Kings and Total Sacrifice
In the 1 Samuel 8 passage we just covered, the Hebrew uses the standard word for “king”—mlk, or melech. This common word appears all through the Old Testament, but when referring to a particular practice of neighboring pagan divine-king States, the Hebrew scribes replaced the vowels with those from the Hebrew word boseth, “shame.” The resulting name “Molech” refers to the pagan total-State, the great tyrannies incurred where the civil State usurped the place of God and worship in society and demanded ultimate sacrifice.
The symbols of these tyrannies are perpetual servitude to the State in both person and property, and the unforgettable legacy of child sacrifice. For this reason the Hebrew scribes distinguished between “kings” (melech) and “king-mandated human sacrifice” (molech). The commands forbidding child-sacrifice appear in Leviticus 18:21, 20:1–5, and in Deuteronomy 12:29–32, 18:9–10. These commands appear among sections of God’s law that forbid divination, false prophecy, and other attempts to control the future. In other words, God’s law recognized the propensity of kings and the State to attempt total control of its people, capital, environment, and future (as a god would do), and that same law condemned these actions. “The Moloch state simply represents the supreme effort of man to command the future, to predestine the world, and to be as God.… Moloch worship was thus state worship. The state was the true and ultimate order.… The state claimed total jurisdiction over man; it was therefore entitled to total sacrifice.”1
And sacrifice it was: The “Molech sacrifices” of children were widespread in Mediterranean culture.2 Archeologists have uncovered—from Tyre in the Middle East to Carthage in North Africa, and even in Italy and Sicily—thousands of urns and burials containing the charred remains of infants and small children. One find notably uncovered inscriptions of mlk ’mr and mlk ’dm—“molech amar” and “molech adam”—meaning “king-sacrifices of lamb,” and “king-sacrifices of man.” Ancient historians as well attest to pagan rituals of rolling children into an idol-furnace shaped like a god with horns, whose hollowed midsection belched fire—sacrifices by the hundreds, even thousands.3 A fairly recent site near modern-day Tyre uncovered so many cinerary jars and urns that the number “cannot even be approximated.”4
Despite a clear mandate from God Almighty, the community of the “faithful” could not refrain from acting “like all the nations.” It was not immune from even these barbarous practices. We find Judah’s kings Ahaz and Manasseh leading the country in pagan worship and even in the fires of Molech (2 Kings 16:3; 21:6), and we see the people of Israel following right along (2 Kings 17:17). Historian Vaux comments,
The sacrifice of children, then, by burning them to death probably made its way into Israel from Phoenicia during a period of religious syncretism. The Bible mentions only two specific instances, and they were motivated by the same exceptional circumstances as the Phoenician sacrifices [see 2 Kings 16:3; 21:6].5
“Exceptional circumstances” allegedly being the portents of invasion and war, for which the sacrifice of children expected to gain the pagan god’s favor for salvation and victory. Whatever the circumstance may have been, the fact of human sacrifice is what concerns us. Formerly faithful people adopted the practice, following the God-denying, State-worshiping cultures around them.
During this time of social decline, the Valley of Hinnom—just outside the city of Jerusalem—became a center of such worship, including the erection of a “tophet,” or furnace for sacrifice. Jeremiah decried judgment upon the “tophet” which the children of Judah had built in order “to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire” (Jer. 7:31–32). It took the reform efforts under good king Josiah (contemporary with Jeremiah) to destroy the shrine-furnace “that no man might make his son or his daughter pass through the fire to Molech” (2 Kings 23:10). In other words, it took a return to God’s word, and correction of the doctrine of God, a concurrent correction of the doctrine of king, and civil action in society to overcome the total sacrifice demanded by a pagan view of society and State.
Consent of the Civilized
Do not make the mistake of believing this total sacrifice existed only among ancient primitive peoples or particularly bloodthirsty tribes. The aforementioned Tyre was part of ancient Phoenicia, the people who pioneered maritime trading across the Mediterranean and who also invented the alphabet. The Phoenician colony Carthage practiced child sacrifice extensively, while growing rich through international trade, and requiring three Punic Wars before finally succumbing to the power of Rome. And Rome! The great civilizer of the known world, the paver of Europe, and the benevolent dictator behind the Pax Romana! Even great civilized Rome sacrificed humans in order to control her State gods. Despite the fact that early Rome had “officially” outlawed human sacrifice for the people, the State practiced it widely. The great historian Lord Acton elaborates:
But in Rome, where religion was more real, the awe of the gods greater, the view of life more earnest and gloomy, the morals more severe, human sacrifice was less hateful to the popular mind. . . . The deification of the State made every sacrifice which it exacted seem as nothing in comparison to the fortune of Rome; and the perils which menaced it from Carthage or Gaul, Epirus or Pontus, Parthia, Spain, or Germany, each demanded its human victims. . . .
