Who was Moloch (Molech) in the Bible? Story and Meaning

Molech is a particularly dark figure in Old Testament descriptions of Canaan's idols. His worshippers committed acts that put them in a special category of evil.

Contributing Writer
Updated Oct 06, 2023
Who was Moloch (Molech) in the Bible? Story and Meaning

1 Kings 11:7 tells us that Solomon, in one of the most unwise decisions of his reign as king of Israel, ordered pagan temples to be erected. One of these pagan deities was Molech (sometimes spelled Moloch or Molek, depending on your Bible translation).

Though the Lord had forbidden pagan worship, and named Molech specifically, Solomon and his people had fallen into a period of apostasy from the ways of the Lord (Leviticus 18:21; 20:2-5; Jeremiah 32:35). So, who was Molech?

Who Was Moloch / Molech in the Bible?

As we read in Leviticus 18:21, the worship of Molech included infanticide; specifically, it included the murder of infants as a pagan sacrifice.

For many years, it was thought that Molech was one of the pagan deities of the Canaanites, but debate exists among scholars as to whether he is actually a Phoenician pagan deity.

Whatever the case may be, God was very clear in his prohibition of Molech worship and sacrifices. According to Scripture, this worship took place primarily in the Hinnom Valley at Topheth, a place in the valley that translates to “pit of flame” (2 Kings 23:10).

Molech is usually depicted as a bull-headed anthropomorphic deity, which was heated until glowing like flames. Then, as the pinnacle of worship, an infant would be placed in his hands while his devotees listened to the infant cry as it burned to death before their eyes.

Such worship demonstrates such a depth of depravity, such a disregard for the sanctity of life —innocent life — that only the most moral degenerate could justify it. However, some Israelites apparently did so, which grieved the Lord tremendously.

Author Derek Gilbert provides a deeper look into the identity of Molech in his book Last Clash of the Titans. Gilbert explains that Molech was worshiped in the Amorite kingdom, based on the Euphrates River, near the border between Syria and Iraq, under the name Malik. He writes, “Further, it appears that Malik was served by a group of underworld deities called maliku.”

Gilbert goes on to explain that there is a connection between Molech and another pagan deity that has biblical importance. Ugaritic texts link Molech/Malik to the pagan god Rapi’u, whose name is the singular form of the word “Rephaim.”

Those familiar with the Old Testament will recognize this as a connection to Og of Bashan, the last Rephaim king. “In fact,” writes Gilbert, “Rapi’u is described as “the god enthroned at Ashtoroth, the god who rules in Edrei.”

Both of these cities were ruled over by Og. This connection to the Rephaim seems to strongly indicate that Molech is somehow related to the Nephilim mentioned in Genesis 6:1-4, Rephaim being a variant title for the same beings.

Nephilim, according to the non-canonical book of Enoch, was the offspring of a group of fallen angels known as Watchers and human women. These Nephilim became so violent against humanity, that God sent the flood to cleanse the earth of their evil and sin, which also influenced humanity to engage in various egregious sins.

The spirits of these hybrid Nephilim became demons. This Enochian understanding of demons' origin is what the early church held.

For example, Jude, the brother of Jesus, appeals to the account of Enoch in his epistle (Jude 14). Justin Martyr wrote, “The angels (Watchers) transgressed this appointment and were captivated by the love of women. And they begat children, who are those who are called demons.” 2 Commodianus also echoes this Enochian narrative when he wrote,

Such was the beauty of women that it turned the angels aside. As a result, being contaminated, they could not return to heaven. Being rebels from God, they uttered words against him. Then the Highest uttered His judgment against them. And from their seed, Nephilim are said to have been born. When they died, men erected images to them.

Rapi’u/Malik, being attended by the underworld deities, may also indicate that pagans considered Og's kingdom to be a portal or gateway to the underworld.

Was Molech an Idol?

With these facts in mind, it is even more important than we perhaps initially thought to avoid idolatry. While it is true that the physical idol is nothing to fear (1 Corinthians 8:4), we should be concerned about the diabolic presence behind them.

God warned the Israelites not to make idols or offer them worship (Leviticus 26:1; Leviticus 19:4; Exodus 20:3-6). These warnings did not cease with the coming of Christ but remain a commandment of God to us today.

The Apostle John commands us in his first epistle to guard ourselves against idols (1 John 5:21). John uses militant language here. To guard oneself against something means we take a defensive combat position in response to it.

If indeed an idol holds no danger for us, then there would be no need to guard against it. However, the Apostle speaks in such terms because he recognizes the spiritual reality behind idols.

Paul recommends his readers to literally retreat from idolatry (1 Corinthians 10:4). He isn’t suggesting we run in fear, but as members of the Church Militant, we make a strategic retreat from something that is dangerous to our combat readiness, our spiritual health.

In fact, Paul tells us that those who engage in idolatry cannot inherit the Kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9).

Why Does Paul Warn Against Idolatry?

Just like John and every other apostle, prophet, and saint, Paul understood the spiritual realities behind idols; that these are demons, working toward the destruction of man by removing him from the worship of the one true God and engaging him in the worship of all that is evil and opposes the Almighty (1 Corinthians 10:20-22).


Gilbert, Derek, Last Clash of the Titans, Defender Publishing, 2018

All Patristic quotes from A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs, edited by David Bercot, Hendrickson Publishing, 2009

For further reading:

What Is Idolatry in the Bible? Its Definition and Significance

What Is Apostasy?

Who Were the Nephilim in the Bible?

Who Is Baal in the Bible?

What Does the Bible Warn about False Prophets?

Who Are Pagans? The History and Beliefs of Paganism

What Is Spiritual Warfare?

Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/hakule

J. Davila-Ashcraft is an Anglican priest, Theologian, and Apologist, and holds a B.A. in Biblical Studies and Theology from God’s Bible College in Cincinnati, Ohio. He is a recognized authority on the topic of exorcism, and in that capacity has contributed to and/or appeared on programming for The National Geographic Channel, Discovery Channel, and CNN. He is the host of Expedition Truth, a one-hour apologetics radio talk show.


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