Many critics of the Bible argue that 2 Kings 3:27 portrays God as approving of human sacrifice. The text reads: “Then he took his oldest son who was to reign in his place and offered him for a burnt offering on the wall. And there came great wrath against Israel. And they withdrew from him and returned to their own land.” It is argued that the phrase translated as “great wrath” is describing God’s wrath against Israel that was provoked in response to the offering up of the son of the king of Moab by him as a burnt offering which resulted in Israel’s defeat. The NET translation even translates the phrase as “an outburst of divine anger” in agreement with this interpretation. Since Deuteronomy 12:31 and 18:10 say that burning sons and daughters as a burnt offering is an abomination to the Lord, critics argue that this is a contradiction in the Bible since Deuteronomy teaches one thing while 2 Kings teaches another.
It is true that the Hebrew word qatsaph translated as “wrath” often describes God’s wrath. But this is not always the case. In Genesis 41:10, the same word is used to describe Pharaoh’s wrath against his servants. In Esther 2:21, the word describes the anger of Bigthan and Teresh who sought to kill King Ahasuerus. Therefore, another way to interpret 2 Kings 3:27 is that the wrath of this verse is not God’s wrath, but the wrath of the Moabites against Israel. They became filled with rage against Israel because of the death of the king’s son who was sacrificed to turn the tide of the battle. Because of his death, the people of Moab became enraged and vowed to fight to the death against Israel since they viewed Israel as the reason why he had to die. This rage and their belief that their god was supporting them gave them the edge in the battle to overcome a less determined foe.