The Bible


Ezekiel 16

English: Webster's Bible         

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1 Again the word of the LORD came to me, saying,

2 Son of man, cause Jerusalem to know her abominations,

3 And say, Thus saith the Lord GOD to Jerusalem; Thy birth and thy nativity is of the land of Canaan; thy father was an Amorite, and thy mother a Hittite.

4 And as for thy nativity, in the day thou wast born thy navel was not cut, neither wast thou washed in water to supple thee; thou wast not salted at all, nor swaddled at all.

5 No eye pitied thee, to do any of these to thee, to have compassion upon thee; but thou wast cast out in the open field, to the lothing of thy person, in the day that thou wast born.

6 And when I passed by thee, and saw thee polluted in thy own blood, I said to thee when thou wast in thy blood, Live; yes, I said to thee when thou wast in thy blood, Live.

7 I have caused thee to multiply as the bud of the field, and thou hast increased and become great, and thou art come to excellent ornaments: thy breasts are fashioned, and thy hair is grown, whereas thou wast naked and bare.

8 Now when I passed by thee, and looked upon thee, behold, thy time was the time of love; and I spread my skirt over thee, and covered thy nakedness: yes, I swore to thee, and entered into a covenant with thee, saith the Lord GOD, and thou becamest mine.

9 Then I washed thee with water; yes, I thoroughly washed away thy blood from thee, and I anointed thee with oil.

10 I clothed thee also with broidered work, and shod thee with badgers' skin, and I girded thee with fine linen, and I covered thee with silk.

11 I decked thee also with ornaments, and I put bracelets upon thy hands, and a chain on thy neck.

12 And I put a jewel on thy forehead, and ear-rings in thy ears, and a beautiful crown upon thy head.

13 Thus wast thou decked with gold and silver; and thy raiment was of fine linen, and silk, and broidered work; thou didst eat fine flour, and honey, and oil: and thou wast exceeding beautiful, and thou didst prosper into a kingdom.

14 And thy renown went forth among the heathen for thy beauty: for it was perfect through my comeliness, which I had put upon thee, saith the Lord GOD.

15 But thou didst trust in thy own beauty, and playedst the harlot because of thy renown, and pouredst out thy fornications on every one that passed by; his it was.

16 And of thy garments thou didst take, and deck thy high places with divers colors, and play the harlot upon them: the like things shall not come, neither shall it be so.

17 Thou hast also taken thy fair jewels of my gold and of my silver, which I had given thee, and hast made to thyself images of men, and hast committed lewdness with them.

18 And hast taken thy broidered garments, and covered them: and thou hast set my oil and my incense before them.

19 My provisions also which I gave thee, fine flour, and oil, and honey, with which I fed thee, thou hast even set before them for a sweet savor: and thus it was, saith the Lord GOD.

20 Moreover thou hast taken thy sons and thy daughters, whom thou hast borne to me, and these hast thou sacrificed to them to be devoured. Is this of thy lewdness a small matter,

21 That thou hast slain my children, and delivered them to cause them to pass through the fire for them?

22 And in all thy abominations and thy deeds of lewdness thou hast not remembered the days of thy youth, when thou wast naked and bare, and wast polluted in thy blood.

23 And it came to pass after all thy wickedness, (woe, woe to thee! saith the Lord GOD;)

24 That thou hast also built to thee an eminent place, and hast made thee a high place in every street.

25 Thou hast built thy high place at every head of the way, and hast made thy beauty to be abhorred, and hast prostituted thyself to every one that passed by, and multiplied thy lewd deeds.

26 Thou hast also committed fornication with the Egyptians thy neighbors, great of flesh; and hast multiplied thy lewd deeds, to provoke me to anger.

27 Behold, therefore I have stretched out my hand over thee, and have diminished thy ordinary food, and delivered thee to the will of them that hate thee, the daughters of the Philistines, who are ashamed of thy lewd way.

28 Thou hast played the harlot also with the Assyrians, because thou wast insatiable; yes, thou hast played the harlot with them, and yet couldst not be satisfied.

29 Thou hast moreover multiplied thy fornication in the land of Canaan to Chaldea; and yet with this thou wast not satisfied.

30 How weak is thy heart, saith the Lord GOD, seeing thou doest all these things, the work of an imperious lewd woman;

31 In that thou buildest thy eminent place in the head of every way, and makest thy high place in every street; and hast not been as a harlot, in that thou scornest hire;

32 But as a wife that committeth adultery, who taketh strangers instead of her husband!

33 They give gifts to all lewd women: but thou givest thy gifts to all thy lovers, and hirest them, that they may come to thee on every side for thy lewdness.

34 And the contrary is in thee from other women in thy unlawful commerce, whereas none followeth thee to commit lewdness: and in that thou givest a reward, and no reward is given to thee, therefore thou art contrary.

