The Bible

 

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

        

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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References from Swedenborg's unpublished works: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:



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Psalms 127:2

Word/Phrase Explanations

disciples
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...

sea
'The sea and the waves roaring' means heresy and controversies in the church and individual.

Simon
'Simon, son of Jonah,' as in John 21:15, signifies faith from charity. 'Simon' signifies worship and obedience, and 'Jonah,' a dove, which also signifies charity.

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

Galilee
Cana of Galilee signifies the church among the Gentiles.

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...

answered
To "answer" generally indicates a state of spiritual receptivity. Ultimately this means being receptive to the Lord, who is constantly trying to pour true ideas...

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.

fishes
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...

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...

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...

bread
The idea of a “loaf” in the Bible is very closely tied to the idea of “bread,” and is often used to mean bread: Jesus...

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

third
The Writings talk about many aspects of life using the philosophical terms "end," "cause" and "effect." The "end" is someone’s goal or purpose, the ultimate...

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...

Resources for parents and teachers

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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 (Whitehead translation)      

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513. Verse 9. And there died the third part of the creatures in the sea having souls, signifies that in consequence every living knowledge [scientificum] in the natural man perished. This is evident from the signification of "dying," as being to perish spiritually, that is, in respect to the life of heaven; also from the signification of the "third part," as being all (see above, n. 506; also from the signification of the "creatures in the sea" (or fishes), as being knowledges [scientifica] (of which presently); also from the signification of "having souls," as being to be alive; consequently "there died the third part of the creatures in the sea having souls" signifies that in consequence every living knowledge perished. A living knowledge means a knowledge that derives life from spiritual affection; for that affection gives life to truths, and thus gives life to knowledges, for knowledges are containants of spiritual truths (see above, n. 506, 507, 511).

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


[2] "The creatures of the sea" (or fishes) signify knowledges, because the "sea" signifies the natural man, and thus "fishes in the sea" signify the knowledges themselves that are in the natural man. This signification of "fishes" also is from correspondence, for the spirits that are not in spiritual truths, but only in natural truths, which are knowledges, appear in the spiritual world in seas, and when viewed by those who are above, as fishes; for the thoughts that spring from the knowledges with such present that appearance. For all the ideas of the thought of angels and spirits are turned into various representatives outside of them; when turned into such things as are of the vegetable kingdom they are turned into trees and shrubs of various kinds; and when into such things as are of the animal kingdom they are turned into land animals and flying things of various kinds; when the ideas of the angels of heaven are turned into land animals they are turned into lambs, sheep, goats, bullocks, horses, mules, and other like animals; but when into flying things they are turned into turtle doves, pigeons, and various kinds of beautiful birds. But the ideas of thought of those who are natural and who think from mere knowledges are turned into the forms of fishes. Consequently in the seas various kinds of fishes appear, and this it has often been granted me to see.

[3] It is from this that in the Word "fishes" signify knowledges, as in the following passages. In Isaiah:

At My rebuke I dry up the sea, I make the rivers into a wilderness; their fish shall rot because there is no water, and shall die of thirst (Isaiah 50:2).

"The rebuke of Jehovah" means the ruin of the church, which takes place when there is no knowledge of truth and good, that is, no living knowledge, because there is no perception; "dry up the sea" signifies to deprive the natural man of true knowledges [scientifica], and thus of natural life from the spiritual; "to make the rivers into a wilderness" signifies a similar deprivation in the rational man whence there is no intelligence; "their fish shall rot because there is no water, and shall die of thirst," signifies that there is no longer any living knowledge [scientificum], because there is no truth, "fish" meaning knowledge, "water" truth, and "to rot" meaning to perish in respect to spiritual life.

[4] The like that is here said of the sea, that "a third part of it became blood, and thence the third part of the creatures in it died," is said also of Egypt, that its river and all its waters became blood, and consequently the fish died, in Moses:

Moses said to Pharaoh that the waters of the river should be turned into blood, and that consequently the fish should die, and the river should stink, and that the Egyptians would loathe to drink the waters of the river; and this was also done in respect to all the water in Egypt (Exodus 7:17-25).

It is said of this in David:

He turned their waters into blood, and slew their fish (Psalms 105:29).

