HINNOM, VALLEY OF
A valley located on the S and SW of Jerusalem; it runs S from the vicinity of the modern Jaffa Gate, turns sharply E at the SW corner of the city, and runs along the S to meet the Tyropoeon and Kidron valleys at a point near the city’s SE corner. It is also known as “the valley of the son(s) of Hinnom”; the “Valley,” as in the expression “Valley Gate” (Jos 15:8; 2Ki 23:10; Ne 3:13); possibly “the low plain of the carcasses and of the fatty ashes” at Jeremiah 31:40. The individual after whom the valley may have been named is unknown, as is also the meaning of the name Hinnom.—PICTURE, Vol. 2, p. 949.
At the point just above Hinnom’s convergence with the Tyropoeon and Kidron valleys, it widens out. Here was probably the location of Topheth. (2Ki 23:10) On the S side of the valley near its eastern extremity is the traditional site of Akeldama, the “Field of Blood,” the potter’s field purchased with Judas’ 30 pieces of silver. (Mt 27:3-10; Ac 1:18, 19) Farther up, the valley is quite narrow and deep, with many sepulcher chambers in its terraced cliffs.
The Valley of Hinnom formed a part of the boundary between the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, Judah’s territory being to the S, placing Jerusalem in Benjamin’s territory, as outlined at Joshua 15:1, 8; 18:11, 16. The valley is now known as the Wadi er-Rababi (Ge Ben Hinnom).
Apostate King Ahaz of Judah made sacrificial smoke and burned his son(s) in the fire in this valley. (2Ch 28:1-3) His grandson King Manasseh exceeded Ahaz, promoting wickedness on a grand scale, also making “his own sons pass through the fire in the valley of the son of Hinnom.” (2Ch 33:1, 6, 9) King Josiah, Manasseh’s grandson, put an end to this detestable practice in Topheth by defiling the place, desecrating it, thereby making it unfit for worship, possibly by scattering bones or refuse therein.—2Ki 23:10.
Jeremiah, who prophesied in the days of Kings Josiah, Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, and Zedekiah, expressed Jehovah’s judgment for the sins of the nation, one of the foremost being the abominable sacrifice of their children to Molech. He was commanded to take some of the older men of the people and the priests out the Gate of the Potsherds (Gate of the Ash-heaps), located at the SE corner of Jerusalem, to the Valley of Hinnom in the area of Topheth. There he declared Jehovah’s pronouncement: “Look! there are days coming . . . when this place will be called no more Topheth and the valley of the son of Hinnom, but the valley of the killing.” Then, smashing an earthenware flask before their eyes, he continued with Jehovah’s judgment: “In the same way I shall break this people and this city . . . and in Topheth they will bury until there is no more place to bury.” (Jer 19:1, 2, 6, 10, 11) In other words, the slaughter, not of sacrificial victims to Molech, but of the wicked by God’s judgment, would be so great that some bodies would lie unburied in the valley. This would pollute it to an even greater degree than Josiah had done.
Jeremiah’s prophetic words do not necessarily mean that such sacrifices to Molech were still going on in Jeremiah’s time, but that Jehovah would punish the nation for their practices, past as well as present, and for the innocent blood shed by them, particularly the human sacrifices during Manasseh’s reign. The prophet, in another pronouncement, told the nation that they would be punished for what Manasseh had done. (Jer 15:4; compare 2Ki 23:26; Jer 32:30-35.) Also, Jeremiah’s declaration at chapter 19, verse 3, is parallel to the statement at 2 Kings 21:12. However, in Jeremiah’s day the people certainly were carrying on with idolatries, which gave evidence that they had not repented in the least for the gross sins they shared in during Manasseh’s reign. At Jeremiah 2:23, it may be Hinnom that Jeremiah refers to in calling Judah’s attention to their idolatrous sins.
The gates in Jerusalem’s wall that were situated on the Valley of Hinnom were, probably, the Corner Gate at the city’s NW corner, the Valley Gate at its SW corner, and the Gate of the Potsherds near the point where the Valley of Hinnom joined the Tyropoeon and Kidron valleys. (2Ki 14:13; Ne 2:13; 12:31; Jer 19:2) Between the Corner Gate and the Valley Gate, the sides of the Valley of Hinnom are so steep as to make impractical the location of other gates along this portion of Jerusalem’s wall. King Uzziah built towers by the Corner Gate and the Valley Gate, inasmuch as these would be the more vulnerable places along this part of the valley.—2Ch 26:9.
It was in this valley to the S of Jerusalem that Nehemiah made his night inspection tour, examining the city wall eastward from the Valley Gate to the Gate of the Ash-heaps, turning up the Kidron for a distance and then back to reenter the city by the Valley Gate. (Ne 2:13-15) In Nehemiah’s time the Valley of Hinnom apparently marked the northern limits of the settlements of the sons of Judah (aside from those dwelling in Jerusalem).—Ne 11:25, 30.