35 Wherefore, O harlot, hear the word of the LORD:

36 Thus saith the Lord GOD; Because thy filthiness was poured out, and thy nakedness exposed through thy carnal connection with thy lovers, and with all the idols of thy abominations, and by the blood of thy children, which thou didst give to them;

37 Behold therefore, I will gather all thy lovers, with whom thou hast taken pleasure, and all them that thou hast loved, with all them that thou hast hated; I will even gather them on every side against thee, and will uncover thy nakedness to them, that they may see all thy nakedness.

38 And I will judge thee, as women that break wedlock and shed blood are judged; and I will give thee blood in fury and jealousy.

39 And I will also give thee into their hand, and they shall throw down thy eminent place, and shall break down thy high places: they shall strip thee also of thy clothes, and shall take thy fair jewels, and leave thee naked and bare.

40 They shall also bring up a company against thee, and they shall stone thee with stones, and thrust thee through with their swords.

41 And they shall burn thy houses with fire, and execute judgments upon thee in the sight of many women: and I will cause thee to cease from playing the harlot, and thou also shalt give no hire any more.

42 So will I make my fury towards thee to rest, and my jealousy shall depart from thee, and I will be quiet, and will be no more angry.

43 Because thou hast not remembered the days of thy youth, but hast provoked me in all these things; behold therefore, I also will recompense thy way upon thy head, saith the Lord GOD: and thou shalt not commit this lewdness above all thy abominations.

44 Behold, every one that useth proverbs shall use this proverb against thee, saying, As is the mother, so is her daughter.

45 Thou art thy mother's daughter, that lotheth her husband and her children; and thou art the sister of thy sisters, who lothed their husbands and their children: your mother was a Hittite, and your father an Amorite.

46 And thy elder sister is Samaria, she and her daughters that dwell at thy left hand: and thy younger sister, that dwelleth at thy right hand, is Sodom and her daughters.

47 Yet hast thou not walked after their ways, nor done after their abominations: but as if that were a very little thing, thou wast corrupted more than they in all thy ways.

48 As I live, saith the Lord GOD, Sodom thy sister hath not done, she nor her daughters, as thou hast done, thou and thy daughters.

49 Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fullness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy.

50 And they were haughty, and committed abomination before me: therefore I took them away as I saw good.

51 Neither hath Samaria committed half of thy sins; but thou hast multiplied thy abominations more than they, and hast justified thy sisters in all thy abominations which thou hast done.

52 Thou also, who hast judged thy sisters, bear thy own shame for thy sins that thou hast committed more abominable than they: they are more righteous than thou: yes, be thou confounded also, and bear thy shame, in that thou hast justified thy sisters.

53 When I shall bring again their captivity, the captivity of Sodom and her daughters, and the captivity of Samaria and her daughters, then will I bring again the captivity of thy captives in the midst of them:

54 That thou mayest bear thy own shame, and mayest be confounded in all that thou hast done, in that thou art a comfort to them.

55 When thy sisters, Sodom and her daughters, shall return to their former state, and Samaria and her daughters shall return to their former state, then thou and thy daughters shall return to your former state.

56 For thy sister Sodom was not mentioned by thy mouth in the day of thy pride,

57 Before thy wickedness was disclosed, as at the time of thy reproach of the daughters of Syria, and all that are around her, the daughters of the Philistines, who despise thee on every side.

58 Thou hast borne thy lewdness and thy abominations, saith the LORD.

59 For thus saith the Lord GOD; I will even deal with thee as thou hast done, who hast despised the oath in breaking the covenant.

60 Nevertheless I will remember my covenant with thee in the days of thy youth, and I will establish to thee an everlasting covenant.

61 Then thou shalt remember thy ways, and be ashamed, when thou shalt receive thy sisters, thy elder and thy younger: and I will give them to thee for daughters, but not by thy covenant.

62 And I will establish my covenant with thee; and thou shalt know that I am the LORD:

63 That thou mayest remember, and be confounded, and never open thy mouth any more because of thy shame, when I am pacified towards thee for all that thou hast done, saith the Lord GOD.

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   Study the Inner Meaning
From Swedenborg's Works

Main explanations:

Apocalypse Explained 1029

Apocalypse Revealed 350, 880

A Brief Exposition of New Church Doctrine 100

Doctrine of the Lord 64

The Inner Meaning of the Prophets and Psalms 139

Other references to this chapter:

Arcana Coelestia 93, 213, 289, 297, 374, 622, 666, ...

Apocalypse Revealed 134, 166, 189, 209, 213, 216, 245, ...

Conjugial Love 119

The Lord 28

Doctrine of Life 79

Heaven and Hell 180

True Christian Religion 306, 314, 583, 782

References from Swedenborg's unpublished works:

Apocalypse Explained 126, 141, 195, 238, 240, 242, 272, ...

