During the time of Joshua, when the boundaries for the tribes of Israel were determined, the area for Judah was defined. Part of that area was defined thusly:
“…And the border went up by the Valley of the Son of Hinnom to the southern slope of the Jebusite city (which is Jerusalem). The border went up to the top of the mountain that lies before the Valley of Hinnom westward…” Joshua 15:8
‘Valley of Hinnom’ was expressed in Hebrew as ‘ga-Hinnom’named after a Jebusite family.
Several Judean kings, namely Ahaz and Manesseh did abominable things in that place.
“He (Ahaz) burned incense in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, and burned his children in the fire, according to the abominations of the nations whom the LORD had cast out before the children of Israel.”
2 Chronicles 28:3
Ahaz preceded his father Hezekiah, while Hezekiah’s son Manasseh also indulged in such atrocities.
“Also he (Manasseh) caused his sons to pass through the fire in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom…” 2 Chronicles 33:6
In the Valley of Hinnom was a town named Tophet.
Two years after the reign of Manasseh, God appointed Josiah to rule over Judah. Recall Josiah was called by name centuries before his birth. He was used by God to restore obedience in Israel.
“And he (Josiah) defiled Topheth (Tophet), which is in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, that no man might make his son or his daughter pass through the fire to Molech.” 2 Kings 23:10
However, even after Josiah’s efforts to rid the evil in Tophet, Jehoiakim who succeeded Josiah, reverted back to the evil practice.
As a result of Judah returning to the way of their fathers, God issued a stern warning.
“Behold, I will surely bring calamity on them which they will not be able to escape; and though they cry out to Me, I will not listen to them…So do not pray for this people, or lift up a cry or prayer for them; for I will not hear them…” Jeremiah 11:11, 14
Because of the abominable practice of sacrificing small children to the pagan god Molech in Tophet in the Valley of Hinnom, God condemned Tophet and proclaimed He would use it for an example of the total depravity of the Israelites. Such would become known as the final destination for evil man.
“And they have built the high places of Tophet, which is in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire, which I did not command, nor did it come into My heart. ‘Therefore behold, the days are coming,’ says the LORD, ‘ when it will no more be called Tophet, or the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, but the Valley of Slaughter; for they will bury in Tophet until there is no room.’”
Synonyms for ‘slaughter’ include ‘kill’ and ‘murder.’
The ‘Valley of Slaughter’ would take on a different perspective, i.e. instead of being the place where innocent children were offered; it would become the place where the slaughterers would be destined throughout eternity.
An intended holy ‘religious’ site would become a desecrated place for the unclean.
Isaiah told of God’s eternal purpose for Tophet when He advised the king of Assyria that he would experience the everlasting fires of Tophet.
“For Tophet was established of old, Yes, for the king it is prepared. He has made it deep and large…the breath of the LORD, like a stream of brimstone, kindles it.” Isaiah 30:33
The final words of Isaiah speak of the new heavens and new earth. However, the final verse of his prophecy speaks of the eternal future of those who would not recognize and worship God.
“And they shall go forth and look upon the corpses of the men who have transgressed against Me. For their worm does not die, and their fire is not quenched. They shall be an abhorrence to all flesh.”Isaiah 66:24
The punishment for the transgressors would have no end. They would be tormented with worms (maggots) and fire throughout eternity.
The Hebrew ga-Hinnom becomes the Greek Gehenna.