Moloch and the Sentence of Gehenna

“We have the strongest economy in the world!  Our inflation rates are lower than other nations in the world!  One thing that has been destabilizing is turning our back on Moloch.  We’ve been a leader in the world in bringing men to Moloch, and it is a mistake, in my view, to withhold our children from the devouring god.” 

Joe Biden, Madrid Press Conference (June 30, 2022)

“And he defiled Topheth, which is in the valley of the children of Hinnom, that no man might make his son or his daughter to pass through the fire to Moloch.”

Josiah’s Iconoclasm in Gehenna, 2 Kings 23:10

When a pious Phoenician sacrificed his son or daughter to Moloch, the child was not consumed by the crematory fire.  It was translated to a place where it could be consumed by Moloch.  This is why the Old Testament speaks of those sons and daughters “passing through the fire.”  The fire was the door, Moloch the destination. Josiah closed that door. We have not kept it closed.

Jesus says, “you must eat my flesh and drink my blood.”  Moloch says, “I must eat your flesh and drink your blood.”  And it is a curious fact that men are offended by the saying of Jesus, which they find hard, and attracted by the saying of Moloch, which they find easy. 

“Into the fire my flesh and blood!  A ravenous god waits on the other side!”

* * * * *

I’ve here abridged the sacrifice to Moloch in Flaubert’s novel Salammbô (1862).  The scene is the Phoenician city of Carthage in the third century B.C.  Having lost the First Punic War, Carthage finds itself unable to pay its mercenary army of hired barbarians.  The stiffed barbarians are therefore besieging the city and Carthaginian supplies are running low.

The Carthaginians are, in short, effete, in debt, and hungry: so they decide to feed their devouring god.

“The gods were indignant with the Republic, and were, no doubt, about to prosecute their vengeance . . . . All were feeble in comparison with Moloch the Devourer . . . . The Ancients assembled. The sitting was a long one. Hanno had come to it . . . . When the pontiff of Moloch asked them whether they would consent to surrender their children, his voice suddenly broke forth from the shadow . . . . He regretted, he said, that he had none of his own blood to give; and he gazed at Hamilcar, who faced him at the other end of the hall . . . . All successively bent their heads in approval; and in accordance with the rites he had to reply to the high priest: ‘Yes; be it so.’  Then the Ancients decreed the sacrifice in traditional circumlocution—because there are things more troublesome to say than to perform . . . .”

How interesting it is to learn that the sacrifice to Moloch was decreed with “circumlocution.”  How revealing to discover that child sacrifice tied their tongues but not their hands.  It seems that killing children is, indeed, “more troublesome to say than to perform.”

“The decree of the Ancients passed everywhere from lip to lip, and the priests of Moloch began their task. Men in black robes presented themselves in the houses. In many instances the owners had deserted them under pretense of some business, or of some dainty that they were going to buy; and the servants of Moloch came and took the children away. Others themselves surrendered them stupidly. Then they were brought to the temple of Tanith, where the priestesses were charged with their amusement and support until the solemn day . . . .”

The “Ancients” of Carthage remind me of a certain august conclave in our own country, some fifty years ago.  Perhaps that is because I at first confused the “Ancients” with the “men in black robes.”  Some Carthaginian parents were appalled by the thought of what they were doing, but they succeeded in diverting their attention by shopping for dainties (perhaps using the child’s college fund).  Others were just stupid.  I do wonder about those priestesses, and those amusements.

“Part of a wall in the temple of Moloch was thrown down in order to draw out the brazen god without touching the ashes of the altar . . . . No sooner did the Carthaginians perceive it in the distance than they speedily took to flight, for the Baal could be looked upon with impunity only when exercising his wrath . . . .”

Flaubert takes Baal as the name of gods generally, and Moloch as the name of the sovereign head of the Phoenician pantheon.  This king of the gods is not a loving god.

“Meanwhile a fire of aloes, cedar, and laurel was burning between the legs of the colossus. The tips of its long wings dipped into the flame; the unguents with which it had been rubbed flowed like sweat over its brazen limbs. Around the circular flagstone on which its feet rested, the children, wrapped in black veils, formed a motionless circle . . . .”

The children are wrapped in black veils because they are no longer individual sons and daughters with faces and names.  They are meat that will pass through the fire and into the belly of the angry god.

“The rich, the Ancients, the women, the whole multitude, thronged behind the priests and on the terraces of the houses . . . . Many fainted; others became inert and petrified in their ecstasy. Infinite anguish weighed upon the breasts of the beholders. The last shouts died out one by one,—and the people of Carthage stood breathless, and absorbed in the longing of their terror . . . .”

What exactly does it mean to say they are “absorbed in the longing of their terror?”  I say it means that they most desire what they most fear.  It means they have mixed Eros with Thanatos, and that sex is now for them a road to death.

“The fire roared. The pontiffs of Moloch walked about on the great flagstone scanning the multitude. An individual sacrifice was necessary, a perfectly voluntary oblation . . . . At last a man who tottered, a man pale and hideous with terror, thrust forward a child; then a little black mass was seen between the hands of the colossus, and sank into the dark opening . . . .”

