Kindle a Fire on the Sabbath Day
We’ll preface this study with a disclaimer: Our goal is to share our studies on this topic so that it edifies and unites the body of Messiah. Our intention is lifting any perceived burdens one might put on themselves by following previous understandings and/or traditions. We pray that this teaching will bless you and your family.
“Do not kindle a fire in any of your dwellings on the Sabbath day.”
לֹא־תְבַעֲרוּ אֵשׁ בְּכֹל מֹשְׁבֹֽתֵיכֶם בְּיֹום הַשַּׁבָּֽת – Lo t’va’aru esh b’khol moshvotekhem b’yom hashabbat.
Literal: Not you burn fire in all of ones being seated (assembly) of you on day of the sabbath.
Let’s examine the Hebrew to get a picture of what is being conveyed here:
“Kindle a fire” is T’va’aru in Exodus 35:3, whose root word is ba`ar (בָּעַר) – kindle, burn; (Piel stem)
Piel- references intensive action & active voice. Biblical Hebrew is primarily a verbal language with an average verse in Scripture containing no less than three verbs!
Qal stem – katal = he killed
Piel stem – keytayl = he destroyed
Other Uses of the Root: Ba’ar (Kindle).
Let’s review Scriptures which use the same root word ba’ar. Take note of how it is used and what it kindles or burns. The bolded text represents the root word ba’ar that is being used.
And it came to be, when the people were as complainers, it was evil in the ears of יהוה. And יהוה heard it, and His displeasure burned. And the fire of יהוה burned among them, and consumed those in the outskirts of the camp.
When he came to Leḥi, the Philistines came shouting to meet him. And the Spirit of יהוה came mightily upon him. And the ropes that were on his arms became like flax that is burned with fire, and his bonds broke loose from his hands.
But Sovereigness Vashti refused to come at the sovereign’s command brought by his eunuchs. And the sovereign was very wroth, and his rage burned within him.
Kiss the Son, lest He be enraged, And you perish in the way, For soon His wrath is to be kindled. Blessed are all those taking refuge in Him.
As charcoal is to burning coals, and wood to fire, So is a contentious man to kindle strife.
The word for fire is Esh (אֵשׁ). It is always fire.
But, it can be used as either a literal fire and also figurative.
Fire used in a figurative sense:
And you shall know today that יהוה your Elohim is He who is passing over before you as a consuming fire – He does destroy them and subdue them before you. So you shall dispossess them and destroy them quickly, as יהוה has said to you.
For a fire was kindled in My wrath And burns to the bottom of She’ol, And consumes the earth and its increase, And sets on fire the foundations of mountains.
For wickedness burns as the fire; it consumes thornbushes and weeds, and sets the bushes of the forest ablaze, and they roll up like rising smoke.
See, all you who kindle 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!
“Is not My Word like a fire?” declares יהוה, “and like a hammer that shatters a rock?
Therefore thus said the Master יהוה, “Have I not spoken in the fire of My burning jealousy against the rest of the gentiles and against all Eḏom, who gave My land to themselves as a possession, with all joy of heart, with scorn in their being, to drive it out for a prey?” ’
“And the house of Ya‛aqoḇ shall be a fire, and the house of Yosĕph a flame, but the house of Ěsaw for stubble. And they shall burn among them and they shall consume them, so that no survivor is left of the house of Ěsaw.” For יהוה has spoken.
Song of Solomon 8:6
Set me as a seal upon your heart, As a seal upon your arm; For love is as strong as death, Jealousy as cruel as the grave; Its flames are flames of fire, a flame of Yah!
Therefore יהוה heard, and He was wroth; So a fire was kindled against Ya‛aqoḇ, And displeasure also came up against Yisra’ĕl,
How long, O יהוה, Would You be enraged forever? Would Your jealousy burn like fire?
Would a man take fire to his bosom, And his garments not be burned?
A man of Beliya‛al plots evil, And on his words are like a burning fire.
For lack of wood, the fire goes out. And without a slanderer, strife ceases. As charcoal is to burning coals, and wood to fire, So is a contentious man to kindle strife.
And the tongue is a fire, the world of unrighteousness. Among our members the tongue is set, the one defiling the entire body, and setting on fire the wheel of life, and it is set on fire by Gehenna. (Read Whole Chapter)
In light of the previous scriptures could kindling a fire be figurative? If it is, then what is kindled? Let’s examine some more Scriptures:
Exodus 12:16 (Feast of Unleavened Bread)
And on the first day is a set-apart gathering, and on the seventh day you have a set-apart gathering. No work at all is done on them, only that which is eaten by every being, that alone is prepared by you.