The like was done in Egypt, because "Egypt" signifies the natural man in respect to its knowledge [scientificum], or the knowledge belonging to the natural man; "the river of Egypt" signifies intelligence acquired by means of knowledges; "the river becoming blood" signifies intelligence from mere falsities; "the fish dying" signifies that true knowledges were destroyed by falsities, for knowledges live by truths but are destroyed by falsities, for the reason that all spiritual truth is living, and from it is all the life, or as it were the soul, in the knowledges; therefore without spiritual truth knowledge is dead.

[5] In Ezekiel:

I am against thee, Pharaoh, king of Egypt, the great whale that lieth in the midst of his rivers, that hath said, My river is mine own, and I have made myself. Therefore 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, that all the fish of thy rivers may stick unto thy scales. And I will abandon thee in the wilderness, thee and all the fish of thy rivers (2 Ezekiel 29:3-5).

"Pharaoh" has a similar signification as "Egypt," for the king and the people have a similar signification, namely, the natural man and knowledge therein; therefore he is called "a great whale;" "whale (or sea-monster)" signifying knowledge in general; therefore it is said that "he shall be drawn out of the river," and that then "the fish shall stick to his scales," which signifies that all intelligence is to perish, and that knowledge (scientia) which will take its place will be in the sensual man without life. In the sensual man, which is the lowest natural, standing out nearest to the world, there are fallacies and falsities therefrom, and this is signified by "the fish sticking to the scales" of the whale. That the natural man and the knowledge therein will be without life from any intelligence is signified by "I will abandon thee in the wilderness, thee and all the fish of thy rivers." That such things would come to pass because the natural man attributes all intelligence to itself, is signified by "that hath said, My river is mine own, I have made myself," "river" meaning intelligence.

[6] In Moses:

The sons of Israel said in the wilderness, We remember the fish that we did eat in Egypt freely, and the cucumbers and the melons, and the leeks and the onions and the garlic; now our soul is dried up; there is nothing at all except this manna before our eyes. Afterwards there went forth a wind from Jehovah, and snatched quails from the sea, and let them fall over the camp. But because of this lust Jehovah smote the people with a very great plague; consequently the name of that place was called the Graves of Lust (Numbers 11:5, 6, 31, 33, 34).

This signified that the sons of Israel were averse from things spiritual and hungered after natural things; indeed, they were not spiritual but merely natural, only representing a spiritual church by external things. That they were averse from spiritual things is signified by "our soul is dried up, there is nothing at all except this manna before our eyes," "manna" signifying spiritual food, which is knowledge (scientia), intelligence, and wisdom. That they hungered after natural things is signified by "their lusting after the fish in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic," all which signify such things as belong to the lowest natural, that is, the sensual-corporeal man; and because they rejected things spiritual, and coveted merely natural things instead, "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, 11:33-34)


[7] In Ezekiel:

He said to me, These waters go forth toward the eastern boundary, and go down into the plain and come towards the sea, being sent forth into the sea that the waters may be healed; whence it comes to pass that every living soul that creeps, whithersoever the brooks come, shall live; whence there is exceeding much fish. Therefore it shall come to pass that the fishers shall stand upon it from En-gedi even unto En-eglaim; with the spreading of nets are they there; 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 which are not healed shall be given to salt (Ezekiel 47:8-11).

This treats of the house of God, which signifies heaven and the church; and "the waters that go forth out of the house of God towards the east" signify Divine truth reforming and regenerating; the "plain" and the "sea" into which the waters go down, signify the ultimate things of heaven and the church, which with the men of the church are the things that belong to the natural and sensual man, the "plain" signifying the interior things thereof, and the "sea" the exterior things thereof; that both cognitions from the Word and confirming knowledges receive spiritual life through this Divine truth is signified by "the waters of the sea are healed thereby," and by "every soul that creepeth shall live," and by "there shall be exceeding much fish;" that there are in consequence true and living knowledges of every kind is signified by "their fish shall be 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 En-gedi 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 that are not healed, but are given to salt." Everyone can see that this does not mean that fishes are multiplied by the waters going forth out of the house of God, but that "fishes" mean such things in man as can be reformed, since "the house of God" means heaven and the church, and the "waters going forth therefrom" mean Divine truth reforming.

