As Israel began their trek toward the Promised Land, God prepared them for the godless influences of the Canaanites whom they were to displace. He informs Israel that part of the reason they were to inherit the land is due to the wickedness of the people of Canaan: “For the land is defiled; therefore I visit the punishment of its iniquity upon it, and the land vomits out its inhabitants” (Leviticus 18.25). Thus, he warns his people about the immorality, sexual perversion, and disregard for life tha thad become so profound among the peoples who populated Canaan. While many of these perversions are distasteful to the point of repulsion, the peculiar activity of child sacrifice is absolutely unimaginable. And yet the warning against “passing your children through the fire to Molech” is repeated again and again (Leviticus 18.21; 20.1f; Deuteronomy 12.29f; 18.10). God’s passion for life had already been vividly illustrated to the descendants of Israel when he commanded Abraham to sacrifice Isaac as a burnt offering and then refused to allow him to kill his son (Genesis 22). We should probably note that this event took place as Abraham was living in the midst of those who burned their children in the worship of Molech.
Molech was likely a god of Semitic origin, adopted as the national god of the Ammonites. It appears probably that there was a close connection between Baal worship and that directed toward Molech, as both were associated with the common religious rites of the peoples living in Canaan during the Old Testament period. And the immorality and cruelty of such rituals did impact the nation of Israel for years.
Solomon built a place of worship for Molech (1 Kings 11.5-7) and kings from the northern and southern kingdoms sacrificed some of their children to Molech (2 Kings 16.3; 17.17; 21.6). Prophets such as Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel denounced such practices and attributed the punishment and captivity of God’s people, in part, to their affinity for such abominations. Israel focused her Molech worship at a place called Topheth in the Hinnom valley, southwest of Jerusalem. Here the people would kill their children as sacrifices and offer their bodies as burnt offerings. The image of Molech was a human figure with a bull’s head and outstretched arms, ready to receive the children destined for sacrifice. This practice persisted among the people of God, in spite of reforms such as that of Josiah (2 Kings 23.10). until they were carried away into Babylonian captivity.
It’s difficult to envision such. The thought of taking my child and cutting her throat so that I could burn her body in reverence for some lifeless image is utterly repugnant. And more so, the thought that someone could take an infant and place it upon red hot metal so that it convulses only to roll off into a pit of fire is sickening to contemplate. And yet such were the demand of idolatry. Can you imagine the outcry were someone in our day to suggest such a religious activity? No one will replace “Bring Your Kids To Church Day” with “Burn Your Kids For God Day.” We’re too advanced for that. There’s no way we would engage in such superstitious and reprehensible nonsense. Of course, we’ll abort untold millions of babies, but we won’t burn them.
Even More Troubling…
All those children, slaughtered in the worship of Molech, were at least innocent victims whose unstained souls were destined for eternal reward. But what about the souls of the children in our day who are being sacrificed upon the altars of education, entertainment, athletics, or wealth? We wouldn’t kill our children for a god of stone, but we will usher them into the temple of academic pursuit or musical accomplishment or gymnastics or soccer or baseball. We’ll make sure they get their homework but won’t emphasize or encourage Bible study. They don’t miss school or practice or ball games, but they miss worship services and Bible classes. We make sure that they know the right people to secure their educational or occupational future, but we make knowing God’s family unimportant.
We set their priorities for them so that they learn that gods are more important than the true God. We groom and direct them in the pursuit of lifeless, vain, and empty idols. And after years of sacrificing our children, we wonder why they don’t grow up to respect the Lord and worship him. At least the victims of Molech worship died before they became habitual idolaters of their own accord. We, on the other hand, are destining our children to their own demise as accountable, and thus doomed, individuals. I wonder, in the eyes of God, which is more abominable?