Fire and brimstone

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Smoke rising from a volcano, which the phrase "fire and brimstone" is intended to evoke.

Fire and brimstone (or, alternatively, brimstone and fire) is an idiomatic expression of referring to God's wrath in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) and the New Testament. In the Bible, it often appears in reference to the fate of the unfaithful. Brimstone, an archaic term synonymous with sulfur,[1] evokes the acrid odor of sulphur dioxide given off by lightning strikes.[2] Lightning was understood as divine punishment by many ancient religions; the association of sulphur with God's retribution is common in the Bible. The English phrase "fire and brimstone" originates in the King James Bible.

Used as an adjective, fire-and-brimstone refers to a style of Christian preaching that uses vivid descriptions of judgment and eternal damnation to encourage repentance.[3]

Biblical references[edit]

The King James translation of the Bible often renders passages about fiery torments with the phrase "fire and brimstone." In Genesis 19, God destroys Sodom and Gomorrah with a rain of fire and brimstone (Hebrew: גׇּפְרִ֣ית וָאֵ֑שׁgŏp̄rîṯ wā-’êš), and in Deuteronomy 29, the Israelites are warned that the same punishment would fall upon them should they abandon their covenant with God. Elsewhere, divine judgments involving fire and sulfur are prophesied against Assyria (Isaiah 30), Edom (Isaiah 34), Gog (Ezekiel 38), and all the wicked (Psalm 11).

The breath of God, in Isaiah 30:33, is compared to brimstone: "The breath of Jehovah, like a stream of brimstone, doth kindle it."

Fire and brimstone frequently appear as agents of divine wrath throughout the Book of Revelation culminating in chapters 19–21, wherein Satan and the ungodly are cast into a lake of fire burning with brimstone (Greek: λίμνην τοῦ πυρὸς τῆς καιομένης ἐν θείῳ, limnēn tou pyros tēs kaiomenēs en thei) as an eternal punishment.

The King James Version translation of the Bible contains references to brimstone in the books of Genesis, Deuteronomy, Job, Psalms, Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Revelation.[4]

Complete listing of bible verses mentioning brimstone
Location Text
Genesis 19:24 Then the LORD rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven;
Deuteronomy 29:23 And that the whole land thereof is brimstone, and salt, and burning, that it is not sown, nor beareth, nor any grass groweth therein, like the overthrow of Sodom, and Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboim, which the Lord overthrew in his anger, and in his wrath:
Job 18:15 It shall dwell in his tabernacle, because it is none of his: brimstone shall be scattered upon his habitation.
Psalm 11:6 Upon the wicked he shall rain snares, fire and brimstone, and an horrible tempest: this shall be the portion of their cup.
Isaiah 30:33 For Tophet is ordained of old; yea, for the king it is prepared; he hath made it deep and large: the pile thereof is fire and much wood; the breath of the Lord, like a stream of brimstone, doth kindle it.
Isaiah 34:9 And the streams thereof shall be turned into pitch, and the dust thereof into brimstone, and the land thereof shall become burning pitch.
Ezekiel 38:22 And I will plead against him with pestilence and with blood; and I will rain upon him, and upon his bands, and upon the many people that are with him, an overflowing rain, and great hailstones, fire, and brimstone.
Luke 17:29 But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all.
Revelation 9:17 And thus I saw the horses in the vision, and them that sat on them, having breastplates of fire, and of jacinth, and brimstone: and the heads of the horses were as the heads of lions; and out of their mouths issued fire and smoke and brimstone.
Revelation 9:18 By these three was the third part of men killed, by the fire, and by the smoke, and by the brimstone, which issued out of their mouths.
Revelation 14:10 The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb:
Revelation 19:20 And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone.
Revelation 20:10 And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.
Revelation 21:8 But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.

Islamic reference[edit]

The story of prophet Lot finds mention in several Qur'anic passages, especially Chapter 26 (Ash-Shu'ara):160-175 which reads: "The people of Lut rejected the apostles. Behold, their brother Lut said to them: "Will ye not fear (God)? "I am to you an apostle worthy of all trust. "So fear God and obey me. "No reward do I ask of you for it: my reward is only from the lord of the Worlds. "Of all the creatures in the world, will ye approach males, "And leave those whom God has created for you to be your mates? Nay, ye are a people transgressing (all limits)!" They said: "If thou desist not, O Lut! thou wilt assuredly be cast out!" He said: "I do detest your doings." "O my Lord! deliver me and my family from such things as they do!" So We delivered him and his family,- all Except an old woman who lingered behind. But the rest We destroyed utterly. We rained down on them a shower (of brimstone): and evil was the shower on those who were admonished (but heeded not)! Verily in this is a Sign: but most of them do not believe. And verily thy Lord is He, the Exalted in Might Most Merciful."

History[edit]

According to Jewish historian, Josephus, "Now this country is then so sadly burnt up, that nobody cares to come at it;... It was of old a most happy land, both for the fruits it bore and the riches of its cities, although it be now all burnt up. It is related how for the impiety of its inhabitants, it was burnt by lightning; in consequence of which there are still the remainders of that divine fire; and the traces (or shadows) of the five cities are still to be seen,..." (The Jewish War, book IV, end of ch. 8, in reference to Sodom.)

Brimstone was not only associated with the wrath of God or judgment but it was also used as a purifying agent. The Greek Orthodox would burn brimstone to ward off evil and disease.[citation needed] This is why God's breath is compared to brimstone and why brimstone is often used in carrying out divine judgment. That is, the brimstone is used to purify the land from evil.

Puritan preacher Thomas Vincent (an eyewitness of the Great Fire of London) authored a book called "Fire and Brimstone in Hell", first published in 1670. In it he quotes from Psalm 11:6 "Upon the wicked he shall rain snares, fire and brimstone, and a horrible tempest, this shall be the portion of their cup."

Preachers such as Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield were referred to as "fire-and-brimstone preachers" during the Great Awakening of the 1730s and 1740s. Edwards' "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" remains among the best-known sermons from this period. Reports of one occasion when Edwards preached it said that many of the audience burst out weeping, and others cried out in anguish or even fainted.[5]

Two archeologists believed that they found brimstone in the ancient cities of the Holy Land reported to have suffered from the disaster. William Albright and Melvin Kyle set out to find the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah in 1924, and found brimstone at Southern end of the Dead Sea.[citation needed]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ The dictionary definition of brimstone at Wiktionary
  2. ^ Gerald Kutney, Sulfur: History, Technology, Applications & Industry. ChemTec Publishing, 2007. pp. 5
  3. ^ Delahunty, Andrew; Dignen, Sheila (2010). Oxford dictionary of reference and allusion] (3rd ed.). Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press. p. 136. ISBN 978-0-19-956746-1.
  4. ^ "Brimstone in the Bible" in Nave's Topical Bible Concordance Online, originally published by Orville J. Nave in 1905; digitized in 2017 by StudyLamp Software LLC.
  5. ^ 1793?-1874., Tracy, Joseph,. The Great Awakening. Forgotten Books. ISBN 9781330391495. OCLC 920926442.

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