Arcana Coelestia #8902

By Emanuel Swedenborg

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8902. 'You shall not kill' means not taking the spiritual life away from anyone, also not destroying faith and charity, and not hating the neighbour. This is clear from the meaning of 'killing' as depriving of spiritual life. The reason why 'killing' has this meaning in the internal sense is that the internal sense deals with the spiritual life or life of heaven with a person; and since the spiritual life or life of heaven with a person is the life of faith and charity, 'not killing' also means not destroying the faith and charity present with anyone. The reason why 'not killing' also means in the internal sense not hating the neighbour is that someone who hates his neighbour is wanting all the time to kill him and would actually do so if there were no fear of punishment, of loss of life or reputation, or other such fears to hold him back. For hatred springs from evil, is opposed to charity, and is intent on nothing other than the murder of the one who is hated - in the world the murder of his body, in the next life the murder of his soul. This is meant by the Lord's words in Matthew,

You have heard that it was said to those of old, You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgement. But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without cause will be liable to judgement. Whoever indeed says to his brother, Raca! will be liable to the Sanhedrin. And whoever says, You fool! will be liable to the Gehenna of fire. Matthew 5:21-22ff.

Hatred towards the neighbour is meant by 'being angry without cause with his brother', and degrees of greater hatred are described by saying to him, Raca! and calling him, You fool' Regarding 'anger', that it is a turning away from charity and springs from evil, thus that it is hatred, see 357, 4164, 5034, 5798, 5887, 5888.

[2] The fact that 'killing' in the internal sense means taking the spiritual life away from anyone, consequently destroying faith and charity, is clear from almost all the places in the Word that mention 'killing', such as in Isaiah,

Behold, the day of Jehovah comes, cruel, and [full] of indignation and wrath and anger, to make the earth a waste, so that 1 He may destroy its sinners from it. At that time the stars of heaven and their constellations will not shine with their light. The sun will be darkened in its rising, and the moon will not cause its light to shine. I will visit the world for its malice, and the wicked for their iniquity I will make man (homo) more rare than pure gold, and the son of man than the gold of Ophir. Everyone that is found will be slain, and everyone that is gathered will fall by the sword. Their young children will be dashed to pieces before their eyes; their houses will be plundered, and their wives will be ravished. Bows 2 will dash the young men to pieces; the eye 2 will not spare sons. Isaiah 13:9ff.

This refers to the final period of the Church, when faith and charity do not exist any longer; that period is meant by 'the day of Jehovah, cruel, full of indignation, wrath, and anger'. Anyone may see that something other is meant here than that which the words describe literally; yet what is meant cannot be known except from the meanings which the words carry in the spiritual sense. In the spiritual sense 'the earth' or 'the land' is the Church, see 566, 662, 1067, 1262, 1413, 1607, 1733, 1850, 2117, 2118 (end), 2928, 3355, 4447, 4535, 5577, 8011, 8732, so that 'making the earth a waste, and destroying sinners from it' means the members of the Church at that time, devoid of faith and charity.

[3] 'Stars and constellations' are cognitions or knowledge of truth and good, see 2120, 2495, 2849, 4697. These are said 'not to shine with their light' when they are no longer lit by the light of heaven which flows in through faith accompanying charity. 'The sun' is love to the Lord, and 'the moon' belief in Him, 2120, 2441, 2495, 3636, 3643, 4060, 4321 (end), 4696, 5097, 5377, 7078, 7083, 7171, 7173, 8644, 8812, so that 'the sun being darkened in its rising' means that love to the Lord cannot come to exist with a person and 'the moon not causing its light to shine' means that charity and faith cannot do so, thus that the person can no longer be regenerated.

[4] 'Making man more rare than pure gold, and the son of man than the gold of Ophir' means that good will not be seen any longer, and neither will truth; for 'man' means the Church's good, 4287, 8547, and 'the son of man' truth springing from good, in the highest sense Divine Truth emanating from the Lord, 1729, 1733, 2813, 3704. 'Everyone that is found will be slain' means that all are going to be destroyed because of the evil of falsity, and 'everyone that is gathered will fall by the sword' means that all are going to be destroyed because of falsity. For the meaning of 'being slain' as being destroyed because of the evil of falsity, 4503; and for 'falling by the sword' as being destroyed because of falsity, 2799, 4499, 7102, 8294.

[5] 'Young children being dashed to pieces' means that they will completely annihilate innocence, for 'young children' are innocence, 430, 2126, 3183, 3494, 5608. 'Wives will be ravished' means that forms of the good of truth will be perverted by evils of falsity; for 'wives' are forms of the good of truth, 2517, 4510, 4823, 7022, and 'being ravished' is being perverted, 2466, 4865. 'Bows will dash the young men to pieces' means that the truths of good are going to be destroyed by false teachings arising from evil; for 'a bow' is teachings that are true, and in the contrary sense those that are false, 2686, 6422, 8800, and 'young men' are truths that have been corroborated, 7668. 'The eye will not spare sons' means that those who have an understanding of truths will nevertheless annihilate them; for 'sons' are truths, 489, 491, 533, 1147, 2803, 2813, 3373, 4257, 5542, and eye is the understanding seeing truth, 2701, 4403-4421, 4523-4534.

