BAR 40:04, Jul/Aug 2014
Infants Sacrificed? The Tale Teeth Tell
The seventh–sixth century prophet Jeremiah famously fulminated against Judahites who sacrificed their children to Moloch in Jerusalem’s Ben Hinnom Valley (Jeremiah 32:35). The author of Leviticus also forbade the practice (Leviticus 18:21), indicating that he too believed that infant sacrifice to foreign gods was indeed occurring. According to 2 Chronicles 28:3, even King Ahaz engaged in the practice; in the valley of Ben-Hinnom, “He [Ahaz] burned his sons in fire, in the abhorrent fashion of the nations the Lord had dispossessed before the Israelites.”
Nothing has been found in Jerusalem’s Hinnom Valley to suggest that child sacrifice occurred there. Instead, debate has focused on a number of tophets, or infant cemeteries, at Phoenician (or Punic) sites in the western Mediterranean, chiefly Carthage.