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Updated: 2021.06.11 

אֵשׁ v Early Man

2010 Carmel ''consuming fire'' - Seraphim (AFP photo)
אֵשׁ שְׂרָפִים (Carmel 2010.12.03 AFP -Ârëtz)

Early man inherited his awe of אֵשׁ from prehistoric ancestors. They assumed אֵשׁ to be the akh of ël•ōh•im or sᵊrâph•im, good or evil (demons) that they saw eating everything in their path. Early man eventually connected this to holy אֵשׁ in temple sacrifices, where they assumed the akh of their ël•ōh•im (i.e. their holy אֵשׁ) was eating the sacrifices they offered in their holy אֵשׁ.

Ancient people didn't drive around in cars, nor shop in super markets, nor make telephone calls, nor see TV (much less a cellphone or the internet), nor flip a switch on a light or microwave to cook or get warm. Even into modern times, the first friction match, which changed the way we create fire, was invented as recent as when my paternal greatx3 grandfather (Alexander R. Van Nest, 1816-1894) was 10 years old (by English chemist and druggist John Walker, 1826 CE). Cooking with a gas range didn't happen until the 1830s CE. The electric range didn't compete until my Mom's time—the 1920s. And electricity wasn’t available to most American cities (much less the rest of the world), until my Mom was a young girl in the early 20th century CE!!!

From the Iron Age until the introduction of electricity, the only way to light a fire was by striking a firesteel with the sharp edge of a flint. It wasn't until the beginning of the 16th century CE, that the flintlock were invented, enabling the starting of a fire by firing (!) an unloaded (for the safety of any bystander) flintlock pistol. The tinder bundle could also be enhanced with a bit of gunpowder (first formulated in China in the 9th century CE).

But Israel's trek into Kᵊna•an 40 years after c BCE , was during the latter part of the Bronze Age in the Levant; 3½ centuries before the Iron Age time of Shi•mᵊsh•ōn (c BCE 1200 in the Levant). The earliest evidence of steel production can be traced back to early blacksmiths in the BCE 13th century, who discovered that iron become harder, stronger and more durable when carbon was introduced after being left in coal furnaces.

Thus, it was only during the early Iron Age, the time of Shi•mᵊsh•ōn, that steel nodules could form in the ashes after forging iron. These steel nodules were soon discovered to be firesteels—fire-strikers of choice, producing sparks when struck by the sharp edge of flint, chert or similar rock. Even as recently as when I was a young man, my (maternal) 'Uncle Albert' (Bratcher) demonstrated how, by touching it to a grindstone, the size of the sparks produced provided a good indication of the quality of the steel.

Even with mᵊlâkh•âh eliminated from fire-starting, the mᵊlâkh•âh of acquiring wood or coal remained an integral necessity in fire-making until the advent of oil heating in 1930s CE in the U.S.

Finally, at this point, fire-making became distinctly exclusive from mᵊlâkh•âh.

The latest technology in the era of the Yᵊtzi•âh, however, remained the bronze sword. (Try making a fire with that using a flint striker!) Take away the steel, which the ancients didn’t have, and making an אֵשׁ could only be accomplished on demand by hours of mᵊlâkh•âh collecting firewood and tinder, the mᵊlâkh•âh of hauling it home, then obtaining an ember by the very arduous and lengthy mᵊlâkh•âh of wood-on-woodhearth or stone-stylus-on-stonehearth friction or striking two rocks together!

Transporting אֵשׁ

Fire-box מַחְתָּה (makhtah) Arch of Titus Rome
Ma•khᵊt•âh, still carrying אֵשׁ‎ — 17 centuries later (Arch of Titus, Rome)

Early fire was certainly gleaned from lightning strikes, brush fires and the like. Almost certainly, fire was first controlled by learning to transport it as a torch; later in a fire-box, which continued to be more convenient even after the strenuous art of fire-making was discovered.

אֵשׁ was so central to ancient life, and so difficult to make, that great efforts and attention were devoted to maintaining an אֵשׁ, even carrying live embers along with them on journeys. They made bronze fireboxes to carry the live embers around – trailing a column/​cloud/​pillar of smoke – so that אֵשׁ could be revived and transferred rather than made from (literally) scratch.

Even then, however, to maintain an אֵשׁ at home required regularly going out to gather firewood, then lugging it home to feed the אֵשׁ and keep it going —mᵊlâkh•âh that was forbidden on Sha•bât.


Man’s Discovery Of Making אֵשׁ

fire-making
Ancient Fire-Making (Friction) Fire-Plow (left), Fire-Drill (right)

Early man in Egypt (or before) certainly noticed how, when vigorously drilling holes in wood with their bow drills, the board being drilled would heat up, char around the hole being drilled, and smoke. When a worker first noticed an ember drop into some natural tinder and cause a fire, the art of duplicating such an אֵשׁ was discovered.

Somewhere along the line, desperate for an אֵשׁ but lacking a bow, someone tried rubbing a stick furiously back and forth along a hearth-board, forming a groove. It worked and—Voila!—hearth-boards and fire-plows.