(References: Ezekiel 47:1)


[8] In the Word here and there mention is made of "the beast of the earth," "the fowl 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 man's voluntary faculty, "the fowl of heaven" his intellectual faculty, and "the fish of the sea" his knowing faculty, cannot know at all the meaning of these passages, as in the following. In Hosea:

Jehovah hath a controversy with the inhabitants of the land, because there is no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land. Therefore the land shall mourn, and everyone that dwelleth therein shall languish, among the beasts of the field, and among the fowl of the heavens; and also the fishes of the sea shall be gathered up (Hosea 4:1, 3).

In Zephaniah:

I will consume man and beast, I will consume the fowl of the heavens, and the fishes of the sea, and the stumbling blocks with the wicked (Zephaniah 1:3).

In Ezekiel:

In the day that Gog shall come upon the land of Israel, there shall be a great earthquake over the land of Israel, and the fishes of the sea, and the fowl of the heavens, and the beast of the field, shall quake before Me (Ezekiel 38:18-20).

In Job:

Ask the beasts and they shall teach thee, or the fowl of heaven and they shall tell thee, or the shrub of the earth and it shall teach thee, and the fishes of the sea shall declare unto thee. Who doth not know by all these things that the hand of Jehovah doeth this? (Job 12:7-9).

In these passages "the beast of the field" means man's voluntary faculty, "the fowl of heaven" his intellectual faculty, and "the fish of the sea" his knowing faculty; otherwise how could it be said "the beasts shall teach thee, the fowl of heaven shall tell thee, and the fishes of the sea shall declare unto thee, that the hand of Jehovah doeth this"? Also it is said, "Who doth not know by all these things?"

(References: Acts of the Apostles 12:7-9)


[9] Likewise in David:

Thou madest him to rule 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 fowl of heaven, and the fish of the sea, whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas (Psalms 8:6-8).

This is said of the Lord and His dominion. That He has dominion over angels in the heavens and over men on the earth is known from the Word, for He says that unto Him "all power in heaven and in earth has been given" (Matthew 28:18); but that dominion was given to Him over animals, fowl, and fishes, is not a matter of sufficient importance to be mentioned in the Word, where each and every thing has reference to heaven and the church. It is therefore evident that "flock and herds, the beasts of the fields, the fowl of heaven, and the fish of the sea," mean such things as belong to heaven with angels and to the church with man, "the flock and the herds" signifying, in general, things spiritual and natural, the "flock" things spiritual, and "herds" things natural that are with man, or that belong to the spiritual mind and to the natural mind with him. "The beasts of the fields" signify things voluntary, which belong to the affections; "the fowl of heaven" signify things intellectual, which belong to the thoughts; and "the fishes of the sea" signify knowledges (scientifica) which belong to the natural man.

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

And God said, We will make man in Our image, after Our likeness; that he may have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of heaven, and over every animal that creepeth upon the earth (verses 26, 28).

This chapter treats in the internal spiritual sense of the establishment of the Most Ancient Church, thus of the new creation or regeneration of the men of that church. That it was given to them to perceive all things of their affection which belong to the will, and to see all things of their thought which belong to the understanding, and to so rule over them as not to wander away into the lusts of evil and into falsities, is meant by "that he may have dominion over the fish of the sea, and the fowl of heaven, and every animal of the earth;" and man has dominion over these things when the Lord has dominion over man, for man of himself does not have dominion over anything in himself. "The fish of the sea, the fowl of heaven, and the beast of the field," have this signification because of their correspondence. The correspondences of the interior things of man with these things stand forth so as to be clearly seen in the spiritual world; for there beasts of every kind, and birds, and fishes in the seas, are seen, which nevertheless are nothing else than the ideas of thought that flow forth from affections, and these are presented under such forms because they are correspondences.

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


[11] Because "fishes" signify the knowledges and cognitions belonging to the natural man that serve the spiritual man as means for becoming wise, so "fishers" mean in the Word those who are merely in knowledges, also those who are acquiring knowledges for themselves, also those who teach others and by means of knowledges reform them. The works of such are meant by "the casting and spreading of nets," as in the following passages. In Isaiah:

The fishers shall moan, and all they that cast the hook into the river shall mourn, and they that spread the net upon the faces of the waters shall languish (Isaiah 19:8).

