Human Sacrifices?

by Jeffrey W. Hamilton

Text: Judges 11:29-40


I.         There are two stories that cause some concern because they involve the concept of sacrificing a human being to God.

            A.        They cause concern because the Bible is very clear about God’s opinion on human sacrifices.

            B.        The slaying of humans invokes a death sentence - Genesis 9:5

            C.        False gods were worshiped with human sacrifices, but not the true God - Deuteronomy 12:29-32

                        1.         Leviticus 18:21 - To do so would profane the Lord’s name

                        2.         Jeremiah 7:31, 32:35 - God never even thought of allowing such a thing

II.        Most are familiar with the sacrifice of Isaac - Genesis 22:1-14

            A.        Abraham was asked to offer his only son to God.

                        1.         This was the child Abraham had waited 25 years for during his old age. Isaac was not born until Abraham had reached the age of 100.

                        2.         This was the child through whom God had promised to bring great blessings upon Abraham. - Genesis 17:19

                        3.         Here then is two contradictions in God’s command.

                                    a.         The child is to die before he has children. Yet, with this child’s children would be a everlasting covenant.

                                    b.         God abhors human sacrifices, yet He asks for one of Abraham

                        4.         It is these contradictions that hint there is something more here than the simple obvious facts.

                                    a.         Later we are told how Abraham resolved the conflict within himself - Hebrews 11:17-19

                                    b.         Here Abraham demonstrates his great faith.

                                                (1)       He trusted God even when God seemed to contradict His own statements.

                                                (2)       It wasn’t a blind faith, but one that was well reasoned.

                                    c.         Abraham believed he would return with Isaac before he walked up the mountain - Genesis 22:5

                        5.         In truth, it is a foreshadowing of the later sacrifice of God’s only son

            B.        Isaac was called the lamb for the offering - Genesis 22:7

                        1.         Jesus too was called the lamb of God - John 1:36

                        2.         Redeemed by the blood of a precious lamb - I Peter 1:18-19

            C.        Isaac carried the wood for his own sacrifice - Genesis 22:6

                        1.         Jesus carried his own cross - John 19:17

            D.        They traveled three days to the place of sacrifice

                        1.         Why so far?

                                    a.         Some see this as part of the test of Abraham’s faith. He was given plenty of time to change his mind.

                                    b.         Yet, perhaps there is something more here

                        2.         The place they went was a mountain in the land of Moriah, known as Jehovah-jireh (The Lord will provide).

                                    a.         Moriah is only mentioned one other place in the Bible. It was the mountain where the temple was built - II Chronicles 3:2

                                    b.         Jesus died outside the gates of the city of Jerusalem. The city where the temple was located. Jesus died on a mountain of Moriah.

                        3.         Abraham’s sacrifice began the day he left home.

                                    a.         He had given up his son Isaac for three days before he actually placed Isaac on the altar – before God restored his son to him by halting the sacrifice.

                                    b.         Jesus spent three days in the grave before God restored him to life.

            E.        There is more here than we first notice.

                        1.         A story is being played out in advance of the real story.

                        2.         God asks for Isaac to be a burnt offering, but He did not require his actual death.

                        3.         Yet, because Abraham had given over his son to God, it was an acceptable offering - Genesis 22:16-18

III.       Jephthah’s daughter - Judges 11:29-40

            A.        Jephthah, but Lord’s leading, is about to enter a major battle with the Ammonites.

                        1.         For some reason, he decided that he needed to insure God’s aid and makes a vow to God.

                        2.         It is a foolish vow because Jephthah did not consider precisely what or who would be offered.

                                    a.         Some believe Jephthah was considering offering a person because the Hebrew word in Judges 11:31 can be “whoever,” though most translations render it as “whatever.”

                        3.         Yet vows must be kept, especially vows to God - Ecclesiastes 5:1-5

            B.        Jephthah won, and on his return his one and only child, his daughter was the first to come and greet him.

                        1.         Jephthah is devastated.

                                    a.         She was his only child.

                                    b.         His lineage has come to an end. No one would inherit his property.

                        2.         Yet, Jephthah does not consider retracting his promise - Judges 11:35

                        3.         For this Jephthah his remembered for his great faith - Hebrews 11:32

            C.        Once again, we have a conflict. How can Jephthah be a hero of faith if he offered his child up as a burnt offering to God?

                        1.         It almost appears that two wrongs make a right, which is never true.

            D.        Burnt offerings are not always burnt

                        1.         Isaac was offered, but God prevented the slaying. True, you can argue that Abraham intended to burn his body.

            E.        Burnt offerings

                        1.         There were several offerings used for atonement for sins.

                                    a.         The sin offering was given when a person committed an unintentional sin - Leviticus 4:2, 13-14, 22-23, 27-28

                                    b.         The guilt offering was given when a person committed an unintentional sin and has the opportunity to make restitution - Leviticus 5:14-19

                                    c.         For both the sin and guilt offerings, portions were offered up to God and the remainder was discarded outside the camp - Hebrews 13:10-14

                                                (1)       Portions of the meat were given to the priests - Leviticus 7:7

                                    d.         The burnt offering also was for atonement for sins - Leviticus 1:4

                                                (1)       However where the sin and guilt offerings required specific sacrifices depending on the social status and wealth of the sinner, the burnt offering was voluntary - the worshiper could select what he would offer, so long has it was without defect - Leviticus 1:10; 22:18.

