I. HaShem is a consuming fire. 1

II. Torah is Mashiach is like fire. 6

III.  Fire from heaven. 7

IV. Fire stories. 10

V. HaShem will test people with fire. 11

VI. Wisdom.. 14

VII. Offerings made By fire. 14

 

In this study I would like to learn about fire as it is used and applied in the Torah. I would like to understand fire.

HaShem’s word teaches us a great deal about fire. It is used in sacrifices, in the judgment of the wicked, and in the vindication of the righteous. Fire is the means by which HaShem will renew the earth (the new earth).

 

Fire is often used to describe Divine revelation. This will help us to understand why fire is present when HaShem, His Torah, and His Mashiach are communicating. As we explore this idea, we need to note that there are underlying reasons why fire is used as opposed to some other medium, for Divine communication. To begin this study we need to understand what the Torah teaches about HaShem and fire.

 

I. HaShem is a consuming fire

 

Our sages have a general rule: In order to ascertain a word’s importance one must retreat to its first appearance in the Torah and examine it in its original context. The context of the first use of a word in the Torah gives us the word’s essential meaning. The first use of aish - אש, Hebrew word, in the Torah, for fire is in:

 

Bereshit (Genesis) 15:17 And it came to pass, that, when the sun went down, and it was dark, behold a smoking furnace, and a burning (aish) lamp that passed between those pieces. 18 In the same day HaShem made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates: 19 The Kenites, and the Kenizzites, and the Kadmonites, 20 And the Hittites, and the Perizzites, and the Rephaims, 21 And the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Girgashites, and the Jebusites.

 

This first use of the Hebrew word for fire (aish אש) teaches us that it’s essence is related to HaShem, who used the fire to communicate His presence and  His desire to make a unilateral covenant with Avraham.

 

The Torah indicates that, not only does fire represent HaShem, but that in some way HaShem is fire:

 

Devarim (Deuteronomy) 4:24 For HaShem thy God is a consuming fire, even a jealous God.

 

Bereans (Hebrews) 12:29 For our God is a consuming fire.

 

Throughout the scriptures we will find that HaShem is fire. He is not spirit (air), He is not dust (man), He is not water (Torah). HaShem is FIRE! Many folks believe that HaShem is spirit (air). This faulty understanding comes from a casual reading of this pasuk:

 

Yochanan (John) 4:24 God a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.

 

This sod level passage is translated in a way that could easily confuse those that were not well grounded in Torah. To help clarify this passage, I have removed the words that were added by the translators, but which are not in the Greek original. The translators wrote: “God is a Spirit”. The italicized word “is”, is not part of the original, it was added by the translators. This would not confuse those who are well grounded in the Torah because they would already understand that HaShem is fire. They would also view all of the Masorah of Yochanan as sod, and would look for the symbols, not the peshat. The bottom line:  HaShem is a consuming fire!

 

HaShem used a different kind of fire to represent His presence when He spoke to Moshe:

 

Shemot (Exodus) 3:1-3 Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the desert and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of HaShem appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight--why the bush does not burn up.”

 

HaShem appears to Moshe in the midst of fire! HaShem used the fire to communicate His presence and to attract Moshe’s attention. Notice that as HaShem meets the righteous that the flame does not consume. This same phenomenon of fire that does not consume, happened every day for forty years, to drive home a similar lesson to the Benei Yisrael:

 

Shemot (Exodus) 13:21 And HaShem went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night:

 

In this unusual display HaShem is relating to the day as a cloud and to the night as fire.

 

In this next passage HaShem is going to again appear as fire coming down on Mount Sinai:

 

Shemot (Exodus) 19:14-18 After Moses had gone down the mountain to the people, he consecrated them, and they washed their clothes. Then he said to the people, “Prepare yourselves for the third day. Abstain from sexual relations.” On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp trembled. Then Moses led the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because HaShem descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, the whole mountain trembled violently,

 

When HaShem spoke out of the fire it was literally “face to face”:

 

Devarim (Deuteronomy) 5:2-5 HaShem our God made a covenant with us at Horeb. It was not with our fathers that HaShem made this covenant, but with us, with all of us who are alive here today. HaShem spoke to you face to face out of the fire on the mountain. (At that time I stood between HaShem and you to declare to you the word of HaShem, because you were afraid of the fire and did not go up the mountain.) And he said:

 

This appearance of HaShem was unusual in that HaShem’s people saw HaShem as fire and lived!

