From BiblePortal Wikipedia

Wilson's Dictionary of Bible Types [1]

 Genesis 18:27 (a) By the use of this word Abraham is expressing to GOD his own utter worthlessness and lowliness as though he were not even worth any consideration from GOD.

 2 Samuel 13:19 (b) Ashes on the head was typical of deep shame and mental anguish as well as repentance and sorrow.

 Job 2:8 (c) The disease which afflicted Job was probably the one which we know as elephantiasis. Potash is the remedy for that disease. Job sat in the ash pile so that the potash would continually cover his limbs, and thereby he would recover.

 Job 13:12 (b) These ashes represent references made by Job's comforters to the glory which he once had, but now had lost. They kept reminding him of his former position of power and wealth, which had now become a pile of ashes.

 Job 42:6 (a) Job not only sat in actual ashes, but those mentioned in this passage represent also his feeling of great humility and shame. He seemed to realize his utter worthlessness before GOD. All of this sad experience and loss which he suffered he calls "ashes." (See also  Jeremiah 1:1;  Lamentations 3:16;  Ezekiel 28:18;  Daniel 9:3).

 Isaiah 44:20 (b) This refers to those who had great plenty at one time but afterwards lost their wealth. They feed on their losses, they meditate on these sorrows, they talk about the tragedies in their lives, they live on the "ashes" that are left after the destruction of their former glory and wealth. Many people talk constantly of what they once were, or what they once had.

 Isaiah 61:3 (b) The ashes in this passage represent the wreck of former beauty and the tragic end of former loveliness. There are those who at one time were sweet and delightful in their lives, but through calamity have been made bitter and sorrowful. When these turn back to the Lord, He restores His joy to their hearts, and His beauty to their lives.

 Malachi 4:3 (b) This word is used to describe the utter and complete defeat of everything in this world that is of the Devil. The Lord will destroy the works of the Devil and will cause His people to triumph in Christ

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary [2]

Several religious ceremonies, and some symbolical ones, anciently depended upon the use of ashes. To repent in sackcloth and ashes, or, as an external sign of self-affliction for sin, or of suffering under some misfortune, to sit in ashes, are expressions common in Scripture. "I am but dust and ashes," exclaims Abraham before the Lord,  Genesis 18:27; indicating a deep sense of his own meanness in comparison with God. God threatens to shower down dust and ashes on the lands instead of rain,  Deuteronomy 28:24; thereby to make them barren instead of blessing them, to dry them up instead of watering them. Tamar, after the injury she had received from Amnon, covered her head with ashes,  2 Samuel 13:19 . The Psalmist, in great sorrow, says poetically, he had "eaten ashes as it were bread,  Psalms 102:9; that is, he sat on ashes, he threw ashes on his head; and his food, his bread, was sprinkled with the ashes wherewith he was himself covered. So Jeremiah introduces Jerusalem saying, "The Lord hath covered me with ashes,"  Lamentations 3:16 . Sitting on ashes, or lying down among ashes, was a token of extreme grief. We find it adopted by  Job 2:8; by many Jews when in great fear,  Esther 4:3; and by the king of Nineveh,  Jonah 3:6 . He arose from his throne, laid aside his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. This token of affliction is illustrated by Homer's description of old Laertes. grieving for the absence of his son, "Sleeping in the apartment where the slaves slept, in the ashes, near the fire." Compare  Jeremiah 6:26 , "Daughter of my people, wallow thyself in ashes." There was a sort of ley and lustral water, made with the ashes of the heifer sacrificed on the great, day of expiation; these ashes, were distributed to the people, and used in purifications, by sprinkling, to such as had touched a dead body, or had been present at funerals,

 Numbers 19:17 .

Vine's Expository Dictionary of NT Words [3]

A — 1: Σποδός (Strong'S #4700 — Noun Masculine — spodos — spod-os' )

"ashes," is found three times, twice in association with sackcloth,  Matthew 11:21;  Luke 10:13 , as tokens of grief (cp.  Esther 4:1,3;  Isaiah 58:5;  61:3;  Jeremiah 6:26;  Jonah 3:6 ); of the ashes resulting from animal sacrifices,  Hebrews 9:13; in the OT, metaphorically, of one who describes himself as dust and "ashes,"  Genesis 18:27 , etc.

B — 1: Τεφρόω (Strong'S #5077 — Verb — tephroo — tef-ro'-o )

"to turn to ashes," is found in  2—Peter 2:6 , with reference to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.

