A Spiritual Interpretation of the Old Testament
As taught by:
Unity School for Religious Studies
Unity Village, MO 64065
I. MAJOR POINTS
- Metaphysical significance of the "death" and "burial" of major Bible characters.
- Marriage of Isaac and Rebekah.
- Metaphysical meanings of Jacob and Esau.
- Jacob's dream of the ladder with the ascending and descending angels.
- Genesis, Chapters 23-25, 27-33
- Let There Be Light Chapter IV
- Mysteries of Genesis 208-292
- Metaphysically, does the death and burial of important Bible characters mean that what they represent in us ceases to exist? If not, what do their "deaths" and "burials" illustrate?
- What is the main metaphysical point in the story of how Isaac and Rebekah become married?
- What do Jacob and Esau stand for in human nature?
- What is the metaphysical meaning of the reconciliation of Jacob and Esau?
In chapter 23 of GENESIS we read of the death of Sarah at the age of 127 (a highly symbolic number!) and the burial of her remains in the cave of Machpelah.
Machpelah means: "double (cave); equally divided:" and metaphysically stands for "subconscious body substance." (M.B.D. 414)
The death of Sarah at the age of 127, and the burial of her remains in a cave which has the meaning "equally divided" contains a metaphysical meaning which holds true for all the great characters in the Old Testament. Each important Bible character symbolizes another important factor in the evolution of man's spiritual consciousness (from Adam to Christ). The death of the Bible character does not symbolize the cessation of what he or she represents within us, but just the end of cycle of development of that quality as a SEPARATE thing in our growth. Each of these is "buried,1 which symbolizes the implanting or blending of that particular quality into the whole fabric of consciousness, becoming part of the background and essence of our whole nature. In this way, each specific quality illustrated in Bible symbolism is made to merge and blend with all other qualities that have been developed in us. They all become part of the soul's wisdom. Remember that in the garden story of chapter 3 the serpent did not tempt Adam and Eve to do "evil," but rather challenged them to acquire wisdom (without telling them the whole story, to be sure, or they might not have taken the challenge!). The intervening chapters since then, and the chapters and books to follow, illustrate in pari the soul's greater and greater acquisition and integration of wisdom.
NOTE: It may be helpful to realize that the sequence of the Bible narrative does not necessarily signify the same sequence which occurs in the soul growth of each individual human being. The actual sequence of the reader's unfoldment may not be in exactly the same order as in the Bible narrative. However, the Bible does seem to contain all the steps that are necessary for evolution of consciousness from Adam to Christ.
Elizabeth Sand Turner gives us this interesting opening in her chapter 4 of Let There Be Light 44: "One of the loveliest stories in the Old Testament is of the romance and marriage of Isaac and Rebekah. Abraham did not want his son Isaac to marry a daughter of the Cannanites, so he sent a servant to Ha ran, where Terah had settled when he moved from the southern part of Mesopotamia and where members of Abraham's own family still lived. Under divine guidance the servant selected Rebekah, the sister of Laban, for Isaac's wife. Rebekah represents 'the soul's natural delight in beauty. ... The happy Isaac consciousness claims its counterpart in Rebekah' ."
This story contains a valuable metaphysical teaching which has always been emphasized in our Unity teachings. Isaac represents a positive, loving, harmonious state of consciousness. Such a consciousness does not always have to work for the good it desires. The spiritual qualities which are active in such a consciousness often do the work for the person. They cause that person's consciousness to gain a magnetic quality which draws good unto him. Love especially can generate this power.
A person who has developed the Isaac qualities in consciousness can often draw his good to him without going about looking for it, competing or working hard for it. He attracts his good. The servant who found Rebekah and brought her to Isaac symbolizes the spiritual law of attraction which works to bring the good our consciousness is capable of accepting.
This does not mean that such persons never do any work. But the work of such persons is almost always work which they choose to do, rather than work which they have to do whether they like it or not. Many persons in Truth today are quite obviously developing this attractive characteristic which was illustrated in the symbolism of Isaac.
