views updated Jun 27 2018


Moloch, or Molech, was a god to whom some cultures of the ancient Near East sacrificed children. Some scholars have identified Moloch with Melqart, a god worshiped in the city of Tyre on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea.

Roman sources state that a sculpture of Moloch stood in Carthage, a city in northern Africa. The people who performed the sacrifices there placed children on the outstretched hands of the statue, and the children fell through to fire below. According to the Bible, the law given to Moses by the supreme god Yahweh prohibited the Jews from sacrificing children to Moloch. Nevertheless, King Solomon introduced the cult of Moloch into Israel, but a later king banned worship of the god. Moloch's shrine was located at a site outside Jerusalem named Gehenna, which some Christians used as another name for hell.

See also Semitic Mythology.

cult group bound together by devotion to a particular person, belief, or god


views updated May 21 2018

Moloch a Canaanite idol to whom children were sacrificed; in extended usage, a tyrannical object of sacrifices. The Rabbinical story that children were burnt alive (being placed in the arms of the idol, whence they fell into the flames) appears to be unfounded, but is widely known, and has influenced the extended use. The deity is represented by Milton in Paradise Lost as one of the devils.