Origins of Molech and his Legend

Molech’s association with the sun – a figure usually connoting supreme reign among polytheistic pantheons – connects him with several other deities, in the ancient Near East and throughout many diverse mythologies. It is thought that Molech may be a particular incarnation of Nimrod, the Babylonian god of the sun and the most powerful figure among their deities.

Nimrod was the great-grandson of Noah, and was originally a Mesopotamian monarch (the status of which corresponds with Molech’s meaning: shameful king) who founded the cities of Babylon, Uruk, Akkad, and Calneh, and if biblical accounts are to be trusted, he also established the important cities of Nineveh and Calah. Far from merely founding the most influential cities of the fertile crescent, however, Nimrod is held accountable as the king who built the tower of babel.

It is posited that Nimrod led his people to the worship of Ba’al, seen as a demonic figure in the Christian and Jewish traditions; it is most likely from this source that Nimrod’s reputation for dark and antagonistic power arose. In the Jewish bible, Nimrod and Abraham are pitted against each other in an epic struggle allegorical of the clash between good and evil. In this legend, Nimrod is told that the stars portent that Abraham will be born and cause an end to the practice of idolatry, and so Nimrod has all newborn babies sacrificed – an event with obvious ties to the ritual child sacrifice associated with the figure of Molech. The legend not only speaks to the classic themes of right and wrong, and of heaven and hell, but also of monotheism and polytheism, painting Nimrod (perhaps a little unfairly) as the representative of all polytheistic practices and faiths.

Nimrod’s ascension to godhood is not so clearly depicted in ancient texts, though one tradition holds that after the king was murdered and torn into many small pieces, which were sent out among the people as a warning to those who would practice the worship of Ba’al, Nimrod’s mother or wife collected all of his parts. According to the tale, she then stitched them back together and claimed to the people that he was still alive, but had simply become a god, and so would not deign to speak or move about as before.

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