By Sam Shamoun
This short post is intended to supplement the following article where I documented from the Hebrew Bible that God does in fact accept human “sacrifice” as a means of atonement, specifically the death of the wicked:
According to the book of Deuteronomy, Yahweh had instructed his people to utterly destroy any Israelite city that has turned away from the Lord their God, since this would serve as a burnt offering which would remove God’s righteous wrath and judgment from the nation:
“If you hear in one of your cities, which the LORD your God gives you to dwell there, that certain base fellows have gone out among you and have drawn away the inhabitants of the city, saying, 'Let us go and serve other gods,' which you have not known, then you shall inquire and make search and ask diligently; and behold, if it be true and certain that such an abominable thing has been done among you, you shall surely put the inhabitants of that city to the sword, destroying it utterly, all who are in it and its cattle, with the edge of the sword. You shall gather all its spoil into the midst of its open square, and burn the city and all its spoil with fire, as a whole burnt offering (kalil) to the LORD your God; it shall be a heap for ever, it shall not be built again. None of the devoted things shall cleave to your hand; that the LORD may turn from the fierceness of his anger, and show you mercy, and have compassion on you, and multiply you, as he swore to your fathers, if you obey the voice of the LORD your God, keeping all his commandments which I command you this day, and doing what is right in the sight of the LORD your God.” Deuteronomy 13:12-18 Revised Standard Version (RSV)
Now compare this with the following Jewish translations:
And thou shalt gather all the spoil of it into the midst of the broad place thereof, and shall burn with fire the city, and all the spoil thereof every whit, unto HaShem thy G-d; and it shall be a heap for ever; it shall not be built again. And there shall cleave nought of the devoted thing to thy hand, that HaShem may turn from the fierceness of His anger, and show thee mercy, and have compassion upon thee, and multiply thee, as He hath sworn unto thy fathers; when thou shalt hearken to the voice of HaShem thy G-d, to keep all His commandments which I command thee this day, to do that which is right in the eyes of HaShem thy G-d. Deuteronomy 13:17-19 Jewish Publication Society 1917 (JPS).
Gather all [the city's] goods to its central square, and burn the city along with all its goods, [almost] like a sacrifice to God your Lord. [The city] shall then remain an eternal ruin, never again to be rebuilt. Let nothing that has been declared taboo there remain in your hands. God will then have mercy on you, and reverse any display of anger that might have existed. In His mercy, He will make you flourish, just as He promised your fathers. You will have obeyed God your Lord, keeping all the commandments that I prescribe to you today, and doing what is morally right in the eyes of God your Lord. Deuteronomy 13:17-19 Aryeh Kaplan
The Hebrew word kalil is translated as whole burnt offering in other contexts:
“They shall teach Jacob thy ordinances, and Israel thy law; they shall put incense before thee, and whole burnt offering (wa’kalil) upon thy altar.” Deuteronomy 33:10 RSV
They shall teach Jacob Thine ordinances, and Israel Thy law; they shall put incense before Thee, and whole burnt-offering upon Thine altar. (JPS).
Here is how the late rabbi Aryeh Kaplan translated this particular text:
They shall [therefore] teach your law to Jacob, and your Torah to Israel. They shall place incense in Your presence and consume sacrifices on Your altar. Kaplan.
And here is his note:
In Your presence
(Targum; Saadia). Literally, 'in Your nostrils.' Or, 'to [assuage] Your anger' (Abarbanel; Malbim; Septuagint; cf. Numbers 17:11).
Hence, all these verses and statements make it apparent that the death of humans, specifically the wicked, can and does atone or appease God’s wrath.
