Cannibalism in the Bible

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Pro

There are about a dozen references to cannibalism in the O.T.

  1. Leviticus 26:16 "I also will do this unto you... You shall sow your seed in vain, for your enemies shall eat it."
  2. Leviticus 26:29 "And ye shall eat the flesh of your sons, and the flesh of your daughters shall ye eat."
  3. Deuteronomy 28:53 "And thou shalt eat the fruit of thine own body, the flesh of thy sons and of thy daughters."
  4. Deuteronomy 28:57 "And toward her young one that cometh out from between her feet, and toward her children which she shall bear: for she shall eat them."
  5. 2 Kings 6:28-29 "This woman said unto me, Give thy son, that we may eat him to day, and we will eat my son to morrow. So we boiled my son, and did eat him: and I said unto her on the next day, Give thy son, that we may eat him."
  6. Isaiah 9:19-20 "Through the wrath of the LORD of hosts is the land darkened, and the people shall be as the fuel of the fire: no man shall spare his brother. And he shall snatch on the right hand, and be hungry; and he shall eat on the left hand, and they shall not be satisfied: they shall eat every man the flesh of his own arm."
  7. Isaiah 49:26 "And I will feed them that oppress thee with their own flesh; and they shall be drunken with their own blood, as with sweet wine."
  8. Jeremiah 19:9 " And I will cause them to eat the flesh of their sons and the flesh of their daughters, and they shall eat every one the flesh of his friend."
  9. Lamentations 4:10 "The hands of the pitiful women have sodden their own children: they were their meat."
  10. Ezekiel 5:10 "Therefore the fathers shall eat the sons in the midst of thee, and the sons shall eat their fathers."
  11. Micah 3:2 "Who hate the good, and love the evil; who pluck off their skin from off them, and their flesh from off their bones; Micah 3:3 Who also eat the flesh of my people, and flay their skin from off them; and they break their bones, and chop them in pieces, as for the pot, and as flesh within the caldron."
  12. Zechariah 11:9 "I will not feed you: that that dieth, let it die; and that that is to be cut off, let it be cut off; and let the rest eat every one the flesh of another."

Skeptic's Annotated Bible


Are we to assume this traditional practice is wholly condemned or should we seek out recipes in the text? --67.67.196.242 15:08, 4 November 2005 (CST)

What about Genesis Ch 9:3 "Everything that lives and moves will be food for you" - New Intl Version (Added By www.myspace.com/spontaneousthoughts)

Con 1

  • Leviticus 26:16 "I also will do this unto you... You shall sow your seed in vain, for your enemies shall eat it."

Whether "seed" means their offspring or their crops is unclear. However, the context tells us that Israel without God's protection is helpless against her enemies and those who would destroy her. If cannibalism is in view, it points to the depravity of the enemies of Israel. Where the verse says, "I also will do this unto you...," it does not refer to God actively bringing about the result but of his passive response to Israel's enemies by not intervening to protect Israel in the face of their onslaught.

  • Leviticus 26:29 "And ye shall eat the flesh of your sons, and the flesh of your daughters shall ye eat."

Without God's protection and blessing and protection, the people of Israel would find themselves reduced to cannibalism. Such would be their desperation if God did not provide for them and protect them. This reiterated in Deuteronomy 28:53 and again in Jeremiah 19:9.

  • Deuteronomy 28:53 "And thou shalt eat the fruit of thine own body, the flesh of thy sons and of thy daughters."

Without God's protection and blessing and protection, the people of Israel would find themselves reduced to cannibalism. Such would be their desperation if God did not provide for them and protect them. This was first stated in Leviticus 26:29 and reiterated in Jeremiah 19:9.

  • Deuteronomy 28:57 "And toward her young one that cometh out from between her feet, and toward her children which she shall bear: for she shall eat them."

This continues that begun in 28:53. Without God's protection and blessing and protection, the people of Israel would find themselves reduced to cannibalism. Such would be their desperation if God did not provide for them and protect them. This was first stated in Leviticus 26:29 and reiterated in Jeremiah 19:9.

  • 2 Kings 6:28-29 "This woman said unto me, Give thy son, that we may eat him to day, and we will eat my son to morrow. So we boiled my son, and did eat him: and I said unto her on the next day, Give thy son, that we may eat him."

Here we find the fulfillment of the earlier warnings. Israel had deserted God and now were without protection and only after this does the king repent and call out to God.

  • Isaiah 9:19-20 "Through the wrath of the LORD of hosts is the land darkened, and the people shall be as the fuel of the fire: no man shall spare his brother. And he shall snatch on the right hand, and be hungry; and he shall eat on the left hand, and they shall not be satisfied: they shall eat every man the flesh of his own arm."

