28 Stones


Edward Madeley



Stones for Altars.

(1.) Ex. xx. 24, 25. An altar of earth thou shalt make unto me. and shalt sacrifice thereon thy burnt-offerings, and thy peace-offerings, thy sheep, and thine oxen. And if thou wilt make me an altar of stone, thou shalt not build it of hewn stone: for if thou lift up thy tool upon it, thou hast polluted it.

(2.) Deut. xxvii. 5, 6. And there shalt thou build an altar unto Jehovah thy God, an altar of stone. Thou shalt not lift up any iron tool upon them. Thou shalt build the altar of Jehovah thy God of whole stones: and thou shalt offer burnt-offerings thereon unto Jehovah thy God.

(3.) Josh. viii. 30, 31. Then Joshua built an altar unto Jehovah the God of Israel in mount Ebal, as Moses the servant of Jehovah commanded the children of Israel, as it is written in the book of the law of Moses, an altar of ivhole stones, over which no man hath lift up any iron.

(4.) 1 Kings xviii. 31, 32. Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob : and with the stones he built an altar in the name of Jehovah.

As the essential part of worship consists in two things, namely, good and truth, or charity and faith, therefore, in reference to these mention is made of an altar of earth and an altar of stone. Worship from a principle of good, or of charity, was represented by the offerings and sacrifices made upon attars of earth ; but worship from the love of truth or from faith, was represented by the offerings and sacrifices made upon altars of stone. The former is the worship of a man already regenerated, or of one who is in charity, and at the same time in faith derived from it : the latter is the worship of him who is undergoing the process of regeneration, and who by faith is led to charity, or by the precepts of truth into the life of good. The reason why the altar was not to be built of hewn stones, but of unwrought or whole stones, was, that the labor of man in hewing and preparing them according to his own skill and judgment, denoted self-derived intelligence, which, so far as it contains anything of merely human life or human merit, is in itself evil, and therefore cannot enter into, or mingle itself with, the pure worship of the Lord without contaminating, defiling, and in a great degree profaning it. All worship, to be truly acceptable, must be derived from the Lord alone by his Word ; the truths of which, being in themselves divine, if received by man in sincerity of heart and integrity of life, will bear above him the consideration of selfish and temporal interests, to the contemplation and love of those which are heavenly and eternal.

(5.) Judges vi. 20, 21. The angel of God said unto Gideon, Take the flesh and the unleavened cakes, and lay them upon this rock. And he did so. Then the angel of Jehovah put forth the end of the staff that was in his hand, and touched the flesh and the unleavened cakes : and there rose up fire out of the rock, and consumed the flesh and the unleavened cakes.

(6.) Judges xiii. 19, 20. Manoah took a kid, with a meat-offering, and offered it upon a rock unto Jehovah. And it came to pass, when the flame went up toward heaven from off the altar, that the angel of Jehovah ascended in the flame of the altar. In both of these instances a natural rock is used as an altar to Jehovah. The rock denotes divine truth, and the fire issuing out of it is divine love: These two concurring in the worship there represented, cause it to become acceptable in the sight of heaven ; which is still further confirmed by the circumstance of the angel of Jehovah ascending in the flame of the altar.

(7.) Isa. xxvii. 9. When Jacob shall make the stones of the altar as chalk-stones that are beaten asunder, the groves and images shall not stand up. Jacob here is the church diverging from what is spiritual into things natural ; and the worship of such a church is described by his making all the stones of the altar as mere chalk-stones beaten asunder, and thus liable to be dispersed by every wind. The stones of the altar are divine truths, from and according to which worship ought to be performed : and these are said to become as chalk-stones deprived of their former consistency and durability, when they are perverted, that is, when they are separated from charity, which gives them the power of cohesion, and when consequently they are dissipated, and are no longer to be found in the church in their purity and integrity. It is therefore written, that, whensoever this shall take place, the groves and images, representative of divine truths, shall no longer stand up.

In the best times of the most ancient and the ancient church, which existed long before the Israelitish people were formed into the representative of a church, groves, gardens and mountains were the places of their worship. Adam, or the most ancient church, worshipped Jehovah in a garden which is called the garden of Eden, Gen. ii. 8. Noah, or the ancient church, which succeeded the most ancient, after the ark had rested on the mountains of Ararat, built an altar to Jehovah, and offered burnt-offerings, on the altar, Gen. viii. 4, 20. Abraham also pitched his tent on a mountain, and built thereon an altar unto Jehovah, Gen. xii. 8. He likewise ” planted a grove in Beer-sheba, and called there on the name of Jehovah, the everlasting God,” Gen. xxi. 33. Every tree in those ancient gardens and groves denoted some distinct perception or knowledge of divine truth, and thus reminded the worshippers of the various divine attributes and perfections, which from time to time they assembled together to acknowledge and commemorate. For the same reason they also set up images, statues and pillars in and near their groves : and this they did, not in the way of idolatrous superstition, but from an enlightened view of the works of nature and of art, knowing that every object which presented itself before their external senses, was representative of something heavenly and divine. Hence the sun, the moon, the starry firmament, mountains, hills, valleys, plains, fields, gardens, groves, woods, trees, rivers, fountains, seas, clouds, rocks and stones, beasts, birds and fishes, in endless variety, all contributed in turn to excite ideas and affections strictly analogous to these different objects, but yet totally distinct from them, just as spiritual things are totally distinct from natural things.

