Moloch has become a symbol of evil and cruelty in literature and culture. Some examples are John Milton’s Paradise Lost, where Moloch is one of the fallen angels who rebelled against God; Gustave Flaubert’s Salammbô, where Moloch is the god of war and destruction; Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, where Moloch is the name of a machine that consumes workers; and Allen Ginsberg’s Howl, where Moloch is the embodiment of capitalism and conformity.
Moloch is one of the most mysterious and controversial figures in ancient Near Eastern religions. He is often depicted as a bull-headed god with a human body, who demanded the sacrifice of children by fire. But who was Moloch, and what was his role in the history of the region?
Moloch was a Canaanite deity associated with child sacrifice in the ancient Near East. The name Moloch comes from a Hebrew word meaning “king”, but it may also have been influenced by a term meaning “shame”. Moloch was often worshipped by burning children alive in a ritual called “passing through the fire”. Moloch is mentioned several times in the Hebrew Bible as a foreign god that some Israelite kings adopted and that God condemned.
The name Moloch comes from the Hebrew word melekh, meaning “king”. Some scholars have suggested that Moloch was originally a title for a Canaanite deity, rather than a proper name. However, other sources indicate that Moloch was a distinct god, who was worshipped by several peoples in the Levant, such as the Ammonites, the Edomites, and the Phoenicians.
The earliest mention of Moloch dates back to the 13th century BCE, in a letter from an Egyptian official to the king of Ugarit. The letter warns the king not to let his son pass through the fire to Moloch, implying that this practice was already well-known and abhorred by the Egyptians. The Bible also condemns the worship of Moloch, and associates it with apostasy and idolatry. According to the biblical accounts, some Israelite kings, such as Ahaz and Manasseh, allowed or even participated in the cult of Moloch, and sacrificed their own children to him. The prophet Jeremiah denounced this practice as an abomination that defiled the land.
The exact nature and purpose of the child sacrifice to Moloch is still debated by scholars. Some have argued that it was a form of population control, or a way of expressing devotion and loyalty to the god. Others have suggested that it was a ritual of purification, or a means of appeasing the god’s wrath and ensuring his protection. Some have even proposed that the sacrifice was not literal, but symbolic, and that the children were not actually killed, but passed through the fire as a sign of dedication.
The cult of Moloch gradually declined in the first millennium BCE, as the influence of monotheistic religions increased. Moloch became a symbol of evil and wickedness in Jewish and Christian traditions, and was often equated with Satan or other demonic figures. In modern times, Moloch has inspired many artistic and literary works, such as John Milton’s Paradise Lost, Allen Ginsberg’s Howl, and Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. He has also been used as a metaphor for various forms of oppression, violence, and injustice in society.
Modern day Moloch worship?
Those who compare modern-day abortion to Moloch worship often point to the similarities between the two practices. Both involve the intentional sacrifice of children in exchange for perceived benefits, whether those benefits are economic, social, or personal. In this view, abortion is seen as a continuation of the ancient pagan practice of child sacrifice, albeit in a more modern and socially acceptable form.
Proponents of the comparison also argue that like Moloch worship, abortion is fueled by a culture of greed and self-interest. In a society that values individual autonomy and material wealth, the unborn child is often seen as an obstacle to personal fulfillment or economic prosperity. From this perspective, abortion is a symptom of a society that has lost its moral compass and has turned away from the value of human life.