Afghan women carrying tinder for fire (maximsnews.com)
Afghan women lugging home tinder for fire (maximsnews.com)

Before matches, lighters, gunpowder—even before man ever smelted steel or iron, fire-making typically required the tedious preparatory mᵊlâkh•âh of scouting for suitable tinder, gathering kindling, and then lugging it all home. Once home, the tinder, kindling and wood had to be properly constructed (also mᵊlâkh•âh).

Finally, the fire-maker had to rub two sticks together, sometimes for hours, until the friction finally produced an ember he could, if skillful enough, nurse into an אֵשׁ — massive mᵊlâkh•âh — and even that only worked in dry weather or when well protected from rain and wet.


Just Strike 2 Rocks Together—Poof!—אֵשׁ

fired-clay and stone fire-drill cylinders BAS 20170903
Click to enlargeFired-clay and stone friction-styli for fire-plow hearthstones. Cone 6 (1222°C/2232°F) fired stoneware can reach Moh hardness of 7-8. (Bow marks more likely from ancient lathe used to turn-out the finished points, not from usage making אֵשׁ). (BAS 2017.09.03)

The ancient ability to generate an אֵשׁ by striking two stones together was apparently lost for millennia, as most stones don’t work at all, easier methods were devised and the old, most perplexing and strenuous, ways fell into disuse.

Only recently recognized as a widespread ancient method of making an אֵשׁ in Israel, the stone tools, some dating from the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (PPNB; ca. 10,500–8,400 calBP) haven’t been properly understood, nor their terminology properly sorted out. Since a stone cannot be a fire-board, and a boulder cannot be held in the hand as a hand-stone, I’m introducing more accurate terminology. For uniformity, I’m substituting the term “hearth-stone” as the stone corollary of a hearth-board and a cylindrical “friction-stylus” as the stone corollary of the fire-drill, or fire-plow, friction-stick. To make an אֵשׁ using rocks then, a friction-stylus must be scraped along a grooved “hearth-stone”. Until very recently, fired-clay friction-styli for stone fire-plows were mistaken by arts-degreed archeologists as phallus figures for ritual worship.


Whether Rubbing Sticks Or Striking Stones, Making אֵשׁ Was Mᵊlâkh•âh

ccc
Click to enlargeHearthstone with drill socket; inefficient spark-directing groove & firepan to hold the tinder (Goren-Inbar, PlosOne)

The Biblical precept was demonstratively directed at prohibiting the mᵊlâkh•âh involved in the ancient method of collecting kindling and manually kindling an אֵשׁ. The man in bᵊ-Mi•dᵊbar 15.32ff who was executed, was executed for gathering and preparing kindlingmᵊlâkh•âh, not for "lighting a אֵשׁ"! He never even got as far as lighting his אֵשׁ!

The limestone hearth-stone for a stone fire-drill featured the socket (in which the friction-stylus rotated), a groove (presumably to tease the spark down the gutter under the tinder placed in the firepan depression.


Countless "Mysterious" Grooved Rocks Throughout Israel & The World

Grooved stone from Gotland. Fire plow trench-marks?
Click to enlargeGrooved rock in Gotland similar to "numer­ous" unexplained stones in Israel. Note apparent scorching near the bottom of the grooves.

No one yet has realized what the “mysterious” stones with all the grooves were used for.

Proposed Answer: fire-plow hearthstones. Dragging a stylus down toward the focal point is hypothesized, if these are the right kinds of stones, to produce sparks, which then travel downward onto a pile of fine kindling to produce an ember, which can then be coaxed into a flame and taken where needed.

Over time, fire-makers learned that a pointed flint, marcasite, natural ironstone or fired-clay cylinder made the most effective friction-styli and produce good sparks when used on a softer grooved rock (like limestone rich in spots of flint deposits), hearthstone-trench—which simultaneously protects the spark from the elements, focuses the increasing heat on the accumulating sparks and directs the sparks to the tinder.

Archeologists have found countless similarly grooved rocks in Israel that they haven't been able to explain, simply ascribing them to some unknown cult ritual or enigmatic astrology. I haven't been able to obtain the geological types (flint-rich limestone fire-trench hearthstone for pyrite striker-styli?) and hardness indices of any of these stones individually—not surprising this information isn't recorded given the many failures of "Old School" (humanities-trained, arts-degreed) archeologists. They're still absorbed in finding astrological meanings, evidence of magic rituals, heavenly alignments and an endless myriad of fools' errands. Firemaking issues relative to these stones and this stylus fire-plow & fire-trench stone method need to be demonstrated and proven by experiment, or failure and correction.

(Added specifics: 2021.06.06) The two most frequently found rocks found by ancient skeletons are flint and iron pyrite (from Greek πυρίτης λίθος)—widely known as "Fool's Gold". When struck together they produce a spark, kick-starting a fire.