In every generation of the four centuries from the fall of the Republic to the establishment of Christianity, human victims were sacrificed by the emperors. In the year 46 B.C. Julius Caesar, after suppressing a mutiny, caused one soldier to be executed, while at the same time two others were sacrificed by the flamen of Mars on the altar in the Campus Martius. . . . Five years later, when Perugia was taken, Octavian sacrificed three hundred senators and knights to his deified predecessor; and the altars of Perugia became a proverb. In the same age Sextus Pompeius flung captives into the sea, as a sacrifice to his father Neptune. . . . When Germanicus died, his house was found to be lined with charms, images, and bones of men whom Tiberius had sacrificed to the infernal gods to hasten his end.… Nero, by the advice of the astrologers, put many nobles to death, to avert himself from the evils with which a comet threatened him. . . . Didus Julianus offered sacrifices of children. . . . At the beginning of the fourth century Maxentius divined the future by sacrificing infants, and opening the bodies of pregnant women. . . . Children were publicly sacrificed to Moloch in [Roman] Africa until the middle of the second century. . . .6
I have omitted many of the instances Acton lists. The practice was widespread, and accepted by many if not most of the most civilized nations in the world. It took the advance of Christianity to end it for the most part (it still survived in some small pockets). The reader should see now what even the most civilized and well-intentioned States can do when made complete arbiters of life and death. The cradle-to-grave Nanny State is the replacement of God, and will just as easily end your life as sustain it when it so deems it beneficial to its agenda, or “the whole.”
The sacrifice of children and humans in general can only occur where an earthly power has total control, and (excepting the possibility of kidnapping, which does not appear to be in play) where parents are brainwashed into handing their children over to an earthly king for some ungodly cause, even to the point of mindless murder in case of “national emergency” or for “the common good.”
Human Sacrifice Today
What goes unstated or unnoticed is that human sacrifice continues openly today despite the advance of every measure of religion, science, and reason. In fact, we could say that the butchery is often aided and promoted by the march of both science and what passes as science. Likewise, human sacrifice in the “open society” is carried out by the most prosperous and self-appointed rational people on earth: most of Western Civilization. The massacres continue under two main guises: abortion and unnecessary war.
The practice of abortion, from a pro-life perspective anyway, stands as an obvious modern counterpart to the ancient Moloch worship of sacrificing infants, only today done for human convenience, money, or social status, rather than religion. But don’t assume the difference is so great. The ancient pagans ritually killed infants as propitiation of a false god that didn’t exist. Today, it is done for the propitiation of a false god called man, humanity, society, woman’s rights, choice—this demon is legion. As a result, nothing has changed but the object of worship: society has exchanged a non-existent false god, Moloch, for an existent false god, man.
The case of war is no less controversial, but no less clear. Without any intended reference to current wars (though it may apply), it should be obvious that if any war is waged unjustly, and troops are killed in that battle for an ungodly cause, then the perpetrators of that war have offered human blood as an agent of social change, rather than relying on godly principles. This is human sacrifice pure and simple. Christians should not be afraid to oppose war, to oppose it vigorously, and to oppose hasty wars especially. Well does the Anglican prayer book include in its military prayer, “Ever spare them from being ordered into a war of aggression or oppression.”7
Even when modern States do not engage in blood sacrifice outright, they nevertheless call for total sacrifice—the full offering of one’s all to its mandates. When the State makes claim to your service, your children’s service, your property, your wealth, and meddles in the medical and “end of life” care you get, then there is no other name for it than total sacrifice.
On top of this, most Christian parents today unquestioningly pass their children through the fire of Molech education; they have offered their children up to the tophet-furnace of the king’s public schools, funded by the God-rejecting State’s property taxes and divine-State multiple-tithes. These arms of the State’s power teach—at every opportunity, for hours per day, from every angle—every idea that contradicts the law of God and supports the State’s power. It is child sacrifice to the gods of the State, and a rejection of God’s command for families, not the State, to educate their children in the ways of God (Deut. 6:6–9; Eph. 6:4).
In this matter, Christians have failed, and secular humanists (who believe the State is the highest expression and guardian of man, and thus god) have consciously accepted Christian children as sacrifices toward advancing their social agenda. This was their plan from early on, as Charles Potter, as signer of the first Humanist Manifesto clearly stated:
Education is thus a most powerful ally of Humanism, and every American public school is a school of Humanism. What can the theistic Sunday-school, meeting for an hour once a week, and teaching only a fraction of the children, do to stem the tide of a five-day program of humanistic teaching?8
The schools are humanistic because the system of socialism in which the State taxes other people to pay for other people’s kids’ education is humanistic and deifies the State. The secular Molech has increased his power, and the Christians have fed the beast!
