Whilst I was gazing and wondering, suddenly it occurred to me--being familiar with the Old Testament--that Solomon went astray after strange gods, the names of three of whom I remembered--"Ashtoreth, the goddess of the Zidonians, Chemosh
, the god of the Moabites, and Milcom, the god of the children of Ammon"--and I suggested to my companions that the figures before us might represent these false and exploded divinities.
(Cf the scene in 2 Kings 3.27, where King Mesha burns his eldest son as a sacrifice to Chemosh
, the god of the Moabites, which so disheartens the Israelites that they flee in panic.) In fact, it took a bold act of the imagination to deny all reality to the elaborate and impressive cults of Israel's neighbors; and not until Second Isaiah (40-55) do we find a forthright insistence that pagan gods simply don't exist.
The idol Chemosh
was originally Ammon's national idol.
Solomon even "built a high place for Chemosh
, the abomination of Moab" (I Kings 11: 7).
Yet somehow supernatural and demigodic "angels" and "demons" are presented as independent segments of metaphysical realm--as well as the 40 or so named gods in the Bible: Ashtoreth, Tammuz, Diana, Jupiter, Nehushtan, Remphan, Chemosh
, Nisroch, Molech, Rahab, and so on.
It may be for this reason that Hand is associated with Molech of Moloch, the god to whom children were sacrificed: "The night falls thick Hand comes from Albion in his strength / He combines into a Mighty-one the Double Molech & Chemosh
11:24, "That which Chemosh
your god grants you as a possession, you shall possess, and all those whom YHWH our god dispossesses before us, we shall take possession from them," as indicating such a recognition.
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.
21:29) that Moab was openly pagan and worshiping Chemosh
, but it was its ethical lapse that was of interest to biblical normative law.
This diaspora was a consequence of Solomon's decision to follow pagan customs by "sacrificing in the high places," rather than the tabernacle, and the king eventually turned to human sacrifice in Chemosh
. In the Biblical verses that immediately precede Coleridge's quotation, Elijah had initiated the process of reintegration by means of a sacrificial distinction, as God lit the fire under Elijah's sacrifice, while Baal failed to do the same for his followers.
The story of the Moabite campaign (1 Ki 3:4-27) in which Chemosh
decides the battle is but one example of a biblical story, if not the Bible as a whole, that recognizes deities other than YHWH and is not wholly monotheistic.
Moreover, literarily, it is impossible to make sense of the later report (second edition, 2 Kgs 23:13) that Josiah destroyed Solomon's high places for Ashtoret and Chemosh
unless the whole point of this passage is that Solomon in fact built them (in 11:7).