VALLEY OF HINNOM 2007
"Gehenna" is derived from, "Ge Hinnom," meaning, "Valley of Hinnom." "Ge Hinnom" is also called, "Gai ben-Hinnom," meaning, "valley of Hinnom's son."
The valley is outside the south wall of ancient Jerusalem and stretches from the foot of Mount Zion eastward to Kidron Valley. It is mentioned 13 times in 11 different verses in the Bible (King James Version) as, "valley of Hinnom," "valley of the son of Hinnom" or, "valley of the children of Hinnom."
It is not described as a spiritual hell but as a literal valley in Jerusalem (Joshua 15:8, Joshua 18:16, 2nd Kings 23:10, 2 Chronicles 28:3, 2nd Chronicles 33:6,Nehemiah 11:30, Jeremiah 7:31~32, Jeremiah 19:2, Jeremiah 19:6, Jeremiah 32:35). After 638 B.C., the valley of Hinnom and the valley of the son of Hinnom became the place for burning rubbish from Jerusalem.
VALLEY OF HINNOM 1900
The southwestern gate of Jerusalem, overlooking the valley, came to be known as "The Gate of the Valley" (Hebrew: שער הגיא). Jeremiah 7:31; 19:2-6; 32:35; the Book of Jeremiah (2:23) speaks of residents worshipping Moloch and committing abominations, foreshadowing the destruction of Jerusalem.
In ancient times, children were sacrificed to the pagan god Molech in Gehenna (either a killing or a simple rite of passing through fire), a practice that was outlawed by King Josiah (2 Kings, 23:10). Biblical commentator Rashi explains that priests would bang on drums (Hebrew: tof, tupim) (Hebrew: תופים) so fathers would not hear the groans of children being sacrificed. Hence the name Topheth.
Fires were kept burning and the valley became the garbage dump of the city. The dead bodies of criminals, and the carcasses of animals were also thrown there.
In the synoptic gospels Jesus uses the word Gehenna 11 times to describe the opposite to the life during the promised, coming Kingdom. It is a place where both soul and body could be destroyed (Matthew 10:28) in "unquenchable fire" (Mark 9:43).
In the Gospel of Matthew 23:33, Jesus observes, "Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of gehenna?”. The word gehenna is also found in the epistle of James, where it is said to set the tongue on fire. Many Christians understand gehenna to be a place of eternal punishment called hell. On the other hand, annihilationists understand gehenna to be a place where sinners are utterly destroyed, not tormented forever. Christian Universalists, who believe that God will eventually save all souls, interpret the New Testament references to Gehenna in the context of the Old Testament, and conclude that it always refers to the imminent divine judgment of Israel and not to eternal torment for the unsaved.
The New Testament refers to Hades as a destination of the dead. Hades is portrayed as a different place from gehenna. Yet, even so, the Book of Revelation describes the final destination of hades as the Lake of Fire (Revelation 20:14), which many Christians today interpret as meaning the same thing as gehenna.
The Jewish concept of the afterlife for the wicked is less developed. Known as Gehinnom (Gehenna in Yiddish) or Sheo'l, it has its foundations in the dark pit described in the Torah (see above) and an actual place where a pagan cult conducted rituals included burning children (see the description in II Kings 23:10 and Jeremiah 7:31).
Gehinnom is the postmortem destination of unrighteous Jews and Gentiles. In one reference, the souls in Gehinnom are punished for up to 12 months. After the appropriate period of purification, the righteous continue on to Gan Eden (Rabbi Akiba and Babylonian Talmud, tractate Eduyot 2:10). The wicked endure the full year of punishment then are either annihilated ("After 12 months, their body is consumed and their soul is burned and the wind scatters them under the soles of the feet of the righteous (Rosh Hashanah 17a)") or continue to be punished.
This belief is the basis for the Jewish practice of mourning and asking blessings on deceased loved ones for only 11 months (one would not wish to imply that the departed needed the full 12 months of purification).
