Is 2 Kings 6:29 about cannibalism?

Last updated on April 18, 2021

This is what 2 Kings 6:29 says: “So we boiled my son and ate him. And on the next day I said to her, ‘Give your son, that we may eat him.’ But she has hidden her son.” Samaria is under siege by the king of Aram and the citizens are starving. Even food with very little nutritional value is being sold for high prices. The people are desperate. When Jehoram, the king of Israel, makes his round, a woman calls out to him: “Help, my lord, O king!” (2 Kings 6:26). She tells him about the horrible agreement she made with another woman, to boil her son and eat him, and boil the woman’s son the next day and then eat him. The hunger has driven her to the madness of actually eating her own child. Yes, this verse is about cannibalism.

Deuteronomy 28:52-57

This was foretold in Deuteronomy 28:52-57. In this chapter, there is a long list of curses for disobedience and eating one’s own children is listed in these verses. It says that even the ‘most tender and refined’ father and mother will be driven to this kind of behavior.

The disobedience of King Jehoram

King Jehoram of Israel is walking in the footsteps of his father Ahab and is leading the people of Israel in disobedience to the Lord. Even when he seems sympathetic to the plight of the woman, he still fails to show true repentance of his sins. His way to solve the problem is to go and kill Elisha, the prophet of God (2 Kings 6:31). The reason why he wants to kill Elisha is not entirely clear; he probably blames the prophet for bringing all this misery over his people but does not realize it is his own disobedience that is to be blamed.

Wait for God’s salvation

When the men of the king come to Elisha’s house, they certainly do not kill him. Elisha has a promise for them: the next day the starvation will come to an end and the prices for food will be back to normal. That next day God made the army of Aram hear a sound of chariots and horses and they thought that the Egyptians had come to help the Israelites. In panic they fled the camp. Four lepers discovered the camp empty of men but full with food, and the city of Samaria was saved of further starvation.

Whatever the circumstances, we should never resort to sin, but wait for God’s salvation.

Summary

Cannibalism is mentioned in the Bible. First of all, as a warning by Moses, that if the people of Israel would turn their backs on God, things would get so bad that eventually people would eat their own children. This came true during the reign of king Jehoram, when Samaria is under siege. He is asked to judge between to women who had agreed to eat their children together, but only one keeps her word. Shortly after this happens, God has mercy on the people and makes the army of Aram flee, and the people can eat from the plentiful food the army left behind.

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