This article was first published in the Journal of Ministry and Theology, Fall 2013, Volume 7, Number 2, pp. 90-125.
History is replete with civilizations that have held morally repugnant attitudes concerning infants and children. The Nazis carried Jewish children off to killing fields and the gas chambers at Auschwitz. The Aztecs and Mayans sacrificed both children and adults to their gods. Exposing an unwanted child to the elements or wild animals was a common practice throughout the Greco-Roman world. The Carthaginians of North Africa sacrificed their infants and children to pagan gods over a period of several centuries.
Old Testament passages referring to child sacrifice are both numerous and dreadful. The Israelites, delivered from the bondage of Egypt by the mighty hand of Yahweh, the Lord of heaven and earth, did not simply engage in idolatry. They were guilty of adopting the ghastly Canaanite practice of child sacrifice. In some cases, they attempted to attach this practice to worship of the Lord (Ezek 23:39). In others, they rejected Yahweh worship altogether and fully turned themselves over to the idols of Canaan (2 Kgs 17:14-17). Kings Ahaz and Manasseh, the “shepherds of Israel,” even burned their own sons in the fires of sacrifice (2 Chr 28:2-3; 33:6). Certain Israelites stood by and did nothing (Lev 20:4-5). Despite manifold warnings and admonitions from the Lord (Deut 12:29-31; 18:10), the Israelites persisted. As a result, God brought dreadful judgment upon their entire nation (Jer 19:3b-6).
Read the full article in PDF form: Canaanite Child Sacrifice, Abortion, and the Bible