Sound Teaching

This is the teaching site of the West Side church of Christ in Fort Worth, TX. Unless otherwise indicated, all materials were written and prepared by Stan Cox

Index by Subject

Gehenna (Hell)

A study of the derivation of the greek word (gehenna) which is translated in our New Testaments as “hell” is very helpful toward understanding the abominable nature of that eternal torment. Jesus said, “If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell” (Matthew 5:29-30).

The Valley of Hinnom

Near the end of Judah’s existence as a sovereign nation (735-720 BC), Ahaz was king. He was an evil king, and 2 Chronicles 28:1 records, “Ahaz was twenty years old when he became king, and he reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem; and he did not do what was right in the sight of the LORD, as his father David had done.” The full extent of his evil is described in verses 2-4 of that same chapter, “For he walked in the ways of the kings of Israel, and made molded images for the Baals. He burned incense in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, and burned his children in the fire, according to the abominations of the nations whom the LORD had cast out before the children of Israel. And he sacrificed and burned incense on the high places, on the hills, and under every green tree.” His grandson Manasseh, when he ascended the throne is said to have done the same thing, “Also he caused his sons to pass through the fire in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom; he practiced soothsaying, used witchcraft and sorcery, and consulted mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the sight of the LORD, to provoke Him to anger” (2 Chronicles 33:6).

Scholars agree that these references to child-sacrifice indicate that worship was being offered to Molech, the national god of the Ammon. Notice the following description of that worship, as it was practiced in the Phoenician colony of Carthage. The description is ascribed to the Roman writer Diodorus Siculus:

In the Temple there was an image of Moloch, a human figure with a bull’s head and outstretched arms. This image of metal was made glowing hot by a fire kindled within it; and the children laid in its arms, rolled from thence into the fiery lap below. If the children cried, the parents stopped their noise by fondling and kissing them; for the victim was not supposed to weep, and the sound of complaint was drowned in the din of flutes and drums. It is not certain whether the children were first slain or whether they were placed alive in the glowing arms of the image. Ezekiel 16:21 suggests the former, but the precise ritual may have varied from time to time and place to place. (I & II Kings, James E. Smith, College Press Commentaries, page 628).

The human sacrifices of children, offered up by the Judean kings is shocking by any standard. Is it any wonder that the nation of Judah would soon come under Babylonian rule as punishment from God? Later Josiah, the last of the kings of Judah who sought to serve Jehovah, defiled that place of abomination, that the sacrifices would never again take place. We are told this in 2 Kings 23:10, “And he defiled Topheth, which is in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, that no man might make his son or his daughter pass through the fire to Molech.” To quote again from Smith,

“‘Tophet’ was the name given to the place in the valley of Hinnom where sacrifices were offered to Moloch. … The valley of Hinnom is that depression which sweeps around the more western of the two hills whereon Jerusalem was built. The sons of Hinnom are thought to have been Canaanites who occupied this valley in the days of Joshua. This spot, sacred to Moloch, was defiled by Josiah so that the abominations practiced there would forever have to cease” (ibid, page 714).

The valley of Hinnom had an infamous place in Jewish history. It indicated the shameful degradation of the Kings and the people, and the actions which took place there revulsed any right thinking Jew.

In Jesus’ time, the valley had taken on an appropriate purpose. It was used as the dumping ground for all kinds of defilement. Things such as trash, excrement and dead bodies were dumped in the valley of Hinnom. The Internation Standard Bible Encyclopedia states:

“Into this valley dead bodies were probably cast to be consumed by the dogs, as is done in the Wady er-Rababi today, and fires were here kept burning to consume the rubbish of the city.” (ISBE, Vol. III, pg. 1393).

Ge-Hinnom (Gehenna)

“Gehenna is a transliteration from the Aramic for of the Hebrew ge-hinnom, ‘valley of Hinnom'” (ISBE, Vol. II, pg. 1183)

The word is used almost exclusively by the Lord, in the following passages. Matthew 5:22,29,30; 10:28; 18:9; 23:15,33; Mark 9:43,45,47; and Luke 12:5). The writer James is the only other to use the term in the New Testament, as he describes the tongue as being “set on fire by hell” (James 3:6). In all instances the word is translated “hell.”

The Picture It Paints

Imagine yourself living in the time of Jesus, and sitting at His feet as he taught the multitudes. You are an inhabitant of Jerusalem, and well aware of the valley outside of the city. Perhaps you are familiar with the stench of that place, and are constantly aware of the fires which burn continually just outside of the city. It is a place of defilement and decay, and the mere thought of the place is enough to turn your stomach. As you listen to Jesus, he uses the valley to teach the multitude of the nature of eternal torment. A nerve is struck when Jesus says, “If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed, rather than having two hands, to go to hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched — where ‘Their worm does not die, And the fire is not quenched.’ And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame, rather than having two feet, to be cast into hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched — where ‘Their worm does not die, And the fire is not quenched.’ And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire — where ‘Their worm does not die, And the fire is not quenched'” (Mark 9:43-48).

The Valley of Hinnom was a horrible place, and a type of the eternal torment which is the final abode of the wicked. Remember the abominations committed at Tophet. Remember the use of the valley in Jesus’ day. Consider the horrible end of all those who do not serve God. “And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 25:30). And in so doing, fear God! “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28).