Arcana Coelestia #2702

By Emanuel Swedenborg

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2702. 'And she saw a well of water' means the Lord's Word from which truths are drawn. This is clear from the meaning of 'a well of water' and of 'a spring' as the Word, also as doctrine drawn from the Word, and consequently as truth itself, dealt with in what follows immediately below; and from the meaning of 'water' as truth. That 'a well' which has water in it, and 'a spring', mean the Word of the Lord, also doctrine drawn from the Word, and so consequently truth itself, may become clear from very many places. Here because the subject is the spiritual Church the word 'well' and not spring is used in subsequent verses of this chapter,

Abraham reproached Abimelech on account of the well which Abimelech's servants had seized (verse 25).

Also in Genesis 26,

All the wells which the servants of Isaac's father had dug, in the days of Abraham his father, the Philistines stopped up. And Isaac returned and dug [again] the wells of water which they had dug in the days of Abraham his father, for the Philistines had been stopping them up after Abraham's death. And Isaac's servants dug in the valley and found there a well of living waters. And they dug another well and disputed over that also. And he moved on from there and dug another well, and they did not dispute over that. And it happened on that day, that Isaac's servants came and pointed out to him the reasons for the well which they had dug; and they said to him, We have found waters (verses 15, 18-22, 25, 32).

[2] In these verses nothing else is meant by 'wells' than matters of doctrine - both those about which they disputed, and those about which they did not. Otherwise their digging of wells and their disputing so many times about them would not be important enough to be mentioned in the Divine Word.

'The well' referred to in Moses in a similar way means the Word or doctrine,

They travelled to Beer. This was the well of which Jehovah said to Moses, Gather the people and I will give them water. Then Israel sang this song: Spring up, O well! Answer from it! The well which the princes dug, which the willing ones 1 of the people dug out, as directed by the law-giver, with their staves. Numbers 21:16-18.

Because 'a well' meant the Word, doctrine drawn from it, and truth itself, this prophetic song therefore existed in Israel - a song in which the doctrine of truth is the inner theme, as is clear from everything contained in the internal sense. From this the name Beer is derived, and the name Beersheba, 2 and its meaning in the internal sense as doctrine itself.

[3] Doctrine however that has no truths in it is called 'a pit', or a well with no water in it, as in Jeremiah,

Their illustrious ones sent their lesser ones to the water; they came to the pits; they found no water; they returned with their vessels empty. Jeremiah 14:3.

Here 'waters' stands for truths, 'the pits in which they found no waters' for doctrine that has no truth within it. In the same prophet,

My people have committed two evils; they have forsaken Me, the source of living waters, to hollow out pits for themselves, broken pits, which cannot hold water. Jeremiah 2:13.

Here in a similar way 'pits' stands for doctrines that are not true, 'broken pits' for matters of doctrine that have been ravaged.

[4] As regards 'a spring' meaning the Word, also doctrine, and therefore truth, this is seen in Isaiah,

The afflicted and the needy were seeking water, and there was none; their tongue was parched with thirst. I Jehovah will hearken to them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them. I will open rivers on the sloping heights, and springs in the midst of valleys; I will make the wilderness into a pool of water, and the dry land into streams of water. Isaiah 41:17-18.

In the first place this refers to the desolation of truth, which is meant by the statements that 'the afflicted and needy sought water and there was none', and that 'their tongue was parched with thirst'. Then it refers, as in the present verses in Genesis where Hagar is the subject, to the comfort, renewal, and instruction following desolation, which are meant by the promise that 'Jehovah will open the rivers on the sloping heights, will place springs in the midst of valleys, make the wilderness into a pool of water, and the dry land into streams of water', all of which have to do with the doctrine of truth and the affection acquired from this.

[5] In Moses,

Israel dwelt securely, alone at Jacob's spring, in a land of corn and new wine; even his heavens distil the dew. Deuteronomy 33:28.

