.


The situation is a little clearer in the story of David and Absalom. According to the text (II Sam. 18:5), David instructs his commanders to go gently with his son and not to kill him. A few verses later, Absalom like the ram in the Abraham story, becomes entangled as well. This time it is his long hair in a tree. Shortly afterwards Joab dispatches Absalom with nary a thought about the command he had been given from David.  When messengers bring David the news, the king famously responds as one would have expected Abraham to have done if he had gone through with the child sacrifice: and as he went, he said, “O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!” (II Sam. 18:33)

How is this a sacrifice as opposed to an execution of an opponent who rebelled against his king? Joab, of course, is person who arranged for Uriah, husband of Bathsheba, to be on the frontlines so he could be killed. He knew what David really wanted then and he fulfilled his role. The same happened here. This is not to say that David did not have great remorse over the way events unfolded. However, as with Abraham, David was willing to have his son die for a greater cause. In this case obedience to God meant preservation of the kingdom of Yahweh with his son David as king.


In this also famous story, Solomon displays his wisdom in threatening to cleave a baby in two and then not having too (I Kings 3). The situation arises due to the death of a child and two women claiming to be the mother of a living child coincidentally born at the same time. Solomon devises this test of splitting the living baby in half and having each claimant receive a half. The ruse leads to the real mother expressing her willingness to sacrifice her child, that is, give the child up to the false mother, for the sake of keeping the child alive. The fact that the story occurs just before the kingdom itself splits into two with each side claiming to be the true kingdom of God is another factor. By contrast today, anti-vaxx mothers are quite willing to play Russian roulette with both their own child and the children of others.


The final example to be included in this blog involves a child sacrifice by a non-Israelite. In this situation, Jehoram, and son of Ahab, the king of Israel is waging a war against Moab (II Kings 3). At first the battle is going well for the Israelite king. He is on the brink of victory against Moab. Suddenly, in desperation, Mesha, the king of Moab, resorts to the ultimate counter move:

Then he took his eldest son who was to reign in his stead, and offered him for a burnt offering upon the wall. And there came great wrath upon Israel; and they withdrew from him and returned to their own land (II Kings 3:27).

The presumption is that he sacrificed his adult son much as Abraham was willing to do. According to the biblical text, the child sacrifice is successful. As a direct result of this action a divine wrath is visited upon the Israelite forces leading to their withdrawal from the land of Moab. The net result is that Israel lost and the Moabite rebellion succeeded.

Historically, there is one problem with this story. By chance, the Moabite version of the war with Israel has been discovered. According to the Mesha Stele, Moab did prevail in this war of rebellion after having been a vassal of the Israelite king Omri, the father of Ahab and grandfather of Jehoram. There is, however, no mention of a child sacrifice. Instead there is mention of Mesha having destroyed the sanctuary to Yahweh at Nebo. These references catch the eye of the biblical scholar since it is a Nebo where Moses was buried. To have a Moabite mention by name Yahweh, Israel, and Nebo is significant.

Since both versions attest the victory of Mesha over Israel, the scholarly consensus is that Mesha really did win. The defeated Israelite king needed an excuse to explain his loss. His explanation was the big lie: victory was stolen from him by this alleged act of child sacrifice by the enemy king. Otherwise, Israel would have won.

The presumption is that such an excuse for a defeat with resonate with the Israelite population. There would be no point to concocting such an explanation if the Israelite people would not have believed it. In this case, the biblical writer seems to have drawing on a Canaanite tradition. In the image shown above, the people of Ashkelon are facing defeat by Merneptah, the Pharaoh who claimed in this sequence to have destroyed the seed of Israel. They are shown dangling a child over the wall of the city. The consensus is that the act was the same as what Mesha supposedly would do centuries later: when the battle is not going well, the leader sacrifices his son to stave off defeat. The effort against Egypt was unsuccessful and the larger-than-life Pharaoh in effect mocks this gesture.

This raises the question of why the biblical writer thought the claim that Mesha sacrificed his son would work. After all, Mesha’s alleged sacrifice would be to Chemosh the Moabite god and not to Yahweh, the Israelite god. Does this mean that Chemosh is greater than Yahweh? Why should Jehoram expect that the claim that victory was stolen from him by Mesha drawing on a Canaanite tradition would be acceptable to an Israelite audience?

