The Bible

John 3

English: King James Version

Study the Inner Meaning

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1 There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews:

2 The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.

3 Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.

4 Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born?

5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

7 Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.

8 The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.

9 Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be?

10 Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?

11 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness.

12 If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?

13 And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.

14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up:

15 That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.

16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.

18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

19 And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.

20 For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.

21 But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.

22 After these things came Jesus and his disciples into the land of Judaea; and there he tarried with them, and baptized.

23 And John also was baptizing in Aenon near to Salim, because there was much water there: and they came, and were baptized.

24 For John was not yet cast into prison.

25 Then there arose a question between some of John's disciples and the Jews about purifying.

26 And they came unto John, and said unto him, Rabbi, he that was with thee beyond Jordan, to whom thou barest witness, behold, the same baptizeth, and all men come to him.

27 John answered and said, A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven.

28 Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before him.

29 He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom's voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled.

30 He must increase, but I must decrease.

31 He that cometh from above is above all: he that is of the earth is earthly, and speaketh of the earth: he that cometh from heaven is above all.

32 And what he hath seen and heard, that he testifieth; and no man receiveth his testimony.

33 He that hath received his testimony hath set to his seal that God is true.

34 For he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him.

35 The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand.

36 He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.

← John 2   John 4 →

   Study the Inner Meaning
From Swedenborg's Works

Explanations or references:

Arcana Coelestia 30, 38, 97, 124, 675, 1017, 1608, ...

Apocalypse Revealed 17, 20, 23, 49, 50, 60, 81, ...

A Brief Exposition of New Church Doctrine 44, 101, 111, 120

Conjugial Love 82, 117, 525

Divine Providence 82, 88, 159, 173, 200, 230, 324

Doctrine of the Lord 1, 9, 19, 20, 25, 27, 31, ...

Sacred Scripture 51, 87, 114

Doctrine of Life 2, 17, 24, 39, 50

Heaven and Hell 5, 129

Interaction of the Soul and Body 6

True Christian Religion 2, 8, 85, 92, 107, 111, 113, ...

The New Jerusalem and its Heavenly Doctrine 154, 173, 181, 186, 204, 209, 282, ...

References from Swedenborg's unpublished works:

Apocalypse Explained 27, 70, 71, 84, 102, 126, 130, ...

Canons of the New Church 18, 31, 43

Charity 170, 201

Coronis (An Appendix to True Christian Religion) 21, 25, 54, 59

Spiritual Experiences 479

Marriage 2, 8, 85, 92, 107, 111, 113

Scriptural Confirmations 2, 7, 14, 25, 70, 88

Other New Christian Commentary

  Stories and their meanings:

Hop to Similar Bible Verses

Numbers 21:9

1 Kings 17:24, 22:8, 18

2 Kings 17:9

Job 14:4, 24:13, 17, 36:22

Proverbs 30:4

Ecclesiastes 11:5

Ezekiel 8:12, 36:25, 26

Daniel 7:14

Word/Phrase Explanations

man of the
'The man of the right hand,' as in Psalm 80:17, signifies the Lord with respect to the Word. He is called 'the man of the...

"Man" is a tricky word to discuss, because the Hebrew of the Old Testament uses six different words that are generally translated as "man," with...

The Pharisees were a sect of the Jewish church at the time of the New Testament. The name comes from a root that means "separate",...

'A ruler' or 'governor' signifies goods of the church, and in the opposite sense, falsities.

It would be simple to think that when the Bible mentions "Jews" it is simply talking about the descendants of the tribe of Judah, the...

The sun in the Bible represents the Lord, with its heat representing His love and its light representing His wisdom. “Daytime,” then, represents a state...

Like so many common verbs, the meaning of "know" in the Bible is varied and dependent on context. And in some cases – when it...

As with common verbs in general, the meaning of “come” in the Bible is highly dependent on context – its meaning is determined largely by...

The Lord is love itself, expressed in the form of wisdom itself. Love, then, is His essence, His inmost. Wisdom - the loving understanding of...

The Bible often speaks of signs and miracles as things that convinced people of the Lord's leading. Swedenborg divides the two, identifying "signs" as things...

As with many common verbs, the meaning of “to say” in the Bible is highly dependent on context. Who is speaking? Who is hearing? What...

In a general sense, being "born" in the Bible represents one spiritual state producing another, usually some form of love or affection producing or "giving...

The symbolic meaning of "seeing" is "understanding," which is obvious enough that it has become part of common language (think about it; you might see...

