Spiritual Meaning of GENESIS 18:7
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AC 2178. Verse 7. And Abraham ran unto the herd, and took a son of an ox tender and good, and gave it to the lad, and he hasted to make it. "Abraham ran unto the herd," signifies natural good; "and took a son of an ox tender and good" signifies the celestial natural which is conformable, and which the rational associated to itself in order that it might conjoin itself with the perception from the Divine; "and gave it to the lad, and he hasted to make it," signifies the conjunction of this good with rational good; "the lad" is here the natural man.

AC 2179. Abraham ran unto the herd. That this signifies natural good, is evident from the signification of the oxen and bullocks of the herd--to be explained presently. The beasts of the herd and of the flock signify such things as are in man (n. 45, 46, 142, 143, 246, 714, 715, 719, 776), and also from what was said concerning the beasts used in the sacrifices (n. 1823). It may seem surprising that the animals named in the Word, and also those offered in the sacrifices, should signify goods and truths, or what is the same, things celestial and spiritual, but the reason of this may be briefly stated.

[2] In the world of spirits various representatives are presented to view, and withal animals are often presented before the eyes of the spirits there, such as horses variously caparisoned, oxen, sheep, lambs, with other animals of various kinds, sometimes such as are never seen on the earth, but are only representative. Such animals were also seen by the prophets, as described in the Word, and were from the same source. The animals that appear in the world of spirits are representative of affections of good and truth, and also of evil and falsity. Good spirits know perfectly well what they signify, and thus also gather from them what the angels are conversing about; for the speech of angels, passing down into the world of spirits, is sometimes presented in this way. For example, when horses appear, they know that the speech of the angels is about the things of the understanding; when oxen and bullocks, that it is about natural goods; when sheep, that it is about rational goods, and probity; when lambs, that it is about goods still more internal and about innocence; and so on.

[3] As the men of the Most Ancient Church had communication with spirits and angels, and constantly had visions and also dreams such as the prophets had, the consequence was that whenever they saw any beast, there occurred to them the idea of what it signified. Representatives and significatives originated in this way, and remained long after their times; and at length became so venerated from their antiquity that men wrote by mere representatives books not so written being held in no esteem; and those written within the church being of no sanctity. From this and other hidden causes, concerning which of the Lord‘s Divine mercy elsewhere, the books of the Word also were so written.

AC 2180. And took a son of an ox tender and good. That this signifies the celestial natural which the rational associated to itself, in order that it might conjoin itself with the perception from the Divine, is evident from the signification in the Word of a "bullock" or " son of an ox," as being natural good. And as the Lord’s rational is treated of, it is called "tender" from the celestial spiritual, or the truth of good; and "good" from the celestial itself, or good itself. In the genuine rational there is the affection of truth and the affection of good; but its chief thing (primarium) is the affection of truth (n. 2072). Hence it is first called "tender," and yet is called both "tender and good," according to the usual practice in the Word, to indicate the marriage of good and truth (n. 2173).

[2] That a "bullock," or "son of an ox," signifies the celestial natural, or what is the same, natural good, is especially evident from the sacrifices, which were the principal representatives of worship in the Hebrew Church, and afterwards in the Jewish. Their sacrifices were made either from the herd or from the flock, thus from animals of various kinds that were clean, such as oxen, bullocks, he-goats, sheep, rams, she-goats, kids, and lambs; besides turtledoves and young pigeons, all of which animals signified internal things of worship, that is, things celestial and spiritual (n. 2165, 2177); the animals taken from the herd signifying celestial natural things, and those from the flock celestial rational things; and as both the natural and the rational things are more and more interior, and are various, therefore so many kinds and species of those animals were made use of in the sacrifices; as is also evident from its being prescribed what animals should be offered--in the burnt-offerings; in the sacrifices of various kinds, as in those that were daily, those of the Sabbaths and festivals, those that were voluntary, those for thanksgiving and vows, those expiatory of guilt and sin, those of purifying and cleansing, and those of inauguration--and also from their being expressly named, and how many of them should be used in each kind of sacrifice; which would never have been done unless each had signified some special thing. This is very evident from those passages where the sacrifices are treated of (Exod. 29; Lev. 1, 3, 4, 9, 14, 23; Num. 7, 8, 15, 29). But this is not the place to set forth what each one signified. The case is similar in the Prophets where these animals are named, and from them it is evident that "bullocks" signified celestial natural things.

[3] That no other than heavenly things were signified, is also evident from the cherubs seen by Ezekiel, and from the animals before the throne seen by John. Concerning the cherubs the Prophet says:--

The likeness of their faces was the face of a man, and they four had the face of a lion on the right side, and they four had the face of an ox on the left side, and they four had the face of an eagle (Ezek. 1:10).

Concerning the four animals before the throne John says:--

Around the throne were four animals; the first animal was like a lion, the second animal like a young bullock, the third animal had a face like a man, the fourth animal was like a flying eagle saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, who was, and who is, and who is to come (Rev. 4:6-8).

Every one can see that holy things were represented by the cherubs and by these animals, and also by the oxen and young bullocks in the sacrifices. In like manner in the prophecy of Moses concerning Joseph:--

Let it come upon the head of Joseph, and upon the crown of the head of him that was a Nazirite from his brethren. The firstling of his ox, honor is his; and his horns are the horns of the unicorn, with them he shall push the peoples together, to the ends of the earth (Deut. 33:16, 17).

