hi'-el (chi'el; Achiel): A Bethelite who according to 1Ki 16:34 rebuilt Jericho, and in fulfillment of a curse pronounced by Joshua (Jos 6:26) sacrificed his two sons. This seems to have been a custom prevalent among primitive peoples, the purpose being to ward off ill luck from the inhabitants, especially in a case where the destroyer had invoked a curse on him who presumed to rebuild. Numerous instances are brought to light in the excavations of Gezer (Macalister, Bible Side-Lights from the Mound of Gezer, chapter x). At first the very best was claimed as a gift to the deity, e.g. one's own sons; then some less valuable member of the community. When civilization prevented human sacrifice, animals were offered instead. The story of Abraham offering Isaac may be a trace of this old custom, the tenor of the story implying that at the time of the writing of the record, the custom was coming to be in disrepute. A similar instance is the offering of his eldest son by the king of Edom to appease the deity and win success in battle (2Ki 3:27; compare Mic 6:7). Various conjectures have been made as to the identity of this king. Ewald regarded him as a man of wealth and enterprise (unternehmender reicher Mann); Cheyne following Niebuhr makes it Jehu in disguise, putting 1Ki 16:34 after 2Ki 10:33; Winckler explains as folklore.
W. N. Stearns