In the most general sense, a kingdom in the Bible represents a church. In a more specific sense, a kingdom represents a church in regards...

Swedenborg tells us that space and time in the physical world correspond to states of life in the spiritual world. So when the Bible talks...

All changes of place in the Bible represent changes in spiritual state. “Entering” – usually used as entering someone’s house or “going in unto” someone...

The number "two" has two different meanings in the Bible. In most cases "two" indicates a joining together or unification. This is easy to see...

Time is an aspect of the physical world, but according to Swedenborg is not an aspect of the spiritual world. The same is true of...

In general, mothers in the Bible represent the Lord's church on earth, or the church among those who know and follow the Lord. In some...

'Womb,' as in Genesis 49:25, signifies the conjunction of good and truth. The term 'belly' is used where truths are being discussed, and the term...

Water was obviously of tremendous importance in Biblical times (and every other time). It is the basis of life, the essential ingredient in all drinks,...

There are two aspects to the life of each person. We might call them "heart" and "mind," a part of us that wants and feels...

Flesh has several meanings just in its most obvious form. It can mean all living creatures as when the Lord talks about the flood "destroying...

Used as nouns, "marvels" and "wonders" are generally synonymous with miracles, which are expressions of the Lord's power in the world. In particular, the Lord...

In the Bible, the wind represents the power of the Lord working on us through the heavens. The Lord is love itself, and by extending...

'To tell' signifies perceiving, because in the spiritual world, or in heaven, they do not need to tell what they think because they communicate every...

In the physical world, the places we inhabit and the distances between them are physical realities, and we have to get our physical bodies through...

Every one
The phrase “Every one,” where it occurs in Genesis 20:7, signifies every thing or all things.

A company might have executives setting policy and strategy, engineers designing products, line workers building them, managers handling personnel and others handling various functions. They...

'Israel,' in Jeremiah 23:8, signifies the spiritual natural church. The children of Israel dispersed all the literal sense of the Word by falsities. 'The children...

In court, a witness is someone who saw a crime being committed, or observed something that could help determine the guilt or innocence of the...

"Heaven" and "heavens" are used many times in the Bible, with a couple of variations of meaning. Sometimes it is relatively literal, including times when...

'A son,' as in Genesis 5:28, signifies the rise of a new church. 'Son,' as in Genesis 24:3, signifies the Lord’s rationality regarding good. 'A...

Moses's name appears 814 times in the Bible (KJV), third-most of any one character (Jesus at 961 actually trails David at 991). He himself wrote...

The idea of "lifting" is used in a number of different ways in the Bible. In general, it means connecting with a higher spiritual state...

Serpents in the Bible represent reasoning that is based on what we know through our senses. This is the lowest and most outward mode of...

'Wilderness' signifies something with little life in it, as described in the internal sense in Luke 1:80 'Wilderness' signifies somewhere there is no good because...

'To perish,' or 'die,' relates to damnation, or the state in hell.

In many cases, the use of “eternity” in the Bible is pretty literal, simple meaning forever. This is especially true when the text is referring...

To some degree, there really is no spiritual meaning to the word “love” in the Bible. Why? Because if you truly love another, that is...

'Being sent' everywhere signifies, in an internal sense, going forth, as in John 17:8. In similar manner, it is said of the holy of the...

'Might' denotes the forces or power of truth.

To be saved or rescued means getting true ideas that we can hold to even in the face of a storm of false thinking. Sometimes...

The meaning of "believe" in the Bible is pretty straightforward, but runs deeper than what appears on the surface. When in the Old Testament people...

It's easy to see that names are important in the Bible. Jehovah changed Abram and Sarai to Abraham and Sarah, changed Jacob to Israel and...

Son of God
The Lord, in some places, calls Himself 'the son of God,' at other times, 'the son of man (ἄνθρωπος).' This is always according to the...

Nov. 4, 1879: Thomas Edison filed a patent for a long-burning light bulb. Nov. 5, 1879: The light bulb was universally accepted as the symbol...

The relationship between men and women is deep and nuanced, and one entire book of the Writings – Conjugial Love or Love in Marriage –...

"Darkness" is a state without light. "Light" is truth from the Lord, so "darkness" is a state where truth is lacking.

In John 14:6, 'the way is doctrine,' 'the truth' is every thing pertaining to doctrine, and 'the life' is the essential good which is the...

wrought (also entwined or entwisted) is predicated of the natural scientific principle, and in Isaiah 45:13, of divine natural truth.

