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Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary


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God hath often appeared in fire, and encompassed with fire, as when he showed himself in the burning bush; and descended on Mount Sinai, in the midst of flames, thunderings, and lightning, Exodus 3:2 ; Exodus 19:18 . Hence fire is a symbol of the Deity: "The Lord thy God is a consuming fire," Deuteronomy 4:24 . The Holy Ghost is compared to fire: "He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire," Matthew 3:11 . To verify this prediction, he sent the Holy Ghost, which descended upon his disciples, in the form of tongues, or like flames of fire, Acts 2:3 . It is the work of the Holy Spirit to enlighten, purify, and sanctify the soul; and to inflame it with love to God, and zeal for his glory. Fire from heaven fell frequently on the victims sacrificed to the Lord, as a mark of his presence and approbation. It is thought, that God in this manner expressed his acceptance of Abel's sacrifices, Genesis 4:4 . When the Lord made a covenant with Abraham, a fire like that of a furnace passed through the divided pieces of the sacrifices, and consumed them, Genesis 15:17 .

Fire fell upon the sacrifices which Moses offered at the dedication of the tabernacle, Leviticus 9:24 ; and upon those of Manoah, Samson's father, Judges 13:19-20 ; upon Solomon's, at the dedication of the temple, 2 Chronicles 7:1 ; and on Elijah's, at Mount Carmel, 1 Kings 18:38 . The fire which came down from heaven, first upon the altar in the tabernacle, and afterward descended anew upon the altar in the temple of Solomon, at its consecration, was there constantly fed and maintained by the priests, day and night, in the same manner as it had been in the tabernacle. The Jews have a tradition, that Jeremiah, foreseeing the destruction of the temple, took this fire and hid it in a pit; but that at the rebuilding of the temple, being brought again from thence, it revived upon the altar. But this is a fiction: and the generality of them allow, that, at the destruction of the temple, it was extinguished; and in the time of the second temple, nothing was made use of for all their burnt offerings but common fire only. The ancient Chaldeans adored the fire, as well as the old Persians, and some other people of the east. The torments of hell are described by fire, both in the Old and New Testament. Our Saviour makes use of this similitude, to represent the punishment of the damned, Mark 9:44 . He likewise speaks frequently of the eternal fire prepared for the devil, his angels, and reprobates, Matthew 25:41 . The sting and remorse of conscience is the worm that will never die; and the wrath of God upon their souls and bodies, the fire that shall never go out. There are writers who maintain, that by the worm is to be understood a living and sensible, not an allegorical and figurative, worm; and by fire, a real elementary and material fire. Among the abettors of this opinion are Austin, Cyprian, Chrysostom, Jerom, &c. The word of God is compared to fire: "Is not my word like a fire?" Jeremiah 23:20 . It is full of life and efficacy; like a fire it warms, melts, and heats; and is powerful to consume the dross, and burn up the chaff and stubble. Fire is likewise taken for persecution, dissension, and division: "I am come to send fire on earth,"

Luke 12:49 ; as if it was said, upon my coming and publishing the Gospel, there will follow, through the devil's malice and corruption of men, much persecution to the professors thereof, and manifold divisions in the world, whereby men will be tried, whether they will be faithful or not.

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Bibliography Information
Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Fire'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. 1831-2.

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