Does God want you to boil and eat your children? Some critics take it there.
As part of an ongoing effort to better understand the Old Testament and to challenge the critics, here is another strange passage that appears in 2 Kings 6:29, which reads,
29 So we boiled my son, and did eat him: and I said unto her on the next day, Give thy son, that we may eat him: and she hath hid her son.
Just to clarify here at the beginning, this is NOT to be confused with a commandment, rather it is a warning that in times of war Israelites might resort to cannibalism as things turn for the worse as they live a life contrary to God and bring upon the judgments that are described below. At a glance and taken in isolation, this verse from 2 Kings is just another section where critics of the Bible like to add to their big list of “atrocious things the Bible says,” as an attempt to discredit believers and God.
What are we dealing with here? Again, as with the story of Lot in Genesis 19, the mere mention of this is not an endorsement, it is prophecy and history. What is going on here at this point in time has to do with disobedience and war. If we look back to Deuteronomy 28:52-53 as a comparison to 2 Kings 6, we see that in the Law of Moses a prophecy is foretold, not a commandment (endorsement), but a warning to the nation of Israel if they live contrary to what God has revealed to them.
A portion of the law reads,
52 And he shall besiege thee in all thy gates, until thy high and fenced walls come down, wherein thou trustedst, throughout all thy land: and he shall besiege thee in all thy gates throughout all thy land, which the Lord thy God hath given thee.
53 And thou shalt eat the fruit of thine own body, the flesh of thy sons and of thy daughters, which the Lord thy God hath given thee, in the siege, and in the straitness, wherewith thine enemies shall distress thee:
God gives his people prophets and the law to obey and often does not intervene beyond that. This warning is fulfilled in 2 Kings 6 with a disobedient Israel who tried to live their own way in contempt of God’s law. As a result, they were left to the ways of the world which are often devastation and war.
Continuing from Deuteronomy 28, it reads,
64 And the Lord shall scatter thee among all people, from the one end of the earth even unto the other; and there thou shalt serve other gods, which neither thou nor thy fathers have known, even wood and stone.
65 And among these nations shalt thou find no ease, neither shall the sole of thy foot have rest: but the Lord shall give thee there a trembling heart, and failing of eyes, and sorrow of mind:
66 And thy life shall hang in doubt before thee; and thou shalt fear day and night, and shalt have none assurance of thy life:
Despite the separation and ruin that comes from disobeying God, the story of redemption continued on through Christ the Lord, who promised to gather Israel again in the last day and for all who believe. Isaiah 54:7 states, “For a small moment have I forsaken thee; but with great mercies will I gather thee.”
A closer reading of 2 Kings actually requires you to look at the introduction of this law and warning in Deuteronomy 28:1 and 15 as well. It reads,
1 And it shall come to pass, if thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to observe and to do all his commandments which I command thee this day, that the Lord thy God will set thee on high above all nations of the earth:
15 But it shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to observe to do all his commandments and his statutes which I command thee this day; that all these curses shall come upon thee, and overtake thee:
No, God would not want you to boil your children. Reading the Old Testament in such a way is careless and disingenuous. Considering the time and effort to respond to the many attacks against the Bible, it is tempting to remain complacent and to simply shrug this off and say “well we are under the New Covenant so much of the Old Testament does not apply to Christians” and justify it as a waste of time. The problem with that is it leaves the nonbeliever unconvinced. As believers, we can still make sense of the Law of Moses, even though we are under the new covenant, as the means to correct the problems of this world, such as war and famine. As irreligion grows, Christians need to safeguard their heritage and be ready to stand for what they believe. If we do not, critics will continue to make a mockery of our traditions.
Scott Thormaehlen received his Master’s in History in 2016 and taught U.S. History in the Lone Star College system in Houston, Texas and for Alvin Community College. His writings have appeared in Accuracy in Academia, the Journal of Multidisciplinary Studies at Sam Houston State University, LDS Living, Meridian Magazine, and East Texas History – a project by Sam Houston State University.