By New Christian Bible Study Staff
In the third chapter of the Book of Jonah, Jonah finally reaches Nineveh, and starts preaching repentance and reformation to the people there. And... they listen! Even the King of Assyria listens!
The inner meaning of the story is pretty close to the surface here, and there's important symbolism. Swedenborg summarizes the chapter's meaning in this one sentence:
"The nations, hearing from the Word of God about their sins, and that they would perish, were converted after repenting, and were heard by the Lord, and saved." (The Inner Meaning of the Prophets and Psalms 213)
Rev. George McCurdy, in his exegesis of this chapter, offers this summary:
The great city of Nineveh has many spiritual representations. The world saw Nineveh as a mighty nation, but in the eyes of the Lord, it represented the shallowness and weakness (death) of false doctrines, contrived beliefs confirmed by the proprium (self love), the fallacies of the senses, and the unenlightened understanding that spawns spiritual ignorance.
The Lord’s mercy and love for all prompted Him not only to send His message to Nineveh, but to ensure that it would be preserved for eternity. Jonah’s call to "arise and go" preach to Nineveh is a call for spiritual renewal. It is a call for repentance. The fasting, sackcloth, and ashes symbolize a call to be aware that "where there is no truth, there is no church."
Where the Word is closed, and not loved, there is a loss of conjunction with the Divine resources. The fasting of man and beast symbolizes a need for the spiritual and natural appetites to come to the Lord for that "bread which comes down from heaven." The Ninevites giving up their natural food and drink represents their turning away from "as-of-self" concepts and reminds all who read and hear the Word of the Lord to rely on heavenly manna.
"Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me and eat what is good, and let your soul delight itself in abundance…" (Isaiah 55:2)
The king sitting in ashes and mourning represents a sorrowful attitude toward "the remains of the fire of self-love." Repentance involves self-examination, making oneself guilty for the sins and evils committed, asking the Lord for His help, and desiring to attain a new life.
As we mull over this concept, think about the Lord’s preaching on earth. As He went about His mission, He often used these words: "You have heard it said of old… but I say unto you…" Putting aside human traditions and taking on the Lord’s teachings is an ongoing effort. Jonah was told to preach the words of the Lord. He was not to make things up from his memory. He was to be a true and faithful prophet of the Lord’s ways.
Here's a link to an interesting (audio) sermon on this chapter, by Rev. Todd Beiswenger.
Rev. Martin Pennington suggests two explanatory passages from Swedenborg's theological writings:
"Forty days means a period of temptation combats or severe change." (Arcana Coelestia 730)
"A fast represents those who are in a state of unhappiness when good is no longer joined to the truths." (Arcana Coelestia 9182)
Other references of interest listed by Rev. McCurdy include:
"As ‘forty’ signified what is full or complete… forty signifies what is complete in respect to instruction and influx… for this reason it was said by Jonah to the Ninevites that ‘the city would be overthrown after forty days" (Jonah 3:4) (Arcana Coelestia 9437)
"By being clothed in sackcloth is signified mourning on account of the vastated truth in the church; for garments signify truths; and therefore, to be clothed in sackcloth, which is not a garment, signifies mourning that there is no truth; and where there is no truth, there is no church." Jonah 3:5-6 is cited. (Apocalypse Revealed 492)
"…the rite of putting sackcloth on the loins to testify…mourning may be seen from the historic and prophetic parts of the Word, as in… Jonah 3:5-8… for a sign representative of mourning over the evil on account of which Nineveh was to perish; thus over destroyed good." (Arcana Coelestia 4779)
"From the signification of garments it is also manifest why they rent their garments, when any one spoke against the Divine truth of the Word… and why, on account of transgressions against Divine truths, they put off their garments, and put on sackcloth." Jonah 3:5, 6, and 8 are cited. (Apocalypse Revealed 166)
"That ‘ashes’ denote falsity, may be confirmed from passages where another word for ‘ashes (cinis)’ is used, for these ashes have a like origin…" Jonah 3:6 is cited. (Arcana Coelestia 7520)
"…by ‘ashes’ in the opposite sense, namely, what is condemned that remains after the burning from the fire of self love. This is signified by ‘the ashes’ which they carried on the head, and in which they rolled themselves when bewailing their sins." Jonah 3:6 is cited. (Arcana Coelestia 9723)
