Molech and Human Sacrifice

The sacrifice of humans – including children – was not exactly a rare occurrence in the days when Molech, the Canaanite sun god worshiped throughout the ancient Near East, commanded the awe and fear of his people. Several religious traditions often sacrificed virgins, as well as full grown men and women, along with animals of every ilk. Even so, many terrifying accounts of the practice have trickled down through history, creating a grim picture. Though accounts differ according to religious tradition and region, common themes include the focal point of a giant bronze statue of Molech, which was hollowed out to contain a fire, and the beating of drums and playing of flutes to drown out the anguished cries of the victims. This was especially important for the parents of the child in question, for although it was considered an honorable and necessary deed to offer one’s children to the demanding god, it was surely as traumatic an ordeal as it would be today.

Some accounts describe a fire being lit inside the statue, and the sacrificed child placed in its hands, which were then raised to its open mouth, at which point the child fell into the flames below (though we’re not clear on the mechanical workings of such a device – it certainly would have been a technological feat for the time in which it was used!). Another account suggests that the child remained in the bronze hands, and was burned through the conductive heat over several hours. There are also passages in twelfth century Rabbinical texts which describe offerings of a ram, an ewe, a calf, an ox, turtledoves, and sifted flour, placed inside the idol’s internal compartments along with the child, comprising a strange sort of sacrificial stew.  In all its forms, however, the ceremony was called “passing through the fire.” Yikes!

Sacrificing the children – and the first-born of a family were considered best – was supposed to appease Molech so that he’d replenish the strength and heat of the sun, but thankfully, in modern times, we can turn to heat lamps for our crops and tanning beds for our vanity before resorting to such extreme measures. But next time your terrible toddler starts acting up, maybe it’s time they heard the tale of Molech and his scary statue!

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