That is, the valley of Hinnom, or of the son of Hinnom, a narrow valley just south of Jerusalem, running up westward from the valley of the Cedron, and passing into the valley of the Cedron, and passing into the valley of Gihon, which follows the base of mount Zion north, up to the Joppa gate. It was well watered, and in ancient times most verdant and delightfully shaded with trees. The boundary line Judah and Benjamin passed through it, Joshua 15:8 18:6 Nehemiah 11:30. In its lowest part, towards the southeast, and near the king’s gardens and Siloam, the idolatrous Israelties made their children pass through the fire to Moloch, 1 Kings 11:7 2 Kings 16:3 Jeremiah 32:35. See MOLOCH.
The place of these abominable sacrifices is also called Tophet, Isaiah 30:33 Jeremiah 7:31. According to some, this name is derived from the Hebrew toph, drum, because drums are supposed to have been used to drown the cries of the victims. But this opinion rests only on conjecture. King Josiah defiled the place, 2 Kings 23:10, probably by making it a depository of filth. It has been a common opinion that the later Jews, in imitation of Josiah, threw into this place all manner of filth, as well as the carcasses of animals and the dead bodies of malefactors; and that with reference to either the baleful idolatrous fires in the worship of Moloch, or to the fires afterwards maintained there to consume the mass of impurities that might otherwise have occasioned a pestilence, came the figurative use of the fires of Gehenna, that is, valley of Hinnom, to denote the eternal fire in which wicked men and fallen spirits shall be punished. This supposition, however, rests upon uncertain grounds.
It seems clear that the later Jews borrowed their usage of the fire of the valley of Hinnom (Gehenna) to represent the punishment of the wicked in the future world directly from two passages of Isaiah: "For Tophet is ordained of old; yea, for the king it is prepared; he hath made it deep and large: the pile thereof is fire and much wood; the breath of the Lord, like a stream of brimstone, doth kindle it," Isaiah 66:24. These they correctly interpreted figuratively, as representing the vengeance, which God would take on his enemies and the oppressors of his people. That the prophet, in this terrible imagery, alluded to any fire kept perpetually burning in the valley of Hinnom, has not been clearly proved. But however this may be, it is certain that the Jews transferred the name Gehenna, that is the valley of Hinnom, to the place in which devils and wicked men are to be punished in eternal fire, and which in the New Testament is always translated hell, Matthew 5:22,29,30 10:28 Mark 9:43,45,47 Luke 12:5 James 3:6. See HELL.
The rocks on the south side of Hinnom are full of gaping apertures, the mouths of tombs once filled with the dead, but now vacant.