Fire (properly אִשׁ, esh, πῦρ). On the origin of fire, see Kitto's Daily Bible Illust. i, 94. The applications of fire in Scripture are susceptible of the following classification:
1. That which consumed the burnt sacrifice and the incense-offering, beginning with the sacrifice of Noah (Ge 8:20), and continued in the ever-burning fire on the altar; first kindled from heaven (Le 6:9,13; Le 9:24), and rekindled at the dedication of Solomon's Temple (2Ch 7:1,3). SEE SACRIFICE.
"Fire from heaven," "'fire of the Lord', usually denotes lightning in the Old Testament; but, when connected with sacrifices, the "fire of the Lord" is often to be understood as the fire of the altar, and sometimes the holocaust itself (Ex 29:18; Le 1:9; Le 2:3; Le 3:5,9; Nu 28:6; 1Sa 2:28; Isa 20:6; Mal 1:10). SEE LIGHTNING.
The perpetual fire on the altar was to be replenished with wood every morning (Le 6:12; comp. Isa 31:9). According to the Gemara, it was divided into three parts, one for burning the victims, one for incense, and one for supply of the other portions (Le 6:15; see Reland, Antiq. Hebr. i, 4. 8, p. 26; and 9:10, p. 98). Fire for sacred purposes obtained elsewhere than from the altar was called "strange fire," and for use of such Nadab and Abihu were punished with death by fire from God (Le 10:1-2; Nu 3:4; Nu 26:61). SEE ALTAR.
2. Parallel with this application of fire is -to be noted the similar use for sacrificial purposes, and the respect paid to it, or to the heavenly bodies as symbols of deity (see below), which prevailed among so many nations of antiquity, and of which the traces are not even now extinct: e.g. the Sabaean and Magian systems of worship, and their alleged connection with Abraham (Spencer, De Leg. Hebr. ii, 1, 2); the occasional relapse of the Jews themselves into sun, or its corrupted form of fire-worship (Isa 27:9; compare Gesenius, s.v. חִמָּן, Thesaur. p. 489; see De 17:3; Jer 8:2; Eze 8:16; Zep 1:5; 2Ki 17:16; 2Ki 21:3; 2Ki 23:5,10-11,13; comp. Jahn, Bibl. Arch. c. 6:§ 405, 408); the worship or deification of heavenly bodies or of fire, prevailing to some extent, as among the Persians, so also even in Egypt (Herod. iii, 16; see Wilkinson, Anc. Eg. i, 328, abridgm.); the sacred fire of the Greeks and Romans (Thucyd. i, 24; ii, 15; Cicero, De Leg. ii, 8, 12; Livy, 28:12; Dionys. ii, 67; Plutarch, Numa, 9, i, 263, ed. Reiske); the ancient forms and usages of worship, differing from each other in some important respects, but to some extent similar in principle, of Mexico and Peru (Prescott,
Mexico, i, 60, 64; Peru, i, 101); and, lastly, the theory of the so-called Guebres of Persia, and the Parsees of Bombay. (Frazer, Persia, c. 4:p. 141, 162, 164; Sir R. Porter, Travels, ii, 50, 424; Chardin, Voyages, ii, 310; 4:258; 8:367 sq.; Niebuhr, Travels, ii, 36, 37; Mandelslo, Travelb, b. i, p. 76; Gibbon, Hist. c. 8:i, 335, ed. Smith; Benj. of Tudela, Early Trav. p. 114, 116; Burckhardt, Syria, p. 156.) SEE IDOLATRY. On the heathen practice of children "'passing through the fire," SEE MOLOCH.
3. In the case of the spoil taken from the Midianites, such articles as could bear it were purified by fire as well as in the water appointed for the purpose (Nu 31:23). The victims slain for sin-offerings were afterwards consumed by fire outside the camp (Le 4:12,21; Le 6:30; Le 16:27; Heb 13:11). The Nazarite who had completed his vow, marked its completion by shaving his head and casting the hair into the fire on the altar on which the peace-offerings were sacrificed (Nu 6:18).
II. Domestic.- Besides for cooking, baking, and roasting purposes, SEE BREAD, FOOD, etc, fire is often required in Palestine for warmth (Jer 36:22; Mr 14:54; Joh 18:18; see Harmer, Obs. i,125; Raihner, p. 79). For this purpose a hearth with a chimney is sometimes constructed, on which either lighted wood or pans of charcoal are placed (Harmer, i, 405). In Persia, a hole made in the floor is sometimes filled with charcoal, on which a sort of table is set covered with a carpet; and the company, placing their feet under the carpet, draw it over themselves (Olearius, Travels, p. 294; Chardin, Voyages, iii, 190). Rooms in Egypt are warmed, when necessary, with pans of charcoal, as there are no fireplaces except in the kitchens (Lane, Mod. Eg. i, 41; Eng. in Eig. ii, 11). SEE COAL; SEE FUEL.
