Yesterday I was reading through Leviticus and I came across Leviticus chapter 26 verse 27-29 where it says

"And if ye will not for all this hearken unto me, but walk contrary unto me; Then I will walk contrary unto you also in fury; and I, even I, will chastise you seven times for your sins. And ye shall eat the flesh of your sons, and the flesh of your daughters shall ye eat.

Does God order cannibalism in this verse and could someone please explain?

  • It's using the word "shall". "Shall" can basically mean either "must", "should", or "will". The first two are imperative, but the last one is declarative and is just describing the future. In the context of the rest of the Bible, and in the context of this passage itself, "will" is most likely the meaning being used here. Commented Jun 21, 2021 at 14:58

3 Answers 3


No, cannibalism is not being commanded. It is being predicted.

The Hebrew word translated as "you shall eat" in this passage is the word "וַאֲכַלְתֶּ֖ם " (wa·’ă·ḵal·tem). This verb is of the weqatal form, and, like yiqtol verbs, ordinarily connotes simple future tense in Hebrew.

In the Ten Commandments, most of the commandments are given in the negative, and Hebrew has some special rules for this which change the verb form after the "not" in Hebrew. But an example of a positive command is given in "Honor your father and your mother." The word "honor" is the piel form of the verb, and carries the imperative sense.

So in the Levitical passage of the question, the verb is not given in the command form. It is simply a future tense, informing the people of what would occur in consequence of their actions.

EDIT: The real answer here is derived from looking at more of the context. The same weqatal verb forms are used in this passage beginning with verse 25, but they occur in the passive voice construction. In Hebrew it is impossible for a command (imperative) to exist in the passive voice. Therefore, it is understood that, instead of being a command, which the passive-voice context does not allow, or perhaps even the simple future sense of meaning, this is a curse. Curses reference the future, but are not commands; rather, they predict woes to come.

  • Thank you for answering it is greatly appreciated.
    – cj564
    Commented Jun 18, 2021 at 17:28
  • 1
    do you really need to get the original language to answer this?
    – BCLC
    Commented Jun 19, 2021 at 5:47
  • @BCLC Yes; the English translations differ slightly from the original Hebrew manuscripts, the latter being more accurate, and there have been mistranslations and loss of meaning from English to Hebrew/Greek: for example, the Hebrew word רוּחַ (ruach), which means breath, ghost or spirit, is translated to simply "spirit" or "ghost" in English. Commented Jun 19, 2021 at 15:05
  • 1
    Re: weqatal, yiqtol, piel: You're mixing two different concepts here. Pi'el verbs have complete conjugations, with separate forms for different tenses/aspects, moods, etc., just as pa'al verbs do. (The verb that the OP is asking about is a pa'al verb.) Using your weqatal / yiqtol notation, the specific occurrence of "honor" in Exodus 20:11 would be the qattel form.
    – ruakh
    Commented Jun 19, 2021 at 20:16
  • @ruakh "qattel"? Do you mean "qatal" or "quttal" or "qittel" or maybe "hitqattel"? I'm unfamiliar with "qattel". Do you have a link to an explanation of this one? Piel/qittel is used for intensive action or causative action. Pa'al/qatal is just simple (transitive/intransitive) active form. Hebrew is complex, and I'm happy to learn more if there's something here I'm missing. Links to specific resources for this would be appreciated.
    – Polyhat
    Commented Jun 20, 2021 at 1:43

God in Leviticus 26:27-29 predict the future for Israel Lev 26:And if ye will not for all this hearken unto me, but walk contrary unto me

Samaria (Northern tribes) will be put under siege, and the famine caused by the war will be so bad they they will be forced to eat their own children.

And the king said unto her, What aileth thee? And she answered, This woman said unto me, Give thy son, that we may eat him to day, and we will eat my son to morrow. 29 So we boiled my son, and did eat him: and I said unto her on the next day, Give thy son, that we may eat him: and she hath hid her son. (2 Kings 28-29)


In Ezekiel 5
9 And I will do in thee that which I have not done, and whereunto I will not do any more the like, because of all thine abominations. 10 Therefore the fathers shall eat the sons in the midst of thee, and the sons shall eat their fathers; and I will execute judgments in thee, and the whole remnant of thee will I scatter into all the winds.

Does this mean God executed judgement and did in such way, so that fathers ate their sons and vice versa? And did that only took place once? because it says ''I will not do anymore the like'' In other words, does Leviticus 26 refer to Ezekiel 5 and Jeremiah 19 and 2 Kings 6? Are they the same event or different ones?

Appreciated. Cristina


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