The Bible

John 21:1-14 : Breakfast by the Sea of Galilee

Study the Inner Meaning

1 After these things Jesus shewed himself again to the disciples at the sea of Tiberias; and on this wise shewed he himself.

2 There were together Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two other of his disciples.

3 Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a fishing. They say unto him, We also go with thee. They went forth, and entered into a ship immediately; and that night they caught nothing.

4 But when the morning was now come, Jesus stood on the shore: but the disciples knew not that it was Jesus.

5 Then Jesus saith unto them, Children, have ye any meat? They answered him, No.

6 And he said unto them, Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find. They cast therefore, and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes.

7 Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved saith unto Peter, It is the Lord. Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he girt his fisher's coat unto him, (for he was naked,) and did cast himself into the sea.

8 And the other disciples came in a little ship; (for they were not far from land, but as it were two hundred cubits,) dragging the net with fishes.

9 As soon then as they were come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid thereon, and bread.

10 Jesus saith unto them, Bring of the fish which ye have now caught.

11 Simon Peter went up, and drew the net to land full of great fishes, and hundred and fifty and three: and for all there were so many, yet was not the net broken.

12 Jesus saith unto them, Come and dine. And none of the disciples durst ask him, Who art thou? knowing that it was the Lord.

13 Jesus then cometh, and taketh bread, and giveth them, and fish likewise.

14 This is now the third time that Jesus shewed himself to his disciples, after that he was risen from the dead.

   Study the Inner Meaning
From Swedenborg's Works

Explanations or references:

Arcana Coelestia 2921, 4973, 7852, 10061

Apocalypse Revealed 405, 890

Conjugial Love 316


References from Swedenborg's unpublished works:

Apocalypse Explained 513, 600, 820

De Domino 45

Other New Christian Commentary

  Stories and their meanings:


Hop to Similar Bible Verses

Psalms 127:2

Word/Phrase Explanations

disciples
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!...

sea
Water generally represents what Swedenborg calls “natural truth,” or true concepts about day-to-day matters and physical things. Since all water ultimately flows into the seas,...

simon
Peter – born Simon, son of Jonah – is certainly one of the Bible's most important figures, second only to Jesus in the New Testament....

Peter
Key of David,' as in Revelation 3:7, signifies the Lord's omnipotence over heaven and hell. 'The keys of Peter,' in Matthew 18:18, signify the same...

called
To call someone or summon someone in the Bible represents a desire for conjunction between higher and lower states of life. For instance, imagine someone...

Cana
Cana of Galilee signifies the church among the Gentiles.

galilee
Galilee was the northernmost province of Biblical Judea, a hilly area relatively remote from the center of Jewish culture in Jerusalem and bordered by foreigners...

sons
Marriages in the Bible represent the union we all can have between the desire for good and the understanding of truth (or an understanding of...

two
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...

saith
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...

go
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...

entered
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...

night
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...

caught
"Catching" is used in a variety of ways in the Bible, both positive and negative. Thieves get caught; the Egyptians caught up with the Children...

children
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....

Meat
'Meat,' as in Genesis 40:17, signifies celestial good, because 'the meat of the angels' are nothing but the goods of love and charity, which not...

cast
For something to be cast down or cast out generally refers to a rather dramatic move from a higher spiritual state to a lower one....

Net
To cast the net on the right side,' as in John 21:6, signifies teaching the good of life.

Side
'Side' signifies good or spiritual love.

Find
To not to be found any more, signifies not to rise again.

multitude
A company, congregation, and a multitude, in the Word, are predicated of truths.

Disciple
A disciple in Matthew 10:41 signifies charity and at the same time, faith from the Lord. It disciple signifies the truth of life, and a...

loved
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...

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...

heard
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...

Fisher
Fishers from Engedi unto Eneglaim, as in Ezekiel 47:10, signifies those who shall instruct the natural man in the truths of faith.

Coat
A coat, as in Matthew 10:10, signifies interior natural truth, or truth of the natural principle. The Lord's coat without seam, woven from above throughout...

naked
Clothing in general represents day-to-day knowledge about spiritual things, held in the memory so it can be used for the goodness of life. For someone...

Land
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...

hundred
It's a landmark for a young child to count to 100; it sort of covers all the "ordinary" numbers. One hundred is obviously significant for...

saw
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...

fire
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...

Coals
Coals of fire being scattered over the cities (Ezek. 10:1, 7), signify that men were to be left to their wild lusts, rather than they...

