One of the practices of the Canaanites was child sacrifices. And part of the reason, if not the primary reason, for the conquest of the Canaanites by God was judgment against their evil practices.
Deut 12:29-31 (ESV)
29 “When the LORD your God cuts off before you the nations whom you go in to dispossess, and you dispossess them and dwell in their land,
30 take care that you be not ensnared to follow them, after they have been destroyed before you, and that you do not inquire about their gods, saying, ‘How did these nations serve their gods?- that I also may do the same.’
31 You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way, for every abominable thing that the LORD hates they have done for their gods, for they even burn their sons and their daughters in the fire to their gods.
Most scholars today, including Day, agree on at least several points: there was a cult of child sacrifice in ancient Israel, and that this practice is of Canaanite origin; that this type of sacrifice, contra some older scholarship, does indeed refer to the practice of actually sacrificing children, and not simply of dedicating them to a deity
Child sacrifice was associated with Molech.
Lev 20:2 (KJV)
2 Again, thou shalt say to the children of Israel, Whosoever [he be] of the children of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn in Israel, that giveth [any] of his seed unto Molech; he shall surely be put to death: the people of the land shall stone him with stones.
Moloch (/ˈmoʊlɒk/; Biblical Hebrew: מֹלֶךְ Mōleḵ or הַמֹּלֶךְ hamMōleḵ;[a] Ancient Greek: Μόλοχ, Latin: Moloch; also Molech or Molek) is a name or a term which appears in the Hebrew Bible several times, primarily in the book of Leviticus. The Bible strongly condemns practices which are associated with Moloch, practices which appear to have included child sacrifice.
Condemned by biblical prophets and Roman senators alike, few pagan deities were as reviled as Moloch, a god whose bronze body was a furnace used for sacrificing children.
The cult of Moloch — who is also called Molech — is said to have boiled children alive in the bowels of a big, bronze statue with the body of a man and the head of a bull.
Practiced by the people of the Levant region from at least the early Bronze Age, the cult of Moloch was still active into the first few centuries of the Common Era.
The practice of child sacrifice among Canaanite groups is attested by numerous sources spanning over a millennium. One example is in the writings of Diodorus Siculus:
“They also alleged that Kronos had turned against them inasmuch as in former times they had been accustomed to sacrifice to this god the noblest of their sons, but more recently, secretly buying and nurturing children, they had sent these to the sacrifice; and when an investigation was made, some of those who had been sacrificed were discovered to have been substituted by stealth… In their zeal to make amends for the omission, they selected two hundred of the noblest children and sacrificed them publicly; and others who were under suspicion sacrificed themselves voluntarily, in number not less than three hundred. There was in the city a bronze image of Kronos, extending its hands, palms up and sloping towards the ground, so that each of the children when placed thereon rolled down and fell into a sort of gaping pit filled with fire. It is probable that it was from this that Euripides has drawn the mythical story found in his works about the sacrifice in Tauris, in which he presents Iphigeneia being asked by Orestes: “But what tomb shall receive me when I die? A sacred fire within, and earth’s broad rift.” Also the story passed down among the Greeks from ancient myth that Cronus did away with his own children appears to have been kept in mind among the Carthaginians through this observance.” Library 20.1.4
Most scholars agree that the ritual performed at the tophet was child sacrifice, and they connect it to similar episodes throughout the Bible and recorded in Phoenicia (whose inhabitants were referred to as Canaanites in the Bible) and Carthage by Hellenistic sources.
As the Phoenicians in Canaan were displaced by the Israelites, they moved to other parts of the Mediterranean. And they brought along their religious practices, which included child sacrifices.
In Phoenician sites throughout the Western Mediterranean (except for Spain and Ibiza), archaeology has revealed fields full of buried urns containing the burnt remains of human infants and lambs, covered by carved stone monuments.[
What we are saying now is that the archaeological, literary, and documentary evidence for child sacrifice is overwhelming and that instead of dismissing it out of hand, we should try to understand it.’
The city-state of ancient Carthage was a Phoenician colony located in what is now Tunisia. It operated from around 800BC until 146BC, when it was destroyed by the Romans.
Children – both male and female, and mostly a few weeks old – were sacrificed by the Carthaginians at locations known as tophets. The practice was also carried out by their neighbours at other Phoenician colonies in Sicily, Sardinia and Malta. Dedications from the children’s parents to the gods are inscribed on slabs of stone above their cremated remains, ending with the explanation that the god or gods concerned had ‘heard my voice and blessed me’.
Tertullian also records the Carthaginians practiced child sacrifice.
Infants have been sacrificed to Saturn publicly in Africa,1 even to the proconsulship of Tiberius, who devoted the very trees about Saturn’s temple to be gibbets for his priests, as accomplices in the murder, for contributing the protection of their shadow to such wicked practices. For the truth of this I appeal to the militia of my own country, who served the proconsul in the execution of this order. But these abominations are continued to this day in private.
Greek author Kleitarchos also records it.
Out of reverence for Kronos (Ba’al Hammon), the Phoenicians, and especially the
Carthaginians, whenever they seek to obtain some great favor, vow one of their
children, burning it as a sacrifice to the deity, if they are especially eager to gain success.
There stands in their midst a bronze statue of Kronos, its hands extended over a
bronze brazier, the flames of which engulf the child. When the flames fall on the
body, the limbs contract and the open mouth seems almost to be laughing, until
the contracted body slips quietly into the brazier.
Evidence at Carthage suggests the child sacrifices were also related to Molech.
The remains of thousands of incinerated children were buried at Carthage under the aforementioned funerary stelae with Semitic inscriptions that refer to living sacrifices, mlk.
Later, the Israelites also practiced child sacrifices. And as God judged the Canaanites for performing child sacrifices, God judged Israel and sent the Assyrians and Babylonians to conquer the Israelites.
2Chr 28:3 (KJV)
Moreover he burnt incense in the valley of the son of Hinnom, and burnt his children in the fire, after the abominations of the heathen whom the LORD had cast out before the children of Israel.
Jer 32:35 (KJV)
35 And they built the high places of Baal, which [are] in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to cause their sons and their daughters to pass through [the fire] unto Molech; which I commanded them not, neither came it into my mind, that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin.
The fact, therefore, now generally accepted by critical scholars, is that in the last days of the kingdom human sacrifices were offered to Yhwh as King or Counselor of the nation and that the Prophets disapproved of it and denounced it because it was introduced from outside as an imitation of a heathen cult and because of its barbarity.
It is interesting to note that of all the societies I have studied, primitive cultures have little evidence of abortion or infanticide; they are primarily the practices of the higher cultures of antiquity.