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God Deprecating Hell

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 In Jeremiah 19:2-6 we see Jehovah deprecating "hell" (that is, denouncing it as a thing which never came up in his mind or heart).


That's right. "Hell" was never an idea or concept of Jehovah. Specifically, Jehovah commands Jeremiah to organize a field trip of sorts by purchasing a potters jug (or flask) and escorting a few of the elders of the people and some of the senior priests to the deep valley just outside of Jerusalem – destination – "Valley of the Sons of Hinnom" - that's geh'hinnom in Hebrew.


Here, Jeremiah is to present those attending the field trip a few additional charges aside from those already covered in earlier Chapters of Jeremiah - such as; failure to abstain from idol worship; solicitation and participation in religious prostitution; general adultery; institutional corruption and unjust gain; reluctance to keep the Sabbath; encouraging general and institutionalized apostasy; bloodguilt; grafting themselves to foreign political parties; basking in the blanket of amnesia towards God; and producing and honoring false prophets (all originally forbidden in Exodus, Leviticus, Deuteronomy, and Numbers).


As though these charges were not enough to make even the most reluctant district attorney giddy, there were a few other charges leveled – building altars and images in honor of Ba'al and Molech at Topheth in the Valley of the Sons of Hinnom and sacrificing their children (sons and daughters) by burning them alive in fire as encouraged by Ahaz and Manasseh. To prevent its use again for such religious purposes, King Josiah had the valley polluted, particularly the part called Topheth (2 Kings 23:10).
The Jewish commentator David Kimhi (1160 C.E) writes about this valley:"It is a place in the land adjoining Jerusalem, and it is a loathsome place, and they throw there unclean things and carcasses. Also, there was a continual fire there to burn the unclean things and the bones of carcasses. Hence the judgment of the wicked ones is parabolically called Gehinnom."

The Valley became the dumping place and incinerator for the filth of Jerusalem. The bodies of dead animals were thrown in to be consumed in the fires to which sulpher or brimstone was added to assist in the fires – and bodies of executed criminals, and others, who were considered undeserving of a decent burial in a memorial tomb mnêmeion.


The really cool part is, we can even go along, of sorts, on this filed trip, as the Hebrew Bible provides some rough coordinates of the Valley of the Sons of Hinnom references are made in Johsua 15:8, and Joshua 18:16 - and if you are of the more visually oriented, you can even view photos of geh'hinnom on the internet.


In addition to the images and altars and child sacrifice, at Topheth there was practiced sorcery, magic, soothsaying and augury, often employing mediums, and wizards – and these things too Jehovah found disgusting and in specific violation with the commands previously given. But it is not the sorcery, magic, soothsaying and augury which is so emotionally confronted to the field-tripping elders and priests – no, it is the burning of people, alive, in fire that seems to most disturb Jehovah about the atrocities performed in the Valley.


Imagine that. Jehovah is disturbed about the thought of burning people alive with fire. In Jeremiah 32:35 it states, "They built the high places of Baal in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to offer up their sons and daughters to Molech, though I did not command them, nor did it enter my mind that they should do this abomination". And in Jeremiah 7:30-32 it states nearly the same, "For the people of Judah have done evil in my sight, says yhwh; they have set their abominations in the house that is called by my name, defiling it. And they go on building the high place of Topheth, which is in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire—which I did not command, nor did it come into my mind".


In both Jeremiah 32:35, and 7:30-32, the word rendered by the NRVS above for "mind", is the Hebrew word lev, which literally means heart. The burning of people, alive, in torturous fire – is not a thing which came up unto Jehovah's heart. But it gets worse.


Christians who have adopted the Zoroastrism belief in an endless, conscious, torturous punishment in a fiery "hell" in the 4th century C.E. for all non-believers and other assorted sinners following death, appear to be in direct conflict with the very heart of God. Seems God's heart is not inclined to burning of people alive in fire.


What does the Valley of the Sons of Hinnom have to do with Jesus and Christianity? In the Greek form of the Hebrew word "geh'hinnom, it is simply "gehenna". In Joshua 18:16, where Valley of Hinnon occurs, the Septuagint reads "Gehenna". This very same Greek word occurs 12 times in Christian Greek Scriptures, first appearing in Matthew 5:22, then in Matthew 5:22, 29, 30, 10:28, 18:9, 23:15, 23:33, and in Mark 9:43, 9:45, 9:47; and in Luke 12:5; and James 3:6.


If you are a Christian - these should sound familiar to you. Yes indeed. Jesus often used this place (geh Hinnom) in his warnings of where one would not wish to be sent upon one's death, as culturally, it was a loathsome place, a place for executed criminals, and basic ones rejected – those not fit to be buried in a memorial tomb (John 5:28-29, ironically renders mnêmeion – a memorial, or memorial tomb).


And his Father, Jehovah, did not care for it much either. Those not deemed worthy Jews were tossed into Gehenna following death – and their dead bodies were consumed, and they had no memorial tomb – hence they would not be "remembered" by their God when the time for resurrection came about.


Jehovah did not much care for the Valley of the Sons of Hinnon, and it even became a cursed place, in Jeremiah 7:32, it is stated, "Therefore, the days are surely coming, says the LORD, when it will no more be called Topheth, or the valley of the son of Hinnom, but the valley of Slaughter: for they will bury in Topheth until there is no more room". If you were a Jew, this would not be where you would want to end up.


Jesus was a Jew, and so his figurative use of Gehenna did not indicate the "hell" so well known by the Pagan and especially the Zoroasters – for after all, Jesus also knew the scriptures, and knew death meant non-existence, the opposite of life, knowing nothing, nothing at all (Ecclesiastes 9:5).

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