 Psalm 20:3 Exodus 27:3 Numbers 4:13

Morrish Bible Dictionary [4]

Ashes, mostly from burnt wood, were used as a sign of sorrow or mourning, either put on the head,  2 Samuel 13:19 , or on the body with sackcloth,  Esther 4:1;  Jeremiah 6:26;  Lamentations 3:16;  Matthew 11:21;  Luke 10:13; or strewn on a couch on which to lie,  Esther 4:3;  Isaiah 58:5;  Jonah 3:6 . To eat ashes expresses great sorrow,  Psalm 102:9; and to be reduced to them is a figure of complete destruction,  Ezekiel 28:18;  Malachi 4:3; to feed on them tells of the vanities with which the soul may be occupied.  Isaiah 44:20 . 'Dust and ashes' was the figure Abraham used of himself before Jehovah,  Genesis 18:27; and Job said he had become like them by the hand of God.  Job 30:19 . For the ashes of the Red Heifer see HEIFER.

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [5]

ASHES . Ashes on the head formed one of the ordinary tokens of mourning for the dead (see Mourning Customs as of private (  2 Samuel 13:19 ) and national humiliation (  Nehemiah 9:1 , 1Ma 3:47 ). The penitent and the afflicted might also sit (  Job 2:8 ,   Jonah 3:6 ) or even wallow in ashes (  Jeremiah 6:25 ,   Ezekiel 27:30 ). In   1 Kings 20:38;   1 Kings 20:41 we must, with RV [Note: Revised Version.] , read ‘Headband’ (wh. see) for ‘ashes.’

In a figurative sense the term ‘ashes’ is often used to signify evanescence, worthlessness, insignificance ( Genesis 18:27 ,   Job 30:19 ). ‘Proverbs of ashes’ (  Proverbs 13:12 RV [Note: Revised Version.] ) is Job’s equivalent for the modern ‘rot.’ For the use of ashes in the priestly ritual see Red Heifer.

A. R. S. Kennedy.

Fausset's Bible Dictionary [6]

Sitting down in, or covering one's self with, is the symbol of mourning ( Job 2:8;  Job 42:6;  Esther 4:1;  Isaiah 61:3;  Matthew 11:21). To eat asides expresses figuratively mourning is one's food, i.e. one's perpetual portion ( Psalms 102:9). "He feedeth on ashes," i.e., tries to feed his soul with what is at once humiliating and unsatisfying, on an idol which ought to have been reduced to ashes, like the rest of the tree of which it is made ( Isaiah 44:20). The ashes of a red heifer burnt entire (Numbers 19), when sprinkled upon, purified ceremonially the unclean ( Hebrews 9:13) but defiled the clean person.

Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary [7]

In the language of Scripture, ashes are sometimes spoken of to denote great humility and contrition of heart. Thus Abraham calls himself "dust and ashes." ( Genesis 18:27) Job saith, that he "abhorred himself, and repented in dust and ashes." ( Job 42:6 See  Daniel 9:3;  Psalms 102:9;  Lamentations 3:16)

Smith's Bible Dictionary [8]

Ashes. The ashes on the Altar of Burnt Offering were gathered into a cavity in its surface. The ashes of a red heifer burnt entire, according to regulations prescribed in Numbers 19, had the ceremonial efficacy of purifying the unclean,  Hebrews 9:13, but of polluting the clean. See Sacrifice . Ashes about the person, especially on the head, were used as a sign of sorrow. See Mourning .

Easton's Bible Dictionary [9]

 Numbers 19:5 Hebrews 9:13

To cover the head with ashes was a token of self-abhorrence and humiliation ( 2 Samuel 13:19;  Esther 4:3;  Jeremiah 6:26 , etc.).

To feed on ashes ( Isaiah 44:20 ), means to seek that which will prove to be vain and unsatisfactory, and hence it denotes the unsatisfactory nature of idol-worship. (Compare  Hosea 12:1 ).

People's Dictionary of the Bible [10]

Ashes. The ashes on the altar of burnt-offering were gathered into a cavity in its surface. On the days of the three solemn festivals the ashes were not removed, but the accumulation was taken away afterwards in the morning, the priests casting lots for the office. The ashes of a red heifer burnt entire, according to regulations prescribed in  Numbers 19:1-22, had the ceremonial efficacy of purifying the unclean,  Hebrews 9:13, but of polluting the clean. Ashes about the person, especially on the head, were used as a sign of sorrow.

King James Dictionary [11]

ASH'ES, n. plu. Without the singular number.

1. The earthy particles of combustible substances remaining after combustion as of wood or coal. 2. The remains of the human body when burnt. Hence figuratively, a dead body or corpse. 3. In scripture, ashes is used to denote vileness, meanness, frailty, or humiliation.

