Against the strange false idol gods (Zeph 1:4-1:6)

“I will cut off

From this place

Every remnant of Baal.

I will cut off

The name

Of the idolatrous priests.

They bow down

On the roofs

To the host

Of the heavens.

They bow down.

They swear

To Yahweh,

But also swear

To Milcom.

They have turned back

From following Yahweh.

They do not seek Yahweh.

They do not inquire of him.”

In Jerusalem and Judah, Yahweh was going to cut off every last remains of the Canaanite god Baal, a very popular Semitic god, who was in charge of fertility and storms as the lord of all.  Thus, the use of the term lord might indicate Baal as well.  Apparently, there were some idolatrous priests in Judah or Jerusalem who worshiped Baal on the roofs of their houses.  On top of that, there was the cult or worship of Milcom or Moloch.  Generally, people would offer up their children as sacrifices to Milcom or Moloch.  Thus, some people were swearing by Yahweh, but also swearing by Milcom at the same time.  In other words, they were not true monotheists.  They had turned away from Yahweh.  They were no longer seeking Yahweh or inquiring about him.

Against the Ammonites (Jer 49:1-49:2)

“Concerning the Ammonites!

Thus says Yahweh!

‘Has Israel no sons?

Has he no heir?

Why then has Milcom

Dispossessed Gad?

Why has he dispossessed

His people?

Why has he settled

In its cities?’”

The Ammonites, like the Moabites, were considered the descendants of the incest of Lot with his second daughter from the story in Genesis, chapter 19. The country of Ammon was north of Moab, but south of Aram and Damascus.  The country of Ammon existed from about the 10th century to the 4th century BCE in what would have been the Gad territory as outlined in Joshua chapter 13. Today it is part of the country of Jordan. Yahweh seems upset at Ammon. Did not Israel have sons and heirs to live in this Gad territory? Milcom, the god of the Ammonites, was a lot like Molech, the god of the Moabites. Some believe it was the same god with slightly different spellings for each country. This god Milcom had dispossessed the people of Yahweh and settled in their cities. In the Septuagint Greek translation, this is chapter 30, not chapter 49 as here.

King David returns to Jerusalem (1 Chr 20:1-20:3)

“In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, Joab led out the army. He ravaged the country of the Ammonites. He came and besieged Rabbah. But King David remained at Jerusalem. Joab attacked Rabbah and overthrew it. King David took the crown of Milcom from the head of the king. He found that it weighed a talent of gold. In it was a precious stone. It was placed on King David’s head. He brought out the booty of the city, a very great amount. He brought out the people who were in it. He set them to work with saws, iron picks, and axes. This is what King David did to all the cities of the Ammonites. Then King David and all the people returned to Jerusalem.”

Here this biblical chronicler put together 2 chapters from 2 Samuel, chapters 11 and 12.   King David stayed in Jerusalem in the spring time when most kings went out to do battle. Instead Joab went to conquer the Ammonites, which he achieved. Remember that in the last chapter they had all fled before the battle. This time Joab took Rabbah, the major city. However, he was always careful to be subservient to his uncle King David. That whole exchange of messages between Joab and King David in 2 Samuel, chapter 12, is not here. Here King David just shows up at Rabbah. Milcom was the Ammonite god so that this king of the Ammonites had worn the Milcom crown. King David took the crown with its precious stone and put it on his head. Generally speaking, taking the stuff of other gods was forbidden. Nevertheless, David made all the Ammonites work in the various cities, but it is not clear what they were building. Here there was no mention of brickworks as in 2 Samuel. Then they all returned to Jerusalem as the saga of the Ammonites came to an end.

Destruction of the foreign god’s worship places (2 Kings 23:10-23:14)

“King Josiah defiled Topheth, which is in the valley of the sons of Ben-hinnom, so that no one would make a son or daughter pass through fire as an offering to Molech. He removed the horses that the kings of Judah had dedicated to the sun. They were at the entrance to the house of Yahweh, by the chamber of the eunuch Nathan-melech, which was in the precincts. Then he burned the chariots of the sun with fire. He pulled down the altars on the roof of the upper chamber of King Ahaz, which the kings of Judah had made as well as the altars which King Manasseh had made in the two courts of the house of Yahweh. He broke them into pieces. He threw the rubble into the Wadi Kidron. The king defiled the high places that were east of Jerusalem, to the south of the Mount of Destruction, which King Solomon of Israel had built for Astarte the abomination of the Sidonians, for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, and for Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. He broke the pillars in pieces, cut down the sacred poles, and covered the sites with human bones.”

King Josiah eliminated the ancient Ammonite and Canaanite practice of burning children as a sacrifice to the fertility god Molech at a place called Topheth, which was in the valley of Ben-hinnom. The sacrifices to Molech were also mentioned in Leviticus, chapters 18 and 21. He then eliminated the horses of the kings of Judah that had been dedicated to the sun god. These must have been at the entrance to the temple, somehow near where a eunuch official named Nathan-melech lived. The king also burned the chariots dedicated to the sun god. Worship of sun must have been prevalent. This king tore down and broke into pieces the altars that King Ahaz had made for his upper chamber and the altars that King Manasseh had put into the temple of Yahweh itself. Finally, he put the rubble into the Wadi Kidron, which turned out to be some sort of garbage dump for all this sacred stuff. Next, the king tore down the houses of worship that King Solomon had built for his wives to worship the foreign gods of Astarte, Chemosh, and Milcom. He broke all their pillars and sacred poles and covered them with human bones.