Fish
Fish signify sensual affections which are the ultimate affections of the natural man. Also, those who are in common truths, which are also ultimates of...

bread
The word “bread” is used two ways in the Bible. In some cases it means actual bread; in others it stands for food in general....

bring
As with common verbs in general, the meaning of “bring” is highly dependent on context, but in general it represents an introduction to a new...

drew
"Drawing" is used a number of different ways in the Bible, generally in the sense of pulling, leading or moving: People most commonly draw water,...

Full
'To satiate' relates to the extent of a person's will, for good or evil.

many
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...

none
'No one,' or 'none' denotes the negative side of something.

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

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

Third
'Three' denotes fullness, and 'a third,' not full.

time
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...

risen
It is common in the Bible for people to "rise up," and it would be easy to pass over the phrase as simply describing a...

Dead
Dead (Gen. 23:8) signifies night, in respect to the goodnesses and truths of faith.

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.


 Breakfast with the Risen Lord
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Genuine Faith in Marriage
The pathway to conjugial love in marriage involves looking to the Lord for enlightenment by reading His Word and applying it to our lives. We must be willing to work together in marriage and use the truths of the Word to serve others.
Worship Talk | Ages over 18

 Jesus Appears
The Lord was not like you and me. When we die we lay aside our earthy body for ever. The Lord did not lay aside His earthly body—He made it Divine.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 11 - 17

 Quotes: Having Faith in the Risen Lord
Teaching Support | Ages over 15

 Seeing the Lord
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Worship Talk | Ages over 18

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Spiritual tasks offer a reflection on a Biblical story and suggest a task for spiritual growth.
Activity | Ages over 18

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 The Lord's Breakfast by the Sea
This is a re-telling of John 21:1-14 for young children with beautiful color pictures. 
Story | Ages 4 - 10

 The Miraculous Catch of Fish
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 9 - 12

 The Miraculous Catch of Fishes
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 To Love Is To Do
Spiritual tasks offer a reflection on a Biblical story and suggest a task for spiritual growth.
Activity | Ages over 18

Commentary

The Breakfast by the Sea of Galilee

By Joe David

The net was so full that they could not draw it into the boat.

Near the end of the gospel of John, (in John 21:1-14), we find a story where, some days after Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection, seven of Jesus's disciples have travelled north from Jerusalem, to the sea of Galilee. At Peter's suggestion they have all gone out in Peter's boat to fish. But they try all night, and have no luck and catch nothing. They are close to the shore, and as the early morning light begins to grow they see a man standing by the water. He calls out to them asking if they have caught anything. When they answer "no" He tells them, "try the other side of the boat". When they do this they catch so many fish they can't haul the net into the boat, it's too heavy. So they row toward shore letting the net full of fish drag on the bottom.

At first they don't recognize that the man they are seeing is Jesus. He has a small fire burning, and is cooking fish, and He invites them to have breakfast with Him. Then John says quietly to Peter that it's Jesus. Peter grabs his cloak, belts it around himself to cover his nakedness, and jumps in to swim to shore, since they are very close already.

This story has some interesting details to explore. The first of the stories of things that happened after the Lord's rising took place in or near Jerusalem, but this one is in Galilee. Five of these disciples are named, and at least four of the five we know are from Galilee, so in coming there they are at home, and these are fishermen, so to go fishing is in their blood. The five named are Simon (or Peter), the brothers James and John, Thomas, and Nathanael, and then two more who are not named, to make up the seven. It would be reasonable to guess that the unnamed two are Andrew, Peter's brother, and Philip, a friend of Nathaniel's, both of whom we know are from that area near the lake.

The angels that Peter and John saw at the sepulcher had told them that Jesus would meet them in Galilee on "the mountain", and perhaps these seven, because they came from Galilee, hurried on ahead of the others.

Let's look at their names and see what the literal meaning is, and what they represent in a spiritual way.

- Simon was renamed by Jesus as ‘Peter' which in the Greek means a rock, and in his case, the firmest and most critical rock, or truth, of Christianity, that Jesus was from God.

- John means love or charity.

- John's brother James means the doing of charity.

- Nathaniel means a gift from God, and being a friend of Philip, I think it might be that the gift from God that he represents is the love of learning things that fill the understanding, our curiosity.

- Thomas, in Greek, means a twin, and since he is named right after Peter perhaps he has a similar representation. Peter believes in the Lord easily because of what he has seen and what the Lord has told him whereas Thomas believes, and believes just as strongly, but only after his doubts have been erased, after he has been shown.

The towns most mentioned in the stories that take place around the "Sea of Galilee" in the gospels are Bethsaida, Capernaum, Cana, and Nazareth. Bethsaida itself means "a place of fishing." The maps I have of the area are small scale and not all exactly the same, but the indication is that it is at the northern end of the lake or even on the upper Jordan river just before it runs into the lake. Capernaum and Magdala are on the northwestern shore and Cana and Nazareth are inland, but only four or five miles west of this corner of the lake. This area was where most of these disciples had been brought up, and fishing was a common occupation.