Sank into the dark opening and “through the fire.”  Through the fire, and into the mouth, and down to the belly of the devouring god.  As Moloch says, “He whose flesh I eateth, and blood I drinketh, dwelleth in me (but not I in him).”

“The priests bent over the edge of the great flagstone,— and a new song burst forth celebrating the joys of death and of new birth into eternity. The children ascended slowly, and as the smoke formed lofty eddies as it escaped, they seemed at a distance to disappear in a cloud. Not one stirred. Their wrists and ankles were tied, and the dark drapery prevented them from seeing anything and from being recognized . . . .”

They are no longer real children, you see.  They are are more like fetuses in the womb of eternity.  And what happens to them now is for the womb of eternity to choose.

“The brazen arms were working more quickly. They paused no longer. Every time that a child was placed in them the priests of Moloch spread out their hands upon him to burden him with the crimes of the people, vociferating: ‘They are not men but oxen!’ and the multitude round about repeated: ‘Oxen! oxen!’ The devout exclaimed: ‘Lord! eat!’ . . . . Nevertheless, the appetite of the god was not appeased. He ever wished for more.”

It seems that Moloch finds no food less filling than scapegoats.  In fact his appetite is stimulated by scapegoats rather than satiated.  So he downs them with growing relish, rather like glasses of wine.

“This lasted for a long, indefinite time until the evening. Then the partitions inside assumed a darker glow, and burning flesh might be seen. Some even believed that they could descry hair, limbs, and whole bodies . . . . The funeral-pile, which was flameless now, formed a pyramid of coals up to his knees; completely red like a giant covered with blood, he looked, with his head thrown back, as though he were staggering beneath the weight of his intoxication.”

As I just said, like glasses of wine.

“Then the faithful came . . . dragging their children, who clung to them; and they beat them in order to make them let go, and handed them over to the men in red . . . . The henbane-drinkers crawled on all fours around the colossus, roaring like tigers; the Yidonim vaticinated, the Devotees sang with their cloven lips . . . all wished for a share in the sacrifice; — and fathers, whose children had died previously, cast their effigies, their playthings, their preserved bones into the fire.”

It is not only Moloch who staggers beneath the weight of his intoxication.  The people that had been “absorbed in the longing of their terror” are now embraced by the terror for which they longed.  They have reached the climax of the eros of death, and have begun to disintegrate in weird and wild frenzies.

“Some who had knives rushed upon the rest.  They slaughtered one another.  The hierodules took the fallen ashes at the edge of the flagstone in bronze fans, and cast them into the air that the sacrifice might be scattered over the town and even to the region of the stars.”

And so the sacrifice to Moloch ends with a general melee and a ghastly dusting in the desecrated ashes of the dead.

“The loud noise and great light had attracted the Barbarians to the foot of the walls; they cling to the wreck of the heleoplis [siege tower] to have a better view, and gazed open-mouthed in horror.”

I believe barbarians throughout the ages have watched the self-immolation of over-civilized men with open-mouthed horror.  And I believe this may be why Christ said to the over-civilized Pharisees:

“You serpents, you brood of vipers, how shall you escape the sentence of Gehenna?”

What is “the sentence of Gehenna?” It is, of course, the service of Mammon.  It is the sentence of Gehenna to make our sons and daughters “pass through the fire to Molech,” and in the frenzy that follow to pass through that fire ourselves.

8 thoughts on “Moloch and the Sentence of Gehenna

  1. That was a fun read. And I do see the affinity you have spotted in the “black robes.”

    The selections you chose really piqued my fancy. I must pick up a copy of Salammbo (je vais chercher l’original!). A short search brought up a video game (yes, set in Carthage), a 1960 French flick like the bad Roman movies made in Hollywood with Peter Lupus, a silent filmed in 1925 and….guess what?….a comic book!

  2. Jesus says, “you must eat my flesh and drink my blood.” Moloch says, “I must eat your flesh and drink your blood.”

    These are the most potent sentences of yours that I have ever read. And that’s saying something. They say … everything.

    • Was myself dumbfounded. No wonder the peoples of the Americas jumped into the arms of Our lady of Guadalupe; they too were delivered from gods who demanded in sacrifice their flesh and blood to One who sacrificed His Own for their sake.

      Also very powerful is that insight of Flaubert that it is easier to murder children than to talk about doing it-hence all the Molochian euphemisms: “choice”, “rights”, “my body”, “foetus” and so infernally on.

      • Scapegoating is clearly wired into the human psyche, as is the capacity to pretend we are not doing what we are in fact doing. In the modern era this second capacity for self-deception makes heavy use of the myth of psychic progress. We tell ourselves that we have somehow outgrown scapegoating.

      • The scapegoat is the ruse that allows the predator to justify in his own mind both his moral superiority and his loathsome action, as being holy and, this, warranted.


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