and I polluted them in their own gifts, in that they caused to pass through [the fire] all that openeth the womb, that I might make them desolate, to the end that they might know that I am Jehovah. (ASV)
The Caananites had a quaint custom of sacrificing their first-born children to their gods. Futhermore, modern archaeologists are increasingly of the opinion that Judaism evolved from other Caananite religions in the region (i.e. there was no "Exodus" from Egypt), and here Ezekiel is confirming that the Hebrews did indeed sacrifice their firstborn in the past: and that God allowed and encouraged them to do so.
The existence of such a ritual is also implied by Exodus 22:29 "Thou shalt not delay to offer of thy harvest, and of the outflow of thy presses. The first-born of thy sons shalt thou give unto me", and Leviticus 27:29 "No one devoted, that shall be devoted from among men, shall be ransomed; he shall surely be put to death". --Robert Stevens 10:33, 4 Apr 2006 (CDT)
Response to Con piece: It is apparent that the practise of child-sacrifice was long over by Ezekiel's time. Indeed, Deuteronomy 18:10 expressly forbids it. And, naturally, later generations would like to pretend that God never did approve of such a thing. But Exodus 22:29 and Leviticus 27:29 both imply that it was formerly required, and Ezekiel is admitting that it actually happened.
He is also saying that God was responsible: "I gave them statutes that were not good, and ordinances wherein they should not live" (Ezekiel 20:25). Ezekiel is saying that God deliberately encouraged this ritual, as a form of punishment. The notion that God punished them because of this habit (as implied by your NET Bible translation) is not supported by most translations or by the original Hebrew: it's apologetics. Young's Literal Translation renders this as "And I defile them by their own gifts, By causing to pass away every opener of a womb, So that I make them desolate, So that they know that I [am] Jehovah". --Robert Stevens 13:24, 4 Apr 2006 (CDT)
This action is not sanctioned by God, it is absolutely condemned, as the context makes very evident:
- Eze. 20:18-38 “‘But I said to their children in the wilderness, “Do not follow the practices of your fathers; do not observe their regulations, nor defile yourselves with their idols. (19) I am the Lord your God; follow my statutes, observe my regulations, and carry them out. (20) Treat my Sabbaths as holy and they will be a reminder of our relationship, and then you will know that I am the Lord your God.” (21) “‘But the children rebelled against me, did not follow my statutes, did not observe my regulations by carrying them out (the one who obeys them will live by them), and desecrated my Sabbaths. I decided to pour out my rage on them and fully vent my anger against them in the wilderness. (22) But I refrained from doing so, and acted instead for the sake of my reputation, so that I would not be profaned before the nations in whose sight I had brought them out. (23) I also swore to them in the wilderness that I would scatter them among the nations and disperse them throughout the lands. (24) I did this because they did not observe my regulations, they rejected my statutes, they desecrated my Sabbaths, and their eyes were fixed on their fathers’ idols. (25) I also gave them decrees which were not good and regulations by which they could not live. (26) I declared them to be defiled because of their sacrifices – they caused all their first born to pass through the fire – so that I would devastate them, so that they will know that I am the Lord.’
- (27) “Therefore, speak to the house of Israel, son of man, and tell them, ‘This is what the sovereign Lord says: In this way too your fathers blasphemed me when they were unfaithful to me. (28) I brought them to the land which I swore to give them, but whenever they saw any high hill or leafy tree, they offered their sacrifices there and presented the offerings that provoke me to anger. They offered their soothing aroma there and poured out their drink offerings. (29) So I said to them, What is this high place you go to?’” (So it is called “High Place” to this day.)
- (30) “Therefore say to the house of Israel, ‘This is what the sovereign Lord says: Will you defile yourselves like your fathers and engage in prostitution with detestable idols? (31) When you present your sacrifices – when you make your sons pass through the fire – you defile yourselves with all your idols to this very day. Will I allow you to seek me, O house of Israel? As surely as I live, declares the sovereign Lord, I will not allow you to seek me!
- (32) “‘What you plan will never happen. You say, “We will be like the nations, like the clans of the lands, who serve gods of wood and stone.” (33) As surely as I live, declares the sovereign Lord, with a powerful hand and an outstretched arm, and with an outpouring of rage, I will be king over you. (34) I will bring you out from the nations, and will gather you from the lands where you are scattered, with a powerful hand and an outstretched arm and with an outpouring of rage! (35) I will bring you into the wilderness of the nations, and there I will enter into judgment with you face to face. (36) Just as I entered into judgment with your fathers in the wilderness of the land of Egypt, so I will enter into judgment with you, declares the sovereign Lord. (37) I will make you pass under the shepherd’s staff, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant. (38) I will eliminate from among you the rebels and those who revolt against me. I will bring them out from the land where they have been residing, but they will not come to the land of Israel. Then you will know that I am the Lord.
- (39) “‘As for you, O house of Israel, this is what the sovereign Lord says: Each of you go and serve your idols, if you will not listen to me. But my holy name will not be profaned again by your sacrifices and your idols. (40) For there on my holy mountain, the high mountain of Israel, declares the sovereign Lord, all the house of Israel will serve me, all of them in the land. I will accept them there, and there I will seek your contributions and your choice gifts, with all your holy things. (41) When I bring you out from the nations and gather you from the lands where you are scattered, I will accept you along with your soothing aroma. I will display my holiness among you in the sight of the nations. (42) Then you will know that I am the Lord when I bring you to the land of Israel, to the land I swore to give to your fathers. (43) And there you will remember your conduct and all your deeds by which you defiled yourselves. You will despise yourselves because of all the evil deeds you have done. (44) Then you will know that I am the Lord, when I deal with you for the sake of my reputation and not according to your wicked conduct and corrupt deeds, O house of Israel, declares the sovereign Lord.’” (NET Bible). --18.104.22.168 11:57, 4 Apr 2006 (CDT)
Defense of Answer
If it is a punishment (negative sanction), then it can't be a positive sanction or approbation, the two are contrary by definition. In fact, God says to the Israelites "when you present your sacrifices – when you make your sons pass through the fire – you defile yourselves with all your idols to this very day" (v. 31); that His "holy name will not be profaned again by your sacrifices and your idols" (v. 39), and "you will remember your conduct and all your deeds by which you defiled yourselves. You will despise yourselves because of all the evil deeds you have done" (v. 43). Far from admitting any positive sanction for human sacrifice, this passage utterly repudiates such a practice.
And as for the translation of the passage and syntactical connections, it seems rather obvious that the "decrees which were not good and regulations by which they could not live" refers to te commands mentioned in the previous context which the Israelites had not kept (e.g., sabbaths, avoiding idols). And it refers to their relative (not absolute) worth, relating to the fact that the Israelites would not keep them, which caused them to be a curse:
- Deu. 11:26-28 See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse: (27) the blessing, if you obey the commandments of the LORD your God, which I command you today, (28) and the curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the LORD your God, but turn aside from the way that I am commanding you today, to go after other gods that you have not known.
It is not a statement that God commanded human sacrifice, and it takes a quite a bit of effort to read it that way if one follows the flow of thought in the passage. Of course, God could have commanded ritual human sacrifice if He had chosen to, but there is no evidence that He ever did command or approve of such a thing. --MonkeeSage 01:12, 5 Apr 2006 (CDT)
Edit this section to note miscellaneous facts.