 

Devarim (Deuteronomy) 4:31-36 For HaShem your God is a merciful God; he will not abandon or destroy you or forget the covenant with your forefathers, which he confirmed to them by oath. Ask now about the former days, long before your time, from the day God created man on the earth; ask from one end of the heavens to the other. Has anything so great as this ever happened, or has anything like it ever been heard of? Has any other people heard the voice of God speaking out of fire, as you have, and lived? Has any god ever tried to take for himself one nation out of another nation, by testings, by miraculous signs and wonders, by war, by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, or by great and awesome deeds, like all the things HaShem your God did for you in Egypt before your very eyes? You were shown these things so that you might know that HaShem is God; besides him there is no other. From heaven he made you hear his voice to discipline you. On earth he showed you his great fire, and you heard his words from out of the fire.

 

Devarim (Deuteronomy) 9:10-11 HaShem gave me two stone tablets inscribed by the finger of God. On them were all the commandments HaShem proclaimed to you on the mountain out of the fire, on the day of the assembly. At the end of the forty days and forty nights, HaShem gave me the two stone tablets, the tablets of the covenant.

 

Devarim (Deuteronomy) 4:10-18 Remember the day you stood before HaShem your God at Horeb, when he said to me, “Assemble the people before me to hear my words so that they may learn to revere me as long as they live in the land and may teach them to their children.” You came near and stood at the foot of the mountain while it blazed with fire to the very heavens, with black clouds and deep darkness. Then HaShem spoke to you out of the fire. You heard the sound of words but saw no form; there was only a voice. He declared to you his covenant, the Ten Commandments, which he commanded you to follow and then wrote them on two stone tablets. And HaShem directed me at that time to teach you the decrees and laws you are to follow in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess. You saw no form of any kind the day HaShem spoke to you at Horeb out of the fire. Therefore watch yourselves very carefully, So that you do not become corrupt and make for yourselves an idol, an image of any shape, whether formed like a man or a woman, Or like any animal on earth or any bird that flies in the air, Or like any creature that moves along the ground or any fish in the waters below.

 

I wonder if this means that HaShem will be like fire to those who do not keep the commandments? This idea is reinforced in a related passage:

 

Shemot (Exodus) 24:13-18 Then Moses set out with Yehoshua (Joshua) his aide, and Moses went up on the mountain of God. He said to the elders, “Wait here for us until we come back to you. Aaron and Hur are with you, and anyone involved in a dispute can go to them.” When Moses went up on the mountain, the cloud covered it, And the glory of HaShem settled on Mount Sinai. For six days the cloud covered the mountain, and on the seventh day HaShem called to Moses from within the cloud. To the Israelites the glory of HaShem looked like a consuming fire on top of the mountain. Then Moses entered the cloud as he went on up the mountain. And he stayed on the mountain forty days and forty nights.

 

and:

 

Devarim (Deuteronomy) 32:18-22 You deserted the Rock, who fathered you; you forgot the God who gave you birth. HaShem saw this and rejected them because he was angered by his sons and daughters. “I will hide my face from them,” he said, “and see what their end will be; for they are a perverse generation, children who are unfaithful. They made me jealous by what is no god and angered me with their worthless idols. I will make them envious by those who are not a people; I will make them angry by a nation that has no understanding. For a fire has been kindled by my wrath, one that burns to the realm of death below. It will devour the earth and its harvests and set afire the foundations of the mountains.

 

HaShem’s presence over the Tabernacle was like a cloud by day and like fire in the cloud by night:

 

Shemot (Exodus) 40:34-38 Then the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and the glory of HaShem filled the tabernacle. Moses could not enter the Tent of Meeting because the cloud had settled upon it, and the glory of HaShem filled the tabernacle. In all the travels of the Israelites, whenever the cloud lifted from above the tabernacle, they would set out; But if the cloud did not lift, they did not set out--until the day it lifted. So the cloud of HaShem was over the tabernacle by day, and fire was in the cloud by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel during all their travels.

 

HaShem demonstrated His presence when he kept the menorah burning for eight days during the Maccabeans Chanukah. This same kind of miracle was evident in the burning of the western lamp of the menorah, during Temple times.

 

Menachoth 86b Without the veil of the testimony in the tent of meeting. It is a testimony to mankind that the Divine Presence rests in Israel. For how can you say He is in need of light, when the whole of the forty years that the Israelites travelled in the wilderness they travelled only by His light! But it is a testimony to mankind that the Divine Presence rests in Israel. What is the testimony? Rab said, It was the western lamp [of the candlestick] into which the same quantity of oil was poured as into the others, yet he kindled the others from it and ended with it.

 

The Gemara tells us that when HaShem was pleased with the actions of His nation, one of the seven lamps of the Menorah would miraculously burn for twenty-four hours, instead of the normal twelve hours, in order to demonstrate that HaShem’s Divine Presence dwelled among His people. The fire of the Menorah would make clear to all that the figurative “fire of HaShem” rested with His people. Similarly, the incessant burning of the Menorah after the victory against the Greeks was meant to demonstrate that HaShem’s presence, that dwelled with the Jews, brought about the victory.