Spiritual Experiences 246, 5160

Other New Christian Commentary

  Stories and their meanings:

Hop to Similar Bible Verses

Genesis 24:22, 38:16

Exodus 15:16, 24:8

Leviticus 26:30

Numbers 35:16, 17, 18, 21, 31

Deuteronomy 1:10, 11, 22:22, 24, 29:24, 32:13, 32, 43

1 Kings 12:28, 14:23

2 Chronicles 21:11, 28:3, 5, 18, 25, 36:17

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Job 29:6, 34:26, 40:4

Psalms 45:15, 78:37, 85:3, 106:38, 41, 45, 147:14

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Isaiah 3:11, 19, 21, 10:11, 14:1, 24:5, 33:24, 43:1, 27, 44:22, 47:8, 55:3, 57:5, 9, 58:1, 61:8

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Luke 1:72, 15:22, 22:20

John 10:3

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Word/Phrase Explanations

the Word
In general, we tend to be very aware of how knowing what's true leads to doing what is good. That starts as children, with parents...

'Word,' as in Psalms 119:6-17, stands for doctrine in general. 'The Word,' as in Psalms 147:18, signifies divine good united with divine truth. 'Word,' as...

the Lord
The Bible refers to the Lord in many different ways, which from the text seem indistinguishable and interchangeable. Understood in the internal sense, though, there...

The Lord, in the simplest terms, is love itself expressed as wisdom itself. In philosophic terms, love is the Lord's substance and wisdom is His...

son of man
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...

'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...

Jerusalem first comes to or attention in II Samuel, chapter 5 where King David takes it from the Jebusites and makes it his capital. In...

In a general sense, men represent things of the intellect – facts, ideas, knowledge, everything from the deepest truths to the most pernicious falsities about...

'Nativity,' as in Genesis 10:32, signifies reformation. Out of thy nativity and out of thy father's house,' as in Genesis 12:1, signifies corporeal and worldly...

'Lands' of different nations are used in the Word to signify the different kinds of love prevalent in the inhabitants.

Land of Canaan
The land of Canaan' in the Word, means love, and consequently, the will of the celestial self.

Father, son, mother, and daughter, as in Luke 12:51, 53: By father against son, and by son against the father, is understood evil against truth,...

'A Hittite' in a good sense, signifies the spiritual church, or the truth of the church. The Hittites were among the upright Gentiles who were...

The expression 'even to this day' or 'today' sometimes appears in the Word, as in Genesis 19:37-38, 22:14, 26:33, 32:32, 35:20, and 47:26. In a...

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...

It does not take a great leap of imagination to see that “washing” in the Bible represents purification. Washing dirt from the skin is symbolic...

'Waters' signify truths in the natural self, and in the opposite sense, falsities. 'Waters' signify particularly the spiritual parts of a person, or the intellectual...

It’s common to say “I see” when we understand something. And indeed, “seeing” in the Bible represents grasping and understanding spiritual things. So it makes...

To open,' as in Revelation 9, signifies communication and conjunction.

When we have a desire to be good people and to do good things, the natural first questions are "What does that mean?" "What should...

Bloods signify evil, in Ezek. 16:9.

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...

‘To grow’ signifies to be perfected.

'Spreading themselves on the earth,' as in Genesis 8:17, signifies the internal self operating on the external.

Coming (Gen. 41:14) denotes communication by influx.

The breast (Ezek. 16:7), signifies natural good.

The hair is the very outermost part of the body, and "hair" in the Bible represents the outermost expression of whatever the body represents. In...

'Unclothed' signifies being deprived of the truths of faith.

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...

The "high mountains being covered " (Gen. 7:19) signifies that all the good things of charity were extin­guished.

The Lord swearing by himself signifies that divine truth testifies, for He is divine truth itself, and this testifies from itself and means itself. It...

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...

Fine linen
'Silk' signifies intermediate celestial good and truth. It means good because it is soft, and truth because it shines. 'Silk,' like 'fine linen,' denotes genuine...

The instruction not make clothing that mixes 'Woolen and linen' threads means, in the internal sense, that people's spiritual states of good and truth should...

'To put' has reference to order, arrangement, application, and influx.

Bracelets (Gen. 25:22) signify truth, and in this passage divine truth, because the Lord is treated of.

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

The head is the part of us that is highest, which means in a representative sense that it is what is closest to the Lord....

'Money' relates to truth.

'Silver,' in the internal sense of the Word, signifies truth, but also falsity. 'Silver' means the truth of faith, or the truth acquired from selfhood,...

When we eat, our bodies break down the food and get from it both energy and materials for building and repairing the body. The process...

Fine flour
Fine flour, as in Ezekiel 16:19, signifies the spiritual principle of charity.

In Revelation 18:13, 'wine, oil, flour, and wheat' signify celestial principles of worship.