JOSHUA 15: 8Then the boundary went up by the Valley of Ben-hinnom [son of Hinnom] at the southern shoulder of the Jebusite [city]--that is, Jerusalem; and the boundary went up to the top of the mountain that lies before the Valley of Hinnom on the west, at the northern end of the Valley of Rephaim.
JOSHUA 18:16Then the boundary went down to the edge of the mountain overlooking the Valley of Ben-hinnom [son of Hinnom], which is at the north end of the Valley of Rephaim; and it descended to the Valley of Hinnom, south of the shoulder of the Jebusites, and went on down to En-rogel.
2 KINGS 23:6And Josiah brought the Asherah from the house of the Lord to outside Jerusalem to the brook Kidron and burned it there, and beat it to dust and cast its dust upon the graves of the common people [who had sacrificed to it]. 7And he broke down the houses of the male cult prostitutes, which were by the house of the Lord, where the women wove [tent] hangings for the Asherah [shrines]. 8And [Josiah] brought all the [idolatrous] priests out of the city of Judah and defiled the high places, where the priests had burned incense, from Geba to Beersheba [north to south], and broke down the high places both at the entrance of the Gate of Joshua the governor of the city and that which was on one's left at the city's gate. 9However, the priests of the high places were not allowed to sacrifice upon the Lord's altar in Jerusalem, but they ate unleavened bread among their brethren.10And Josiah defiled Topheth, which is in the Valley of Ben-hinnom [son of Hinnom], that no man might ever burn there his son or his daughter as an offering to Molech.(B)
2 Chronicles 28
1AHAZ WAS twenty years old when he began his sixteen-year reign in Jerusalem. He did not do right in the sight of the Lord, like David his father [forefather]. 2But he walked in the ways of the kings of Israel and even made molten images for the Baals. 3And he burned incense in the Valley of Ben-hinnom [son of Hinnom] and burned his sons as an offering, after the abominable customs of the [heathen] nations whom the Lord drove out before the Israelites.
2 Chronicles 33
1MANASSEH WAS twelve years old when he began to reign, and he reigned fifty-five years in Jerusalem. 2But he did evil in the Lord's sight, like the abominations of the heathen whom the Lord drove out before the Israelites. 3For he built again the [idolatrous] high places which Hezekiah his father had broken down, and he reared altars for the Baals and made the Asherim and worshiped all the hosts of the heavens and served them.4Also he built [heathen] altars in the Lord's house, of which the Lord had said, In Jerusalem shall My Name be forever.5He built altars for all the hosts of the heavens in the two courts of the Lord's house. 6And he burned his children as an offering [to his god] in the Valley of Ben-hinnom [son of Hinnom], and practiced soothsaying, augury, and sorcery, and dealt with mediums and wizards. He did much evil in the sight of the Lord, provoking Him to anger.
1NOW THE leaders of the people dwelt at Jerusalem; the rest of the people also cast lots to bring one of ten to dwell in Jerusalem, the holy city, while nine-tenths dwelt in other towns and villages. 2And the people blessed all the men who willingly offered to live in Jerusalem.
3These are the province chiefs who dwelt in Jerusalem, but in the towns of Judah everyone lived on his property there--Israelites, the priests, the Levites, the temple servants, and the descendants of Solomon's servants. 4And at Jerusalem dwelt certain of the sons of Judah and Benjamin. Of Judah: Athaiah son of Uzziah, the son of Zechariah, the son of Amariah, the son of Shephatiah, the son of Mahalalel, of the sons of Perez..... 30Zanoah, Adullam, and their villages, Lachish and its fields, Azekah and its villages. So they encamped from Beersheba to the Hinnom Valley.
