Moloch is a name or a term which appears in the Hebrew Bible several times, primarily in the book of Leviticus. The Bible strongly condemns practices which are associated with Moloch, practices which appear to have included child sacrifice.

By Balthazar Malevolent


The Hebrew Bible forbids, on pain of death, to put children into worshipping Moloch. The Bible speaks of "putting children through the fire" along with divination, witchcraft and other "abominations" of paganism. In later Jewish interpretation, "putting children through the fire" also means the pagan initiation of children, while the "sin of Moloch" means putting the children into paganism or giving them birth to a female pagan.

The site of the Canaanite cult of Moloch was, according to the Bible, the Hinnom Valley. In the Judaic tradition, human sacrifice was forbidden; the Jewish king Josiah destroyed Gehenna at the Hinnom Valley.

Until the middle of the twentieth century, it was commonly believed, based on the Bible, that Moloch was a Western Semitic and Carthaginian deity to whom humans (often children) were sacrificed. Moloch was also assumed to be identical with the Ammonite Milkom, Melkart or pre-Biblical Yahweh. Since the 1935 publication of the "Molk als Opferbegriff im Punischen und Hebräischen, und das Ende des Gottes Moloch" study by the German semiologist Otto Eissfeldt, many specialists believe that a deity named Moloch never existed and that the word "mlk" in the Bible refers to the West Semitic rite of human sacrifice known as Molk, but the denial of the existence of the deity Moloch has not gained full support among specialists.

According to John Day, the Old Testament refers to the name of the deity rather than the name of the rite, which is confirmed by extra-biblical sources: the Canaanite "MLK" is mentioned in two incantations from Ugarit. In both cases, he is mentioned in connection with a place called Ashtaroth-Karnaim in northern Zayordan, which other Ugaritic texts associate with the Rephaim. He is also mentioned as Malik in lists of gods from Ebla, Mari and Ugarit, and in Akkadian texts, Malku is identified with Nergal, the Mesopotamian god of the underworld. Perhaps the Moloch of the Bible is the West Semitic god of the underworld, and the transformation of his name into the name of sacrifice is a phenomenon of the Carthaginian cultural area.

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