February 5, 2015

For They Were Idolaters

From a portion of a passage in Arcana Coelestia ~ Emanuel Swedenborg
The God of Abraham, and the God of Nahor, the God of their father, judge betwixt us. And Jacob sware by the fear of his father Isaac. (Gen 31:53)

... why it is here said, "the God of Abraham, the God of Nahor, the God of their father" (that is, of Terah) and "the Dread of Isaac," Jacob's father, is that the sons of Terah acknowledged this number of gods, for they were idolaters.  And it was a peculiarity in that house that each family worshiped its own god. This is the reason why it is here said, "the God of Abraham, the God of Nahor, the God of their father, and the Dread of Isaac."

Nevertheless it was enjoined upon the family of Abraham to acknowledge Jehovah as their God; and yet they did not acknowledge Him otherwise than as another god, by whom they might distinguish themselves from the Gentiles, thus they acknowledged Jehovah merely as to the name, and it was in consequence of this that they so often fell away to other gods, as may be seen from the historic parts of the Word.  The reason of this merely nominal acknowledgment was that they were solely in externals, and what internal things were they knew not at all, and did not desire to know.

Insofar as they were concerned the very rituals of their church were merely idolatrous, because they were separated from internal things; for when separated from its internal every ritual of the church is idolatrous.  Nevertheless what is genuine of the church could be represented by them; for representations do not regard the person, but the thing.

Yet in order that a representative church might come into existence, and that there might thus be some communication of the Lord through heaven with man, it was of especial importance that they should be kept in the acknowledgment of Jehovah, if not in heart, still with the mouth; for with them the representatives did not issue from internal, but from external things; and it was in this way that they had communication with the Lord; quite otherwise than in the genuine church, in which the communication is effected by means of internal things. For this reason their Divine worship did not at all affect their souls, that is, did not make them blessed in the other life, but only prosperous in this world.

Therefore in order that they might be kept in these external things, there were so many miracles performed among them, which would never have taken place if they had been in internal things; and for this reason they were so many times driven to their worship by punishments, captivities, and threats; whereas no one is driven by the Lord to internal worship, but this is implanted through freedom. Their principal external was that they should confess Jehovah; for Jehovah was the Lord, who was represented in all things of that church.
(Arcana Coelestia 4208)