 

In this next passage two righteous men got a little too close to HaShem.

 

Vayikra (Leviticus) 9:22 - 10:2 Then Aaron lifted his hands toward the people and blessed them. And having sacrificed the sin offering, the burnt offering and the fellowship offering, he stepped down. Moses and Aaron then went into the Tent of Meeting. When they came out, they blessed the people; and the glory of HaShem appeared to all the people. Fire came out from the presence of HaShem and consumed the burnt offering and the fat portions on the altar. And when all the people saw it, they shouted for joy and fell facedown. Aaron’s sons Nadav and Avihu took their censers, put fire in them and added incense; and they offered unauthorized fire before HaShem, contrary to his command. So fire came out from the presence of HaShem and consumed them, and they died before HaShem.

 

Nadav and Avihu were consumed by a fire that entered through the nose. Since the soul entered the body through the nose. Thus Nadav’s and Avihu’s souls were burned and their bodies were left perfectly intact. HaShem is fire and one who brings his soul closer than it can handle gets devoured by this mighty blaze.

 

Here we again see the consuming fire:

 

Bamidbar (Numbers) 11:1-3 Now the people complained about their hardships in the hearing of HaShem, and when he heard them his anger was aroused. Then fire from HaShem burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp. When the people cried out to Moses, he prayed to HaShem and the fire died down. So that place was called Taberah, because fire from HaShem had burned among them.

 

The ones on the outskirts of the camp are those who are weak in their relationship with HaShem and deficient in their study of Torah. They were righteous men who were prone to question the judgments of HaShem.

 

Bamidbar (Numbers) 16:28-35 Then Moses said, “This is how you will know that HaShem has sent me to do all these things and that it was not my idea: If these men die a natural death and experience only what usually happens to men, then HaShem has not sent me. But if HaShem brings about something totally new, and the earth opens its mouth and swallows them, with everything that belongs to them, and they go down alive into the grave, then you will know that these men have treated HaShem with contempt.” As soon as he finished saying all this, the ground under them split apart And the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them, with their households and all Korah’s men and all their possessions. They went down alive into the grave, with everything they owned; the earth closed over them, and they perished and were gone from the community. At their cries, all the Israelites around them fled, shouting, “The earth is going to swallow us too!” And fire came out from HaShem and consumed the 250 men who were offering the incense.

 

HaShem will consume with fire those who transgress, while protecting the righteous from the destructive part:

 

Devarim (Deuteronomy) 9:1-5 Hear, O Israel. You are now about to cross the Jordan to go in and dispossess nations greater and stronger than you, with large cities that have walls up to the sky. The people are strong and tall--Anakites! You know about them and have heard it said: “Who can stand up against the Anakites?” But be assured today that HaShem your God is the one who goes across ahead of you like a devouring fire. He will destroy them; he will subdue them before you. And you will drive them out and annihilate them quickly, as HaShem has promised you. After HaShem your God has driven them out before you, do not say to yourself, “HaShem has brought me here to take possession of this land because of my righteousness.” No, it is on account of the wickedness of these nations that HaShem is going to drive them out before you. It is not because of your righteousness or your integrity that you are going in to take possession of their land; but on account of the wickedness of these nations, HaShem your God will drive them out before you, to accomplish what he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

 

The anger of HaShem was also manifested in the fire that consumed those who would molest His Prophet.

 

II Melachim (Kings) 1:9-15 Then he sent to Elijah a captain with his company of fifty men. The captain went up to Elijah, who was sitting on the top of a hill, and said to him, “Man of God, the king says, ‘Come down!’” Elijah answered the captain, “If I am a man of God, may fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty men!” Then fire fell from heaven and consumed the captain and his men. At this the king sent to Elijah another captain with his fifty men. The captain said to him, “Man of God, this is what the king says, ‘Come down at once!’” “If I am a man of God,” Elijah replied, “may fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty men!” Then the fire of God fell from heaven and consumed him and his fifty men. So the king sent a third captain with his fifty men. This third captain went up and fell on his knees before Elijah. “Man of God,” he begged, “please have respect for my life and the lives of these fifty men, your servants! See, fire has fallen from heaven and consumed the first two captains and all their men. But now have respect for my life!” The angel of HaShem said to Elijah, “Go down with him; do not be afraid of him.” So Elijah got up and went down with him to the king.

