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fir ('esh; pur): These are the common words for fire, occurring very frequently. 'Ur, "light" (Isa 24:15 the King James Version; compare the Revised Version (British and American); 31:9, and see FIRES), nur (Aramaic) (Dan 3:22 ff) are found a few times, also 'eshshah (Jer 6:29), and be`erah (Ex 22:6), once each. Acts 28:2,3 has pura, "pyre," and Mk 14:54; Lk 22:56, phos, "light," the Revised Version (British and American) "in the light (of the fire)." "To set on fire," yatsath (2 Sam 14:31), lahat (Dt 32:22, etc.), phlogizo (Jas 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 (Dt 12:31; 2 Ki 17:31; Ps. 106:37), and, although this was specially forbidden to the Israelites (Lev 18:21; Dt 12:31; 18:10), they too often lapsed into the practice (2 Ki 16:3; 21:6; Jer 7:31; Ezek 20:26,31).
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 (Gen 15:17), in the burning bush. (Ex 3:2-4), in the pillar of fire (Ex 13:21), on Sinai (Ex 19:18), in the flame on the altar (Jdg 13:20). Yahweh was "the God that answereth by fire" (1 Ki 18:24,38). In the Law, therefore, sacrifices and offerings (including incense) were to be made by fire (Ex 12:8,9,10; Lev 1). Fire from Yahweh signified the acceptance of certain special and separate sacrifices (Jdg 6:21; 1 Ki 18:38; 1 Ch 21:26). In Lev 9:24 the sacrificial fire "came forth from before Yahweh." The altar-fire was to be kept continually burning (Lev 6:12,13); offering by "strange fire" (other than the sacred altar-fire) was punished by "fire from before Yahweh" (Lev 10:1,2). Fire came from heaven also at the consecration of Solomon's Temple (2 Ch 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" (10:3).
Fire was a frequent instrument of the Divine primitive wrath (Gen 19:24; Ex 9:23 (lightning); Nu 11:1; 16:35, etc.; Ps 104:4, the American Standard Revised Version "Who maketh .... flames of fire his ministers"). Fire shall yet dissolve the world (2 Pet 3:12). It was frequently used by the Israelites as a means of destruction of idolatrous objects and the cities of their enemies (Dt 7:5,25; 12:3; 13:16; Josh 6:24; Jgs, frequently); sometimes also of punishment (Lev 20:14; 21:9; Josh 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 (Ex 35:3). It was employed also for melting (Ex 32:24), and refining (Nu 31:23; 3:2,3, etc.). For the sacrificial fire wood was used as fuel (Gen 22:3,1; Lev 6:12); for ordinary purposes, also charcoal (Prov 25:22; Isa 6:6, the Revised Version, margin "or hot stone"; Hab 3:5, the Revised Version (British and American) "fiery bolts," margin "or burning coals"; Jn 21:9, "a fire of coals" the Revised Version, margin "Gr, a fire of charcoal"; Rom 12:20); branches (Nu 15:32; 1 Ki 17:12); thorns (Ps 58:9; 118:12; Eccl 7:6; Isa 33:12); grass and other herbage (Mt 6:30; Lk 12:28).
2. Figurative Use:
Fire was an emblem (1) of Yahweh in His glory (Dan 7:9); (2) in His holiness (Isa 6:4); (3) in His jealousy for His sole worship (Dt 4:24; Heb 12:29; Ps 79:5; perhaps also Isa 33:14); (4) of His protection of His people (2 Ki 6:17; Zec 2:5); (5) of His righteous judgment and purification (Zec 13:9; Mal 3:2,3; 1 Cor 3:13,15); (6) of His wrath against sin and punishment of the wicked (Dt 9:3; Ps 18:8; 89:46; Isa 5:24; 30:33, "a Topheth is prepared of old"; Mt 3:10-12; 5:22, the Revised Version (British and American) "the hell of fire," margin "Greek, Gehenna of fire"; see Isa 30:33; Jer 7:31; Mt 13:40,42; 25:41, "eternal fire"; Mk 9:45-49; see Isa 66:24; 2 Thess 1:7; Heb 10:27; Jude 1:7); (7) of the word of God in its power (Jer 5:14; 23:29); (8) of Divine truth (Ps 39:3; Jer 20:9; Lk 12:49); (9) of that which guides men (Isa 50:10,11); (10) of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:3); (11) of the glorified Christ (Rev 1:14); (12) of kindness in its melting power (Rom 12:20); (13) of trial and suffering (Ps 66:12; Isa 43:2; 1 Pet 17; 4:12); (14) of evil (Prov 6:27; 16:27; Isa 9:18; 65:5); lust or desire (Hos 7:6; Sirach 23:16; 1 Cor 7:9); greed (Prov 30:16); (15) of the tongue in its evil aspects (Jas 3:5,6); (16) of heaven in its purity and glory (Rev 15:2; see also 21:22,23).
W. L. Walker
Bibliography Information
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. "Definition for 'fire'". "International Standard Bible Encyclopedia". - ISBE; 1915.

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