Worshipping Chemosh and Molech

I Kings 11:5-8


Sanctity of Life Sabbath

2080 words


Please turn in your Bibles to 1 Kings, chapter 11, and follow along as I read verses 5-8


5  For Solomon followed Astarte the goddess of the Sidonians, and Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites.

6  So Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, and did not completely follow the LORD, as his father David had done.

7  Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, and for Molech the abomination of the Ammonites, on the mountain east of Jerusalem.

8  He did the same for all his foreign wives, who offered incense and sacrificed to their gods.

Amen.  The word of God.  Thanks be to God.


Solomon became king of Israel about 970 B.C.  According to tradition, he wrote the biblical books of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes.  People came from far and near "to hear the wisdom of Solomon."  One person who came was queen Bilqis of Sheba.  According to Ethiopian tradition, the son of Bilqis and Solomon was Menelik I, the first emperor of Ethiopia.

Solomon surrounded himself with all the grandeur of an Eastern monarch, and he loved to build.  He built the temple in Jerusalem.  The one thing above all for which he is remembered is his construction of the house of God--which is odd because compared to Solomon's palace the temple was a rather small affair.  The temple was ninety feet long, thirty feet wide and forty-five feet high, but it was lavishly decorated with carving and sculpture.

Also, during his reign, Israel enjoyed great commercial prosperity.  Extensive traffic was carried on by land with Tyre and Egypt and Arabia, and by sea with Tarshish (Spain).  Some even suggest that his ships traded down the east coast of Africa.  Perhaps you have heard the legend of King Solomon’s mines somewhere in Africa. 

I Kings dwells extensively on the wealth of Solomon.  The luxury of Solomon's court far exceeded that of his father David.  Solomon had a harem (700 wives and 300 concubines).  He loved gold and used it extensively for plating buildings and furniture.  His 300 bodyguards carried shields of gold.  His great throne was made of ivory overlaid with gold embellished with fourteen lion statues.  He bought horses and chariots from Egypt.  That was a new thing.  David won all his battles without them, but Solomon who never fought in a battle just had to have them: 1400 chariots and 12000 horsemen, and he built fortress cities to house this new military machine.

Then, of course, Solomon built for himself a palace, a palace of expensive stones and cedar wood, a huge building to impress visitors with his power.

As we read of Solomon's magnificence, and of his ambitious building program, it becomes obvious that he spent lots of money, but, for all his pretensions, Israel was still a relatively poor country.  So, the king spent more than he took in.  That sounds like our government, doesn’t it?  Solomon ran Israel into debt and resorted to ever high taxes to pay his debts.  He did other things also.  On one occasion, he gave twenty Israelite cities to Hiram, king of Tyre, to pay off a debt.  He used Israelites as forced labor to complete his buildings.

In the end, Solomon's economic policies were a disaster.  The heavy taxation, the forced labor, the ceding of Israelite cities to foreign powers, eroded the people's confidence in Solomon.  The empire began to disintegrate.  Syria staged a successful revolt and regained its independence.  Even in Israel itself, there was smoldering anger over Solomon's oppressive rule, and when Solomon died, the anger flamed into open revolt and broke Israel into two nations.

But what about Solomon himself?  The young man with a zeal for God changed over the years.  He thought less and less of God, and more and more of Solomon.  His main ambition seems to have been acceptance as an equal by the kings of the surrounding nations.  To this end, he entered into relations with them.  He was of their circle.  He acted like all the other kings.

He was much influenced by Egypt.  He took an Egyptian princess for his chief queen, and built her a palace.  He modeled his proverbs and songs upon the literature of Egypt.  He took wives from many of the surrounding people, Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians, Hittites.  These were women of distinction in their own nations, and they brought a foreign influence into Israel, and they brought foreign gods into Israel.

I have often heard the question, what could Solomon possibly do with 700 wives and 300 concubines?  But the real question is: What did the wives and concubines do to Solomon?   By the end of his reign, he had become a doddering old fool dominated by these women, doing what they wished, worshipping as they wished. 

In his own estimate, Solomon probably thought of himself as a man of the world, tolerant, cosmopolitan, sophisticated.  Solomon knew many religions, and he obviously thought that they were all pretty much the same.  So it did not make much difference which God you worshipped, and therefore if his women wanted to worship other gods, that was OK.  He would go along.

So we read in I Kings 11:4, “when Solomon was old, his wives turned away his heart after other gods; and his heart was not true to the LORD his God, as was the heart of his father David.”  Solomon worshipped Astarte and Milcom, and v7 says that he built on the mountain east of Jerusalem high places for “Chemosh the abomination of Moab, and for Molech the abomination of the Ammonites.”

Now many people in America would say, What is wrong with that?  So Solomon tolerated, even encouraged, some religious diversity in Israel.  That is no big deal. Those narrow-minded Israelites probably needed to be exposed to a more cosmopolitan point of view.  That is what we advocate, don’t we?   We Americans pride ourselves on religious toleration, and so why should we condemn Solomon.  After all, was he not standing against bigotry and prejudice?