 


II. Torah is Mashiach is like fire

 

The Torah is like fire, as it is written:

 

Devarim (Deuteronomy) 33:2 And he said, HaShem came from Sinai, and rose up from Seir unto them; he shined forth from mount Paran, and he came with ten thousands of saints: from his right hand went a fiery law for them.

 

Yiremeyahu (Jeremiah) 23:29 Is not My word like fire.

 

Ta’anith 7a Rabbah b. Hanah said: Why are the words of the Torah likened to fire, as it is said, Is not my word like as fire? saith the Lord?[1] This is to teach you that just as fire does not ignite of itself so too the words of the Torah do not endure with him who studies alone.

 

Just as it is impossible to grasp fire without garments, so is the Torah called fire, that one can not take hold of it without a vessel. Therefore it needed to be clothed in garments and vessels. The Mechilta[2] further expounds that because HaShem descended on Sinai in fire:

 

Shemot (Exodus) 19:18 And mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke, because HaShem descended upon it in fire: and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly.

 

This teaches us that the Torah is fire and from fire it was given, and was compared to fire. Like fire, if a person comes close to it, he is burned; if he goes far from it, he is cold; but rather one should warm himself near its brightness. The Midrash also equates Torah to fire:

 

Midrash Rabbah - Deuteronomy III:12 Resh Lakish said: When Moses wrote the law he acquired a lustrous appearance. How [did this come about]? Resh Lakish said: The scroll that was given to Moses was made of a parchment of white fire, and was written upon with black fire and sealed with fire and was swathed with bands of fire, and whilst he was writing it he dried his pen on his hair, and as a result he acquired a lustrous appearance.

 

Midrash Tanchuma, Genesis 1 The Torah is written “black fire on white fire.”

 

The Zohar echoes this understanding:

 

Soncino Zohar, Shemoth, Section 2, Page 84a Said R. Hiya: ‘When the letters were engraved upon the two tablets of stone they were visible on both sides of the tablets. The tablets were of sapphire stone, and the letters were formed of white fire and covered again with black fire, and were engraved upon both sides.’

 

Keep in mind that the Midrash is not to be taken literally. Chazal have suggested several allusions for the black and white fire. One idea is that the black fire is the written Torah and the white fire is the oral Torah.

 

Mashiach’s appearance is like fire:

 

Yechezkel (Ezekiel) 1:25-28 Then there came a voice from above the expanse over their heads as they stood with lowered wings. Above the expanse over their heads was what looked like a throne of sapphire, and high above on the throne was a figure like that of a man. I saw that from what appeared to be his waist up he looked like glowing metal, as if full of fire, and that from there down he looked like fire; and brilliant light surrounded him. Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the radiance around him. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of HaShem. When I saw it, I fell facedown, and I heard the voice of one speaking.

 

Mashiach’s throne is fire:

 

Daniel 7:9-11 “As I looked, “thrones were set in place, and the Ancient of Days took his seat. His clothing was as white as snow; the hair of his head was white like wool. His throne was flaming with fire, and its wheels were all ablaze. A river of fire was flowing, coming out from before him. Thousands upon thousands attended him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him. The court was seated, and the books were opened. “Then I continued to watch because of the boastful words the horn was speaking. I kept looking until the beast was slain and its body destroyed and thrown into the blazing fire.

 

Some have suggested that the previous passages speak about HaShem. Those who have studied Torah know that HaShem has no body and that he does not have any form. This is a tenet of faith as stated by the Rambam in the Mishneh Torah.

 

III.  Fire from heaven

 

Fire from heaven (HaShem sent the fire from the rock) that consumes the offering on the altar is a recurring act in the Torah. It is first displayed in the days of the Judges when Gideon sought the presence of HaShem and requested Divine communication.

 

Shoftim (Judges) 6:17-24 Gideon replied, “If now I have found favor in your eyes, give me a sign that it is really you talking to me. Please do not go away until I come back and bring my offering and set it before you.” And HaShem said, “I will wait until you return.” Gideon went in, prepared a young goat, and from an ephah of flour he made bread without yeast. Putting the meat in a basket and its broth in a pot, he brought them out and offered them to him under the oak. The angel of God said to him, “Take the meat and the unleavened bread, place them on this rock, and pour out the broth.” And Gideon did so. With the tip of the staff that was in his hand, the angel of HaShem touched the meat and the unleavened bread. Fire flared from the rock, consuming the meat and the bread. And the angel of HaShem disappeared. When Gideon realized that it was the angel of HaShem, he exclaimed, “Ah, Sovereign HaShem! I have seen the angel of HaShem face to face!” But HaShem said to him, “Peace! Do not be afraid. You are not going to die.” So Gideon built an altar to HaShem there and called it HaShem is Peace. To this day it stands in Ophrah of the Abiezrites.

