As a child, my parents insisted that we watch educational television programs and read National Geographic magazines so that we could learn about history and culture. As a child, I was very interested in the articles about peoples like the Mayans, Incas, Aztecs, and others who lived deep in the jungles and built temples to worship their gods.
One of the things I found fascinating was that many of these religions required human sacrifices as a part of the worship of their gods. As a matter of fact, as a young Jewish boy, it was made clear to me by my rabbi and teachers that one of the primary differences between Judaism and other religions was that Judaism didn’t practice human sacrifice.
However, as I grew and began to study the Scriptures for myself, I came to the conclusion that statement was simply untrue. Judaism and Torah do teach human sacrifice. Contrary to the teachings of my rabbi and other Hebrew School teachers, the difference between Judaism and other religions isn’t that Judaism doesn’t require human sacrifice; the difference between Judaism and other religions is in the type of human sacrifice required.
We only need to see the words of the prophet in Isaiah 53:10-11 to know that the Bible teaches human sacrifice:
Isaiah 53:10 Yet it pleased Adonai to bruise Him. He caused Him to suffer. If He makes His soul a guilt offering, He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days, and the will of Adonai will succeed by His hand. 11 As a result of the anguish of His soul He will see it and be satisfied by His knowledge. The Righteous One, My Servant will make many righteous and He will bear their iniquities.
Notice the words “If He makes His soul a guilt offering.” This is an undeniable description of a human sacrifice. So, if Judaism includes human sacrifice, what is the difference between Judaism and other religions? The difference is that, in Judaism human sacrifice, our G-D only demands the death of our will, not the death of our bodies. Our G-D does demand human sacrifice, but His demand is for a living sacrifice, as we read in Romans 12:1:
I urge you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice—holy, acceptable to God—which is your spiritual service.
The human sacrifice our G-D demands results in new life here and eternal life once our time in this world is over, as we see in Romans 6:3-4:
Or do you not know that all of us who were immersed into Messiah Yeshua were immersed into His death? 4 Therefore we were buried together with Him through immersion into death—in order that just as Messiah was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.
The difference is that in those other religions I saw in documentaries and magazines, human sacrifice was required to satisfy the anger of their god. In Judaism, human sacrifice is a spiritual death that is required not to bring death, but to bring life. We die to self spiritually so that we can have life more abundant, as we read in Romans 8:13:
For if you live according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Ruach you put to death the deeds of the body, you shall live.
and Galatians 5:24-25:
Now those who belong to Messiah have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Ruach, let us also walk by the Ruach.
and Ephesians 4:22-24:
With respect to your former lifestyle, you are to lay aside the old self corrupted by its deceitful desires, 23 be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and put on the new self—created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
So, while the G-D of the Bible doesn’t demand the physical death of a person as a human sacrifice, He does demand the spiritual death as a human sacrifice. The human sacrifice G-D demands brings life and it is more abundant.