"In the spiritual sense by kings those who are in truths are signified, by the great ones those who are in goods, by the rich those that are in the knowledge of good, by the mighty they that are in erudition, by servants they that are in such things from others, and thus from memory, and by freemen they that are in such things from themselves…" Jonah 3:7 is cited. (Apocalypse Revealed 337)
"The interior good and also the interior evil…are signified by ‘man,’ are those which are of the intention or end, for the intention or end is the inmost of man; but the exterior good and also the exterior evil which are signified by ‘beast,’ are those which are of the thought, and of the consequent action when nothing stands in the way…By ‘beast,’…in respect to the external or natural man, a man is nothing else than a beast, for he takes delight in the like cupidities and pleasures, as also in the like appetites and sense…Therefore… from a holy rite it was commanded by the king of Nineveh, that both man and beast were to fast, and were to be covered with sackcloth (Jonah 3:7, 8)." (Arcana Coelestia 7523)
"… in the spiritual world a man’s affections appear at a distance like beasts… and beasts, viewed in themselves, are nothing but forms of natural affections… By man and beasts together is signified man as to spiritual and natural affection, in the following passages… Jonah 3:7, 8…" (Apocalypse Revealed 567)
"Here ‘webs’ and ‘garments’ are predicated of things of the understanding, that is, of the thought; ‘iniquity’ and ‘violence,’ of things of the will, that is, of works. In Jonah 3:8… the ‘evil way’ is predicated of falsities, which are of the understanding; and ‘violence,’ which are of the will." (Arcana Coelestia 623)
"…the ‘wrath of anger’ is attributed to Jehovah, and consequently ‘repentance.’" (Arcana Coelestia 588)
"…the Word is such in the sense of the letter, it may be evident that it cannot be understood without doctrine. But let examples illustrate this. It is said that Jehovah repenteth (Jonah 3:9; 4:2), and it is also said that Jehovah repenteth not (Num. 23:19…): without doctrine these statements do not agree." (Teachings Regarding the Sacred Scripture 51)
"In these passages (Jonah 3:9,10) Jehovah is said to have ‘repented,’ when yet it cannot be that He repents, because He knows all things before He does them; from which it is evident that by ‘repenting’ is signified mercy." (Arcana Coelestia 10441[2-4])
Finally, here's a link to Rev. McCurdy's study guide for the Book of Jonah, which is available for free as a .pdf, for your use.
567. REVELATION: CHAPTER 13
1. And I saw a beast rising up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and on its horns ten jewels, 1 and on its heads a blasphemous name.
2. Now the beast which I saw was like a leopard, whose feet were like those of a bear, and its mouth like the mouth of a lion. And the dragon gave it its power, its throne, and great authority.
3. And I saw one of its heads appearing as though fatally wounded, and its mortal injury was healed. And all the earth went marveling after the beast.
4. Then they worshiped the dragon which gave authority to the beast; and they worshiped the beast, saying, "Who is like the beast? Who can fight against it?"
5. And it was given a mouth speaking great and blasphemous things, and it was given authority to do so for forty-two months.
6. Then it opened its mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, and against His tabernacle, and those who dwell in heaven.
7. It was granted it to make war with the saints and overcome them. And it was given authority over every tribe, tongue, and nation.
8. All who dwell on the earth will worship it, all whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.
9. If anyone has an ear, let him hear.
10. Anyone who leads into captivity shall go into captivity; anyone who kills with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints.
11. Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth, and it had two horns like a lamb and spoke like a dragon.
12. And it exercises all the authority of the first beast in its presence, and causes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose mortal injury was healed.
13. It also performs great signs, so as to even make fire come down from heaven to earth in the sight of men,
14. and to lead astray those who dwell on the earth, because of the signs which it was granted to do in the presence of the beast, telling those dwelling upon the earth to make an image of the beast that was injured by the sword and lived.
15. It was also granted it to give breath to the image of the beast, that the image of the beast might speak and cause whoever does not worship the image of the beast to be killed.
16. And it causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive from it a mark on their right hand and on their foreheads,
17. so that no one can buy or sell if he does not have the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of its name.
