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- For the sacred precinct of Carthage with that name, see Carthage.
In the Hebrew Bible Tophet or Topheth (Hebrew: תופת ha-tōpheth; Greek: Ταφεθ; Latin: Topheth) was a location in Jerusalem, in the Valley of Hinnom, where worshipers influenced by the Canaanite Pantheon sacrificed children to the gods Moloch and Baal by burning them alive. The Hebrew Bible also mentions what appears to be child sacrifice practiced at a place called the Tophet ("roasting place") by the Canaanites. According to archaeologist Jonathan N. Tubb, "Ammonites, Moabites, Israelites and Phoenicians undoubtedly achieved their own cultural identities, and yet ethnically they were all Canaanites" "the same people who settled in farming villages in the region in the 8th millennium BC.". Tophet became a theological or poetic synonym for hell within Christendom.
The traditional explanation that a burning rubbish heap in the Valley of Hinnom south of Jerusalem gave rise to the idea of a fiery Gehenna of judgment is attributed to Rabbi David Kimhi's commentary on Psalm 27:13 (c. 1200). He maintained that in this loathsome valley fires were kept burning perpetually to consume the filth and cadavers thrown into it. However, Hermann Strack and Paul Billerbeck state that there is neither archaeological nor literary evidence in support of this claim, in either the earlier intertestamental or the later rabbinic sources.
The Valley of Hinnom was used as a place for worshipers in Judah to burn their own children alive as sacrifices to the idols Moloch and Baal. One section of the Hinnom Valley was called Topheth (also spelled Tophet or Topeth), where the children were slaughtered (2 Kings 23:10). The name Topheth is derived from either, or both, the Hebrew word toph, meaning a drum, because the cries of children being sacrificed by the priests of Moloch were masked by the sound of the beating on drums or tambourines; or from taph or toph, meaning to burn.
The term is spelled Topheth in most English bibles. However, it appears in versions such as the King James and New King James as "Tophet".
“They have built the high places of Topheth, which is in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire”
Verse 32 then states “The time will soon come when people will no longer call those places Topheth or the Valley of Hinnom. But they will call that valley the Valley of Slaughter and they will bury so many people in Topheth they will run out of room.
The practice of burning children in Topheth was ended by Josiah, King of Judah, “defiled Topheth” as part of his great religious reforms (2Kings 23:10). Topheth is mentioned elsewhere in the Old Testament: Jeremiah 19:6, Jeremiah 19:11-14, and Isaiah 30:33
The adversary in Oh, God! You Devil was named Harry O. Tophet.
- Tubb 1998, pp. 13–14
- Hermann L. Strack and Paul Billerbeck, Kommentar zum Neuen Testament aus Talmud and Midrasch, 5 vols. [Munich: Beck, 1922-56], 4:2:1030
- Biblia Rabbinica, David Kimhi