The name Galilee means "a circuit". The Word teaches us that Jesus taught in the towns all around the lake, so that a reading of all that Jesus taught and did in that country could be thought of as a "circuit" of His teachings.

The next detail of interest is that when the Lord suggests the other side of the boat and the result is a large catch of fish after a long night of nothing. This is reminiscent of the fishing incident given in Luke 5:4-7. Since the disciples are to become "fishers of men" (as in Matthew 4:19) and they are to persuade people into the knowledge and worship of the Lord, the Christ, it is perhaps a lesson that in their ministry they must always be guided by the Lord.

Then John realizes, and whispers to Peter, "it's the Lord" (John 21:7) and Peter quickly puts his cloak on and jumps in to get to shore faster. Why is it John that first realizes? John represents love and affection while Peter represents faith or truth. While truth is the means of acting, as Peter does, love is the means of connecting, which is what John did. And why did Peter need to grab his cloak and put it on? Clothing in the Word represents the truths about spiritual things that all people may have if they look for them and it is the particular truths that form Peter as a disciple, "Thou art the Christ" (Matthew 16:16-18) that he answers to the Lord, and this truth is the rock of the Christian church. Having this truth as part of himself is necessary to meet the Lord.

When they are all on shore, Jesus says to them to bring some of the fish they have caught, so Peter goes to the water and drags the full net up onto the sand and counts out the fish, one hundred and fifty three. Then Jesus invites them all to come and eat.

Now a strange comment is put into the story: "…none of the disciples durst ask him, 'who art thou?', knowing that it was the Lord." (John 21:12). It seems that they should have known, they had been following Him for several years. I wonder if this is a reminder that the Christian church has yet to understand the true reality of the Lord - was He God, or was He man? The Catholic church argued this for more than three hundred years, and the council that was supposed to decide came up with three separate persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, all in one Godhead. Some of the Christian churches of today seem to focus on two, the Father, and a Son born from eternity, who apparently both rule together.

The New Christian Church understands that Jesus was born both God and man but that there was a slow but inevitable change going on during His lifetime. He was born with God, Jehovah, as His inmost, and a human heredity and body from Mary as a covering or cloak over this inmost. Mary was, you may recall, of the royal house of David, so her heredity was both strong and inclusive, and thus represented all that was connected to the Jewish form of worship. During Jesus' life (and starting early, though we don't know just how early), He put off things from Mary, and put on what was a corresponding Divine, from His inmost, in its place, until on Easter morning He was wholly divine, with all that came from His mother being dispersed and gone. There is only One God.

Why is it that in this little story the number of fishes that were caught in the net is mentioned, and why does it seem now so important that Peter took the time to count them as everyone waited? Something that has been revealed to the New Christian Church is that all the numbers used in the stories of the Word have a meaning that belongs to that number even outside the literal use in the story. The number 153 can be seen as the combination of 150 and 3, and both of these are strongly meaningful. Starting with the "three", there should be little doubt that it means something since it is used so often. Jesus rose on the third day. Also three is the number of things that, put together, make anything complete, the wish or desire to do it, the knowledge of how to do it, and the actual doing. This is true of any task - from baking a cake right up to the Lord's love, His wisdom, and His act put forth in creating the universe. One hundred and fifty is not so plain. I am aware of only two places it is used in the Word, and we are told that it means a total change, an ending of something and the beginning of something different. It is used here and in the story of the flood, at the end of Genesis 7 and in Genesis 8:3; "And the waters prevailed upon the earth an hundred and fifty days." "… And the waters returned from off the earth continually; and after the end of the one hundred and fifty days the waters were abated." The use here is that it means the end of the Church called "Adam" and the start of the church called "Noah" (See on this website "The Churches", and for the meaning, see Arcana Coelestia 812, 846). In the story we are considering it means the end of the Church called Israel and the start of the Christian church, though that is probably complete a day or two later when the Lord meets with all of His disciples on the mountain and sends them out to preach and heal.

This first part of this story ends with all of the seven disciples on the shore with Jesus, and His giving to them a breakfast of bread and roasted fish, and with this giving perhaps they all fully realized who He was, as with the two at Emmaus, and the Gospel comments, "This is now the third time that Jesus showed Himself to his disciples after that He was risen from the dead.