"The fishers that cast the hook into the river and they that spread the net" mean those who wish to acquire for themselves knowledges and through these intelligence, here that they are unable to do this because there are no knowledges of truth anywhere.

[12] In Jeremiah:

I will bring back the sons of Israel again upon their land; I will send to many fishers who shall fish them; then I will send to many hunters, who shall hunt them from upon every mountain and from upon every hill, and out of the clefts of the cliffs (Jeremiah 16:15, 16).

"To send to fishers who shall fish them, and to hunters who shall hunt them," means 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.

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


[13] In Habakkuk:

Wherefore dost Thou make man as the fishes of the sea, as the creeping thing that hath no ruler? Let him draw up all with the hook, and gather him into his net. Shall he therefore empty his net, and not pity to slay the nations continually? (Mark 1:14, 15, 17).

This was said of the Chaldean nation wasting and destroying the church; and the Chaldean nation signifies the profanation of truth, and the vastation of the church. "To make men as the fishes of the sea, and as the creeping thing that hath no ruler," signifies to make man so natural that his knowledges (scientifica) are devoid of spiritual truth, and his delights are devoid of spiritual good; for in the natural man there are knowledges by which come thoughts, and delights by which come affections; and if the spiritual is not dominant over these, both thoughts and affections are wandering, and thus man is destitute of the intelligence that should lead and rule. That then every falsity and every evil has power to draw them over to their side, and thus wholly destroy them, is signified by "Let him draw out all with the hook, and gather into his net, and afterwards slay," "to draw out" meaning out of truth and good, "into his net" meaning into falsity and evil, and "to slay" meaning to destroy.

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


[14] In Amos:

The days will come in which they shall draw you out with hooks, and your posterity with fish hooks (Amos 4:2).

This signifies leading away and alienating from truths by means of acute reasonings from falsities and fallacies; it is said of those who abound in knowledges because they have the Word and the prophets; such are here meant by "the kine of Bashan in the mountain of Samaria."

[15] From this the meaning of "fishermen," "fishes" and "nets," so often mentioned in the New Testament, can be seen, as in the following passages:

Jesus saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishers. And He said unto them, Come ye after Me, and I will make you fishers of men (Matthew 4:18, 19: Mark 1:16, 17).

Jesus entered into Simon's boat and was teaching the multitude. After that He told Simon to let out his nets for a draught, and they inclosed a great multitude of fishes, so that the boats were filled, and in danger of sinking. And amazement seized them all, because of the draught of fishes; and He said unto Simon, Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men (Luke 5:3-10).

In this also there is a spiritual sense, like that in the rest of the Word; the Lord's choosing these fishermen and saying that "they should become fishers of men," signified that they should gather to the church; "the nets which they let out, and in which they inclosed a great multitude of fishes, so that the ships were in danger of sinking," signified the reformation of the church through them, for "fishes" here signify the knowledges of truth and good by means of which reformation is effected, likewise the multitude of men who are to be reformed.

(References: Mark 1:16-17, 1:18; Matthew 4:18-19)


[16] The draught of fishes by the disciples after the Lord's resurrection has a like signification; it is thus described in John:

When Jesus manifested Himself to the disciples, who were fishing, He told them to cast the net on the right side of the boat. And they took so many that they were not able to draw the net for the multitude of fishes. When they descended upon the land they saw a fire built, and a little fish lying thereon, and bread. And Jesus gave them the bread, and the little fish likewise (John 21:2-13).

The Lord manifested Himself while they were fishing, because "to fish" signified to teach the knowledges of truth and good, and thus to reform. His commanding them "to cast the net on the right side of the boat" signified that all things should be from the good of love and charity, "the right side" signifying that good from which all things should come, for so far as knowledges are derived from good, so far they live and are multiplied. They said that "they had labored all the night and had taken nothing," which signified that from self or from one's own (proprium) nothing comes, but that all things are from the Lord; and the like was signified by the "fire" on which was the little fish, and by the "bread;" for the "bread" signified the Lord and the good of love from Him, and "the fish on the fire" the knowledge of truth from good, the "fish" the knowledge of truth, and the "fire" good. At that time there were no spiritual men, because the church was wholly vastated, but all were natural, and their reformation was represented by this fishing, and also by the fish on the fire. He who believes that the fish on the fire and the bread that were given to the disciples to eat were not significative of something higher is very much mistaken, for the least things done by the Lord and said by Him were significative of Divine celestial things, which become evident only through the spiritual sense. That this "fire of coals" and "fire" mean the good of love, and that "bread" means the Lord in relation to that good, has been shown above; and that a "fish" means the knowledge of truth and the knowing faculty of the natural man is clear from what has been said and shown in this article.