When we read the Gospels and see Jesus addressing the disciples, we assume His words are meant for us as well. And indeed they are!...

Land' in the Word, denotes the church, for the things which signify the church also signify the things relating to the church, for these constitute...

land of
'The land of Rameses,' as in Genesis 47:11, signifies the inmost of the spiritual principle in the natural mind.

Jesus as a man in the Bible represents Divine Truth, the pure and perfect expression of the Lord's infinite love. That truth is contained within...

'Near,' in the Word, signifies presence and conjunction. 'To be near' signifies being on internal levels. Near,' as in Genesis 19:20, signifies truth bordering upon...

Intellectual things – ideas, knowledge, facts, even insight and understanding – are more separate and free-standing than emotional things, and it’s easier to imagine numbering...

'The house of the prison' denotes the vastation of falsity, and also falsity itself.

The river Jordan separates the land of Canaan from the lands to the east. This separation represents the division of the human mind into an internal...

Like many verbs, the spiritual meaning of "bearing" something depends greatly on context – what it is that's being borne, and why. It is further...

Christ is one of the names of the Lord. It derives from Greek, and means "the anointed one," a King or Messiah. Christ as King...

In most cases, the meaning of "before" is pretty straightforward, both as a way of assessing relative time, and in its use meaning "in someone's...

It is because of a celestial and angelic proprium, or selfhood, that the church is called 'a woman,' 'a wife,' 'a bride,' 'a virgin,' and...

On a human level, a bride represents the affection for what is true, and the bridegroom represents the affection for what is good. Most references...

In the Bible, there is a careful distinction between the word “brother” and the word “companion” or “friend.” That’s partly because the people of Israel...

Feelings of joy and rejoicing flow from our affections, not from our thoughts. Some people might argue that that's not true, that you can rejoice...

In Genesis 27:22, 'voice' relates to truth, and 'hand,' to good.

When the Lord said that all things which were written concerning him were fulfilled, he meant that all things were fulfilled in their inmost sense.

'Produce' denotes fruit derived from the good of charity, and truth of faith.

"Earth" in the Bible can mean a person or a group of like-minded people as in a church. But it refers specifically to the external...

Like "say," the word "speak" refers to thoughts and feelings moving from our more internal spiritual levels to our more external ones – and ultimately...

Thanks to modern science, we now understand that hearing actually happens in the brain, not the ears. The ears collect vibrations in the air and...

'Words,' as in Exodus 34:28, signify everything pertaining to doctrine.

Like other common verbs, the meaning of "give" in the Bible is affected by context: who is giving what to whom? In general, though, giving...

'To measure' signifies knowing and exploring the quality of something.

Father in the Word means what is most interior, and in those things that are following the Lord's order, it means what is good. In...

all things
The Lord is life itself, is the Creator of the universe, and is the source of life on an ongoing basis. So in a literal...

Scientists believe that one of the most crucial developments in the evolution of humans was bipedalism – walking on two legs. That left our hands...

'Wrath,' as in Genesis 49:7, signifies aversion from truth. 'Great wrath,' as in Revelation 12:12, signifies hatred against the new church.

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.

 Food for Thought: Baptism - A Doorway to Eternal Life
Baptism creates an introductory link between a person and the Lord.
Activity | Ages over 15

 Man Who Visited the Lord
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 Memory Verse: Jacob's Ladder
Activity | Ages 4 - 14

 New Beginnings
Worship Talk | Ages over 18

Jesus' conversation with Nicodemus reveals important insights into Jesus' mission on earth.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 11 - 17

 Prayers for Teens: Water and Baptism
Activity | Ages 15 - 17

 The Lord and Nicodemus
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

 The Lord and Nicodemus (3-5 years)
Project | Ages 4 - 6

 The Lord and Nicodemus (6-8 years)
Project | Ages 7 - 10

 The Lord and Nicodemus (9-11 years)
Project | Ages 11 - 14

 The Meaning and Purpose of Baptism
Explains how baptism creates an inner link to the Lord through the angels and an outer link via the Word and the church. 
Worship Talk | Ages over 18

 The Power of the Lord’s Word
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 9 - 12

 The Purpose of Creation
Birth brings a person into the natural world, but God's ultimate purpose is that a person be born again into heavenly life, the life of the spirit.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 11 - 17

 Visit of Nicodemus
Family lessons provide a worship talk and a variety of activities for children and teens..
Religion Lesson | Ages 4 - 17

 Why Are We Here?
Lesson and activities to explore why we were created - what God intends for us.
Religion Lesson | Ages over 15


Explanation of John 3

By Rev. John Clowes M.A.