Gotland Island, Sweden — "More than 3600 … [grooved stones] are known [in Gotland], of which about 700 occur in the solid limestone outcrop and the rest are divided among about 800 blocks. The latter often consist of hard rock such as granite or gneiss, but also limestone and sandstone occur."

Toward the bottom, where sparks, friction-heated in the grooves by a stylus, would have fallen onto the kindling, the grooves and side appear heat-scorched.

Rainbow Rule

Children old enough to respect the dangers of אֵשׁ should learn to make an אֵשׁ – in dry weather (vastly easier) – by scouting for and gathering kindling and firewood in the wilderness, properly assembling the kindling and a campfire cone; first using a fire-plow or bow-drill, then using two rocks (not using a modern flint, nor steel nor fire accelerant fluid) to experience and really understand, first-hand, the difficulty and mᵊlâkh•âh—not magic—that was the object of the Ta•na"kh prohibition.

Rainbow Rule

הָעוֹלָם הִשְׁתַּנָּה (mundus mutatus)

Post-Enlightenment “Orthodox” Rabbinic Reforms
Contravening Biblical History & Science Fake ”Ha•lâkh•âh

Neither Electricity Nor Explosions Are אֵשׁ

“Orthodox” rabbinic assertions attempting to contort a prohibition against אֵשׁ into prohibitions against use of electricity and driving on שַׁבָּת arise from:

  1. Post-Enlightenment strayings by ”Orthodox” rabbis mired in a Dark Ages mindset plaguing Israel with a deluge of anti-scientific and anti-historical misconceptions that contravene Ta•na"kh and trample authentic Ha•lâkh•âh. This has resulted in neglecting some proper prohibitions of mᵊlâkh•âh during שַׁבָּת, while deluging Israel in misconceived prohibitions during שַׁבָּת based on an ignorant (unscientific) and fallacious misconception of אֵשׁ. Even today's rabbinic law recognizes that אֵשׁ may continue on שַׁבָּת as long as its kindled before שַׁבָּת.

  2. ”Orthodox” rabbis' deliberate rejection of science, archeological hard evidence and well-documented historical facts; their defiant refusal to study science and general education, resulting in their willful ignorance of science and their intolerance of scientific realists,

  3. ”Orthodox” rabbis' defiant refusal of hard-evidence and fact to, instead, retain their belief that electricity was a type of אֵשׁ.

The result is their multiple illegitimate religious rulings that do not qualify as Ha•lâkh•âh.

Electricity On שַׁבָּת

The issues, and subsequent rabbinic rulings, concerning electricity didn't become possible until the inventions of the incandescent light bulb and telegraphy in the 19th century CE

Regarding electricity, anyone with a high school physics background understands that electricity is a flow of electron field force, not the NFPA 921 definition of אֵשׁ: "A rapid oxidation process, which is a chemical reaction resulting in the evolution of light and heat in varying intensities." Thus, the rabbinic prohibition against use of electricity on שַׁבָּת, which they wrongly thought was based on bᵊ-Mi•dᵊbar 15.32ff, is not legitimate Ha•lâkh•âh.

Driving On שַׁבָּת

The rabbis based their ruling against driving on שַׁבָּת on the same ignorance of science: wrongly believing that [a] the electricity essential to the operation of a combustion engine was a type of אֵשׁ, [b] that the explosions that drive a combustion engine are אֵשׁ and [c] the limit of travel distance on שַׁבָּת.

It turns out that there is also a distinct and persistent scientific difference between אֵשׁ and the explosions that drive the combustion engine in a car.

"According to the Chemical Engineers' Handbook (McGraw-​Hill Book Co., Inc.),… the scientifically-accurate meaning of explosion 'presupposes a sudden violent change of pressure, characteristically involving the liberation and expansion of a large volume of gas due to high temperature. The change taking place is a progressive one pro­ceed­ing from one part of the exploding material to the next adjoining part.' The sudden violent change of pressure, which causes the sound and other effects of an explosion that are absent in אֵשׁ, is the definitive distinction between an explosion and אֵשׁ, according to many sources.

Thus, no element of kindling an אֵשׁ is involved in an explosion detonated by an electric spark." (see my פִּשׁתָּה כֵּהָה Live-Link)

Travel Limitation on שַׁבָּת: Distance Or Travel Time?

The only applicable prohibition to driving, or other travel, on שַׁבָּת, therefore, relates to the "journey" on שַׁבָּת. Even that is subordinate to the principle of פִּקּוּחַ נֶפֶשׁ and debating the dynamics of applying this principle to modern modes of transportation. Which was the core ancient principle: distance or time travel? Is, then, the modern limitation properly defined according to the distance that was traveled in ancient times? Or was the determinant the travel time, which, in ancient times, happened to be on foot or donkey. If travel time is the determinant, which is more flexible to adapt to advancing technology, then (within other limitations; e.g., not doing business on שַׁבָּת), the travel time would apply today depending on whether traveling by foot, by car, by para-glider, by helicopter, in a space station orbiting some planet, or some other, perhaps future, mode.

Rainbow Rule © 1996-present by Paqid Yirmeyahu Ben-David,
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