FIRE ON THE SABBATH

 

Middle-Eastern Woman Cooking

Many of of our Jewish, Messianic and even some Christian Sabbath-keeping brethren believe that we should not cook (see Cooking on the Sabbath) or even light a fire on the Sabbath day. This occurs mostly because certain parts of Scripture are not read in context, and without considering the events connected to certain verses. One example would be the command that prohibits the kindling of fire on the Sabbath

Exodus 35:2-3
2 “Work {melaka} is done for six days, but on the seventh day it shall be set-apart to you, a Sabbath of rest to יהוה. Anyone doing work on it is put to death. 
3 “Do not kindle a fire in any of your dwellings on the Sabbath day.” 

The Hebrew term for <Sabbath of rest> is «shabbath shabbathon» and it means a day of complete rest. What is the context?
The context is the construction of the tabernacle («mishkan»).

THE CONTEXT OF EXODUS 35
(In Exodus 32 when Moses was coming down the mountain after  meeting with the Eternal, he saw the people worshipping the ‘golden calf’ and he broke the first set of tablets that were in his hands)
Moses came down with the second set of tablets and instruct the people about the Sabbath, the prohibition of fire on the Sabbath and the making of the tabernacle.

Exodus 31 (first set of tablets instructions)
Exodus 31:1-11building of the mishkan
Exodus 31: 11aromatic incense of the Set-apart Place (Holy of Holies)
Exodus 31:12-17keeping of the Sabbath

Exodus 35 (second set of tablets instruction)
Exodus 35:2keeping of the Sabbath
Exodus 35:3prohibition of lighting of fire on the Sabbath
Exodus 35:4 building of the mishkan 

EXODUS 31
(First Set of Tablets)
EXODUS 35
(Second Set of Tablets)
1-10 building of the mishkan (tabernacle)  
12  And יהוה spoke to Mosheh, saying
13 “And you, speak to the children of Yisra’ĕl, saying,
1 And Mosheh assembled all the congregation of the children of Yisra’ĕl, and said to them, “These are the Words which יהוה has commanded you to do: 
15 ‘Six days work is done, and on the seventh is a Sabbath of rest, set-apart to יהוה. Everyone doing work on the Sabbath day shall certainly be put to death. 2 “Work is done for six days, but on the seventh day it shall be set-apart to you, a Sabbath of rest to יהוה. Anyone doing work on it is put to death. 
16 ‘And the children of Yisra’ĕl shall guard the Sabbath, to observe the Sabbath throughout their generations as an everlasting covenant.
17 ‘Between Me and the children of Yisra’ĕl it is a sign forever. For in six days יהוה made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day He rested and was refreshed.’  
3 “Do not kindle a fire in any of your dwellings on the Sabbath day.”
  4 building of the miskan (tabernacle)

  Deduction:

The Sabbath is the sign of the Covenant between Israel and the Eternal Making fire on the Sabbath is breaking the Covenant

   and both definitions are connected
   with the Tabernacle («Mishkan»)   

In the event of the first set of tablets, why is there no mention of ‘lighting a fire‘? 
What happened between the first set of tablets (Exodus 31) and the second set of tablets (Exodus 35)?
The answer is: ‘The sin of the golden calf‘ – Exodus 32.
Exodus 32:3-24 is a picture of worship that is a mixture of idolatry and and service to the Eternal

Strange or Foreign Worship Avoda Zara

IMPORTANT POINTS SO FAR
– between the time of the first set of tablets and the time second set of tablets fire was used for both idolatry and a feast to the Eternal (mixture).
– the Sabbath is the day of worship for the Eternal. The forbidden ‘fire‘ on the Sabbath is clearly linked to idolatry
– the mishkan (tabernacle) is the centralised place of worship of the Eternal.

The instructions, ordinances and commands of the Eternal are not a shopping list. They are intertwined with historic events that help us understand them and provide us with perspective. We must not forget the narrative. We can not simply remove the Eternal’s commands from their context and make a mixture of  instructions. The Torah is not just a list of commands and instructions it is a list with context.

