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Archive for January, 2014

People must eat whenever they get together for a period of time, so it’s only natural that food would become associated with our celebrations. Practically all ancient people also retained some fragmentary knowledge of the existence of a creator, so prayers of some sort would tend to accompany their feasts.

The simple preparation of animals for food could partly explain why the practice of ritual sacrifice was common among ancient societies. An understandable expression of regret for the harsh realities of death could quickly evolve into elaborate ceremonies (ref. my previous post). Such ceremonies in most cultures were influenced by superstition, and little was left in them which related to reality, even in a symbolical form.

The word “altar” basically means a high place, a raised area of earth or stone. Such an area would have served as a butcher’s table in ancient times. The word “altar” is formed from two words. “Alt,” means “high,” and comes to us through Latin, but is derived from the shortened form of Elohim (El), the Hebrew word for God. Some languages have it as “Al.”

“Tar,” from the Middle English “tere,” or “terre,” is related to the words, “tree,” “truth” (from the Anglo-Saxon, treowth), and also “terra,” the Latin word for Earth. I personally believe that “terra” comes from “Erets,” the Hebrew name for Earth (ref. Heaven and Earth, in my September 2011 archives). “Ets,” the ending of “erets, happens to be the Hebrew word for a tree, so I think these things are all connected.

The black, sticky, substance that we call tar is obtained by the destructive distillation of wood, or coal and other products leftover from the decomposition of organic matter. That explains the connection of “tar,” to “tree.” The burning of the remains of animals on primitive “altars” likely has something to do with the association of “tar” with a burnt offering.

Noah’s ark was “pitched” inside and out with pitch (Hebrew “kopher”), a substance formed along with tar. The same basic Hebrew word is used for the sacrifice of the atonement (at-one-ment). I intend to write a bit more about this Hebrew word later. It is possible that Noah’s pitch could also have been obtained from tree resins, since “pitch” refers to such resins also.

Strong’s Bible Concordance notes that “Ariel,” a name meaning lion (or hero) of God, and also a symbolic name for Jerusalem, probably comes from “Harel,” meaning the mount (high place) of God. So, a symbolic name for Jerusalem, the place where Jesus was crucified has the same meaning as our word “altar.” A variation of “Ariel,” actually means “alter,” three places in Ezekiel 43:15-16. At this point in time, I have no idea why it’s so used in only these three places. I think that “high place,” “high ground,” “high tree,” “high truth,” “mount of God,” or “tree of God,” ┬ácan all be given as meanings of the word “altar.”

In this world, wherever there is a truth, there will many alterations of that truth, and if there’s a way to get things utterly confused, man will think of it. Though condemned by God (Jeremiah 32:35, Genesis 9:6), the horror of human sacrifice became commonplace in many pagan religions. Though unaccompanied by any ceremony, atrocities such as Herod’s murder of the young children of Bethlehem, in an attempt to kill the child Jesus, should be recognized as human sacrifice (Matthew 2:1-18).

False beliefs, myths, and false religions, supplant and suppress the revelation of God. They alter man’s perception of reality, and obscure the ultimate reality of God. Man alters the truth, and sacrifices it, without even knowing what it is.

The longsuffering of God (2nd. Peter 3:9) does have its limits however, and God has intervened in history, preserving the truth for us in the book that we call the Bible. He has sacrificed himself on the altar of the cross, that we might not sacrifice Heaven for the sake of the token life that we possess here and now. Speaking of his “sheep” in John 10:10, He said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” While this verse can be applied to his desire for our lives here, it will only have its full realization in the new earth, and in the new heaven (Revelation 21:1).

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