Three times did the Lord utter these words to Jeremiah. On each occasion He was referring to the hideous, barbaric, and shameful practice of “passing one’s children through the fire to Molech.”Way back in Leviticus the Lord had warned His people about this custom, which was commonplace amongst the Canaanite nations in the land they were about to occupy. See Lev.20:2-5, “Whoever of the children of Israel, or of the strangers who sojourn in the land, gives of his seed to Molech, shall surely be put to death. The people of the land shall stone him with stones. And I will set my face against that man, and will cut him off from among his people because he has given of his seed to Molech, to defile my sanctuary, and to profane my holy name. And if any of my people shall shut their eyes to what they see, when a man gives of his seed to Molech, I will set my face against that man, and against his family, and will cut him off from among the people.”
So great was the Lord’s anger and displeasure at this hideous practice, that He caused Moses to pen these lines. However, centuries later in the days of the Kings, Israelites actually indulged in the practice. See Jeremiah 7:30-31 “The children ofJudah have done evil in my sight, says the Lord; they have set their abominations in the house which is called by my name, to pollute it. And they have built the high places of Tophet, in the valley of Hinnom, to burn their sons and daughters in the fire, which I commanded them not, NEITHER DID IT ENTER MY HEART.”
How could such an abomination find the slightest corner within the divine mind? It is inconceivable. No wonder the Lord spoke as He did. Now what exactly did the people do? What was this hateful practice? Do we have any evidence? In fact the various encyclopaedias in my possession provide me with adequate information. Apparently a large brazen image was set up, in human form, seated, with an ox’s head, and hands stretched out to receive offerings. The image was heated from below by a furnace, and a little child was placed in the image’s hands. Immediately drums were beaten and cymbals clashed to drown out the noise of the screams, lest the parents should relent. Twisting and turning, the baby would eventually fall off into the fires below.
“Excavations in Palestine have uncovered piles of ashes and remains of infant skeletons in cemeteries around heathen altars, pointing to the widespread practice of this cruel abomination.” (Merrill F. Unger. ‘Archaeology of the Old Testament’.)
In Diodorus Siculus xx.14 & 65 a reference is found to this practice being observed by the Carthaginians, when besieged by Agathocles. They sacrificed to Molech 200 noble children by placing them one by one in his hands until each fell into the pit of fire. By this token they hoped to be saved from disaster by propitiating their deity.
In the Old Testament we read that King Ahaz (c.730 BC) burned his children in the fire, (2 Chr.28:3) Manasseh did the same (2 Kings 21:6) and the northern kingdom of Samaria was judged for this practice (2 Kings 17:17). Josiah destroyed the high places of Molech (2 Kings 23:10,13)
Recapitulating thus far, we see that this heathen practice proliferated throughout the Middle East, and was so strongly denounced by Jehovah that He avowed the thought of it “had never even entered His mind.” Furthermore, He prophesied that the nation of Israel, if it persisted in this practice, would be slaughtered in the very place where the idol was kept, in other words, the Valley of Hinnom, known in New Testament times as Gehenna. Such was the revealed character of God in those early times.
It’s now time to move on, to investigate some strange apparent contradictions found in the New Testament. Many times one is faced with the following popular saying – “The God of the O.T. is all blood and thunder, whereas the God of the N.T. is all peace and love.” But after reading about the intense agony of the Godhead over the Molech issue, we may be perplexed to find Jesus repeatedly saying that certain men would end up in Gehenna, where the fires never cease burning, and the worms never die. Then we find Paul prophesying that when Jesus returns “He will come in a flame of fire taking vengeance on all His enemies.” And last of all, John in the Revelation speaks about “a lake of fire and brimstone,” in which the Devil, the Beast, and the False Prophet, and many others “will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.” On the surface it seems as though the popular saying should be reversed!
My purpose in writing this article is to force an issue. Most Christians fail to face up to such apparent contradictions as these. Ever since the days of Augustine, the church has by and large adhered to the doctrine of everlasting hell-fire, and so, in these “enlightened days”, it requires courage to swim against the strong current of orthodoxy. But there is a certain parameter by which all such matters may be resolved, and that is the CHARACTER OF GOD. Any doctrine that causes an offence to justice and sound judgement, makes a mockery of God’s character. The N.T. statements mentioned above are clearly figurative, and the reader must determine what they mean in practice. The O.T. reference, “It never even entered my mind” must be that parameter for finding the answer.
I shall be writing more on this issue next time, with accompanying testimonies.
From Arthur & Rosalind Eedle, Lincolnshire, England.