THE VALLEY OF HINNOM
In this opening chapter, we will be dealing with the valley of Hinnom (also called the valley of Hinnom’s son or something very similar), a valley that appears 16 times in several Old Testament passages. And we will be dealing with the valley of Hinnom because of its important role in this book. Thus, in what follows, we will have two sections concerning this valley - the valley of Hinnom as a geographical place and as a place of horror.
Section 1 The Valley of Hinnom as a Geographical Place
In chapters 13-19 of the Old Testament book of Joshua, we read how the land conquered by the Israelites was divided into territories for the twelve tribes. The entire 15th chapter concerns the territory that went to the tribe of Judah. And, in Joshua 15:8, part of the boundary for the territory of Judah is described with the following words:
The boundary goes up by the valley of Hinnom at the southern slope of the Jebusites (that is, Jerusalem): and the boundary goes up to the top of the mountain that lies over against the valley of Hinnom.
Thus, according to Joshua 15:8, the valley of Hinnom is a valley that is on the south side of where the Jebusites had been and, hence, on the south side of where Jerusalem and its wall will be in the future. It is also mentioned in Joshua 15:8 that this valley is by a mountain and, according to maps of Jerusalem, this mountain is Mt. Zion. Later, when Jerusalem and its wall were built, the valley of Hinnom and Mt. Zion were next to the south side of Jerusalem’s wall. However, Mt. Zion was inside the circular wall of Jerusalem and the valley of Hinnom was outside the wall.
As to the size of the valley of Hinnom in today’s world, internet maps and pictures indicate that it has an approximate length of one mile, an average width of about 400 feet, and a maximum depth of about 20 feet. Of course, the physical layout of this valley has surely changed over the centuries. However the fact that this valley, for the most part, is by the walls of Jerusalem, these walls probably restricted changes of the valley.
Section 2 The Valley of Hinnom as a Place of Horror
Valley of Horror in 2 Chronicles 28
The following words from 2 Chronicles 28:1-3 reveal what took place in the valley of Hinnom during the reign of Ahaz, the king of Judah from around 732 B.C. to 716 B.C.
Ahaz was twenty years old when he began to reign; he reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem. He did not do what was right in the sight of the Lord, as his ancestor David had done, but he walked in the ways of the kings of Israel. He even made cast images for the Baals; and he made offerings in the valley of the son of Hinnom, and made his sons pass through the fire, according to the abominable practices of the nations whom the Lord drove out before the people of Israel.
Thus, during the reign of Ahaz, the horrific sacrifices of children were real events in a real valley according to the book of 2 Chronicles. Concerning these sacrifices, a description of them is attributed to Rabbi David Kimchi, a biblical scholar who lived in France from around 1160 A.D. to 1235 A.D. According to the Rabbi, the children were placed on a copper plate and fried.
Valley of horror in 2 Chronicles 33
About 40 years after the reign of Ahaz, Manasseh (697 B.C. - 643 B.C.) began his reign over Judah. The following words from 2 Chronicles 33:1-6 reveal what took place in the valley of Hinnom during the reign of Manasseh:
He did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, according to the abominable practices of the nations whom the Lord drove out before the people of Israel. For he…erected altars to the Baals, made sacred poles, worshipped all the host of heaven, and served them… He made his sons pass through fire in the valley of the son of Hinnom...He did much evil in the sight of the Lord, provoking him to anger.
Thus, even as king Ahaz made the valley of Hinnom a detestable place where children were burned to death in sacrifice to the Baals, King Manasseh did the same thing about 40 years later. Furthermore, there obviously were people of Judah who went along with their king to the point that they had their own children burned to death in honor of the Baals.