 

When Elijah confronted the priests of Baal, he requested that HaShem manifest His presence and communicate this presence to those who were seeking strange gods. HaShem answered Elijah with fire from heaven:

 

I Melachim (Kings) 18:36-39 At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: “HaShem, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. Answer me, HaShem, answer me, so these people will know that you, HaShem, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.” Then the fire of HaShem fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench. When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, “HaShem--he is God! HaShem--he is God!”

 

When Moshe finished erecting the Mishkan, fire came from heaven and consumed the offering, and lit the fire of the altar:

 

Vayikra (Leviticus) 9:23-24 And Moses and Aaron went into the tabernacle of the congregation, and came out, and blessed the people: and the glory of HaShem appeared unto all the people. 24  And there came a fire out from before HaShem, and consumed upon the altar the burnt offering and the fat: which when all the people saw, they shouted, and fell on their faces.

 

Midrash Rabbah - Genesis III:9 R. Samuel b. Ammi said: From the beginning of the world’s creation the Holy One, blessed be He, longed to enter into partnership with the mortals. For what will you: if it is a matter of time reckoning, it should say either one, two, three, or first, second, third, but surely not, one, second, third! When did the Holy One, blessed be He, repay them? At the erection of the Tabernacle, as it says, And he that presented his offering the first day  (Num. VII, 12), meaning, the first of the world’s creation, for God said, ‘ It is as though on that day I created My world.’ That day took ten crowns: it was the first of the creation, first in respect of kings, the princes, the priesthood, and the Shechinah, (as it says, And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them (Ex.XXV, 8)); it was first in respect of blessing, sacrificial service, the prohibition of high places, killing at the north [side of the Altar], and the descending of fire, as it is said, And there came forth fire from before the Lord (Lev. IX, 24).

 

On the site where King Solomon would build David’s Temple, fire from heaven was manifested even before the Temple was built.

 

I Divrei HaYamim (Chronicles) 21:22-27 David said to him, “Let me have the site of your threshing floor so I can build an altar to HaShem, that the plague on the people may be stopped. Sell it to me at the full price.” Araunah said to David, “Take it! Let my lord the king do whatever pleases him. Look, I will give the oxen for the burnt offerings, the threshing sledges for the wood, and the wheat for the grain offering. I will give all this.” But King David replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on paying the full price. I will not take for HaShem what is yours, or sacrifice a burnt offering that costs me nothing.” So David paid Araunah six hundred shekels of gold for the site. David built an altar to HaShem there and sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings. He called on HaShem, and HaShem answered him with fire from heaven on the altar of burnt offering. Then HaShem spoke to the angel, and he put his sword back into its sheath.

 

When King Solomon finished constructing King David’s Temple, HaShem demonstrated His presence and pleasure by consuming the offering with fire from heaven.

 

II Divrei HaYamim (Chronicles) 7:1-3 When Solomon finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of HaShem filled the temple. The priests could not enter the temple of HaShem because the glory of HaShem filled it. When all the Israelites saw the fire coming down and the glory of HaShem above the temple, they knelt on the pavement with their faces to the ground, and they worshipped and gave thanks to HaShem, saying, “He is good; his love endures forever.”

 

There is an important component in the story of king Solomon, the fire from heaven, and Shemini Atzeret. When the people saw that the gates were open, and the fire came down from heaven to consume, the first time, everything which was placed on he altar, they were filled with an extreme Simcha, joy, and they bowed, and prostrated on the floor of the Holy Temple, and sung, for the first time ever in the Tanach, the Hallel of David Ki Leolam Chasdo”. Then they stood up, and the music instruments which David had made were playing, and they sang again the Hallel of David “Ki Leolam Chasdo”. This time not prostrating but standing. And here we encounter a new type of the Hallel. It is not said after a miracle of saving from the hands of the enemies, not as a Hallel which accompanies a mitzva, not as a song for the holiday, but as a thanksgiving song. For the general goodness of all the good which HaShem has done to Israel and to David. Moreover, that type of the Hallel was said while prostrated, and then while standing. Hence, the only Hallel which is equal to the Song of the day, where they prostrated themselves on the floor of the holy Temple, was on Shemini Atzeret.  

 

So Shemini Atzeret is the birthday of the Fire from heaven on the altar, which burned, without interruption, for four hundred years.

