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For the place in Ancient Carthage with that name, see Ancient Carthage.

In the Hebrew Bible, Tophet or Topheth (Hebrew: תוֹפֶת‎; Greek: Ταφέθ; Latin: Topheth) was a location in Jerusalem in the Gehinnom where worshipers influenced by the ancient Canaanite religion engaged in child sacrifice to the gods Moloch and Baal by burning the children alive. 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 (Psalm 27:13). He maintained that in this loathsome valley fires were kept burning perpetually to consume the filth and cadavers thrown into it.[1]


According to the Hebrew Bible, the Valley of Hinnom was used as a place for worshipers in Canaan to burn their own children alive as sacrifices to the gods 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). Medieval Jewish commentators David Kimhi and Rashi claimed that the name Topheth is derived from 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.[2][3] According to Philip King (1993), the derivation is uncertain, but may come from an Aramaic word meaning "hearth," "fireplace," or "roaster."[4]

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".

Biblical references[edit]

The following references are made in the Hebrew Bible. In Jeremiah 7:31–34 Yahweh states his contempt for child sacrifices.

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; which I didn't command, nor did it come into my mind. Therefore, behold, the days come, says Yahweh, that it shall no more be called Topheth, nor The valley of the son of Hinnom, but The valley of Slaughter: for they shall bury in Topheth, until there be no place [to bury]. The dead bodies of this people shall be food for the birds of the sky, and for the animals of the earth; and none shall frighten them away. Then 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 shall become a waste.

The practice of burning children in Topheth was ended by Josiah, King of Judah, who "defiled Topheth" as part of his great religious reforms (2 Kings 23:10). Topheth is mentioned elsewhere in the Old Testament: Jeremiah 19:6, Jeremiah 19:11–14, and Isaiah 30:33:

For Tophet was established of old (Isaiah 30:33).[5]
The valley mentioned in Jeremiah 2:23 is Hinnom Valley. The place where Tophet is.

Literary references[edit]

Various works of literature refer to Topheth, including John Milton's Paradise Lost, Thomas Hardy's Tess of the d'Urbervilles, John Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress and Herman Melville's Moby-Dick.

Needful Things, a 1991 horror novel by Stephen King, has a character reference Tophet in its opening pages.[6]

In popular culture[edit]

The Devil in the film Oh, God! You Devil also was named Harry O. Tophet, played by George Burns.

In the animated series Roughnecks: Starship Troopers Chronicles, Tophet is the name of an alien planet that experiences endless intense heat due to a tidally locked orbit with its host star.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hermann L. Strack and Paul Billerbeck, Kommentar zum Neuen Testament aus Talmud and Midrasch, 5 vols., Munich: Beck, 1922-56, 4:2:1030
  2. ^ David Kimhi in the Mikraot Gedolot
  3. ^ Rashi on Jeremiah 7:31
  4. ^ Philip J. King (15 April 1993). Jeremiah: An Archaeological Companion. Westminster John Knox Press. p. 136. ISBN 978-0-664-22443-1.
  5. ^ This verse reads For a hearth is ordered of old in the JPS 1917 Edition
  6. ^ Stephen King, Needful Things, 1991, p. 4


External links[edit]