Arcana Coelestia #3419

By Emanuel Swedenborg

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3419. 'Isaac came back and dug again the wells of water which they had dug in the days of Abraham his father' means that the Lord disclosed the truths that had existed with the Ancients. This is clear from the representation of 'Isaac' as the Lord's Divine Rational, dealt with already; from the meaning of 'coming back and digging again' as disclosing once again; from the meaning of 'the wells of water' as truths that are the sources of cognitions - 'wells' being truths, see 2702, 3096, and 'waters' cognitions, 28, 2702, 3058; and from the meaning of 'the days of Abraham his father' as a former time and state as regards truths, which are meant by 'which they had dug in those days', and so which had existed with the Ancients - 'days' meaning a time and a state, see 23, 487, 488, 493, 893. When a state is meant by 'days', 'Abraham his father' represents the Lord's Divine itself before this had joined the Human to Itself, see 2833, 2836, 3251; but when a time is meant by 'days', 'Abraham his father' means the goods and truths which came from the Lord's Divine before this had allied the Human to Itself, and so which had existed with the Ancients.

[2] The truths which existed with the Ancients have been completely effaced at the present time, so much so that scarcely anybody knows that they have ever existed or that they could have been anything different from those also taught today. But those truths were indeed quite different. People had representatives and meaningful signs of celestial and spiritual things in the Lord's kingdom, and so of the Lord Himself; and those who understood them were called the wise. They were also wise, because they were accordingly able to talk to spirits and angels; for when angelic speech which is spiritual and celestial and therefore unintelligible to man comes down to someone in the natural realm, it falls into representatives and meaningful signs like those that occur in the Word and consequently make the Word a sacred document. To make correspondence complete the Divine cannot present Itself before man in any other way. And because with the Ancients there were manifested representatives and meaningful signs of the Lord's kingdom, which hold nothing else than celestial and spiritual love within them, the Ancients also possessed matters of doctrine too which wholly and completely were concerned with love to God and charity towards the neighbour, by virtue of which also they were called the wise.

[3] From those matters of doctrine they knew that the Lord was going to come into the world, that Jehovah would be within Him, and that He would make the Human within Him Divine and in so doing would save the human race. From them they also knew what charity was, namely the affection for serving others without any thought of reward; and what was meant by the neighbour to whom they were to exercise charity, namely all persons throughout the world, though each one had to be treated differently. These matters of doctrine have now been completely lost, and instead there are matters of doctrine concerning faith, which the Ancients had regarded as being relatively worthless. These matters of doctrine, that is to say, those concerning love to the Lord and charity towards the neighbour, have at the present time been rejected on one hand by those who in the Word are referred to as Babylonians and Chaldeans, and on the other by people called Philistines and also Egyptians. They have become so completely lost that scarcely any trace of them remains. Who at the present day knows what charity is which is devoid of all self-regard and repudiates all self-interest? Who knows what is meant by the neighbour - that individual persons are meant who are to be treated each one differently according to the nature and amount of good that resides with him? Thus good itself is meant, and therefore in the highest sense the Lord Himself since He resides in good and is the source of good; for good that does not originate in Him is not good, however much it may seem to be. And because there is no knowledge of what charity is and of what is meant by the neighbour, there is no knowledge of who are really meant in the Word by the poor, the wretched, the needy, the sick, the hungry and thirsty, the oppressed, widows, orphans, captives, the naked, strangers, the blind, the deaf, the lame, the maimed, and others such as these. Yet the matters of doctrine which existed with the Ancients taught who each of these really was and to which category of the neighbour and so of charity each belonged. It is in accordance with those matters of doctrine that the whole Word so far as the sense of the letter is concerned has been written, and therefore those who have no knowledge of them cannot possibly know of any interior sense of the Word.

[4] As in Isaiah,

Is it not to break your bread to the hungry, and that you may bring afflicted outcasts to your house; when you see the naked and cover him, and not hide yourself from your own flesh? Then will your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing will spring up speedily, and your righteousness will walk before you, the glory of Jehovah will gather you up. Isaiah 58:7-8.

Anyone who keeps rigidly to the sense of the letter believes that if he merely gives bread to the hungry, brings afflicted outcasts or wanderers into his house, and clothes the naked, he will on that account enter into Jehovah's glory, or into heaven. Yet those actions are solely external, which the wicked also can perform to merit the same. But by the hungry, the afflicted, and the naked are meant those who are spiritually such, thus differing states of wretchedness in which one who is the neighbour may find himself and to whom charity is to be exercised.

[5] In David,

He executes judgement for the oppressed, He gives bread to the hungry, Jehovah sets the bound free, Jehovah opens the blind [eyes], Jehovah lifts up the bowed down, Jehovah loves the righteous, Jehovah guards strangers, He upholds the orphan and the widow. Psalms 146:7-9.

Here the oppressed, the hungry, the bound, the blind, those bowed down, strangers, the orphan and the widow are not used to mean people who are ordinarily called such but those who are spiritually so, that is, as to their souls. It was who these were, what state and degree of the neighbour they belonged to, and so what charity needed to be exercised towards them, that was taught by the matters of doctrine which existed with the Ancients. Besides these verses from Psalms 146 there are others elsewhere throughout the Old Testament. Indeed when the Divine comes down into what is natural existing with man it comes down into such things as constitute the works of charity, each work differing from the rest according to its genus and species.

[6] The Lord also spoke in a similar way since He spoke from the Divine itself, as in Matthew,

The King will say to those at His right hand, Come, O blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you; for I was hungry and you gave Me food, I was thirsty and you gave Me drink, I was a stranger and you took Me in, I was naked and you clothed Me, I was sick and you visited Me, I was in prison and you came to Me. Matthew 25:34-36.

The works listed here mean all the main kinds of charity and the degree of good to which each work - that is, to which each person who is a neighbour towards whom charity is to be exercised - belongs. Also taught is the truth that the Lord in the highest sense is the neighbour, for He says,

Insofar as you did it to one of the least of these My brothers you did it to Me. Matthew 25:40.

From these few places one may see what is meant by truths as they existed among the Ancients. The utter effacement of these truths however by those concerned with matters of doctrine concerning faith and not with the life of charity, that is, by those who in the Word are called 'the Philistines', is meant in the words that come next - 'the Philistines stopped up the wells after Abraham's death'.

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