Bible Articles on the Topic of Human sacrifice

The following articles have been compiled and indexed by inWORD Bible software.

Jephthah’s Vow

As [Jephthah] approached his home [following his great victory] the maidens of the town came forth, according to the custom of the time, to greet the mighty man of valour with songs and dances. In this way, Miriam and the women of Israel had celebrated the destruction of Pharaoh’s host in the Red Sea (Exodus 15:20); and later, David’s victories over the Philistines were acclaimed in the same fashion (1 Samuel 18:6).

The Fate of Jephthah’s Daughter

Did Jephthah actually sacrifice his only daughter, or did here merely dedicate her to a celibate service, perhaps at the Tabernacle? What are the arguments, pro and con? The following is a summary of the more cogent points in favor of each side:

Jephthah’s Daughter

Question: What really happened to Jephthah’s daughter in response to the vow that Jephthah made to Yahweh?

Secrets of the Akedah

This week’s parasha [Torah reading] is Vayera [Genesis 18:1 to 22:24], most famous for describing the Akedah, or “binding of Isaac”. As is well known, God seemingly commands Abraham to sacrifice his beloved son, with no clear reason why He wants this. Later, the text suggests that it was a test of Abraham’s devotion to God: how much was Abraham willing to give up in his service of the Divine? The test seems quite cruel. How could God command a person to do something as abhorrent as sacrificing a child? Of course, child sacrifice is itself totally forbidden by Torah law, and God never intended for Abraham to hurt Isaac. In that case, why command such a thing in the first place?

Why King Mesha Sacrificed His Oldest Son

In his highly interesting article, “Why the Moabite Stone Was Blown to Pieces” (BAR, May/June 1986), Professor Siegfried Horn recounts the ninth-century B.C. war between Moab and an alliance of Israel, Judah and Edom. When the alliance besieged the Moabite capital of Kir-Hareseth, the Moabite king Mesha, in desperation, sacrificed his eldest son to the god Chemosh. King Mesha offered the crown prince as a burnt offering on top of the city wall in full view of the enemy forces (2 Kings 3:26-27).

Mistranslated Passages In Our Bible: Jephthah’s Daughter

Our recent notes on this subject have moved several readers to press upon us the opposing view that Jephthah’s daughter was not offered up as a burnt-offering, but was only dedicated, or consecrated, to the service of God.

James Moffatt and Jephthah’s Vow

A Canadian reader sends us the following contribution to the examination of this subject, and we are glad to have this further view-point. He writes:—

Did Jephthah Revere the Law of Moses?

Our recent comments on this difficult subject have aroused considerable interest, especially from readers who disagree with what we suggested was the most reasonable interpretation of the Scripture record. Here is a typical exposition of the opposing view of the fate of the girl:—

Infant Sacrifice

Cursed be the man before the Lord that riseth up and buildeth this city, Jericho. He shall lay the foundation thereof in his first-born, and in his youngest son shall he set up the gates of it. —Joshua 6:26.

Rethinking Jephthah’s Foolish Vow

Most Christians struggle to understand the narratives recorded in the book of Judges. Consider the opening account where Adonai Bezek is captured by the tribe of Judah, humiliated by having his thumbs and big toes cut off, and then dies in Jerusalem. What about Gideon’s fleece in Judges 6, or Samson’s repeated relationships with illicit women in Judges 14–16? How do we understand and explain such difficult texts? Do we ask, “Who are the Adonai Bezek’s in your life?” or “What would Samson do?” Maybe it would be better to “dare to be a Gideon,” but I don’t think so.

Sacrifice, Human

hū ́man: As an expression of religious devotion, human sacrifice has been widespread at certain stages of the race’s development. The tribes of Western Asia were deeply affected by the practice, probably prior to the settlement of the Hebrews in Palestine, and it continued at least down to the 5th century BC. At times of great calamity, anxiety and danger, parents sacrificed their children as the greatest and most costly offering which they could make to propitiate the anger of the gods and thus secure their favor and help. There is no intimation in the Bible that enemies or captives were sacrificed; only the offering of children by their parents is mentioned. The belief that this offering possessed supreme value is seen in Micah 6:6 f, where the sacrifice of the firstborn is the climax of a series of offerings which, in a rising scale of values, are suggested as a means of propitiating the angry Yahweh. A striking example of the rite as actually practiced is seen in 2 Kings 3:27, where Mesha the king of Moab (made famous by the Moabite Stone), under the stress of a terrible siege, offered his eldest son, the heir-apparent to the throne, as a burnt offering upon the wall of Kir-hareseth. As a matter of fact this horrid act seems to have had the effect of driving off the allies.

King Mesha’s Burnt Offering

human sacrifice

Binding of Isaac

The Binding of Isaac (Hebrew: עֲקֵידַת יִצְחַק), also known as The Binding (הָעֲקֵידָה) and the Akedah or Aqedah, is a story from the Hebrew Bible in which God asks Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac, on Moriah. The account states that Abraham “bound Isaac, his son” before placing him on the altar.

Child sacrifice

Child sacrifice is the ritualistic killing of children in order to please, propitiate or force a god or supernatural beings in order to achieve a desired result. As such, it is a form of human sacrifice. The practice has received considerable opposition throughout history, and it has often become a target for those engaged in criticism of religion. Child sacrifice is thought to be an extreme extension of the idea that, the more important the object of sacrifice, the more devout the person giving it up is.


Jephthah (pronounced /ˈdʒɛfθə/; Hebrew: יפתח Yip̄tāḥ), appears in the Book of Judges as a judge over Israel for a period of six years (Judges 12:7). Among biblical scholars, there is disagreement as to whether any part of the Jephthah stories is historical. According to Judges, he lived in Gilead and was a member either of the tribe of Manasseh or of the tribe of Gad. His father’s name is also given as Gilead and, as his mother is described as a prostitute, this may mean that his father may have been any of the men of that area. Jephthah led the Israelites in battle against Ammon and, after defeating the Ammonites, fulfilled a rash vow of his, by sacrificing his daughter. Traditionally, Jephthah is listed among major judges on the ground of the length of the biblical narrative referring to him, but his story also shares commonalities with the minor judges, for instance only six years duration of his office as judge.