James Michener in his novel, The Source, describes this ritual and the pain and sorrow that attended it. Even though this is a long excerpt, try to read it in its entirety because it is very poignant and moving:
Timna was an unusual girl who had come from Akka with her father on a trading visit...,she had been childless and the target of contempt from Matred, but with the recent arrival of her first son a more harmonious balance had been achieved. As a mother she could demand respect from Matred, but now, her composure fled, she told her husband, “The priest of Melak was here.”
This was what Urbaal had expected. It was bound to come and he wished he knew something that would console his gentle wife, but he had learned that in these matters nothing could be done. “We’ll have other children,” he promised. She started to weep and a clever lie sprang to his mind. “Timna,” he whispered seductively, “look at what I’ve just bought you. A new Astarte.” She looked at the smiling goddess, so bursting with fertility, and covered her face.
“Could we run away?” she pleaded.
“Timna!” The idea was blasphemous, for Urbaal was definitely a part of the land … this land … these olive trees by the well.
“I will not surrender my son,” she persisted.
He was tempted to show his irritation, but she was so gentle that he did not. Instead he reasoned, “It is to Melak that we look for protection. Great El is necessary, and we cherish him, but in war only Melak is our protector.”
“Why must he be so cruel?” Timna pleaded.
“He does much for us,” Urbaal explained, “and all he asks in return … our first-born sons.” To the farmer this was persuasive logic, and he started to leave for his olive fields, but Timna held his hands, pleading, until he felt that he must shock her into reality. “As long as Makor has existed,” he said harshly, “we have delivered to Melak our first-born sons. Matred did so.Shortly after dawn a group of priests in red capes passed through the streets banging drums and sounding trumpets, and it was a mark of Urbaal’s confusion that in spite of the grief he felt over the impending loss of his son, he nevertheless hurried to the door to see if the tall slave girl was marching with the priests. She was not.
When the procession had made several circuits of the town, the drumming ceased, the priests separated, and mothers began to feel the ultimate terror. Finally a knock came on Urbaal’s door, and a priest appeared to claim Timna’s first-born son. Timna began to scream, but her husband placed his hand over her mouth and the priest nodded his approval, carrying the child from the house. After a while the drumming resumed and cymbals clashed. A trumpet blew and excited mutterings were heard in the town. “We must go,” Urbaal said, taking Timna’s hand. But Timna, who was not of Makor, could not bring herself to attend the terrible rites. “Let me at least stay hidden,” she begged.
Patiently Urbaal took her to the room of the gods and showed her his smiling Astarte. “Last night,” he assured her, “Baal-of-the-Storm came and made sport with the goddess. I watched them. She’s pregnant now, and you shall be too, I promise you.” He dragged her to the door, pulled her hands away as she tried to hold herself to an entrance pillar. Then he lost his patience and slapped her sharply.
“What are sons for?” he asked. “Stop crying.” But when they were in the street he felt sorry forher and wiped away her tears. Matred, his first wife, who had known this day, said nothing but watched from behind. “Let her know sorrow,” she mumbled to herself.
With an aching pain in his chest Urbaal led his two wives along the twisting street to the temple square, but before he entered that sacred place he took a deep breath, set his shoulders and did his best to quell the panic in his guts. “Let us all be brave,” he whispered, “for many will be watching.” But as luck would have it, the first man he saw in the holy area was the herdsman Amalek, who was also trying to control his anguish, and the two men whose sons were to go that day stared at each other in mute pain. Neither betrayed his fears, and they marched together to the monoliths, lending strength and dignity to the ritual.
Between the palace and the four menhirs dedicated to the gentler gods had been erected a platform of movable stones, under which a huge fire already raged. On the platform stood a stone god of unusual construction: it had two extended arms raised so that from the stone fingertips to the body they formed a wide inclined plane; but above the spot where they joined the torso there was a huge gaping mouth, so that whatever was placed upon the arms was free to roll swiftly downward and plunge into the fire. This was the god Melak, the new protector of Makor.
Slaves heaped fresh fagots under the statue, and when the flames leaped from the god’s mouth two priests grabbed one of the eight boys—a roly-poly infant of nine months—and raised him high in the air. Muttering incantations they approached the outstretched arms, dashed the child upon them and gave him a dreadful shove downward, so that he scraped along the stony arms and plunged into the fire. As the god accepted him with a belch of fire there was a faint cry, then an anguished scream as the child’s mother protested.
Urbaal looked quickly to see that the cry had come from one of the wives of Amalek, and with bitter satisfaction he smiled. The priests had noticed this breach of religious solemnity, and Urbaal thought: They will remember that Amalek couldn’t control his wife. This year they will choose me.was happening, so with frightened eyes he drew back from the priests, and when they lifted him to the god he screamed, trying to hold on to the stone fingers and save himself, but the priests pulled away his small, clutching hands, and with a violent push sent him tumbling into the flaming mouth.
The last child was a boy of nearly three—his parents had prayed that the years had passed when he might be taken—and he was old enough to understand what
As soon as the boy had disappeared, wailing in fiery smoke, the mood of the temple changed. The god Melak was forgotten; his fires were allowed to die down and his priests turned to other important matters. Drums resumed their beat—this time in livelier rhythms—and trumpets sounded.
The people of Makor, satisfied that their new god would protect them, left him smoking by the monoliths and gathered about the steps of the temple itself, where a sense of excitement replaced the terror that had recently held sway. Even the mothers of the eight boys, numb with pain, were moved into new positions, and although they must have longed to flee that place and grieve in silence, they were required as patronesses who had pleased the god with their first-born to remain in locations of honor. They were permitted neither to comment nor to look away, for this was the tradition of their society and would be forever.
Who do you think needs to change? Does God need to become more tolerant of abortion, homosexuality, adultery, sexual perversion, or do you and I and the rest of our society need to become more intolerant and less accommodating to these perverse sins? I would much rather side with God than with man, any day, because man's social morals and standards are always shifting as the sands in the desert, but God's standards never change. The Bible says, "He is the same, yesterday, today and forever" (Hebrews 13:8).