 

This fire from heaven was also evident during the time of the Maccabees. After they cleansed the Temple, rebuilt the altar, and kindled the menorah, HaShem again communicated His presence and His pleasure with fire from heaven. In the book of Maccabees we read as follows:

 

II Maccabees 2:1 “And now that our hearts desire to celebrate the day of the rededication of the altar ... you shall celebrate it, like the day upon which Nehemiah found the holy fire when he returned to build the Temple ... For when our fathers were exiled, the holy Kohanim secretly took the fire and hid it ... and it came to pass after many days that the king sent Nehemiah to Jerusalem ... they could not find the fire, and found only freezing water instead ... and it happened that when they offered God’s sacrifice, he commanded them to sprinkle some of the water on the wood and on the sacrifice which was upon the altar, and they did so. When they had finished, and the sun shone upon the earth and the clouds were scattered, behold a heavenly fire ignited the sacrifice, and the entire nation surrounding it was astonished, and the Kohanim and all the nation fell upon their faces ... and the Kohanim sang praise and thanks to God.”

 

In all of the above cases, the significance of the miracle is that it bears testimony to the fact that the Shechinah dwells amongst Israel. The necessity of the sign comes about as a result of the nature of the Divine Presence in general.

 

The final place where we see fire from heaven is in the destruction of the wicked at the battle of Har Megiddo.

 

Revelation 20:7-9 And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, 8  And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea. 9  And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them.

 

Deception!

 

Not all fire from heaven comes as communication from HaShem. For every true thing there is also a counterfeit. Fire from heaven is no exception:

 

Revelation 13:11-14 And I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spake as a dragon. 12 And he exerciseth all the power of the first beast before him, and causeth the earth and them which dwell therein to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed. 13 And he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men, 14 And deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which had the wound by a sword, and did live.

 

Why does HaShem allow an imposter to prove himself with a counterfeit sign? HaShem has given man free will. In order to preserve free will, HaShem must give us a reason to believe the imposter. Except we be Talmud Torah students, we will be deceived. The only way to avoid being deceived by false signs we must have Torah knowledge to guide us.

 

IV. Fire stories

 

Fire was created on the night of the first Sabbath, by Adam:

 

Midrash Rabbah - Genesis XI:2 When the sun sank at the termination of the Sabbath, darkness began to set in. Adam was terrified, [thinking,] Surely indeed the darkness shall bruise [E.V. ‘envelop’] me (Ps. CXXXIX, 11): shall he of whom it was written, He shall bruise thy head (Gen. III, 15), now come to attack me! What did the Lord do for him? He made him find two flints which he struck against each other; light came forth and he uttered a blessing over it; hence it is written, But the night was light about me--ba’adeni (Ps. loc. cit.), i.e. the night was light in my Eden  (be’edni). This agrees with Samuel, for Samuel said: Why do we recite a blessing over a lamp [fire] at the termination of the Sabbath? Because it was then created for the first time. R. Huna in Rab’s name, and R. Abbahu in R. Johanan’s name said: At the termination of the Day of Atonement, too, we recite a blessing over it, because the fire rested the whole day.

 

Adam HaRishon created fire after HaShem showed him two flints. Later in this paper we will look a little closer at fire and flint.

 

At havdallah on motzie Shabbat (the beginning of the first or eighth day), we kindle the havdallah torch. Hence the first eighth is parallel to the very first day: on the first day HaShem created light for the world, and on the eighth day Adam created light and warmth (aish) for the world. Adam did not create fire ex nihilo. He was simply taught how to actualize an already existing potential for fire in the world.

 

In this next passage we see a very interesting picture. It is a picture of the preservation of the righteous and the destruction of the wicked, by fire.

 

Daniel 3:19-27 Then Nebuchadnezzar was furious with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and his attitude toward them changed. He ordered the furnace heated seven times hotter than usual And commanded some of the strongest soldiers in his army to tie up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and throw them into the blazing furnace. So these men, wearing their robes, trousers, turbans and other clothes, were bound and thrown into the blazing furnace. The king’s command was so urgent and the furnace so hot that the flames of the fire killed the soldiers who took up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, And these three men, firmly tied, fell into the blazing furnace. Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, “Weren’t there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?” They replied, “Certainly, O king.” He said, “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.” Nebuchadnezzar then approached the opening of the blazing furnace and shouted, “Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!” So Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego came out of the fire, And the satraps, prefects, governors and royal advisers crowded around them. They saw that the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed; their robes were not scorched, and there was no smell of fire on them.

 

HaShem’s enemies were destroyed. HaShem’s people were preserved through the fire. This strikes me as an apt picture of the end of days when HaShem will renew the earth with fire. This same fire will purify the righteous and consume the wicked.

 

Even the merkava, the chariot, of HaShem depicts the revelation of HaShem as coming from fire:

 

Ezekiel 1:4 And I looked, and, behold, a whirlwind came out of the north, a great cloud, and a fire infolding itself, and a brightness was about it, and out of the midst thereof as the colour of amber, out of the midst of the fire.

