Coal (Sept. and N.T. ἄνθραξ) is a translation usually of one or the other of two Heb. words, viz., גִּחֶלֶת (gachleeth, literally a kindling, ruina), which signifies an ignited or live coal, and is of frequent occurrence (2Sa 14:7; 2Sa 22:9; Job 40:21; Ps 18:8; Ps 120:4; Isa 44:19; Isa 47:14; Eze 24:11), often with the emphatic addition of "burning" or of "fire" (Le 16:12; 2Sa 22:13; Ps 18:12-13; Ps 140:10; Pr 6:28; Pr 25:22; Pr 26:21; Eze 2:10; Eze 10:2), and פֶּחָם(pecham', literally black, carbo), which properly signifies a coal quenched and not reignited, or charcoal (Pr 26:21, where the distinction between this and the former term is clearly made, "as coals [pecham] are to burning coals [gacheleth]"), and hence an ignited coal (Isa 44:12; Isa 54:16). SEE FUEL. Two other Heb. terms (erroneously) rendered "coal" are , רַצפָּה (ritspah', "live coal," Isa 6:6, literally a pavement, as elsewhere rendered), which appears to nave been a hot stone used for baking upon; רֶשֶׁŠ (re'sheph), properly flames (to which jealousy is compared, Song 8:6), and hence pestilential fever (Hab 3:5; "burning heat, "De 22:24; elsewhere a "spark," Job 5:7; thunderbolt," Ps 78:48); and רֶצֶŠ (re'tseph, spoken of a cake "baken on the coals"), which appears to be cognate to both the preceding words and to combine their meaning, and may thus designate (as explained by the Rabbias a coal, Sept. ἐγκρυφία, Vulg. subcinericus) a loaf baked among the embers. SEE BREAD. In La 4:8, "their visage is blacker than a coal," the word is שֶׁחוֹר (shechor'), which simply means blackness, as in the margin. In the New Testament, the "fire of coals" (ἀνθρακία, Joh 18:18) evidently means a mass of live charcoal, used in a chafing-dish for warming in the East, and so explained by Suidas and parallel instances in the Apocrypha (Ecclesiasticus 8:10; 11:32). The substance indicated in all the foregoing passages is doubtless charcoal, although anthracite or bituminous coal has been found in Palestine in modern times (see Browning's Report; also Elliot, 2:257). SEE MINERAL.
"In 2Sa 22:9,13, 'coals of fire' are put metaphorically for the lightnings proceeding from God (Ps 18:8,12-13; Ps 140:10). In Pr 25:22, we have the proverbial expression 'Thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head,' which has been adopted by Paul in Ro 12:20, and by which is metaphorically expressed the burning shame and confusion which men must feel when their evil is requited by good. (See the essays on this text by Heinrich [Lug-d. B. 1716], Wahner [Gott. 1740].), In like manner, the Arabs speak of coals of the heart, fire of the liver, to denote burning care, anxiety, remorse, and shame (Gesen. Thesaur. Heb. p. 280). In Ps 120:4, 'coals' — burning brands of wood (not 'juniper,' but broom), to which the false tongue is compared (Jas 3:6). In 2Sa 14:7, the quenching of the live coal is used to indicate the threatened destruction of the single remaining branch of the family of the widow of Tekoah suborned by Joab; just as Lucian (Timothy § 3) uses the word ζώπυρον in the same connection." SEE FIRE.