'Honey' signifies the delight derived from good and truth or from the affection thereof, and specifically the external delight. Thus it signifies the delight of...

'To be made to prosper' signifies being provided for. Which is why 'Jehovah made it prosper in his hand' means Divine Providence. 

'The time of the heathen,' as mentioned in Ezekiel 30:3, signifies the heathen, or wickedness.

Beauty of his ornament (Ezek. 7:20) signifies the church and its doctrine.

'A harlot' signifies the affection of falsities, thus the church corrupted.

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

Soft raiment,' as in Matthew 11:9, represents the internal sense of the Word.

'Height' signifies what is inward, and also heaven.

Jewels' when applied to the ears, signify good in act.

Images of men
'Images of men,' as in Ezekiel 16:17, signify appearances of truth, which are nevertheless falsities.

'Images' denote things fashioned from man’s own intelligence.

'Incense' or 'odors' signify worship and confession of the Lord, from spiritual goods and truths.

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...

Sweet' signifies delightful things from the good of truth and the truth of good. Everything sweet in the natural world corresponds to delightful and pleasant...

'To savor' relates to the perception of a thing.

'Sons of the stranger' signify counterfeit truths, or falsities. 'Our sons' signify the doctrines of truth, and 'our daughters,' the doctrines of good, as in...

"Behold I have two daughters,” etc. (Gen. 19:8), signifies the affections of good and truth, and the blessedness perceivable from the enjoyment thereof, by those...

A child is a young boy or girl in the care of parents, older than a suckling or an infant, but not yet an adolescent....

'To pass,' as in Genesis 31:52, signifies flowing in. 'To pass the night,' as in Genesis 24:54, signifies having peace. 'To pass through,' as in...

'To remember,' as in Genesis 41:9, signifies conjunction. 'Remembering' denotes conjunction because the remembrance of anyone in the other life joins them together, because as...

'Tender of age' denotes the state of truths newly received not yet genuine.

Behind, or after, (Gen. 16:13), signifies within or above, or an interior or superior principle.

'Wickedness' signifies evil, and 'iniquity' signifies falsities.

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

Swedenborg tell us that in terms of measurement, height relates to the desire for good and breadth relates to the knowledge of truth. Following that,...

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...

'And [Tyre] shall turn to her hire, and shall commit fornication,' as in Isaiah 23:17, signifies the vaunting and boasting of falsity.

Egyptians represent those who are in natural science, thus the natural, but the Hebrews, those who are of the church, thus respectively the spiritual. The...

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...

Anger is an emotion so common to people that it requires no definition. However a couple of points of interest can be raised. 1) The...

The hand in the Bible represents power, which is easy to understand, so to reach out or stretch out the hand means to exercise power,...

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

To give food, as in Genesis 41:48, signifies to store up.

the daughters of
The daughters of Rabbah' signify people who are in natural good and falsify the truths of the church.

The Philistines play a large role in the Bible as one of the longest-standing and most bitter rivals of the people of Israel, clashing with...

On a natural level, there are a variety of things that can cause shame. We might be ashamed of physical weakness or ugliness; we might...

'What satisfies' is what nourishes the soul.

Canaan signifies a worship in things external without internals, which arose out of the internal church corrupted, called Ham. Thus it is that Ham is...

Chaldea was a land lying along the Euphrates river near its mouth, south of Babylon, part of what is now southern Iraq. It was a...

'Works,' as in Genesis 46:33, denote goods, because they are from the will, and anything from the will is either good or evil, but anything...

'Women,' as in Genesis 45:19, signify the affections of truth. But in Genesis 31:50, 'women' signify affections of not genuine truth, so not of the...

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...

In general, men are driven by intellect and women by affections, and because of this men in the Bible generally represent knowledge and truth and...

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

'Side' signifies good or spiritual love.

The word "woman" is used a number of different ways in the Bible – as a simple description, as someone connected to a man ("his...

'To hearken to father and mother,' as mentioned in Genesis 28:7, signifies obedience from affection. 'To hearken,' as mentioned in Genesis 30:22, signifies providence. See...

Idols of stone signify worship from falsities of doctrine. Idols of wood signify worship from evils of doctrine. Idols of silver signify worship from what...

If you truly hate someone, that means you would kill them and destroy their reputation if you could do so without repercussion – not a...

To uncover' signifies adulterating the goods of the Word, and 'to grind meal' signifies falsifying its truths.

To look,' as in Genesis 18:22, signifies thinking, because seeing denotes understanding. Look not back behind thee,' as in Genesis 19:17, means that Lot, who...

It’s easy to see the connection between judging and truth. In a court of law, the judge’s whole purpose is to find the truth. In...

Fury is a receding from good, and anger is a receding from truth.

As in Micah 1:8, 'to be stripped' signifies being without goods, and 'to be naked' signifies being without truths.

