Molech was an ancient god worshiped by the people neighboring Israel during Old Testament times. While much about Molech's nature and origin are uncertain, the Bible mentions Molech on eight occasions, providing some context regarding the problems associated with this ancient god.
Who was the Canaanite god Molech?
The first mention of Molech is in Leviticus 18:21 in which the Lord commanded, "You shall not give any of your children to offer them to Molech, and so profane the name of your God: I am the Lord." The worship of Molech clearly involved ritual child sacrifice, something God's people were not to practice. This act was punishable by death according to Leviticus 20:2 which states, "Any one of the people of Israel or of the strangers who sojourn in Israel who gives any of his children to Molech shall surely be put to death."
Further, child sacrifice to Molech was considered profanity against God's holy name. Leviticus 20:3 says, "I myself will set my face against that man and will cut him off from among his people, because he has given one of his children to Molech, to make my sanctuary unclean and to profane my holy name." Not only were those who sacrificed their children to be stoned to death, those who ignored such a sacrifice would be abandoned by God (Leviticus 20:5).
Yet this clear and stern warning from the Lord did not end the practice of Molech worship among the Israelites. Even King Solomon participated. First Kings 11:7 says, "Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, and for Molech the abomination of the Ammonites, on the mountain east of Jerusalem." In addition, this verse connects Molech worship with the Ammonites, one of the groups God elsewhere condemns for pagan worship.
King Josiah would later take the law's command against Molech worship very seriously. Second Kings 23:10 says, "And he defiled Topheth, which is in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, that no one might burn his son or his daughter as an offering to Molech." Apparently this area of Judea had become a location of Molech worship among God's people by this time. Yet Josiah's determination to apply God's laws to society ended child sacrifice for a time.
The final mention of Molech in the Old Testament is found in God's words to Jeremiah. "They set up their abominations in the house that is called by my name, to defile it. They built the high places of Baal in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, to offer up their sons and daughters to Molech, though I did not command them, nor did it enter into my mind, that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin" (Jeremiah 32:34-35).
Molech represents the most repulsive of acts in God's sight, the ritual sacrifice of children to a pagan god, which was condemned in the strongest way by the Lord, including punishment by death.
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