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Valley of Hinnom

HINNOM, VALLEY OF, hĭn’ əm (גֵּ֣י הִנֹּ֗ם. It is also known as the VALLEY OF THE SON OF HINNOM [Josh 15:8; Jer 7:32], the VALLEY OF THE CHILDREN OF HINNOM [2 Kings 23:10], and THE VALLEY [2 Chron 26:9; Neh 2:13, 15]. The meaning of “Hinnom” and “children of Hinnom” would suggest that it is a proper name, perhaps of the original Jebusite owner).

The location of the valley of Hinnom is uncertain because of the ambiguity of the Biblical data concerning it. It ran along the boundary of Judah and Benjamin (Josh 15:8; 18:16), and was at the entry of the Potsherd Gate (Jer 19:2), not at the “entrance of the east gate,” as the KJV has it.

The valley had an evil reputation in later OT times because it was the site of Tophet, where parents made their children pass through the fire to Baal and Molech. Ahaz and Manasseh were guilty of this horrible abomination (2 Chron 28:3; 33:6). Isaiah refers to it, although not by name, as a place where the dead bodies of the unbelieving shall lie, and where their worm shall not die and the fire is not quenched (Isa 66:24). Jeremiah predicted that God would visit the place with such awful destruction because of its wickedness that it would become known as the “valley of Slaughter” (Jer 7:31-34). Josiah defiled the high place so as to make it unfit for its idolatrous rites (2 Kings 23:10). It became a type of sin, punishment, and misery because the bodies of dead animals and criminals were burned at its ever-burning fires.

The Heb. name Ge-ben-Hinnom (Ge-Hinnom) became corrupted into Gehenna, which in the NT is used to designate the place of eternal punishment.

The location of the valley has been much disputed. All three of the valleys around Jerusalem have been identified with it—the Kidron to the E, the Tyropoeon in the center, and the Wadi er-Rababi on the W. Early Jewish, Christian, and Mohammedan writers identified it with Kidron, but scarcely anyone does so today. Since the Tyropoean valley was incorporated within the city walls before the time of Manasseh, it is extremely unlikely that it could have been the place of the sacrifice of children, which must have been done outside the walls (2 Kings 21:10-15). The Wadi er-Rababi location has the most support. It begins W of the Jaffa gate, turns S c. a third of a mile, and gradually curves E to join the Kidron valley. If Bir Ayyub is En-rogel, as seems probable, then the Wadi er-Rababi, known traditionally as Hinnom, locates the valley of Hinnom.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

1. Bible References and History:

See Gehenna.

2. Situation:

The Valley of Hinnom has been located by different writers in each of the three great valleys of Jerusalem. In favor of the eastern or Kidron valley we have the facts that Eusebius and Jerome (Onom) place "Gehennom" under the eastern wall of Jerusalem and the Moslem geographical writers, Muqaddasi and Nasir-i-khusran, call the Kidron valley Wady Jahamum. The Jewish writer Kimchi also identifies the Valley of Jehoshaphat (i.e. the Kidron) with Hinnom. These ideas are probably due to the identification of the eastern valley, on account of its propinquity to the Temple, as the scene of the last judgment--the "Valley of Jehoshaphat" of Joe 3:2--and the consequent transference there of the scene of the punishment of the wicked, Gehenna, after the ancient geographical position of the Valley of Hinnom, had long been lost. In selecting sacred sites, from the 4th Christian century onward, no critical topographical acumen has been displayed until quite modern times. There are three amply sufficient arguments against this view: (1) the Kidron valley is always called a nachal and not a gay’ (see Kidron); (2) the "Gate of the Gai" clearly did not lie to the East of the city; (3) En-rogel, which lay at the beginning of the Valley of Hinnom and to its East (Jos 15:8; 18:16) cannot be the "Virgin’s fount," the ancient Gihon (2Sa 17:17).

See Gihon.

Several distinguished modern writers have sought to identify the Tyropeon Valley (el Wad) with Hinnom, but as the Tyropeon was incorporated within the city walls before the days of Manasseh (see Jerusalem), it is practically impossible that it could have been the scene of the sacrifice of children--a ritual which must have occurred beyond the city’s limits (2Ki 23:10, etc.).

3. Wady er-Rababi:

The clearest geographical fact is found in Jos 15:8; 18:16, where we find that the boundary of Judah and Benjamin passed from En-rogel "by the valley of the son of Hinnom"; if the modern Bir Eyyub is En-rogel, as is certainly most probable, then the Wady er-Rababi, known traditionally as Hinnom, is correctly so called. It is possible that the name extended to the wide open land formed by the junction of the three valleys; indeed, some would place Tophet at this spot, but there is no need to extend the name beyond the actual gorge. The Wady er-Rababi commences in a shallow, open valley due West of the Jaffa Gate, in the center of which lies the Birket Mamilla; near the Jaffa Gate it turns South for about 1/3 of a mile, its course being dammed here to form a large pool, the Birket es Sultan. Below this it gradually curves to the East and rapidly descends between sides of bare rocky scarps, much steeper in ancient times. A little before the valley joins the wide Kidron valley lies the traditional site of AKELDAMA (which see).

E. W. G. Masterman