Atheists like to try to disprove the inerrancy of the Bible and means to do that is by showing the occurrence of ritual human sacrifice. Remember, that merely because it is mentioned in the Bible does not mean it is condoned by God. Frequently these instances are followed by judgment because of disobeying of God’s commands. Atheists are using opinions, and not even giving criteria or the basis of their opinion, on what is considered unjust. Even more so, the commonly held atheist belief is that morality evolved as well along with civilization, so they cannot condemn these actions within their worldview, only express outrage!
There is no passage where God condones actual child sacrifice; in fact, some of the worst condemnation comes to those who sacrifice their children (archaeological evidence shows that it was usually infant sacrifice) to Moloch (is the name of an ancient Ammonite god. Moloch worship was practiced by the Canaanites, Phoenicians, and related cultures in North Africa) (Lev. 18:21 You shall not give any of your children to offer them to Molech, and so profane the name of your God: I am the Lord.; 20:2–5 2 “Say to the people of Israel, Any one of the people of Israel or of the strangers who sojourn in Israel who gives any of his children to Molech shall surely be put to death. The people of the land shall stone him with stones. 3 I myself will set my face against that man …; Jeremiah 32:34–35 34 They set up their abominations in the house that is called by my name, to defile it. 35 They built the high places of Baal in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, to offer up their sons and daughters to Molech, though I did not command them, nor did it enter into my …). In the Bible, human sacrifice is detestable because it falls under the category of the murder of an innocent human being, which is always condemned. But skeptics cite a number of passages where, they say, God condones and even commands human sacrifice and we will discuss them and place them into their proper context. (https://iamnotanatheist.wordpress.com/2014/09/16/why-context/):
Genesis 22:1-8 (After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 2 He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” 3 So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac. And he cut the wood for the burnt offering and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. 4 On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place from afar. 5 Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you.” 6 And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son. And he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So they went both of them together. 7 And Isaac said to his father Abraham, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” He said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” 8 Abraham said, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So they went both of them together.)
The fact that God never intended for Abraham to kill his son doesn’t let Him off the hook, in the atheists’ mind (neither does the fact that the atheist doesn’t actually believe that He exists). It’s still an incredibly horrible thing for someone to do, the argument goes, and had Abraham lived in modern days, he’d be arrested for child abuse! And my parents would be do based upon the punishment they doled out to my sister and my brothers and I.
But there are several things to consider in this case. Abraham, by this time, is an old man, and Isaac is old enough that he could have struggled and gotten away if he wanted. The fact that Abraham was able to bind him and put him on the altar suggests that Isaac was cooperating with the whole thing. Second, Abraham himself didn’t expect Isaac to die, or at least, he didn’t expect him to stay dead. Abraham told his servants that he and his son would return. Abraham knew very well that Isaac was the son through whom God had promised to build a great nation. So the only options were that God would provide another sacrifice (as eventually happened) or that God would resurrect Isaac.
Exodus 13:1-2 (The Lord said to Moses, 2 “Consecrate to me all the firstborn. Whatever is the first to open the womb among the people of Israel, both of man and of beast, is mine.”); An average, rational person would have trouble seeing what this has to do with human sacrifice. But the atheists jump on this so we will spell out their argument: They believe the priests are threatening to kill the kids unless they are redeemed with a burnt offering.
This isn’t the case. God gives instructions for the consecration of the firstborn But this is actually commanding animal sacrifices to redeem the firstborn children. Notice in verse 13 where it provides for the redemption of donkeys (which were unclean and therefore could not be sacrificed), it says that an unredeemed donkey should have its neck broken; however, there is no such option for sons. Rather, sons must be redeemed with a lamb. And later this command is changed to apply to all the Levites instead of the firstborn of every person (Numbers 3:11–13 11 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 12 “Behold, I have taken the Levites from among the people of Israel instead of every firstborn who opens the womb among the people of Israel. The Levites shall be mine, 13 for all the firstborn are mine. On the day that I struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, I consecrated for my own all the firstborn in Israel, both of man and of beast. They shall be mine: I am the Lord.” ). Atheists unanimously ignore the context and symbolism of the consecration.