18. Here is wisdom: let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man, and its number is 666.
THE SPIRITUAL MEANING
The Contents of the Whole Chapter
The dragon continues to be the subject in this chapter, which describes the doctrine and faith meant by the dragon. The character of that doctrine and faith among the laity, and then its character among the clergy. The beast rising up out of the sea describes the doctrine and faith among the laity (verses 1-10), and the beast coming up out of the earth the doctrine and faith among the clergy (verses 11-17).
Lastly it describes the clergy's falsification of the Word's truth (verse 18).
The Contents of the Individual Verses:
|Verse Contents||Spiritual Meaning|
|1. And I saw a beast rising up out of the sea,||The laity in the Protestant Reformed churches who are caught up in the doctrine and faith of the dragon regarding God and salvation.|
|having seven heads||The irrationality resulting from their absolute falsities.|
|and ten horns,||Their great power.|
|and on its horns ten jewels, 2||Their power to falsify many of the Word's truths.|
|and on its heads a blasphemous name.||Their denial of the Lord's Divine humanity and affirmation of their church's doctrine, drawn not from the Word but from their own intelligence.|
|2. Now the beast which I saw was like a leopard,||Their heresy destructive of the church, being founded on the Word's truths falsified,|
|whose feet were like those of a bear,||full of misconceptions taken from the literal sense of the Word, read but not understood.|
|and its mouth like the mouth of a lion.||Their reasonings based on falsities as though on truths.|
|And the dragon gave it its power, its throne, and great authority.||This heresy prevails and reigns as a result of its acceptance by the laity.|
|3. And I saw one of its heads appearing as though fatally wounded,||Their doctrine of faith alone does not accord with the Word, in which works are so often commanded.|
|and its mortal injury was healed.||A remedy for this explained.|
|And all the earth went marveling after the beast.||That doctrine and faith then accepted with joy.|
|4. Then they worshiped the dragon which gave authority to the beast;||Their acknowledgment that the doctrine is such as declared by the leaders of the church and its teachers, who have caused the doctrine to prevail as a result of its acceptance by the general populace.|
|and they worshiped the beast,||An acknowledgment by the general populace that the doctrine is a sacred truth.|
|saying, "Who is like the beast? Who can fight against it?"||The preeminence of that doctrine because no one can dispute it.|
|5. And it was given a mouth speaking great and blasphemous things,||It teaches evils and falsities.|
|and it was given authority to do so for forty-two months.||The scope to teach and practice the evils and falsities accompanying that doctrine even to the end of that church, until the beginning of a new one.|
|6. Then it opened its mouth in blasphemies against God and His name,||Their assertions, which are scandalous, against the Divine itself and the Lord's Divine humanity, and at the same time against everything that the church has from the Word by which the Lord is worshiped.|
|and against His tabernacle, and those who dwell in heaven.||Scandalous assertions against the Lord's celestial church and against heaven.|
|7. It was granted it to make war with the saints and overcome them.||They attacked the Word's Divine truths and overturned them.|
|And it was given authority over every tribe, tongue, and nation.||Their consequent dominion over everything connected with the church, over everything pertaining to its doctrine and over everything pertaining to its life.|
|8. All who dwell on the earth will worship it, all whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb||They all acknowledged that heresy as a sacred tenet of the church, all but those who believed in the Lord.|
|slain from the foundation of the world.||The Lord's Divine humanity unacknowledged from the inception of the church.|
|9. If anyone has an ear, let him hear.||Let people who wish to be wise pay attention to this.|
|10. Anyone who leads into captivity shall go into captivity;||Someone who uses that heresy to draw others away from believing rightly and living rightly is drawn by his own falsities and evils into hell.|
|anyone who kills with the sword must be killed with the sword.||Someone who uses falsities to destroy another's soul is destroyed by falsities and perishes.|
|Here is the patience and the faith of the saints.||Through the temptations or trials occasioned by these falsities a person of the Lord's New Church is examined to discover his character in respect to his life and faith.|
|11. Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth,||The clergy who are caught up in the dragon's doctrine and faith regarding God and salvation.|
|and it had two horns like a lamb and spoke like a dragon.||They quote the Word in speaking, teaching and writing as though it were the Lord's Divine truth, and yet it is truth falsified.|
|12. And it exercises all the authority of the first beast in its presence,||They have defended the dogmas, and the dogmas prevail in consequence of it.|
