Six biblical characters in search of a theme—Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Samson, Samuel and the son of the Shunammite Woman in 2 Kings 4 at first blush seem to have little in common. Even less do they seem connected to the ancient near eastern practice of child sacrifice. But these six are united by an important bond: All were born, after a divine promise, to previously barren women. Susan Ackerman, in “Child Sacrifice: Returning God’s Gift,” details the motifs shared by all six stories of mothers and their sons. Ackerman also explains how Israelite religion expressed God’s claim to what comes from the womb, not by child sacrifice but by divine dedication.
Ackerman is an assistant professor of religion at Dartmouth. She received her Ph.D. from Harvard, where she studied under Frank Moore Cross. Ackerman wrote the entry on Isaiah in The Women’s Bible Commentary (reviewed in this issue). Her article “Sacred Sex, Sacrifice and Death,” an analysis of Isaiah 57:3–13, appeared in BR 06:01.