The problem of Topheth (Jer 19:6-19:7)

“Says Yahweh.

‘Therefore the days are surely coming,

When this place shall

No more be called Topheth,

Or the valley of the son of Hinnom,

But the valley of Slaughter.

In this place

I will make void

The plans of Judah,

The plans of Jerusalem.

I will make them fall

By the sword

Before their enemies.

I will make them fall

By the hand of those

Who seek their life.

I will give their dead bodies

For food

To the birds of the air,

To the wild animals of the earth.”

This section is very similar to what is in chapter 7 about Topheth, almost word for word, a place in Jerusalem where the ancient Canaanites worshipped. It was in this valley of Hinnom that there may have been a place for sacrificing and burning children. Thus this Topheth would not exist any longer, because it would become known for dead bodies after slaughters. The people of Judah and Jerusalem would die by the sword there, while the birds and the wild animals would feed on their dead bodies.

Topheth (Jer 7:31-7:34)

“‘They go on building

The high place of Topheth.

That is in the valley of the son of Hinnom.

They burn their sons in the fire.

They burn their daughters in the fire.

I did not command this.

It did not come into my mind.

Thus the days are surely coming.’

Says Yahweh.

‘It will no more be called Topheth.

It will no more be called

The valley of the son of Hinnom.

But it will be called

The valley of Slaughter.

They will bury in Topheth,

Until there is no room.

The corpses of this people

Will be food

For the birds of the air,

For the animals of the earth.

No one will frighten them away.

I will bring to an end

The sound of mirth with gladness.

I will bring to an end

The voice of the bridegroom

From the cities of Judah.

I will bring to an end

The voice of the bride

From the streets of Jerusalem.

The land shall become a waste.’”

Topheth was a place in Jerusalem where the ancient Canaanites worshipped. Human sacrifices and children were offered to the god Moloch or Baal by burning them alive. It was in the Gehinnom area that later became Gehenna or even a symbol for hell itself. It may have been a place for the burning of rubbish, although there is no archeological evidence of this. King Josiah (640-609 BCE) in his religious reform may have ended the practice of sacrificing and burning children. However, Yahweh says that he never commanded or thought about this sacrificing of children. Thus this Topheth would not exist any longer, because it will become known for dead bodies after slaughters, where the birds and animals would feed on them. There will be no more mirth or gladness for the bride or bridegroom in the cities of Judah or on the streets of Jerusalem.