From Swedenborg's Works

Apocalypse Explained #513

Apocalypse Explained (Tansley translation)

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513. And the third part of the creatures which were in the sea, and had lives, died.- That this signifies that every living scientific in the natural man died, is clear from the signification of dying as denoting to perish spiritually, or as to the life of heaven; and from the signification of third part, as denoting all (see above, n. 506); and from the signification of the creatures in the sea, or fishes, which denote scientifics, of which we shall speak presently; and from the signification of having lives, as denoting to be alive. Therefore by the third part of the creatures in the sea that had lives dying, is signified the perishing of every living scientific. A living scientific means a scientific which derives life from spiritual affection; for this affection gives life to truths, and consequently life to scientifics, scientifics being the containants of spiritual truths, as may be seen above (n. 506, 507, 511).

(References: Revelation 8:9; The Apocalypse Explained 506, 506-507, 511)


[2] The reason why the creatures of the sea, or fishes, signify scientifics is, that the sea signifies the natural man, and therefore the fishes in the sea signify scientifics themselves in the natural man. That fish signify these things is also from correspondence; for spirits who are not in spiritual truths, but in natural truths only, which are scientifics, appear in the spiritual world in seas like fish, when seen by those who are above. It is their thoughts, which proceed from the scientifics which they possess, that have this appearance. For all the ideas of the thought of angels and of spirits are turned into various representatives outside of them; when into such things as belong to the vegetable kingdom, they are changed into trees and shrubs of various kinds; but when into such things as belong to the animal kingdom, they are turned into animals of the earth, and into birds of various kinds. When the ideas of the angels of heaven are turned into animals of the earth, they are changed into lambs, sheep, she-goats, heifers, horses, mules, and others of a similar kind; but when into birds, they are turned into turtle-doves, doves, and many kinds of beautiful birds; but on the other hand the ideas of the thought of those who are natural, and think from scientifics alone, are turned into the forms of fishes. For this reason various species of fish appear in the seas, which I have been often permitted to see.

(References: Isaiah 50:2)


[3] Hence it is that in the Word fishes signify scientifics as in the following places.

In Isaiah:

"At my rebuke, I dry up the sea; I make the rivers a wilderness; their fish shall grow putrid, because there is no water, and shall die of thirst" (l. 2).

The rebuke of Jehovah means the destruction of the church, which comes to pass when there is no knowledge of good and truth, or no living cognition, because no perception. Drying up the sea, signifies to deprive the natural man of scientific truths, and thence of natural derived from spiritual life. To make the rivers a wilderness, has a similar signification in regard to the rational man, in consequence of which there is no longer any intelligence; their fish becoming putrid, because there is no water, and dying of thirst, signifies that the scientific is no longer alive, because not true, fish denoting what is scientific, water, truth, while to grow putrid, denotes to die as to spiritual life.

(References: Isaiah 50:2)


[4] It is said here similarly of the sea that the third part of it became blood, and that thence a third part of the creatures therein died. Also it is said of Egypt that its river and all its waters became blood, and that in consequence the fish died. Moses told Pharaoh that the waters of the river should be turned into blood, and that the fish should consequently die, and the river stink, so that the Egyptians would loathe to drink of the waters of the river. This also took place with all the water in Egypt (Exod. vii. 17-20).

Concerning this circumstance it is thus written in David:

"He turned their waters into blood, and killed their fish" (Psalm. cv. 29).

The reason why similar things were done in Egypt is, that Egypt signified the natural man as to the scientifics thereof, or the scientific of the natural man. The river of Egypt signifies intelligence procured by means of scientifics; the river being turned into blood, signifies that that intelligence is from pure falsities; by the fish dying, is signified that scientific truths perished by falsities, for scientifics live by truths but perish by falsities, the reason of which is, that all spiritual truth is living, and the entire life or, as it were, the soul in scientifics is thence, wherefore without spiritual truth, the scientific is dead.

(References: Exodus 7:17-25; Psalms 105:29)


[5] In Ezekiel:

"Behold, I am against thee, Pharaoh, king of Egypt, the great whale that lieth in the midst of his rivers, which hath said, My river is mine own, and I have made myself. But I will put hooks in thy jaws, and I will cause the fish of thy rivers to stick unto thy scales, and I will bring thee up out of the midst of thy rivers, and all the fish of thy rivers shall stick unto thy scales. And I will leave thee in the wilderness, thee and all the fish of thy rivers" (xxix. 3, 4, 5).

