In Zec. 3:2, what is the meaning of "a brand plucked from the fire" (אוּד מֻצָּל מֵאֵשׁ)?
וַיֹּאמֶר יהוה אֶל הַשָּׂטָן יִגְעַר יהוה בְּךָ הַשָּׂטָן וְיִגְעַר יהוה בְּךָ הַבֹּחֵר בִּירוּשָׁלִָם הֲלוֹא זֶה אוּד מֻצָּל מֵאֵשׁ
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A similar phrase occurs in Amos 4:11 where Yahveh says that Israel was "like a brand plucked from the burning" (כְּאוּד מֻצָּל מִשְּׂרֵפָה). "Burning" (שְׂרֵפָה) is evidently related to "fire" (אֵשׁ), since the former is produced by the latter (cp. Isa. 64:11).
Gesenius (p. 20) wrote that the noun אוּד referred to "a wooden poker, so called from the fire being stirred with it." Supposedly אוּד is related to an unused verb אוּד which means "to bend, to inflect; hence, to turn, turn over" (ibid).
Thus, the idea is that the noun אוּד is something one uses to turn things over that are baking/ burning in a fire. The noun אוּד occurs three times in the Tanakh:
The LXX translates each occurrence by a declension of the noun δαλός, meaning "a firebrand."
Jastrow (p. 22) notes that אוּד also occurs in tractate Beitzah 33a (English | Hebrew) (cp. Shabb. 143a; English | Hebrew). In this particular context, the אוּד can be taken out of a "wood shed" (בית העצים), which implies that the אוּד itself is wooden. In addition, the אוּד may be broken (נשבר) and set on fire (used as fuel) (להסיק). The context seems to confirm that אוּד is a wooden instrument.
In the context of Zec. 3:2, the fire represents Yahveh's wrath and judgment. Compare:
At the time the prophet Zechariah prophesied, Israel (or, more specifically, the Kingdom of Judah, to whom Zechariah prophesied; cp. Zec. 1:12) was in captivity/ exile in Babylon. Exile/ captivity was considered a punishment/ curse imposed upon the people for disobedience (cp. Deu. 29:28). It was used in order to prompt Israel towards repentance (cp. Amos 4:11: "but you have not returned to Me").
While Yahveh's anger was kindled against His people (Isa. 5:25), the adversary (whether the angelic Satan himself, or a human adversary) stood to accuse Israel. However, Yahveh rebukes Satan, for Yahveh had chosen Jerusalem (Israel).
Jerusalem (i.e., Yahveh's people) is a wooden firebrand, a people punished but never entirely consumed by their punishment. Rather, they are rescued and spared by Yahveh Himself. The purpose of the punishment is to provoke His people to repentance.
a brand .... like a cattle branding for men are called cattle. , a burning of a sign into the forehead. Hebrew letters: Tav - resh - samech - vav
Tav (the mark, sign or BRAND), resh (the head of a man-conscience), samech (thorn or sin ), vav (hooked or attached or added) Tav --The brand Resh -- on head of a man Samech --Sin -- the Thorn Vav -- Connected - branded
The Brand on the head of a man, the THORN - the sin that connects. Literally, branded with the THORN the MARK of the hot branding iron, the slave brand of the Whore. . what the MARK of the beast is. 6 witnesses: the mind determines what the hands do. -1 Timothy 4:2 Such teachings come from the hypocrisy of liars whose own CONSCIENCES have been BURNED, as if with a RED-HOT BRANDING IRON. -Isaiah 3:24 Then, there will be instead of perfume, a stench; instead of a belt, a rope; instead of well-set hair, a shaved scalp; instead of a rich robe, a sackcloth skirt; and a SLAVE-BRAND instead of beauty. -Romans 1:28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a REPROBATE MIND, to do those things which are not convenient;… -Titus 1:15 Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their MIND and CONSCIENCE is DEFILED. -Micah 7:4 The best of them is a BRIAR, the most upright worse than a THORN hedge. The time of your watchmen — of your punishment — has come; now they will be CONFUSED. -Deuteronomy 32:30 After all, how can one chase a thousand and two put ten thousand to rout, unless their Rock SELLS THEM to their enemies, unless Adonai hands them over?