 

HaShem’s presence when He gave excellence in communication was manifested by fire:

 

II Luqas (Acts) 2:1-4 When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages as the Spirit enabled them.

 

Man, Woman, and Fire

 

The male and female forces of creation are represented by the Hebrew letters yod - י and hehה of the Tetragrammaton (יהוה). This is very closely related to a fascinating Talmudic teaching: The Hebrew word for man is ish (איש) while the word for woman is ishah (אשה). If one looks at the words, one sees that the word ish contains a י, while ishah contains a ה. The Talmud says that these are the י and ה of the Tetragrammaton. If the י and ה are removed from ish and ishah, then the remaining letters of both words spell out aish (אש), the Hebrew word for fire. The fires of passion that unite man and woman are seen as receptacles for the letters of the Divine Name, and hence, for the masculine and feminine elements of the Divine Essence.

 

Rabbi Akiva[3] teaches that if a man and woman are virtuous, the divine presence will abide with them. If not, fire will consume their relationship. Rashi explains that the man (איש) and woman (אשה), each bring part of HaShem’s name into the marriage. If they cultivate that Godliness, the י and ה permeate their union. If not, the only thing that remains is אש (fire).

 

The Talmud[4] states that a man and a woman actually partner with HaShem when they bear a child. However, if they do not utilize the world as a receptacle for spirituality, they are left only with fire. This is the consuming fire of HaShem’s anger, as it were. It destroys that which is not used for its true calling.

 

V. HaShem will test people with fire

 

All communication is a form of judgment. Therefore, we are not surprised when HaShem’s judgments are manifested or communicated by fire:

 

Bereshit (Genesis) 19:24-25 Then HaShem rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from HaShem out of heaven; 25 And he overthrew those cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew upon the ground.

 

A third will be refined by the fire that destroys two thirds.

 

Zechariah 13:7-9 “Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, against the man who is close to me!” declares HaShem Almighty. “Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered, and I will turn my hand against the little ones. In the whole land,” declares HaShem, “two-thirds will be struck down and perish; yet one-third will be left in it. This third I will bring into the fire; I will refine them like silver and test them like gold. They will call on my name and I will answer them; I will say, ‘They are my people,’ and they will say, ‘HaShem is our God.’”

 

Malachi 3:1-4 “See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the G-d you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says HaShem Almighty. But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then HaShem will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness, And the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be acceptable to HaShem, as in days gone by, as in former years.

 

Resh Lakish tells us, in the Midrash[5], that those who observe the mitzva of the succah, will be protected from the heat of the blazing sun which will consume the wicked in the future. Moreover, he says that the righteous will derive pleasure from the sun, as it says:

 

Malachi 4:2 But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall.

 

Rashi gives us the same picture from:

 

Yeshayahu (Isaiah) 4:1-6 In that day seven women will take hold of one man and say, “We will eat our own food and provide our own clothes; only let us be called by your name. Take away our disgrace!” In that day the Branch of HaShem will be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the land will be the pride and glory of the survivors in Israel. Those who are left in Zion, who remain in Jerusalem, will be called holy, all who are recorded among the living in Jerusalem. HaShem will wash away the filth of the women of Zion; he will cleanse the bloodstains from Jerusalem by a spirit of judgment and a spirit of fire. Then HaShem will create over all of Mount Zion and over those who assemble there a cloud of smoke by day and a glow of flaming fire by night; over all the glory will be a canopy. It will be a shelter and shade from the heat of the day, and a refuge and hiding place from the storm and rain.

 

Rashi says that the storm which will engulf the wicked refers to:

 

Daniel 7:9-11 “As I looked, “thrones were set in place, and the Ancient of Days took his seat. His clothing was as white as snow; the hair of his head was white like wool. His throne was flaming with fire, and its wheels were all ablaze. A river of fire was flowing, coming out from before him. Thousands upon thousands attended him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him. The court was seated, and the books were opened. “Then I continued to watch because of the boastful words the horn was speaking. I kept looking until the beast was slain and its body destroyed and thrown into the blazing fire.

 

Yiremeyahu (Jeremiah) 23:19-20 See, the storm of HaShem will burst out in wrath, a whirlwind swirling down on the heads of the wicked. The anger of HaShem will not turn back until he fully accomplishes the purposes of his heart. In days to come you will understand it clearly.

 

Rashi goes on to say that the rain refers to:

 

Tehillim (Psalms) 11:6 On the wicked he will rain fiery coals and burning sulfur; a scorching wind will be their lot.

 

It does not look like the wicked will prosper in the end!

