Man and Fire
Jeff A. Benner
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And the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground, and breathed
into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living soul.
The Hebrew word for fire is אש (esh). Derived from this two letter parent
root is the three letter child root איש (iysh) meaning "man". Not
only are these two words related by their letters, they are also related in meaning. To re-
discover this relationship between fire and man let us begin by seeing the "creation" of
fire from the ancient Hebrews perspective.
In ancient times before the invention of lighters and matches, fire was made with a "bow
drill" and tinder. The tinder is any fine organic material such as dried grass or inner bark
fibers. The bow drill consisted of four parts, the fireboard, bow and string, rod and
handle. The fireboard was made of a flat board with a v-shaped cut at the edge of the
board. The bow and string is constructed similar to an archers bow. The rod is a round
stick pointed at one end and rounded at the other. The handle is a flat round board.
Fine tinder compressed into a ball and layed on the ground. The fireboard is placed on top
of the tinder with the v-shape cut over the tinder. The string of the bow is wrapped once
around the rod and the pointed end of the rod is set on the fireboard over the v-shaped
cut. The handle is placed on top of the rod. One hand holds the handle while the other
hand moves the bow back and forth in a sawing motion. This action causes the rod to spin
back and forth on the fireboard.
As the rod spins on the firebaord fine wood dust is shaved off the rod and deposited in the
v-shape cut on top of the tinder. The friction of the two woods rubbing also created heat
causing the dust to become very hot. After a short time working the fire drill smoke will
begin to rise from the heated dust. The fireboard is carefully removed leaving the pile of
smoldering dust on the tinder. The Tinder is picked up and enclosed around the dust and
the fire maker blows on the dust increasing the heat. The dust then ignites the tinder
Let us now look at passage in Genesis in light of the ancient form of making fire.
|And the LORD God
||And the fire maker
|formed the man from the dust of the
||formed a man of dust on the
|and breathed into his nostrils the breath of
||and he blew into the tinder the breath of
|and the man became a living
||and the man became a living