Explaining the Inner Meaning of John 3

Verses 3:1, 2. That some in the perverted church, in consequence of the miracles which the Lord worked, seek conjunction with him, and acknowledge his doctrine to be divine.

Verse 3:3. To whom it is taught, that man cannot attain any perception of heavenly good and truth, except by regeneration.

Verses 3:4, 5. This however is understood by those of the perverted church, according to a natural idea, and not according to a spiritual idea, and therefore they are further instructed, that regeneration is effected by a reception of the truths of faith in man's understanding, and by a love and life in conformity with those truths.

Verses 3:6, 7. Because man is at first born merely natural, but has the capacity of afterwards becoming spiritual, by a life according to truths derived from the Word, and therefore he ought not to regard regeneration as a strange, or irrational operation.

Verse 3:8. Yet that scarcely any of the innumerable arcana of regeneration come to the knowledge and perception of man.

Verses 3:9, 10. This cannot be comprehended by those of the perverted church, who are in the knowledges of external truth, when yet those knowledges ought to have conducted them to the apprehension of internal truth.

Verses 3:11, 12. For the literal or external sense of the Word proceeds from, and is filled with, the interior things of the divine truth and wisdom, which things are rejected by those who remain in the love of mere natural things, and who, on that account, cannot comprehend celestial and spiritual things.

Verse 3:13. For celestial and spiritual things can only be comprehended by those who receive into their minds and lives the divine truth, inasmuch as the divine truth alone comes down from heaven, and therefore is alone capable of elevating any into the things of heaven.

Verses 3:14, 15. That this divine truth therefore assumed a sensual corporeal principle here on earth, to the intent that sensual corporeal men might have a divine object of faith presented to them, and being thus elevated to conjunction with that object, might be preserved from the defilement and death of merely sensual and corporeal life.

Verse 3:16. That this was effected from the divine love, to the intent that mankind might no longer continue immersed in mere natural love, but might be raised into the sphere of celestial and spiritual love.

Verses 3:17, 18. Wherefore God assumed the Human [nature] to the intent that mankind might conjoin goodness and truth in their minds and lives, since a right faith in the Divine Humanity of the Lord leads to such conjunction, whereas a want of that faith leads to separation.

Verses 3:19, 20. For the Divine Humanity of the Lord is divine truth, and if divine truth be rejected in consequence of evil love, then nothing appertains to man but the false principle of evil.

Verse 3:21. On the other hand, if divine truth be loved and obeyed, man is conducted to the Lord's Divine Humanity, because he is willing to acknowledge that all the good which he wills and does is from that divine source.

Verses 3:22, 23, 24. That when the Lord had finished these sayings, he instructs the perverted church in the truths of purification, which truths also were taught in abundance by those who were principled in charity and faith, whilst they were in a state of freedom.

Verses 3:25, 26, 27. Nevertheless these truths are received with doubt by those of the perverted church, and therefore it is taught that all purifying truth is from the Divine Truth, and thus that all wisdom, intelligence, reason, and science, are not of man, but of the Lord in his Divine Humanity.

Verses 3:28, 29. And that the design of all representative truth is only to prepare mankind for the reception of the Divine Truth, that thus good and truth may be conjoined in the church, and the church may rejoice in being instructed concerning the precepts of faith, and in receiving them in faith and obedience.

Verses 3:30, 31. Thus the Divine Truth becomes all in all in the church, as being inmost truth, and all other good and truth only administer externally.

Verses 3:32, 33. For the Divine Truth testifies concerning the Lord, both as to his divine wisdom and divine love, and notwithstanding its being rejected by the generality of mankind, brings conviction along with it to those who receive it.

Verses 3:34, 35. Which truth is from the Lord's Divine Humanity, whose intelligence and wisdom are infinite, being in eternal union with the divine good, and thus possessing the all of that good.

Verse 3:36. Whosoever therefore receives truth from that Divine Humanity with a right faith, is made partaker also of the divine good, but whoever rejects it, can have no apprehension of that good, but remains in his own natural evils.

