One fascinating concept the Rabbis employed was a method or technique sometimes called “First Use” or “First Mention.” The key to this method of scripture interpretation is to determine the first time a word was used in the Bible, as that is generally considered its “true form,” or “purest definition.”
Now, for a few examples. The first time the Hebrew word for “love (Ahava)” is used, it’s when Abraham is going to sacrifice his son Isaac. Genesis 22:2 says, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.” So sacrificing your son is the greatest, most pure form of love? Interesting, where else is a son sacrificed in the Bible?
Another fascinating example is the concept of hot or burning coals. The first time we see burning coals, they represent the presence of God during the “bloodpath walk” with Abraham, when God makes his covenant with Abraham in Genesis 17. Now take this “first use” of burning coals and apply it to Proverbs 25:22 and see if you read that passage differently than before. Proverbs 25:22 reads, “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.”
So in providing sustenance to your enemy you’ll heap burning coals on his head? Or maybe you’ll heap “the presence of God” on his head.
Notice also John 21:9. Jesus has risen from the dead and is on the shore waiting for his disciples. John 21:9 reads, “When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread.” Seems like the presence of God (burning coals) is nearby somewhere, doesn’t it?
One more example is the concept of the “finger of God.” In Exodus we find Pharaoh’s magicians saying they can’t compete with Moses because “this is the finger of God (Exodus 8:19).” The rabbis taught that this was the beginning of the Kingdom of heaven/God on earth. In Exodus 31:18 and Deuteronomy 9:10 the finger of God is used to describe the writing on the 10 commandments. Interesting, where else have I seen the finger of God?
Notice Luke 11:20, some people are accusing Jesus of driving out demons by the power of Beelzebul, and Jesus responds with, “ But if I drive out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.”