Day 88: Jeremiah Gives Them Hell

Jeremiah 19:7-13

“ ‘ “I will make the counsel of Judah and Jerusalem void in this place. I will cause them to fall by the sword before their enemies, and by the hand of those who seek their life. I will give their dead bodies to be food for the birds of the sky and for the animals of the earth. I will make this city an astonishment and a hissing. Everyone who passes by it will be astonished and hiss because of all its plagues. I will cause them to eat the flesh of their sons and the flesh of their daughters. They will each eat the flesh of his friend in the siege and in the distress, with which their enemies, and those who seek their life, will distress them.” ’

“Then you shall break the container in the sight of the men who go with you, and shall tell them, ‘Yahweh of Armies says: “Even so I will break this people and this city, as one breaks a potter’s vessel, that can’t be made whole again. They will bury in Topheth, until there is no place to bury. This is what I will do to this place,” says Yahweh, “and to its inhabitants, even making this city as Topheth. The houses of Jerusalem, and the houses of the kings of Judah, which are defiled, will be as the place of Topheth, even all the houses on whose roofs they have burned incense to all the army of the sky and have poured out drink offerings to other gods.” ’ ”

If they thought they hated Jeremiah before, God had more for them. We find out from the next passage that Jeremiah is standing right there in Gehenna telling them that they are going to be starved and killed in such numbers that they will not have enough room to bury all the dead in the valley. They are going to be so hungry that they will start eating their own children and friends. Then we find out why God had him bring the pot. He broke it in front of them as an illustration of the fact that they would be so utterly destroyed that they will not be able to be repaired.

This is probably the best reference for what Jesus was communicating when He talked to us about Hell. It’s where the cursed dead were left for the birds. It’s a place of defilement and Jesus added the fact that the real Hell is a place where the worm never dies and the fire never goes out. Why do we have to know this? I think the answer is pretty obvious don’t you? It’s a real place and God doesn’t want man to go there. He made a way for anyone who believes to escape it, but people are ignoring it and building nice parks over the bones of the dead like we see in the Gehenna today. This horrible time was just one of the many that were to happen to Jerusalem after that point in history. We can try to ignore those times and why they happened, or we can learn about them and avoid doing the things that lead to them. This is true for Israel as a nation, and for each of us spiritually.

Day 87: The Valley of Slaughter

Jeremiah 19:1-6

Thus said Yahweh, “Go, and buy a potter’s earthen container, and take some of the elders of the people, and of the elders of the priests; and go out to the valley of the son of Hinnom, which is by the entry of the gate Harsith, and proclaim there the words that I will tell you. Say, ‘Hear Yahweh’s word, kings of Judah, and inhabitants of Jerusalem: Yahweh of Armies, the God of Israel says, “Behold, I will bring evil on this place, which whoever hears, his ears will tingle. Because they have forsaken me, and have defiled this place, and have burned incense in it to other gods that they didn’t know, they, their fathers, and the kings of Judah, and have filled this place with the blood of innocents, and have built the high places of Baal, to burn their children in the fire for burnt offerings to Baal, which I didn’t command, nor speak, which didn’t even enter into my mind. Therefore, behold, the days come,” says Yahweh, “that this place will no more be called ‘Topheth’, nor ‘The Valley of the son of Hinnom’, but ‘The valley of Slaughter’.

I did some searching on the web for: “The Valley of the Son of Hinnom” and found out that it looks like a small valley with some buildings paths and what appears to be a nice little park. It’s interesting because Jesus referred to it as Hell. The word Gehenna is said to be a transliteration of “The Valley of Hinnom.” Scholars argue over whether or not it ever really was a garbage dump for Israel, but one thing everyone appears to agree with is that it was the place where the kings of Judah burned their children to the gods. That’s because the Bible says it right here. To Jesus, this valley was a type of Hell even though it isn’t Hell itself. It certainly doesn’t look like Hell today, but what happened there is truly horrible.

God told Jeremiah to tell the leaders that the place would become a place named after slaughter. It was clearly a symbolic thing and it’s no surprise that Jesus would continue the same symbolism in His words to the people. Sin has consequences. As I was studying this place, I noticed some scholars who cast doubt on whether or not Jesus was referring to eternal damnation when referring to it. I looked up all 12 references and it’s pretty obvious that the New Testament writers used this place as a reference to a spiritual place. It wasn’t just a place for the body to be thrown, but a place for the soul. See Matthew 10:28. It’s not like Jesus didn’t talk about this in other ways. He also mentioned it without saying Gehenna in His teaching about the judgment of nations in Matthew 25 where He says that the place was intended for Satan and the fallen angels.

It’s pretty obvious that what God said about this place has happened. We call it “Hell” even today even though the physical place looks rather nice now. Jesus has made it clear to the world that this represents a real spiritual place, and just as the people of Jeremiah’s day mocked Jeremiah’s message of destruction, so people today mock the reality of an eternal place of torment.