Leviticus 6:13 - The ever burning fire

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W.C. Dean

Puritan Board Sophomore
Leviticus 6:12-13

And the fire upon the altar shall be burning in it; it shall not be put out: and the priest shall burn wood on it every morning, and lay the burnt offering in order upon it; and he shall burn thereon the fat of the peace offerings. The fire shall ever be burning upon the altar; it shall never go out.

I just recently began reading through Leviticus and I will admit that sometimes reading through logs of how every animal sacrifice should occur is less than riveting. However, my interest was piqued by these verses, and their beauty. So far, I haven't found much discussion about this, or many comments on it. My RHB KJV study Bible lacks notes on this section. My initial reading of these verses implied the depth of the sin of the Israelites. While telling Moses how to prepare the altars for trespass-offerings, the Lord instructs Moses to ensure the priests never let the fire under the sacrifices go out. The Israelite's sin needed to be sacrificed for perpetually, and therefore their sin was exceedingly great against their infinitely Holy God. This compelled me to dwell on God's mercy. The Israelites should have been considered unclean all the time. God's people should have been standing with the priests continually sacrificing their animals. God poured out such a great mercy on them that they were able to dwell normally, peacefully, and do their weekly work. The Lord is merciful to us.

What do you all think of these verses? Am I amiss/alone in my interpretation?
 

Jonathan95

Puritan Board Freshman
I shall share with you Matthew Poole's commentary on those verses:

The fire coming down from heaven (Lev 9:24) was to be perpetually preserved, and not suffered to go out, partly that there might be no occasion nor temptation to offer strange fire, nor to mingle their inventions with God's appointments ; and partly to teach them whence they were to expect the acceptance of all their sacrifices, even from the Devine mercy and grace, signified by the fire which came down from heaven, which was a usual token of God's favorable acceptance.

Every morning ; though the evening also be doubtless intended, as it appears from ver. 9 and from the nature of the thing; yet the morning is only mentioned, because then the altar was cleansed, and the ashes taken away, and a new fire made.

He shall burn thereon ; i.e. upon the burnt offering, which thereby would be sooner consumed, that so way might be made for other sacrifices, which were many.

Along with Matthew Henry's commentary:

The fire shall ever be burning upon the altar, it shall never go out, v. 13. We may suppose that no day passed without some extraordinary sacrifices, which were always offered between the morning and evening lamb; so that from morning to night the fire on the altar was kept up of course. But to preserve it all night unto the morning (v. 9) required some care. Those that keep good houses never let their kitchen fire go out; therefore God would thus give an instance of his good house-keeping. The first fire upon the altar came from heaven ch. 9:24 ), so that by keeping that up continually with a constant supply of fuel all their sacrifices throughout all their generations might be said to be consumed with that fire from heaven, in token of God’s acceptance. If, through carelessness, they should ever let it go out, they could not expect to have it so kindled again. Accordingly the Jews tell us that the fire never did go out upon the altar, till the captivity in Babylon. This is referred to Isa. 31:9 , where God is said to have his fire in Zion, and his furnace in Jerusalem. By this law we are taught to keep up in our minds a constant disposition to all acts of piety and devotion, an habitual affection to divine things, so as to be always ready to every good word and work. We must not only not quench the Spirit, but we must stir up the gift that is in us. Though we be not always sacrificing, yet we must keep the fire of holy love always burning; and thus we must pray always.

A very good encouragement.
 

W.C. Dean

Puritan Board Sophomore
Whenever I feel a desire to write something I am usually amazed by the quality and eloquence of that which is already written. Who can match these men who spent so much of their lives dedicated to study? Thank you for showing me this Jonathan, it is more encouragement to read more of Mr. Henry. The abridged commentary I have seems to not do justice to his actual writings.
 

Jonathan95

Puritan Board Freshman
Whenever I feel a desire to write something I am usually amazed by the quality and eloquence of that which is already written. Who can match these men who spent so much of their lives dedicated to study? Thank you for showing me this Jonathan, it is more encouragement to read more of Mr. Henry. The abridged commentary I have seems to not do justice to his actual writings.