Pharaoh has a similar signification to Egypt, the king like the people signifies the natural man, and the scientific therein. On this account he is called a great whale. For a whale or sea monster signifies what is scientific in general, and therefore it is said that he shall be drawn out of the river, and that the fish shall stick to his scales, which signifies that all intelligence would perish, and that the knowledge (scientia) in the sensual man in the place of it would be without life. In the sensual man, which is the lowest natural man lying nearest to the world, there are fallacies and thence falsities, and this is signified by the fish adhering to the scales of the whale. That the natural man, and what is scientific therein, would be without life from any intelligence, is signified by, "I will leave thee in the wilderness, thee and all the fish of thy rivers." That such things would come to pass through the natural man ascribing all intelligence to itself, is signified by the words, "which hath said, My river is mine own, and I have made myself," river denoting intelligence.

(References: Ezekiel 29:3-5)


[6] In Moses:

The sons of Israel in the wilderness said, "We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlick; but now our soul is dried up; there is nothing at all beside this manna before our eyes. Afterwards a wind went forth from Jehovah, and brought quails from the sea, and let them fall over the camp." But because of their lust "Jehovah smote the people with a very great plague; and the name of that place was called the graves of lust (Kibroth-hattaavah)" (Num. xi. 5, 6, 31, 33, 34).

These words signify that the sons of Israel turned away from spiritual things, and greedily desired natural things; for they were merely natural, and not spiritual, only representing the spiritual church by external things. That they turned away from spiritual things, is signified by their saying "our soul is dried up, there is nothing at all beside this manna before our eyes," manna signifying spiritual food, which is knowledge (scientia), intelligence, and wisdom. That they greedily desired natural things, is signified by their lusting after the fish of Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlick; all these signify such things as pertain to the lowest natural, that is, to the corporeal sensual man; and because they rejected spiritual things, and desired merely natural things instead of them, therefore they were smitten with a great plague, and the name given to the place was "the graves of lust."

(References: Numbers 11:4-6, 11:5-6, 11:31, 11:33-34)


[7] In Ezekiel:

He said unto me, "These waters issue out toward the eastern border, and go down into the plain, and go towards the sea; which being brought forth into the sea, the waters shall be healed, therefore it comes to pass, that every living soul which creepeth, whithersoever the rivers come, shall live whence a very great multitude of fish. Therefore it comes to pass that the fishers shall stand upon it from Engedi, even unto En-eglaim; in the spreading of nets they are present; their fish shall be according to their kind, as the fish of the great sea, exceeding many. But the miry places and the marshes thereof shall not be healed; they shall be given to salt" (xlvii. 1, 8-11).

The subject here is the house of God which signifies heaven and the church; and the waters issuing out of the house of God towards the east, signify the Divine Truth reforming and regenerating; by the plain and by the sea into which the waters descend, are signified the ultimates of heaven and the church, which, with the men of the church, are those things that pertain to the natural and sensual man; by the plain are signified the interior things thereof, and by the sea, the exterior things thereof. That knowledges from the Word, as well as confirmatory scientifics, receive spiritual life by means of that Divine Truth, is signified by the waters of the sea being thence healed, and by every living soul which creepeth, and by there being a great multitude of fish; that there shall thence be true and living scientifics of every kind, is signified by the fish being according to their kind, as the fish of the great sea, exceeding many. Those who are reformed, and thence become intelligent, are meant by the fishers from Engedi, even to En-eglaim. Those who cannot be reformed, because they are in the falsities of evil, are signified by the miry places and marshes, which are not healed, and are given to salt. That fishes multiplied by waters issuing out of the house of God are not here meant, every one can see, but that fishes mean such things in man as can be reformed, because the house of God means heaven and the church, and the waters issuing therefrom mean the Divine Truth reforming.

(References: Ezekiel 47:1, 47:8-11)


[8] In the Word throughout, mention is made of the beast of the earth, the bird of heaven, and the fish of the sea, and he who does not know that the beast of the earth, or of the field, means the Voluntary of man, the bird of heaven, his Intellectual, and the fish of the sea, his Scientific, cannot at all know the meaning of those expressions; as in the following passages.

In Hosea:

"Jehovah hath a controversy with the inhabitants of the earth, because there is no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the earth. Therefore shall the earth mourn, and every one that dwelleth therein shall pine away, among the beast of the field, and among the bird of the heavens; yea, the fishes of the sea also shall be taken away" (iv. 1, 3).

In Zephaniah:

"I will consume man and beast, I will consume the bird of the heavens, and the fishes of the sea, and the stumbling-blocks with the wicked" (i. 3).

In Ezekiel:

"In the day when God shall come against the land of Israel, there shall be a great earthquake in the land of Israel, and the fishes of the sea, and the birds of the heavens, and the beasts of the field, shall tremble before my presence" (xxxviii. 18, 19, 20).

In Job:

"Ask the beasts, and they shall teach thee; or the birds of the heaven, and they shall tell thee; or the thicket of the earth, and it shall teach thee; and the fishes of the sea shall declare unto thee. Who knoweth not from all these that the hand of Jehovah doeth that?" (xii. 7-9).