Jeremiah 2:21Yet I had planted you [O house of Israel] a choice vine, wholly of pure seed. How then have you turned into degenerate shoots of wild vine alien to Me? 22For though you wash yourself with lye and use much soap, yet your iniquity and guilt are still [upon you; you are] spotted, dirty, and stained before Me, says the Lord.23How can you say, I am not defiled; I have not gone after the Baals [other gods]? Look at your way in the valley; know what you have done. You are a restive young female camel [in the uncontrollable violence of her brute passion eagerly] running hither and thither, 24Or [you have the untamed and reckless nature of] a wild donkey used to the desert, in her heat sniffing the wind [for the scent of a male]. In her mating season who can restrain her? No males seeking her need weary themselves; in her month they will find her [seeking them]. 25[Cease from your mad running after idols, from which you get nothing but bitter injury.] Keep your feet from being unshod and your throat from thirst. But you said, It is hopeless! For I have loved strangers and foreigners, and after them I will go. 26As the thief is brought to shame when he is caught, so shall the house of Israel be brought to shame--they, their kings, their princes, their priests, and their prophets--
Jeremiah 7: 29Cut off your hair [your crown, O Jerusalem] and cast it away, and take up a lamentation on the bare heights, for the Lord has rejected and forsaken the generation of His wrath. 30For the children of Judah have done evil in My sight, says the Lord; they have set their abominations (extremely disgusting and shamefully vile things) in the house which is called by My Name to defile it. 31And they have built the high places of Topheth, which is in the Valley of Ben-hinnom [son of Hinnom], to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire [in honor of Molech, the fire god]--which I did not command, nor did it come into My mind or heart. 32Therefore, behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when it shall no more be called Topheth or the Valley of Ben-hinnom [son of Hinnom], but the Valley of Slaughter, for [in bloody warfare] they will bury in Topheth till there is no more room and no place else to bury. 33And the dead bodies of this people will be meat for the fowls of the air and for the beasts of the earth, and none will frighten them away. 34Then will I cause to cease from the cities of Judah and from the streets of Jerusalem the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride; for the land will become a waste.
1THUS SAYS the Lord: Go and get a potter's earthen bottle, and take some of the old people and some of the elderly priests 2And go out to the Valley of Ben-hinnom [son of Hinnom], which is by the entrance of the Potsherd Gate; and proclaim there the words that I shall tell you,3And say, Hear the word of the Lord, O kings of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem. Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Behold, I am going to bring such evil upon this place that the ears of whoever hears of it will tingle.4Because the people have forsaken Me and have estranged and profaned this place [Jerusalem] by burning incense in it to other gods that neither they nor their fathers nor the kings of Judah ever knew, and because they have filled this place with the blood of innocents 5And have built the high places of Baal to burn their sons in the fire as burnt offerings to Baal, which I commanded not nor spoke of it, nor did it come into My mind and heart--6Therefore, behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when this place shall no more be called Topheth or the Valley of Ben-hinnom [son of Hinnom], but the Valley of Slaughter.7And I will pour out and make void the counsel and the plans of [the men of] Judah and Jerusalem in this place, and I will cause their people to fall by the sword before their enemies and by the hands of those who seek their lives, and their dead bodies I will give to be food for the birds of the air and for the beasts of the earth. 8And I will make this city an astonishment and a horror and a hissing; everyone who passes by it will be horrified and will hiss [in scorn] because of all its plagues and disasters.9And I will cause them to eat the flesh of their sons and their daughters, and they shall eat each one the flesh of his neighbor and friend in the siege and in the distress with which their enemies and those who seek their lives distress them.10Then you shall break the bottle in the sight of the men who accompany you,11And say to them, Thus said the Lord of hosts: Even so will I break this people and this city as one breaks a potter's vessel, so that it cannot be mended. Men will bury in Topheth because there will be no other place for burial and until there is no more room to bury.12Thus will I do to this place, says the Lord, and to its inhabitants; and I will even make this city like Topheth. 13And the houses of Jerusalem and the houses of the kings of Judah, which are defiled, shall be like the place of Topheth--even all the houses upon whose roofs incense has been burned to all the host of the heavens and drink offerings have been poured out to other gods.14Then came Jeremiah from Topheth, where the Lord had sent him to prophesy, and he stood in the court of the Lord's house and said to all the people, 15Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Behold, I will bring upon this city and upon all its towns all the evil that I have pronounced against it, because they have stiffened their necks, refusing to hear My words.