On the Sabbath, the law forbade any fire to be kindled even for culinary purposes (Ex 35:3; Nu 15:32). As the primary design of this law appears to have been to prevent the proper privileges of the Sabbath day from being lost to any one through the care and time required in cooking victuals (Ex 16:23), it is doubted whether the use of fire for warmth on the Sabbath day was included in this interdiction. In practice, it would appear that the fire was never lighted or kept up for cooking on the Sabbath day, and that consequently there were no fires in the houses during the Sabbaths of the greater part of the year; but it may be collected that in winter fires for warming apartments were kept up from the previous day. Michaelis is very much mistaken with respect to the climate of Palestine in supposing that the inhabitants could, without much discomfort, dispense with fires for warmth during winter (Mosaisches Recht, 4:195). To this general prohibition the Jews added various refinements; e.g. that on the eve of the Sabbath no one might read with a light, though passages to be read on the Sabbath by children in schools might be looked out by the teacher. If a Gentile lighted a lamp, a Jew might use it, but not if it had been lighted for the use of the Jew. If a festival day fell on the Sabbath eve no cooking was to be done (Mishna, Shabb. i, 3; 16:8, vol. ii, p. 4, 56; Moed Katan, ii, vol. ii, p. 287, ed. Surenhus). The modern Jews, although there is no cooking in their houses, have fires on the Sabbath day, which are attended to by a Christian servant; or a charwoman is hired to attend to the fires of several houses, which she visits repeatedly during the day. SEE SABATH.
III. Statutory Regulation. — The dryness of the land in the hot season in Syria of course increases the liability to accident from fire (Jg 9:15). The law therefore ordered that any one kindling a fire which caused damage to corn in a field should make restitution (Ex 22:6; comp. Jg 15:4-5; 2Sa 14:30; see Mishna, Maccoth, 6:5, 6; vol. 4:48, Surenhus.; Burckhardt, Syria, p. 496, 622). This law was calculated to teach caution in the use of fire to the herdsmen in the fields, who were the parties most concerned. And it is to be remembered that the herdsmen were generally substantial persons, and had their assistant shepherds, for whose imprudence they were made responsible. Still no inference is to be drawn from this law with regard to fires breaking out in towns, the circumstances being so very different. SEE DAMAGES.
IV. Penal. — Punishment of death by fire was awarded by the law only in the cases of incest with a mother-in-law, and of unchastity on the part of a daughter of a priest (Le 20:14; Le 21:9)., In the former case both the parties, in the latter the woman only, was to suffer. This sentence appears to have been a relaxation of the original practice in such cases (Ge 38:24). Among other nations, burning alive appears to have been no uncommon-mode, if not of judicial punishment, at least of vengeance upon captives; and in a modified form was not unknown ins war among the Jews themselves .(2Sa 12:31; Jer 29:22; Daniel 52:20). In certain cases the-bodies-of executed criminals and of infamous persons were subsequently burnt (Jos 7:25; 2Ki 23:16). SEE PUNISHMENT-.
V. Military.-In time of war towns were often destroyed by fire. This, as a war usage, belongs to all times and nations'; but among the Hebrews there were some particular notions connected with it, as an act of strong abhorrence, or of demotement to abiding desolatioas. SEE ACCURSED. The principal instances historically- commemorated are the destruction by fire of Jericho (Jos 6:24); Ail (Jos 8:19); Hazor (Jos 11:11); Laish (Jg 18:27); the towns of the Benjamites (Jg 20:48); Ziklag, by- the Amalekites (1Sa 30:1); Jazerine Pharaoh (1Ki 9:16); and the Temple and Palaces of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar (2Ki 25:9). Even the war-chariots of the Canaanites were burnt by the Israelites (Jos 6:24; Jos 8:28; Jos 11:9,13), probably on the principle of precluding the possibility of recovery by the enemy of instruments of strength for which they had themselves no use. The frequency with which towns Ware fired in ancient warfare is show in by the very numerous threats by the prophets that the towns of Israel should be burned by their foreign enemies. Some great towns, not of Israel, are particularly named; and it would be an interesting task to trace, as far as the materials exist, the fulfilment of these prophecies in those more marked examples. Among the places thus threatened we find Damascus (Isa 43:12-13), Gaza, Tyre, Teman (Am 1:7,10-11). - The temples and idols of a conquered town or people were very often burnt by the victors (Isa 53:12,12). The Jews were expressly ordered to destroy the idols of the heathen nations, and especially any' city of their own relapsed into idolatry (Exodus 32,:20; 2Ki 10:26; De 7:5; De 12:3; De 13:16). One of the expedients of war in sieges was to set fire to the- gate of the besieged place (Jg 9:49,52). SEE SIEGE.
