Spiritual Meaning of

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The signification of incense, is the things of worship which are acceptably perceived, such as confessions, adorations, prayers, and the like; and the signification of spices, is the truths of faith which are acceptable because from good; for sweet odors signify what is acceptable, in accordance with their perfumes, and whatever is acceptable is so from good through truths. It is for this reason that by the incense of spices is signified the acceptable perception of truth from good. The spices of which this incense was compounded are enumerated, and its preparation is described, in these words:--

Take unto thee spices, stacte, and onycha, and galbanum; sweet spices, and pure frankincense. Thou shalt make them an incense salted, pure, holy. Thou shalt beat some of it very small, and put some of it before the testimony in the tent of meeting; it shall be to you the holy of holies. The incense shall be to thee holy for Jehovah (Exod. 30:34-37).

The altar of incense, and the burning of the incense itself, are thus described:--

Thou shalt make an altar to burn incense upon. Thou shalt overlay it with pure gold. Thou shalt put it before the veil that is over the ark of the testimony, before the propitiatory, that Aaron may burn thereon incense of spices every morning; when be dresseth the lamps, he shall burn it; and between the evenings (Exod. 30:1-8; 37:25-29; 40:26, 27).

When Aaron shall come into the holy place, he shall take a censer full of coals of fire from off the altar; and his fists full of incense of spices beaten small; then he shall bring it within the veil, so that he may put the incense upon the fire before Jehovah, and the cloud of the incense may cover the propitiatory that is upon the testimony (Lev. 16:3, 12, 13).

[2] As by incense were signified such things of worship as are from good through truths - as are all the things that belong to the faith that is from the good of love - therefore fire was taken from the altar; for by the fire of the altar was signified the good of Divine love (AC 934, 4906, 5071, 5215, 6314, 6832, 6834, 6849, 7324, 7852); and therefore when fire was taken from any other source, they were smitten with a plague, and died (Lev. 10:1, 2; Num. 17:10-13); for by fire from some other source, or strange fire, was signified love not Divine.

[3] That such things as belong to the faith that is from the good of love and charity - as for instance confessions, adorations, and prayers - are signified by incense, is evident in the following passages:--

Accepted are my prayers as incense before Thee (Ps. 141:2).

The four animals, and the four and twenty elders, fell down before the Lamb, having each one of them a harp, and golden vials full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints (Rev. 5:8).

Another angel came, having a golden censer, and there was given unto him much incense, that he should add it to the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. The smoke of the incense went up from the prayers of the saints (Rev. 8:3, 4).

[4] The reason why such things are signified by incense is that they belong to the thought and thence to the mouth; but the things which belong to affection, and thence to the heart, are signified by the meat-offering in Malachi:--

From the rising of the sun even to its going down, the name of Jehovah shall be great among the nations, and in every place shall Incense be offered to My name, and a clean meat-offering (Mal. 1:11);

and by "the burnt-offering' in Moses:--

The sons of Levi shall teach Jacob Thy judgments, and Israel Thy law; they shall put incense in Thy nostrils, and a burnt-offering upon Thine altar (Deut. 33:10);

here incense denotes such things as belong to the thought and the mouth, and that bear relation to the truths of faith; and the meat-offering and burnt-offering denote such things as belong to the affection and the heart, and bear relation to the goods of love. Consequently in the opposite sense worship from falsities of faith is meant by burning incense to other gods (Jer. 1:16; 44:3, 5); and by burning incense to idols (Ezek. 8:11; 16:18); and by burning incense to the Baals (Hosea 2:13).

from AC 9475

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