Sacrifice of Children as WORSHIP
specifically forbidden

Making Son or Daughter to Pass Through the Fire:

This was a form of child sacrifice, widely practiced in Canaan and its environs, and was of such abominable nature that we shall take a historical excursus to discuss it before proceeding with our discussion of further terminology.

  (a) Nature and Importunity of the Prohibition:

This refers to sons and daughters being "burned in the fire to their gods" [that is, the gods of the heathen population of Palestine, which was to be the home of Jehovah’s people, Israel] (Deuteronomy 12:31) – one of which had been specifically named, that is, Molech (Leviticus 18:21) – also referred to as Moloch – but not confined to Molech (or Moloch). Chapter 12:29-31 (of Deuteronomy) had warned against their inquiring how these people served their gods, with the idea of doing likewise unto Jehovah, saying: "Thou shalt not do so unto Jehovah thy God: for every abomination to Jehovah, have they done unto their gods; for even their sons and their daughters do they burn in the fire to their gods" – which seems to mean that this was the climax of abominations to Jehovah – not exceeded even by immoral sexual rites with which they worshipped their so-called fertility gods and goddesses – Baal (male) and Ashtareth (female) being chief ones in Canaan – or Baalim and Ashtaroth (plural, in reference to their images).

(b) Commandments Forsaken:

Notwithstanding such prohibitions, Israel (the ten northern tribes after the kingdom was divided) "forsook all the commandments of Jehovah their God, and made them molten images, even two calves [see 1 Kings 12:25-30], and made an Asherah (=Ashtareth) [see 1 Kings 14:15], and worshipped all the host of heaven [see 2 Kings 21:3], and served Baal. And they caused their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire, and used divinations and enchantments, and sold themselves to do that which was evil in the sight of Jehovah, to provoke him to anger." (2 Kings 17:16-17.) But a more general description of the nations even before its division is that: "They did not destroy the peoples[of Canaan], as Jehovah had commanded them, but mingled themselves with the nations, And learned their works, And served their idols, Which became a snare unto them. Yea, they sacrificed their sons and their daughters unto demons [meaning pagan gods], and shed innocent blood, Even the blood of their sons and their daughters, Whom they sacrificed unto the idols of Canaan; And the land was polluted with blood." (Psalm 106:35-38.)

(c) Later Prophetic Review and Preview – From Sinai to Beyond Babylon"

(1) In the Old Testament: The prophet Amos, about 750 B.C., delivered God’s message to Israel (the northern kingdom after its separation from Judah in the south and setting up idol worship to replace the worship of Jehovah, and was doomed to exile in Assyria), asked and said : "Did you bring unto me [probably meaning to Jehovah only] sacrifices and offerings in the wilderness forty years, O house of Israel? Yea, ye have borne the tabernacle [likely a miniature shrine] of your king [Moloch] and the shrine of your images, the star of your god, which you made to yourselves. Therefore will I cause you to go into captivity beyond Damascus, saith Jehovah, whose name is God of hosts." (Amos 5:25-27). This was saying there had been at least an idolatrous element in Israel from the very first of its history as a nation, on its way from Egypt to Canaan.

(2) In the New Testament: The first Christian martyr, Stephen, refers to the language of Amos but prefaces it by recounting the very first manifestation of the idolatrous spirit while encamped at Sinai, as follows: " … our fathers would not be obedient, but thrust him [Moses] from them, and turned back their hearts unto Egypt, saying Moses [who was on the mountain communing with God and receiving the law], who led us forth out of the land of Egypt, we know not what has become of him. And they made a calf in those days, and brought a sacrifice unto the idol, and rejoiced in the works of their hands. But God turned, and gave them up to serve the host of heaven [sun, moon, and stars]; as it is written in the prophets [in Amos, one of the prophets] , Did ye offer unto me slain beast and sacrifices in the wilderness, O house of Israel? And ye took up the tabernacle of Moloch, and the star of the god Rephan, The figures which ye made to worship them [which were of the ‘host of heaven’]: And I will carry you away beyond Babylon [where later the kingdom of Judah was exiled, into Assyria, both of which (Babylon and Assyria) were beyond Damascus’ eastward]." (Acts 7:39-43).

