An important inquiry which begs to be answered. A question that has been asked by believers who seek to understand the distinction between the seven covenants by fire and other divine manifestations of fire in the holy text. The question that plagues their minds is valid, and the answer to it is imperative. Three occurrences of divine fire come to mind: the call of Gideon in Judges 6:20-22, the birth of Samson in Judges 13:15-20, and the appearance of God on Mount Sinai in Exodus 19:18-20. How do these compare to the seven covenants by fire?
In the call of Gideon, the presence of fire represents God’s affirmation of Gideon as the chosen leader of Israel’s army. When Gideon presents an offering to God, the angel touches the offering with the tip of his staff and fire springs up from the rock to consume the offering, affirming Gideon’s calling and inspiring him to take on the task of leading Israel. The fire symbolises God’s presence and power, which Gideon recognizes as he exclaims, “Alas, Sovereign Lord! I have seen the angel of the Lord face to face!” (Judges 6:22).
In the birth of Samson, the presence of fire signifies the fulfilment of God’s promise to Samson’s parents. The angel of the Lord appears to Samson’s mother and tells her that she will conceive and bear a son who will be a Nazirite and a deliverer of Israel from the Philistines. When she tells her husband, Manoah, about the encounter, he prays to God to send the angel back. The angel appears again, and Manoah prepares a burnt offering to God. As the offering is consumed by the flame that Manoah had made, the angel ascends in the fire, signifying the confirmation of God’s promise to Samson’s parents.
In the giving of the law on Mount Sinai, the people stand at the foot of the mountain ready to meet their God. As Moses ascends the mountain to receive the Ten Commandments, the Lord descends on the mountain in fire, smoke, and lightning, signifying His awesome power and presence. The fire also symbolizes the purity and holiness of God’s law by which His people should now live.
Contrasting these three events with the seven covenants by fire we find some distinct differences which would exclude them from the seven covenants.
- Firstly, The location of the fire is different in each story. In the story of Gideon, the fire consumes an offering on a rock. In the story of Samson’s birth, the fire flares up from an altar. In the giving of the law on Mount Sinai, the fire descends on the mountain and covers it with smoke and lightning. In the 7CBF an altar of sacrifice and worship was set before God.
- Secondly, and closely associated with the previous point in the 7CBF a sacrifice was being offered in each instance. In the Gideon and Samson stories they prepared offerings, however in the Sinai story there were no sacrifices at this point but just the reading of the Ten Commandments.
- Thirdly, and perhaps the most critical point of all in the 7CBF, the origin of the fire is the presence of the Lord. In the Gideon story the fire springs up from the rock once the angel’s staff touches it. In the Samson story the fire is produced by Manoah. In the Sinai account the fire represents the presence of God and remains on the top of the mountain no fire emanates from the presence of the Lord.
- Fourthly and finally, in the 7CBF God is entering a covenant with a specific party as a representative of all mankind based on faith in God. In the Gideon and Samson stories God makes specific promises to individuals which he fulfils, but there is no sense of a wider covenant being made. In the Sinai story God is making a covenant with the nation of Israel based upon them obeying the law.
In summary, we see from this analysis that the message of G7CBF is unique and the characteristics that mark out these covenants are qualitatively different from all other manifestations of heavenly fire recorded in the Scriptures.