I who am but dust and ashes.  Genesis 18 .

I abhor myself and repent in dust and ashes.  Job 42 .

American Tract Society Bible Dictionary [12]

To repent in sackcloth and ashes, or to lie down among ashes, was an external sign of self-affliction for sin, or of grief under misfortune. We find it adopted by Job,  Job 2:8; by many Jews when in great fear,  Esther 4:3; and by the king of Nineveh,  Jonah 3:6 . The ashes of a red heifer were used in ceremonial purification,  Numbers 19:1-22 .

Webster's Dictionary [13]

(1): (n. pl.) The earthy or mineral particles of combustible substances remaining after combustion, as of wood or coal.

(2): (n. pl.) Specifically: The remains of the human body when burnt, or when "returned to dust" by natural decay.

(3): (n. pl.) The color of ashes; deathlike paleness.

Holman Bible Dictionary [14]

 2 Peter 2:6

Scott Langston

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [15]

See Heifer and Mourning.

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [16]

(properly אֵפֶר , E'Pher, from its Whiteness, Σποδός  ; twice עָפָר , Aphar',  Numbers 19:17;  2 Kings 23:4, elsewhere "dust;" also דֶּשֶׁן , De'Shen, lit. fatness, i.e. the fat ashes from the victims of the altar,  Leviticus 1:16;  Leviticus 4:12;  Leviticus 6:10-11;  1 Kings 13:3;  1 Kings 13:5; or of corpses burnt,  Jeremiah 31:40, ashes being used as a manure for land, Plin. 17:9. In  1 Kings 20:38;  1 Kings 20:41, אֲפֶר , Apher', incorrectly rendered "ashes," signifies a covering for the head or Turban, Sept. Τελαμών , and so the Chaldee and Abulwalid represent it by this latter word, which in Syriac means a priestly tiara; New Test. Σποδός ) . (See Ash-Cake).

In general, respecting the Biblical mention of ashes ( דֶּשֶׁן , De'Shen; אֵפֶר , epher), the following things deserve notice:

(1.) As the ashes of the sacrifices consumed upon the altar of burnt- offerings accumulated continually ( Leviticus 6:3 sq.), they were from time to time removed so as to cleanse ( דִּשֵּׁן ) the altar. For this purpose there were in the sanctuary shovels ( יָעִים ) and ash-pots ( סִירוֹת ) of brass ( Exodus 27:3; Exodus 33). The performance of this office (by the priests) is not prescribed in the law; but, according to the Mishna (Tamid, i and ii), the scouring of the altar was as. signed by lot to a priest, who, after the top of the altar had been cleared of coals, etc., swept the ashes together into a heap ( תִּפּוּחִ , Apple, from its shape), and (according to the rabbins) took the greatest part of it away (for some of the ashes must always be allowed to remain), in order that they might be carried out of the city to a spot undisturbed by the wind. Only on high festivals the ashes were suffered to lie upon the altar as an ornament (Mishna, Tamid, ii, 2). Also upon the altar of incense ashes gradually accumulated; and the removal of these was likewise apportioned among the priests by lot. The priest to whom this function fell gathered them in a basket, and then, after another priest had used a part in cleansing the candlestick, carried out and poured the contents on the floor of the porch (Mishna, Tamid, iii, 9; 6:1; i, 4). (See Altar).

(2.) On the expiatory ashes of the red heifer ( אֵפֶר , Numbers 19), (See Purification).

(3.) In deep affliction persons were accustomed, as an act suitable to the violence of internal emotions, to scatter dust or ashes ( אֵפֶר ) on their heads or in their hair, and to sit, or lie, or even roll in ashes, whence ashes became the symbol of penitential mourning ( Job 42:6;  Matthew 11:21). (See Grief). The Mishna (Taamith, ii, 1) mentions a custom of covering the ark that contained the law with ashes on fast-days, and the rabbins even allude to a ceremonial sprinkling of persons with ashes on the same occasions (see Bartenora, On Taamith ii). (See generally Reinhard, De Sacco Et Cinere, Vitemb. 1698; Plade, De Cineris Usu Lugentibus, Hafn. 1713; Schmid, De cinerum in sacris usu, Lips. 1722; Carpzov, Cinerum ap. Heb. usus, Rost. 1739; Quanat, De cinere in sacris Hebr. Regiom. 1713; Goetze, De cinerum in sacris usu, Lips. 1722.)

