Chaff and Fire

I came across a reference to chaff being burning in the Bible in Exodus 15:7 and I thought,
“Hey, why does the Bible always mention chaff and fire at the same time?”

Here are some examples:
…you send out your fury; it consumes them like stubble. (Exo 15:7 ESV)
Therefore, as the tongue of fire devours the stubble… (Isa 5:24 ESV)
You conceive chaff; you give birth to stubble; your breath is a fire that will consume you. (Isa 33:11 ESV)
Behold, they are like stubble; the fire consumes them… (Isa 47:14 ESV)
…like the crackling of a flame of fire devouring the stubble… (Joe 2:5 ESV)
The house of Jacob shall be a fire, and the house of Joseph a flame, and the house of Esau stubble; they shall burn them and consume them… (Oba 1:18 ESV)
they are consumed like stubble fully dried. (Nah 1:10 ESV)
For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble. (Mal 4:1 ESV)
…but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire (Mat 3:12 ESV)
…but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” (Luk 3:17 ESV)

Chaff is the leftovers of the wheat stalk when the edible grain has been removed by the process of threshing and winnowing. Chaff is also sometimes called “stubble.” In Hebrew, there are actually two words, one for chaff (?????), the little inedible fuzzies at the top of the stalk and one for stubble (???), the long stick-like part of the stalk. Apparently, it was a normal part of Israelite agriculture to burn the chaff after the winnowing process was complete. And it seems that the burning pile of chaff was a rather impressive show since it impressed itself on the Hebrew imagination so thoroughly as to serve as a good metaphor for God’s judgment. I got curious, and of course, looked it up on YouTube. I found a burning field of wheat stubble–slightly different than flaming piles of chaff. Take a look, if you like:

2 thoughts on “Chaff and Fire

  1. kentuckyliz

    Until this moment, I never imagined that I’d mark a YouTube video of a wheat field burning as a favorite and share it.

    Life is full of wonderful little surprises, eh?

  2. kentuckyliz

    Actually I just stumbled across an interesting footnote about chaff.

    Baruch 6:42-43 And their [the Chaldean=Babylonian] women, girt with cords, sit by the roads, burning chaff for incense; and whenever one of them is drawn aside by some passerby who lies with her, she mocks her neighbor who has not been dignified as she has, and has not had her cord broken.

    Footnote: This seems to refer to the obligation of Babylonian women to serve once in their lives as cult prostitutes. The unbroken cord was a sign that this duty had not yet been fulfilled. Chaff: burnt as an aphrodisiac or for use in erotic rites.

    Since we know that the worship of foreign gods often involved erotic activities, the chaff as erotic incense closes the loop: adultery:idolatry::chaff as aphrodisiac in erotic worship:chaff as condemnation.

    God condemns you to what you’re choosing anyway. Have at it.

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