Human Sacrifice is Godly
Just got done typing up part 1 of an article on human sacrifice to be posted on my web site. I figure some of the concepts presented may be enlightening or at least interesting to some of you here. so here it is.
Part 1 – The Sacrifice
After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here am I.” 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.” 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. Genesis 22:2-3
When reading this text I have often wondered why Abraham did not respond to God the way he did when God revealed to him that he was about to destroy Sodom. “Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just” (Gen 18:25). Why did not Abraham appeal to God for his son like he did for Lot? God is asking Abraham to sacrifice Isaac—would not Abraham appeal to God’s righteousness or at least question that doing such a thing would be wicked. These questions arose because of my misunderstanding of God’s view of human sacrifice. When viewing human sacrifice through God’s will and word I came to the conclusion that it is not in any way wicked or immoral or wrong; rather it is a holy requirement of God. Not only is it a requirement for man, but it is something that God himself engages in (a sacrificial life). I now understand Abraham was acting in pure faith and obedience to the will and nature of God.
When looking at the whole of scripture we find that human sacrifice is an essential element. One reason we miss the essentialness of human sacrifice is that it is overshadowed by the abundant amount of emphasis given to animal sacrifice. The bible is full of animal sacrifice. I believe it is a peripheral reading of these texts on our part, and a peripheral understanding of the act itself on some bible characters part (except Abraham) that causes us to miss the human element in the sacrifice. God does not require nor take pleasure in the sacrifice of animals, in and of themselves, “I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats.” (Isaiah 11:11) Why then is animal sacrifice (the blood of bulls, lambs, goats) such a major part of God’s law? When we look at the story of Abraham and God’s requiring human sacrifice we can see that it is not the sacrifice of the animal that God is requiring or desiring in his law—rather it is the sacrifice of the worshipper himself that God wants.
In the Abraham story we come to find out that God ultimately provided the sacrifice. The sacrifice of Isaac was required, but God allowed an animal to be sacrificed in place of Isaac. This act does not negate the initial requirement of human sacrifice. It is not meant to negate, but to show ultimately the sacrificial nature of God himself; which we see clearly in the Christ event. Not only does God require human sacrifice, but he shows himself to be sacrificial. He requires us to be that way because he is that way (but more on this latter). When the ram took Isaac’s place on the altar of sacrifice it was not because God desired the ram itself. The Ram was not somehow a better sacrifice then Isaac was. God already owned that ram. He gave the ram to Abraham—He provided the sacrifice--so why the ram and the pouring out of its blood rather than Isaac (especially if God does not take pleasure in the blood of rams)?
If we look into the practice of animal sacrifice I think we will come to find out that it was to be a representative sacrifice of the worshipper himself, and not the mere sacrifice of an animal. I believe it is easy for us to import pagan ideas of sacrifice back into the biblical text rather than draw out the meaning of the text itself. The pagans sacrificed animals, as well as humans, in order to appease their gods. The gods were not only ‘needy’, but they were also easily angered and thus men had to give/perform sacrifices to appease them. This is not the God of the bible. He is neither needy nor appeasable. Sacrifice was not about these things. And when Israel practiced their sacrifices in this way, like the pagans, God condemns them for it and responds to them harshly (“What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices says the Lord; I have had enough of burnt offerings” Isaiah 11:11). God does not want the animal, he wants the worshipper, and this was supposed to be seen in the sacrifice of the animal. The animal was to be a real representative of the worshipper himself. Let’s look at the process and this should become clearer.
When we look at the multiple commandments in the Torah where man is required by God ‘to offer’ a sacrifice or to present an ‘offering’ to the Lord we need to keep in mind what is being asked. The worshipper is first and foremost being asked to ‘draw near’ into the presence of God. The Hebrew words for ‘offering’ and ‘to offer’ are ‘qorban’ and ‘qarab’ which mean “that which is brought near” and the related verb ‘qrb’ means “to cause to draw near”. The worshipper is being called to draw near to God, into his presence. This is what God desires, not the simple giving up of an animal. It is in and through the sacrifice that the worshipper is to fulfill the requirement. God is calling the worshipper to come into his presence, resulting in communion between God and the worshipper (This is radically different than sacrifices being offered to appease an angry pagan god). God states this desire nationally when he commands all the men in Israel to ‘appear’ before him when summarizing the ceremonial law in the feast celebrations (Exodus 23:17). Sacrifice is the means to an end—entering God’s presence.
Looking at a few details on how animal sacrifice was performed we will begin to see how human sacrifice is pictured and entrance into the presence of God is accomplished. The worshipper brings the animal to the priest and lays his hands upon the head of the animal. This is picturing the transfer of the life of the worshipper to that of the animal. Then, the obvious, the animal is killed. The animal’s blood is shed and the priest throws the blood against the sides of the altar. This, the blood being poured out, is being done to show that the animal has in fact been slain. The animal is completely passive; being slain now it cannot fight or strain, it is wholly given up to be used for a holy work. At this point the animal is cut up into separate pieces which are then arranged on the wood of the altar. This ‘arrangement of the pieces’ is a holy use; the animal has gone from being ordinary (common) to being set apart and used in the divine service of God. It has become fit for use by God. The animal, being holy in use, then becomes a burnt offering. The smoke of the animal ascends up into the presence of God and is a “pleasing aroma to the Lord.” The life of the worshipper, who laid his hands upon the animal to start, is tied into the whole process.
When the life of the worshipper is symbolically transferred to the life of the animal it is here that God’s requirement of human sacrifice takes place. Everything that happens to the animal happens to the life of the worshipper. The worshipper has been slain—now he can no longer struggle, strain, and selfishly fight against the will of God. He has died to selfish sin and is now passive and ready to be used for a holy use by God. The cutting up and arrangement of the animal pieces is symbolic of the holy use of the worshipper. He is fit to be used as a holly vessel for God. The arrangement of the pieces is the life of the worshipper in holy service to God. The pieces are then consumed and burned by the fire. At this point the life of the worshipper is entering the presence of God (Whose presence is a ‘consuming fire’). In the animals consumption by fire what is left is the ascending smoke. The life of the worshipper is now this ascending smoke. It enters up into the full presence of God and is a pleasing aroma to him. More than just a ‘human sacrifice’ of the life of the worshipper is taking place—a complete transformation has taken place. What is left for the ‘sacrificed’ transformed life? Communion with God is the result, and this is pictured when the worshipper and the priest together, in the presence of the lord, partake of a fellowship meal. This eating together, with God, is a perfect picture of communion—a complete fulfillment of God’s requirement/desire (communion with him).
From this quick look at sacrifice I believe we can see what God desires in his sacrificial institution. The biblical concept of human sacrifice is a beautiful and wonderful thing when we see the ‘communing’ ‘loving’ nature of the God who desires such. When we let ourselves be influenced by the pagan ideas of sacrifice, and introvert them back into the scriptures, we lose sight of the beauty of God’s will. We lose sight of what God is really wanting in his holy ordinances and we begin to question the validity of such institutions; just as I did when I questioned God’s request of Abraham for human sacrifice.
Part 2 - to follow
note: again, I just typed this up--have not put in detailed scripture references or foot notes.
SO DO YOU THINK HUMAN SACRIFICE IS GODLY??
Last edited by Moses; 01-08-2011 at 02:36 PM.