Sacrifices, generally speaking, are known in every religion of the world. As J. O. Awolalu puts it, “all over the world, and throughout history, wherever mankind has worshipped the divine being, we encounter the practice of sacrifice”(J.O. Awolalu 1979:136). In all religions, Sacrifices symbolize the expression of total dependence of humans on the supernatural (Ibigbolade Aderibigbe 2017). They equally present avenues for the renewal and reconciliation of humans’ friendship with their believed deity or deities following separation often believed to be caused by human weakness or disobedience. (Zahan Dominique 1970: 33).
However, while no religion has ever disputed the universality of sacrifices, Human sacrifice has been denied by a number of the so called organised religions. The index of religions with the stains of human sacrifices have been limited either to the Oriental or African typologies not minding the fact that human sacrifices, witch burning and many other practices often termed fetish are universal in character. This essay takes the Ancient near East as a case study and the Bible provides us with evidences that human sacrifices were in vogue in Israel long time ago.
SACRIFICE OF CHILDREN TO A GOD MOLECH
In different instances, the bible mentioned the sacrificing of children, sons and daughters to a good known as MOLECH. Jeremiah has it that “they built high places to Baal in the Valley of Ben-hinnom to sacrifice their sons and daughters to MOLECH”. (Jer 32:35). Although the general Jewish disposition to human sacrifice was that of abhorence as everywhere it was practiced in the world, passages like these quoted above indicates that the practice was not strange to the Israelites of both pre and post exilic periods. Other passages includes Lev 18:21, 20:2-5; 2kings 23:10; Ezek 23:39; Deut 12:31; 2 Kings 16:3, 17:31. In these passages of the Bible, references were made to either heathens or apostate Jews who have joined the practice of human sacrifice that was in vogue in the neighboring nations.
To be candid, as noted earlier, human sacrifices were greatly criticised among the Jews. In fact, “when Israelites sacrificed human beings, they incurred the divine wrath (Jerome Biblical commentary p. 1271). Nonetheless, the various instance of its practice shows that the homicidal acts were not intrinsic to African or Oriental typologies. As in Israel too, Human sacrifices were criticised in precolonial Africa even before the west arrived.