'To rend the garments' signifies mourning for truth lost or destroyed, or the loss of faith.

A congregation is a group of people with common loves, interests, and purposes. It often refers to a church group. In the Word it is...

Stones in the Bible in general represent truths, or things we know concerning the Lord and what He wants from us and for us in...

A 'sword,' in the Word, signifies the truth of faith combating and the vastation of truth. In an opposite sense, it signifies falsity combating and...

A "house" is essentially a container - for a person, for a family, for several families or even for a large group with shared interests...

Just as natural fire can be both comforting in keeping you warm or scary in burning down your house, so fire in the spiritual sense...

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...

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...

When something is described as quiet, still or calm in the Bible, it represents the state of peace that comes with being aligned with the...

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...

The Lord calls people who are in truth from the good of charity from Him 'sisters,' as in Matthew 12:50. 'Sister' denotes intellectual truth, when...

In general, things that are “elder” in the Bible represent spiritual states that come before others. For example, of the two sisters Jacob married, Leah...

'The woman of Samaria' signifies the church which would be founded among the Gentiles.

Many people were nomadic in Biblical times, especially the times of the Old Testament, and lived in tents that could be struck, moved and re-raised...

Left hand
'The left hand' in a negative sense signifies falsity which is used to produce evil.

In general, birth order in the Bible reflects the progression of spiritual states, but the specifics of those states depends greatly on context: who the...

'Inhabit' refers to good.

Right hand
'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...

'Sodom' signifies the evil of self-love, and 'Gomorrah,' the falsity derived from it.

To walk in the Bible represents living, and usually means living according to the true things taught to us by the Lord -- to "walk...

'To set a way,' as in Genesis 30:36, signifies being separated.

In Isaiah 59:6, 'webs' and 'garments' signify aspects of the understanding, or thought, 'Iniquity' and 'violence,' aspects of the will, or works.

'Pride' signifies the love of self.

Just as natural food feeds the natural body, so spiritual food feeds the spiritual body. And since our spiritual body is the expression of what...

The poor, maimed, lame, and blind,' as in Luke 14:21, signify the uninstructed Gentiles who were in lives of good.

'Poor' signifies someone who is not in truths, and people who are ignorant of good and truth, but desire instruction.

Half and double in reference to numbers in the world have a similar signification as the numbers themselves.

In the Word three terms are used to mean bad things that are done. These three are transgression, iniquity, and sin, and they are here...

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...

In many cases, the spiritual meaning of "own," both as a verb and as an adjective, is relatively literal. When people are described as the...

To be ashamed (Gen 2:25) signifies to be in evil

'To justify,' as in Isaiah 5:3, 11, signifies saving by means of divine good.

Captivity and spoil (Daniel 11:33) signifies the deprivation of every truth and good.

'Middle' denotes what is primary, principal, or inmost.

When the Bible talks about someone being comforted or consoled, it generally means that they are being offered ideas that will help bring them to...

Everyone knows the phrase "the natural order of things." It means that everything is in its proper place, occupying the niche it is meant to...

A general description of the six states of regeneration can be found in Arcana Coelestia 6-13, a description of a full state, in Arcana Coelestia...

and Samaria
The fourscore men who came from Schechem, Shiloh, and Samaria, as in Jeremiah 41:5, represented the profanations of good and truth.

In most cases, "mouth" in the Bible represents thought and logic, especially the kind of active, concrete thought that is connected with speech. The reason...

day of
'Day of vengeance' signifies a state of damnation.

To revile something – or "reproach," as it is often translated – represents making a direct and deliberate attack on what is spiritually true, in...

'Syria,' as in Ezekiel 27:16, signifies the church regarding knowledges of truth and good.

We tend to think of "despising" something or someone as just a strong way of expressing dislike, but there is a further shade of meaning...

An oath' or 'swearing' signifies confirmation and conjunction.

'Perpetual' in the literal sense, means to the end of one’s life, after death, and eternity.

From Swedenborg's Works


Apocalypse Explained #283

Apocalypse Explained (Tansley translation)      

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283. (v. 8) And the four animals had, each by itself, six wings roundabout. That this signifies the appearance of the spiritual Divine on every side around the celestial Divine, is evident from the signification of the four animals, which were cherubim, as being the Divine guardianship and providence of the Lord that the higher heavens may not be approached except by the good of love and of charity. And because this is signified by the four animals, as to their bodies, the celestial Divine is also signified, concerning which we shall treat presently; and from the signification of six wings roundabout, as denoting the spiritual Divine around the celestial Divine, concerning which we shall also speak in what follows. The reason why the cherubim, as to their bodies, signifies the celestial Divine, and as to their wings the spiritual Divine, is that all things by which celestial things are represented, as to the bodies themselves signify things essential, and as to the things which are about them they signify things formal. Hence man also as to the body signifies good in essence, and as to those things which encompass it, good in form; celestial good is good in essence, and spiritual good is good in form; and this for the reason that the will, in which good resides, is the man himself, or the man in essence, and the understanding, in which truth is, which is the form of good, is the man therefrom, thus man in form; the latter good is also around the former.

