Don Isaac Abravanel, sometimes spelled Abarbanel (1437-1508) was a probing and penetrating Jewish thinker, as well as a prolific
Biblical commentator. He sets forth a religious axiom in Leviticus 9: Divine Providence. Support comes
from a later verse in our chapter. “And there came forth fire from before God, and consumed upon the
altar the burnt offering and the fat. And when all the people saw it, they shouted, and fell on their

“And it came to pass on the eighth day, that Moses called Aaron and his
sons, and the elders of Israel.”

Abravanel’s discussion of Divine Providence and the fire that descended from heaven upon the altar can
be found inAbravanel’s World. For our purposes here, we mention one of the four rationales in
Abravanel’s essay to explain “the fire from before God.”

We begin with the premise: the Almighty wanted to sanctify and consecrate His altar, and His
Tabernacle via a heavenly fire. One reason had to do with educating the Hebrews, schooling them in
esoterica. Below is Abravanel’s approach.

Man’s psyche and intellect grapples with the concept of Divine Providence. Essentially, here is the
quandary. God is too exalted and man is too small for Divine Providence to exist – a bridge too far.
People contend with a second paradox, when it comes to fathoming the presence of Divine Providence,
that mystical force by which the Maker relates to man. It is, how can a non-physical Creator, One Who
lacks senses (eyes to see, a nose to smell, hands to touch etc.) view or perceive that which man does or
says or thinks – every word and every deed?

Enter the fire on the altar in the Tabernacle. God, in His desire to inculcate within the Chosen People’s
hearts the manifestation of Divine Providence, sent fire from above. It was an object lesson. Despite the
yawning gap between the exalted Creator and His puny creations, still and all, Divine Providence is a
mighty force at work in the world.

God wanted the Hebrews to see with their eyes the unfolding miracle. Here was a divine flame that
flouted nature, seeing that fire is both weightless and airy. Yet, it bolted and barreled downward from
heaven, “and consumed upon the altar the burnt offering and the fat.” A gobsmacked Hebrew
encampment “shouted, and fell on their faces.”

For Abravanel, the fiery wonder was God’s method of teaching His people about Divine Providence. Just
as He performed a miracle and harnessed a flame to descend upon an altar, so too does the Creator
relate to man – via Divine Providence – wondrously bringing it down to the world.