 

Yeshayahu (Isaiah) 66:15-17 See, HaShem is coming with fire, and his chariots are like a whirlwind; he will bring down his anger with fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire. For with fire and with his sword HaShem will execute judgment upon all men, and many will be those slain by HaShem. “Those who consecrate and purify themselves to go into the gardens, following the one in the midst of those who eat the flesh of pigs and rats and other abominable things--they will meet their end together,” declares HaShem.

 

The righteous will be baptized with fire, and it appears to be the same fire that consumes the wicked.

 

Matityahu (Matthew) 3:7-13 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” Then Yeshua came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John.

 

I Corinthians 3:9-15 For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building. By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Yeshua HaMashiach. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, His work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.

 

Rabbi Levi taught that he who fulfills the mitzva of succah in this world will be sheltered from the fires of the Day of Judgment[6].

 

It appears that the fire that refines the righteous will consume the wicked and will renew the earth:

 

II Tzefet (Peter) 3:6-13 By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men. But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With HaShem a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. HaShem is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. But the day of HaShem will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives As you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.

 

I have this picture: At the end of the Sabbath millennium; the wicked and the righteous are on the earth when the fire storm hits. The righteous are dwelling in their succahs. The wicked in their homes. It is the Feast of Tabernacles. The wicked are burned up like Nebuchadnezzar’s guards. The righteous are joyful in their succahs as they are refined, just as Hananiah, Mishael, Azariah were preserved in the midst of Nebuchadnezzar’s furnace.

 

There will come a day when the righteous will be cleansed and purified with fire.

 

Yeshayahu (Isaiah) 4:1-6 In that day seven women will take hold of one man and say, “We will eat our own food and provide our own clothes; only let us be called by your name. Take away our disgrace!” In that day the Branch of HaShem will be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the land will be the pride and glory of the survivors in Israel. Those who are left in Zion, who remain in Jerusalem, will be called holy, all who are recorded among the living in Jerusalem. HaShem will wash away the filth of the women of Zion; he will cleanse the bloodstains from Jerusalem by a spirit of judgment and a spirit of fire. Then HaShem will create over all of Mount Zion and over those who assemble there a cloud of smoke by day and a glow of flaming fire by night; over all the glory will be a canopy. It will be a shelter and shade from the heat of the day, and a refuge and hiding place from the storm and rain.

 

Yeshayahu (Isaiah) 43:1-3 But now, this is what HaShem says--he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am HaShem, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior; I give Egypt for your ransom, Cush and Seba in your stead.

 

The final end of the wicked is a destination of fire.

 

Revelation 21:8 But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.

 

Finally, there will come a day when all men and their works will be tested with fire.

 

1 Corinthians 3:13 Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.

 

VI. Wisdom

 

We have two forms of comprehension: Wisdom that comes naturally without exertion, and wisdom that comes through exertion. Even though both types of understanding are rooted in the unconscious mind, nevertheless they express two different dimensions of the concealed unconscious. An example of the two is the difference between a white-hot coal and a flint stone. The fire in the coal is hidden, but it exists in the coal. All you need to do is fan the coal and the flame will emerge. In a flint stone no physical fire exists. Its power remains even if it is immersed in water. However by striking it with force, you can release its spark. Because the fire in the coal has substance, it also is limited and finite: At some point the coal will burn out. By contrast the flint stone, not having a flame of substance, can be struck again and again and continuously release sparks.

 

The way to tap the unlimited reservoirs of intellectual energy within the “undefined unconscious” is through pressure and force (as one strikes the flint stone), the intellectual exertion applied to comprehend the ideas. The deeper the questions and contradictions, all the more refined and clearer is the resulting comprehension. The more intense the challenge and force applied, the more profound are the ideas that come flowing out of the hidden essence .

 

VII. Offerings made By fire

 

In the Akeida, fire was used because Yitzchak was to become a burnt offering:

 

Bereshit (Genesis) 22:4-8 On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. He said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.” Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?” “Yes, my son?” Abraham replied. “The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Abraham answered, “G-d himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together.

 

* * *

 

As we told you in the beginning of this paper, fire is often used to describe Divine revelation. We have shown the various ways that HaShem has communicated through fire. His communication is not always accompanied by a voice, but its message is always clear.

 

* * *

 


This study was written by

Rabbi Dr. Hillel ben David

(Greg Killian).

Comments may be submitted to:

 

Rabbi Dr. Greg Killian

4544 Highline Drive SE

Olympia, WA 98501

 

Internet address:  gkilli@aol.com

Web page:  http://www.betemunah.org/

 

(360) 918-2905

 

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[1] Jer. 23:29

[2] Yitro, 4

[3] Sotah 17a

[4] Kiddushin 30b

[5] Avodah Zarah 3b

[6] Pesikta D’Rav Kahana 29