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Old Testament
Chapter 13

As we take a look at Old Testament symbols, it is important to understand their history. Throughout the history of the church scholars have looked upon the Old Testament stories as both historical and allegorical, a foreshadowing of New Testament events. A story such as Abraham’s having two sons, one born to a bondservant and one to a free woman, is symbolic of the Old Testament (law) and the New Testament (freedom from the law). The story of Noah’s ark is symbolic of Jesus Christ on the cross because the human body is six times its width, as was the ark. Because of the allegorical side of the stories, they are often portrayed side by side with their New Testament counterparts in stained glass windows.

It is important to remember that though the Old Testament stories were given allegorical meanings, they are historical. It was the theologian Origen who would heretically say that the Old Testament stories were allegory only. This was denounced by St. Augustine who said that while the stories were allegorical in nature, they were also historical fact. “‘Brothers,’ he says, ‘It is in the name of God to believe before all things when you hear the Scriptures read that the events really took place as is said in the book.


Do not destroy the historical foundation of Scripture, without it you will build in the air.’”1 The symbols in this chapter are in alignment with St. Augustine’s teaching.

AARON – 1. He is symbolized by a budding almond staff based on the story in Numbers 17. 2. A rod and snake represent him based on the role Aaron played as a priest in Numbers 21:4-9. 3. A golden censer symbolizing Aaron as a priest. 4. A golden calf symbolizes Aaron because he helped craft it (Exodus 32).

ABEL – 1. He is represented in symbolism by a shepherd’s staff. 2. Abel is sometimes portrayed with a lamb which was his first sacrifice (Genesis 4:3-5).

ABRAHAM – 1. Abraham and his wife Sarah were to be the parents of many nations. It was not until Abraham and Sarah neared 100 years old that they had their first child, Isaac, as told in Genesis 22. One day God asked Abraham to sacrifice his only son on an altar. Abraham hesitantly agreed. Just before he killed his son on the altar an angel stopped him. Abraham is thus symbolized by a knife and container of fire. The New Testament parallel to this story is the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross. These two scenes are often depicted together in stained glass. 2. A number of stars symbolize Abraham based on the story in Genesis 17 where God told Abraham that his

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© 2016 By Doug Gray. All Rights Reserved.