Henry's commentary is the first and last "abridged" work of the Puritans that I'll ever read. Nothing matches the full commentary in my opinion.

I keep Poole's commentary for in-depth, exegetical study and Henry's for more devotional study. Match made in heaven. You're very welcome sir.
 

Wretched Man

Puritan Board Freshman
Henry's commentary is the first and last "abridged" work of the Puritans that I'll ever read. Nothing matches the full commentary in my opinion.

I keep Poole's commentary for in-depth, exegetical study and Henry's for more devotional study. Match made in heaven. You're very welcome sir.
I’m rather partial to John Gill’s commentary.

Leviticus 6:12
And the fire upon the altar shall be burning in it, it
shall not be put out
There were three fires, or piles of wood for fire continually; the first was a large one, on which the daily sacrifice was burnt; the second less, and called the pile of the incense, because they took from it fire in a censer to burn the morning and evening incense; and the third was only for preserving the fire that it might not go out: and of this it is written, ( Leviticus 6:12 ) F24; and Maimonides F25 observes, that some say, the first of these is meant by the burning all night, ( Leviticus 6:9 ) and the second by the fire of the altar burning in it, ( Leviticus 6:12 ) but his own sense is, the third is meant by it; and in the sense of R. Joses, these three fires were all burning upon the altar; the first was towards the east side of the altar, the second towards the southwest, as being nearer to the rise of the altar, where the priests were, and the third was made in any part of the altar as was thought fit F26; and this is the fire not to be put out, and he that quenched it, though but one coal, was to be beaten, yea, though it be brought down from the altar F1:

and the priest shall burn wood in it every morning:
until the fourth hour of the day, according to the Targum of Jonathan; that is, unto ten o'clock in the morning:

and lay the burnt offering in order upon it;
both morning and evening, and as often as any sacrifices of that kind were offered up:

and he shall burn thereon the fat of the peace offerings;
that which was upon the inwards and covered them, and upon the kidneys, and flanks, and caul of the liver; see ( Leviticus 3:3 Leviticus 3:4 ).

Leviticus 6:13
The fire shall ever be burning upon the altar
This was what first fell from heaven, ( Leviticus 9:24 ) and which in after ages was maintained by constant fuel put unto it, there being every day burnt offerings upon it; which was an emblem of the love of Christ to his people, which is ever in a flame and burning, and can never be quenched by the many waters of their sins and iniquities; nor by all the sufferings he underwent to atone for them; nor by all the meanness and afflictions they are attended with; his love is fervent towards them, and always the same: and also of their love to him, which is unquenchable by the persecutions of men, by afflictions by the hand of God, by divine desertions, by Satan's temptations, or their own corruptions: it likewise may be an emblem of the graces of the Spirit of God in the hearts of his people, which have both light and heat in them; and though they are sometimes very low as to exercise, yet are in a wonderful manner preserved amidst great oppositions made unto them from within and from without; and may also be a symbol of the word of God, sometimes compared to fire for its light and heat, and may be signified by the fire on the altar for its perpetuity, which continues and abides, notwithstanding the attempts of men and devils to get it out of the world; and though the ministers of it die, that lives, and has been preserved in the worst of times, and will burn most clearly, and shine most brightly in the end of the world. This perpetual fire may also point at the prayers of saints, the fervency of them, and their perseverance in them; or rather to the efficacy and acceptance of the sacrifice of Christ, which always continues; nor may it be amiss applied to the afflictions of God's people, which constantly attend them in this world, and they must expect to have while in it; and even to the wrath of God on wicked men to all eternity, and which is the fire that cannot be quenched:

it shall never go out;
as it is highly probable it never did, until the destruction of the temple by Nebuchadnezzar; though the author of second Maccabees states that:

``For when our fathers were led into Persia, the priests that were then devout took the fire of the altar privily, and hid it in an hollow place of a pit without water, where they kept it sure, so that the place was unknown to all men.'' 2 Maccabees 1:19)

pretends that some devout priests, who were carried captives into Persia, hid the fire of the altar privily in the hollow of a pit, where was no water, and in which it was kept sure and unknown to men, and was found and restored in the times of Nehemiah,

``20 Now after many years, when it pleased God, Neemias, being sent from the king of Persia, did send of the posterity of those priests that had hid it to the fire: but when they told us they found no fire, but thick water; 21 Then commanded he them to draw it up, and to bring it; and when the sacrifices were laid on, Neemias commanded the priests to sprinkle the wood and the things laid thereupon with the water. 22 When this was done, and the time came that the sun shone, which afore was hid in the cloud, there was a great fire kindled, so that every man marvelled.'' (2 Maccabees 1)

but this is contrary to what the Jews always assert F2, that the fire from heaven was wanting in the second temple; and yet from the account Josephus F3 gives of a festival called "Xylophoria", or the feast of the wood carrying, it seems to have been then in being, and great care was taken to preserve it that it might not go out; for, he says, at that feast it is a custom for all to bring wood to the altar, that so there might never be wanting fuel for the fire, for it always remained unextinguished: as to, what some have observed out of Diodorus Siculus {d}, that Antiochus Epiphanes, when he went into the temple, quenched this fire, it appears to be a mistake; for Diodorus does not say that he put out the fire of the altar, but that he extinguished the immortal lamp, as it was called by them (the Jews), which was always burning in the temple; by which he plainly means the lamp in the candlestick, and perhaps what the Jews call the western lamp, which was always burning, and was the middle lamp bending to the west, and to which the rest bent: the Heathens in many places imitated this perpetual fire: the Brahmans among the Indians speak of fire falling from heaven, kept by them on everlasting hearths, or in fire pans F5, for that purpose: the Persians had their perpetual fire, having a great opinion of that element: in the march of Darius against Alexander, it is observed by the historian F6, that the fire which the Persians call sacred and eternal was placed on altars of silver, and he is said to adjure his soldiers by the gods of their country, and by the eternal fire on the altars to rescue the Persian name and nation from the last degree of reproach F7: the Grecians have many traces of this continual fire on the altar among them: at Mantinia, as Pausanias F8relates, was a temple of Ceres and Proserpina, where a fire was kindled, and great care taken that it might not be extinguished; and in the temple of Pan, a fire burned which was never quenched: and the same writer says F9, with the Eleans was an altar which had fire continually burning on it night and day: and Aelianus F11 makes mention of an altar of Venus at Eryce in Sicily, which burnt night and day; and of which he says many things wonderful and fabulous: and it is well known that the Romans had their goddess Vesta, whom Velleius Paterculus F12 calls the keeper of the perpetual fires; and there were certain virgins, called the "vestal" virgins, whose business it was to take care that the fire never went out; and is by Virgil F13 called the eternal fire: and Vesta itself is thought by some learned men to be the same with (hy-va) "Esh-jah", the fire of Jehovah: now these were all satanical imitations of the perpetual fire on the altar of God.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
Here is Andrew Bonar on Lev.6:9
Ver. 8, 9. And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Command Aaron and his sons, saying, This is the law of the burnt-offering: It is the burnt-offering, because of the burning upon the altar all night unto the morning, and the fire of the altar shall be burning in it
2. It exhibited, also, the way of escape. See, there is a victim on the altar, on which these flames feed! Here is Christ in our room. His suffering, seen and accepted by the Father, was held forth continually to the faith of Israel, night and day. And upon that type, the pledge and token of the real sacrifice, did the eye of the Father delight to rest night and day. It pleased him well to see his justice and his love thus met together there. And the man of Israel, who understood the type, slept in peace, sustained by this truth, which the straggling rays from the altar gleamed into his tent.
 
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