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Jonah 3:7

Finnish: Pyhä Raamattu (1933/1938)         

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7 Ja hän huudatti Niinivessä: "Kuninkaan ja hänen ylimystensä määräys kuuluu: Älkööt ihmiset älköötkä eläimet-raavaat ja lampaat-maistako mitään, käykö laitumella tai vettä juoko.

   Study the Inner Meaning

Exploring the Meaning of Jonah 3      

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[10])

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[2])

"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[2])

"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[2])

"…the ‘wrath of anger’ is attributed to Jehovah, and consequently ‘repentance.’" (Arcana Coelestia 588[2])

"…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.

From Swedenborg's Works

Main explanations:

The Inner Meaning of the Prophets and Psalms 213

Other references to this verse:

Arcana Coelestia 4779, 7523

Apocalypse Revealed 337, 492, 567

References from Swedenborg's unpublished works:

Apocalypse Explained 408, 637, 650

Other New Christian Commentary

  Stories and their meanings:

  Bible Study Videos:

Word/Phrase Explanations

"Beasts" represent the affection for doing good things, a true desire to do them from the heart. In the negative sense, "beasts" stand for the...

Resources for parents and teachers

The items listed here are provided courtesy of our friends at the General Church of the New Jerusalem. You can search/browse their whole library at the New Church Vineyard website.

 Beauty for Ashes
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 9 - 12

 How the Lord Saved Jonah
A retelling of the story for young children with beautiful color illustrations. 
Story | Ages 4 - 6

Article | Ages 15 - 17

Lesson outline provides teaching ideas with questions for discussion, projects, and activities.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 7 - 10

 Jonah and the Gourd
A New Church Bible story explanation for teaching Sunday school. Includes lesson materials for Primary (3-8 years), Junior (9-11 years), Intermediate (12-14 years), Senior (15-17 years) and Adults.
Teaching Support | Ages over 3

 Jonah and the Gourd (3-5 years)
Project | Ages 4 - 6

 Jonah and the Gourd (6-8 years)
Project | Ages 7 - 10

 Jonah and the Gourd (9-11 years)
Project | Ages 11 - 14

 Jonah and the Great Fish
A lesson for younger children with discussion ideas and a project.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 4 - 6

 Jonah Goes to Nineveh
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 Quotes: Divine Providence and Evil
Teaching Support | Ages over 15

 The Prophet Jonah
This article shows how the Lord tried to teach Jonah to be merciful and kind when Jonah disobeyed the Lord because of his hatred toward the Assyrians. 
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14



137 - Omnipresence      

By Jonathan Rose

This video is a part of the Spirit and Life Bible Study series, whose purpose is to look at the Bible, the whole Bible, and nothing but the Bible through a Swedenborgian lens.

Title: Omnipresence

Topic: Trinity

Summary: We look at what Scripture says about God's omnipresence and how it is that God can be everywhere, and yet seem absent or distant.

Use the reference links below to follow along in the Bible as you watch.

Psalms 46; 139:8, 10
Jeremiah 1:4; 23:23-24
Amos 9:1-2
Acts of the Apostles 17:27-28
Ephesians 4:9-10
John 8:58; 12:37, 39
Psalms 5:6-8
Leviticus 26:11-12
Ezekiel 34:20, 25, 30
John 12:26; 14:1
2 Corinthians 6:16
1 John 4:16
Revelation 21:3
Jonah 1:1, 15, 17; 2:9-10, 3

To continue browsing while you watch, play the video in a new window.

Spirit and Life Bible Study broadcast from 4/24/2013. The complete series is available at:

From Swedenborg's Works


Arcana Coelestia #4779

Arcana Coelestia (Elliott translation)      

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4779. 'And put sackcloth on his loins' means mourning for lost good. This is clear from the meaning of 'putting sackcloth over the loins' as an act representative of mourning for lost good. For 'the loins' means conjugial love and from this all celestial and spiritual love, 3021, 3294, 4277, 4280, 4575. This meaning of 'the loins' is derived from correspondence, for as all the organs, members, and viscera of the human body correspond to the Grand Man, as shown at the ends of chapters, so the loins correspond to those who are within the Grand Man, which is heaven, and in whom genuine conjugial love has existed. And because conjugial love is the fundamental of all kinds of love 'the loins' therefore means in general all celestial and spiritual love. From this arose the custom of putting sackcloth over their loins when they mourned over lost good; for all good belongs to love.

[2] The fact that people put sackcloth over their loins to testify to this mourning becomes clear from the historical and the prophetical parts of the Word, as in Amos,

I will turn your feasts into mourning, and all your songs into lamentation; so will I cause sackcloth to come up over all loins, and baldness over every head, and I will make it as the mourning for an only-begotten sore, and its end as a bitter day. Amos 8:10.

'Causing sackcloth to come up over all loins' stands for mourning over lost forms of good, 'all loins' standing for all forms of the good of love. In Jonah,

The men of Nineveh believed in God, and therefore they proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloths, from the greatest even to the least of them. And when word reached the king of Nineveh he rose up from his throne, and laid aside his royal robe from upon him, and covered himself with sackcloth and sat in ashes. And he proclaimed that man and beast were to be covered with sackcloths. Jonah 3:5-8.

Clearly this was a sign representative of mourning over evil on account of which Nineveh was to perish, and so mourning over lost good.