'Jacob's spring' stands for the Word and the doctrine of truth drawn from it. It was because Jacob's spring meant the Word, and the doctrine of truth drawn from it, that when the Lord came to Jacob's spring He talked to the woman from Samaria and taught what is meant by the spring and by water. The incident is described in John as follows,

Jesus came to a city of Samaria called Sychar. Jacob's spring was there. Jesus therefore, weary from the journey, sat thus by the spring. A woman from Samaria came to draw water, to whom Jesus said, Give Me a drink. Jesus said, If you knew the gift of God and who it is who is saying to you, Give Me a drink, you would ask of Him to give you living water. Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again, but he who drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up into eternal life. John 4:5-7, 10, 13-14.

Because 'Jacob's spring' meant the Word, 'water' truth, and 'Samaria' the spiritual Church, as is the case many times in the Word, therefore the Lord talked to the woman from Samaria and taught that the doctrine of truth is derived from Himself, and that when it is derived from Himself, or what amounts to the same, from His Word, it is 'a spring of water welling up into eternal life'; also that the truth itself is 'living water'.

[6] Similar teaching occurs in the same gospel,

Jesus said, If anyone thirsts let him come to Me and drink. Whoever believes in Me, as the scripture says, Out of his belly will flow rivers of living water. John 7:37-38.

And in the Book of Revelation,

The Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and will guide them to living springs of water; and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Revelation 7:17.

In the same book,

To him who thirsts I will give from the spring of living water without price. Revelation 21:6.

'Rivers of living water' and 'living springs of water' stand for truths which are derived from the Lord, that is, from His Word, for the Lord is the Word. The good of love and charity which comes solely from the Lord is the life of truth. The expression 'he who thirsts' is used of one who is stirred by a love and affection for truth; no other can so thirst.

[7] These truths are also called 'the springs of salvation' in Isaiah,

With joy you will draw water from the springs of salvation, and you will say on that day, Confess Jehovah, call on His name. Isaiah 12:3-4.

That 'a spring' means the Word, or doctrine drawn from it, is also evident in Joel,

It will happen on that day, that the mountains will drip new wine, and the hills will run with milk, and all the streams of Judah will run with water, and a spring will come forth from the house of Jehovah and will water the river of Shittim. Joel 3:18.

Here 'water' stands for truths, 'a spring from the house of Jehovah' for the Word of the Lord.

[8] In Jeremiah,

Behold I am bringing them from the north land, and I will gather them from the extremities of the earth, among them the blind one and the lame. With weeping they will come, and with supplications I will bring them to springs of water in a straight path on which they will not stumble. Jeremiah 31:8-9.

'Springs of water in a straight path' plainly stands for matters of doctrine concerning truth. 'The north land' stands for the lack of knowledge or the desolation of truth, 'weeping and supplications' for their state of grief and despair. 'Being brought to springs of water' stands for renewal and instruction in truths, as in this chapter of Genesis where Hagar and her son are the subject.

[9] The same matters are presented in Isaiah as follows,

The wilderness and the dry land will be glad for them; and the lonely place will rejoice and blossom like the rose. It will bud prolifically, and will rejoice also with rejoicing and singing. The glory of Lebanon has been given to it, the majesty of Carmel and Sharon. They will see the glory of Jehovah, the majesty of our God. Strengthen the weak hands and make firm the feeble knees. The eyes of the blind will be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Waters will break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the lonely place; and the dry place will become a pool and the thirsty ground wellsprings of water. Isaiah 35:1-3, 5-7.

Here 'a wilderness' stands for a desolation of truth. 'Waters', 'streams', 'a pool', 'wellsprings of water' stand for truths which serve to renew and give joy to people who have experienced vastation and whose joys are described in many ways here.

[10] In David,

Jehovah sends forth springs in the valleys; they will go among the mountains.

They will give drink to every wild beast of the fields; the wild asses will quench their thirst. He waters the mountains from His chambers. Psalms 104:10-11, 13.

'Springs' stands for truths, 'mountains' for the love of good and truth, 'giving drink' for giving teaching, 'wild beasts of the fields' for people who live by that teaching, see 774, 841, 908, 'wild asses' for those who have none but rational truth, 1949-1951.

[11] In Moses,

The son of a fruitful one is Joseph, the son of a fruitful one beside a spring. Genesis 49:22.

