International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
kol (pecham, "charcoal"; compare Arabic fachm, "charcoal"; gacheleth, "burning coal" or "hot ember"; compare Arabic jacham, "to kindle"; shechor, "a black coal" (Lamentations 4:8); compare Arabic shachchar, "soot" or "dark-colored sandstone"; retseph (1 Kings 19:6), and ritspah (= Rizpah) (Isaiah 6:6), margin "a hot stone"; compare resheph, "a flame" (Songs 8:6 Habakkuk 3:5); anthrax, "a live coal" (Romans 12:20) (= gacheleth in Proverbs 25:22); anthrakia, "a live coal" (John 18:18; John 21:9)): There is no reference to mineral coal in the Bible. Coal, or more properly lignite, of inferior quality, is found in thin beds (not exceeding 3 ft.) in the sandstone formation (see GEOLOGY OF PALESTINE, under Nubian Sandstone), but there is no evidence of its use in ancient times. Charcoal is manufactured in a primitive fashion which does not permit the conservation of any by-products. A flat, circular place (Arabic beidar, same name as for a threshing-floor) 10 or 15 ft. in diameter is prepared in or conveniently near to the forest. On this the wood, to be converted into charcoal, is carefully stacked in a dome-shaped structure, leaving an open space in the middle for fine kindlings. All except the center is first covered with leaves, and then with earth. The kindlings in the center are then fired and afterward covered in the same manner as the rest. While it is burning or smoldering it is carefully watched, and earth is immediately placed upon any holes that may be formed in the covering by the burning of the wood below. In several days, more or less, according to the size of the pile, the wood is converted into charcoal and the heap is opened. The charcoal floor is also called in Arabic mashcharah, from shachchar, "soot"; compare Hebrew shechor. The characteristic odor of the mashcharah clings for months to the spot.