In these passages, the beasts of the field mean the Voluntary of man, the birds of the heavens, his Intellectual; and the fish of the sea, his Scientific. For what other reason would it be said, "the beasts shall teach thee, the birds of the heaven shall tell thee, and the fishes of the sea shall declare unto thee that the hand of Jehovah doeth this?" It is also said, "Who knoweth not from all these?"

(References: Acts of the Apostles 12:7-9; Ezekiel 38:18-20; Hosea 4:1, 4:3; Job 12:7-9; Zephaniah 1:3)


[9] Similarly in David:

"Thou hast made him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet. The flock and all herds, the beasts of the fields; the bird of the heaven, and the fish of the sea, passing through the paths of the sea" (Psalm viii. 6-8).

These things are said concerning the Lord, and His dominion. That He has dominion over the angels in the heavens, and over man on the earth, is known from the Word, for He Himself says, that all power is given to Him in heaven and on earth (Matt. xxviii. 18). But that dominion was given to Him over animals, birds, and fishes, is not of sufficient importance to be mentioned in the Word, where all things, even the most minute, have reference to heaven and the church. It is evident therefore that the flock and the herds, the beasts of the field, the bird of the heaven, and the fish of the sea, mean such things as pertain to heaven with the angels, and to the church with man. The flock and the herds signify, in general, spiritual things and natural things; the flock, spiritual things; and herds, natural things pertaining to man, or those things that belong to his spiritual mind and to his natural mind. Beasts of the field signify voluntary things, which pertain to the affections; the birds of heaven, intellectual things, which pertain to the thoughts; and fishes of the sea, things scientific, which pertain to the natural man.

(References: Matthew 28:18; Psalms 8:6-8)


[10] Similar things are signified by these words in the first chapter of Genesis:

"God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; in order that they may have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the bird of the heaven, and over every animal creeping upon the earth" (verses 26-28).

The subject of that chapter, in the internal spiritual sense, is the establishment of the Most Ancient Church, thus the new creation or regeneration of the men of that church. That it was granted them to perceive all things of their affection, which are of the will, and to see all things of their thought, which are of the understanding, and so to rule those things, lest they should fall away into the lusts of evil and into falsities, is meant by the words, "in order that they may have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the bird of the heaven, and over every animal of the earth." And man rules over these when the Lord rules over man, for man of himself cannot rule over any thing in himself. Such things are signified by the fish of the sea, the bird of the heaven, and the beast of the field, because they correspond. In the spiritual world it is made clear to the sight that the interior things of man correspond to such things; for there beasts of every kind appear, also birds, and in the seas, fishes which are nevertheless nothing else but the ideas of thought which flow forth from the affections and are presented to view under such forms, because they correspond.

(References: Genesis 1:26, 1:28)


[11] Because fishes signify the scientifics and knowledges of the natural man, which are to the spiritual man the means of becoming wise, therefore fishers, in the Word, mean those who are in knowledges only, and who procure knowledges for themselves, and also those who teach others, and reform them by means of knowledges. This work of theirs is meant by the casting and spreading of nets, as in the following passages.

In Isaiah:

"The fishers shall mourn, and all they that cast the hook into the river shall be sad, and they that spread the net upon the faces of the waters shall languish" (xix. 8).

Here the fishers that cast the hook into the river, and they that spread the net, mean those who desire to procure for themselves cognitions, and by means of them intelligence here that they are not able, because the cognitions of truth no where exist.

(References: Isaiah 19:8)


[12] In Jeremiah:

"I will bring again" the sons of Israel "into their land, I will send for many fishers, saith Jehovah, and they shall fish them; then will I send for many hunters, and they shall hunt them from every mountain, and from every hill, and out of the holes of the rocks" (xvi. [15,] 16).

By sending for fishers to fish them, and for hunters to hunt them, is meant to call together and establish the church with those who are in natural good, and in spiritual good, as may be seen above (n. 405:7).

(References: Jeremiah 16:15-16; The Apocalypse Explained 405)


[13] And in Habakkuk:

"Wherefore makest thou man as the fishes of the sea, as the creeping thing that hath none to rule it. Let him draw out all of them with a hook and gather him into his net. Shall he therefore empty his net, and not spare continually to slay the nations?" (i. 14, 15, 17).