'A spring' stands for doctrine from the Lord. In the same author,

Jehovah your God will bring you into a good land, a land of rivers, waters, springs, depths gushing out in valleys and mountains. Deuteronomy 8:7.

'A land' stands for the Lord's kingdom and Church, 662, 1066, 1067, 1262, 1413, 2571, which is called 'good' from the good of love and charity. 'Rivers', 'waters', 'springs', and 'depths' stand for the truths derived from that good. In the same author,

The land of Canaan, a land of mountains and valleys, on the arrival of the rain of heaven it drinks water. Deuteronomy 11:11.

[12] That 'waters' means truths, both spiritual and rational, and also factual, is evident from the following places: In Isaiah,

Behold, the Lord Jehovah Zebaoth is taking away from Jerusalem and from Judah the whole staff of bread and the whole staff of water. Isaiah 3:1.

In the same prophet,

To the thirsty bring water; meet with his bread the fugitive. Isaiah 21:14.

In the same prophet,

Blessed are you who sow beside all waters. Isaiah 32:20.

In the same prophet,

He who walks in righteous ways and speaks upright words will dwell on the heights; his bread will be given to him, his water will be sure. Isaiah 33:15-16.

In the same prophet,

At that time they will not thirst; in the wilderness He will lead them; He will make water flow for them from the rock. And He cleaves the rock and the water flows out. Isaiah 48:21; Exodus 17:1-8; Numbers 20:11, 13.

In David,

He split rocks in the wilderness and caused them to drink abundantly like the depths. He brought streams out of the rock and caused waters to descend like a river. Psalms 78:15-16.

Here 'rock' stands for the Lord, 'water, streams, and the depths from it' for truths derived from Him.

[13] In the same author,

Jehovah turns rivers into a wilderness, and streams of waters into a dryness. He turns a wilderness into a pool of water, and parched land into streams of waters. Psalms 107:33, 35.

In the same author,

The voice of Jehovah is upon the waters; Jehovah is upon many waters. Psalms 29:3.

In the same author,

There is a river whose streams will make glad the city of God, the holy place of the dwellings of the Most High. Psalms 46:4.

In the same author,

By the word of Jehovah were the heavens made, and all their host by the spirit of His mouth. He gathered the waters of the sea together as a heap; He placed the depths in storehouses. Psalms 33:6-7.

In the same author,

You visit the earth and delight in it, You enrich it very greatly; the river of God is full of water. Psalms 65:9.

In the same author,

The waters have seen You, O God, the waters have seen You. The depths trembled, the clouds poured out water. Your way was in the sea, and Your path in many waters. Psalms 77:16-17, 19.

It is evident to anyone that 'waters' here do not mean waters, and that 'the depths trembled' and 'Jehovah's way was in the sea and His path in the waters', are not meant literally, but that spiritual waters are meant, that is, things of a spiritual kind, which are matters of truth; otherwise it would all be just a heap of meaningless words. In Isaiah,

Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters, and he who has no money, come, buy! Isaiah 55:1.

In Zechariah,

It will happen on that day, that living waters will flow out of Jerusalem, half of them to the eastern sea and half of them to the western sea. Zechariah 14:8.

[14] Furthermore when the Church which is about to be established or which has been established is the subject in the Word and it is described by a paradise, a garden, a grove, or by trees, it is usual for it to be described also by waters or rivers running through, which mean things of a spiritual, rational, or factual kind, which are matters of truth. Paradise as described in Genesis 2:8-9, for example, is also described by the rivers there, verses 10-14, which mean things that are attributes of wisdom and intelligence, see 107-121. Similar examples occur many times elsewhere in the Word, as in Moses,

Like valleys that are planted, like gardens beside a river, like aloes Jehovah has planted, like cedars beside the waters. Waters will flow from his buckets, and his seed will be in many waters. Numbers 24:6-7.

In Ezekiel,

He took some of the seed of the land and planted it in a seed field; he took it to be beside many waters. It sprouted and became a spreading vine. Ezekiel 17:5-6.

