Some time back I wrote a little piece called “What’s all This Talk about Baby Head Dashin”. My reasoning was that those arguing against the Bible love to use this Biblical reference but don’t often actually understand what’s going on and Christian apologists never address the skeptics point, which is that they claim that the Bible is the Word of God, without error or mistake, breathed out from the Creator hisself. And, well the last verse of Psalm 137 do say what it do say: “Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the rock. (Psalms 137:9)
I won’t rehash that story again, but have provided the link. Now we got ourselves another one of those sticky wickets. The Hebrew God is on record as telling his people that if’n they don’t fly right, they’ll be eatin’ their own chillen’. This would be the same deity who, according to Christians, is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow, and the deity worshipped by those same Christians, kind’a. But, to cut to the chase, if them Christians don’t straighten up their act, they’re liable to be feastin’ on fetuses too. Or at least, the deity reserves that right, since he’s done tole them folks about faithfulness and rebellion. The book is slam full of the stuff.
But what gets lost in this fray of attacking and defending the credibility of the Christian Bible, is what’s really going on. Why in tarnation does YHWH tell his own people that they’re going to eat their own children? The most recent answer from a Christian apologist was that this is symbolic language, meaning that it has to be understood “spiritually”. It’s symbolic language alright, symbolic of human cannibalism. What it is, is siege language. When you think that it couldn’t possibly get any worse, wake up tomorrow and watch.
So, let me provide a block of text to get us started.
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 straiten thee.
The man that is tender among you, and very delicate, his eye shall be evil toward his brother, and toward the wife of his bosom, and toward the remnant of his children which he hath remaining: so that he will not give to any of them of the flesh of his children whom he shall eat, because he hath nothing left him; in the siege and in the straitness, wherewith thine enemy shall straiten thee in all thy gates.
The tender and delicate woman among you, which would not adventure to set the sole of her foot upon the ground for delicateness and tenderness, her eye shall be evil toward the husband of her bosom, and toward her son, and toward her daughter; and toward her young one that cometh out from between her feet, and toward her children which she shall bear; for she shall eat them for want of all things secretly: in the siege and in the straitness, wherewith thine enemy shall straiten thee in thy gates.
This is considered to be D-source material, and possibly a later insertion into the D-source called Dtr2, written after the fall of Jerusalem in the sixth century BCE. Perhaps these images were actual memories of the experience during the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem. The author would have inserted them into the text as retrojected threats or curses to previous generations as an attempt to explain what had just happened to their little world. This is in Deuteronomy 28 known as the Deuteronomistic Blessings and Cursings, but what it is, what it really is, is a representation of just how bad things get during the siege of a fortified city in the ancient world, in this case, Jerusalem. People will do things that they could never fathom, even eat their own children.
In closing: from The Jewish War, a contemporaneous story by Josephus about the Roman siege of Jerusalem that he witnessed; another story about baby-eatin’. (paragraph breaks are by me)
There was a certain woman that dwelt beyond Jordan, her name was Mary; her father was Eleazar, of the village Bethezob, which signifies the house of Hyssop. She was eminent for her family and her wealth, and had fled away to Jerusalem with the rest of the multitude, and was with them besieged therein at this time. The other effects of this woman had been already seized upon, such I mean as she had brought with her out of Perea, and removed to the city. What she had treasured up besides, as also what food she had contrived to save, had been also carried off by the rapacious guards, who came every day running into her house for that purpose.
This put the poor woman into a very great passion, and by the frequent reproaches and imprecations she east (cast, maybe?) at these rapacious villains, she had provoked them to anger against her; but none of them, either out of the indignation she had raised against herself, or out of commiseration of her case, would take away her life; and if she found any food, she perceived her labors were for others, and not for herself; and it was now become impossible for her any way to find any more food, while the famine pierced through her very bowels and marrow, when also her passion was fired to a degree beyond the famine itself; nor did she consult with any thing but with her passion and the necessity she was in.
She then attempted a most unnatural thing; and snatching up her son, who was a child sucking at her breast, she said, “O thou miserable infant! for whom shall I preserve thee in this war, this famine, and this sedition? As to the war with the Romans, if they preserve our lives, we must be slaves. This famine also will destroy us, even before that slavery comes upon us. Yet are these seditious rogues more terrible than both the other. Come on; be thou my food, and be thou a fury to these seditious varlets, and a by-word to the world, which is all that is now wanting to complete the calamities of us Jews.”
As soon as she had said this, she slew her son, and then roasted him, and eat the one half of him, and kept the other half by her concealed. Upon this the seditious came in presently, and smelling the horrid scent of this food, they threatened her that they would cut her throat immediately if she did not show them what food she had gotten ready. She replied that she had saved a very fine portion of it for them, and withal uncovered what was left of her son.
Hereupon they were seized with a horror and amazement of mind, and stood astonished at the sight, when she said to them, “This is mine own son, and what hath been done was mine own doing! Come, eat of this food; for I have eaten of it myself! Do not you pretend to be either more tender than a woman, or more compassionate than a mother; but if you be so scrupulous, and do abominate this my sacrifice, as I have eaten the one half, let the rest be reserved for me also.”
After which those men went out trembling, being never so much aftrighted at any thing as they were at this, and with some difficulty they left the rest of that meat to the mother. Upon which the whole city was full of this horrid action immediately; and while every body laid this miserable case before their own eyes, they trembled, as if this unheard of action had been done by themselves. So those that were thus distressed by the famine were very desirous to die, and those already dead were esteemed happy, because they had not lived long enough either to hear or to see such miseries.