                                                (2)       Though there was a continual burnt offering offered for the people which was specified - Exodus 29:38-42

                                                (3)       Where the sin and guilt offerings were partial, the burnt offering was given wholly - Deuteronomy 33:10

                                                            (a)       Only the skin was given to the priests - Leviticus 7:8

                                                (4)       It was a soothing aroma to the Lord - Leviticus 1:13, 17

                                                            (a)       In other words, it was offered to turn away God’s wrath.

                        2.         Offerings given in fulfillment of a vow, freewill offerings, and offerings required at feasts were also burnt offerings - Numbers 15:3; 29:39

                                    a.         For example, the Feast of Weeks required a freewill offering - Deut. 16:10

                                    b.         While freewill offerings were “burnt offerings” not all were actually burnt, but were used in the work of God - II Chronicles 31:14

                                                (1)       Notice called most holy things, as stated in Leviticus 27:28

                                                (2)       Money and clothing was given as a freewill offering - Ezra 1:4-6; 8:28

                                                (3)       Money gained from prostitution could not be accepted as a vowed offering - Deuteronomy 23:18

                                                (4)       Words of praise could also be freewill offerings - Psalms 119:108

                                    c.         Note: There is a vowed or freewill offering that was a peace offering - Leviticus 7:16-17; 22:21-23

                                    d.         Note: The vowed offering and freewill offerings were either burnt offerings or peace offerings.

                        3.         Jesus’s death combined all these offerings

                                    a.         His sacrifice was sin offering - Hebrews 9:24-10:3; 13:10-14

                                    b.         His sacrifice was a burnt offering, even though he was not burnt - Ephesians 5:2, this is because he gave himself wholly over to God to appease God’s wrath.

                        4.         The Christian, too, is a whole (or burnt) offering whose living sacrifice is pleasing to God - Romans 12:1-2

            F.        Vowed offerings had to be kept - Deuteronomy 23:21-23; Ecclesiastes 5:1-4

            G.        Special rules for dedicating something or someone for destruction

                        1.         In fulfillment of a vow, a person could devote anything that belonged to him

                                    a.         Provision was made for redeeming (buying back) what was devoted - Leviticus 27:1-25

                                    b.         These devoted things were considered to be holy and the redemption was actually purchasing a “loan” back.

                        2.         Some things could not be redeemed because they already were dedicated to the Lord - Leviticus 27:26

                                    a.         Hannah’s dedication of Samuel was permanent because Samuel was her firstborn - I Samuel 1:11

                        3.         If something was devoted for destruction, such as a burnt offering, it too could not be redeemed, it was completely devoted to the Lord - Leviticus 27:28

                        4.         A person or people marked by the Lord for destruction could not be redeemed - Leviticus 27:29

            H.        These rules handled the offering of things which could not be sacrificed, such as unclean animals, humans, or land.

                        1.         Most things were purchased back at their value plus 20%.

                        2.         Things that could not be used as a sacrifice remained the Lord’s to be redeemed later - Leviticus 27:11-13 (notice that they were not offered).

                        3.         Property not redeemed by the year of Jubilee because it was sold to a third party while dedicated became the property of a priest - Leviticus 27:20-21

            I.         Herein was the problem Jephthah ran into with his vow.

                        1.         His daughter was his first and only child. All first-born children were devoted to the Lord and had to be redeemed when one month old - Numbers 18:15-17

                        2.         Second, the vow was an offering of destruction, such could not be redeemed.

                        3.         As his only child, Jephthah’s lineage would end with his daughter.

                        4.         As a result, Jephthah’s daughter became consecrated to the Lord.

                                    a.         Notice that she mourned for two months her virginity – not her life - Judges 11:37-38

                                    b.         When she returned, Jephthah fulfilled his vow and she never had relations with a man – not that she lost her life - Judges 11:39

            J.         What happened to Jephthah’s daughter if she did not die?

                        1.         As with other “unacceptable” offerings, she belonged to the Lord.

                        2.         There are several mentions of women serving in the tabernacle and the temple

                                    a.         Exodus 38:8 - Women at the door of the tabernacle

                                    b.         I Samuel 2:22 - Women at the door of the tabernacle

                                    c.         John 18:16-17 - It appears from this verse and ancient sources that women were often employed as doorkeepers.

                                    d.         Anna is mentioned as a widow who stayed at the temple to serve the Lord with fasting and prayers - Luke 2:36-37

                                                (1)       Possibly like Psalm 134:1-2

                                                (2)       It is believed that such women foreshadowed the women cared for by the church - I Timothy 5:5

Print Friendly, PDF & Email