Twitter Tales: The “Herem” and HUMAN SACRIFICE in the Bible

In this thread, I further expand on my video “Herem Warfare in the Bible” with further proof from scholarly sources demonstrating the promotion of HUMAN SACRIFICE, similar to the way it was done by pagan cultures.

2 thoughts on “Twitter Tales: The “Herem” and HUMAN SACRIFICE in the Bible

  1. mr.heathcliff

    quote:

    In Reading The Old Testament, An Introduction, author Lawrence Boadt discusses the practice on pp. 197-198 of the paperback edition, my emphasis:

    The people responsible for carrying on the ancient traditions of the conquest emphasized that the victories came from God and that Joshua and the tribes followed God’s direction carefully and always dedicated their military victories as a sacrifice to God in thanksgiving for his aid. This is the terrible custom of the “ban,” called in Hebrew a herem, in which the Israelites were to slay everyone in the defeated towns. It was practiced to show that Israel put all its trust in God alone during the war and sought nothing for itself.

    Walter Brueggemann, in An Introduction to the Old Testament pages 117-118 of the paperback edition, states with my emphasis:

    The particular articulation of this violence that appears to be rooted in YHWH is expressed as herem…This is the ancient conviction that things offered to YHWH as booty captured from the enemy must be “utterly destroyed.” This term herem recurs in the narrative of Joshua 10 where it is translated “utterly destroy.” This notion, well entrenched in Israel, is a way whereby raw military violence and the will of YHWH are intimately linked…

    Susan Niditch writes much about “the ban” in War In The Hebrew Bible. She points out that herem was not unique to the Israelites, and the famous Mesha Stele/Moabite Stone provides a non-Israelite example. The emphasis is mine.:

    I am Mesha, son of Kemosh[-yatti], the king of Moab, the Dibonite. My father was king over Moab for thirty years, and I became king after my father. And I made this high-place for Kemosh in Qarcho . . . because he has delivered me from all kings, and because he has made me look down on all my enemies…I killed the whole population: seven thousand male subjects and aliens, and female subjects, aliens, and servant girls. For I had put it to the ban for Ashtar Kemosh**.** And from there I took the vessels of Yahweh, and I presented them before the face of Kemosh…

    Niditch remarks on page 32 of the paperback edition:

    One of the closest simplest biblical parallels to the above excerpt from the Mesha Inscription is offered by Num 21:2-3. Israel confronts the Canaanite enemy, the king of Arad and his forces who have already taken some Israelites captive. Israel makes a vow, the real thrust of which is obscured by the NRSV. Compare the NRSV and then our translation: “Then Israel made a vow to the Lord and said, ‘If you will indeed give this people into our hands, then we will utterly destroy their towns.'” Why should such a vow of wanton destruction please the deity? Rather Israel promises something for something, a deal that the deity presumably cannot resist–not wanton, meaningless destruction but an offering for his use and devotion…Israel is promising a sacrifice to God, the cities and their content. So the Moabite king had promised his enemies to his deity.

    Niditch continues on pp 34-35, with my emphasis:

    One group of biblical writers, like many modern scholars, tries to make sense of the ban in terms of justice in a way that discloses their own discomfort with the sacrifice tradition. But in another set of ban texts, no matters of justice are discussed. The understanding prevails in these texts that God has demanded that all that breathes be devoted to him in destruction. In this category are:Deut 2:34-35, the defeat of Sihon. Note that all humans are killed–men, women, and children–but that livestock is kept as spoil “for yourselves as well as the booty of the towns we had captured.”Deut 3:6-7, the defeat of Og. Again all humans are killed but livestock and booty are kept.Josh 6:17-21, the destruction of Jericho in which all living things except Rahab and her family are killed (6:21-22). The town is burned but silver and gold and vessels of bronze and iron are “sacred (qodes) to the Lord, going into “treasury of the Lord” (6:19,24).[Three other examples skipped–JK]In all of these passages, the ban involves the killing of all human beings regardless of age, gender, or military status. In Hazor, Jericho, and Ai, the burning of towns is involved, in the case of Jericho, livestock. In most cases, however, booty is kept for the people’s own use and towns are not necessarily razed. It is a mistake, in fact, to regard the cases in which booty is said to be taken or cities said to be spared cases of a partial or broken ban. The ban in the texts cited above is properly defined as the devotion of conquered humans to God as in the case of the Mesha Inscription and Numbers 21:2-3. Only this definition explains the ban’s emphasis on killing humans. In giving humans to God, the Israelites are not saving the best booty for themselves. To the contrary, the best sacrifice, the biggest sacrifice, is the human life, as confirmed by the tale of Jephthah’s daughter. The Israelites keep only lesser animal and inanimate material for themselves, though even these may in some cases be devoted to God as in the Achan incident.

    Niditch also points out that such passages as Exodus 13:2 and 22:29 are examples of “less nuanced statement[s]” regarding human sacrifice:

    13:1 Yahweh said to Moses: 2 Consecrate to me all the firstborn; whatever is the first to open the womb among the Israelites, of human beings and animals, is mine.22:29 You shall not delay to make offerings from the fullness of your harvest and from the outflow of your presses. The firstborn of your sons you shall give to me. 30 You shall do the same with your oxen and with your sheep: seven days it shall remain with its mother; on the eighth day you shall give it to me.

    Peake’s Commentary on the Bible, page 221: “The origin of the custom of sacrificing the first-born is not known. But it was a widely adopted usuage among Semitic peoples…”

    John J. Collins states that, “Exodus 22:28-29 [in the Hebrew text] appears to require the sacrifice of the firstborn and does not provide for substitution in the manner of the parallel text in Exod 34:19-20,” while The Jewish Study Bible remarks on page 157, regarding Exodus 22:28 that, “no provision for redemption [of first-born sons] is mentioned.”

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  2. mr.heathcliff

    “Rather Israel promises something for something, a deal that the deity presumably cannot resist–not wanton, meaningless destruction but an offering for his use and devotion…Israel is promising a sacrifice to God, the cities and their content…”

    In this category are:Deut 2:34-35, the defeat of Sihon. Note that all humans are killed–men, women, and children–but that livestock is kept as spoil

    In giving humans to God, the Israelites are not saving the best booty for themselves. To the contrary, the best sacrifice, the biggest sacrifice, is the human life, as confirmed by the tale of Jephthah’s daughter. The Israelites keep only lesser animal and inanimate material for themselves, though even these may in some cases be devoted to God as in the Achan incident.

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