In battle, torches were often carried by the soldiers, which explains the use of torches is the attack of Gideon upon the camp of the Midianites (Jg 7:6). This military use of torches was very general among ancient nations, and is alluded to by many of their writers (Statius, Theb. 4:5, 7; Stobus, Serm. p. 194; Michaelis, in -Symbol. Liter. Bremens. iii, 254). SEE TORCH.
Signal fires on the tops of mountains were also anciently common as a telegraphic mode of conveying intelligence both in civil and military matters (Judith 7:5). SEE BEACON.
VI. Funeral. - Incense was sometimes burnt in honor of the dead, especially royal personages, as is mentioned specially in the cases of Asa and Zedekiab, and negatively ins that of Jeharate (2Ch 16:14; 2Ch 21:19' Jer 34:5). SEE FUNERAL.
VII. Metallurgic. — The use of fire in reducing and refining metals was well known to the Hebrews at the time of the Exodus, (Ex 32:24'; 35:32.; 37:2, 6, 17; 38:2, 8; Nu 16:38-39).Kitto, s.v.; Smith, s.v. SEE HANDICRAFT.
VIII. Figurative Senses.
1. Fire is in the Scriptures considered as a symbol of Jehovah's presence (see Malbner" De Deo in igne, Dresd., n. d.) and the instrument of his power, in the way either of approval or of destruction (Ex 14:19; Nu 11:1,3; Jg 13:20; 1Ki 18:38; 2Ki 1:10,12; 2Ki 2:11; 2Ki 6:17; comp. Isa 51:6; Isa 66:15,24; Joe 2:30; Mal 2:2-3; Mal 4:1; 2Pe 3:10; Re 20:14-15; see Reland, Ant. - Sacr. i, 8, p. 26; Jennings, Jewish Ant. ii, 1, p. 301; Josephus, Ant. iii, ,8, 6; 8:4, 4). , Thus he appeared in this element at the burning bush and on Mount Sinai (Ex 3:2; Ex 19:18). He showed himself to Isaiah, Ezekiel, and John in the, midst of fire (Isa 6:4; Eze 1:4; Re 1:14), and it is said that he will so appear at his second coming (2Th 1:8). The people of Israel wandered through the desert, guided by the Lord under the form of a -pillar of fire, SEE PILLAR, (Ex 13:21); and Daniel, relating his vision, in which, he saw the Ancient of days, says, "A fiery stream issued and came forth before him" (7:10). God may be compared to fire, not only by reason of his glorious brightness, but also on account of his anger against sin, which consumes those against whom it is kindled, as-sire does stubble (De 32:22; Isa 10:17; Eze 21:3; Heb 12:29).. Coals of fire proceeding from God's mouth denote his anger (Ps 18:8). His word also" is compared to fire (Jer 23:29). Thus in Jer 5:14, " Behold, I will make my words in thy mouth fire, snd this people wood, and it shall devour them." SEE FLAME.
2. Hence the destructive energies of this element and the torment which it inflicts rendered it a fit symbol of
(1) whatever does damage and consumes (Proam. 16:27; Isa 9:18);
(2) of severe trials, vexations, and misfortunes (Zec 12:9; 'Lu 12:49 [see the dissertations on this text -by Scharbes' (Obs. Sacs-. p. 127-146), Ellrod (Erlang. 1774)]; 1Co 3:13,15 [see the dissertation on this text by Liebtenstein (Hainest. 1771), Georgi (Viteb. 1748)] ; 1Pe 1:7);
(3) of the punishments beyond the grave (Mt 5:22; Mr 9:44; Re 14:10; Re 21:8). SEE HELL.
3. Fire or flame is also used in a metaphorical sense to express excited feeling sand divine inspiration (Ps 39:3; Jer 20:9). Thus the influences of the Holy Ghost are compared to fire (Mt 3:11), sand the descent of the Holy Spirit was denoted in the appearance of lambent flames, or tongues of fire (Ac 2:3). SEE TONGUE. The angels of God also are represented under the emblem of fire (Ps 104:4). 'These are the more benign application as of the figure, in the sense of warmth, activity, and illumination. SEE LIGHT.