Gehinnom: The Valley of Hinnom and Its Afterlife Connotations


Gehinnom: The Valley of Hinnom and Its Afterlife Connotations

Gehinnom is a term that has various meanings in Jewish and Christian sources. It can refer to a historical valley near Jerusalem, a place of child sacrifice in ancient times, a metaphor for divine punishment or purification, and a realm of the damned or the wicked in the afterlife. In this article, we will explore the origins and development of this concept and its implications for Jewish and Christian eschatology.

The Valley of Hinnom

The Valley of Hinnom (Hebrew: גֵּיא בֶן־הִנֹּם ‎, romanized: Gēʾ ḇen-HÄ«nnōm, lit. ‘Valley of the son of Hinnom’) is a historic valley surrounding Ancient Jerusalem from the west and southwest. It meets and merges with the Kidron Valley, the other principal valley around the Old City, near the Pool of Siloam which lie to the southeastern corner of Ancient Jerusalem. It is also known as Wadi er-Rababi (Arabic: وادي الربابة “valley of the Rebab”).

The Valley of Hinnom is first mentioned in the Hebrew Bible as part of the border between the tribes of Judah and Benjamin (Joshua 15:8). During the late First Temple period, it was the site of the Tophet, where some of the kings of Judah had sacrificed their children by fire to the Ammonite god Moloch (Jeremiah 7:31). This practice was carried out by the Israelites during the reigns of King Solomon in the 10th century BC and King Manasseh in the 7th century BC and continued until the Babylonian Exile in the 6th century BC. Gehenna later was made a garbage centre to discourage a reintroduction of such sacrifices. The imagery of the burning of humans supplied the concept of “hellfire” to Jewish and Christian eschatology.

Gehinnom: The Place of Punishment or Purification


The Valley of Hinnom

In Mishnaic Hebrew and Aramaic, the name Gehinnom (Hebrew: גֵיא־הִנֹּם ‎ Gēʾ-HÄ«nnōm, lit. ‘Valley of Hinnom’) was contracted into גֵיהִינֹּם ‎ or גֵיהִינָּם ‎ GēhÄ«nnom. English “Gehenna” represents Géenna (/ɡɪˈhɛnə/; from Ancient Greek: Γέεννα), the Greek transliteration found in the New Testament.

In Judaism, Gehinnom is used for the realm in which the wicked expiate their sins. It is different from Sheol, which is the abode of all the dead. According to rabbinic literature, Gehinnom is a place of fire and torment where the souls of sinners are cleansed for up to twelve months before they can enter Gan Eden (the spiritual heaven). Some souls, however, are so wicked that they are condemned to eternal Gehinnom or are annihilated.

In Christianity, Gehenna is used for the place of eternal punishment for the wicked after the final judgment. It is also called hell or hellfire in some translations. It is contrasted with heaven, where the righteous enjoy eternal bliss in God’s presence. According to some Christian traditions, Gehenna is a literal place of fire and worms where sinners suffer endlessly. According to others, Gehenna is a metaphor for spiritual separation from God or annihilation.

Conclusion


Gehinnom: The Place of Punishment or Purification

Gehinnom is a multifaceted concept that reflects different aspects of Jewish and Christian beliefs about life after death. It originated from a historical valley near Jerusalem where children were sacrificed by fire to a pagan god. It later became associated with divine punishment or purification for sinners in Jewish Apocalypticism and rabbinic literature. It also became a synonym for hell or hellfire in Christian eschatology as a place of eternal torment or destruction for the wicked.