(References: Jonah 3:5-6, Jonah 3:8)

[3] In Ezekiel,

They will let forth a cry over you with their voice and will cry out bitterly; and they will cause dust to come up over their heads, and will roll themselves in ashes, and will make themselves bald over you, and will gird themselves with sackcloths. Ezekiel 27:30-31.

This refers to Tyre, each action mentioned here being representative of mourning for falsities and evils and so for lost truths and goods. 'Letting forth a cry and crying out bitterly' stands for lamentation over falsity or lost truth, 2240; 'causing dust to come up over the head' stands for having been condemned on account of evil, 278; 'rolling themselves in ashes' for having been condemned on account of falsities; 'making themselves bald' for mourning because the natural man has no truth, 3301 (end); 'girding themselves with sackcloths' for mourning because the natural man has no good. Similarly in Jeremiah,

O daughter of My people, gird yourself with sackcloth. and roll yourself in ashes; make mourning as for an only-begotten son, very bitter wailing; for suddenly he who lays waste will come upon you. Jeremiah 6:26.

And elsewhere in the same prophet,

The elders of the daughter of Zion will sit on the ground, they will become silent; they will cause dust to come up over their head, they will gird themselves with sackcloths; the virgins of Jerusalem will cause their heads to come down to the ground. Lamentations 2:10.

Here similar representative actions are described which, as above, were appropriate for the types of good and truth which had become lost.

[4] In Isaiah,

A prophecy concerning Moab. He will go up to Bayith, and to Dibon into the high places to weep; over Nebo and over Medeba Moab will howl. On all heads there is baldness; every beard is shaved off; in its streets they have girded themselves untie sackcloth; on its roots and in its streets everyone will wail, descending into weeping. Isaiah 15:2-3.

'Moab' stands for those who adulterate all good, 2468. The mourning over that adulteration meant by 'Moab' is described by the kinds of things that correspond to that type of evil. Virtually the same description therefore occurs in Jeremiah,

Every head is bald, and every beard shaved off; upon all hands are cuts, and over the loins is sackcloth; on all the roofs of Moab and in its streets there is mourning everywhere. Jeremiah 48:37-38.

(References: Isaiah 15:1-3)

[5] When king Hezekiah heard the blasphemous utterances of the Rabshakeh against Jerusalem 'he rent his clothes, and covered himself with sackcloth', Isaiah 37:1; 2 Kings 19:1. The reason for mourning was that his utterances were directed against Jehovah, the king, and Jerusalem. Their being utterances made in opposition to truth is meant by the king rending his clothes, 4763, and utterances made in opposition to good by his covering himself with sackcloth; for when in the Word truth is dealt with, so also is good. This is so because of the heavenly marriage, which is a marriage of good to truth and of truth to good in every single part; as also in David,

You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; You have loosed 1 my sackcloth and girded me with gladness. Psalms 30:11.

Here 'dancing' has reference to truths, and 'gladness' to goods, as they also do in other parts of the Word. 'Loosing sackcloth' accordingly means releasing from mourning over lost good.

[6] In 2 Samuel,

David said to Joab and to all the people who were with him, Rend your clothes, and gird sackcloth round you, and wail before Abner. 2 Samuel 3:31.

Because an outrageous act had been committed against that which was true and good David therefore commanded them to rend their clothes and gird sackcloths round them. Something similar occurred in the case of Ahab, for when he heard Elijah's words that he was to be cut off because he had acted contrary to what was fair and right - meaning in the spiritual sense contrary to what is true and good - 'he tore his clothes apart, and put sackcloth over his flesh, and fasted, and lay in sackcloth, and went about slowly, 1 Kings 21:27.

[7] The use of 'sackcloth' to refer to lost good is also clear in John,

When he opened the sixth seal, behold, a great earthquake took place, and the sun became black as sackcloth, and the full moon became like blood. Revelation 6:12.

'An earthquake' stands for an alteration in the state of the Church as regards good and truth, 3355. 'The sun' stands for the good of love, 1529, 1530, 2441, 2495, 4060, 4300, 4696, and therefore 'sackcloth' here has reference to lost good. 'The moon' stands for the truth of faith, 1529, 1530, 2120, 2495, 4060, and 'blood' has reference to this because 'blood' means truth that has been falsified and rendered profane, 4735.

(References: Arcana Coelestia 1529-1530)

[8] Because 'being clothed in sackcloth and rolling oneself in ashes' represented mourning over evils and falsities, it also represented both humility and repentance. For humility begins first with the acknowledgement that in oneself one is nothing but a source of evil and falsity. Repentance begins with the same acknowledgement and does not become a reality except through humility, and humility does not become a reality except through heartfelt confession that in oneself one is such a source of evil and falsity. For 'putting on sackcloth' was an expression of humility, see 1 Kings 21:27-29, also of repentance, Matthew 11:21; Luke 10:13. But the fact that this was no more than some representative, and so merely an external activity of the body and not an internal activity of the heart, is evident in Isaiah,

Is he to bow his head like a rush and to lie in sackcloth and ashes? Will you call this a fast, and a day of that which is pleasing to Jehovah? Is not this the fast that I choose, to loose 2 the bonds of wickedness, to break bread for the hungry? Isaiah 58:5-7.


1. literally, opened

2. literally, to open


(References: Genesis 37:34; Isaiah 15:1-3; Jonah 3:5-6, Jonah 3:8)

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From Swedenborg's Works

Inbound References:

The New Jerusalem and its Heavenly Doctrine 121

References from Swedenborg's unpublished works:

Apocalypse Explained 393

Other New Christian Commentary

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