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Bible Encyclopedias

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia

Fire

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fı̄r ( אשׁ , 'ēsh ; πῦρ , púr ): These are the common words for fire, occurring very frequently. 'Ūr , "light" (Isaiah 24:15 the King James Version; compare the Revised Version (British and American); Isaiah 31:9 , and see FIRES ), nūr (Aramaic) (Daniel 3:22 ) are found a few times, also 'eshshāh (Jeremiah 6:29 ), and be‛ērāh (Exodus 22:6 ), once each. Acts 28:2 , Acts 28:3 has purá , "pyre," and Mark 14:54 ; Luke 22:56 , phō̇s , "light," the Revised Version (British and American) "in the light (of the fire)." "To set on fire," yācath (2 Samuel 14:31 ), lāhaṭ (Deuteronomy 32:22 , etc.), phlogı́zō (James 3:6 ).

Fire was regarded by primitive peoples as supernatural in origin and specially Divine. Molech, the fire-god, and other deities were worshipped by certain Canaanitish and other tribes with human sacrifices (Deuteronomy 12:31 ; 2 Kings 17:31 ; Psalm 106:37 ), and, although this was specially forbidden to the Israelites (Leviticus 18:21 ; Deuteronomy 12:31 ; Deuteronomy 18:10 ), they too often lapsed into the practice (2 Kings 16:3 ; 2 Kings 21:6 ; Jeremiah 7:31 ; Ezekiel 20:26 , Ezekiel 20:31 ). See MOLECH ; IDOLATRY .

1. Literal Usage

Fire in the Old Testament is specially associated with the Divine presence, e.g. in the making of the Covenant with Abraham (Genesis 15:17 ), in the burning bush. (Exodus 3:2-4 ), in the pillar of fire (Exodus 13:21 ), on Sinai (Exodus 19:18 ), in the flame on the altar (Judges 13:20 ). Yahweh was "the God that answereth by fire" (1 Kings 18:24 , 1 Kings 18:38 ). In the Law, therefore, sacrifices and offerings (including incense) were to be made by fire (Exodus 12:8 , Exodus 12:9 , Exodus 12:10 ; Lev 1). Fire from Yahweh signified the acceptance of certain special and separate sacrifices (Judges 6:21 ; 1 Kings 18:38 ; 1 Chronicles 21:26 ). In Leviticus 9:24 the sacrificial fire "came forth from before Yahweh." The altar-fire was to be kept continually burning ( Leviticus 6:12 , Leviticus 6:13 ); offering by "strange fire" (other than the sacred altar-fire) was punished by "fire from before Yahweh" (Leviticus 10:1 , Leviticus 10:2 ). Fire came from heaven also at the consecration of Solomon's Temple (2 Chronicles 7:1 ).

According to 2 Macc 1:19-22, at the time of the Captivity priests hid the sacred fire in a well, and Nehemiah found it again, in a miraculous way, for the second Temple. Later, Maccabeus is said to have restored the fire by "striking stones and taking fire out of them" (Nehemiah 10:3 ).

Fire was a frequent instrument of the Divine primitive wrath (Genesis 19:24 ; Exodus 9:23 (lightning); Numbers 11:1 ; Numbers 16:35 , etc.; Psalm 104:4 , the American Standard Revised Version "Who maketh ... flames of fire his ministers"). Fire shall yet dissolve the world (2 Peter 3:12 ). It was frequently used by the Israelites as a means of destruction of idolatrous objects and the cities of their enemies (Deuteronomy 7:5 , Deuteronomy 7:25 ; Deuteronomy 12:3 ; Deuteronomy 13:16 ; Joshua 6:24 ; Jgs, frequently); sometimes also of punishment (Leviticus 20:14 ; Leviticus 21:9 ; Joshua 7:25 ; 2 Macc 7:5).

The domestic use of fire was, as among other peoples, for heating, cooking, lighting, etc., but according to the Law no fire could be kindled on the Sabbath day (Exodus 35:3 ). It was employed also for melting (Exodus 32:24 ), and refining (Numbers 31:23 ; Numbers 3:2 , Numbers 3:3 , etc.). For the sacrificial fire wood was used as fuel (Genesis 22:3 , Genesis 22:1 ; Leviticus 6:12 ); for ordinary purposes, also charcoal (Proverbs 25:22 ; Isaiah 6:6 , the Revised Version, margin "or hot stone"; Habakkuk 3:5 , the Revised Version (British and American) "fiery bolts," margin "or burning coals"; John 21:9 , "a fire of coals" the Revised Version, margin "Gr, a fire of charcoal"; Romans 12:20 ); branches (Numbers 15:32 ; 1 Kings 17:12 ); thorns (Psalm 58:9 ; Psalm 118:12 ; Ecclesiastes 7:6 ; Isaiah 33:12 ); grass and other herbage (Matthew 6:30 ; Luke 12:28 ).

2. Figurative Use

Fire was an emblem (1) of Yahweh in His glory (Daniel 7:9 ); (2) in His holiness (Isaiah 6:4 ); (3) in His jealousy for His sole worship (Deuteronomy 4:24 ; Hebrews 12:29 ; Psalm 79:5 ; perhaps also Isaiah 33:14 ); (4) of His protection of His people (2 Kings 6:17 ; Zechariah 2:5 ); (5) of His righteous judgment and purification (Zechariah 13:9 ; Malachi 3:2 , Malachi 3:3 ; 1 Corinthians 3:13 , 1 Corinthians 3:15 ); (6) of His wrath against sin and punishment of the wicked (Deuteronomy 9:3 ; Psalm 18:8 ; Psalm 89:46 ; Isaiah 5:24 ; Isaiah 30:33 , "a Topheth is prepared of old"; Matthew 3:10-12 ; Matthew 5:22 , the Revised Version (British and American) "the hell of fire," margin "Greek, Gehenna of fire"; see Isaiah 30:33 ; Jeremiah 7:31 ; Matthew 13:40 , Matthew 13:42 ; Matthew 25:41 , "eternal fire"; Mark 9:45-49 ; see Isaiah 66:24 ; 2 Thessalonians 1:7 ; Hebrews 10:27 ; Judges 1:7 ); (7) of the word of God in its power (Jeremiah 5:14 ; Jeremiah 23:29 ); (8) of Divine truth (Psalm 39:3 ; Jeremiah 20:9 ; Luke 12:49 ); (9) of that which guides men (Isaiah 50:10 , Isaiah 50:11 ); (10) of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:3 ); (11) of the glorified Christ (Revelation 1:14 ); (12) of kindness in its melting power (Romans 12:20 ); (13) of trial and suffering (Psalm 66:12 ; Isaiah 43:2 ; 1 Pet 17; 1 Peter 4:12 ); (14) of evil (Proverbs 6:27 ; Proverbs 16:27 ; Isaiah 9:18 ; Isaiah 65:5 ); lust or desire (Hosea 7:6 ; Sirach 23:16; 1 Corinthians 7:9 ); greed (Proverbs 30:16 ); (15) of the tongue in its evil aspects (James 3:5 , James 3:6 ); (16) of heaven in its purity and glory (Revelation 15:2 ; see also Revelation 21:22 , Revelation 21:23 ).


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Bibliography Information
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. Entry for 'Fire'. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/isb/f/fire.html. 1915.

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Monday, December 9th, 2019
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