Arcana Coelestia #2761

By Emanuel Swedenborg

Study this Passage

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2761. That 'a white horse' means an understanding of the Word as regards its interior contents, or what amounts to the same, as regards the internal sense of the Word is clear from the meaning of 'a horse' as the understanding part of the mind. In prophetical parts of the Word 'a horse' and 'a rider' are referred to many times, but up to now nobody has known that 'a horse' means the understanding part of the mind, and 'a rider' one who has intelligence, as in the prophecy of Jacob, who by then was Israel, concerning Dan,

Dan will be a serpent on the road, a darting serpent on the path, biting the horse's heels; and its rider will fall backwards. I am awaiting Your salvation, O Jehovah. Genesis 49:17-18.

'A serpent' means one who reasons about Divine arcana on the basis of sensory evidence and factual knowledge, see 195. 'Road' and 'path' mean truth, 627, 2333, 'heel' means the lowest part of the natural, 259, 'horse' an understanding of the Word, and 'rider' one who teaches. From this it is evident what these prophetical words mean, namely that one who reasons about the truths of faith on the basis of sensory evidence and factual knowledge is interested solely in the lowest things belonging to the natural world and so believes nothing, which is 'falling backwards'. And this is why the words 'I am awaiting Your salvation, O Jehovah' are added.

[2] In Habakkuk,

O God, You ride on Your horses, Your chariots are salvation. You made Your horses to tread in the sea. Habakkuk 3:8, 15.

Here 'horses' stands for Divine Truths that are in the Word, 'chariots' for doctrine drawn from them, 'the sea' for cognitions, 28, 2120. And since these belong to an understanding of the Word from God, it is said, 'You made Your horses to tread in the sea'. Here, as in the quotation above from the Book of Revelation, horses are attributed to God, but this attribution would not be possible if they did not have such a meaning.

[3] In David,

Sing to God, sing praises to His name; exalt Him who rides on the clouds by His name lain. Psalms 68:4.

'Riding on the clouds' stands for an understanding of the Word as regards its interior contents or internal sense; for 'clouds' means the Word in the letter which has the internal sense within it - see the Preface to Genesis 18, where the meaning of 'the Lord's coming in the clouds of heaven with power and glory' is explained.

[4] In the same author,

Jehovah bowed the heavens and came down; and thick darkness was under His feet, and He rode on a cherub. Psalms 18:9-10.

'Thick darkness' here stands for clouds, 'riding on a cherub' for the Lord's providence preventing man's entering of himself into the mysteries of faith that are in the Word, 308. In Zechariah,

On that day there will be on the horse-bells, Holiness to Jehovah. Zechariah 14:20. 'The horse-bells' stands for an understanding of the spiritual things of the Word, which are holy.

[5] In Jeremiah,

There will enter through the gates of this city kings and princes seated on the throne of David, riding in chariots and on horses, they and their princes, the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And this city will be inhabited for ever. Jeremiah 17:25-26; 22:4.

'The city of Jerusalem' stands for the Lord's spiritual kingdom and Church. 'Kings' stands for truths, 1672, 2015, 2069, 'princes' for the first and foremost commandments of truth, 1482, 2089, 'David' for the Lord, 1888, 'men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem' for those in whom there exists good that flows from love, charity, and faith, 2268, 2451, 2712. Thus 'riding in chariots and on horses' stands for being furnished with the doctrine of truth received from an internal understanding of the Word.

[6] In Isaiah, Then will you take delight in Jehovah and I will cause you to ride over the high places of the earth and cause you to eat the heritage of Jacob. Isaiah 58:14.

'Riding over the high places of the earth' stands for intelligence. In David,

A love song. Gird your sword on your thigh, O mighty one, [gird on] your glory and majesty. And in your majesty go on, ride on the word of truth, and of the meekness of righteousness. And your right hand will teach you marvellous things. Psalms 45:1, 3-4.

'Riding on the word of truth' stands plainly for intelligence based on truth, 'on the word of the meekness of righteousness' for wisdom based on good.

[7] In Zechariah,

On that day, said Jehovah, I will strike every horse with panic, and its rider with madness. And on the house of Judah I will open My eyes, and every horse of the peoples I will strike with blindness. Zechariah 12:4.

Here also 'horse' plainly stands for the understanding which was to be 'stricken with panic and blindness', and 'rider' for him with intelligence who was to be 'stricken with madness'. In Hosea,

Take away all iniquity and accept that which is good, and we will render the praises 1 of our lips. Asshur will not save us, we will not ride on horses, and we will no more say Our God' to the work of our hands. Hosea 14:2-3.

'Asshur' stands for reasoning, 119, 1186, 'horse' for self-intelligence. 'Horse' and 'rider' are referred to in very many other places besides these.


1. literally, the calves

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