I have mentioned before that cannibalism by necessity has often been a common theme throughout history. We live in an amazing world in which our main concern is eating too much food or limiting our consumption to the right foods. But in the ancient world cannibalism was often required to survive. The Bible records one instance in which a woman eats her own baby:
2Ki 6:24 And it happened after this that Ben-Hadad king of Syria gathered all his army, and went up and besieged Samaria.
2Ki 6:25 And there was a great famine in Samaria; and indeed they besieged it until a donkey’s head was sold for eighty shekels of silver, and one-fourth of a kab of dove droppings for five shekels of silver.
2Ki 6:26 Then, as the king of Israel was passing by on the wall, a woman cried out to him, saying, “Help, my lord, O king!”
2Ki 6:27 And he said, “If the LORD does not help you, where can I find help for you? From the threshing floor or from the winepress?”
2Ki 6:28 Then the king said to her, “What is troubling you?” And she answered, “This woman said to me, ‘Give your son, that we may eat him today, and we will eat my son tomorrow.’
2Ki 6:29 So we boiled my son, and ate him. And I said to her on the next day, ‘Give your son, that we may eat him’; but she has hidden her son.”
The Bible does not attribute this particular famine/siege to God’s doing, but it illustrates a common theme of sieges and poverty: people in desperation are driven to cannibalism. God, throughout the Bible, uses cannibalism as a curse.
Lev 26:27 ‘And after all this, if you do not obey Me, but walk contrary to Me,
Lev 26:28 then I also will walk contrary to you in fury; and I, even I, will chastise you seven times for your sins.
Lev 26:29 You shall eat the flesh of your sons, and you shall eat the flesh of your daughters.
Lev 26:30 I will destroy your high places, cut down your incense altars, and cast your carcasses on the lifeless forms of your idols; and My soul shall abhor you.
The illustration here is not that people would just decide that cannibalism was fun and easy. The illustration is that the people would cut off from food by invading armies. Parents would turn to cannibalism of their own children as a means to survive. God curses with “cannibalism”. This is not saying God desires cannibalism, but that God was going to punish the people to such extent that many would be driven to cannibalism. The imagery is horrific.
In Deuteronomy, the same curse is given:
Deu 28:45 “Moreover all these curses shall come upon you and pursue and overtake you, until you are destroyed, because you did not obey the voice of the LORD your God, to keep His commandments and His statutes which He commanded you.
Deu 28:52 “They shall besiege you at all your gates until your high and fortified walls, in which you trust, come down throughout all your land; and they shall besiege you at all your gates throughout all your land which the LORD your God has given you. Deu 28:53 You shall eat the fruit of your own body, the flesh of your sons and your daughters whom the LORD your God has given you, in the siege and desperate straits in which your enemy shall distress you.
Deu 28:54 The sensitive and very refined man among you will be hostile toward his brother, toward the wife of his bosom, and toward the rest of his children whom he leaves behind,
Deu 28:55 so that he will not give any of them the flesh of his children whom he will eat, because he has nothing left in the siege and desperate straits in which your enemy shall distress you at all your gates.
Deu 28:56 The tender and delicate woman among you, who would not venture to set the sole of her foot on the ground because of her delicateness and sensitivity, will refuse to the husband of her bosom, and to her son and her daughter,
Deu 28:57 her placenta which comes out from between her feet and her children whom she bears; for she will eat them secretly for lack of everything in the siege and desperate straits in which your enemy shall distress you at all your gates.
The last couple verses are amazingly disturbing. A pregnant woman would give birth and then go hide away so she can eat both her own placenta and baby without having to share! The text takes for granted that other people would willingly feast on the woman’s placenta and baby.
Throughout the Bible, the same imagery reoccurs:
Isa 9:19 Through the wrath of the LORD of hosts The land is burned up, And the people shall be as fuel for the fire; No man shall spare his brother.
Isa 9:20 And he shall snatch on the right hand And be hungry; He shall devour on the left hand And not be satisfied; Every man shall eat the flesh of his own arm.
Eze 5:10 Therefore fathers shall eat their sons in your midst, and sons shall eat their fathers; and I will execute judgments among you, and all of you who remain I will scatter to all the winds.
Zec 11:9 Then I said, “I will not feed you. Let what is dying die, and what is perishing perish. Let those that are left eat each other’s flesh.”
Jer 19:9 And I will cause them to eat the flesh of their sons and the flesh of their daughters, and everyone shall eat the flesh of his friend in the siege and in the desperation with which their enemies and those who seek their lives shall drive them to despair.” ‘
Apparently, these curses did come to pass from time to time:
Lam 2:20 “See, O LORD, and consider! To whom have You done this? Should the women eat their offspring, The children they have cuddled? Should the priest and prophet be slain In the sanctuary of the Lord?
Lam 4:10 The hands of the compassionate women Have cooked their own children; They became food for them In the destruction of the daughter of my people.
Lastly, God sometimes curses even Israel’s enemies with this curse:
Isa 49:26 I will feed those who oppress you with their own flesh, And they shall be drunk with their own blood as with sweet wine. All flesh shall know That I, the LORD, am your Savior, And your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.”
God says that people will know He is their redeemer and savior because the enemy would be driven to cannibalism. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.