From Swedenborg's Works

Arcana Coelestia #2702

Arcana Coelestia (Elliott translation)

Study this Passage

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2702. 'And she saw a well of water' means the Lord's Word from which truths are drawn. This is clear from the meaning of 'a well of water' and of 'a spring' as the Word, also as doctrine drawn from the Word, and consequently as truth itself, dealt with in what follows immediately below; and from the meaning of 'water' as truth. That 'a well' which has water in it, and 'a spring', mean the Word of the Lord, also doctrine drawn from the Word, and so consequently truth itself, may become clear from very many places. Here because the subject is the spiritual Church the word 'well' and not spring is used in subsequent verses of this chapter,

Abraham reproached Abimelech on account of the well which Abimelech's servants had seized (verse 25).

Also in Genesis 26,

All the wells which the servants of Isaac's father had dug, in the days of Abraham his father, the Philistines stopped up. And Isaac returned and dug [again] the wells of water which they had dug in the days of Abraham his father, for the Philistines had been stopping them up after Abraham's death. And Isaac's servants dug in the valley and found there a well of living waters. And they dug another well and disputed over that also. And he moved on from there and dug another well, and they did not dispute over that. And it happened on that day, that Isaac's servants came and pointed out to him the reasons for the well which they had dug; and they said to him, We have found waters (verses 15, 18-22, 25, 32).

(References: Genesis 26:15, Genesis 26:15-22, 26:18-19, 26:18-22, 26:20-21, 26:22, 26:25, 26:32)

[2] In these verses nothing else is meant by 'wells' than matters of doctrine - both those about which they disputed, and those about which they did not. Otherwise their digging of wells and their disputing so many times about them would not be important enough to be mentioned in the Divine Word.

'The well' referred to in Moses in a similar way means the Word or doctrine,

They travelled to Beer. This was the well of which Jehovah said to Moses, Gather the people and I will give them water. Then Israel sang this song: Spring up, O well! Answer from it! The well which the princes dug, which the willing ones 1 of the people dug out, as directed by the law-giver, with their staves. Numbers 21:16-18.

Because 'a well' meant the Word, doctrine drawn from it, and truth itself, this prophetic song therefore existed in Israel - a song in which the doctrine of truth is the inner theme, as is clear from everything contained in the internal sense. From this the name Beer is derived, and the name Beersheba, 2 and its meaning in the internal sense as doctrine itself.

[3] Doctrine however that has no truths in it is called 'a pit', or a well with no water in it, as in Jeremiah,

Their illustrious ones sent their lesser ones to the water; they came to the pits; they found no water; they returned with their vessels empty. Jeremiah 14:3.

Here 'waters' stands for truths, 'the pits in which they found no waters' for doctrine that has no truth within it. In the same prophet,

My people have committed two evils; they have forsaken Me, the source of living waters, to hollow out pits for themselves, broken pits, which cannot hold water. Jeremiah 2:13.

Here in a similar way 'pits' stands for doctrines that are not true, 'broken pits' for matters of doctrine that have been ravaged.

[4] As regards 'a spring' meaning the Word, also doctrine, and therefore truth, this is seen in Isaiah,

The afflicted and the needy were seeking water, and there was none; their tongue was parched with thirst. I Jehovah will hearken to them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them. I will open rivers on the sloping heights, and springs in the midst of valleys; I will make the wilderness into a pool of water, and the dry land into streams of water. Isaiah 41:17-18.

In the first place this refers to the desolation of truth, which is meant by the statements that 'the afflicted and needy sought water and there was none', and that 'their tongue was parched with thirst'. Then it refers, as in the present verses in Genesis where Hagar is the subject, to the comfort, renewal, and instruction following desolation, which are meant by the promise that 'Jehovah will open the rivers on the sloping heights, will place springs in the midst of valleys, make the wilderness into a pool of water, and the dry land into streams of water', all of which have to do with the doctrine of truth and the affection acquired from this.

[5] In Moses,

Israel dwelt securely, alone at Jacob's spring, in a land of corn and new wine; even his heavens distil the dew. Deuteronomy 33:28.

'Jacob's spring' stands for the Word and the doctrine of truth drawn from it. It was because Jacob's spring meant the Word, and the doctrine of truth drawn from it, that when the Lord came to Jacob's spring He talked to the woman from Samaria and taught what is meant by the spring and by water. The incident is described in John as follows,

Jesus came to a city of Samaria called Sychar. Jacob's spring was there. Jesus therefore, weary from the journey, sat thus by the spring. A woman from Samaria came to draw water, to whom Jesus said, Give Me a drink. Jesus said, If you knew the gift of God and who it is who is saying to you, Give Me a drink, you would ask of Him to give you living water. Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again, but he who drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up into eternal life. John 4:5-7, 10, 13-14.