NOTE: The appropriateness of the places of exile may lie in the probability of the type of forbidden worship here mentioned having had its origin in that part of the world, where their ancestors lived before spreading westward into Canaan and Egypt and returning to Canaan.

(3) The King James Version of Amos 5:26: "but ye have borne the tabernacle [likely a small portable shrine] of your Moloch and Chium your images, the star of your god, which ye made to yourselves."

The word "Moloch" is a contemptuous modification of "Molech," which means king (as rendered by the American Standard Version), by use of the vowels of the word shame. The Masoretic Hebrew text sometimes uses one marking, and sometimes the other. In harmony with the text of the LXX of about 250 B. C. The term Chium was the Hebrew name for the planet Saturn. However, the LXX (made in Alexandria, Egypt) uses the Egyptian name "Raiphan," and Stephen in Acts employs Rephan, a variant.

Owing to the peculiar relationship at certain times between Saturn and the Sun in the Zodiac, Saturn was called the "star" of the latter, as also the calf (or bull) was in many parts of the world – which makes it possible if not probable the "golden calf" made by Israel at Sinai represented the Sun as supreme among "the host of heaven" – and as being the "god" that had brought them out of Egypt, as they announced (Exodus 32:4).

It is said that in Egypt the sun was referred to as "the valient bull." The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia states: "The worship of the golden calf was star worship; it was the solar bull, [of] the constellation Taurus [which means ‘bull’], in which the sun was at the time of the spring equinox, that is thus represented" )"Saturn or Moloch Worship." In article Astrology," Vol. 1, p.298).

(d) Historical Overview After Sinai:

(1) Joshua’s Farewell Address and Israel’s Response: When Joshua had led Israel in subduing for the most part the land of Canaan and delivered to them his farewell address, they still had probably miniature images of foreign gods (maybe those mentioned above in Amos), for he addressed them thus: "Now therefore fear Jehovah, and serve him in sincerity and truth; and put away the gods which your fathers served beyond the River [Euphrates], and in Egypt; and serve Jehovah. … Now therefore put away, said he, the foreign gods which are among you, and incline your heart unto Jehovah, the God of Israel" Joshua 24:14-23). "And the people served Jehovah all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great work of Jehovah that he wrought for Israel" (Judges 2:7).

(2) Second Generation Apostasy: But in the second generation after the death of Joshua, Israel began worshipping the Canaanite deities, chief of which were Baal and Ashtareth, (Ashtaroth, plural); and God began punishing them allowing them to be oppressed and distressed by the very people whose practices they had adopted (Judges 2:10-15; cf. 17:1-6; 18:1-18).

Note: "Teraphim" are prominently mentioned in some of the text just cited:17:5; 18:14,17,18,19. They were idols, or household gods, possibly images of ancestors, and seemingly used by some in connection with divination (1 Kings 23:24). They were sometimes small and easily hidden (Genesis 31:19,33-35). On the other hand, they might be larger and in some respects resemble a human being (1 Samuel 19:11-17). It is said that Jewish commentators thought the teraphim were in early times mummified human heads, which were represented in later centuries by rude images (International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Vol. III, p.1455).

(3) Under Judges and Kings: Idolatry and its associated practices continued intermittently all during the period of the judges (approximately 450 years), but greatly subsided (though not completely eradicated) during the reign of kings Saul and David – 40 years each. (Witness that the event of 1 Samuel 19:11-19 above, took place during the reign of Saul and the "witch" of Endor [1 Samuel 28:3-25]). And during the reign of king Solomon (40 years), the worship of Molech and other heathen gods was actually introduced by him (as will be documented in the next paragraph). And after his reign, when the ten northern tribes had rebelled against his son Rehoboam, their king Jreoboam instituted calf worship to keep his subjects from returning to Jerusalem in the south to worship Jehovah on special occasions – saying, "Behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt" (1 Kings 12:28) – as had been said by some at Sinai. Then, generations later, a tremendous wave of Baal worship was instigated in Israel (the northern kingdom) by the wicked queen Jezebel, pagan wife of Ahab, the seventh king of Israel, and spread to Judah (the southern kingdom). It was condemned and opposed vigorously by God through his prophets, with only partial successes – and eventually punished by Assyrian captivity of the northern kingdom of Israel (2 Kings 17:7-23) and later by Babylonian captivity of the southern kingdom of Judah (2 Kings 24:10 -25:21).

