“When our ancestors were being led captive to Persia,
The pious priests of that time took
Some of the fire of the altar.
They secretly hid it in the hollow of a dry cistern.
They took such precautions
That the place was unknown to anyone.
But after many years had passed,
When it pleased God,
Nehemiah, having been commissioned by the king of Persia,
Sent the descendants of the priests
Who had hidden the fire to get it.
When they reported to us
That they had not found fire
But only a thick liquid,
He ordered them to dip it out and bring it.
When the materials for the sacrifices were presented,
Nehemiah ordered the priests
To sprinkle the liquid on the wood
And on the things laid upon it.
When this was done,
Some time had passed.
The sun, which had been clouded over,
A great fire blazed up,
So that all marveled.
While the sacrifice was being consumed,
The priests offered prayer.
The priests and everyone,
The rest responded,
As did Nehemiah.”
There is nothing in the book of Nehemiah about this fire incident. If anything it is a reference to the cult of fire among the Persians. Somehow the captured Israelite priests hid a fire that had been on an altar in a dry cistern that no one knew about. How could a fire keep going it no feeds it? When Nehemiah asked the descendents of these priests to get the fire, they told him that they only had a thick liquid that could have been naphtha or petro-chemical oil, which of course, was found in the Persian area. They put wood on it. When the sun shone it, it burst into flames so that it consumed the sacrifice. Obviously, the priests and everyone offered sacrifices. A certain Jonathan seemed to be the priest leader of this ceremony.