Because 'Jacob's spring' meant the Word, 'water' truth, and 'Samaria' the spiritual Church, as is the case many times in the Word, therefore the Lord talked to the woman from Samaria and taught that the doctrine of truth is derived from Himself, and that when it is derived from Himself, or what amounts to the same, from His Word, it is 'a spring of water welling up into eternal life'; also that the truth itself is 'living water'.

(References: John 4:5-6, 4:7)

[6] Similar teaching occurs in the same gospel,

Jesus said, If anyone thirsts let him come to Me and drink. Whoever believes in Me, as the scripture says, Out of his belly will flow rivers of living water. John 7:37-38.

And in the Book of Revelation,

The Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and will guide them to living springs of water; and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Revelation 7:17.

In the same book,

To him who thirsts I will give from the spring of living water without price. Revelation 21:6.

'Rivers of living water' and 'living springs of water' stand for truths which are derived from the Lord, that is, from His Word, for the Lord is the Word. The good of love and charity which comes solely from the Lord is the life of truth. The expression 'he who thirsts' is used of one who is stirred by a love and affection for truth; no other can so thirst.

[7] These truths are also called 'the springs of salvation' in Isaiah,

With joy you will draw water from the springs of salvation, and you will say on that day, Confess Jehovah, call on His name. Isaiah 12:3-4.

That 'a spring' means the Word, or doctrine drawn from it, is also evident in Joel,

It will happen on that day, that the mountains will drip new wine, and the hills will run with milk, and all the streams of Judah will run with water, and a spring will come forth from the house of Jehovah and will water the river of Shittim. Joel 3:18.

Here 'water' stands for truths, 'a spring from the house of Jehovah' for the Word of the Lord.

[8] In Jeremiah,

Behold I am bringing them from the north land, and I will gather them from the extremities of the earth, among them the blind one and the lame. With weeping they will come, and with supplications I will bring them to springs of water in a straight path on which they will not stumble. Jeremiah 31:8-9.

'Springs of water in a straight path' plainly stands for matters of doctrine concerning truth. 'The north land' stands for the lack of knowledge or the desolation of truth, 'weeping and supplications' for their state of grief and despair. 'Being brought to springs of water' stands for renewal and instruction in truths, as in this chapter of Genesis where Hagar and her son are the subject.

[9] The same matters are presented in Isaiah as follows,

The wilderness and the dry land will be glad for them; and the lonely place will rejoice and blossom like the rose. It will bud prolifically, and will rejoice also with rejoicing and singing. The glory of Lebanon has been given to it, the majesty of Carmel and Sharon. They will see the glory of Jehovah, the majesty of our God. Strengthen the weak hands and make firm the feeble knees. The eyes of the blind will be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Waters will break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the lonely place; and the dry place will become a pool and the thirsty ground wellsprings of water. Isaiah 35:1-3, 5-7.

Here 'a wilderness' stands for a desolation of truth. 'Waters', 'streams', 'a pool', 'wellsprings of water' stand for truths which serve to renew and give joy to people who have experienced vastation and whose joys are described in many ways here.

[10] In David,

Jehovah sends forth springs in the valleys; they will go among the mountains.

They will give drink to every wild beast of the fields; the wild asses will quench their thirst. He waters the mountains from His chambers. Psalms 104:10-11, 13.

'Springs' stands for truths, 'mountains' for the love of good and truth, 'giving drink' for giving teaching, 'wild beasts of the fields' for people who live by that teaching, see 774, 841, 908, 'wild asses' for those who have none but rational truth, 1949-1951.

[11] In Moses,

The son of a fruitful one is Joseph, the son of a fruitful one beside a spring. Genesis 49:22.

'A spring' stands for doctrine from the Lord. In the same author,

Jehovah your God will bring you into a good land, a land of rivers, waters, springs, depths gushing out in valleys and mountains. Deuteronomy 8:7.

'A land' stands for the Lord's kingdom and Church, 662, 1066, 1067, 1262, 1413, 2571, which is called 'good' from the good of love and charity. 'Rivers', 'waters', 'springs', and 'depths' stand for the truths derived from that good. In the same author,

The land of Canaan, a land of mountains and valleys, on the arrival of the rain of heaven it drinks water. Deuteronomy 11:11.

