Heaping Coals on His Head

Q. Jack, in Romans 12:20 why the analogy Coals of fire on his head?

I understand the idiom, “kill em with kindness” and the like but coals of hot fire? I’ve asked a number great scholars and have not got a great answer really interested in what you have to say.

A. In Romans 12:20, Paul was quoting Proverbs 25:21-22:

If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you.

One of the methods of torture that was used in ancient times was to put a device on a person’s head that resembled a crown. On top of the crown was a shallow pan. When red hot coals were placed into this pan it would make the temperature of the brain increase, causing pain. The more coals they put in the pan, the more painful it became.

This is a metaphor for the way being kind to your enemy awakens his conscience. Your continued acts of kindness represent the coals, in that they make him feel bad about being unkind to you.

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