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Monday, December 21, 2015

Gehenna & the Destruction of Jerusalem


The Biblical place called Gehenna is an actual valley between Old Jerusalem and Mount Zion.  This valley is also called the valley of the son of Hinnom or the Valley of Benhinnom.  The name was later shortened to Valley Hinnom and in Hebrew is called Ge Himmon.  In the Greek New Testament it is transliterated as Gehenna.

Gehenna was initially where apostate Israelites (mostly Judahites) and followers of various Baals and other Canaanite gods, including Moloch (or Molech), sacrificed their children by fire which may be considered a type of “after birth abortion”.  During the second temple days, this valley became the common dumping ground for all the refuse of the city including the dead bodies of animals and of criminals.  All kinds of filth and debris was cast and consumed by fire kept continuously burning. Therefore in the process of time it became a mythological image of the place of everlasting destruction where the worm never dies due to the constant dumping of dead animals and people.

In Jewish Rabbinic literature, it has been said that Gehenna is a destination of the wicked. This is different from a more neutral Sheol, Hades, or the abode of the dead, although the King James Version usually translates both with the word Hell.

To most Christian minds, the word “hell”, which is often substituted for the actual word “Gehenna”, conjures mental visions of raging fire, eternal punishment, with a background of demons and devils.

Although the KJV translates as “hell”, Jesus used the word Gehenna several times as a symbol of the destruction of Judah.  In my opinion the Lord meant to speak the word “Gehenna” and did not intend for the usage to indicate “hell, Hades, or Sheol”.  The KJV and several other versions have done a great disservice by translating the word as “hell” and have totally confused the meaning that Jesus was attempting to convey.  As Jesus well knew, there is an Old Testament prophecy delivered by Jeremiah that refers to a literal place called Gehenna, or the valley of Hinnom as a place of slaughter and death for the idolatrous Judahites and Judeans.  It is my conviction that Jesus was referring to that prophecy of Jeremiah and a literal valley of Hinnom in which the slaughter happened in the past and would take place in the future.
The details of the prophecy, which will be addressed in the next section, concerns the city of Jerusalem and its inhabitants that will be destroyed by God and cast into Gehenna, or the valley of Hinnom (which is relatively symbolic but close to being literal).

As can be seen, the next three passages of scripture containing the word “Gehenna” discuss sin, legalism, and the refusal to acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah.  Those of the future not following the King of the Kingdom will be fulfilling the prophecy of death and destruction of Jerusalem and will be cast into Gehenna. 

Matthew 23:33 CLV  Serpents! Progeny of vipers! How may you be fleeing from the judging of Gehenna?

Matthew 10:28 KJV  And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell (actual word is “Gehenna”).

Matthew 5:29 KJV  And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell (Gehenna).

The next scripture is similar to the others but adds that the fire is never quenched (perhaps symbolic or possibly nuclear?).

Mark 9:43 KJV  And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell (Gehenna), into the fire that never shall be quenched:

The Jeremiah Prophecy of Judah
The prophecy by Jeremiah was partially fulfilled by Babylon, then partially fulfilled by the Roman army in 70 AD and will be completely fulfilled at some point in the near future.  We will now study the actual prophecy.

In Jeremiah 18, northern Israel which was deported by Assyria in 640 BC and later migrated into western and northern Europe through the Caucasus mountains is prophesied as wet clay that will be molded by God’s hands into the shape that He desires. 

The southern kingdom of Judah is compared to a dry finished earthen jar that will be broken into pieces in Gehenna (which was literally performed by Jeremiah) and will never be repaired, fixed, or rebuilt.

Jeremiah is told to get an earthen bottle from the potter, a finished work of hard dried clay.  Then he is to take the older citizens and the older priests of the city of Jerusalem and go to the valley of the son of Hinnom or Gehenna.  Upon arriving he is to give a discourse on the nation’s collective sins of idolatry, murders, and heathenism to the listeners.  The end of the discourse states that the valley of Hinnom will one day be called the valley of slaughter.

Jeremiah 19:1-6 KJV  Thus saith the LORD, Go and get a potter's earthen bottle, and take of the ancients of the people, and of the ancients of the priests;  (2)  And go forth unto the valley of the son of Hinnom, which is by the entry of the east gate, and proclaim there the words that I shall tell thee,  (3)  And say, Hear ye the word of the LORD, O kings of Judah, and inhabitants of Jerusalem; Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will bring evil upon this place, the which whosoever heareth, his ears shall tingle.  (4)  Because they have forsaken me, and have estranged this place, and have burned incense in it unto other gods, whom neither they nor their fathers have known, nor the kings of Judah, and have filled this place with the blood of innocents;  (5)  They have built also the high places of Baal, to burn their sons with fire for burnt offerings unto Baal, which I commanded not, nor spake it, neither came it into my mind:  (6)  Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that this place shall no more be called Tophet, nor The valley of the son of Hinnom, but The valley of slaughter.

Verses 7-11 contain a list of curses and severe tribulations.  The flesh eating curse possibly occurred during the Babylonian or Roman invasion and the phrase, “to fall by the sword” most likely takes place during these same two invasions.  

Jeremiah 19:7-11 KJV  And I will make void the counsel of Judah and Jerusalem in this place; and I will cause them to fall by the sword before their enemies, and by the hands of them that seek their lives: and their carcases will I give to be meat for the fowls of the heaven, and for the beasts of the earth.  (8)  And I will make this city desolate, and an hissing; every one that passeth thereby shall be astonished and hiss because of all the plagues thereof.  (9)  And I will cause them to eat the flesh of their sons and the flesh of their daughters, and they shall eat every one the flesh of his friend in the siege and straitness, wherewith their enemies, and they that seek their lives, shall straiten them.  (10)  Then shalt thou break the bottle in the sight of the men that go with thee,  (11)  And shalt say unto them, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Even so will I break this people and this city, as one breaketh a potter's vessel, that cannot be made whole again: and they shall bury them in Tophet (an Old Testament town very near Gehenna), till there be no place to bury.

In verse 10, Jeremiah is told to break the finished clay bottle.  Later, in verse 11, God states that He will break the people of Jerusalem as the bottle was broken by Jeremiah, to the condition that it could never be repaired or made whole again.  Verse 8 could possibly be the final fulfillment of the prophecy.  It has been considered and theorized by some that the destruction of Jerusalem will be nuclear.  This could be a true concept.  I personally have an issue with the Millennium following a nuclear war but I don’t know many of the details.  The comment of Jesus in Mark 9:43 of “the fire that never shall be quenched” could possibly be referring to nuclear destruction that would take a long period of time to stop burning.

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