Idolatry, Oppression and the Development of Demons: Part 6, The Origins of Hell

Over the last three posts I've been making the point that in the Bible demons are primordially associated with nations, their gods (see: Beelzebub) or rulers (see: Lucifer). Demons, thus, are rooted in spiritual/political idolatry, giving "god and country" allegiance to nation states rather than to Yahweh and the kingdom of God.

Let me keep making this point, and to start making the link between idolatry and oppression. To do this let's consider Moloch, child sacrifice and the origins of hell.

Moloch was a Canaanite god who haunted the ancient Israelites. The horror of Moloch worship was that it involved child sacrifice, and it appears that many of the Israelites were drawn to the practice. So much so that Moloch worship was explicitly named and prohibited in the Torah:
Leviticus 18.21
Do not give any of your children to be sacrificed to Molek, for you must not profane the name of your God. I am the LORD.

Leviticus 20.1-5
The Lord said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites: ‘Any Israelite or any foreigner residing in Israel who sacrifices any of his children to Molek is to be put to death. The members of the community are to stone him. I myself will set my face against him and will cut him off from his people; for by sacrificing his children to Molek, he has defiled my sanctuary and profaned my holy name. If the members of the community close their eyes when that man sacrifices one of his children to Molek and if they fail to put him to death, I myself will set my face against him and his family and will cut them off from their people together with all who follow him in prostituting themselves to Molek.
The point to be made here is that when the Bible speaks of idolatry it is thinking of child sacrifice. No wonder idolatry became associated with the demonic. In the Biblical imagination demons, idolatry and oppression go hand in hand.

Things go from bad to worse in 1 Kings 11.7 where Solomon builds a religious shrine to Moloch outside of Jerusalem, on the edge of the Valley of Hinnom. There in the Valley of Hinnom, just outside the gates of Zion, the Israelites would sacrifice their children to Moloch and other gods.
2 Chronicles 28.3
[Ahaz, King of Judah] burned sacrifices in the Valley of Ben Hinnom and sacrificed his children in the fire, engaging in the detestable practices of the nations the LORD had driven out before the Israelites.
Jeremiah 7.30-31
"The people of Judah have done evil in my eyes, declares the Lord. They have set up their detestable idols in the house that bears my Name and have defiled it. They have built the high places of Topheth in the Valley of Ben Hinnom to burn their sons and daughters in the fire..."
When Josiah enacts his religious reforms, turning Judah back to the worship of Yahweh, he takes pains to desecrate Topheth in the Valley of Hinnom so that no more child sacrifices will take place there:
2 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.
Again, the thing to note here is how Josiah's battle against idolatry was also involved in stopping oppression, the killing of children in particular. Idolatry wasn't merely a spiritual issue, worshiping a different god in a different temple. Idolatry was intimately associated with shedding the blood of the innocent and defenseless.

And we continue to note how idolatry and oppression are intimately associated with Satan and the demonic. Because as you likely know, the Valley of Hinnom--the location of Moloch worship--is called Gehenna in the New Testament, translated in many Bibles as Hades or Hell. Topheth itself became a Christian name for hell.

In sum, the origins of hell--the domain of Satan and his demons--is found in the mixture of idolatry and oppression.

In the biblical imagination hell was a concrete location of idolatry (the worship of a foreign god) and oppression (the killing of children).

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