|and causes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose mortal injury was healed.||By supporting arguments they have established that what the general populace has accepted be acknowledged as a sacred tenet of the church.|
|13. It also performs great signs,||Testifications that their teachings are true, even though they are false.|
|so as to even make fire come down from heaven to earth in the sight of men,||Assertions that their falsities are true.|
|14. and to lead astray those who dwell on the earth, because of the signs which it was granted to do in the presence of the beast,||Through their testifications and assertions they lead people in the church into errors.|
|telling those dwelling upon the earth to make an image of the beast that was injured by the sword and lived.||They induce people in the church to accept as doctrine that faith is the only means of salvation, for the reason stated.|
|15. It was also granted it to give breath to the image of the beast, that the image of the beast might speak||They were permitted to use the Word to defend the doctrine, so as to cause the doctrine to be seemingly animated by it.|
|and cause whoever does not worship the image of the beast to be killed.||They pronounce damnation on people who do not acknowledge their doctrine of faith as a sacred doctrine of the church.|
|16. And it causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave,||All the people in Protestant Reformed church, of whatever condition, degree of education, or degree of intelligence.|
|to receive from it a mark on their right hand and on their foreheads,||No one is acknowledged as a Protestant Reformed Christian but one who accepts that doctrine in faith and love.|
|17. so that no one can buy or sell if he does not have the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of its name.||No one allowed to teach from the Word but one who acknowledges that doctrine and swears to a belief in it and love for it, and to such as is in conformity with it.|
|18. Here is wisdom:||From what we have said and explained in this chapter, it is the part of a wise person to see and understand the nature of the doctrine and faith among the clergy regarding God and salvation.|
|let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast,||One who is enlightened by the Lord can discern the character of the arguments the clergy use from the Word in defense of that doctrine and faith.|
|for it is the number of a man,||The character of the Word and so of the church.|
|and its number is 666.||Their character being this, that by them all the Word's truth has been falsified.|
And I saw a beast rising up out of the sea. This symbolizes the laity in the Protestant Reformed churches who are caught up in the doctrine and faith of the dragon regarding God and salvation.
The nature and character of the faith of the dragon may be seen in no. 537. The same faith continues to be the subject in this chapter, and the beast here that John saw rising up out of the sea means that faith among the laity, whereas the beast from the earth, described in verse 11, means that faith among the clergy.
That the dragon continues to be the subject here is apparent from the following statements in this chapter: that the dragon gave to the beast rising up out of the sea its power, its throne, and great authority (verse 2); that they worshiped the dragon which gave authority to the beast (verse 4); and, concerning the beast coming up out of the earth, that it spoke like a dragon (verse 11); and that it exercised all the authority of the first beast in the presence of the dragon (verse 12).
The laity are the people meant by the beast from the sea, and the clergy those meant by the beast from the earth, because the sea symbolizes the outer aspect of the church, and the land its inner aspect (no. 398 and elsewhere); and the laity are concerned with the external elements of the church's doctrine, while the clergy are concerned with its internal elements. That is why the beast from the earth is later called a false prophet. 3
That they are people in the Protestant Reformed churches is because the Protestant Reformed are the subject to the end of chapter 16, while Roman Catholics are the subject in chapters 17, 18. Then the subject after that is the Last Judgment and finally the New Church.
 These people were seen as beasts because the dragon is a beast, and because a beast in the Word symbolizes a person in respect to his affections - harmless and useful beasts a person in respect to good affections, and harmful and useless ones a person in respect to evil affections. People of the church are in general called sheep, therefore, and a company of them a flock, and one who teaches is called a shepherd.
That is also why the Word in respect to its power, affection, understanding and wisdom is described above in chapter four by four living creatures - a lion, a calf, an eagle and a human being - and an understanding of the Word by horses in chapter six.
The reason is that in the spiritual world a person's affections look at a distance like animals, as we have often said before; and regarded in themselves, animals are no more than embodiments of natural affections, while people are embodiments not only of natural affections, but also at the same time of spiritual affections.
