“Adonai said to Moshe, “Say to the people of Israel, ‘If someone from the people of Israel or one of the foreigners living in Israel sacrifices one of his children to Molekh, he must be put to death; the people of the land are to stone him to death. I too will set myself against him and cut him off from his people, because he has sacrificed his child to Molekh, defiling my sanctuary and profaning my holy name. If the people of the land look the other way when that man sacrifices his child to Molekh and fail to put him to death, then I will set myself against him, his family and everyone who follows him to go fornicating after Molekh, and cut them off from their people.”-Leviticus 20:1-5
By calling out Molech worship, the God of Israel was making it clear He considered IDOLATRY to be the NUMBER ONE no-no on His list of abominations His people were not to participate in.
YHVH was particularly concerned about Molech worship because its practice was so widespread throughout the Land of Canaan.
Many people would be coming to the Promised Land who wanted to join Israel, or stay with Israel temporarily for economic reasons.
So God had to lay down the Law on this matter, and this Molech god was especially horrid because he demanded the blood of innocent children.
Now recall that the names of people in the Bible changed from culture to culture.
For example, the names NIMROD and ASHUR refer to the same person, it’s just that one name is Babylonian and the other is Assyrian.
Well, the same phenomenon occurs with the names of gods as well.
Whenever we come across a pagan god with identical attributes being worshipped in different cultures but going by different names, it’s pretty safe to assume it’s the same god being worshipped.
An example we should all be familiar with is the name of the Christian holiday Easter.
ASHTEROTH, ISHTAR, ASTARTE, and EOSTRE are all referring to the same pagan fertility goddess.
“Easter” is just the latest Anglo-Saxon version of the word.
Within the pecking order of the pagan gods, MOLECH was considered the highest deity or the chief-god, called EL in Hebrew.
Because the people in the ancient world worshipped many gods, over time a sort of hierarchy of gods developed.
Some gods were considered subservient to or less powerful than other gods.
There were gods for every sort of thing imaginable.
There were fertility gods, gods that brought rain, gods that ruled the underworld, and gods that brought abundant harvests etcetera.
And sitting on top of all the other gods was this abominable MOLECH deity.
What’s also fascinating is that the idea of one god being preeminent above the others also appears in Hebrew culture.
For instance, take a look at the Hebrew word “EL” as in ELOHIM or EL SHADDAI.
A rough translation of these words would be “highest god” or “chief-god”.
“EL” actually originates from the Akkadian “IL” which again means the “highest god”.
Whenever you come across phrases like “lord of lords”, “god above all gods” or “king of kings”, these are just cultural language holdovers from the days when the Israelites participated in multiple-god worship.
So, yes, even in Israel, that blessed nation that bequeathed to the world the revolutionary idea of monotheism, the belief of there being multiple gods was not only prevalent in Israel during the period of the entire Old Testament but such thoughts continued on even into the New Testament era.
So what was MOLECH called in other cultures?
The Moabites called Molech CHEMOSH.
The Ammonites called him BA’AL PEOR.
Some also believe BA’AL ZEBUB is referring to Molech.
The Greeks would later call Molech MARS.
The Romans would later call Molech SATURN.
As you can see, we’re all talking about the same god, just different names for different cultures.
The name MOLECH first appeared in Leviticus chapter 18 and here it appears again in Leviticus 20.
In one variation or another, we’re going to see this god appearing throughout the TANACH.
We’re also going to encounter many different terms and phrases that tell us what MOLECH demanded from his followers.
We’ll come across different phrases like “handed-over” and “offer-up to” as well as others.
Some scholars have theorized that only a handful of these phrases was actually referring to the actually killing of the child for ritual sacrifice to MOLECH.
Some believed there were actually tamer versions of how one could “offer up” one’s child to MOLECH.
For instance, some scholars think that a child was just dedicated to MOLECH like how a baby is dedicated to God in churches today.
In other words, instead of the child being killed, it was just raised up to worship the god MOLECH.
However, such ideas have been pretty much discarded and it’s now generally agreed on that the child was indeed killed and offered as a burnt offering or killed and buried in the foundation of a new building for the purpose of dedicating that building to Molech so that Molech’s blessing would be upon whatever activities took place in that building.