“I myself will set my face against him and will cut him off from his people; for by sacrificing his children to Molech, he has defiled my sanctuary and profaned my holy name.” -Leviticus 20:3

Molech was a pagan semitic god who was worshipped by the detestable act of child sacrifice. The alters were in the semblance of a bull or calf, a sacrificial animal itself, with a pit before it, or in the belly of the man made edifice. Within these pits, large fires would be built and children were tossed in as an offering to the god.

In this verse, we not only see God’s disgust in the worship of other gods, but also the abhorrent nature of human sacrifice. The Book of Judges, Chapter 11, contains the infamous account of Jephthah, who after making a vow to the Lord concerning the defeat of the Ammonites sacrificed his daughter to God. Atheists and non-believers,  like to distract Christians by citing this account, but nowhere does it say that God approved of Jephthah’s sacrifice of his only offspring. In fact, God’s displeasure could implicitly be contained in the account, for the Ammonites, whom Jephthah was fighting, were devout worshippers of Molech. Thus, it represents a veiled connection between the Judges account and God’s statement against such practices in Leviticus.

"Jephthah," by John Everett Millais. oil on canvas, c. 1867

Human sacrifice wasn’t a rare practice and every continent and almost every indigenous people seems to have engaged in it at one time or another, from the civilizations of Central America, to even the Native Americans. Yet, again, verses like this one, and those like it, show that God does not desire such offerings. Why did God include it in His word then? The account was provided to show the importance of oaths to the Lord (See my note on Matthew 5:37, “On Promises and Vows”).

Abraham, in Genesis Chapter 22, was commanded by God to sacrifice his son Isaac, which Abraham being a man of faith and obedience, was prepared to carry out. Yet, at the last minute an angel called from heaven and instructed him not to lay a hand on the boy. In verse 13 we find that a ram was caught by its horns in a thicket, provided by God, to take the place of Abraham’s son.

"The Sacrifice of Isaac," by Domenichino. oil on canvas, c. 1627-1628

The correlation between this account of Abraham and what was later to occur with Jesus Christ is apparent. As the ram was caught by its horns in a thicket, likewise Christ had a thicket of thorns placed upon His head, piercing deep into His flesh, as His eventual crucifixion approached. Though Christ was human, He was not a mere human, and He was provided by God, from the beginning, to take our place, to endure the punishment, and to pay the just wages for our sin, just as the ram had replaced Isaac. In short, we deserve to be nailed upon that cross, but Christ paid for sin in full on our account that salvation might be credited to us by faith and through grace.

May Christ be forever praised. Amen.

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