None can understand these things unless it is known what an ox, a unicorn, horns, and other things signify in the internal sense.

[4] As regards sacrifices in general, they were indeed enjoined through Moses on the people of Israel, but the Most Ancient Church, that existed before the flood, knew nothing whatever about sacrifices; nor did it even come into their minds to worship the Lord by slaughtering animals. The Ancient Church, that existed after the flood, was likewise unacquainted with sacrifices. This church was indeed in representatives, but not in sacrifices. In fact sacrifices were first instituted in the following church, which was called the Hebrew Church, and from this spread to the nations, and from the same source they came to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and thus to the descendants of Jacob. The nations were in a worship of sacrifices (n. 1343); and so were Jacob‘s posterity before they went out of Egypt, thus before sacrifices were commanded by Moses upon Mount Sinai, is evident from (Exodus 5:3; 10:25, 27; 18:12; 24:4, 5); and especially from their idolatrous worship before the golden calf,

[5] thus described in Moses:--Aaron built an altar before the calf, and Aaron made proclamation and said, To-morrow is the feast of Jehovah. And they rose up early on the morrow, and offered burnt-offerings and brought peace-offerings; and the people sat down to eat, and to drink, and rose up to play (Exod. 32:5, 6). This was done while Moses was upon Mount Sinai, and thus before the command concerning the altar and the sacrifices came to them. The command came on this account that the worship of sacrifices had become idolatrous with them, as it had with the Gentiles, and from this worship they could not be withdrawn, because they regarded it as the chief holy thing For what has once been implanted from infancy as holy, especially if by fathers, and thus inrooted, the Lord never breaks, but bends, unless it is contrary to order itself. This is the reason why it was directed that sacrifices should be instituted in the way described in the books of Moses.

[6] That sacrifices were by no means acceptable to Jehovah, thus were merely permitted and tolerated for the reason just stated, is very evident in the Prophets, as we read in Jeremiah:--

Thus saith Jehovah Zebaoth the God of Israel, Add your burnt-offerings to your sacrifices, and eat flesh. I spake not unto your fathers, and I commanded them not in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt-offering and sacrifice; but this word I commanded them, saying, Obey My voice, and I will be your God (Jeremiah 7:21-23)

In David:--

O Jehovah, sacrifice and offering Thou hast not willed, burnt-offering and sin-offering Thou hast not required. I have desired to do Thy will, O my God (Ps. 40:6, 8).

In the same:--

Thou delightest not in sacrifice, that I should give it; burnt-offering Thou dost not accept. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit (Ps. 51:16, 17).

In the same:--

I will take no bullock out of thy house, nor he-goats out of thy folds; sacrifice to God confession (Ps. 50:9, 13, 14; 107:21, 22; 116:17; Deut. 23:19).

In Hosea:--

I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God more than burnt-offerings (Hosea 6:6).

Samuel said to Saul:--

Hath Jehovah pleasure in burnt-offerings and sacrifices? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, to hearken than the fat of rams (1 Sam. 15:22).

In Micah:--

Wherewith shall I come before Jehovah, and bow myself to the high God? Shall I come before Him with burnt-offerings, with calves of a year old? will Jehovah be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth Jehovah require of thee, but to do judgment, and to love mercy, and to humble thyself in walking with thy God (Micah 6:6-8).

[7] From all this it is now evident that sacrifices were not commanded, but permitted; also that nothing else was regarded in the sacrifices than what is internal; and that it was the internal, not the external, that was acceptable. On this account also, the Lord abrogated them, as was likewise foretold by Daniel in these words:--

In the midst of the week shall He cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease (Daniel 9:27),

where the Lord’s advent is treated of. Concerning sacrifices (n. 922, 923, 1128, 1823). As regards the "son of an ox" which Abraham "made" or prepared for the three men, the case is the same as with that animal in the sacrifices. That it had a like signification is evident also from his telling Sarah to take three measures of fine flour. Concerning the fine flour to a bullock, we read in Moses:--When ye he come into the land; when thou shalt make a son of an ox a burnt-offering or a sacrifice, in pronouncing publicly a vow, or peace-offerings unto Jehovah, thou shalt offer upon the son of an ox a meat-offering of three tenths of fine flour, mingled with oil (Num. 15:8, 9), where it is in like manner "three," here "three tenths," and above, "three measures;" but to a ram there were to be only two tenths, and to a lamb one tenth (Num. 15:4-6).

AC 2181. And gave it to the lad, and he hasted to make it. That this signifies the conjunction of this good with rational good, and that the "lad" is the natural man, is evident from the signification of a "lad" as being one who ministers and administrators; and that which is ministered or done is to make- to wit, the son of an ox, by which is signified natural good, as already shown. That it may be better perceived how this is, be it known that there exist with every man an internal, a rational which is intermediate, and a natural; also that these are distinct from each other (n. 1889, 1940), and are to be made to conform‘, in order that they may make a one-thus rational good with natural good-and that without conformation and thereby conjunction there can be no Divine perception. As in these words the Lord’s Divine perception is treated of, they signify in the internal sense the conformation and conjunction of these two kinds of good.

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Author:  E. Swedenborg (1688-1772). Design:  I.J. Thompson, Feb 2002. www.BibleMeanings.info