Again, thou shalt say to the children of Israel, Whosoever of the children of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn in Israel, that giveth of his seed unto Molech; he shall surely be put to death: the people of the land shall stone him with stones.Leviticus 20:2
The name Molech (sometimes spelled Moloch, Milcom or Malcom), was spelled mlk in the Hebrew texts. It is believed that the most common spelling, Molech, stems from the consonants mlk for "king" and the vowels from bosheth for shame. Most translations of the Bible use this spelling, but other spellings are referenced in essays and on websites.
Conflicting information on Molech abounds. While some argue about the method of sacrifices made to the god, still others debate whether or not the name actually refers to a god. Those who indicate that Molech was a god worshipped by the Canaanites believe that he was a fire god and controled fertility.
Descriptions of the idols used to worship the god differ as well. While they are usually made of bronze and consist of a man's body with the head of a calf, the body is portrayed in one of two ways. One depiction shows the god with its arms outstretched and a hollow chamber in its stomach. A fire was lighted in the chamber and allowed to heat the metal arms and hands. After priests sufficiently heated the statue, an infant, usually the first-born of a family, was placed on the burning hands. The instinctual flailings of the infant would eventually cause the baby to fall into the fire in the stomach.
Another form of the statue had the chest divided into seven compartments. At the time of sacrifice, the compartments would be filled with flour, turtle-doves, a ewe, a ram, a calf, an ox, and an infant. All sacrifices were burnt by the fire in the middle of the idol at the same time.
The primary location for worship of Molech is believed to be Gehenna or Tophet, a valley outside of Israel. As time passed, the temple to Molech was destroyed and the grounds were used as a place to burn corpses and trash. The continual fires and stench from Gehenna led to the modern day concept of Hell.
The first Biblical mention of Molech is in Leviticus 18:21: And thou shalt not let any of thy seed pass through the fire to Molech, neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God: I am the Lord. Since much of the Bible is subject to interpretation, questions remain about what passing seed through the fire to Molech really means. For the most part, Biblical scholars agree that the passage refers to the sacrifice of infants by burning. Because the Biblical passage used to condemn homosexuality immediately follows the mention of Molech, many people believe that Leviticus 18:22 refers to temple prostitution performed in an effort to appease the god.
In addition to the mention of Molech in Leviticus, the Bible mentions in 1 Kings that King Solomon built a temple to the god as a gift for one of his pagan wives. King Josiah's destruction of Tophet, the ground held sacred by Molech's worshippers is described in 2 Kings. Other Biblical references to the god indicate that other pagans made attempts to revive the worship of Molech.
In 1921, Otto Eissfeldt discovered items inscribed with mlk while excavating in Carthage. Unlike others who assumed that the letters were a reference to a god, he came to the conclusion that word meant the type of sacrifice practiced to appease the gods. Based on the artifacts found at the scene, he linked the word to the burning of infants as a sacred offering.
Opposition to Eissfeldt's theory came from those who didn't believe that infant sacrifice had occurred in Phoenecian times or that it was merely a sporadic activity used in times of strife. Instead, they indicate that it is possible that the infants found were stillborn and that the burning was merely a religious act following death, similar to cremation.
Modern references to Molech are linked to the Bohemian Grove, a gathering of influential men in a location in southern California. Those who believe that the gatherers worship Molech point to a standard ceremony performed at the grove, called The Cremation of Care, during which a man-shaped dummy named Care is immolated before a giant stone statue of an owl. Further "evidence" of the role of prominant Americans includes various images of owls on currency, in the placement of streets in Washington DC and in the structure of some buildings.
The fact that Molech is traditionally represented as the body of a man with the head of a calf indicates that the ceremony is not related to Molech. The main link to the Canaanite god is the implication of human sacrifice, however, Molech was not the only god to receive burnt offerings of animals and humans. It is unclear how Molech became linked to the Grove's owl and ceremonies.
Additionally, some pro-life groups claim abortion is a form of worship of Molech, citing Leviticus 20:2 as justification for bombings of abortion clinics and the murders of doctors who perform abortions. The link between abortion clinics and Molech worship is stronger than the link ascribed to the Bohemian Grove because of the belief that infants were sacrificed to the god. Most abortion doctors do not "sacrifice" aborted fetuses for the purpose of worship or to appease an angry god, however, so this assertion fails when logic is applied.
Blue Letter Bible (nd), King James Version: Leviticus--Chapter 20. Retrieved September 21, 2006 from the World Wide Web: http://www.blueletterbible.org/kjv/Lev/Lev020.html
Skelton, S. and Skelton, J. (January 2, 2005), Molech/Bohemian Grove Background Information, Retrieved September 21, 2006 from the World Wide Web: http://www.prisonplanet.com/articles/january2005/020104grovebackground.htm
Rogers, J. (June, 1989), Why I Got Arrested In Brookline: Operation Rescue Story, The Forerunner, Retrieved September 21, 2006 from the World Wide Web: http://forerunner.com/forerunner/X0493_Why_I_Got_Arrested_I.html
Knight, K. (2006), Catholic Encyclopedia: Moloch, New Advent, Retrieved September 21, 2006 from the World Wide Web: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/10443b.htm
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (2006), Bible Dictionary: Molech or Malcom, Retrieved September 21, 2006 from the World Wide Web: http://scriptures.lds.org/en/bd/m/64
Wikipedia (2006), Molech, Retrieved September 21, 2006 rom the World Wide Web: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moloch#Biblical_texts