THE EVIDENCE
The gathering of wood and the kindling of fire in the context of idolatry:

Jeremiah 7:18 [Rotherham]
The children, gather wood, and The fathers, kindle the fire, and The women, knead dough,—To make sacrificial cakes to the *queen of the heavens, And to pour out drink-offerings to other gods, Provoking me to anger! 

*In Scripture, the queen of the heavens refers to the Mesopotamian goddess Ishtar, the goddess of love, sexuality and warfare, worshipped by the Assyrians and Babylonians. The Canaanite goddess of fertility Astarte (referred to in Scriptures as Ashtoreth), is also known as the ‘queen of heaven’ 


Jeremiah 7:31 [Rotherham]
And they have built the high places of Topheth, which is in the valley of the son of Hinnom, To burn up their sons and their daughters in the fire,—Which I commanded not, Neither came it up on my heart
Jeremiah 19:13 [Rotherham]
Yea, the houses of Jerusalem and the houses of the kings of Judah, shall like the place of Topheth, be places defiled,—even all the houses upon whose roofs they burned incense to all the host of the heavens, and poured out drink-offerings to other gods. 

There are many more references to idolatry in Scripture such as

Isaiah 44:15
15 And it shall be for a man to burn, for he takes some of it and warms himself. He also kindles it and shall bake bread. He also makes a mighty one and bows himself to it – has made it a carved image and falls down before it

and

Isaiah 50:11
11 See, all you who light a fire, girding on burning arrows: walk in the light of your fire and in the burning arrows you have lit. From My hand you shall have this: you shall lie down in grief! 

While the children of the Eternal were in the desert, why was the man gathering wood sentenced to death?

Numbers 15:32-36
32 While the sons of Israel were in the desert, they found a man gathering sticks on the sabbath day. 
33 And they who found him gathering sticks, brought him near, unto Moses and unto Aaron and unto all the assembly. 
34 And they put him in ward,—because it was not clear what they should do unto him. 
35 Then said Yahweh unto Moses, The man shall be, put to death,—all the assembly, stoning him with stones, outside the camp. 
36 So then all the assembly, put him forth, outside the camp, and stoned him with stones, and he died,—As Yahweh commanded Moses. 

THE CONTEXT OF NUMBERS 15:32-36
In Numbers 15:27-29, sinning by mistake is mentioned and instructions are given on how to atone for this type of sins. If the man gathering wood was unaware of the prohibition or just careless, he could have atoned for it.

Numbers 15:30-31 talks about sinning with defiance and there is no atonement for this sin.
 
Following these 5 verses is the story of the man who gathers wood on the Sabbath.
Was he unaware of the prohibition or was he defiant? We know that the Eternal commanded Mosheh to put him to death. Through this command, we know that the man acted with defiance, otherwise he would have been given the chance to atone for it, as Scripture .

The only fire that was allowed was the fire of the mishkan (tabernacle), any other fire would be a ‘strange fire’ («esh zara») used in idolatry.

EVIDENCE
Mixture of sacred and profane worship

Leviticus 10:1
1 And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aharon, each took his fire holder and put fire in it, and put incense on it, and brought strange fire {«esh zara»} before יהוה, which He had not commanded them. 
Numbers 3:4; 26:61
4 And Nadab and Abihu had died before יהוה when they brought strange fire {«esh zara»} before יהוה in the Wilderness of Sinai.
... ... ...
26:61 And Nadab and Abihu died when they brought strange fire {«esh zara»} before יהוה

Why were they killed?
Because they did what the Eternal had not commanded them to do.

