The flame "The tongue of fire" - "The flame, because it is in the shape of a tongue; and so it is called metaphorically." Sal. ben Melec. The metaphor is so exceedingly obvious, as well as beautiful, that one may wonder that it has not been more frequently used. Virgil very elegantly intimates, rather than expresses, the image; -
Ecce levis summo de vertice visus Iuli
Fundere lumen apex; tactuque innoxia molli
Lambere flamma comas, et circum tempora pasci.
"Strange to relate! from young Iulus' head
A lambent flame arose, which gently spread
Around his brows, and on his temples fed."
And more boldly of Aetna darting out flames from its top: -
Interdumque atram prorumpit ad aethera nubem,
Turbine fumantem piceo, et candente favilla:
Attollitque globos flammarum, et sidera lambit.
"By turns a pitchy cloud she rolls on high,
By turns hot embers from her entrails fly,
And flakes of mountain flames, that lick the sky."
The disparted tongues, as it were of fire, Acts 2:3, which appeared at the descent of the Holy Spirit, on the apostles, give the same idea; that is, of flames shooting diversely into pyramidal forms, or points, like tongues. It may be farther observed that the prophet in this place has given the metaphor its full force, in applying it to the action of fire in eating up and devouring whatever comes in its way, like a ravenous animal whose tongue is principally employed in taking in his food or prey; which image Moses has strongly exhibited in an expressive comparison: "And Moab said to the elders of Midian Now shall this collection of people lick up all that are around about us, as the ox licketh up the grass of the field," Numbers 22:4. See also 1 Kings 18:38.
Their root shall be as rottenness - כמק cammak, like mak ; whence probably our word muck, dung, was derived.
Therefore as the fire - The remainder of this chapter is occupied with predicting “judgments,” or punishments, upon the people for their sins which had been specified. The Hebrew here is, ‹The tongue of fire.‘ The figure is beautiful and obvious. It is derived from the pyramidal, or tongue-like appearance of “flame.” The concinnity of the metaphor in the Hebrew is kept up. The word “devoureth” is in the Hebrew “eateth:” ‹As the tongue of fire eats up,‘ etc. The use of the word “tongue” to denote “flame” is common in the Scriptures; see the note at Acts 2:3.
And the flame consumeth the chaff - The word rendered “chaff here,” means rather “hay, or dried grass.” The word rendered ‹consumeth,‘ denotes properly “to make to fall,” and refers to the appearance when a fire passes through a field of grain or grass, consuming the stalks near the ground, so that the upper portion “falls down,” or sinks gently into the flames.
So their root shall be as rottenness - Be rotten; or decayed - of course furnishing no moisture, or suitable juices for the support of the plant. The idea is, that all the sources of national prosperity among the Jews would be destroyed. The word “root” is often used to denote the source of “strength or prosperity;” Isaiah 14:30; Hosea 9:16; Job 18:16.
And their blossom - This word rather means germ, or tender branch. It also means the flower. The figure is kept up here. As the root would be destroyed, so would all that was supported by it, and all that was deemed beautiful, or ornamental.
As dust - The Hebrew denotes “fine dust,” such as is easily blown about. The root would be rotten; and the flower, lacking nourishment, would become dry, and turn to dust, and blow away. Their strength, and the sources of their prosperity would be destroyed; and all their splendor and beauty, all that was ornamental, and the source of national wealth, would be destroyed with it.
They have cast away - They have refused to “obey” it. This was the cause of all the calamities that would come upon them.
“Therefore as the tongue of fire devoureth the stubble,
And as the dry grass sinketh down in the flame,
So their root shall be as rottenness,
And their blossom shall go up as dust;
Because they have rejected the law of Jehovah of hosts,
And despised the word of the Holy One of Israel.” 8T 115.1
Isaiah 5:7, 11-13, 20, 21, 24, A. R. V. 8T 115Read in context »
Nadab and Abihu had not in their youth been trained to habits of self-control. The father's yielding disposition, his lack of firmness for right, had led him to neglect the discipline of his children. His sons had been permitted to follow inclination. Habits of self-indulgence, long cherished, obtained a hold upon them which even the responsibility of the most sacred office had not power to break. They had not been taught to respect the authority of their father, and they did not realize the necessity of exact obedience to the requirements of God. Aaron's mistaken indulgence of his sons prepared them to become the subjects of the divine judgments. PP 360.1
God designed to teach the people that they must approach Him with reverence and awe, and in His own appointed manner. He cannot accept partial obedience. It was not enough that in this solemn season of worship nearly everything was done as He had directed. God has pronounced a curse upon those who depart from His commandments, and put no difference between common and holy things. He declares by the prophet: “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness! ... woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight! ... which justify the wicked for reward, and take away the righteousness of the righteous from him! ... They have cast away the law of the Lord of hosts, and despised the word of the Holy One of Israel.” Isaiah 5:20-24. Let no one deceive himself with the belief that a part of God's commandments are nonessential, or that He will accept a substitute for that which He has required. Said the prophet Jeremiah, “Who is he that saith, and it cometh to pass, when the Lord commandeth it not?” Lamentations 3:37. God has placed in His word no command which men may obey or disobey at will and not suffer the consequences. If men choose any other path than that of strict obedience, they will find that “the end thereof are the ways of death.” Proverbs 14:12. PP 360.2
“Moses said unto Aaron, and unto Eleazar and unto Ithamar, his sons, Uncover not your heads, neither rend your clothes; lest ye die, ... for the anointing oil of the Lord is upon you.” The great leader reminded his brother of the words of God, “I will be sanctified in them that come nigh Me, and before all the people I will be glorified.” Aaron was silent. The death of his sons, cut down without warning, in so terrible a sin—a sin which he now saw to be the result of his own neglect of duty—wrung the father's heart with anguish, but he gave his feelings no expression. By no manifestation of grief must he seem to sympathize with sin. The congregation must not be led to murmur against God. PP 361.1Read in context »
“Woe unto them....
As the fire devoureth the stubble,
And the flame consumeth the chaff,
So their root shall be as rottenness,
And their blossom shall go up as dust:
Because they have cast away the law of the Lord of
And despised the word of the Holy One of Israel.” MH 346.1
Isaiah 5:22-24. MH 346
The honor of God, the stability of the nation, the well-being of the community, of the home, and of the individual, demand that every possible effort be made in arousing the people to the evil of intemperance. Soon we shall see the result of this terrible evil as we do not see it now. Who will put forth a determined effort to stay the work of destruction? As yet the contest has hardly begun. Let an army be formed to stop the sale of the drugged liquors that are making men mad. Let the danger from the liquor traffic be made plain and a public sentiment be created that shall demand its prohibition. Let the drink-maddened men be given an opportunity to escape from their thralldom. Let the voice of the nation demand of its lawmakers that a stop be put to this infamous traffic. MH 346.2Read in context »