The Tophet

This is a very prophetic place south of Jerusalem and it plays a very significant role in the Birth-pains and the judgment that follows. The word “tophet” means “spitting” and it was the burial place of the ashes of the children killed in the worship of Molech. It is located south of Jerusalem where the Kidron, Tyropoeon and Hinnom valley meet. It was a place of idolatry and a place where idolatry will be judged.

The Hinnom Valley is on the west of Jerusalem and it winds around the southern end of Jerusalem. Now, “valley of Hinnom” in Hebrew is “Gay Hinnom” and it is where the term “Gehenna” comes from. This word became synonymous with “hell” because it had become the most cursed place on earth. In time, this area became the burial place of unbelievers. This is a picture of the judgment that falls on those that reject the Lord (Rev 19.21;Ezek 32.2, 17-34; Rev 14.14; Isa 14.9-22; Joel 3.9-16; Jer 7.27-34; Luke 17.33-37). This place was associated with Ba’al worship and considered unclean. (Jer 19.1-6; Jer 32.35).

In the first century it was a garbage dump used by the city of Jerusalem and the smoke of the trash burning was constant. Yeshua used it as a picture of “hell” in several teachings.  This area was the setting for the story of Lazarus and the Rich Man found in Luke 16.19-31 where the rich man is in Gehenna (Hinnom), a cursed place, and he looks up to see Abraham in Abraham’s Bosom, an idiom for Heaven. From Hinnom you look up to see the Temple, the holiest place on earth, so Yeshua used that imagery.

In Matt 25.31-46 we have the judgment of the sheep and goats. He says to the righteous on his right to “Come, you who are blessed of my Father, inherit the Kingdom” and it goes on. Then, to the unrighteous on his left he says “Depart from me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire that has been prepared for the devil and his angels” for all men to see (Isa 66.23-24). This place is also known as the Valley od Drcision and the Valley of Jehoshaphat. Again, the holiest place on earth was the Temple and the most cursed was Tophet, or Gehenna. If the righteous are blessed and on his right, they are going to the Temple Mount. If the wicked are on his left, then they are going to Tophet. That means that Yeshua is sitting on the Mount of Olives for this judgment. From there, the Temple is on his right and Tophet is on his left. 

In another story related to this, we know that Judas betrayed Yeshua for 30 pieces of silver. He later threw this money into the Temple because he regretted what he had done. He later hanged himself and the money (blood money) was used to buy a burial ground south of the city, in Tophet, called Akeldama, or “field of blood” (Matt 27.3-9; Acts 1.19). Blood from the Temple flowed there through a confuit called the “Amah.” It was cheap land and it was in the area of “the potters field ” in Jeremiah because of the clay found there (Jer 19.1-6).

It was a place where foreigners or those considered cursed were buried. Later, this field came up for sale and the family of Annas and Caiaphas bought it. Recent excavations have found an ossuary there that apparently belongs to Caiaphas. So, the  High Priest (rich man) that presided over the murder of the Messiah is buried in Tophet (Gehenna), the most cursed place on earth. So, this area has a very dark history and is very symbolic. But, it also has prophetic implications and it will play a role in the future when Messiah comes.

Posted in Idioms, Phrases and Concepts, Prophecy/Eschatology, Questions, The Tanach, Understanding the New Testament

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