Gehenna, comes from the Hebrew word Gehinnom which means the “Valley of Hinnom.” The terms are derived from a place outside ancient Jerusalem known in the Hebrew Bible as the Valley of the Son of Hinnom. This place is called “Tophet” in Isaiah 30:33. And the oldest historical reference to this valley is found in Joshua 15:8, 18:16 which describes tribal boundaries.
This valley was a place where dead animals, garbage, and other refuse were discarded. The wood for the fire was abundant and the fire devoured everything (Isaiah 30:33). So, Jesus used Gehenna as an illustration of hell.
In the King James Version of the Bible, the term appears 13 times in 11 different verses as “Valley of Hinnom”, “Valley of the son of Hinnom” or “Valley of the children of Hinnom.” In the synoptic Gospels Jesus uses the word Gehenna to describe the opposite to life in the Kingdom (Mark 9:43-48). It is a place where both soul and body could be destroyed (Matthew 10:28) in “unquenchable fire” (Mark 9:43).
In Jewish Rabbinic literature and Christian scripture, Gehenna is a symbol of the fire that will destroy the lost at the end of time. The fire of Gehenna was not unending. Otherwise it would be still burning southwest of Jerusalem today. And likewise the fire of hell will not be unending. https://bibleask.org/is-hell-forever/
In the Hebrew Bible, Gehenna was initially where some of the kings of Judah sacrificed their children by fire to the Canaanite god Molech (2 Chronicles 28:3; 33:6; Jeremiah 7:31; 19:2–6).
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). King Josiah destroyed the shrine of Molech on Topheth, to prevent anyone 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 (19:2-6, 19:11-14).
Check out our Bible Answers page for more information on a variety of topics.
In His service,