Jeremiah 32:33And they have turned their backs to Me and not their faces; though I taught them persistently, yet they would not listen and receive instruction. 34But they set their abominations [of idol worship] in the house which is called by My Name to defile it. 35And they built the high places [for worship] of Baal in the Valley of Ben-hinnom [son of Hinnom] to cause their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire [in worship also of and] to Molech--which I did not command them, nor did it come into My mind or heart that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin. 36And now therefore thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning this city of which you say, It shall be delivered into the hand of the king of Babylon by sword and by famine and by pestilence: 37Behold, I will gather them out of all countries to which I drove them in My anger and in My wrath and in great indignation; I will bring them again to this place, and I will make them dwell safely. 38And they will be My people, and I will be their God. 39And I will give them one heart and one way, that they may [reverently] fear Me forever for the good of themselves and of their children after them. 40And I will make an everlasting covenant with them: I will not turn away from following them to do them good, and I will put My [reverential] fear in their hearts, so that they will not depart from Me. 41Yes, I will rejoice over them to do them good, and I will plant them in this land assuredly and in truth with My whole heart and with My whole being. 42For thus says the Lord: As I have brought all this great evil upon this people, so will I bring upon them all the good that I have promised them.43And fields shall be bought in this land of which you say, It is desolate, without man or beast; it is given into the hands of the Chaldeans.44Men shall buy fields for money and shall sign deeds, seal them, and call witnesses in the land of Benjamin, in the places around Jerusalem, in the cities of Judah, in the cities of the hill country, in the cities of the lowland, and in the cities of the South (the Negeb), for I will cause them to be released from their exile, says the Lord.
TOMBS IN THE VALLEY OF HINNOM
NEW TESTAMENT REFERENCES:
But I say to you that everyone who continues to be angry with his brother or harbors malice (enmity of heart) against him shall be liable to and unable to escape the punishment imposed by the court; and whoever speaks contemptuously and insultingly to his brother shall be liable to and unable to escape the punishment imposed by the Sanhedrin, and whoever says, You cursed fool! [You empty-headed idiot!] shall be liable to and unable to escape the hell (Gehenna) of fire.
If your right eye serves as a trap to ensnare you or is an occasion for you to stumble and sin, pluck it out and throw it away. It is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be cast into hell (Gehenna).
And if your right hand serves as a trap to ensnare you or is an occasion for you to stumble and sin, cut it off and cast it from you. It is better that you lose one of your members than that your entire body should be cast into hell (Gehenna).
28And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; but rather be afraid of Him who can destroy both soul and body in hell (Gehenna).
And if your eye causes you to stumble and sin, pluck it out and throw it away from you; it is better (more profitable and wholesome) for you to enter life with only one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the hell (Gehenna) of fire.
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, pretenders (hypocrites)! For you travel over sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes one [a proselyte], you make him doubly as much a child of hell (Gehenna) as you are.
You serpents! You spawn of vipers! How can you escape the penalty to be suffered in hell (Gehenna)?
Mark 9:43 And if your hand puts a stumbling block before you and causes you to sin, cut it off! It is more profitable and wholesome for you to go into life [ that is really worthwhile] maimed than with two hands to go to hell (Gehenna), into the fire that cannot be put out.
And if your foot is a cause of stumbling and sin to you, cut it off! It is more profitable and wholesome for you to enter into life [that is really worthwhile] crippled than, having two feet, to be cast into hell (Gehenna) .
And if your eye causes you to stumble and sin, pluck it out! It is more profitable and wholesome for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell (Gehenna),
But I will warn you whom you should fear: fear Him Who, after killing, has power to hurl into hell (Gehenna); yes, I say to you, fear Him!
And the tongue is a fire. [The tongue is a] world of wickedness set among our members, contaminating and depraving the whole body and setting on fire the wheel of birth (the cycle of man's nature), being itself ignited by hell (Gehenna).