Elizabeth Sand Turner introduces us to the story of Jacob in Let There Be Light 44: "Of this union (Isaac and Rebekah) twin sons were born, Esau and Jacob. From the description of the two brothers and the meaning of their names (Esau means "hairy, rough," and Jacob means "supplanter") (Metaphysical Bible Dictionary 206, 313) it is apparent that Esau represents the physical and Jacob the mental phase of consciousness. Man is first aware of himself as a physical being; as he develops, the mental takes precedence over the physical; supplants it. This is a step in the evolution of man's consciousness."
The fact that Esau and Jacob are twins symbolizes the fact that body consciousness and mental consciousness are really intimately related. It is significant that the narrative says that Jacob was holding on to Esau's heel at birth. Modern science has proved that mind and body consciousness are so closely connected and interdependent that it is often difficult to tell where the working of one leaves off and the other begins.
Jacob ("supplanter") represents our ever-developing mentality. He represents our growing consciousness of our own mental powers. The very meaning of his name is so metaphysically appropriate. The whole pattern of the development of our intellect is a supplanting pattern—supplanting ignorance with knowledge, supplanting the power of matter with the power of thought, etc.
In Gen. 25 Jacob persuades Esau to sell his birthright for some "pottage." The birthright which Jacob acquires represents the power of self-awareness. Self-awareness is possessed first by body consciousness. It is taken over at a later stage by mentality consciousness, In the majority of mankind the mental has supplanted the physical in development and expression of self-awareness. For this reason, a state of imbalance exists between the body and the intellect in many persons.
Gen. 27 describes Isaac's fondness for Esau and Rebekah's favoring of Jacob. Isaac would bestow the paternal blessing on Esau, but Rebekah contrives to trick him into giving it to Jacob instead. This leads to some repercussions—antagonizing Esau against Jacob. But Rebekah does achieve her purpose.
All this symbolizes the transferring of directive control (paternal blessing) from one part of our unfolding nature to another. During the different phases of our growth, the dominant power and directive control does not remain fixed and stationary, but is transferred to different centers within us according to the pattern of our development. This helps give us greater diversity in our unfoldment. Eventually the power of control will be held in PERFECT BALANCE when we duplicate the Jesus Christ Consciousness (true spiritual awareness). But until that is achieved it will probably continue to be centered mostly in our intellect (Jacob). Notice, too, the corollary lesson here. When the intellect is not in balance it often resorts to trickery to achieve its ends, as Jacob does in the story. As in the case of Noah, Jacob does not represent the perfect working of the intellect but does illustrate a great step forward.
In Gen. 27:38-40 Esau pleads for a paternal blessing also. Isaac's reply is: "'Behold, away from the fatness of the earth shall your dwelling be, and away from the dew of heaven on high. By your sword you shall live, and you shall serve your brother; but when you break loose YOU SHALL BREAK HIS YOKE FROM YOUR NECK.'" (Gen. 27:39-40)
Most conditions in the body are the results of what man does in his mind. This may cause much suffering in the body, and the body does protest, The body consciousness (Esau) has a very limited sphere of power and directive control. The body is very much subject to the mind. But the time will come when the mind will no longer subject the body to mistreatment, and a harmonious balance will be established between mind and body.
"Now Esau hated Jacob ... and Esau said to himself, 'The days of mourning for my father are approaching; then I will kill my brother Jacob." (Gen. 27:41) Esau only threatens to kill Jacob. He never does. This illustrates a very mistaken belief which many people have. It is the fear that their body can kill them! When this point is really thought about it reveals something very interesting about human logic. My mind may really believe that my body is going to kill MEJ This is symbolized in Jacob's fear of Esau.
Jacob goes on a journey to Haran to seek a wife. On this journey he has a dream which marks the beginning to a great change in himself and In his life. The dream is a vision of a ladder whose base is upon earth and whose top is in heaven. There are angels of God ascending and descending on all rungs of the ladder. When Jacob awakens he exclaims: "'Surely the Lord (Jehovah) is in this place; and I did not know it. And he was afraid, and said, 'How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven'" (Gen. 23:16).
