This phrase has come up several times recently in my life. The most recent was in a sermon on Romans 12:20 which reads like this:
(Romans 12:20 KJV) Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.
Be aware of how often the NT writers quote the OT.
It seems like the people I am listening to are reading the same commentaries. They are searching far and wide to give to “heap” (2846) “coals” (1513) some kind of warm and fuzzy meaning. I love the way scholars speak with certainty as to what a phrase means. The pastor on Sunday told us with no qualifications that it came from an old tradition of walking around town with a bowl of hot coals on your head, going from house to house lighting people’s hearths. I can’t remember how that figured into the sermon but it was a cute concept.
Adam Clarke says this:
“Not to consume, but to melt him into kindness; a metaphor taken from smelting metallic ores...”I can buy that. Barnes sees a parallel in the burning coals of incense in the priests censer.
This is a phrase I have heard all my life. It is an example of how the Biblical language was a part of every day life. It was used to signify that kindness would embarrass people when they compared our actions to theirs. This would lead them to think and open them to change and the work of the Holy Spirit.
Either way, we are commanded to show kindness and mercy on our enemies.
So? It should be obvious. Revenge, animosity, hatred and hostility have no place in our lives if we follow Jesus. Don’t ignore this truth. Apply it.