All this now makes plain what should be understood by the prophet's words, namely that when the Church reaches its end all faith and all charity, that is, all truth and all good, are going to be destroyed. It is also evident that 'being thrust through' and 'being dashed to pieces', in short 'being killed', is the annihilation of faith and charity.

[6] In Jeremiah,

Drag them away like sheep for the slaughter, and destine them to the day of killing. How long will the land mourn and the plant of every field wither, on account of the wickedness of those who dwell in it? The beasts and the birds will be devoured. Jeremiah 12:3-4.

'The day of killing' stands for the time when the Church has been laid waste, which is its final period when faith no longer exists because there is no charity. 'The land will mourn' stands for the Church; 'the plant of every field will wither' stands for the withering of every truth of the Church; and 'the beasts and the birds will be devoured' stands for the devourment of forms of good and truths. For the meaning of 'the land' as the Church, see just above; for 'the plant of the field' as the truth of the Church, 7571, 'the field' being the Church, 2971, 3310, 3766; for 'the beasts' as forms of good, and affections for good, 45, 46, 142, 143, 246, 714, 715, 719, 1823, 2179, 2180, 3218, 3519, 5198; and for 'the birds' as truths, and affections for truth, 5149, 7441. From all this one may see what the internal sense of those words is. One may also see that some spiritual and holy feature of the Church and of heaven is present in every detail, and that without the internal sense no one would have any understanding at all of what 'the day of killing' means, what 'the land will mourn' means, or 'the plant of every field will wither', or 'the beasts and the birds will at that time be devoured'.

[7] In Zechariah,

Thus said Jehovah my 3 God, Feed the sheep for killing, whose owners kill them and do not acknowledge themselves guilty. Zechariah 11:4-5.

'The sheep for killing' are those who are governed by simple good, with whom the truths of faith are annihilated not through their own fault but that of their teachers.

[8] In Isaiah,

Those who are to come Jacob will cause to take root Israel will blossom and flower, so that the face of the earth (orbis) may be filled with produce. Has he struck him as with the stroke of one who strikes? Has he been killed as at the slaughter of his killed ones? Isaiah 27:6-7.

Behold, Jehovah is coming out of His place to visit the iniquity of the earth; at that time the earth (terra) will disclose her blood, 4 and will not conceal her killed ones. Isaiah 26:21.

This too refers in the internal sense to the final period of the Church, when a new Church will be raised up as the old is passing out of existence. 'Jacob' stands for those in the external part of the Church, 'Israel' for those in the internal part. 'The face of the earth' (orbis) stands for the Church in general, 'the earth' (terra) for the old Church, 'the killed ones' for those with whom there is no faith because there is no charity.

[9] In the same prophet,

You are cast out from your sepulchre like an abominable branch, [like] a garment of the killed, [like] those slain with the sword. You will not be united with them in the sepulchre, for you have destroyed your land, you have killed your people. Isa, 14:19-20.

'The killed' stands for those who have been deprived of spiritual life, 'you have killed your people' stands for the destruction of the truths and forms of the good of faith. This is said in reference to Babel, by which the profanation of good is meant, 1182, 1283, 1295, 1306-1308, 1321, 1322, 1326, and also its being laid waste, 1327 (end).

[10] In Jeremiah,

I have heard the voice of the daughter of Zion; she sighs, she spreads out her hands, [saying,] Woe is me now, for my soul has been wearied by killers! Run to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem and see now, and take note, and search in its broad places, if you can find a man, if there is anyone executing judgement and seeking truth. Jeremiah 4:31; 5:1.

'The daughter of Zion' stands for the celestial Church, 'killers' for those who destroy forms of good and truths, 'a man' and 'anyone executing judgement' for those guided by truths rooted in good.

[11] In Ezekiel,

You have desecrated Me among My people for handfuls of barley and for crusts of bread, to kill souls that ought not to die, and to keep alive souls that ought not to live. Ezekiel 13:19.

Here 'killing souls' plainly stands for taking spiritual life away. Because 'killing' had this meaning also, the actions that were cursed on Mount Ebal included killing a companion secretly and taking a bribe to kill an innocent person, 5 Deuteronomy 27:24-25.

[12] In Matthew,

At the close of the age they will deliver you up to affliction, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name's sake. Matthew 24:9.

And in John,

Jesus said to the disciples, The hour will come that everyone who kills you will think that he offers holy worship to God. And these things they will do because they do not know the Father nor Me. John 16:2-3.