1 Chronicles 9:31,32
And Mattithyah of the Lĕwites, the first-born of Shallum the Qorḥite, was entrusted with the making of the flat cakes. And some of their brothers of the sons of the Qehathites were over the showbread, to prepare every Sabbath.
Preparing sustenance for yourself is permitted in the example in Exodus 12. It is also demonstrated that on every Sabbath, the priests would make flat cakes and showbread. How could one do this without fire for baking?
Back to our original scripture verse; if Exodus 35:3 means kindling a literal fire, then these verses would be in contradiction. Since God or the Scriptures never contradicts, one could conclude that it is our understanding that would be in error.
Where were the Hebrews not to kindle a fire?
“Do not kindle a fire in any of your dwellings on the Sabbath day.”
In their dwelling. For must of us, that means our homes. Let us test that understanding.
Moshab (מוֹשָׁב) is the word used here for dwellings (or habitations; depending on your translation). Moshab comes from the root yashab (יָשַׁב) which is to sit down. Moshab is a seat, assembly, those sitting, or a sitting assembly.
Were the Shabbat assemblies only in homes?
And they went into Kephar Naḥum (Capernaum), and immediately on the Sabbath He went into the congregation (or synagogue) and taught. – (Looks like an assembly)
And Sabbath having come, He began to teach in the congregation (synagogue). And many who heard Him were astonished, saying, “Where did He get all this? And what wisdom is this which is given to Him, that such miracles are done through His hands?
But passing through from Perge, they came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the congregation (synagogue) on the Sabbath day and sat down.
Following the examples in Scripture, we can conclude that the “dwellings” is not only the home, but everywhere we assemble or gather together; which is not necessarily in a building/structure. We can also conclude that every place we gather or assemble on Shabbat we are not to kindle the fire of anger, strife, or contention based on the figurative uses of fire and what is kindled.
What is to be done on Shabbat? Rest, celebrate, and praise!
And the children of Yisra’ĕl shall guard the Sabbath, to observe the Sabbath throughout their generations as an everlasting covenant.
It is good to give thanks to יהוה, And to sing praises to Your Name, O Most High
If this is an actual literal kindling of fire on the Sabbath, then this would mean that we are not to turn on a light switch, stove, or range because they used fire to light and to cook , hence this would be “kindling a fire”. It would also be considered work as pointed in Exodus 35:2. It is at this point that we are following the takanot (traditions of men).
If we are not allowed to kindle a literal fire on Shabbat, does that mean that our Creator desires us to sit in the dark, to freeze, and eat food that is old and cold? If this is so, then how would someone ever look forward to Shabbat? How could Shabbat be a joy? This scenario is not a cause for celebration and praise. Is it?
Some would argue that these traditions; no light switch, no folding toilet paper, etc., do bring them joy and are not a burden for them. While that may very well be the case for them, we submit to you that this would not be a joyful practice for anyone who is coming to learn Torah.
Additionally, some understandings tie kindling a fire to the man who was killed for gathering wood on Shabbat as he was doing work.
And while the children of Yisra’ĕl were in the wilderness, they found a man gathering sticks on the Sabbath day. And those who found him gathering sticks brought him to Mosheh and to Aharon, and to all the congregation. And they put him in under guard, because it had not been declared what should be done to him. And יהוה said to Mosheh, “The man shall certainly be put to death, all the congregation stoning him with stones outside the camp.”
How does Scripture define work? If we are to look at the Word in context, then we should also be looking at verse 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.
It’s understandable why these two can seem to be related. The man was gathering wood on the Sabbath – he must have been working, right? We will address working on the Sabbath in a follow up to this teaching, but for now we submit that the two are not related. Why?
The children are gathering wood, the fathers are lighting the fire, and the women are kneading their dough, to make cakes for the sovereigness of the heavens, and to pour out drink offerings to other mighty ones, to provoke Me.
We see here the children gathering wood for the purpose of making offerings to other gods, and this provokes YHVH’s anger (or kindles his fire). Following Numbers 15 what do we read in Ch. 16? Korah’s rebellion.
As we read, those in Korah’s rebellion had their own fire pans. May we submit to you that Korah was establishing his own tabernacle and the man gathering wood was in his “camp” about to make an offering to either a false god or unauthorized offering on the Sabbath.
So they gat up from the tabernacle (H4908 mishkan) of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, on every side: and Dathan and Abiram came out, and stood in the door of their tents, and their wives, and their sons, and their little children.
We’ll have more on this in our follow up teaching. Stay tuned, and please feel free to leave us your input on the matters.
We hope that this teaching has blessed you. Shalom.