 That animals mean people in respect to their affections can be seen from the following passages:
You... will cause to fall a kindly rain. You will confirm Your inheritance... The beast, Your congregation, 4 shall dwell in it. (Psalms 68:9-10)
...every wild beast of the forest is Mine, the beasts on a thousand mountains. I know every bird of the mountains; the beast of My fields is with Me. (Psalms 50:10-11)
...Assyria was a cedar in Lebanon... ...its height was exalted... All the birds of the heavens made their nests in its boughs, and under its branches all the beasts of the field brought forth their young, and in its shade all great nations made their home. (Ezekiel 31:3-6, cf. 31:10, 31:13, Daniel 4:10-16)
In that day I will make a covenant for them with the beast of the field, and with the bird of the heavens... And I will betroth you to Me forever. (Hosea 2:18-19)
Rejoice and be glad! ...Do not be afraid, you beasts of My fields, for the habitations of the wilderness have become grassy meadows. (Joel 2:21-23)
In that day there shall be a great tumult... Judah... will fight against Jerusalem... And such also shall be the plague on the horse, the mule, the camel, and the donkey, and every beast... And it shall come to pass that the remnant... shall go up (to Jerusalem). (Zechariah 14:13-16)
Birds shall abominate him, and every beast of the earth shall disdain him. (Isaiah 18:6)
...you, son of man..., "Say to every winged bird and to every beast of the field, '...Gather together... to My sacrifice... on the mountains of Israel... (Thus) I will set My glory among the nations.'" (Ezekiel 39:17-21)
(Jehovah) gathers the outcasts of Israel... Every beast of My fields, come... (Isaiah 56:8-9)
(Jehovah) will destroy Assyria... There shall lie down in her midst every wild beast of the nation, both the desert owl and the screech owl in her pomegranates... (Zephaniah 2:13-14)
(The sheep) were scattered without a shepherd, and they became food for every wild beast of the field... (Ezekiel 34:5, cf. 34:8)
I will cast you out on the face of the field, and cause to dwell on you every bird of the heavens. And with you I will satiate the wild beasts of the whole earth. (Ezekiel 32:4; see also 5:17; 29:5; 33:27; 39:4, Jeremiah 15:3; 16:4; 19:7; 27:5-6)
An enemy reproaches Jehovah... Do not deliver the life of (the) turtledove to the beast! (Psalms 74:18-19)
"I saw in... vision... four... beasts coming up from the sea... The first was like a lion, and had eagle's wings... ...a second, like a bear... ...(a third) like a leopard... ...and a fourth..., dreadful... (Daniel 7:2-7)
...the Spirit drove (Jesus) out into the wilderness. And He was... with the beasts; and the angels ministered to Him. (Mark 1:12-13)
 He was not with beasts, but with devils, who are here meant by beasts.
So also in other places where beasts and wild beasts are mentioned, such as Isaiah 35:9; 43:20; Jeremiah 12:4, 8-10; Ezekiel 8:10; 34:23, 25, 28; 38:18-20; Hosea 4:2-3; 13:8; Exodus 23:28-30; Leviticus 26:6; Deuteronomy 7:22; 32:24. Beasts in these places symbolize people in respect to their affections.
 Man and beast mentioned together in the following passages symbolize a person in respect to his spiritual affection and in respect to his natural affection: Jeremiah 7:20; 21:6; 27:5; 31:27; 32:43; 33:10-12; 36:29; 50:3; Psalms 36:6; Numbers 18:15.
All the animals that were sacrificed symbolized good affections. So, too, animals that were eaten. And the converse animals that were not to be eaten (Leviticus 20:25-26).
1. 2. The word translated as "jewels" here means diadems or crowns in the original Greek and Latin, but the writer's definitions of the term elsewhere make plain that he regularly and consistently interpreted it to mean jewels or gems.
3. Revelation 16:13; 19:20; 20:104. The beast, Your congregation, reflects the Latin translation of the Bible by Sebastian Schmidt, which includes the phrase translated as Your congregation in parentheses as an alternate reading. This is actually the preferred reading, but "the beast" accords with Roman Catholic tradition.