As it turns out, according to the biblical text Jehoram’s protestations failed as well. The prophet Elisha condemns him and his house. He commissions Jehu to lead a coup against the king. Jehu slays both the king and his mother Jezebel fulfilling prophecy.

“This is the word of Yahweh, which he spoke by his servant Elijah the Tishbite, `In the territory of Jezreel the dogs shall eat the flesh of Jezebel; and the corpse of Jezebel shall be as dung upon the face of the field in the territory of Jezreel, so that no one can say, This is Jezebel'” (II Kings 9:36-37).

The big lie about having victory stolen from the incumbent king due to a child sacrifice by his opponent did not end well for the loser and those associated with him.

What are the lessons to be learned from this partial review of biblical stories involving child sacrifice?

1. There is no biblical justification for not being vaccinated. Hiding behind the Bible is cowardly and dishonest.

2. Know your audience when promoting child sacrifice – why do you think gambling with the lives of children is a winning political move? The voice of the people in California like the voice of the prophet Elisha has been heard. People want the pandemic to end. Are Trumpicans listening?

3. Know your audience when explaining away defeat through the big lie – how many times can you tell the big lie before losing all credibility even to your own followers? After every election defeat? Even when by millions of votes?

What will the fate be for the candidate(s) of the big lie who are willing to sacrifice the children of voters?

He said, “Throw her [Jezebel] down.” So they threw her down; and some of her blood spattered on the wall and on the horses, and they trampled on her (II Kings 9:33).

The Gospel According to Rick Perry and the Rule of Law

America Was Born with Articles of Impeachment (Photo Credit: istockphoto)

The Society of Biblical Literature (SBL) and the American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR) held their annual conferences in San Diego the week before Thanksgiving. The Protestant Evangelical Institute of Biblical Research and the American Academy of Religion also met then. Nothing the approximately 10,000 in attendance said or did made the news.

The religious event which made the news was the Gospel according to Rick Perry as revealed through Fox News host Ed Henry to the world.

God’s used imperfect people all through history. King David wasn’t perfect, Saul wasn’t perfect, Solomon wasn’t perfect….And I actually gave the president a little one-pager on those Old Testament kings, about a month ago. And I shared it with him, I said, “Mr. President, I know there are people that say, y’know, ‘You said you were the chosen one.’” And, I said: “You were.” I said, “If you’re a believing Christian, you understand God’s plan for the people who rule and judge over us on this planet and our government.”

These words echo those of other Trumpicans:

Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale: “only God could deliver such a savior to our nation.”
Former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders: [God] “wanted Trump to become president.”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo responding to interviewer Chris Mitchell’s query “Could it be that President Trump right now has been sort of raised for such a time as this, just like Queen Esther, to help save the Jewish people from an Iranian menace?” said: “As a Christian, I certainly believe that’s possible.”

So the Gospel according to Perry is not out of line with the core beliefs of his fellow worshipers.

By coincidence, my own paper during these conferences was “Political Texts of Terror in the Book of Judges.” The paper is about Saul and David and I mention Solomon once. Since Thanksgiving I have been asked by the editor of online The Bible and Interpretation to write an essay of 2,000-3,500 words on my paper for the general public.

With that background in mind, let’s turn to the kings mentioned by Perry.


As I am sure Perry knows, Saul was the first person in Israel to be designated a “messiah” or anointed one.

Saul was a warrior; he was not a bonespur boy. He did not pick on women or children or people smaller than him. True he died in battle against the Philistines, but the point here was that fought in the real world against foes who could fight back.

Saul’s Deep State was the Levites represented by the prophet Samuel. He was there to present the law. While not exactly the Constitution, it did provide one key item: only the Levites, priests of Moses, could call Israel to war. Saul did not have the right to initiate a military confrontation without the blessing of Samuel. Scholars debate the historical relationship between the king and the prophet in ancient Israel. One should recognize, as surely Rick Perry does, that in ancient Israel there was a battle of over whether the king was constrained by the law or not. According to the pro-Samuel writers, Saul was bound by the law; according to the pro-Saul writers, Saul did nothing wrong when he acted on his own in the absence of Samuel. Who knew they had Fox and MSNBC in ancient times.


