Hearth

HEARTH. In ancient times homes were heated very differently from today. In the houses of the poorer people the hearth consisted of a depression in the floor of a room in which a fire was kindled for cooking or for warmth. Chimneys were unknown; smoke escaped from the house as it could, or through a latticed opening for the purpose. The better houses were heated by means of a brazier of burning coals. The brazier was a wide, shallow pan that could also be used for cooking. (See Gen.18.6; Ps.102.3; Isa.30.14; Jer.36.22-Jer.36.23; Hos.13.3; Zech.12.6.)


HEARTH. In Biblical times the hearth was a depression in the floor of a house or tent, in the center or in a corner, and in this food was cooked, or bread was baked in the ashes or upon hot stones (Gen 18:6). There was no chimney; smoke escaped through a door or a window. Where obtainable, wood was used as a fuel, but withered vegetation (Matt 6:30) and dried cow and camel dung were also used (Ezek 4:15). In the better class of houses, in the cold season, rooms were warmed by means of a brazier (Jer 36:22f. RSV), or firepan (Zech 12:6, KJV, ASV “hearth of fire,” RSV “blazing pot”). The term “altar hearth” was applied to the top of the altar of burnt offering (Ezek 43:15, 16). See House.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)


(1) The hearth in case of a tent was nothing more than a depression in the ground in which fire was kindled for cooking or for warmth. Cakes were baked, after the fashion of Ge 18:6, in the ashes or upon hot stones. In this passage, however, there is nothing in the Hebrew corresponding to the King James Version "on the hearth." In the poorer class of houses also the hearth consisted of such a depression, of varying dimensions, in the middle or in one corner of the room. There was no chimney for the smoke, which escaped as it could, or through a latticed opening for the purpose (the "chimney" of Ho 13:3). While the nature of the hearth is thus clear enough, more or less uncertainty attaches to specific terms used in the Hebrew. In Isa 30:14 the expression means simply "that which is kindled," referring to the bed of live coals. From this same verb (yaqadh, "be kindled") are formed the nouns moqedh (Ps 102:3 (Hebrew 4)) and moqkedhah (Le 6:9 (Hebrew 2)) which might, according to their formation, mean either the material kindled or the place where a fire is kindled. Hence, the various renderings, "firebrand," "hearth," etc. Moreover, in Le 6:9 (2) the termination -ah of moqedhah may be taken as the pronominal suffix, "its"; hence, the Revised Version margin "on its firewood."

(2) Two other terms have reference to heating in the better class of houses. In Jer 36:22,23 the word (’ach) means a "brazier" of burning coals, with which Jehoiakim’s "winter house" was heated. The same purpose was served by the "pan (kiyyor) of fire" of Zec 12:6 the Revised Version (British and American), apparently a wide, shallow vessel otherwise used for cooking (1Sa 2:14, English Versions of the Bible "pan"), or as a wash basin (compare Ex 30:18; 1Ki 7:38, etc., "laver").

(3) Another class of passages is referred to the signification "altar hearth," which seems to have been a term applied to the top of the altar of burnt offering. The moqedhah of Le 6:9 (2), though related by derivation to the words discussed under (1) above, belongs here (compare also Ecclesiasticus 50:12, "by the hearth of the altar," par’ eschara bomou). Again in Ezekiel’s description of the altar of the restored temple (43:15,16), he designates the top of the altar by a special term (the Revised Version margin, ariel), which is by most understood to mean "altar hearth" (so the Revised Version (British and American)). With this may be compared the symbolical name given to Jerusalem (Isa 29:1), and variously explained as "lion (or lioness) of God," or "hearth of God."