Why did the priests keep the fire burning in the temple?

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By BibleAsk Team


The Lord and Fire

Divinity and fire are often connected in the Bible (Deuteronomy 5:4; Psalms 50:3; Malachi 3:2), and this is because of the power, glory, and its cleansing effects. As a fire separates the metal from the dross, so God by His work refines the rightouss and also by His judgments separates the good from the evil.

In the Old Testament, the Lord appeared to Moses in the wilderness in the form of a burning bush (Exodus 3:2). And after the Exodus, He walked among His people in the form of a pillar of fire (Exodus 13:21–22), which represented the presence of the Almighty (1 Corinthians 10:1-4, 9).

Continual Burning

In the temple, the Lord commanded His priests saying, “A fire shall always be burning on the altar; it shall never go out” (Leviticus 6:13). This represented a reflection of God’s moving power and His continual ministry on behalf of His children.

The temple fire was originally kindled by God Himself: “and fire came out from before the Lord and consumed the burnt offering and the fat on the altar. When all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces” (Leviticus 9:24). No other source of fire was acceptable to God. When the sons of Aaron attempted to put a foreign fire, they were slain by God (Numbers 3:4).

The Jews affirm that this same fire burned continuously through their sojourning years in the wilderness. It was again sent down during the dedication of the new temple by Solomon (2 Chronicles 7:1) and presumably continued until the Babylonian captivity. Some Hebrew traditions even claim that it continued for more than 1,400 years never being allowed to be put out until the final destruction of the temple at Jerusalem in 70 AD.

Cleansing Agent

In the New Testament, John the Baptist baptized people with water and prophesied that the Messiah will baptize people with the Spirit and with fire (Matthew 3:11; Luke 3:16). After the Resurrection, the Holy Spirit at the Day of Pentecost came down and filled the people taking the form of “tongues of fire” (Acts 2:3).

Water and fire are two great natural purifying agencies, and they represent the conversion of the heart. These two agencies are the means by which God did purify the world in the past, at Noah’s time with water, and the fire will at the end of time purify the earth from sin and sinners (2 Peter 3:5–7). Therefore, let us now permit the Holy Spirit to cleanse our hearts, while probation still lingers! Every person will be either purged of sin or purged along with it. Paul said, “Fire shall try every man’s work” (1 Corinthians 3:13).

Check out our Bible Answers page for more information on a variety of topics.

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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