David, too, was a warrior in the real world unlike Bonespur Boy. Unlike Saul, David remained successful at it throughout his life although he did have some close calls.

David also could write. He actually was a far greater writer than he is given credit for. He certainly was a far superior writer to the juvenile tweets and 3rd grade letter to Erdogan of Perry’s Lord and Savior, the Chosen One, Blessed Be His Name.

David had to deal with his own famous confrontation with the law. The incident in question is the Bathsheba one. During the incident, the prophet Nathan, from a different priesthood/political-faction than Samuel, said after telling a parable:

THOU ART THE MAN! (II Sam. 12:7 or Two Samuel if you are the chosen one).

Consider now what David did not say in response.

David did not say: “Fake News.”
David did not call Nathan a disloyal traitor.
David did not call Nathan human scum and an enemy of the people.
David did no disparage Nathan as “Little Nathan.”
David did not call Nathan a maniac and deranged human being.
David did not claim Nathan grew up with a complex for lots of reasons that are obvious.
David did denigrate Nathan as a very sick man who lies.

Note: Is it coincidence that Little Donne Waney himself fits his description of Schiff except for the size?

Quite the contrary, David replied that he had sinned before the Lord.

Hard to imagine Perry’s Lord and Savior, the Chosen One, Blessed Be His Name responding as David did.


Solomon, of course, was not a warrior and is remembered as a builder of the temple among other things. Perhaps the most famous story about him occurs when two women claim to be the mother of the same child. Solomon famously adjudicates the dilemma with the following wisdom:

Kings 3:23 Then the king said, “The one says, `This is my son that is alive, and your son is dead’; and the other says, `No; but your son is dead, and my son is the living one.'” 24 And the king said, “Bring me a sword.” So a sword was brought before the king. 25 And the king said, “Divide the living child in two, and give half to the one, and half to the other.”

It’s not exactly Charlottesville with good people on both sides but it is close enough. The difference is that in the biblical story, Solomon’s pronouncement is a ruse to expose the fraudulent claim while in Charlottesville, the assertion was meant to be taken on face value.

It would be interesting to hear Rick Perry expound on his theological musings. What are the imperfections of Saul, David, and Solomon that he refers to? What did the three kings do in the face of these imperfections? What has Perry’s Chosen One done? I do not have the power to ask Rick Perry to comment. Perhaps someone reading this blog can inquire of him for me.

So which biblical figure is most like our current President? Back on March 19, 2018, I wrote
Is Donald Trump Our Rehoboam? – A Bible Penis Story. If you are interested in my opinion, check out that blog.

In the meantime, it is important to note the ancient Israelite tradition of truth to power even involving the king. There certainly was nothing like that in ancient Egypt. The only person who called Pharaoh to task was Moses and he had to leave Egypt after he did so. But that spirit came to define Israel.

There was nothing like that in ancient Mesopotamia either. There the prophets knew their place and to tell the king what he wanted to hear. Ancient Israel followed the Mesopotamian tradition up to a point. But in the end, Israel was different. Before going into battle even the king needed permission as Saul had not done.

1 Kings 22:5 And Jehoshaphat [the king of Judah] said to the king of Israel, “Inquire first for the word of the LORD.” 6 Then the king of Israel gathered the prophets together, about four hundred men, and said to them, “Shall I go to battle against Ramothgilead, or shall I forbear?” And they said, “Go up; for the Lord will give it into the hand of the king.” 7 But Jehoshaphat said, “Is there not here another prophet of the LORD of whom we may inquire?” 8 And the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “There is yet one man by whom we may inquire of the LORD, Micaiah the son of Imlah; but I hate him, for he never prophesies good concerning me, but evil.” And Jehoshaphat said, “Let not the king say so.” 9 Then the king of Israel summoned an officer and said, “Bring quickly Micaiah the son of Imlah.”

In ancient Israel, they knew to trust not the yesmen who told the king what he wanted to hear but the one who did not. You need to have some adults in the White House!

That spirit of Moses lived on the creation of the United States. The Declaration of Independence was an impeachment of King George III. It is a legal document that indicted the king on multiple counts of an abuse of power. It was written by people who were disloyal traitors to the king and who compounded their disobedience by voting with their guns to remove King George III from power over them. Now we are engaged in battle to determine if the rule of law or a would-be King George will prevail. Where are Moses and David when you need them?