(References: Arcana Coelestia 1066-1067)

[12] That 'waters' means truths, both spiritual and rational, and also factual, is evident from the following places: In Isaiah,

Behold, the Lord Jehovah Zebaoth is taking away from Jerusalem and from Judah the whole staff of bread and the whole staff of water. Isaiah 3:1.

In the same prophet,

To the thirsty bring water; meet with his bread the fugitive. Isaiah 21:14.

In the same prophet,

Blessed are you who sow beside all waters. Isaiah 32:20.

In the same prophet,

He who walks in righteous ways and speaks upright words will dwell on the heights; his bread will be given to him, his water will be sure. Isaiah 33:15-16.

In the same prophet,

At that time they will not thirst; in the wilderness He will lead them; He will make water flow for them from the rock. And He cleaves the rock and the water flows out. Isaiah 48:21; Exodus 17:1-8; Numbers 20:11, 13.

In David,

He split rocks in the wilderness and caused them to drink abundantly like the depths. He brought streams out of the rock and caused waters to descend like a river. Psalms 78:15-16.

Here 'rock' stands for the Lord, 'water, streams, and the depths from it' for truths derived from Him.

[13] In the same author,

Jehovah turns rivers into a wilderness, and streams of waters into a dryness. He turns a wilderness into a pool of water, and parched land into streams of waters. Psalms 107:33, 35.

In the same author,

The voice of Jehovah is upon the waters; Jehovah is upon many waters. Psalms 29:3.

In the same author,

There is a river whose streams will make glad the city of God, the holy place of the dwellings of the Most High. Psalms 46:4.

In the same author,

By the word of Jehovah were the heavens made, and all their host by the spirit of His mouth. He gathered the waters of the sea together as a heap; He placed the depths in storehouses. Psalms 33:6-7.

In the same author,

You visit the earth and delight in it, You enrich it very greatly; the river of God is full of water. Psalms 65:9.

In the same author,

The waters have seen You, O God, the waters have seen You. The depths trembled, the clouds poured out water. Your way was in the sea, and Your path in many waters. Psalms 77:16-17, 19.

It is evident to anyone that 'waters' here do not mean waters, and that 'the depths trembled' and 'Jehovah's way was in the sea and His path in the waters', are not meant literally, but that spiritual waters are meant, that is, things of a spiritual kind, which are matters of truth; otherwise it would all be just a heap of meaningless words. In Isaiah,

Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters, and he who has no money, come, buy! Isaiah 55:1.

In Zechariah,

It will happen on that day, that living waters will flow out of Jerusalem, half of them to the eastern sea and half of them to the western sea. Zechariah 14:8.

[14] Furthermore when the Church which is about to be established or which has been established is the subject in the Word and it is described by a paradise, a garden, a grove, or by trees, it is usual for it to be described also by waters or rivers running through, which mean things of a spiritual, rational, or factual kind, which are matters of truth. Paradise as described in Genesis 2:8-9, for example, is also described by the rivers there, verses 10-14, which mean things that are attributes of wisdom and intelligence, see 107-121. Similar examples occur many times elsewhere in the Word, as in Moses,

Like valleys that are planted, like gardens beside a river, like aloes Jehovah has planted, like cedars beside the waters. Waters will flow from his buckets, and his seed will be in many waters. Numbers 24:6-7.

In Ezekiel,

He took some of the seed of the land and planted it in a seed field; he took it to be beside many waters. It sprouted and became a spreading vine. Ezekiel 17:5-6.

'A vine' and 'a vineyard' mean the spiritual Church, see 1069. In the same prophet,

Your mother was like a vine in your likeness, planted beside the waters; fruitful, and made full of branches by reason of many waters. Ezekiel 19:10.

(References: Ezekiel 31:4; Genesis 2:8-14, 2:10-14)

[15] In the same prophet,

Behold, Asshur [was a cedar] in Lebanon; the waters caused it to grow, the depth made it high, with its rivers going round about the place of its planting; and he sent out his lines of water to all the trees of the field. Ezekiel 31:3-4.

In the same prophet,

Behold, on the bank of the river were very many trees, on this side and on that. He said to me, These waters are going out towards the eastern boundary, and they go down over the plain, and they go towards the sea, having been sent away into the sea; and the waters are fresh. And it will be that every living creature that creeps, in every place which the two rivers come to, will live; and there will be very many fish, for these waters go there, and become fresh, so that everything may live where the river goes. Its swamps and its marshes are not healed; they will be given up to salt. Ezekiel 47:7-9, 11.

