Bible Myths and their Parallels in other Religions Being a Comparison of the Old and New Testament Myths and Miracles with those of the Heathen Nations of Antiquity Considering also their Origin and Meaning

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There was an ancient Phenician story, written by Sanchoniathon, who wrote about 1300 years before our era, which is as follows:

"Saturn, whom the Phœnicians call Israel, had by a nymph of the country a male child whom he named Jeoud, that is, one and only. On the breaking out of a war, which brought the country into imminent danger, Saturn erected an altar, brought to it his son, clothed in royal garments, and sacrificed him."[39:2]

There is also a Grecian fable to the effect that one Agamemnon had a daughter whom he dearly loved, and she was deserving of his affection. He was commanded by God, through the Delphic Oracle, to offer her up as a sacrifice. Her father long resisted the demand, but finally succumbed. Before the fatal blow had been struck, however, the goddess Artemis or Ashtoreth interfered, and carried the maiden away, whilst in her place was substituted a stag.[39:3]

Another similar Grecian fable relates that:

"When the Greek army was detained at Aulis, by contrary winds, the augurs being consulted, declared that one of the kings had offended Diana, and she demanded the sacrifice of his daughter Iphigenia. It was like taking the father's life-blood, but he was persuaded that it was his duty to submit for the good of his country. The maiden was brought forth for sacrifice, in spite of her tears and supplications; but just as the priest was about to strike the fatal blow, Iphigenia suddenly disappeared, and a goat of uncommon beauty stood in her place."[39:4]

There is yet still another, which belongs to the same country, and is related thus:

"In Sparta, it being declared upon one occasion that the gods demanded a human victim, the choice was made by lot, and fell on a damsel named Helena. [Pg 40]But when all was in readiness, an eagle descended, carried away the priest's knife, and laid it on the head of a heifer, which was sacrificed in her stead."[40:1]

The story of Abraham and Isaac was written at a time when the Mosaic party in Israel was endeavoring to abolish idolatry among their people. They were offering up human sacrifices to their gods Moloch, Baal, and Chemosh, and the priestly author of this story was trying to make the people think that the Lord had abolished such offerings, as far back as the time of Abraham. The Grecian legends, which he had evidently heard, may have given him the idea.[40:2]

Human offerings to the gods were at one time almost universal. In the earliest ages the offerings were simple, and such as shepherds and rustics could present. They loaded the altars of the gods with the first fruits of their crops, and the choicest products of the earth. Afterwards they sacrificed animals. When they had once laid it down as a principle that the effusion of the blood of these animals appeased the anger of the gods, and that their justice turned aside upon the victims those strokes which were destined for men, their great care was for nothing more than to conciliate their favor by so easy a method. It is the nature of violent desires and excessive fear to know no bounds, and therefore, when they would ask for any favor which they ardently wished for, or would deprecate some public calamity which they feared, the blood of animals was not deemed a price sufficient, but they began to shed that of men. It is probable, as we have said, that this barbarous practice was formerly almost universal, and that it is of very remote antiquity. In time of war the captives were chosen for this purpose, but in time of peace they took the slaves. The choice was partly regulated by the opinion of the bystanders, and partly by lot. But they did not always sacrifice such mean persons. In great calamities, in a pressing famine, for example, if the people thought they had some pretext to impute the cause of it to their king, they even sacrificed him without hesitation, as the highest price with which they could purchase the Divine favor. In this manner, the first King of Vermaland (a province of Sweden) was burnt in honor of Odin, the Supreme God, to put an end to a great dearth; as we read in the history of Norway. The kings, in their turn, did not spare the blood of their subjects; and many of them even shed that of their children. Earl Hakon, of Norway, offered his son in sacrifice, to obtain of Odin the victory over the Jomsburg pirates. Aun, King of Sweden, [Pg 41]devoted to Odin the blood of his nine sons, to prevail on that god to prolong his life. Some of the kings of Israel offered up their first-born sons as a sacrifice to the god Baal or Moloch.