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Judgment in the Valley of Ben Hinnom

Devotions

The worship of Molek (also spelled Molech) was a particularly notorious Ancient Near Eastern religion. Known in Scripture as the “detestable god of the Ammonites” (1 Kings 11:5, 17), Molek demanded child-sacrifice. This practice was strictly forbidden by the Mosaic Law, on pain of death. A person who did this, God said, “has defiled my sanctuary and profaned my holy name” (Lev. 20:2–5).

But the Israelites did practice idolatry and child-sacrifice to Baal and Molek in the Valley of Ben Hinnom, on the border between Judah and Benjamin, south and west of Jerusalem. Because of this horrific sin, God declared its real name to be the “Valley of Slaughter” (vv. 4–6). It was also called Topheth, meaning “fire pit.” The abbreviated Hebrew name for the Valley of Ben Hinnom is ge’hi’nom, later transliterated into the Greek name Gehenna, which came to symbolize hell. The expression “fire of hell” in Matthew 5:22 and 18:9 is literally, “Gehenna of fire.”

In response, the prophet Jeremiah brought a message of judgment. Because of the idolatry and other rebellious sins, Israel would suffer a humiliating military defeat in this very valley (vv. 7–9). Jerusalem would become “an object of horror and scorn.” The shocking description even includes cannibalism resulting from hunger. This happened
in 586 b.c., during the siege and conquest of Jerusalem by the Babylonian Empire.

This teaches an important lesson in spiritual geography. Only a brief distance from the “holy mountain” on which the people of God worshiped lay this vile place in which the worst kinds of pagan idolatry were practiced . . . by the same people! Both literally and figuratively, the journey from righteousness to sin can be all too short.

Pray with Us

Again, Moody Radio’s WMBI FM comes to the top of our prayer list. Thank the Lord in prayer for Matthew McNeilly, Karl Clauson, Hannah Pflederer, and Norma Malave—committed to helping listeners grow in faith and knowledge of Jesus Christ.

BY Brad Baurain

Bradley Baurain is Associate Professor and Program Head of TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) at Moody Bible Institute. Bradley has the unique privilege of holding a degree from four different universities (including Moody). He has just published his first book, On Waiting Well. Bradley taught in China, Vietnam, the United States, and Canada. Bradley and his wife, Julia, have four children and reside in Northwest Indiana.

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