This refers to the New Jerusalem or Lord's spiritual kingdom. 'Waters going out towards the eastern boundary' means things that are spiritual flowing from those which are celestial, or truths derived from a celestial source, that is, faith springing from love and charity, 101, 1250. 'Going down into the plain' means matters of doctrine belonging to the rational, 2418, 2450. 'Going towards the sea' means towards factual knowledge, 'the sea' being a gathering together of facts, 28. 'The living creature that creeps' means the delights which go with these, 746, 909, 994, which will receive their life from 'the waters of the river', that is, from spiritual things derived from a celestial source. 'Many fish' stands for an abundance of appropriate facts, 40, 991, while 'swamps and marshes' stands for such as are inappropriate and impure. 'Turning into salt' stands for becoming vastated, 2455. In Jeremiah,

Blessed is the man who trusts in Jehovah. He will be like a tree planted beside the waters, which sends out its roots beside the stream. Jeremiah 17:7-8.

In David,

He will be like a tree planted beside streams of water, which will yield its fruit in its season. Psalms 1:3.

In John,

He showed me a pure river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the middle of its street, and of the river, on this side and on that, was the tree of life bearing twelve fruits. Revelation 22:1-2.

(References: Ezekiel 47:7-8, 47:9)

[16] Now because 'waters' means truths in the internal sense of the Word it was therefore commanded in the Jewish Church, for the sake of representation before the eyes of the angels who beheld ritual acts in a spiritual way, that the priests and Levites should wash themselves with water when they came to perform their duties, and that they should do so with water from the layer placed between the tent and the altar, and later on with water from the bronze sea and all the other lavers around the temple, which were there in place of a spring. In a similar way for the sake of representation the ritual involving the water of sin or of expiation which was to be sprinkled over the Levites was established, Numbers 8:7, also the ritual involving the water of separation from the ashes of the red cow, Numbers 19:2-19, as well as the requirement that spoils taken from the Midianites were to be cleansed with water, Numbers 31:19-25.

(References: Numbers 31:19-24)

[17] The water provided out of the rock, Exodus 17:1-8; Numbers 20:1-13, represented and meant an abundance of spiritual things, that is, of truths of faith from the Lord. The bitter waters which were made drinkable by means of the wood, Exodus 15:22-25, represented and meant that truths, from being unpleasant, are made acceptable and gratifying by virtue of good, that is, of the affection for it - 'wood' meaning good which constitutes affection or the will, see 643. From these considerations one may now see what 'water' means in the Word, and from this what the water used in baptism means, regarding which the Lord says the following in John,

Unless a person has been born from water and the spirit he cannot enter the kingdom of God. John 3:5.

That is to say, 'water' means the spiritual constituent of faith, and 'the spirit' the celestial constituent of it, so that baptism is the symbol of man's regeneration by the Lord by means of the truths and goods of faith. Not that a person's regeneration is accomplished in baptism, but by the life, the sign of which life is denoted in baptism, and into which life Christians who possess the truths of faith because they have the Word must enter.


1. the willing ones is the primary meaning of the Hebrew expression here. Put the latter also has a derivative meaning nobles, which Swedenborg has in other places where he quotes this verse.

2. Beer is the Hebrew word for a well, and Beersheba means The well of the oath or The well of seven.


(References: Deuteronomy 8:15; Exodus 15:23-25; Genesis 21:19, Genesis 26:15-22)

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From Swedenborg's Works

Inbound References:

Arcana Coelestia 2723, 2781, 2832, 3051, 3058, 3065, 3068, 3082, 3083, 3089, 3095, 3096, 3104, 3131, 3137, 3412, 3419, 3422, 3424, 3426, 3432, 3445, 3464, 3693, 3765, 4017, 4697, 4735, 4744, 4861, 4876, 4891, 4958, 5077, 5342, 5668, 6015, 6413, ...

The New Jerusalem and its Heavenly Doctrine 186, 209

References from Swedenborg's unpublished works:

Apocalypse Explained 71, 110, 240, 242, 275

Other New Christian Commentary

Symbolism 1

Water 1

Cisterns 1

Miry places and marshes 1

Pit, or well 1

Waters, rivers, and depths 1

Wells 1

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.

 Woman at the Well
A woman met Jesus a well in Samaria and, after talking to Him, recognized Him as the promised Messiah. How is her journey for understanding the Word of God like our quest for meaning in the Bible?
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 11 - 17

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