Recently, I was reading 2 Kings 3, and it contains an extraordinary line regarding the revolt of Moab against the northern kingdom of Israel. Israel was victorious in the main battle, but at the city or Kir Haraseth, the Moabite king did something desperate to survive:
When the king of Moab saw that the battle had gone against him, he took with him seven hundred swordsmen to break through to the king of Edom, but they failed. Then he took his firstborn son, who was to succeed him as king, and offered him as a sacrifice on the city wall. The fury against Israel was great; they withdrew and returned to their own land. (2 Kings 3:26-27)
Wait, what? Is this biblical evidence that a human sacrifice, something that God detests (Lev. 20:3), was successful? Did the Moabite god Chemosh actually respond to this? What is additionally remarkable about this passage is that the events recorded here find some attestation in an extrabiblical source, something relatively rare for Old Testament studies. This source is called the Moabite Stone, and it gives details that the Bible does not give. The stone records the revolt of Moab and the nation’s success in remaining independent, though it does not record their defeat in the battle in 2 Kings. Also, the stone credits Chemosh for their success. (Read more about the stone here.)
On the one hand, it seems positively absurd to ask if the Bible confirms the existence of other gods. The Scriptures are uniform in their insistence that there is only one God (Deut. 6), which is why worship is reserved for Yahweh alone. Furthermore, there are passages in which it seems like the gods of other nations were completely fake, such as 1 Kings 18 where Elijah taunts the prophets of Baal for Baal’s unresponsiveness. On the other hand, there are surprising passages where there seems to be supernatural powers who are resisting God, such as when a “prince of Persia” stalled the coming of God’s angle to Daniel until Michael showed up (Daniel 10). In addition, the Egyptian magicians seemed to have some limited success in mimicking a few of Moses’ miracles.