Let us look at  the word strange («zara»)

Exodus 30:9
9 “Do not offer strange incense on it {altar of the incense}, or a burnt offering, or a grain offering, and do not pour a drink offering on it.
Deuteronomy 32:16 [Aramaic English Standard Version of the Peshitta] 
16 They moved him {the Eternal} to jealousy with strange deities {«zarim»}. They provoked him to anger with *abominations .
{*abominations generally means idols - E.W. Bullinger}
Psalm 81:9
9 “Let there be no strange mighty one {«zar»} among you, And do not bow down to a foreign mighty one. 
Jeremiah 2:25
5 “Keep your foot from being bare, and your throat from thirst. But you said, ‘It is useless, because I love strangers {«zarim»}, and after them I go.’
Jeremiah 19:5
5 and have built the high places of Baʽal, to burn their sons with fire for burnt offerings to Baʽal, which I did not command or speak, nor did it come into My heart. 

CLEAR EVIDENCE THAT THE MAN GATHERING WOOD IN THE WILDERNESS WAS PREPARING FOR IDOLATROUS WORSHIP

PROCESS AGAINST IDOLATRY
Deuteronomy 17:2-6
PROCESS AGAINST IDOLATRY
Numbers 15:32-36
2 “When there is found in your midst, in any of your cities which יהוה your Elohim is giving you, a man or a woman who does what is evil in the eyes of יהוה your Elohim, in transgressing His covenant,
3 and has gone and served other mighty ones and bowed down to them, or to the sun or to the moon or to any of the host of the heavens, which I have not commanded,
4 and it has been made known to you and you have heard, and has searched diligently. Then see, if true: the matter is confirmed that such an abomination has been done in Yisra’el,
5 then you shall bring out to your gates that man or woman who has done this evil matter, and you shall stone to death that man or woman with stones.
6 “At the mouth of two or three witnesses shall he that is to die be put to death. He is not put to death by the mouth of one witness.
7 “The hand of the witnesses shall be first against him to put him to death, and the hand of all the people last. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.
32 And while the children of Yisra’el were in the wilderness, they found a man gathering sticks on the Sabbath day.
33 And those who found him gathering sticks brought him to Mosheh and to Aharon, and to all the congregation.
34 And they put him in under guard, because it had not been declared what should be done to him.
35 And יהוה said to Mosheh, “The man shall certainly be put to death, all the congregation stoning him with stones outside the camp.”
36 And all the congregation brought him outside the camp and stoned him with stones, as יהוה commanded Mosheh, and he died.

The context is confirmed in

Numbers 15:1, 2, 3, 10, 13, 14
1 And יהוה spoke to Mosheh, saying, 
2 “Speak to the children of Yisra’el, and say to them, ‘When you have come into the land of your dwellings, which I am giving you, 
3 and you make an offering by fire to יהוה, a burnt offering or a slaughtering, to accomplish a vow or as a voluntary offering or in your appointed times, to make a sweet fragrance to יהוה, from the herd or the flock, 
... ... ...
10 and bring as the drink offering half a hin of wine as an offering made by fire, a sweet fragrance to יהוה. 
... ... ...
13 ‘Let all who are native do so with them, in bringing near an offering made by fire, a sweet fragrance to יהוה. 
14 ‘And when a stranger sojourns with you, or whoever is among you throughout your generations, and would make an offering made by fire, a sweet fragrance to יהוה, as you do, so he does. 

These offerings had to be made in the tabernacle (mishkan). 
It is obvious that the man that was gathering wood was punished not for his intention to kindle a fire in his home on the Sabbath, rather he was punished for his participation in ‘foreign worship’ («avoda zara») meaning idolatry.

CONCLUSION:
The command of the Eternal prohibiting the kindling of fire in Exodus 35:3 and the man found gathering wood in Numbers 25:32-36 address the prohibition of ‘strange fire’ or idolatrous worship that is contrary to the worship of the Eternal and not the kindling of ordinary  fire for cooking and other uses in the home.
Based on a teaching by Avdiel Ben-Oved

 

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture was taken from The Scriptures
Copyright by Institute for Scripture Research.
Used by permission.