Actually, no he was not.  My reply to folks who want to see Solomon as a pillar of religious tolerance is that they do not realize what worshipping Chemosh or Molech meant.  I Kings says that Solomon built Chemosh and Molech “high places.”  What does that mean?  It means places of sacrifice.  The Moabites and Ammonites sacrificed children to their gods.

There is some confusion about how this was done, but, apparently, the idol was hollow, and the arms were outstretched in a such a position that when a child was placed in the arms, it rolled into the gaping mouth of the idol and into a fire inside the idol, where the child burned to death.

Our reaction is: This is horrible.  How could a civilized people do this to their children?  Solomon was supposed to be a godly and wise man, and he did it.  How could that happen?  This is not religious toleration.  This is, as the Scripture rightly says, an abomination.  This is not acceptable to God.  This is an insult to God. 

And realize that this was not something restricted to the palace of Solomon.  Later prophets constantly denounce the practice of worshipping Chemosh and Molech.  This was a widespread movement in ancient Palestine.  The worship of Molech was much practiced throughout the land.

And it was wrong.  It was evil.  We all know that.  Among all human beings, there is basic agreement that one of the most evil things that anyone can do is kill children.  Any kind of murder is wrong, but the murder of a child causes special indignation and anger. 

We say praise God that no one today worships Chemosh and Molech.  Can you imagine the international reaction if someone put up an altar and said, “We are going to burn a child.”  There would be universal condemnation.  And rightly so.

But, in our own special American way, we still worship Chemosh and Molech.  We are in the business of killing children.  We do not put it that bluntly, we speak of medical procedures and hygienic practices, but we tolerate the killing of unborn children.


The abortion controversy divides this nation right down the middle.  It is usually cast in terms of pro-life versus pro-choice.  Pro-life folks talk about the unborn child’s right to life, and pro-choice folks talk about the woman’s right to make her own decisions about her own body. 

Pro-choice advocates say that they are not actually pro-abortion.  They only want the woman to have the choice of whether to have an abortion or not.  Pro-life folks say that no one has the choice to do murder.  No one has a right to kill a person.  Pro-choice folks answer that an embryo or fetus is not a person. 

Here we get to the crux of the argument.  If it is admitted that a human fetus is a human being, then any abortion is obviously murder.  So, equally obviously, the pro-choice folks are not going to admit that.  They say that until the fetus can live on its own, it cannot be considered a human being. 

But is that a valid definition of life?  My father-in-law, Claude Martin, right now is confined to a bed in the nursing home.  He is fed by feeding tube. He cannot get up without assistance.  He cannot talk.  Is he a human being?  Of course he is.  If you said to his family, he cannot live on his own, let us give him a lethal injection, and get rid of him, his family would reject that with horror.  My wife Beth would say, It is just plain sick to suggest such a thing.

But this illustrates the can of worms which we open when we try to dehumanize the human fetus.  If it is all right to kill the unborn child, then it is all right to kill the old and the sick and the helpless of our species.  In other words, if abortion is ok, then euthanasia is ok. 

It seems strange to me that most of the arguments for killing the fetus revolve around the helplessness of the fetus.  The fetus can do nothing much for itself, so it is ok to kill it.  A Christian cannot accept that kind of argument.  Jesus calls us to protect the weak and the helpless.

One of the reasons I am pro-life is ugliness of the actual procedure of abortion.  I have noticed that pro-choice people don’t want to describe what actually happens on the abortion table.  They surround it with euphemisms and nice sounding medical terms.  They don’t talk about crushing skulls and ripping tiny bodies apart.  They maintain that abortion is no more than cutting a fingernail.  It is just removing tissue from the woman’s body, but it is much more than that. 

Individual human life begins at conception.  Human life goes through many stages.  It begins as an embryo, becomes a fetus, an infant, a young child, an adolescent, an adult, a senior adult, an old person, and finally the person dies.  At each of those stages, the person has the characteristics associated with that stage of life.  We do not treat a human newborn as an adult.  We do not expect a baby to walk, talk, and reason like an adult.  But a human embryo, fetus, baby, is alive, a living creature.  It is also human in that it is a stage through which all human beings pass.  Being human means being at a time an embryo, fetus, new-born, baby, toddler, child, adolescent, adult, and so on.

If we kill a human being at any of these stages of life, we have killed a human being.  If we kill a human embryo, we kill a human being in that stage of life.  If we kill an adult, we kill a human being in that stage of life.  If we kill an old person at the feeble end of life, we still kill a human being. 

That leads us to this simple conclusion.  The only consistent position for a Christian, for a people of love, is to be against all killing. 

That is the message of Christ.  Don’t kill people.  Don’t kill people at any stage of life.  Don’t kill the unborn.  Don’t kill the born either.  Stop worshipping at the idols of Chemosh and Molech.  Amen.



If you have questions or comments, email Tony Grant

HOME About YARPC Sermons What's New Prayer Center


Copyright 2003 York Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church

Last modified  08/19/06