During the siege of Jerusalem, did Israelites actually eat their children?

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The siege of Jerusalem

God knows the future. He knows the outcomes of our choices and in His goodness He promises blessings under His protection. But He also knows that without Him, we’d not be strong enough to fight against the evils around us. So, while promising protection if we ask it of Him, He warned if we were to choose evil instead, that evil would overcome us. The prediction of the siege of Jerusalem was one of those warnings.

God’s covenant

In God’s covenant with Israel (Deuteronomy 28), He gave them the choice between obedience and disobedience. He promised them great blessings if they obey. And He also foretold of curses that will be the consequence of apostasy. The blessings for obedience would exceed human thoughts. But the consequences for disobedience would be equally striking.

Sadly, Israel chose the path of iniquity that led to its final ruin. But the Lord, in mercy didn’t leave His children without sending them repeated warnings. He sent His prophets to admonish the people that they may mend their ways so that they will not suffer pain and death. He pleaded, “I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?” (Ezekiel 33:11).

The predictions

Moses predicted this terrible judgement among others, “You shall eat the flesh of your sons, and you shall eat the flesh of your daughters” (Leviticus 26:29). And he added, “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” (Deuteronomy 28:53).

And Jeremiah foretold of the same outcome, “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” (Jeremiah 19:9).

Also, Ezekiel predicted, “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” (Ezekiel 5:10).

The fulfillment

The prediction of God’s inspired prophets met a grim fulfillment in three different sieges: First, the Syrian siege of Samaria (2 Kings 6:28, 29). Second, in the Chaldean siege of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar (Lamentations 2:20; 4:10). Third, in the final siege of the city by the Romans under the leadership of Titus. The historian Josephus records that a mother ate her own child because of the terrible famine in during the siege of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 (Wars vi. 3. 4).

In the final siege, thousands perished from famine and pestilence. Natural affection seemed to have been destroyed. The question of the prophet, “Can a woman forget her sucking child?” received the answer within the walls of that condemned city: “The hands of the pitiful women have sodden their own children: they were their meat in the destruction of the daughter of my people” (Isaiah 49:15; Lamentations 4:10).

And thus, it was fulfilled the warning prophecy given fourteen centuries before: “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 children which she shall bear: for she shall eat them for want of all things secretly in the siege and straitness, wherewith thine enemy shall distress thee in thy gates” (Deuteronomy 28:56, 57).

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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