(4.) The ancient Persians had a punishment which consisted in executing certain criminals by stifling them in ashes (Valerius Maximus, 9:2). Thus the wicked Menelaus was despatched, who caused the troubles which had disquieted Judaea ( 2 Maccabees 13:5-6), being thrown headlong into a tower fifty cubits deep, which was filled with ashes to a certain height. The action of the criminal to disengage himself plunged him still deeper in the whirling ashes; and this agitation was increased by a wheel, which kept them in continual movement till he was entirely choked. (See Execution).

Ashes were a symbol of human frailty ( Genesis 18:27); of deep humiliation ( Esther 4:1;  Jonah 3:6;  Matthew 11:21;  Luke 10:13;  Job 42:6;  Jeremiah 6:26;  Daniel 9:3); a ceremonial mode of purification ( Hebrews 9:13;  Numbers 19:17); they are likened to hoar-frost ( Psalms 147:16). In  Ezekiel 27:30, we find the mourning Tyrians described as wallowing in ashes; and we. may remark that the Greeks had the like custom of strewing themselves with ashes in mourning (Homer, Iliad, 18: 22; Odyss. 24: 315; comp. Virgil, En. 10: 844, and Ovid's Metam. 8: 528).  Job 2:8, "And he sat down among the ashes." So Ulysses in Odyssey, 7: 153 (see also Iliad, 18: 26).  Psalms 102:9, "I have eaten ashes like bread, and mingled my drink with weeping," i.e. I have eaten the bread of humiliation, and drunk the water of affliction; ashes being the emblem of the one, and tears the consequence of the other (see Home, in loc.). So  Isaiah 61:3, "A beautiful crown instead of ashes" (see Lowth's note). See  2 Samuel 14:2;  Judith 10:3.  Isaiah 44:20, "He feedeth on ashes," i.e. on that which affords no nourishment; a proverbial expression for using ineffectual means, and bestowing labor to no purpose. In the same sense Hosea says ( Hosea 12:1), " Ephraim feedeth on wind" (see Lowth, In Loc.). (See Mourning).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [17]

ash´iz  : Among the ancient Hebrews and other Orientals, to sprinkle with or sit in ashes was a mark or token of grief, humiliation, or penitence. Ashes on the head was one of the ordinary signs of mourning for the dead, as when "Tamar put ashes on her head ... and went on crying" (  2 Samuel 13:19 the King James Version), and of national humiliation, as when the children of Israel were assembled under Nehemiah "with fasting, and with sackcloth, and earth (ashes) upon them" (  Nehemiah 9:1 ), and when the people of Nineveh repented in sackcloth and ashes at the preaching of Jonah ( Jonah 3:5 ,  Jonah 3:6; compare 1 Macc 3:47). The afflicted or penitent often sat in ashes (compare   Job 2:8;  Job 42:6 : "I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes"), or even wallowed in ashes , as Jeremiah exhorted sinning Israel to do: "O daughter of my people ... wallow thyself in ashes" ( Jeremiah 6:26 ), or as Ezekiel in his lamentation for Tyre pictures her mariners as doing, crying bitterly and 'casting up dust upon their heads' and 'wallowing themselves in the ashes' (in their weeping for her whose head was lifted up and become corrupted because of her beauty), "in bitterness of soul with bitter mourning" ( Ezekiel 27:30 ,  Ezekiel 27:31 ).

However, these and various other modes of expressing grief, repentance, and humiliation among the Hebrews, such as rending the garments, tearing the hair and the like, were not of Divine appointment, but were simply the natural outbursts of the impassioned oriental temperament, and are still customary among eastern peoples.

Figurative: The term "ashes" is often used to signify worthlessness, insignificance or evanescence ( Genesis 18:27;  Job 30:19 ). "Proverbs of ashes," for instance, in  Job 13:12 , is Job's equivalent, says one writer, for our modern "rot." For the ritual use of the ashes of the Red Heifer by the priests, see Red Heifer .

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature [18]

Ashes, in the symbolical language of Scripture, denote human frailty ( Genesis 18:27), and deep humiliation ( Esther 4:1;  Jonah 3:6;  Matthew 11:21;  Luke 10:13;  Job 42:6;  Daniel 9:3). To sit in ashes was a token of grief and mourning ( Job 2:8;  Lamentations 3:16;  Ezekiel 27:30), as was also strewing them upon the head ( 2 Samuel 13:19;  Isaiah 61:3) [MOURNING]. 'Feeding on ashes,' in  Psalms 102:9, appears to express grief, as of one with whose food the ashes with which he is covered mingle. But in  Isaiah 44:20, 'feeding on ashes,' which afford no nourishment, is judged to denote ineffectual means, labor to no purpose. Compare  Hosea 12:1.