Alluding to the despicable practice of child sacrifice that contributed to Judah’s deportation to Babylon, Jeremiah said: “For the children of Judah have done that which is evil in my sight, saith Jehovah... They have built the high places of Tophet, which is in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire; which I commanded not, neither came it into my mind” (Jeremiah 7:30-31). “Tophet” refers to either the place, or the altar, where Judeans sacrificed their children by fire.
The thought of such macabre religious rites causes us to react with the same incredulity as that expressed by Jeremiah. Yet, both biblical and archaeological data confirm this horrific practice. For example, in the early 1920s, the Carthaginian Tophet was discovered and excavated (see Stager and Wolff, 1984). This massive cemetery of sacrificed children received its name from the biblical word Tophet. The site, which literally was filled with burial urns and monuments, dates back to the middle eighth century B.C. Further, evidence suggests that child sacrifice occurred there almost continuously for nearly 600 years, which corresponds directly to the time frame of several biblical references to such practices (cf. 2 Kings 17:16-17 and 23:10).
Ancient burial urns filled with the severed and charred remains of children illustrate the shocking extent of barbarity committed by societies that have abandoned the true God. Yet, as we reflect on this somber ancient reality, we must ask a probing question: What about our own society? The remnants of modern abortion clinics correspond directly to the horrifying finds at the Carthage Tophet. Unborn children are sacrificed by the millions on the altars of convenience. Has our society built a modern Tophet?
Stager, Lawrence E., and Samuel R. Wolff (1984), “Child Sacrifice at Carthage—Religious Rite or Population Control?,” Biblical Archaeology Review, 10:31-51, January/February.
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