What is the meaning of Gehenna?


By BibleAsk Team

Gehenna in the Old Testament

The Bible dictionary says that the word Gehenna, comes from the Hebrew Ge hinnom which means the “Valley of Hinnom.”  In the King James Version, the word Gehenna appears 13 times in 11 different verses as “Valley of Hinnom,” “Valley of the son of Hinnom,” or “Valley of the children of Hinnom.” The oldest historical reference to this valley is found in Joshua 15:8, 18:16.

In ancient Israel, Gehenna was a deep, narrow glen to the south of Jerusalem, where apostatized Jews offered their children as human sacrifices to the pagan Cannaanite god Molech (2 Kings 16:3; 23:10; Jeremiah 7:31; 19:6, 11–13). This evil practice was common among the nations of Palestine (Deuteronomy 12:31; 2 Kings 3:27). King Manasseh was guilty of this horrible sin (2 Kings 21:6). Human sacrifices were forbidden by God  to the Israelites under the penalty of death (Leviticus 18:21; 20:2).

The practice of child sacrifice was continued in the days of Jeremiah (ch. 7:31). During the reign of King Josiah, the prophet Jeremiah asked him to destroy the shrines in Topheth and to end the practice of child sacrifices (Jeremiah 7:31-32, 32:35). So, the king destroyed the shrine of Molech on Topheth, to prevent anyone from offering human sacrifices there ( 2 Kings 23:10).

Despite Josiah’s ending of the practice, Jeremiah included a prophecy that Jerusalem itself would be made like Gehenna and Topheth because of their continued transgressions against God (Jeremiah 19:2-6, 19:11-14). In judgement for Judah’s cruel, idolatrous worship, this evil place would be turned into a place of “slaughter” when Jerusalem was taken by the Babylonians (2 Kings 25:1–9). Thus, Tophet is pictured as the place where the enemies of the Lord are to be consumed with fire (Isaiah 33:14).

Later on, the “valley of Slaughter” (Jeremiah 19:6) became the common place for all the refuse of the city, where the dead bodies of animals and of criminals were cast and consumed by fire that kept continually burning.

Gehenna in the New Testament

In the New Testament, the word Gehenna is always translated “hell” (Matthew 5:22, 29,30; Luke 12:5; James 3:6). Jesus used the word Gehenna to describe the opposite to life in the Kingdom (Mark 9:43-48). He stated that hell is the place where both soul and body will be destroyed in the the lake of fire (Matthew 10:28; 23:15,33; Mark 9:43,45,47).

In Jewish Rabbinic literature and Christian literature, the word Gehenna is a symbol of the fire that will destroy the lost at the end of time. “And fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them. (Revelation 20:9b also Hebrews 12:29). The fire of Gehenna was not unending. And hell fire will not be forever. For more, check the following link:  https://bibleask.org/is-hell-forever/

How Can We Escape Hell?

The Bible answers this question, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38). Repentance means more than a confession of sin. It means a change of mind and forsaking of the old way of sin to follow Christ in the path of righteousness by His enabling grace. As the believer connects Himself daily to God through the study of His Word and prayer, the Holy Spirit will change His mind and renew His life (John 15:4,5). This inward change is the conversion experience. Baptism is the outward physical sign that the change has taken place.

Christ gave the conditions for salvation, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16). So, a person must believe in Jesus as his personal Savior from sin and this faith will bring the fruits of obedience to God’s Commands (Exodus 20). Just as baptism alone is not enough for salvation, “faith without works is dead” (James 2:26).

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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