Here’s a question I have regarding the death of Jesus:
How is God able to sacrifice His Son when He specifically forbade Israel from offering human sacrifices?
I’m referring to the prohibition against child sacrifices in the Hebrew Scriptures:
“When you come into the land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominable practices of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord. And because of these abominations the Lord your God is driving them out before you.”
(Deuteronomy 18:9-12; bold print mine.)
In Judges 11, Jephthah vows to sacrifice the first thing that walks through his door following a military victory; tragically, it’s his daughter, who ends up paying the price for his rash vow (see note below).
Israel eventually adopted this horrible practice, much to the dismay of her covenant King and the prophets He sent. (Jeremiah, for example, condemns this sacrifice in 7:30-34 of his book.)
I know the text specifies children, but I think I’m safe to assume that adults would have been protected, as well. (Children are probably specified because adults were bigger, stronger, and would have been helping make the sacrifice, anyway.)
So have at it. How is God able to offer Jesus without breaking His own commandment?
**By focusing on the sacrificial aspect of the cross, I don’t mean to ignore or downplay the significance of what else he accomplished, including disarming the powers of darkness and giving an example to be followed by his people. But the church also affirms that Jesus is our Passover (1 Cor. 5:7), the same event in which the blood of the animal was spread on people’s doorposts to save them from God’s punishment on Egypt.
Some people might argue that God endorsed the death of Jephthah’s daughter by pointing out that the text says the Spirit of the Lord was on Jephthah when he went to battle and thus, when he made his tragic vow. Two things:
First, it seems that the Spirit was on the man for the military victory. I think it’s a harder case to make that the same Spirit was prodding him to kill his little girl.
Second, Leviticus 5:4-6 provided a way for him to get out of that vow since it would lead to evil. Jephthah could offer a sacrifice for his sin to be forgiven (in this case, the sin of breaking an oath), but it would have been a small price to pay for his daughter’s life.