These things are said concerning the Chaldean nation vastating and destroying the church; the Chaldean nation signifying the profanation of truth, and the vastation of the church. To make men as the fishes of the sea, and as the reptile that hath none to rule it, signifies to make man so natural, that his scientifics are without spiritual truth, and his pleasures without spiritual good. For in the natural man there are scientifics by means of which there are thoughts, and pleasures, and by means of these there are affections; if the spiritual man does not rule over these, both thoughts and affections are wandering, and thus man is destitute of the intelligence, which should teach and rule him. That in this case they can be drawn over to their side by every falsity and evil and so destroyed altogether, is signified by, "let him draw out all of them with a hook, and gather into his net, and afterwards he shall slay." To draw out means away from truth and good; into his net, means into falsity and evil; and to slay, denotes to destroy.

(References: Habakkuk 1:14-15, 1:17)


[14] In Amos:

"The days shall come in which they shall draw you out with hooks, and your posterity with fish-hooks" (iv. 2).

These words signify that they would be led by subtle reasonings from falsities and fallacies, and be turned away from truths. These things are said concerning those who abound in knowledges because they have the Word and the prophets, and they are meant there by the kine of Bashan in the mountain of Samaria. From these things it is now evident what is meant by fishermen, fishes, and nets, so often mentioned in the New Testament, as in the following passages:

(References: Amos 4:2)


[15] "And Jesus saw two brethren, Simon, called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishers. And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men" (Matt. iv. 18, 19; Mark i. 16, 17).

And in another place it is said that Jesus, having entered into Simon's ship, taught the multitude, and afterwards told Simon to let down their nets for a draught, and they caught a great multitude of fish, so that their ships were filled, and began to sink; and they were all astonished at the draught of fish; and He said to Simon, Fear not, from henceforth thou shalt catch men (Luke v. 3-10).

In these words also there is a spiritual sense, just as in the other parts of the Word. The Lord's choosing the fishermen, and saying that they should become fishers of men, signified that they should gather men to the church; the nets which they let down, and in which they inclosed a great multitude of fish, so that the ships began to sink, signified the reformation of the church by their means; for fishes there signify the knowledges of truth and good by which reformation takes place, also the multitude of men who would be reformed.

(References: Luke 5:3-10; Mark 1:16-17, 1:17, 1:18; Matthew 4:18-19)


[16] Similar things are also signified by the draught of fish taken by the disciples after the resurrection of the Lord, concerning which it is stated in John, that when Jesus showed Himself to His disciples who were fishing, He told them to cast their net on the right side of the ship; and they caught and were not able to draw the net for the multitude of fish. And after they came to land they saw a hearth [or fire of coals] there and a little fish laid thereon, and bread, and similarly Jesus gave them bread and fish (xxi. 2-13). The reason why the Lord showed Himself to His disciples while they were fishing, was, that to fish signified to teach the cognitions of truth and good, and so to reform. He commanded them to cast the net on the right side of the ship, which signifies that all things are from the good of love and of charity; for the right signifies the good from which they are; for cognitions live, and multiply so far as they are recipients of good. They said also, that they had laboured all the night, and taken nothing, which signifies that nothing was from themselves or their proprium, but everything was from the Lord. Similar also was the signification of the hearth [or fire of coals] on which there was a little fish, and of the bread; for the bread signified the Lord, and the good of love from Him, and the little fish upon the hearth the knowledge of truth from good; the little fish, the knowledge of truth, and the hearth or fire, good. At that time there were not any spiritual men, for the church was wholly vastated, but all were natural, the reformation of these was represented by that fishing, and also by the fish upon the hearth. He who supposes that the fish upon that hearth and the bread given to the disciples to eat are not significative of something of a higher nature, is much mistaken. For everything that the Lord did and said, signified celestial Divine things, which are made evident only by the spiritual sense. That a hearth and fire, denote the good of love, and bread the Lord as to that good, has been shown above; and that fish denote the cognition of truth, and the Scientific of the natural man, is evident from what has been said and shown in this article.

(References: John 21:2-13)


[17] The Lord also says that:

"The kingdom of the heavens is like unto a net (sagena), that was cast into the sea, and which gathered of every kind; which, when it was full, they drew to shore, and gathered the good into vessels, but cast the bad away. So shall it be in the consummation of the age" (Matt. xiii. 47-49).

The separation of the good and the evil is here likened to a net cast into the sea which gathered of every kind of fish, because fish signify natural men as to scientifics and cognitions, and these, in the consummation of the age, or at the time of a last judgment, are separated. For there are good natural men and wicked natural men, the separation of whom in the spiritual world appears like a net (rete) or drag-net (sagena) cast into the sea, drawing the fish together, and bringing them to shore. This appearance is from correspondence, therefore the Lord likened the kingdom of the heavens to a net (sagena) which drew the fish together. That such is the appearance of the separation of the good from the evil, I have also seen.

