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- For the sacred precinct of Carthage with that name, see Carthage.
Tophet or Topheth (Hebrew: תופת ha-tōpheth; Greek: Ταφεθ; Latin: Topheth) is believed to be a location in Jerusalem, in the Valley of Hinnom, where the Canaanites sacrificed children to the god Moloch by burning them alive. After the practice of child sacrifice was outlawed by King Josiah, the valley became a refuse site where animal carcasses, waste and the bodies of criminals were dumped, with fires permanently burning to keep disease at bay. Tophet became a synonym for hell.
The name is possibly derived from the Hebrew toph = drum, because drums were used to drown the cries of children, but possibly connected with a root word meaning “burning” - the "place of burning". In the King James Version, the form Tophet is used, except in 2 Kings 23:10, where it spelt Topheth.
The following references are made in the Hebrew Bible: “They have built the high places of Topheth, which is in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire” (Jeremiah 7:31). On account of this abomination Topheth and the Valley of Hinnom should be called "The Valley of Slaughter: for they shall bury in Topheth, till there be no place to bury," the Revised Version margin “because there shall be no place else” ( ); see also , 19:12-14. Josiah is said to have “defiled Topheth” as part of his great religious reforms ( ). The site would seem to have been either at the lower end of the Valley of Hinnom, near where Akeldama is now pointed out, or in the open ground where this valley joins the Kidron Valley.
And more than that — a furlong on — why, there!
What bad use was that engine for, that wheel,
Or brake, not wheel — that harrow fit to reel
Men's bodies out like silk? With all the air
Of Tophet's tool, on earth left unaware
Or brought to sharpen its rusty teeth of steel.
- John Milton, "Paradise Lost", Book I
Nor content with such
Audacious neighbourhood, the wisest heart
Of SOLOMON [Moloch] led by fraud to build
His Temple right against the Temple of God
On that opprobrious Hill, and made his Grove
The pleasant Vally of HINNOM, TOPHET thence
And black GEHENNA call'd, the Type of Hell.
- John Donne, "From a sermon preached to the Earl of Carlisle", 1622 in "John Donne - The Major Works", Oxford Paperbacks, ISBN 0199537941, p. 320
"When all is done, the hell of hells, the torment of torments, is the everlasting absence of God, and the everlasting impossibility of returning to his presence...to fall out of the hands of the living God, is a horror beyond our expression, beyond our imagination.... What Tophet is not Paradise, what Brimstone is not Amber, what gnashing is not a comfort, what gnawing of the worme is not a tickling, what torment is not a marriage bed to this damnation, to be secluded eternally, eternally, eternally from the sight of God?"
"Another phenomenon, still more strikingly modern, was a package of lucifer-matches, which, in old times, would have been thought actually to borrow their instantaneous flame from the nether fires of Tophet."
"... all at once, there rose a Thought in me, and I asked myself: “What art thou afraid of? Wherefore, like a coward, dost thou forever pip and whimper, and go cowering and trembling? Despicable biped! what is the sum-total of the worst that lies before thee? Death? Well, Death; and say the pangs of Tophet too, and all that the Devil and Man may, will or can do against thee!"
"It’s ominous, thinks I. A Coffin my Innkeeper upon landing in my first whaling port; tombstones staring at me in the whalemen’s chapel, and here a gallows! and a pair of prodigious black pots too! Are these last throwing out oblique hints touching Tophet?"
By the engine stood a dark motionless being, a sooty and grimy embodiment of tallness, in a sort of trance, with a heap of coals by his side: it was the engineman. The isolation of his manner and colour lent him the appearance of a creature from Tophet, who had strayed into the pellucid smokelessness of this region of yellow grain and pale soil, with which he had nothing in common, to amaze and to discompose its aborigines."
"O ye who tread the Narrow Way
By Tophet-flare to judgement Day
Be gentle when "the heathen" pray
To Buddha at Kamakura!"
- Kim, by Rudyard Kipling, opens with the above excerpt of Thomas Hardy's poem.
- Buddha at Kamakura by Rudyard Kipling:
"Oh ye who tread the Narrow Way by Tophet-flare to Judgment Day,..."
As listed on Abaddon’s side,
They mangle their own flesh, and slay:
Tophet is moved, and opens wide
Its mouth for its enormous prey;