Discussion of the term "Kindling a Fire"
by Robert Randle 3/15/2010 / Devotionals
Dear Pastor Mark Biltz (El Shaddai Ministries, 27 Adar 5770):
On Shabbat, during the teaching on Vayakehl (Exodus 35-40), you mentioned or explained that Exodus 35: 3 and James 3: 5 are referring to the same thing; but is this really the case? Let's take a closer look. The first thing that needs to be considered is the 'context' of the particular circumstance. In order to better understand the passage in Exodus, it is necessary to view a few others, namely: Exodus 20: 9-10 "Six days shall you labor and do all your work (Heb. Mela'kah [labor/occupation/business]), but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no work; you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates.
NOTE: The labor that cattle [or some other farm animal] could possibly do includes treading out the grain, carrying a load, or perhaps plowing up a field. Exodus 23: 12 "Six days shall you labor and do all your work (Heb. Ma'aseh [labor/work]), and on the seventh day you shall rest, that your ox and your donkey may rest, and the son of your female servant and the stranger may be refreshed.
NOTE: God was not only concerned about the people and the stranger within their gates, but the Sabbath was for the animals, too. This same word (Heb. Ma'aseh [labor/work]) is mentioned in (Exodus 31: 14; Leviticus 23: 3; Deuteronomy 5: 13; Jeremiah 17: 21-22)
Leviticus 23: 7 "On the first day you shall have a holy convocation [dress rehearsal]; you shall do no work (Heb. 'abodah [customary/occupational]). Now, taking a look at Exodus 35: 3, it reads: "You shall kindle (ignite, start, etc.) no fire (Heb. "esh") throughout your dwellings on the Sabbath day (Shabbat)." In Numbers 15: 32-35, a man was found picking up sticks on the Sabbath day [possibly gathering them to start a fire, but the reason is not given], and this was such a dilemma that those who found him brought him before Moses, Aaron, and the rest of the congregation. Interestingly, it says in verse 34 that because it had not been explained what to do [perhaps the exact form or method of capital punishment], the offender was kept under guard until the LORD told Moses what to do; and the sentence was "Death by stoning." The Law [Torah] had already stated that anyone who profanes 'Shabbat' or God's commandments would be cut off from among the people [but it didn't say how to handle a case such as this until now]. This man's act could also have been viewed as "presumptuous sin" as mentioned in verses 30-31.
Now, James 3:5 says: Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a matter a little fire kindleth! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature: and is set on fire of hell. While the Hebrew word for 'fire' in Exodus 35: 3 is the noun "esh" but the phrase in James 3: 5 in a rare Greek word "phlogizo" and it is used ONLY at this place and it carries the meaning of to cause a blaze, ignite, inflame with passion, etc.). There is no direct equivalent or correspondence between the two different terms as the meanings aren't the same. James was not reminding those to whom he penned this letter (although they were doubtless some from the twelve tribes of the Dispersion-Cp. 1: 1), who were in all likelihood Messianic Jews [Jews who accept Yeshua as the Mashiyach] about Shabbat, but rather to guard one's speech and how like a little spark can set a whole forest ablaze. In the vernacular of a comedian from the 1970's, who used to say, "Loose Lips sink Ships."
James touched upon this earlier in James 1: 26 as well as James 3: 8. The Wisdom of Solomon has this to say in Proverbs 18: 21, which states: "Death and Life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit [to their sorrow, shame, regret, and destruction??].
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