This failure repeats the sad, recurring legacy of people of faith—a pattern we see in 1 Samuel as well. The priesthood grew corrupt (1 Sam. 2:12–36), and a generation arose without proper education in the ways of God. Even Samuel’s two sons departed from God’s ways even though Samuel had appointed them to judge over Israel (1 Sam. 8:1–3). As Samuel grew old the people sensed his decline and began to fret about leadership. Instead of falling back on God’s word and trusting in God, they appealed to Samuel to give them their king “like all the nations.” This was a failure of national faith. It led to the national tyranny outlined above.
The cycle repeats itself today. Christians have accepted humanistic ways of doing things “like all the nations.” In the health care debate, in education, in other public programs, and in economics, Christians have sacrificed their lives and the lives of their children in exchange for the protection and security offered promised by the humanistic State. Unless we return quickly to God’s ways, we will enter the period of God refusing to hear our prayers for some time.
Some Christians ask me why I write so much about “politics.” The answer goes far beyond the simple idea that we should apply God’s Word to every area of life. The answer must include the fact that if we don’t apply God’s Word to every area of life, the forces of darkness will push their word in the neglected areas. There is no neutrality. Either God reigns and His law is honored, or the enemy rules and humanists carry out their will in law, politics, and ethics. The reason for Christians in politics—and all other areas—begins with the answer to question, “Who is King?”
Most, if not all, of the problems we face in society stem from the State’s transgression of Christ’s Kingship. This does not mean that Christ ceases to rule in these areas; rather, the State interferes in areas Christ has not decreed for it to manage. As a result, the State sets itself up in the place of God in these areas. This is false kingship, and with it comes judgment for idolatry and for worshiping a false god. Society progresses into the judgment of its own making.
The progression into a sin-dominated culture happens slowly, and Christians tend to accept the drift unless sudden changes drastically strike at obvious issues. Thus, Christians speak out against abortion and homosexual marriage. Meanwhile, more subtle things creep in: Social Security, public education, Medicare, welfare, multiple taxes, etc, and possibly compulsory national service. Each of these programs violate biblical principles of property and life, and strike just as severely at the biblical idea of family as do homosexual marriage and abortion, yet Christians accept and even applaud them. The applause comes for many reasons—apparent benefits, self-interest, the programs appear moral, sustainable, and they are already established by our parents and grandparents. What gets lost in the whole process is a consistent, biblical assessment of the God-determined boundaries for Family, Church, and State.
We must constantly return to Scripture and ask “Who is King?” over these areas. To the extent that Christians let the State usurp the God-given roles of family and church, we have accepted the legitimacy of a false god. The fires of Molech will continue to consume and grow until Christians lose the ability to withdraw. Withdraw from your interest in the tophet schools and the false-prophet State systems of Molech while you still can. Ask yourself the question “Who is King?”
A lot depends on your answer.
Get the full book at God versus Socialism: A Biblical Critique of the New Social Gospel.
- Rushdoony, Institutes, 35, 33.(↩)
- Roland de Vaux, Ancient Israel: Its Life and Institutions, trans. John McHugh (New York, Toronto, and London: McGraw-Hill Book Co., 1961), 445.(↩)
- Vaux, Ancient Israel, 445.(↩)
- Helga Seeden, “A Tophet In Tyre?,” BERYTUS 39 (1991); (accessed August 26, 2009). Despite acknowledging that “probable human bone” was found among the urns’ contents, and that some of these fragments “consisted of shaft bone a few millimeters of diameter,” the report naïvely concludes that “their size was not consistent with them being remains of small infants.”(↩)
- Vaux, Ancient Israel, 446.(↩)
- J. E. E. D. Acton, “Human Sacrifice,”Essays in Religion, Politics, and Morality: Selected Writings of Lord Acton, 3 vols. ed. J. Rufus Fears (Indianapolis: Liberty Classics, 1988), 3:413, 415–7.(↩)
- The Book of Common Prayer (Reformed Episcopal Church of North America, Third Edition, 2003) 63.(↩)
- Charles Francis Potter, Humanism: A New Religion (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1930), 128. Quoted in David A. Noebel, J.F. Baldwin, and Kevin Bywater, Clergy in the Classroom: The Religion of Secular Humanism (Manitou Springs, CO: Summit Press, 1995), vi. I have taken this from Gary DeMar, “Why Creation and Prophecy Can’t Be Separated,” (accessed August 27, 2009).(↩)