Arcana Coelestia #9506

Arcana Coelestia (Elliott translation)

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9506. 'And you shall make a mercy-seat from pure gold' means the hearing and reception of all things that belong to worship arising from the good of love. This is clear from the meaning of 'the mercy-seat' as the cleansing from evils or forgiveness of sins, consequently the hearing and reception of all things that belong to worship, dealt with below; and from the meaning of 'gold' as the good of love, dealt with in Arcana Coelestia 113, 1551, 1552, 5658, 6914. The truth that 'the mercy-seat' means the cleansing from evils and forgiveness of sins is clear from those places in the Word where propitiation or expiation is referred to. 1 The reason why the hearing and reception of all things belonging to worship is also meant is that only those who have made propitiation or expiation, that is, been cleansed from evils, are heard by the Lord and have their worship accepted by Him; it does not happen with those who are steeped in evils, that is, have not made expiation or propitiation. Therefore also Aaron was not allowed to approach the mercy-seat until he had been cleansed and had made propitiation for himself and the people.

(References: Arcana Coelestia 1551-1552, 6917; Leviticus 16:2)

[2] The truth that 'the mercy-seat' consequently means the hearing and reception of all things that belong to worship is also clear from the consideration that Jehovah spoke to Moses over the mercy-seat between the cherubs. The reason why worship arising from the good of love is that which is received is that no one is allowed to enter heaven and so approach the Lord other than a person who is governed by good, that is to say, by the good of love to the Lord and the good of charity towards the neighbour, see Arcana Coelestia 8516, 8539, 8722, 8772, 9139, 9227, 9230, 9274; no one else is heard nor can anyone else's worship be received. This also explains why there were cherubs over the mercy-seat; for watchfulness and providence are meant by 'the cherubs', guarding against access to the Lord except through the good of love, that is, guarding against entrance into heaven by any apart from those who are governed by good, and also guarding against those in hell gaining access to the inhabitants of heaven and doing them harm. All this shows what was meant by the presence of the mercy-seat over the ark and by that of the cherubs over the mercy-seat, and by the fact that the mercy-seat and the cherubs too were made from pure gold; for 'gold' means the good of love, and 'the ark' heaven where the Lord is.

[3] The truth that 'the mercy-seat' means the cleansing from evils, and so the forgiveness of sins, is clear from places in the Word where 'propitiation' or 'expiation' 2 is referred to, as in David,

O Jehovah, expiate our sins for Your name's sake. Psalms 79:9.

In the same author,

He, being merciful, has expiated iniquity. Psalms 78:38.

In the same author,

You will expiate me with hyssop and I shall become clean; You will wash me and I shall be made whiter than snow. Psalms 51:7.

In Isaiah,

Evil will come upon you, which you will not know how to ward off; calamity will befall you, which you will not be able to expiate. Isaiah 47:11.

And in Moses,

Sing, O nations, the people of Him who will avenge the blood of His servants, and will expiate His land, His people. Deuteronomy 32:43.

[4] Expiations were effected by means of sacrifices; and it says that when they were offered the priest would expiate him from sin, and he would be pardoned, 3 Leviticus 4:26, 31, 35; 5:6, 10, 13, 16, 18; 6:7; 9:7; 15:15, 30. Expiation was also effected by 'silver', Exodus 30:16; Psalms 49:7. Hence also the day of expiations 4 before the feast of tabernacles, Leviticus 23:27-32. But it should be recognized that none of those expiations constituted a real cleansing from evils or forgiveness of sins; it only represented it. For every religious observance among the Israelite and Jewish nation was merely representative of the Lord, His kingdom and Church, and such realities as belong to heaven and the Church. How representations brought such realities to angels' awareness in heaven, see Arcana Coelestia 9229.

(References: Leviticus 22:27-32; Psalms 49:8)

[5] Since the cleansing from evils and forgiveness of sins was meant by 'the mercy-seat', the hearing and reception of all things that belonged to worship was also meant; for one who has been cleansed from evils is heard and his worship is received. This was represented by Jehovah's speaking above the mercy-seat to Moses and His commanding what the children of Israel should do, as is clear from verse 22 of the present chapter, where it says,

And I will meet with you there, and I will speak to you from above the mercy-seat, from between the two cherubs which are over the ark of the Testimony, [declaring] everything that I shall command you for the children of Israel.

The like occurs elsewhere,

Whenever Moses spoke to Jehovah he heard the voice speaking from above the mercy-seat that was over the ark of the Testimony, from between the two cherubs. Numbers 7:89.

The fact that a person was heard and his worship was received when he had been cleansed from evils was represented by Aaron's not going into the holy place within the veil before the mercy-seat unless he had first made expiation for himself and the people, by ceremonial washing, sacrifices, incense, and blood, as stated in Leviticus 16:2-16, which concludes,

In this way he shall expiate the holy place from the uncleannesses of the children of Israel, and from their transgressions in regard of all their sins.

It also says in verse 2 that Jehovah would appear at the mercy-seat 'in the cloud', meaning in Divine Truth adjusted to people's ability to receive and understand it, such as the Word is in the sense of the letter, Arcana Coelestia 4060, 4391, 5922, 6343 (end), Arcana Coelestia 6752, 8106, 8443, 8781.


1. The Latin word propitiatorium rendered the mercy-seat may be translated more literally as the place of propitiation.
2. The Hebrew verb behind expiate, used in an uncommon way in the following quotations, means cover over. The Latin verb generally means atone for or purify what is defiled.
3. i.e. the priest shall make atonement for the person's sin, and the person will stand forgiven
4. Generally known as the day of atonement


(References: Exodus 25:17; Leviticus 16:2, 16:16)

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