(References: Revelation 4:8)

[2] But it shall first be explained what the celestial Divine is, and what the spiritual Divine. The heavens are distinguished into two kingdoms, of which the one is called the celestial kingdom, and the other the spiritual kingdom. The distinction lies in this, that those who are in the celestial kingdom are in the good of love to the Lord, and those who are in the spiritual kingdom are in the good of charity towards the neighbour; hence the celestial Divine is the good of love to the Lord, and the spiritual Divine is the good of charity towards the neighbour. According to these goods also the heavens are arranged: the highest or third heaven consists of those who are in celestial good, or in the good of love to the Lord; and the heaven which succeeds it, and is called the middle or second heaven, consists of those who are in spiritual good, or in the good of charity towards the neighbour; and because celestial good is good in the highest place, and spiritual good is good in the second place, therefore the latter is around the former, for that which is above is also within, and that which is below is also without, and what is without is also around. Hence it is that in the Word by higher things, and things which are in the midst, are signified interior things, and by lower things, and things which are around, are signified exterior things.

Now because both celestial and spiritual good, guard, and as by the animals themselves, or by the cherubim as to their bodies, is signified the celestial Divine, and by the same as to their wings is signified the spiritual Divine, it is clear that by their being seen as having each by itself six wings about, is signified the appearance of the spiritual Divine on every side around the celestial Divine. (But concerning these things a fuller idea may be formed from what is said and shown in the work, Heaven and Hell. First, from the article in which it is shown that the Divine of the Lord makes heaven, n. 7-12; afterwards from the article, That the Divine of the Lord in heaven is love to Him and charity towards the neighbour, n. 13-19: and lastly, in the article, That heaven is distinguished into two kingdoms, a celestial kingdom and a spiritual kingdom, n. 20-28.)

(References: Heaven and Hell 7-12, 13-19, 20-28)

[3] The reason why the cherubim were seen as animals is, that celestial things are represented in various ways in ultimates, as is evident from many passages in the Word; as, that the Holy Spirit appeared as a dove over Jesus when He was baptized (Matt. iii. 16, 17); and that the Divine of the Lord appeared as a lamb (Apoc. v. 6, 8, 13), whence also the Lord is called a lamb (Apoc. vi. 1, 16; vii. 9, 10, 14, 17; xii. 11; xiii. 8; xiv. 1, 4; xvii. 14; xix. 7, 9; xxi. 22, 23, 27). The reason why the cherubim were four, and why each had six wings is, that by four is signified celestial good, and by six spiritual good. For the number four signifies conjunction, and inmost conjunction with the Lord is effected by means of love to Him; but the number six signifies communication, and communication with the Lord is effected by means of charity towards the neighbour.

(References: Matthew 3:16-17; Revelation 5:6, 5:8, 5:13, 6:1, 6:16, 7:9-10, 7:14, 7:17, Revelation 12:11, 13:8, 14:1, 14:4, 17:14, 19:7, 19:9, 21:22-23, 21:26, 21:27, 22:1)

[4] That wings signify the spiritual Divine which in its essence is truth from good, is evident from the following passages. In David:

"If ye have lain among the ranks; the wings of a dove covered with silver, and her feathers with yellow gold; when thou, O Shaddai, spreadest out, kings are in it" (Ps. lxviii. 13, 14).

What is signified by those who had lain among the ranks, by the wings of a dove covered with silver, and her feathers with yellow gold, and kings are in it, Shaddai spreadeth out, no one can understand except from the internal sense. In this sense, to lie among the ranks, signifies to live in, or according to, the statutes; the wings of a dove covered with silver, signify spiritual truths; her feathers with yellow gold, signify spiritual good from which those truths are derived. Shaddai signifies a state of temptations; kings in it, signify truths in that state and after it. The reason why the wings of a dove covered with silver signify spiritual truths, is that wings signify what is spiritual, the dove signifies truth from good, and silver truth itself. The reason also why feathers covered with yellow gold signify spiritual good from which those truths are derived is that feathers signify spiritual good from which truths are derived, and similarly yellow gold. The reason why Shaddai spreading out signifies a state of temptations is, that God Shaddai signifies temptations, and consolations after them; and because truths from good are implanted in man by temptation, it is therefore said, "kings in it," for by kings are signified truths from good, as may be seen above (n. 31).

(References: Psalms 68:13-14; The Apocalypse Explained 31)

[5] In the same:

God "rode upon a cherub, he did fly; he was carried upon the wings of the wind" (Ps. xviii. 10).

