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Moloch the God Baal, the Bull of the Sun, was widely worshipped in the ancient Near East and wherever Carthaginian culture extended. Baal Moloch was conceived under the form of a calf or an ox or depicted as a man with the head of a bull.

Table of contents
1 The name 'Moloch'
2 Moloch cult
3 Moloch in later demonology

The name 'Moloch'

'Hadad', 'Baal' or simply 'the King' identified the god within his cult. The name Moloch is not the name he was known by among his worshippers, but a Hebrew translation. The written form Moloch (in the Septuagint Greek translation of the Old Testament), or Molech (Hebrew), is specifically Melech or ‘king’, tranformed by reading it with the vowels of bosheth or ‘shameful thing’. In a similar way Beelzebub was transformed by vowel substitutions into the Lord of the Flies.

He is sometimes also called Milcom in the Old Testament.

Moloch cult

Among the rituals in the worship of Moloch was the 'taking up of the tabernacle' of Moloch, in which the god's image, under a portable canopy, was paraded. This was a widespread practice, in Babylon and elsewhere, wherever the spirit of a god was felt to reside in the deity's image or idol. It was also customary to consecrate chariots and horses to Moloch.

Child sacrifice

Religious infanticide historically was widespread among the peoples of the Eastern Mediterranean region, but in the cult of Moloch is the best known. In many instances the bodies of children were burnt as sacrifices.

In the kingdom of Judah, children were wont to be sacrificed to Moloch in a valley of the sons of Hinnom, which received also the name of the Valley of Tophet.

A detailed, late description of Moloch's image says that it was hollow, and was provided with seven receptacles, in which were deposited the different offerings of the worshippers. Into the first was put an offering of fine flour; in the second an offering of turtle doves; into the third a sheep; into the fourth a ram; into the fifth a calf; into the sixth an ox; and into the seventh a child, which was consumed in the image.

Talmudic tradition asserts the image of Moloch to have been made of brass, and to have been represented sitting on a brazen throne, adorned with a royal crown, having the head of a calf, and his arms extended to receive his youthful victims.

Extent of the Moloch cult

The god
Baal variously named, sometimes with combined forms, was widely worshipped in the ancient near east.

The Phoenicians of Tyre extended the worship of Baal/Moloch in the particular Tyrian manifestation Baal Melkart, ('the Baal (king) of the city') to Phoenician colonies around the Mediterranean, the greatest of which was Carthage in North Africa.

Moloch was worshiped among the Sepharvites as Adrammelech and Anammelech, and by the Moabites and Ammonites.

In Minoan Crete, the Minotaur, the monstrous bull-headed creature at the center of the Labyrinth that consumed sacrificed youths, and which was overcome by Theseus, should perhaps be connected with Moloch.

Moloch, 'the king' was even worshiped by the Hebrews, until the destruction of all the idols by Josiah in 622/21 BCE. Solomon built an altar to Molech, and Manasseh sacrificed his son, by making him “pass through the fire,” as did King Ahaz. Not every combined form of melech ('king') in a name links an individual with Moloch, however (cf Abimelech).

The strenuous energy that had to be put into the interdiction of child sacrifice that had been practiced among the earliest Israelites is reflected in the episode of Abraham and Isaac in the Book of Genesis. The gruesome rites associated with Moloch are again expressly forbidden under pain of death in Leviticus xx. 2: “Again, thou shalt say to the children of Israel, whosoever he be of the children of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn in Israel, that giveth any of his seed unto Moloch, he shall surely be put to death: the people of the land shall stone him with stones.” In various other passages of the Law of Moses, the Israelites were forbidden to dedicate their children to Moloch, by causing them to “pass through the fire,” an expression the precise meaning of which is mooted by scholars.

It is plain from various passages of the prophets, that the sacrifices of children among the Jews before captivity, which are commonly known as sacrifices to Moloch, were not presented at the temple, but consumed outside the city at Tophet in the ravine below the temple.

Jeremiah 7:31, “And they have built the high places of Tophet, which is in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and daughters in the fire; which I commanded them not, neither came it into my heart.” And Jeremiah 19:5, “They have built also the high places of Baal, to burn their sons with fire for burnt offerings to Baal, which I commanded them not, nor spake it, neither came it into my mind.”

From Isaiah it appears that Tophet means a pyre, such as is prepared for a king. Later, however, the name Tophet was construed to refer to the sounds of the drums and cymbals that accompanied the sacrifice of children. Compare the role of the Korybantes in Crete, shaking their spears and clashing their shields, drowning out the cries of the infant Zeus when his cannibal father sought him out, aiming to consume him— like a Moloch.

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Instead of legs his statues had a construction similar to a dome (on which the body was surmounted) with fire always lit, into which children were sacrificed. The arms of the statue had a mechanism that, when the child was put on the god's hands, was moved by the priests, so the arms were raised to the mouth and the baby was "swallowed" by the god and fell into the fire. His statues were often bronze castings with the afore mentioned mechanism. The name Moloch derives from the Semitic word 'melek', 'melekh', king, which is supposed to have been corrupted into Molech by the Israelites not to compare their king with the Pagan god (compare with a similar corruption of Baal to Beelzebub in the New Testament).

Other spellings: Baal Moloch, Milcom, Molech.

See also Chemosh

Moloch in later demonology

In demonology Moloch is a Prince of Hell. He finds a special pleasure in making mothers weep for he specialises in stealing their children. According to some demonologists from the 16th century his power is stronger in December.

It is possible that the use of stealing children was inspired by the sacrifices of babies made in honour of Moloch as god of the Ammonites, turned into a demon in Christian times.