Child Sacrifice—Why So Detestable?
“And they have built the high places of Topheth, which is in the valley of the son of Hinnom, in order to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire, a thing that I had not commanded and that had not come up into my heart.”—Jeremiah 7:31.
IN THE days of the Judean kings Ahaz and Manasseh, the nation of Israel fell into the snare of the degraded worship of neighbor nations. This included sacrificing their children to Molech. (2 Chronicles 28:3; 33:6, 9) Even though King Josiah later abolished many of “the detestable” practices, “Jehovah did not turn back from the great burning of his anger, with which his anger burned against Judah over all the offensive things with which Manasseh had made them offend.” (2 Kings 23:10, 26) Why? What made the transgression so “offensive” that it could not be forgiven?
“Child-sacrifice was a prominent feature of the worship of the Phenician Malik-Baal-Kronos,” says the Funk and Wagnalls Jewish Encyclopedia. The Phoenicians originally occupied the northern coastal regions of Canaan. Being a seafaring people, they established colonies throughout the Mediterranean, and wherever they went they took with them their detestable ritual of child sacrifice. A recent archaeological find at the ancient Phoenician city of Carthage (now a suburb of Tunis in Tunisia, North Africa) has shed some light on the depth of depravity of this practice.
The site was first discovered in 1921. But starting in the 1970’s, intensive excavation was done because of the expansion of the modern city toward the area. The dig turned out to be a huge burial ground for the remains of sacrificed children. The journal Biblical Archaeology Review reports:
“Here, from the eighth century B.C. until the second century B.C., mothers and fathers of Carthage buried the bones of their children sacrificed to the god Ba’al Hammon and to the goddess Tanit. By the fourth century B.C. the Tophet [from Biblical Topheth] may have been as large as 64,800 square feet (6,000 square meters), with nine levels of burials.”
Similar sites have been discovered in Sicily, in Sardinia, and elsewhere in Tunisia. At one time, all had been Phoenician colonies. In the Carthaginian burial ground, the researchers found numerous stone markers inscribed with figures of the goddess Tanit, who has been identified with the Canaanite goddess Ashtoreth, or Astarte, the wife of Baal. Underneath the markers are found earthen urns, some brightly decorated, that contain the charred bones of the sacrificial victims.
As an indication of the extent of the practice, the report says: “Using the density of urns in our excavated area as a standard, we estimate that as many as 20,000 urns may have been deposited there between 400 and 200 B.C.” This enormous number is made all the more shocking when one bears in mind that in its heyday the population of Carthage, according to the article, was only about 250,000.
Inscriptions on the stone markers show that children were sacrificed to fulfill vows their parents made to Baal or Tanit in exchange for favors. Ranks and titles on the markers indicate that the practice was particularly popular with the upper class, evidently to invoke the blessing of the gods on their efforts to achieve and maintain their wealth and influence. Some of the urns were found to contain the remains of two or three children, possibly of the same family, judging from the age differences.
If the practice of the Phoenicians is shocking, then remember that “Manasseh kept seducing Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to do worse than the nations that Jehovah had annihilated from before the sons of Israel.” (2 Chronicles 33:9) It was no exaggeration when Jehovah said: “They have filled this place with the blood of the innocent ones.” (Jeremiah 19:4) Appropriately, the Review article observes: “The growing body of archaeological and epigraphic evidence, provided by the Carthaginians themselves, strongly suggests that the classical and Biblical writers knew what they were talking about.”
Thus, as Jehovah “annihilated” the idolatrous Canaanite “nations,” he did not spare the unfaithful Israelites. They received their just due at the hands of the Babylonians in 607 B.C.E. Likewise, he will have an accounting with those today who, directly or indirectly, share in shedding the blood of millions upon millions through such abominable practices as war, murder, and abortion.—Revelation 19:11-15.