Isaiah 9:19-20 Cannibalism and Civil War

Isaiah 9:20-21 They slice off what is on the right hand but still are hungry, and they eat what is on the left hand but they are not satisfied; each of them eats the flesh of his own arm. Manasseh devours Ephraim, and Ephraim Manasseh, and together they are against Judah. In spite of all this, His anger does not turn away and His hand is still stretched out.

Scholars debate whether verse 20 is figurative or literal language in regards to the topic of cannibalism. The point (whether figurative or literal) being made is that people are hungry and food is scarce.

The Hebrew word for eat is ‘akal. It is the verb used for the consumption of humans. The context of the verse is humans.

There are other verses in the Bible where cannibalism is discussed and it is literally humans eating other humans. In some cases, it is a judgment proclaimed by God. In other cases, people are acting independently out of hunger.

Leviticus 26:29 is a series of judgments being proclaimed by God for disobedience to His commandments. ‘Further, you will eat the flesh of your sons and the flesh of your daughters you will eat.

In 2 Kings 6:28-29 hunger and famine were in Samaria due to military conquest. And the king said to her, “What is the matter with you?” And she answered, “This woman said to me, ‘Give your son that we may eat him today, and we will eat my son tomorrow, so we boiled my son and ate him; and I said to her on the next day, ‘Give your son, that we may eat him’; but she has hidden her son.” 

Draw your own conclusions, literal or figurative cannibalism.

Ephraim and Manasseh were members of the northern kingdom. They were fighting against each other. There was civil war in the northern kingdom. But they did manage to get together to fight Judah. Judah is the region in the south of Israel. It is the southern kingdom. There was civil war throughout all of Israel.

The phrase His anger does not turn away and His hand is still stretched out is noted for the third time in Isaiah 9. The third judgment has been completed. Israel still has one more remaining judgment before completion.

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