A few weeks on Twitter a newer follower (@Beanster_97) tweeted about the "cow god" of the Old Testament. Because Moloch is so rich a character, and because there's a lot more going on there than you might think, I promised Beanster that I would make Moloch the topic of an upcoming blog post; so away we go!
Moloch was an idol god of the Ammon; a peoples who lived between Arnon and Jabbok during the Bronze Age. Today this area is known as Jordan. The people of this Kingdom (then called Rabbah) were known as the Children of Ammon or, simply, Ammonites. References to Moloch as "the god of the Ammonites" can be found in the Hebrew Bible.
However, Beanster's image isn't of Moloch so much as it appears to be a building in the shape of Moloch constructed above a kiln and possessing multiple prison cells within its frame. The image is a modern day interpretation of a piece of artwork done in 18th century Germany entitled, "Der Gotze Moloch", or simply "The Idol Moloch". You might wonder why there would even exist such a artistic representation; an idolatrous building like this instead of a simple statue. Why the kiln and the prison cells? Well, that's why you subscribe to this mailing list!
The Duality of "Moloch"
Moloch wasn't just a god, it was also a particular form of sacrifice practiced by the Carthaginians. During times of great need (droughts, bad storms, earthquakes, disease, etc) the Carthaginians would burn children as a sacrifice to Moloch and in return for his help in averting disaster. These sacrifices became known as "molochs". Depictions like the one Beanster shared are artistic interpretations of the sacrificial process. Children were burned and thereby "given" to Moloch as sustenance to fill his body with life. I'm unsure as to whether or not structures like the one in Beanster's picture actually existed, I couldn't find much on that.
As far as the seven prison-like cavities in the god's chest (always seven) is likely a hat-tip to the Roman version of Cronos: Saturn; whose number is 7. All "new" pagan gods seem to be simple re-inventions of "old" pagan gods (or, at least, they inherit from them) so I believe this is a reasonable notion.
Nimrod and Moloch
According to Jewish legend, Nimrod (King of Mesopotamia and great-grandson of Noah) was terrified of his people turning to the Christian God and thereby terrified of a prophecy which foretold the birth of a child who would do just that. In an effort to prevent this, Nimrod demanded 70,000 babies be burned to death; sacrifices to the Phoenician (Canaanite/Ammonite) god Moloch. Apparently this wasn't a very successful attempt though, as Abram of Ur (aka Abraham, aka the biblical patriarch) either survived the ordeal or was born afterwards. Abram eventually gave birth to "The Father of Israel", Isaac. The rest, you probably know.
Pagan Origins of Moloch
It is believed that Moloch is the personification of the Phoenician "mlk" (pronounced 'mullk'). Mlk was a type of sacrifice made to Ba'al in order to confirm or acquit a vow. Phoenicians sacrificed children in absolutely epic numbers. As Plutarch, Tertullian, Orosius and other historians of that time period often eluded: Phoenician culture was practically infamous for their sacrificial practices.
As Christianity grew in numbers and pagan religions struggled to survive, it's not surprising that a method of sacrifice aimed at pleasing a pagan god (Ba'al) would intensify in practice to the point of becoming its own angry god. After all, sacrifice harder and god might become strong enough to defeat the other god(s).