This dream has two meanings. The first is a human realization of God as omnipresence. This is a shock to the soul at first ("How awesome (dreadful, KJV) is this place!"). But the shock soon changes into a feeling of great peace and assurance.
The second meaning of the dream is the constant communion between man and God. Ascending angels symbolize human aspirations and prayers directed to God from man. Descending angels symbolize God's responses to man's prayers and aspirations. Angels touch every rung, which means that every aspiration and prayer has a corresponding response from God.
In Gen. 28 and 30 we are told that Jacob falls in love with Rachel and works for her father for seven years in order to gain her as a wife. He is forced to accept her older sister, Leah, instead. But after a week, he is permitted to marry Rachel also, if he will work another seven years. Leah represents the more earthly-human qualities of the soul. These must be cultivated and developed (married and have children) first. Rachel represents more poetic, idealistic, ethereal soul qualities. These can be cultivated and increased (married and have children) only after a certain type of inner work has been accomplished first. This is the symbolism in Jacob's preference for Rachel and his willingness to work and wait while married to Leah in order to attain Rachel.
Jacob sires twelve sons, their mothers being Leah, Rachel, Bilah, and Zilpah. These twelve sons became the traditional founders of the twelve tribes of Israel. This constitutes the first presentation in the Bible of the symbolism which will continue as the twelve disciples of Jesus and the twelve manner of fruits on the Tree of Life in the book of "Revelation." In Unity we teach this symbolism as the twelve powers of man.
In Gen. 32:24-29 we are told of a wrestling match between Jacob and "a man." This occurs near the stream Jabbok. They wrestle all night, and at daybreak Jacob says to the man, "'I will not let you go, unless you bless me.'" (Gen. 32:26) "And he (the man) said to him (Jacob), 'What is your name?1 And he said, 'Jacob.' Then he said, 'your name shall no more be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with man, and have prevailed.' ... And there he blessed him." (Gen. 32:27-29)
Obviously the wrestling match occurs in the mind. Jacob represents the person we now are, the man represents the higher self we can become. The struggle is the effort it takes to change, to grow, to improve. The struggle ceases when we accept the blessing of our higher self. That blessing always takes the form of a change for the better--a change of "name."
Jacob (the supplanter) is transformed into Israel (a prince with God). This represents a very significant change in attitude and in level of consciousness. This is the change from a mental manipulator for self-serving purposes (Jacob as a "trickster") into an intelligent willingness to commit one's self to God and Truth. The supplanter has been supplanted -- not by another, more clever person--but by our own higher level of consciousness .
Gen. 33 tells of the reconciliation of Jacob and Esau. This symbolizes a very important step in the evolution of a person. It starts with forgiveness. It progresses with agreement and harmony. Harmony is established between thinking mind (Jacob-Israel) and body consciousness (Esau). This equilibrium is illustrated today by what we call "positive thinking." In Unity we practice this by denial and affirmation. Spiritual meditation is another method of achieving it. Physical and mental healing and well-being are its results.
NOTE: This is the first presentation in the Bible of symbolism which will be developed to its highest level of meaning in.the Gospels by Jesus Christ. Here we have the idea of balance and harmony between mind and body. In Jesus we will have it developed to the degree of perfect healing consciousness, resurrection, regeneration, and immortality. The effects of the lack of such balance are clearly seen in the story of Cain and Abel, and in the first section of the Jacob/Esau story.
Gen. 37 begins the story of Joseph and his brothers. Charles Fillmore refers to Joseph as "a type of Christ" in his book Mysteries of Genesis. Joseph is the first character in the Old Testament whose life does bear certain similarities to that of Jesus. However, Joseph is in no way really comparable to Jesus on the metaphysical level of meaning. For Joseph symbolizes only one of the twelve spiritual faculties--imagination.