But when, in consequence of a long and universal degeneracy among the men of ancient times, their posterity had altogether lost sight of the things signified by the natural objects above named ; and when, instead of leading the mind to devout meditation, those objects became the occasion of an external, criminal adoration, without any reference to what was internal, spiritual and divine, which is the characteristic of mere idolatry ; then the people of Israel were raised up, and separated from the other nations, as well for the purpose of checking the superstition which everywhere prevailed, as for the formation of a kind of nucleus for the future improvement and happiness of mankind, by becoming the depository of a new revelation from heaven. Then also for the first time it became a divine law. that no images, statues, groves or high places should be suffered to remain, but that they should be universally broken to pieces, cut down, burnt and destroyed. Among the rest, it is remarkable that the brazen serpent which was set up by Moses at the express command of Jehovah, Num. xxi. 8, and which like other images had become the occasion of idolatry, was also, under the divine approbation, broken in pieces by the good king Hezekiah. See 2 Kings xviii. 3, 4.

It has been already observed, concerning the people of ancient times, that, during the state of their integrity, images, statues and groves were in constant use, .not as objects of idolatrous veneration, but as mediums serving to introduce to their contemplation things holy, spiritual and divine, and thereby more readily to excite their devotion : which ancient state of society is frequently referred to in both the historical and the prophetical books of the Sacred Writings. The images or statues which were set up within their groves, reminded them of the more interior spiritual things taught by the church : whereas those which were placed on the outside, whether contiguous to them or more distant from them, represented such things as were relatively more exterior and natural. Properly speaking, the groves mentioned i*i the passage above quoted from Isaiah, involving all that was contained within them, denote worship from spiritual truths ; and the images which according to the original were solar images, or solar pillars, either as bearing the image of the sun or as being exposed to its heat, denote worship from natural truths. It is by reason of this signification of the terms, retained from time immemorial, that the prophet uses such language in describing what will be the situation of the church, when man by his natural and depraved appetites, supported by his fallacious and perverse reasonings, shall utterly depart from the true worship of the Lord; namely, that it will then be divested of all genuine spiritual truths, and at the same time of all genuine natural truths ; these being understood by the groves and images which shall no longer stand up, or have an existence in thechurch

Stones for Pillars, Witnesses and Memorials.

(1.) Gen. xxviii. 18, 22. Jacob rose up early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put for his pillows, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of it. And he said, This stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God s house.

(2.) Gen. xxxi. 45-52. And Jacob took a stone, and set it up for a pillar. And Jacob said unto his brethren, Gather stones; and they took stones and made a heap : and they did eat there upon the heap. And Laban said, This heap is a witness between me and thee this day. Behold this heap, and behold this pillar, which I have cast betwixt me and thee. This heap be witness and this pillar be witness that I will not pass over this heap to thee, and that thou shalt not pass over this heap and this pillar unto me for harm.

(3.) Gen. xxxv. 14. And Jacob set up a pillar in the place where God talked with him, even a pillar of stone.

(4.) Gen. xxxv. 19, 20. Rachel died, and was buried in the way to Ephrath which is Bethlehem. And Jacob set a pillar upon her grave : that is the pillar of Rachel s grave unto this day.

(5.) Ex. xxiv. 4. And Moses wrote all the words of Jehovah, and rose up early in the morning, and built an altar under the hill, and twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel.

(6.) Josh. iv. 1-9, 20. And it came to pass when all the people were clean passed over Jordan, that Jehovah spake unto Joshua, saying, Take you twelve men out of the people, out of every tribe a man, and command you them, saying, Take you hence out of the midst of Jordan, out of the place where the priests feet stood firm, twelve stones, and ye shall carry them over with you, and leave them in the lodging-place where you shall lodge this night. Then Joshua called the twelve men, whom he had prepared of the children of Israel, out of every tribe a man. And Joshua said unto them, Pass over before the ark of Jehovah your God into the midst of Jordan, and take ye up every man of you a stone upon his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the children of Israel : that this may be a sign among you, that when your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, What mean you by these stones? then ye shall answer them, That the waters of Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of Jehovah, when it passed over Jordan, the waters of Jordan were cut off: and these stones shall be for a memorial unto the children of Israel for ever. And the children of Israel did so as Joshua commanded, and took up twelve stones out of the midst of Jordan, as Jehovah spake unto Joshua, according to the number of the tribes of the children of Israel, and carried them over with them unto the place where they lodged, and laid them down there. And Joshua set up twelve ston&s in the midst of Jordan, in the place where the feet of the priests who bare the ark of the covenant stood ; and they are there unto this day. And those twelve stones which they took out of Jordan, did Joshua pitch in Gilgal.

(7.) Josh. viii. 28, 29. And Joshua burnt Ai, and made it an heap for ever, even a desolation unto this day. And the king of Ai he hanged on a tree until even-tide : and as soon as the sun was down, Joshua commanded that they should take his carcase down from the tree, and cast it at the entering of the gate of the city, and raise thereon a great heap of stones that remaineth unto this day.

(8.) Josh. xxiv. 26, 27. And Joshua wrote these words in the book of the law of God, and took a great stone, and set it up there under an oak, that was by the sanctuary of Jehovah. And Joshua said unto all the people, Behold, this stone shall be a witness unto us ; for it hath heard all the words of Jehovah which He spake unto us : it shall be therefore a witness unto you, lest ye deny your God.

(9.) 1 Sam. vii. 12. Samuel took a stone, and set it between Mizpeh and Shen, and called the name of it Eben-ezer, saying, Hitherto hath Jehovah helped us.

From the preceding passages it is plain, that heaps of stones were collected, great stones set up, and pillars erected, not only for the purpose of marking the boundaries between the possessions of one man and those of another, but also as monuments or memorials to testify and evidence, in a way that could not be denied, the truth of certain historical facts, as well as the solemn engagements which had been entered into by individuals, or by a whole people, both with their neighbor and with their God. To the above ancient practice may also be traced the origin of the law of nations. And hence may be seen at least one reason why stones in the Sacred Scriptures are used to signify truths.