1. Study Jeremiah 7:31-32. Where is Topheth and the Valley
of the son of Hinnom?
Once called the Valley of the son of Hinnom, possibly naming the original owner, the Valley
of Hinnom is a deep ravine west and south of Jerusalem, and today it is known as Wadi Jehennam or Wadi er Rubeb.
Believed to be located in the southeast region of the valley of Hinnom, Topheth occupied a "high place" and was
the site of worship of the Ammonite god Molech.
2. To understand the significance of these verses, it is important to understand the historical context of
this geographical area. What do you learn about the kings of Judah that are associated with the Topheth and the
Valley of Hinnom?
Initiated by his love of "foreign" women as wives and concubines, King Solomon established
shrines for the worship of pagan gods about "high places" or hilltops
(1 Kings 11:1-7). Two pagan gods were particularly detestable,
Chemosh the pagan god of the Moabites and Molech the pagan god of the Ammonites, because their worship called
for the sacrifice of infants.
Topheth, meaning "place of fire," was a site of worship for Molech; however, it’s primitive
root word "toph" meant "playing or beating a percussion instrument such as a timbrel, tambourine, or drum".
Scholars believe that it was possible that percussion instruments were used to drown out the sounds of infants
as they were burned alive.
Molech had the head of a bull with two horns and the body of a man. The idol’s stomach
was hollow and was the furnace for the fire used during the sacrifice. When hot enough, the infant was place
into the arms of the idol.
It is not known when the Israelites started sacrificing their children; however, God
clearly prohibited such forms of worship and indicated that sacrificing innocent children was murder ("blood
on their hands"). And infanticide began with idolatry.
21) 'You shall not give any of your offspring to offer them to Molech, nor shall you profane
the name of your God; I am the LORD.
2) "You shall also say to the sons of Israel: 'Any man from the sons of Israel or from the
aliens sojourning in Israel who gives any of his offspring to Molech, shall surely be put to death; the
people of the land shall stone him with stones. 3) 'I will also set My face against that man and
will cut him off from among his people, because he has given some of his offspring to Molech, so as to
defile My sanctuary and to profane My holy name. 4) 'If the people of the land, however, should
ever disregard that man when he gives any of his offspring to Molech, so as not to put him to death,
5) then I Myself will set My face against that man and against his family, and I will cut off from
among their people both him and all those who play the harlot after him, by playing the harlot after Molech.
28) "Be careful to listen to all these words which I command you, so that it may be well with
you and your sons after you forever, for you will be doing what is good and right in the sight of the
LORD your God. 29) "When the LORD your God cuts off before you the nations which you are going in
to dispossess, and you dispossess them and dwell in their land, 30) beware that you are not ensnared
to follow them, after they are destroyed before you, and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying,
'How do these nations serve their gods, that I also may do likewise?' 31) "You shall not behave
thus toward the LORD your God, for every abominable act which the LORD hates they have done for their gods;
for (36) they even burn their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods.
9) "When you enter the land which the LORD your God gives you, you shall not learn to imitate
the detestable things of those nations. 10) "There shall not be found among you anyone who makes
his son or his daughter pass through the fire, one who uses divination, one who practices witchcraft, or
one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer,
2 Kings 17:27-31
27) Then the king of Assyria commanded, saying, "Take there one of the priests whom you carried
away into exile and let him go and live there; and let him teach them the custom of the god of the land."
28) So one of the priests whom they had carried away into exile from Samaria came and lived at
Bethel, and taught them how they should fear the LORD. 29) But every nation still made gods of its
own and put them in the houses of the high places which the people of Samaria had made, every nation in
their cities in which they lived. 30) The men of Babylon made Succoth-benoth, the men of Cuth made
Nergal, the men of Hamath made Ashima, 31) and the Avvites made Nibhaz and Tartak; and the Sepharvites
burned their children in the fire to Adrammelech and Anammelech the gods of Sepharvaim.
1) Thus says the LORD, "Go and buy a potter's earthenware jar, and take some of the elders of
the people and some of the senior priests. 2) "Then go out to the valley of Ben-hinnom, which is
by the entrance of the potsherd gate, and proclaim there the words that I tell you, 3) and say,
'Hear the word of the LORD, O kings of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem: thus says the LORD of hosts,
the God of Israel, "Behold I am about to bring a calamity upon this place, at which the ears of everyone
that hears of it will tingle. 4) "Because they have forsaken Me and have made this an alien place
and have burned sacrifices in it to other gods, that neither they nor their forefathers nor the kings of
Judah had ever known, and because they have filled this place with the blood of the innocent 5)
and have built the high places of Baal to burn their sons in the fire as burnt offerings to Baal, a thing
which I never commanded or spoke of, nor did it ever enter My mind; 6) therefore, behold, days are
coming," declares the LORD, "when this place will no longer be called Topheth or the valley of Ben-hinnom,
but rather the valley of Slaughter.