(References: Matthew 13:47-49)


[18] That natural men are signified by fish, is evident from this miracle of the Lord:

"They that received the half shekel (didrachma) came." Jesus said to Simon, "Of whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? of their own sons, or of strangers? Peter saith unto him, Of strangers. Jesus saith unto him, Then are the sons free. Notwithstanding, lest we should offend them, go thou to the sea and cast a hook, and take up the fish that first cometh up; and when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shalt find a piece of money (stater); that take, and give unto them for me and thee" (Matthew xvii. 24-27).

The paying of tribute or custom signified subjection and servitude; therefore tribute was levied on strangers, who were not of the sons of Israel, as is clear from the historical parts of the Word. The sons of Israel, with whom the church was, signified those who are spiritual, and strangers, those who are natural. The Natural is subject to the Spiritual, and serves it, for the spiritual man is as a lord, and the natural man as a servant; and because the natural are servants, and thus are meant by those who are tributary, therefore it came to pass that neither the Lord nor Peter paid tribute, but the fish, by which the natural man is signified.

That the Lord glorified His Human even to its ultimate, which is called natural and sensual, is signified by the following:

Jesus showed Himself to His disciples and said, "Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I; handle me and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have. And he showed them his hands and his feet, and said unto them, Have ye here any meat? They gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and of a honeycomb. And he took it, and did eat before them" (Luke xxiv. 38-43).

(References: Luke 24:38-43; Matthew 17:24-27)


[19] That the Lord glorified His Human even to its ultimate, which is called natural and sensual, He proved by His showing His hands and His feet; by His disciples touching these, and by His saying that a spirit had not flesh and bones as He [had], and also by His eating of the broiled fish and honeycomb. By the hands and feet are signified the ultimates of man; similarly by the flesh and bones. The broiled fish signifies the Natural as to truth from good, and honey the Natural as to good from which is truth. These things were eaten in the presence of the disciples, because they corresponded to the natural man and therefore signified it. For a fish, as shown in this article, signifies, from correspondence, the Natural as to what is scientific; therefore also a fish, in the Word, signifies the scientific, and the cognitive faculty of the natural man, and a broiled fish signifies the scientific which is from natural good; but, with the Lord, it signified the Natural Divine as to truth from good. That honey signifies natural good, may be seen in the Arcana Coelestia (n. 5620, 6857, 10,137, 10,530). He who is ignorant of the fact that there is a spiritual sense in every part of the Word, and that the sense of the letter, which is the natural sense, consists of correspondences with spiritual things, cannot understand the arcanum why the Lord ate of the broiled fish, and of the honeycomb in the presence of His disciples, and also, why He gave broiled fish and bread to His disciples, although every particular thing that the Lord spoke and did, was Divine, and these are interiorly stored up in every thing written in the Word.

(References: Arcana Coelestia 5620, 6857, 10137, 10530; Luke 24:38-43)


[20] It is now evident from these things that the words, "And the third part of the creatures which were in the sea, and had lives, died," signify that every living scientific in the natural man perished, or, what is the same, that the natural man as to the scientifics therein died; this is said to be dead when it is not vivified from the spiritual man, that is, by influx out of heaven from the Lord through the spiritual man, for the Lord flows through the spiritual man into the natural; therefore when no truth of heaven is any longer acknowledged, nor any good of heaven operates, then the spiritual mind which is called the spiritual man, is closed, and the natural mind receives merely falsities from evil; and falsities from evil are spiritually dead, for truths from good are spiritually living.

[21] It is said, "the third part of the creatures," because creatures and animals in the Word, signify the affections and thence the thoughts in man; consequently, men themselves in regard to these are also meant. Creatures, have a similar meaning in Mark:

Jesus said to His disciples, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature" (xvi. 15).

And also above in the Apocalypse:

"And every creature which is in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and which are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb, unto the ages of the ages" (v. 13).

That by every creature are there meant both angels and men is evident, for it is said that he "heard them saying." See above (n. 342-346), where these things are explained.

(References: Ezekiel 47:1; Mark 16:15; Matthew 4:18-19; Revelation 5:13; The Apocalypse Explained 342-346)

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From Swedenborg's Works

References from Swedenborg's unpublished works:

Apocalypse Explained 508, 514, 518, 817

Other New Christian Commentary

Cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic 1

Fish 1

Garlic 1

Kibroth hattaavah, or the graves of lust 1

Leeks 1

Melons 1

Onions 1

Rebuke of Jehovah 1

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 Jesus' Final Words
After the crucifixion Jesus appeared to His disciples, offering reassurance of His continued presence and commissioning them to love and follow Him.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 11 - 17


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


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