By God riding upon a cherub is signified His Divine providence; by did fly, is signified His omnipresence in the spiritual world; he was carried upon the wings of the wind, denotes His omnipresence in the natural world; the wings of the wind signify spiritual things from which are natural things.

(References: Psalms 18:10)

[6] Again:

Jehovah "covereth thee under his wing, and under the abyss shalt thou trust; truth is a shield and buckler" (Ps. xci. 4).

To cover under wings signifies to be guarded by the Divine truth, which is the spiritual Divine; and to trust under the abyss signifies truth scientific (verum scientificum), or the natural Divine. And because both the latter and the former signify truth, and being covered signifies protection thereby, it is therefore said, truth a shield and buckler. From these considerations it is also evident what is signified

By being hid under the shadow of God's wings (Ps. xvii. 8).

By the children of men putting their trust under the shadow of His wings (Ps. xxxvi. 7; lvii. 1);

and also

By singing under the shadow of His wings (Ps. lxiii. 7).

That wing, when said of the Lord, signifies the spiritual Divine, is further evident from the following passages.

(References: Psalms 17:8, Psalms 36:7, 63:7, Psalms 91:4)

[7] In Ezekiel:

"When I passed by thee, and looked upon thee, behold thy time was the time of loves, I spread my wing over thee, and I covered thy nakedness" (xvi. 8).

Here the church and its reformation is treated of, and is signified by Jerusalem; the time of loves signifies the state when it could be reformed. I spread my wing over thee, signifies spiritual truth, by which reformation is effected; and I covered thy nakedness, signifies the hiding of evil thereby; for the evil which man has from his hereditary nature and afterwards from his proprium is hidden, that is, it is removed so as not to appear, by means of spiritual truths, which are truths from good.

(References: Ezekiel 16:8)

[8] In David:

Jehovah "covereth himself with light as with a garment; he stretcheth out the heavens like a curtain; he layeth the beams of his chambers in the waters; he maketh the clouds his chariot; he walketh upon the wings of the wind" (Ps. civ. 2, 3).

By the light with which Jehovah is said to cover Himself is signified the Divine truth in the heavens, which is called His garment because it proceeds from Him as the Sun, and so is without and about Him. The signification of this passage is similar to that of those which treat of the Lord's transfiguration, and of the light which then beamed from His face and His raiment (Matt. xvii. 2; Mark ix. 3; Luke ix. 28-37). By he stretcheth out the heavens like a curtain, is signified Jehovah's filling heaven and its inhabitants with the Divine truth, and thereby with intelligence. He layeth the beams of his chambers in the waters, denotes His filling with the knowledges of truth and good those who are in the ultimate heaven and who are in the church; he maketh the clouds his chariot, signifies the doctrine of truth from the literal sense of the Word; the clouds denote that sense, and chariot denotes doctrine; He walketh upon the wings of the wind, signifies the spiritual sense of the Word contained in the literal sense.

(References: Luke 9:28-36, 9:28-37; Mark 9:3; Matthew 17:2; Psalms 104:2-3, Psalms 104:2-4)

[9] In Malachi:

"But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise and healing in his wings" (iv. 2).

The Sun of righteousness signifies the good of love, which is the celestial Divine; and the wings of Jehovah in which there is healing signify truth from that good, which is the spiritual Divine: healing denotes reformation thereby.

(References: Malachi 4:2)

[10] In Moses:

"As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, beareth them on her wings; so Jehovah alone doth lead him" (Deut. xxxii. 11, 12).

Here comparison is made with an eagle, because an eagle signifies intelligence, and wings signify the spiritual Divine, which is Divine truth, whence that intelligence is derived.

(References: Deuteronomy 32:11-12)

[11] In Isaiah:

"They that wait for Jehovah renew their strength, they mount up with wings as eagles" (xl. 31).

To mount up with wings as eagles denotes to ascend into the light of heaven, which is Divine truth, or the spiritual Divine from which is intelligence.

(References: Isaiah 40:31)

[12] In Ezekiel:

"In the mountain of the height will I plant it, that it may lift up the bough and bear fruit, and become a magnificent cedar, that under it may dwell every bird of every wing" (xvii. 23).

By a magnificent cedar is signified the spiritual church; by every bird of every wing, are signified intellectual things which are derived from spiritual truths.

From these considerations it is now evident that the wings of the cherubim, both here and elsewhere in the Word, signify the spiritual Divine, which is the Divine truth instructing, regenerating and defending.

(References: Ezekiel 17:23)

[13] As also in Ezekiel:

"There were four faces to each "cherub," and four wings to each; their wings erect one to the other; each of them had wings covering their bodies. I heard the sound of the wings as it were the sound of great waters, as the voice of Shaddai; when they went, the voice of a tumult, as the voice of a camp; when they stood they let down their wings. I heard the voice of their wings kissing each the other, and the voice of wheels near them: the voice of the wings of the cherubim was heard at the court without, as the voice of God Shaddai; the likeness of hands was under their wings" (i. 4, 6, 23; iii. 13; x. 5, 21).

