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Isaiah 30:33 (NIV)
Topheth has long been prepared;
it has been made ready for the king.
Its fire pit has been made deep and wide,
with an abundance of fire and wood;
the breath of the Lord,
like a stream of burning sulfur,
sets it ablaze.

From context, it sounds like a place--specifically like my modern understanding of hell. However, I've never heard of this name before.

So, what is Topheth, exactly? Is it just another name for hell? Is (was) it a physical town/country?

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May I ask: What do you mean by this: modern understanding of hell? –  hannes Jun 27 '13 at 19:47
    
@hannes Oh, that's just amalgam of "my understanding of hell" and "the modern concept of hell". And that's just a reference to the varying concepts of Sheol throughout time. Ultimately, I'm just asking about Topheth, not so much asking about a modern understanding hell. –  Richard Jun 27 '13 at 20:08

2 Answers 2

up vote 5 down vote accepted

There is, as Richard points out, a whole Wikipedia page dedicated to the subject which is far superior to my quick answer down here.


Topheth is probably synonymous with the valley of Hinnom (Jer 7:32), which is exactly that valley south of Jerusalem where children was sacrificed to Moloech. So you are right when associating this with Gehenna/Hell. The horrible way they sacrificed the children was by "frying" them in the hands of a bronze statue. See this Wikipedia article. That knowledge helps when trying to understand this text.

The king that should be punished is the Assyrian king.

Reference

From the notes of NET Bible:

The meaning of תָּפְתֶּה (tafÿteh), which occurs only here, is unknown. The translation above (as with most English versions) assumes an emendation to תֹּפֶת (tofet, "Topheth"; cf. NASB, NIV, NLT) and places the final hey (ה) on the beginning of the next word as an interrogative particle. Topheth was a place near Jerusalem used as a burial ground (see Jer 7:32; 19:11).

From Zondervan Study Bible:

Topeth. A region outside Jerusalem where children were sacrificed to Molech (see 2Ki23:10; Jer 7:31-32; 19:6, 11-14 and notes), the god of the Ammonites (see 1Ki 11:8). Thus it was a place of burning.

From Strongs Hebrew:

8611 topheth to'-feth from the base of 8608; a smiting, i.e. (figuratively) contempt:--tabret. see HEBREW for 08608

8612 Topheth to'-feth the same as 8611; Topheth, a place near Jerusalem:--Tophet, Topheth. see HEBREW for 08611

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1  
Wow. I didn't know about the sacrifices. That's...atrocious. Thanks for the wiki link. I'm going to go read that now. –  Richard Jun 26 '13 at 12:33
    
No problem. It reaaly is! I only browsed through the article myself (my limited English skills made it hard to understand some things). But it seemed to say what I've been thought previously, please correct me otherwise. –  Niclas Nilsson Jun 26 '13 at 12:40
1  
Yeah, turns out Wikipedia has an entire article dedicated to Topheth. –  Richard Jun 26 '13 at 16:12
    
Ok. Added that to my answer :) –  Niclas Nilsson Jun 26 '13 at 17:43

Rashi, in his commentary to this verse in Isaiah and in a parallel commentary to Bablyl. Talmud Eruvin 19a, says that this is Gehinnom -- the Jewish version of Hell -- where "whoever is enticed by their inclination to do evil will fall there." The Radak's commentary explains that verse means that Gehinnom is prepared for the wicked during their lifetime, and after death their souls die and go to Gehinnom forever. It should be noted that the Talmudic sages, at Rosh Hashanah 17a-b, regard Gehinnom as a place where the souls of marginal sinners go for cleansing before they go to Heaven. The School of Shammai said: "The intermediate group will go down to Gehinnom, and squeal and rise again, as it says, "And I will bring the third part through the fire, and refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried. They shall call My Name and I will answer them." (Zech. 13:9.) The Talmud at Rosh Hashanah 17b, however, also brings down a teaching from the School of Hillel who explains that because of God's Mercy, certain Jewish and non-Jewish sinners will be purified in Gehinnom for no more than 12 months, after which they will rise to Heaven; the wicked, however, will have their bodies burned in Gehinnom for a full 12 months afterwhich their bodies will be turned to a flooring for the feet of the righteous in Heaven (citing Malachai 3:21).

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