Isaiah and the Seraphim

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The fiery purification of Isaiah’s lips

The words of Isaiah are among the most beloved prophecies in the whole Bible. But before Isaiah began receiving prophecy from the Lord, he underwent an initiation ritual in the Temple. His mouth was cleansed by a burning coal taken from the altar. Then a seraph declared: “Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out” (Isa. 6:7). Why was the burning of Isaiah’s lips necessary?

“Seraphs were in attendance above him”

Like angels, seraphs are divine messengers. Their job is to proclaim the glory of God. With thunderous voices, they proclaim “Holy, Holy, Holy” shaking the foundations of the Temple (6:3-4). But they have an additional job – to guard the throne of the Lord within the Holy of Holies. They do so using fire. The Hebrew word seraphim (שְּׂרָפִים) comes from the root SRF (שרפ) which means “to flame”. Seraphs are six-winged “burners” who use fire to deter intruders. 

Learn Hebrew and regain a burning love for scripture

The original Hebrew meaning of seraph clarifies a great deal about Isaiah’s famous first vision. This is precisely the reason why Isaiah says that the “house was filled with smoke” (6:4). It is also the reason why the seraph used a “live coal from the altar” to purify his lips (6:7). Do you yearn to hear the word of God in Hebrew precisely as Isaiah did? Enroll today in our online live Biblical Hebrew course and learn to uncover the Bible’s most sparkling treasures.