Where is Gehenna Now?

The laws given to Moses by God over 3,000 years ago expressly forbade the Jews to do what is now legal in the State of New York.   

“You shall not give any of your children to devote them by fire to Moloch, and so profane the name of your God”  (Leviticus 18:21), ordered the God of Moses.  You shall not sacrifice your children.

Moloch or Molech was an ancient Canaanite god to whom children were sacrificed.   The practice may have lasted from as early as 1400s BCE to 500s BCE to the time of good King Josiah, the last king of Judah, and beyond, throughout the Assyrian culture.  II Kings 23:10  “[Josiah] desecrated Topheth, which was in the Valley of Ben Hinnom, so no one could use it to sacrifice their son or daughter in the fire to Molek.”  In spite of God’s decree in the Book of Moses, even Jewish kings  (2 Kings 16:3 & 2 Kings 21:6) worshipped Moloch at the hilled site, the Valley of Ben Hinnom, which was outside the walls of Jerusalem.  While the practice flourished for centuries, it continued to be condemned in Jewish law: Lev. 18:21; 2 Kgs. 23:10; Jer. 32:35. 

Anthropology tells us that child sacrifice is not uncommon in more modern history of mankind.  Archeologists recently found an extreme case in Peru of a 500-year-old mass grave of children sacrificed to the god of weather.  Scientists believe the sacrifice in Peru was made in the hopes of preventing El Nino flooding.  Read about it here.   Fox news report

In the United States, we consider ourselves much more civilized than the Peruvian tribe or the ancient Canaanites.  To apply the words “child sacrifice” to describe our culture would be abhorrent.  We are much more sophisticated than to believe, as the ancients did, that there are demanding gods who must be soothed and to whom we must capitulate or be punished.  Furthermore, we are humane.  We realize that children are vulnerable and innocent and need our protection, not our abuse.

While there are, now, scores of examples of America’s law enforcement rescuing our children from life-threatening abuse and neglect, it wasn’t always so.  Until the late 19th century, in America, parents had full rights over their children regardless of how they treated them.  According to law, parents had the right to punish their children in any form and to use them for any purpose; the parents, not the government, were the parents.  Child protection laws in the United States began in 1874, after an attorney used an animal protection law to finally win his defense of a nine-year-old girl against her parents’ daily beatings.  American Bar Association

Almost exactly a century later in 1973, with Roe vs. Wade, America expanded her view of child protection and began also of thinking of the mother’s health.   Rightly or wrongly, many Americans accepted abortion as a remedy for bringing children into a lifetime of hopeless physical circumstances and a way to protect a mother’s gestational and mental health.

Before Roe, in our grandparents’ time, “abortion” was generally understood as a fetus that was naturally expelled from his/her mother’s womb.  A problem with the child’s or the mother’s health was recognized and resolved naturally by the mother’s body.  To experience an abortion at that time in history was sad, even devastating, for parents; but as emotionally painful as it was, it was generally regarded as a beautiful act of mercy by Mother Nature. For many in America,  Roe is a merciful response to the thousands of situations in our country that are neither beautiful nor merciful for mother or child.

Last week, Andrew Cuomo signed into law a different sort of abortion.  This abortion allows the embryo to complete his or her gestational development and make the journey through his or her mother’s birth canal into the arms of the delivery nurse. The child in this abortion meets the characteristics of those children of the ancients who were sacrificed to a cultural god: a living and worthy oblation.

Cuomo’s abortion bypasses the considerations of Roe, which, even to pro-life advocates like me, must be recognized as having good intentions.  Moreover, while  our grandmothers experienced great sorrow and mourning related to Mother Nature’s abortions, New York celebrates her abortion law as progress for women’s rights.

Andrew Cuomo’s signature on New York’s new abortion law may signify the final step in the process of defining abortion in America.  What is it?  Is it a way of protecting our children as America is wont to do?  Or, does it require New York’s infants to surrender their lives for something else?   Power & money?  Self and self-determination?  Science?  Idealism?  Indeed, these are the gods of America.

In the ancient rite, after children were sacrificed by fire to Molech, they were taken possession of by the Canaanite god in the Valley of Hinnom, or Gehenna, a valley outside Jerusalem.   Jer. 7:31.  “‘The people of Judah have done evil in my eyes, declares the Lord.  . . . They have built  high places of Topheth in the Valley of Ben Hinnom to burn their sons and daughters in the fire.   . . .  ”  During the centuries of the first millennium BCE, there was a continuously-burning dump in Gehenna–burning with fires fueled by the sacrificed bodies of children.  In New Testament times, the fires of Gehenna became a symbol for death and Hades.¹

Where is New York’s Gehenna?  Where can we go to mourn the loss of these precious lives lost to abortion?  To what gods are New Yorkers sacrificing their  children?



¹”Gehenna.” In A Dictionary of the Bible. Ed. W. R. F. Browning. Oxford Biblical Studies Online. 30-Jan-2019. <http://www.oxfordbiblicalstudies.com/article/opr/t94/e733&gt;.

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica, “Moloch” Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc.  February 26, 2016, https://www.britannica.com/topic/Moloch-ancient-god, January 30, 2019.

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