To'phet (Heb. To'pheth, תֹּפֶת spittle, as in Job 17:6; i.e. abominable, or, perhaps, place of burning; Jeremiah 7:'32 second time]; 19:11, 12; with the art., 2Ki 23:10 ["Topheth"]; Jer 7:31-32; Jer 19:6,13-14; once Tophteh', תָּפַתֵּה, Isa 30:33; Sept. Τωφέθ, Ταθέθ, and θοφθά, Vulg, Tophet, Topheth), a place near Jerusalem, where the ancient Canaanites, and afterwards the apostate Israelites, made their children to pass through the fire to Moloch (comp. Ps 106:38; Jer 7:31). It is first mentioned, in the order of time, by Isaiah, who alludes to it as deep and large and having an abundance of fuel (Jer 30:24). He here evidently calls the place where Sennacherib's army was destroyed Tophet, by a metonymy; for it was probably overthrown at a greater distance from Jerusalem, and quite on the opposite side of it, since Nob is mentioned as the last station from which the king of Assyria should threaten Jerusalem (Jer 10:25), where the prophet seems to have given a very exact chorographical description of his march in order to attack the city (Lowth's Transl. notes on 30:33). In the reformation of religion by king Josiah, he. caused Topheth to be defiled in order to suppress idolatry (2Ki 23:10). The means he adopted for this purpose are not specified, whether by' throwing all manner of filth into it, as well as by overthrowing the altars, etc., as the Syriac and Arabic versions seem to understand it. The prophet Jeremiah was ordered by God to announce from this spot (2Ki 19:14) the approaching captivity, and the destruction, both by the siege of the city and by famine of so many of the people, whose carcasses should be here buried, as that it should "no more be called Tophet, nor the valley of the son of Hinnom, but the valley of slaughter" (2Ki 7:20,20; 2Ki 19:6,11-14). In all succeeding ages blood has flowed there in streams; corpses, buried and unburied, have filled up the hollows; and it may be that underneath the modern gardens aid terraces there lies not only the debris of the city, but the bones and dust of millions Romans, Persians, Jews, Greeks, Crusaders, Moslems. Once the royal music grove where Solomon's singers, with voice and instrument, regaled the king, the court, and the city; then the Temple of Baal, the high- place of Moloch, resounding with the cries of burning infants; then (in symbol) the place where is the wailing and gnashing of teeth. Once prepared for Israel's king as one of his choicest villas; then degraded and defiled till it becomes the place prepared for "the King," at the sound of whose fall the nations are to shake (Eze 31:16); and as Paradise and Eden passed into Babylon, so Tophet and Ben Hinnom pass into Gehenna and the lake of fire. These scenes seem to have taken hold of Milton's mind; for three times over, within fifty lines, he refers to "the opprobrious hill," "the hill of scandal," the "offensive mountain," and speaks of Solomon making his grove in "The pleasant valley of Hinnom, Tophet thence And black Gehenna called, the type of hell." SEE GEHENNA.

The name Tophet was commonly supposed to be derived from toph, or drum, from the drums used to drown the cries of the children when made to pass through the fire to Moloch. This was a received Jewish opinion. But there are other derivations; that, for example, of Jerome, who from the root to open (פָתָה) ascribes to it the sense of latitude; of Rosenmüller, who connects it with a different root (יָפָה), and takes it to mean pleasantness; of Gesenius, who, from a Persian root, finds the sense of inflaming, burning; of Rödiger (in Gesen. Thesaur. s.v.), who takes it in the sense of filth, a view substantially concurred in by Böttcher, Hitzig, and Thenius, though derived in a different manner. This is, perhaps, the most probable opinion, as it seems, also, the most directly applicable to the place. See Böttcher, De Inferis, 1, 80,85; Panecius, De Topheth (Viteb. 1694).

Tophet lay somewhere east or south-east of Jerusalem, for Jeremiah went out by the sun gate, or east gate, to go to it (Jer 19:2). It was in "the valley of the son of Hinnom" (Jer 7:31), which is "by the entry of the east gate" (Jer 19:2). Thus it was not identical with Hinnom, as some have written, except in the sense in which Paradise is identical with Eden, the one being part of the other. It was in Hinnom, and was, perhaps, one of its chief groves or gardens. It seems also to have been part of the king's gardens, and watered by Siloam, perhaps a little to the south of the present Birket el-Hamra. The New Test. does not refer to it nor the Apocrypha, nor yet Josephus. Jerome is the first who notices it; but we can see that by his time the name had disappeared, for he discusses it very much as a modern commentator would do, only mentioning a green and fruitful spot, in Hinnom, watered by Siloam, where he assumes it was "Delubrum Baal, nemus ac lucus, Siloe fontibus irrigatus" (in Jeremiah.7).. Eusebius, in his nonmsticon, under the word θαφέθ, says, "In the suburbs of Ailah is still shown the place so called, to which is adjacent the fuller's pool and the potter's field, or the parcel of ground Acheldamach." Many of the old travelers (see Felix Fabri, 1, 391) refer to Tophet, or Toph, as they call it; but they give no information as to the locality. Every vestige of Tophet, name and grove, is gone, and we can only guess at the spot; yet the references of Scripture and the present features of the locality enable us to make the guess with the same tolerable nearness as we do in the case of Gethsemane or Scopus. For an account of the modern aspect of the place, see Robinson, Researches. 1,202 sq.; Kitto, Physical History of Palestine, p. 122 sq. SEE JERUSALEM.

Bible concordance for TOPHET.

Definition of tophet

See also the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia.

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