And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said to him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am.…
No reader of the Old Testament needs to be informed that this hateful kind of offering defiled the religious rites of the Canaanites several centuries later. But there are probably few readers who have sufficiently realized how ancient or how widespread among primitive religions was a custom which has come to be associated only with the lowest type of barbarism. Yet traces of it, reliable enough, though dimmed now through lapse of ages, meet the inquirer among the primitive population of far-sundered localities, and in stages of civilization which even we should call advanced. Its prevalence among all men of Hamitic race who observed the same type of religion as the tribes of Canaan is a fact well known. This of itself fastens the dark stigma on some of the most polished and powerful states of antiquity; on Tyre, for example, and on all the great Punic colonies, such as Cyprus, Rhodes, and Carthage. Egypt itself was not exempt. But what is less generally noticed is, that among Aryan peoples a similar custom widely obtained in the earliest periods, and sprang out of a similar nature-worship. It has left its mark on several of the most familiar legends of Greek literature. It was practised in the Mithras cult of Persia, which lingered to the age of Hadrian. It is found among the ancient Pelasgians, as at Eleuis in the worship of Demeter; in Attica and Arcadia, in that of Artemis; in Tenedos and Chios, in that of Bacchus. It is probable, indeed, that the immolation of a human victim to divinities like Bacchus or Demeter was reserved for great occasions. Among the milder Pelasgians, it did not become so regular a part of worship as those sacrifices, for example, which annually appeased the tutelary sun-god of Carthage, or the massacre of infants by passing them through the fire to the Chemosh of Moab or the Molech of Phoenicia. The general results of research on this painful subject, however, goes to show that even the milder faiths of early Greece sprang out of, or were grafted on, the same original idolatry of the generative and productive forces in nature which found favour among older races in Babylon, Phoenicia, and Canaan. Wherever the influence of that dark religion stretched, it bore of necessity two ghastly fruits — cruelty and lust: the orgies of the grove and the sacrifice of human blood.
(J. O. Dykes, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am.