(AC) - A Disclosure of the Hidden Treasures of Heaven Contained in the Holy Scripture or Word of the Lord, Together with Amazing Things Seen in the World of Spirits and in the Heaven of Angels

AC 921

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921. And Noah builded an altar unto Jehovah. That this signifies a representative of the Lord, is evident from what has just been said. All the rites of the Ancient Church were representative of the Lord, as also the rites of the Jewish Church. But the principal representative in later times was the altar, and also the burnt-offering, which being made of clean beasts and clean birds, had its representation according to their signification, clean beasts signifying the goods of charity, and clean birds the truths of faith. When men of the Ancient Church offered these, they signified that they offered gifts of these goods and truths to the Lord. Nothing else can be offered to the Lord that will be grateful to Him. But their posterity, as the Gentiles and also the Jews, perverted these things, not even knowing that they had such a signification, and making their worship consist in the externals only.
[2] That the altar was the principal representative of the Lord, is evident from the fact that there were altars, even among Gentiles, before other rites were instituted, and before the ark was constructed, and before the temple was built. This is evident from Abram, as that when he came upon the mountain on the east of Bethel he raised an altar and called upon the name of Jehovah (Gen. 12:8); and afterwards he was commanded to offer Isaac for a burnt-offering on an altar (Gen. 22:2, 9). So Jacob built an altar at Luz, or Bethel (Gen. 35:6-7); and Moses built an altar under Mount Sinai, and sacrificed (Exod. 24:4-6). All this was before the [Jewish] sacrifices were instituted, and before the ark was constructed at which worship was afterwards performed in the wilderness. That there were altars likewise among the Gentiles, is evident from Balaam, who said to Balak that he should build seven altars and prepare seven bullocks and seven rams (Num. 23:1-7, 14-18, 29-30); and also from its being commanded that the altars of the nations should be destroyed (Deut. 7:5; Judg. 2:2). Thus Divine worship by altars and sacrifices was not a new thing instituted with the Jews. Indeed altars were built before men had any idea of slaying oxen and sheep upon them, but as memorials.
[3] That altars signify a representative of the Lord, and burnt-offerings the worship of Him thereby, is plainly evident in the Prophets, as also in Moses when it is said of Levi, to whom the priesthood belonged:
They shall teach Jacob Thy judgments, and Israel Thy law; they shall put incense in Thy nostrils, and whole burnt-offering upon Thine altar (Deut. 33:10),
meaning all worship; for "to teach Jacob judgments, and Israel the law" denotes internal worship; and "to put incense in Thy nostrils, and whole burnt-offering on Thine altar" denotes corresponding external worship. In Isaiah:
In that day shall a man look unto his Maker, and his eyes shall have respect to the Holy One of Israel and he shall not look to the altars, the work of his hand (Isa. 17:7-8),
where "looking to the altars" plainly signifies representative worship in general, which was to be abolished. Again:
In that day shall there be an altar to Jehovah in the midst of the land of Egypt, and a pillar at the border thereof to Jehovah (Isa. 19:19),
where also "an altar" stands for external worship.
[4] In Jeremiah:
The Lord hath cast off His altar, He hath abhorred His sanctuary (Lam. 2:7);
"altar" denoting representative worship which had become idolatrous. In Hosea:
Because Ephraim hath multiplied altars to sin, altars have been unto him to sin (Hos. 8:11);
"altars" denote here all representative worship separate from internal, thus what is idolatrous. Again:
The high places also of Aven, the sin of Israel, shall be destroyed; the thorn and the thistle shall come up on their altars (Hos. 10:8),
where "altars" denote idolatrous worship. In Amos:
In the day that I shall visit the transgressions of Israel upon him, I will also visit the altars of Bethel, and the horns of the altar shall be cut off (Amos 3:14),
where again "altars" denote representative worship become idolatrous.
[5] In David:
Let them bring me unto the mountain of Thy holiness, and to Thy tabernacles. And I will go unto the altar of God, unto God the gladness of my joy (Ps. 43:3-4),
where "altar" manifestly denotes the Lord. Thus the building of an altar in the Ancient and in the Jewish Church was for a representative of the Lord. As the worship of the Lord was performed principally by burnt-offerings and sacrifices, and thus these things signified principally representative worship, it is evident that the altar itself signifies this representative worship itself.


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