(4) Children Sacrificed by Fire to Moloch and Baal: It was Molech (or Moloch) in particular (but Baal also to some extent), that was worshipped by having their "seed" pass through the fire to him (Leviticus 18:21). Molech, meaning king, was chief god of the Ammonites [a god also of the Phoenicians, according to Ras-Shanra tablets] – also Milcom, Malcam, and Malchan. King Solomon married many foreign women, who led him to include their gods in his worship (! Kings 11:4-8) – one of which was "Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites" (v.5) – expressed again as Molech in the abomination of the children of Ammon," for which he built a high place in the valley of Hinnom (v.7).

NOTE: Harper’s Bible Dictionary (1985) states the "Milcom was the Ammonite form of Baal," and "was closely related to the Phoenician Baals, Melchart and Molech, to whom human sacrifices, particularly children, were offered" (pp.653-36).

At a later time, in Jeremiah 7:31, it is said that the children of Judah "have built the high places of Topheth [that is, burning, an alter-pyre for the burning of sacrificial victims], which is in the valley of the sons of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire." In Jeremiah 19:5, it is said that the kings of Judah had also "built the high places of Baal.
And in Chapter 32:35, it is stated that "they built the high places of Baal, which are in the valley of the sons of Hinnom, to cause their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire unto Molech" – which may indicate that these were used for sacrifices both to Baal and Molech, due to syncretism, with Baal of the Canaanites and Molech of the Ammonites being very similar, if not of common origin. For the Rash-Shamra (or Ugaritic) texts of the 14th century B. C. , excavated in 1929, confirm that Baal worship also included child sacrifice, as noted above from Harper’s Bible Dictionary.

(5) Similarities Between Baal and Moloch: Baal’s power of fertility was expressed by his association with the bull as his cult animal, horns of which were on his helmet; and his astrological symbol was the sun – according to the Ras-shamra texts as cited by the Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible (Vol. I, pp.320-30). And Moloch was also conceived as an astral deity associated with the sun-god. According to the ancient historian, Diodorus Siculus (first century B. C.), the Carthaginian* "image of Moloch was a human figure with a bull’s head and outstretched arms, ready to receive the children destined for sacrifice. The image of metal was heated red by fire kindled within, and the children laid on its arms rolled off into the fiery pit below. In order to drown the cries of the victims, flutes were played, and drums were beaten; and mothers stood by without tears or sobs, to give the impression of the voluntary character of the offering." (Ibid., Vol. III, p.2075.)

  *NOTE: Carthage was a city in north Africa, which had been founded by Phoenicians, worshipers of Moloch.

  (6) Israel and the Term "Baal": The word Baal within itself was a neutral term, meaning lord or master, and used also of a husband – being so translated 11 times (Exodus 21:22; Deuteronomy 22:22; 24:4; 2 Samuel 11:26;Ester 1:17,20; Proverbs 12:4; 31:11,23,28; Joel 1:8) and to be or have a husband three more times (Deuteronomy 21"13; Jeremiah 31:32; Isaiah 54:5). It had even been used by Israel of Jehovah at times in its history, as seen in Isaiah 54:5 (where it is translated "husband"); Jeremiah 31:32 (again translated "husband"); and Hosea 2:16 (translated Baali, meaning "My husband" or "My master"). But, because that was also the name by which the chief deity of the Canaanites and Phoenicians was called and his worship had come to permeate both Israel and Judah, and their remnants returning from Assyrian and Babylonian exile would be cured of Baal worship and all idolatry, the following was declared through the prophet Hosea: "And it shall be at that day saith Jehovah, that thou shall call me Ishi [‘My husband’], and shalt call me no more Baali [‘my lord’]. For I will take away the names of the Baalim [plural of Baal] out of her mouth, and they shall no more be mentioned by their name" (Hosea 2:17-17). The point was that Israel should not afterward even use language that could lend itself to confusing Jehovah with Baal, or to indicate him as being to Israel what Baal was for the Canaanites.

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