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NAVE: Coal
EBD: Coal
SMITH: COAL
ISBE: COAL
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Coal

Coal [EBD]

It is by no means certain that the Hebrews were acquainted with mineral coal, although it is found in Syria. Their common fuel was dried dung of animals and wood charcoal. Two different words are found in Hebrew to denote coal, both occurring in Prov. 26:21, "As coal [Heb. peham; i.e., "black coal"] is to burning coal [Heb. gehalim]." The latter of these words is used in Job 41:21; Prov. 6:28; Isa. 44:19. The words "live coal" in Isa. 6:6 are more correctly "glowing stone." In Lam. 4:8 the expression "blacker than a coal" is literally rendered in the margin of the Revised Version "darker than blackness." "Coals of fire" (2 Sam. 22:9, 13; Ps. 18:8, 12, 13, etc.) is an expression used metaphorically for lightnings proceeding from God. A false tongue is compared to "coals of juniper" (Ps. 120:4; James 3:6). "Heaping coals of fire on the head" symbolizes overcoming evil with good. The words of Paul (Rom. 12:20) are equivalent to saying, "By charity and kindness thou shalt soften down his enmity as surely as heaping coals on the fire fuses the metal in the crucible."

Coal [NAVE]

COAL.
Figurative
Prov. 25:22.
Symbolical
Isa. 6:6, 7; 2 Sam. 14:7.

COAL [SMITH]

The first and most frequent use of the word rendered coal is a live ember, burning fuel. (Proverbs 26:21) In (2 Samuel 22:9,13) "coals of fire" are put metaphorically for the lightnings proceeding from God. (Psalms 18:8,12,13; 140:10) In (Proverbs 26:21) fuel not yet lighted is clearly signified. The fuel meant in the above passage is probably charcoal, and not coal in our sense of the word.

COAL [ISBE]

COAL - kol (pecham, "charcoal"; compare Arabic fachm, "charcoal"; gacheleth, "burning coal" or "hot ember"; compare Arabic jacham, "to kindle"; shechor, "a black coal" (Lam 4:8); compare Arabic shachchar, "soot" or "dark-colored sandstone"; retseph (1 Ki 19:6), and ritspah (= Rizpah) (Isa 6:6), margin "a hot stone"; compare resheph, "a flame" (Song 8:6; Hab 3:5); anthrax, "a live coal" (Rom 12:20) (= gacheleth in Prov 25:22); anthrakia, "a live coal" (Jn 18:18; 21:9)): There is no reference to mineral coal in the Bible. Coal, or more properly lignite, of inferior quality, is found in thin beds (not exceeding 3 ft.) in the sandstone formation (see GEOLOGY OF PALESTINE, under Nubian Sandstone), but there is no evidence of its use in ancient times. Charcoal is manufactured in a primitive fashion which does not permit the conservation of any by-products. A flat, circular place (Arabic beidar, same name as for a threshing-floor) 10 or 15 ft. in diameter is prepared in or conveniently near to the forest. On this the wood, to be converted into charcoal, is carefully stacked in a dome-shaped structure, leaving an open space in the middle for fine kindlings. All except the center is first covered with leaves, and then with earth. The kindlings in the center are then fired and afterward covered in the same manner as the rest. While it is burning or smoldering it is carefully watched, and earth is immediately placed upon any holes that may be formed in the covering by the burning of the wood below. In several days, more or less, according to the size of the pile, the wood is converted into charcoal and the heap is opened. The charcoal floor is also called in Arabic mashcharah, from shachchar, "soot"; compare Hebrew shechor. The characteristic odor of the mashcharah clings for months to the spot.

In Ps 120:4, there is mention of "coals of juniper," the Revised Version, margin "broom," rothem. This is doubtless the Arabic retem, Retama roetam, Forsk., a kind of broom which is abundant in Judea and Moab. Charcoal from oak wood, especially Quercus coccifera, L., Arabic sindyan, is much preferred to other kinds, and fetches a higher price.

In most of the passages where English versions have "coal," the reference is not necessarily to charcoal, but may be to coals of burning wood. Pecham in Prov 26:21, however, seems to stand for charcoal:

"As coals are to hot embers, and wood to fire,

So is a contentious man to inflame strife."

The same may be true of pecham in Isa 44:12 and 54:16; also of shechor in Lam 4:8.

Alfred Ely Day


Also see definition of "Coal" in Word Study


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