Leviticus 27:28-29 (28 “But no devoted thing that a man devotes to the Lord, of anything that he has, whether man or beast, or of his inherited field, shall be sold or redeemed; every devoted thing is most holy to the Lord. 29 No one devoted, who is to be devoted for destruction from mankind, …): These two verses refer to different situations. In the first instance, a man has made a vow to give something over to God; perhaps a family member, or an animal, or a piece of land. This is saying that he can’t pay to get out of keeping the vow. Verse 29 refers to a person “devoted to destruction”; i.e. a person who has committed a capital offense under the Law, so must be killed. Neither one of these is a human sacrifice; in the first case, the person would face life-long Temple service, and in the second, it’s capital punishment.
Judges 11:29-40 (29 Then the Spirit of the Lord was upon Jephthah, and he passed through Gilead and Manasseh and passed on to Mizpah of Gilead, and from Mizpah of Gilead he passed on to the Ammonites. 30 And Jephthah made a vow to the Lord and said, “If you will give the Ammonites into my hand, 31 then whatever comes out from the doors of my house to meet me when I return in peace from the Ammonites shall be the Lord’s, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering.” 32 So Jephthah crossed over to the Ammonites to fight against them, and the Lord gave them into his hand. 33 And he struck them from Aroer to the neighborhood of Minnith, twenty cities, and as far as Abel-keramim, with a great blow. So the Ammonites were subdued before the people of Israel.
34 Then Jephthah came to his home at Mizpah. And behold, his daughter came out to meet him lwith tambourines and with dances. She was his only child; besides her he had neither son nor daughter. 35 And as soon as he saw her, he tore his clothes and said, “Alas, my daughter! You have brought me very low, and you have become the cause of great trouble to me. For I have opened my mouth to the Lord, and I cannot take back my vow.” 36 And she said to him, “My father, you have opened your mouth to the Lord; do to me according to what has gone out of your mouth, now that the Lord has avenged you on your enemies, on the Ammonites.” 37 So she said to her father, “Let this thing be done for me: leave me alone two months, that I may go up and down on the mountains and weep for my virginity, I and my companions.” 38 So he said, “Go.” Then he sent her away for two months, and she departed, she and her companions, and wept for her virginity on the mountains. 39 And at the end of two months, she returned to her father, who did with her according to his vow that he had made. She had never known a man, and it became a custom in Israel 40 that the daughters of Israel went year by year to lament the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite four days in the year. ): No list of Bible atrocities would be complete without the case of Jephthah’s daughter. First, the vow was public—his daughter would have known about it. This makes it likely that she was the first one out of the house on purpose. Second, even if Jephthah had intended to make his daughter into a burnt offering, a Levite would be extremely unlikely to allow that. Third, the book of Judges is all about how bad Israel became when they forgot God and there was no king to enforce the Law. So this is an example of the Bible reporting something that it doesn’t necessarily condone. Most importantly, the fact that Jephthah’s daughter was much more concerned about her perpetual virginity than the end of her life strongly suggests that she was dedicated for lifelong Temple service, not burnt as an offering.
Joshua 7 (But the people of Israel broke faith in regard to the devoted things, for Achan the son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of the devoted things. And the anger of the Lord burned against the people of Israel.) Joshua is the case of Achan being killed for taking things that were supposed to be dedicated to the Lord and destroyed. The method of killing happened to include burning the corpses after stoning them. This is again an execution not human sacrifice, for a crime of treason, since Achan’s actions endangered the new nation.
When atheists attack the morality of the Bible, it is important to ask where their standard for right and wrong comes from. Christians believe that God Himself is the standard; because He is the Creator. The atheist has no objective standard for morality, so he cannot appeal to an authority over a person’s or group’s subjective opinions. And if their standard is subjective, they have no basis for imposing it on others, let alone on people who lived in a vastly different time and place.
Many of the things in the Bible that people object to are objectionable. Many of the things that disturb us when we read Judges or Deuteronomy should disturb us, and should remind us of the Fall. But we should remember that not everything reported in the Bible is approved by the Bible. Many times when He gives the Law, God takes our hardness of heart into account (Matthew 19:8 8 He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.) and this means that a lesser evil is allowed to prevent a greater evil from occurring.