'A vine' and 'a vineyard' mean the spiritual Church, see 1069. In the same prophet,

Your mother was like a vine in your likeness, planted beside the waters; fruitful, and made full of branches by reason of many waters. Ezekiel 19:10.

[15] In the same prophet,

Behold, Asshur [was a cedar] in Lebanon; the waters caused it to grow, the depth made it high, with its rivers going round about the place of its planting; and he sent out his lines of water to all the trees of the field. Ezekiel 31:3-4.

In the same prophet,

Behold, on the bank of the river were very many trees, on this side and on that. He said to me, These waters are going out towards the eastern boundary, and they go down over the plain, and they go towards the sea, having been sent away into the sea; and the waters are fresh. And it will be that every living creature that creeps, in every place which the two rivers come to, will live; and there will be very many fish, for these waters go there, and become fresh, so that everything may live where the river goes. Its swamps and its marshes are not healed; they will be given up to salt. Ezekiel 47:7-9, 11.

This refers to the New Jerusalem or Lord's spiritual kingdom. 'Waters going out towards the eastern boundary' means things that are spiritual flowing from those which are celestial, or truths derived from a celestial source, that is, faith springing from love and charity, 101, 1250. 'Going down into the plain' means matters of doctrine belonging to the rational, 2418, 2450. 'Going towards the sea' means towards factual knowledge, 'the sea' being a gathering together of facts, 28. 'The living creature that creeps' means the delights which go with these, 746, 909, 994, which will receive their life from 'the waters of the river', that is, from spiritual things derived from a celestial source. 'Many fish' stands for an abundance of appropriate facts, 40, 991, while 'swamps and marshes' stands for such as are inappropriate and impure. 'Turning into salt' stands for becoming vastated, 2455. In Jeremiah,

Blessed is the man who trusts in Jehovah. He will be like a tree planted beside the waters, which sends out its roots beside the stream. Jeremiah 17:7-8.

In David,

He will be like a tree planted beside streams of water, which will yield its fruit in its season. Psalms 1:3.

In John,

He showed me a pure river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the middle of its street, and of the river, on this side and on that, was the tree of life bearing twelve fruits. Revelation 22:1-2.

[16] Now because 'waters' means truths in the internal sense of the Word it was therefore commanded in the Jewish Church, for the sake of representation before the eyes of the angels who beheld ritual acts in a spiritual way, that the priests and Levites should wash themselves with water when they came to perform their duties, and that they should do so with water from the layer placed between the tent and the altar, and later on with water from the bronze sea and all the other lavers around the temple, which were there in place of a spring. In a similar way for the sake of representation the ritual involving the water of sin or of expiation which was to be sprinkled over the Levites was established, Numbers 8:7, also the ritual involving the water of separation from the ashes of the red cow, Numbers 19:2-19, as well as the requirement that spoils taken from the Midianites were to be cleansed with water, Numbers 31:19-25.

[17] The water provided out of the rock, Exodus 17:1-8; Numbers 20:1-13, represented and meant an abundance of spiritual things, that is, of truths of faith from the Lord. The bitter waters which were made drinkable by means of the wood, Exodus 15:22-25, represented and meant that truths, from being unpleasant, are made acceptable and gratifying by virtue of good, that is, of the affection for it - 'wood' meaning good which constitutes affection or the will, see 643. From these considerations one may now see what 'water' means in the Word, and from this what the water used in baptism means, regarding which the Lord says the following in John,

Unless a person has been born from water and the spirit he cannot enter the kingdom of God. John 3:5.

That is to say, 'water' means the spiritual constituent of faith, and 'the spirit' the celestial constituent of it, so that baptism is the symbol of man's regeneration by the Lord by means of the truths and goods of faith. Not that a person's regeneration is accomplished in baptism, but by the life, the sign of which life is denoted in baptism, and into which life Christians who possess the truths of faith because they have the Word must enter.


1. the willing ones is the primary meaning of the Hebrew expression here. Put the latter also has a derivative meaning nobles, which Swedenborg has in other places where he quotes this verse.

2. Beer is the Hebrew word for a well, and Beersheba means The well of the oath or The well of seven.

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