35) "They built the high places of Baal that are in the valley of Ben-hinnom to cause their sons
and their daughters to pass through the fire to Molech, which I had not commanded them nor had it entered
My mind that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin.
31) "When you offer your gifts, when you cause your sons to pass through the fire, you are defiling
yourselves with all your idols to this day. And shall I be inquired of by you, O house of Israel? As I
live," declares the Lord GOD, "I will not be inquired of by you.
37) "For they have committed adultery, and blood is on their hands. Thus they have committed
adultery with their idols and even caused their sons, whom they bore to Me, to pass through the fire to
them as food.
35) But they mingled with the nations and learned their practices, 36) And served their
idols, which became a snare to them. 37) They even sacrificed their sons and their daughters to
the demons, 38) and shed innocent blood, the blood of their sons and their daughters, whom they
sacrificed to the idols of Canaan; and the land was polluted with the blood. 39) Thus they became
unclean in their practices, and played the harlot in their deeds.
The Bible states that King Ahaz of Judah, the 12th king from King Solomon, sacrificed
his own sons to Molech in his attempt to seek military aid from the pagan god
(2 Kings 16:1-3).
King Manasseh of Judah, the 14th king from King Solomon, was also an evil king. Like
King Ahaz, King Manasseh sacrificed his own sons by burning them to death in the worship of Molech
(2 Kings 21:1-6,
2 Chronicles 33:1-6).
King Josiah of Judah, the 16th king from King Solomon, was a godly king and in his
reforms, abolished all idol worship, pagan priests, destroyed pagan shrines and specifically destroyed
Topheth (2 Kings 23:1-14,
2 Chronicles 34:3-7). By spreading human bones about,
King Josiah defiled the former high places of idol worship and rendered them ceremonially unclean. It
is not known if King Josiah was entirely successful as Jeremiah makes repeated calls against Topheth
(Jer 19:1-6; 32:35);
however, in time, the Valley of Hinnom became a garbage dump for the city of Jerusalem receiving waste,
refuse, and unclean objects such as the bodies of dead animals and executed criminals. Fires within the
dump were promoted to reduce the garbage that collected.
3. What implications of this Old Testament reference have on the New Testament?
By Jesus’ time, the Valley of Hinnom was a full fledged garbage dump with its wretched
rotting aromas, howls of scavenging wild animals, and smoldering and perpetual fires. In Hebrew, the Valley
of Hinnom was "Ge Hinnom" which transliterated into Greek became "Gehenna." Because of its history of infant
sacrifice and idol worship, the area was associated with desecration, abominable fires, death, and waste.
Excluding James 3:6, Jesus alone is
the only one using "gehenna" in the New Testament. As a figure of speech to convey the symbolic fate of
unrepentant sinners, Gehenna’s image of abomination, death, stench, fire, and waste was well understood
by the citizens of Jerusalem. In this manner, the judgment of an invisible God can be understood in a
tangible and frightening manner.
The Greek term "gehenna" has been taken by translators to refer to "hell" and has
Matthew 5:22, 29-30
22) "But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be
guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, 'You good-for-nothing,' shall be guilty before
the supreme court; and whoever says, 'You fool,' shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.
29) "If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you;
for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown
into hell. 30) "If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off
and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your
whole body to go into hell.
28) "Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but
rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.
9) "If your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out and throw it from you. It
is better for you to enter life with one eye, than to have two eyes and be cast into the fiery hell.
Matthew 23:15, 33
15) "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel around
on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell
33) "You serpents, you brood of vipers, how will you escape the sentence of
43) "If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to
enter life crippled, than, having your two hands, to go into hell, into the unquenchable fire,
44) [where THEIR WORM DOES NOT DIE, AND THE FIRE IS NOT QUENCHED.] 45)
"If your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame,
than, having your two feet, to be cast into hell, 46) [where THEIR
WORM DOES NOT DIE, AND THE FIRE IS NOT QUENCHED.] 47) "If your eye causes
you to stumble, throw it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, than, having
two eyes, to be cast into hell, 48) where THEIR WORM DOES NOT DIE,
AND THE FIRE IS NOT QUENCHED.
5) "But I will warn you whom to fear: fear the One who, after He has killed,
has authority to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear Him!
6) And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members
as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by
The concept of hell is born out of the translation of four words:
Old Testament (Hebrew): sheol
New Testament (Greek): hades, gehenna, and tartarus
To learn more about this place for sinners and sinful angels, consider a word study using
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