The term (BDB 574, KB 592) is uncertain.  There have been several theories.

1. associated with a deity of the underworld

a. "Malik" from Ebla Tablets (± 2,300 b.c. from northern Syria)

b. "Maliku" or "Muluk" from Mari Tablets (± 1800-1750 b.c. from a Sumerian city located on the Euphrates River)

2. associated with a type of sacrifice from use of Punic term "molk" from a North Africa stele from the 4th to 1st century b.c.). It may have involved a substitute

     lamb being burned in place of a child (Eissfeldt).  N. H. Snaith theorizes it meant that children were given for cultic prostitution, based on

a. Lev. 18:19-23 is about sexual sins, so verse 18 might be also

b. this is the way the Talmud sees it also

3. possibly a confusion with Milcom (cf. Molech in 1 Kgs. 11:7, but note that Milcom is mentioned as 1 Kgs. 11:5,33.  However, both gods are referred

     to in Ps. 106:35-39).

4. The word is a Hebrew word play from the consonants for "King" (MLK, BDB 591) combined with the vowels from "shame" (BDB 101 or 102).  Even if

     this is true, it does not identify the god or the cult.

The cult of Molech is described as a human sacrifice of children, by fire (whether burned alive or offered as a burnt offering after they were killed another way is uncertain).  If this is true it was

1. a type of fertility cult

2. a cult that worshiped the god of the underworld

This god was worshiped in Jerusalem in the valley of the sons of Hinnom, which became known as "Topheth" (cf. Isa. 30:33; 57:5; Jer. 7:31; 32:35).  The worship is characterized by causing their sons and daughters to pass through the fire (cf. Deut. 12:31; 18:10; 2 Kgs. 16:3; 17:17,31; 21:6; Ps. 106:37; Jer. 7:31; 19:5; Ezek. 16:20-21). The word itself appears in Lev. 18:21; 20:2,3,4,5; 1 Kgs. 11:7; 2 Kgs. 23:10; Jer. 32:35; possibly Amos 5:26; Acts 7:43.  The cult is most associated by Judean Kings, Ahab and Manasseh, though it appears earlier in Jewish contacts with surrounding pagan fertility worship.


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