A reiteration of that said earlier that would befall Israel if she deserted God and did not want His protection. Israel did not know her weakness and her need for God.

  • Isaiah 49:26 "And I will feed them that oppress thee with their own flesh; and they shall be drunken with their own blood, as with sweet wine."

A reiteration of that said earlier that would befall Israel if she deserted God and did not want His protection. Israel did not know her weakness and her need for God.

  • Jeremiah 19:9 " And I will cause them to eat the flesh of their sons and the flesh of their daughters, and they shall eat every one the flesh of his friend."

A reiteration of that said earlier that would befall Israel if she deserted God and did not want His protection. Israel did not know her weakness and her need for God.

  • Lamentations 4:10 "The hands of the pitiful women have sodden their own children: they were their meat."

A reiteration of that said earlier that would befall Israel if she deserted God and did not want His protection. Israel did not know her weakness and her need for God.

  • Ezekiel 5:10 "Therefore the fathers shall eat the sons in the midst of thee, and the sons shall eat their fathers."

A reiteration of that said earlier that would befall Israel if she deserted God and did not want His protection. Israel did not know her weakness and her need for God.

  • Micah 3:2 "Who hate the good, and love the evil; who pluck off their skin from off them, and their flesh from off their bones; 3:3 Who also eat the flesh of my people, and flay their skin from off them; and they break their bones, and chop them in pieces, as for the pot, and as flesh within the caldron."

This is the condemnation of Judah by God. Such is its depravity.

  • Zechariah 11:9 "I will not feed you: that that dieth, let it die; and that that is to be cut off, let it be cut off; and let the rest eat every one the flesh of another."

A prophecy reiterating that said earlier that would befall Israel if she deserted God and did not want His protection. Israel did not know her weakness and her need for God.

Con 2

Since I see no actual endorsement of the practice by God in any of the above mentioned verses, only allowance of so hard circumstances (as a punishment) that the Israelites will commit even such a sin, I think we should rather keep to our ordinary cook books. Is it necessary to explicitly condemn something that everybody, including the guys who by their sin beg for the punitive circumstances, already considers abominable, a sign of utter desperation and to be avoided at all costs in everyday life?

Would God endorse theft if He pronounced, "You people are so wicked that I shall allow a serious depression in your nation. The economics will get so bad that even the presently well-off, rich-and-proud-of-it executives will be robbing shops for food!" Doesn't the gravity of the situation reside in the fact that everybody agrees there is something terribly wrong if citizens rob shops or eat their own kids to survive?

The first of the dozen verses seems a very strange pick in this context, by the way. Is the practice of capturing another nation's barley harvest wholly unfamiliar to the author of SAB? Does the context justify reading "sowing seed" metaphorically as referring to copulation, pregnancy and the resulting children, as opposed to plain agriculture? --jjmarkka 08:59, 11 Nov 2005 (CST)

Neutral

It may be relevant to note that human flesh isn't classified as "unclean" according to the dietary codes in Leviticus (it falls into the same category as vegetables: not mentioned, therefore OK by default).

It is unlikely that this is an accidental oversight, as the verses in the "Pro" piece make it quite plain that the concept of cannibalism was quite familiar to the Bible's authors. However, there is a very plausible alternative to cannibalism as an explanation for this. There are numerous references to human sacrifice in the Bible: and material deemed "unclean" would also be unsuitable for sacrifice. --Robert Stevens 10:46, 11 Nov 2005 (CST)

I have to object to the classification of human flesh as "neutral"--the Bible classification of "clean" was that everything that was not permitted was forbidden. For mammals (a modern classification that I use for convenience), the only clean animals are those that "part the hoof and chew the cud." (See Leviticus 11:3 and following.)--JustinEiler 11:06, 11 Nov 2005 (CST)
...However, the Bible's authors would not have classified humans as "mammals", or even "animals" (the Biblical "beasts that are on the Earth" in Leviticus 11:2). We were (supposedly) created separately, at least as distinct from "animals" as plants are: hence, technically not covered (as plants are not). I suppose we will never know if this was deliberate or not. --Robert Stevens 11:34, 11 Nov 2005 (CST)
Eh ... perhaps not. Though it does bring up an interesting thought: in the texts you cite where cannibalism is discussed, it's frequently in the context of grave or extreme difficulties or punishments, perhaps lending credence to Jjmarkka's Con argument. It's definitely something to consider. --JustinEiler 18:34, 11 Nov 2005 (CST)
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