Arcana Coelestia #4495

By Emanuel Swedenborg

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4495. 'It happened on the third day' means that which is continuous even to the end. This is clear from the meaning of 'the third day' as that which is complete from beginning to end, dealt with in 2788, and so also as that which is continuous. People who suppose that the historical events described in the Word are no more than the facts of earthly history and are holy only because they appear in a sacred book are scarcely able to believe that 'the third day' has that meaning. But, as shown in preceding explanations, it is not only the actual historical narratives that include spiritual and celestial things which are not plainly visible in the letter, but also every word and every number too. The truth of this will in the Lord's Divine mercy be seen far more clearly in the prophetical sections which in the sense of the letter do not hold the mind to the sequence of events in the way that the historical sections do. But anyone who looks carefully into the interior contents of the Word comes to see that the number three, like the number seven, and also the number twelve, holds some arcanum. And if these numbers hold such it follows that every other number in the Word holds the same, for the Word is holy in every part.

[2] Sometimes, when I have been talking to angels, I have seen in front of me what looked like numbers written, as if on a sheet of paper, in broad daylight, and I have realized that the spiritual entities about which the angels spoke pass into numbers like these. From this experience I have also been given to know that each number in the Word contains some arcanum. This may be seen plainly from the following in John,

He measured the wall of the holy Jerusalem, a hundred and forty-four cubits, which is the measure of a man, that is, of an angel. Revelation 21:17.

And elsewhere,

Let him who has intelligence reckon the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man, that is, its number is six hundred and sixty-six. Revelation 13:18.

It is evident that the first of these numbers, namely a hundred and forty-four, is the product of twelve times twelve, and that the number six hundred and sixty-six is a product of that involving three or six; but what degree of holiness is implied by them may be seen from the holiness associated with the number twelve, concerning which number see 577, 2089, 2129 (end), 2130 (end), 3272, 3858, 3913; and concerning the holiness associated with the number three, 720, 901, 1825, 2788, 4010.

[3] Because the number three meant that which is complete even to the end, and so an entire period, whether long or short, it was therefore adopted in the representative Church and used whenever such a meaning needed to be conveyed. It is also used in the same way in the Word, in which every detail carries a spiritual meaning, as may be seen from the following places:

They were to go a three days' journey and to offer sacrifice. Exodus 3:18; 5:3.

They were to be ready on the third day, for on the third day Jehovah would come down onto Mount Sinai. Exodus 19:11, 15-16, 18.

Nothing from the flesh of a sacrifice was to be left until the third day. Leviticus 7:16-18; 19:6-7.

The water of separation was to be sprinkled over the unclean person on the third day and on the seventh day. Numbers 19:11-end.

Those who touched one killed in war were to be cleansed on the third day and on the seventh day. Numbers 31:19-25.

[4] Joshua commanded the people that within three days they would be crossing the Jordan. Joshua 1:11; 3:2.

Jehovah called Samuel three times, and three times Samuel ran to Eli and the third time Eli understood that Jehovah was calling Samuel. 1 Samuel 3:1-8.

Jonathan told David to hide in the field until the third evening. And Jonathan sent to him on the third day from then, and revealed his father's intention. Jonathan at that point fired three arrows to the side of the stone. And after that David bowed down to the ground three times before Jonathan. 1 Samuel 20:5, 12, 19-20, 35-36, 41.

Three things were set before David, of which he was to choose one - either the coming of famine for seven years, or his fleeing before his enemies for three months, or the existence of pestilence in the land for three days. 2 Samuel 24:11-13.

[5] Rehoboam told the assembly of Israel which asked for relief from his father's yoke that they should go away for three days and then return And they came to Rehoboam on the third day, as the king said, Return to me on the third day. 1 Kings 12:5, 12.

Elijah stretched himself over the widow's son three times. 1 Kings 17:21.

Elijah told them to pour water over the burnt offering and the wood a third time and they did so a third time. 1 Kings 18:34.

Jonah was in the stomach of the monster for three days and three nights Jonah 1:17; Matthew 12:40.

The Lord talked of someone who planted a vineyard and sent servants three times, and after that his son. Mark 12:2, 4-6, Luke 20:12-13.

Of Peter, He said that he was to deny Him three times. Matthew 26:34, John 13:38.

He said to Peter three times, Do you love Me? John 21:15-17.

[6] From these and many other places in the Word it becomes clear that the number three holds an arcanum within it, and that for this reason this number was adopted within the ancient Churches as a meaningful sign. It is evident that it means the entire period of a Church and of things within a Church, whether long or short, and therefore that which is complete and also that which is continuous even to the end, as is plain in Hosea,

Jehovah will revive us after two days, on the third day He will raise us up, and we shall live before Him. Hosea 6:2.

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