This is further confirmed in the Talmud, which explains that according to Deuteronomy 13:12-18 God accepts the destruction of the wicked as a whole burnt offering which then turns away his just and righteous anger:
MISHNAH. THE INHABITANTS OF A SEDUCED CITY HAVE NO PORTION IN THE WORLD TO COME, AS IT IS WRITTEN, CERTAIN MEN, THE CHILDREN OF BELIAL, ARE GONE OUT FROM AMONG YOU, AND HAVE WITHDRAWN THE INHABITANTS OF THEIR CITY. THEY ARE NOT EXECUTED UNLESS THE SEDUCERS ARE OF THAT CITY AND THAT TRIBE, AND THE MAJORITY THEREOF ARE SEDUCED, AND THE SEDUCERS ARE MEN. IF WOMEN OR MINORS SEDUCED IT, IF A MINORITY WERE SEDUCED, OR IF THE SEDUCERS WERE FROM WITHOUT THE CITY, THEY ARE TREATED AS INDIVIDUALS, AND TWO WITNESSES AND A FORMAL WARNING ARE NECESSARY FOR EACH [OFFENDER]. IN THIS [THE PENALTY OF] INDIVIDUALS IS SEVERER THAN [THAT OF] A MULTITUDE, FOR INDIVIDUALS ARE STONED, THEREFORE THEIR PROPERTY IS SAVED; BUT MULTITUDES ARE DECAPITATED; HENCE THEIR POSSESSIONS ARE DESTROYED.
THOU SHALT SURELY SMITE THE INHABITANTS OF THAT CITY WITH THE EDGE OF THE SWORD. A COMPANY OF ASS-DRIVERS OR CAMEL-DRIVERS PASSING FROM PLACE TO PLACE SAVES IT. DESTROYING IT UTTERLY, AND ALL THAT IS THEREIN, AND THE CATTLE THEREOF: FROM THIS IT WAS DEDUCED THAT THE PROPERTY OF THE RIGHTEOUS, WHICH IS WITHIN [THE CITY] IS DESTROYED, BUT THAT WHICH IS WITHOUT IS SAVED, WHILST THAT OF THE WICKED, WHETHER WITHIN OR WITHOUT, IS DESTROYED. AND THOU SHALT GATHER ALL THE SPOIL THEREOF IN TO THE MIDST OF THE PUBLIC SQUARE THEREOF ETC. IF IT HAD NO PUBLIC SQUARE, ONE IS MADE FOR IT; IF IT WAS [SITUATED] WITHOUT [THE TOWN], IT IS BROUGHT WITHIN IT, AS IT IS SAID, AND THOU SHALT BURN WITH FIRE THE CITY, AND ALL THE SPOIL THEREOF EVERY WHIT, FOR THE LORD THY GOD.
THE SPOIL THEREOF' IMPLIES, BUT NOT THE SPOIL OF HEAVEN. HENCE IT WAS RULED, THE HOLY OBJECTS THEREIN MUST BE REDEEMED; THE TERUMOTH ALLOWED TO ROT; AND THE SECOND TITHE AND THE SACRED WRITINGS HIDDEN. A WHOLE-OFFERING FOR THE LORD THY GOD: R. SIMEON SAID: THE HOLY ONE, BLESSED BE HE, DECLARED, IF YE EXECUTE JUDGMENT UPON THE SEDUCED CITY, I WILL ASCRIBE MERIT TO YOU AS THOUGH YE HAD SACRIFICED TO ME A WHOLE OFFERING. AND IT SHALL BE A HEAP FOR EVER: [HENCE] IT MAY NOT BE CONVERTED INTO GARDENS AND ORCHARDS: THIS IS THE VIEW OF R. JOSE THE GALILEAN. R. AKIBA MAINTAINED: IT SHALL NOT BE BUILT AGAIN [IMPLIES] THAT IT MAY NOT BE REBUILT AS IT WAS, BUT MAY BE CONVERTED INTO GARDENS AND ORCHARDS. AND THERE SHALL CLEAVE NOUGHT OF THE CURSED THING TO THINE HAND: [THAT THE LORD MAY TURN FROM THE FIERCENESS OF HIS WRATH, AND SHEW THEE MERCY]: AS LONG AS THE WICKED EXIST IN THE WORLD, THERE IS FIERCE ANGER IN THE WORLD; WHEN THE WICKED PERISH FROM THE WORLD, FIERCE ANGER DISAPPEARS FROM THE WORLD. (BabylonianTalmud, Tractate Sanhedrin 111b; bold, colored and under line emphasis ours)