…And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of, Genesis 22:2
That the Bible’s writers weren’t revolted by the idea of a god that demands his creatures to offer up their heir, who has been promised a future of a “great nation”, demonstrates that the idea of child sacrifice was not something unfamiliar.
This continues into the New Testament where the idea of Jesus being sacrificed isn’t abhorrent to the writers of the Epistles. In a modern world, one would imagine that God demanding Abraham sacrifice his child would cause theology to rethink the worship of this deity, but they excuse it with “he didn’t let him actually slaughter him”.
This brings me to the worship of the god Molech/Moloch.
Moloch, also known as Molech, Molekh, Molok, Molek, Melek, Molock, Moloc, Melech, Milcom, or Molcom (representing Semitic מלך m-l-k, a Semitic root meaning "king") is the name of an ancient Ammonite god. Moloch worship was practiced by the Canaanites, Phoenicians, and related cultures in North Africa and the Levant.As a god worshiped by the Phoenicians and Canaanites, Moloch had associations with a particular kind of propitiatory child sacrifice by parents. Moloch figures in the Book of Deuteronomy and in the Book of Leviticus as a form of idolatry (Leviticus 18:21: "And thou shalt not let any of thy seed pass through the fire to Moloch"). In the Old Testament, Gehenna was a valley by Jerusalem, where apostate Israelites and followers of various Baalim and Canaanite gods, including Moloch, sacrificed their children by fire (2 Chr. 28:3, 33:6; Jer. 7:31, 19:2–6).
I see in Abraham’s preparedness to obey the order to sacrifice his son, and even the sacrifice of Jesus in the New Testament, as familiarity with child sacrifice. The abhorrence that I experience at the idea, and I would imagine that any caring person would feel, is the reason most westerners resist the idea of animal sacrifice today.
He trusts God, so he willingly takes his son to the altar where Isaac asks where the lamb is for them to offer up to God, and as he puts Isaac on the altar, ready to cut his throat, God tells him to stop.
Those of us who watch the Game of Thrones television show, in which we witnessed child sacrifice, albeit fictional, have seen a visual representation of a child’s reaction to this idea. This is mythology, however, not to be taken seriously, or the child was real, and the father really was prepared to kill him. That says more about the nature of the father than about a god he was worshipping. Who would be that trusting of his god that he would go to the extent of lighting the fire, with his son in danger of dying? Not any parent I know, no matter how deep the faith in their god.
God presents him with a ram caught in a thicket, and Abraham names the place Jehovahjireh, “in the mount of the Lord it shall be seen” (verse 14).
Again God makes the promises of multiplying Abraham’s seed “as the stars of heaven”.
Why was the test necessary? He’d already made the same promise, several times, and even though Abraham showed himself to be a little corrupt by selling his wife, and throwing out his mistress and her son, God still tests him further.
Read what "New Atheism" thinks of this story here.