In these places also 'killing' means depriving of spiritual life, that is, of faith and charity; for all aspects of the truth and good of faith and charity are meant by 'the disciples', 3488, 3858 (end), 6397. The fact that it is not the disciples to whom the Lord was speaking who are meant there is evident from the consideration that in those places the subject is the close of the age, when the Lord is going to come in the clouds of heaven. And the close of the age which the disciples asked Him about means the final period of the Church, at which time the disciples would not be alive, see 3488.

[13] Similarly in Mark,

Brother will deliver up brother to death, and the father his children; the children will rise up against parents and kill them. Mark 13:12.

This too refers to the last times, and again 'killing' means depriving of the truths and forms of the good of faith and charity, thus depriving of spiritual life.

[14] In Luke,

I will send them prophets and apostles, but some of them they will kill and persecute. From the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah the prophet it will be required of this generation. Luke 11:49, 51.

'Prophets and apostles' stands in the spiritual sense for the Church's truths and forms of good, 'killing' for annihilating them, and 'the blood of Abel' for the annihilation of charity. For the meaning of 'prophets' as truths contained in teachings derived from the Word, see 2534, 7269; and for 'the blood of Abel' as the annihilation of charity, 374.

[15] Similarly in John,

The blood of saints and prophets, and of the killed, was found in Babylon. Revelation 18:24.

Here also 'the blood of saints and prophets' stands for the annihilation of the good and truth of faith and charity, 'the killed' for those who have lost their spiritual life - 'blood' being violence done to charity, as well as all evil in general, 374, 1005, and the profanation of truth in particular, 4735, 6978, 7317, 7326.

[16] Since the annihilation of goodness and truth is meant by one who has been 'killed' or 'slain', and since all that had been established in the Jewish Church was representative of spiritual and celestial realities in the Lord's kingdom, and in the highest sense of Divine attributes in the Lord, the following procedure to expiate the people was commanded if someone was found slain, lying in the field,

They were to measure the distances to the cities from the one slain, lying in the field. Then the elders of the nearest city were to take a heifer by means of which no work had been done, and on which the yoke had not yet been laid, and to bring it down to a fast-flowing river. The priests, the sons of Levi, were to break its neck there, and then the elders of the city were to wash their hands over the heifer and to say that their hands had not shed that blood, nor had their eyes seen it, and that in this way the blood would be expiated. Deuteronomy 21:1-8.

Could anyone ever know why such a procedure was established on account of someone who had been slain and was lying in the field, unless it were known from the internal sense what is meant by 'one slain, in the field', by 'the nearest city', by 'a heifer', by 'a fast-flowing river', by 'washing the hands', and by everything else in the procedure? 'One slain, in the field' means truth and good that have been annihilated, 4503, 'the field' being the Church, 2971, 3310, 3766 'The city' means teachings composed of truth, 402, 2449, 2943, 3216, 4492, 4493, 'the elders of the city' meaning truths that accord with what is good, 6524, 6525, 8578, 8585. 'A heifer on which the yoke had not yet been laid' means truth that has not yet been corroborated - for what 'a heifer' means, see 1824, 1825. 'Washing the hands over the heifer at a fast-flowing river' means purification from that evil because the commission of it has been due to the excessive zeal of one who does not know what the truth is.

[17] From these as from all other places one may see what the arcana are, and how great they are, which every part of the Word contains. They will not, it is true, be seen as arcana by a person if he believes that the literal sense is all there is to the Word, and so believes that nothing holier or more heavenly lies inwardly in it. However, the literal sense is for a person in the world, that is, for the natural man, whereas the internal sense is for one in heaven, that is, for the spiritual man. From this one may see what the commandment about not killing holds within it, namely not only that a person's body must not be killed but that his soul must not be killed either, thus not only that he must not be deprived of life in the world but in particular that he must not be deprived of life in heaven. If that commandment had not at the same time held the latter prohibition within it, Jehovah Himself, that is, the Lord, would not have declared it on Mount Sinai in so miraculous a way by an actual voice. For all peoples and nations without direct revelation know, and also their laws decree that a person must not be killed, even as they know that adultery, theft, and false witness are forbidden. Nor should anyone think that the Israelite nation were so stupid that they alone did not know what all throughout the world knew. But because the Word that has been revealed comes from God Himself, it in addition conceals deeper and more universal truths within itself, namely the kind that have to do with heaven; that is, it holds not only truths which concern the life of the body but also those that concern the life of the soul or eternal life. This makes the Word different, far removed from and superior to anything else that has been written.


1. Reading ut (so that) for et (and)

2. i.e. of the Medes

3. The Latin means your but the Hebrew means my, which Swedenborg has in another place where he quotes this verse.

4. literally, bloods

5. literally, to kill the soul of innocent blood

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Thanks to the Swedenborg Society for the permission to use this translation.