That wings here signify the spiritual Divine, which is the Divine truth of the Lord in His celestial kingdom, is evident from each particular of the above description. The wings being four, signifies the spiritual Divine in that kingdom; their wings being erect one to the other and kissing each other, signifies the association and conjunction of all who are in that kingdom by the Lord; the wings covering their bodies, signifies the spiritual Divine encompassing the celestial Divine; the sound of their wings being heard as the sound of great waters, and as the sound of wheels and as the voice of Shaddai, and the voice of the wings being heard even to the outer court, signifies the quality of the spiritual Divine, or of the Divine truth in the ultimate heaven; for voice is said of truth. Waters also signify truths, and the perception of them; wheels signify the truths of all doctrinals, because a chariot signifies doctrine. God Shaddai denotes truth rebuking in temptations, and afterwards consoling; the outer court denotes the ultimate heaven; the likeness of hands under the wings signifies the power of Divine truth.

(References: Ezekiel 1:4, 1:6, 1:23-24, 1:23, 3:12-13, 3:13, Ezekiel 10:5, 10:21)

[14] From these considerations it may also be seen what was signified by the wings of the cherubim which were upon the mercy-seat which was over the ark, concerning which it is thus written in Moses:

"Make one cherub on the one end, and the other cherub on the other end; even of the mercy-seat shall ye make the cherubim on the two ends thereof. And the cherubim shall stretch forth their wings upwards, covering with their wings upon the mercy-seat, and their faces of a man to his brother; towards the mercy-seat shall the faces of the cherubim be. And thou shalt put the mercy-seat upon the ark from above; and to the ark thou shalt give the testimony that I shall give thee" (Exod. xxv. 19-21).

By the cherubim here mentioned is in like manner signified the providence of the Lord as to guardianship, lest the highest heaven, or the celestial kingdom, should be approached except by the good of love from the Lord and to the Lord. By the testimony, or law, placed in the ark, is signified the Lord Himself; by the ark, the inmost or highest heaven; by the mercy-seat, the hearing and reception of all things of worship which are from the good of love, and expiation at the time; by the wings of the cherubim is signified the spiritual Divine in that heaven, or in that kingdom. By the wings being stretched forth upwards, and by their covering the mercy-seat, and their faces being toward it is signified reception itself and hearing (but these things may be seen more fully explained in Arcana Coelestia, from n. 9506-9546).

Because by the wings of the cherubim and their extremities is signified the Divine truth heard and received from the Lord, it therefore follows in Moses:

"And there I will meet thee; and I will commune with thee from above the mercy-seat, from between the two cherubim which are upon the ark of the testimony, of all things which I will give thee in commandment unto the sons of Israel" (verse 22 in the same chapter, and Numb. vii. 89).

(References: Arcana Coelestia 9506-9546; Exodus 25:18-21, 25:19-21, Exodus 25:22; Numbers 7:89)

[15] Because most expressions in the Word have also an opposite meaning, so also have wings, in which they signify falsities and reasonings from them; as in the Apocalypse:

"Out of the smoke of the pit of the abyss went forth locusts. And the voice of their wings was as the voice of chariots of many horses running to battle" (ix. 2, 3, 9).

Locusts signify falsities in extremes, and horses reasonings from them, and battle signifies the combat of falsity against truth; hence it is said, the voice of the wings of the locust was as the voice of chariots of many horses running to battle.

(References: Revelation 9:2-3, 9:3, Revelation 9:9)

[16] In Hosea:

"Ephraim is joined to idols. Their wine is sour; in whoring they have committed whoredom. The wind hath bound her up in its wings, and they shall be ashamed of their sacrifices" (iv. 17-19).

By Ephraim is signified the Intellectual, such as it is with those within the church who are enlightened when they read the Word. By idols are signified falsities of doctrine, hence by Ephraim being joined to idols is signified the Intellectual perverted, and seizing on falsities; by their wine being sour is signified the quality of the truth of the church, wine denoting that truth; by their committing whoredom is signified their falsifying truths, whoredom denoting the falsification of truth; by the wind binding her up in its wings is signified reasonings from fallacies, whence come falsities. (What fallacies in spiritual things are may be seen in The Doctrine of the New Jerusalem, n. 53). The same is signified by the wind in the wings of the women mentioned in Zechariah v. 9.

(References: Exodus 25:19-22; Ezekiel 3:13; Hosea 4:17-19; Psalms 104:2-4; Revelation 9:3; The New Jerusalem and its Heavenly Doctrine 53; Zechariah 5:9)

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From Swedenborg's Works

References from Swedenborg's unpublished works:

Apocalypse Explained 276, 297, 304, 315, 419, 558, 569, 573, 759, 1038

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