Egypt’s Sacrificial Cow | God's World News

Egypt’s Sacrificial Cow

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    Egypt’s Marwan Attia, center left, challenges for the ball with Congo’s Charles Pickel during the African Cup of Nations soccer match in San Pedro, Ivory Coast, on January 28, 2024. (AP/Sunday Alamba)
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    Egypt’s Mostafa Mohamed, left, is challenged by Congo’s Samuel Moutoussamy during the African Cup match. (AP/Sunday Alamba)
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    Congo players celebrate after goalkeeper Lionel Mpasi scored the winning goal in a penalty shootout. Congo won the African Cup match against Egypt 8-7. (AP/Sunday Alamba)
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    This 6th century B.C. Greek painting shows a procession to an altar to sacrifice a lamb. Because of Jesus’ death, we no longer need to offer sacrifices. (Public domain)
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    A herdsman guides his cattle in a village in Egypt. (AP/Khalil Hamra)
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In late January, Egyptian soccer officials found their team in a tight spot. Seven-time Africa Cup champions, the Egypt Pharaohs, hadn’t won a single game in this year’s Africa Cup. The Pharaohs’ best player, Mohamed Salah, incurred a hamstring injury during the tournament. Goalkeeper Mohamed El Shenawy dislocated his shoulder in another tournament game. A third player, midfielder Imam Ashour, spent a night in the hospital for concussion treatment after a head injury.

The Pharaohs’ next game would be with Congo. So officials resorted to an ancient ritual.

They sacrificed an animal.


The book of Exodus in the Holy Bible is chock full of laws: laws about injuries, laws about property, laws about idolatry, sacrifice, and more. Not the least among the laws listed is this: “Whoever sacrifices to any god, other than the Lord alone, shall be devoted to destruction.” (Exodus 22:20) So when a sports team slaughters a cow in hopes of gaining favor to win a soccer game, it seems clear that God would not be pleased.

Egypt’s players had reportedly done so before. They sacrificed a calf during training before going on to win the 2008 Africa Cup in Ghana.

Team spokesman Mohamed Morad says members of the Egyptian Football Association killed the cow. Sadly, they thought doing so might bring the national team more so-called “luck” at the Africa Cup of Nations.

Superstitious people believe sacrificing animals can appease or somehow win favor with an angry god. But God doesn’t work that way. While he does work discipline for those who love Him when we disobey, He doesn’t punish or reward believers because we deserve it. (Titus 3:5) Nor does He let us negotiate goodness from Him. (Exodus 33:19)

Instead, God intended the animal sacrifices of the Old Testament to instruct and illustrate humankind’s need for a single, perfect, sacrificial Savior whom He would provide. That Savior is Jesus Christ, whose death, burial, and resurrection Christians celebrate at Easter. The blood of bulls, goats, or cows does nothing to win soccer games—or secure souls.

This time, killing a cow for soccer clearly didn’t work. (Hint: It didn’t work last time either. Whatever God wills, happens!) Congo knocked Egypt out of the Africa Cup, winning 8-7 on penalty kicks.

There’s a possible bright spot in the demise of the sacrificial cow: Team officials distributed the meat to needy people in Cairo. At least that beef didn’t go to waste.

Why? Sacrifice to negotiate favor or good fortune is an affront to God who desires mercy, faith, and submission to His will from His image-bearers.

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