Friday, July 24, 2015

Cornerstones and Human Sacrifice

Last year I wrote about human sacrifice in the bible and how the Israelite's war god Yahweh (one of many Canaanite gods in the pantheon underneath El) was portrayed as being appeased by said sacrifices. 

Among other examples, I wrote about something called foundation sacrifice, which was practiced in many ancient cultures, including ancient Israel.  Joshua spoke an oath in Yahweh's name that if anyone rebuilt Jericho again, that man must do it at the cost of his firstborn for the foundation and his last born to be laid at the gates. 
Joshua laid an oath on them at that time, saying, “Cursed before the Lord be the man who rises up and rebuilds this city, Jericho.
“At the cost of his firstborn shall he
lay its foundation,
and at the cost of his youngest son
shall he set up its gates" (Josh. 6:26-27).

 The first book of Kings later records that Hiel of Bethel rebuilt Jericho in Jewish King Ahab's day:

In his days Hiel of Bethel built Jericho. He laid its foundation at the cost of Abiram his firstborn, and set up its gates at the cost of his youngest son Segub, according to the word of the Lord, which he spoke by Joshua the son of Nun (1 Kings 16:34)

You can Google "foundation sacrifice" and visit Google Images to see what it is and read Wikipedia.  Ancient tribes and nations would kill a person for a sacrifice to their god and place the person at the foundation of a wall or building.  It was believed that they would receive that god's protection over that building or city beyond the gates and walls and that the sacrifice would ward off enemy spirits.

Today I was revisiting this topic and came to realize that the "cornerstone" so often mentioned in the bible texts, such as Jesus being the cornerstone, is where sacrificed human bodies would be laid.  That makes Jesus' death as the way Paul portrayed it (a human sacrifice) all the more sickening, because he is the supposed cornerstone of a figurative building of which Christians are supposed to be a part.  At least being a "living sacrifice," as is mentioned in the Christian texts is better than being slaughtered and lain down as part of a building. 

I started searching "cornerstone" as it pertains to human sacrifice and found this article about a child's body archaeologists found in Mexico back in 2005.

Archaeologists digging through an Aztec temple say they’ve found a rare child sacrifice to the war god, a deity normally honored with the hearts or skulls of adult warriors.

The child found at Mexico City’s Templo Mayor ruins was apparently killed sometime around 1450, in a sort of grim cornerstone ceremony intended to dedicate a new layer of building, according to archaeologist Ximena Chavez (Source: Child Sacrifice, bold added).

The article goes on to say that it's the first child archaeologists have found that was sacrificed to Huitzilopochtli, the Aztec war god.  Normally captive warriors from opposing tribes were the ones sacrificed to the war god.

We know from the books of the bible, though, that there's at least one more example (at least written as such) of possible child sacrifice to a war god.  We don't know how old Hiel's children were; they could have been adults.  Perhaps the case of the child in Mexico was similar to the case recorded in the book of Joshua.  Perhaps that city had been defeated and was put under a similar curse so that a new builder in the future was expected to offer up their child as the cornerstone to the war god Huitzilopochtli that they believed helped them win their victory of that city.

There were also heave offerings, remember, to Yahweh, that came from war spoils.  Animals and persons were burned in sacrifice to Yahweh.  Yahweh liked burned virgins (young women).  There are ones recorded as having been required for sacrifice to him in Num. 31:25-41.  Could these virgins include those of ages we'd consider as "children?"

It's truly sad when we look back on human history.  We still have a lot of improvement to do, if we do not soon become extinct from doing what we've done to our planet, but we have also come a long way.  We've not rid ourselves of war, yet.  However, I'm glad to see that there aren't huge sacrifices of hundreds of animals and people being burned up in honor of a god.

I'm also happy that the only ceremonial cornerstones we use today are stones with engravings of dates of construction and the architect, builder, and/or other important persons (Source: Wikipedia, s.v. "cornerstone").