[17] It is also said by the Lord that:

The kingdom of the heavens is like unto a net cast into the sea bringing together every kind of fish, which when it was full they drew upon the beach, and gathered the good into vessels, but cast the bad away. So shall it be in the consummation of the age (Matthew 13:47-49).

The separation of the good and the evil is here likened to "a net cast into the sea bringing together every kind of fish," for the reason that "fishes" signify natural men in respect to knowledges and cognitions, and in "the consummation of the age," or at the time of the Last Judgment, such are separated from one another; for there are good natural men and bad natural men; and the separation of these in the spiritual world has the appearance of a net or drag-net cast into the sea, bringing together the fish, and drawing them to the shore, and this appearance is also from correspondence. This is why the Lord likens the kingdom of the heavens to "a net bringing together the fish." That the separation of the good from the evil presents this appearance it has been granted me to see.

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

Those who received the half-shekel came. Jesus said to Simon, The kings of the earth, from whom do they receive tribute or toll? from their sons or from strangers? Peter said unto Him, From strangers. Jesus said unto him, Therefore are the sons free. But lest we cause them to stumble, go thou to the sea and cast a hook, and take up the fish that first cometh up, and open its mouth and thou shalt find a shekel; that take and give unto them for Me and thee (Matthew 17:24-27).

"To pay tribute and toll," signified to be subject and to serve, therefore tribute was imposed on strangers, who were not of the sons of Israel, as is evident from the histories of the Word. "The sons of Israel," with whom was the church, signified the spiritual, and "strangers" the natural; and what is natural is subject to what is spiritual and serves it, for the spiritual man is like a lord, and the natural man like a servant; and as the natural are servants, and are therefore meant by those who pay tribute, so it was brought about that neither the Lord nor Peter, but the "fish," which signified the natural man, should furnish the tribute.

[19] The Lord's glorification of His Human, even to its ultimate, which is called natural and sensual, is signified by the following:

Jesus, having appeared to the disciples, said, See My hands and My feet, that it is I myself; feel of Me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones as ye behold Me having. And He showed them the hands and feet. And He said unto them, Have ye here anything to eat? They gave Him a piece of a broiled fish and of a honeycomb. And He took it and did eat before them (Luke 24:38-43).

That the Lord glorified His Human even to its ultimate, which is called the natural and sensual, He made manifest by showing the hands and feet, and by the disciples feeling them, and by His saying that "a spirit hath not flesh and bones as He had;" and by His eating of the broiled fish and honeycomb. "Hands and feet" signify the ultimates of man, likewise "flesh and bones;" and "broiled fish" signifies the natural in respect to truth from good, and "honey" the natural in respect to the good from which is truth. Because these corresponded to the natural man, and thence signified it, they were eaten in the presence of the disciples; for a "fish," as has been shown in this article, signifies from correspondence the natural in respect to knowing [scientificum]; wherefore also "a fish" signifies in the Word knowledge and the knowing faculty [scientificum et cognitivum] which belong to the natural man, and a "broiled fish" signifies knowledge that is from natural good; but with the Lord it signifies the Divine natural in respect to truth from good (that "honey" signifies natural good may be seen in Arcana Coelestia, n (Arcana Coelestia 5620). 5 620, 6857, 10137, 10530). One who does not know that in each particular of the Word there is a spiritual sense, and that the sense of the letter, which is the natural sense, consists of correspondences with things spiritual, cannot know this arcanum, namely, why the Lord ate of the broiled fish and honeycomb in the presence of His disciples, nor why, as here, He gave broiled fish and bread to His disciples; and yet each and every thing that the Lord said and did was Divine, and these Divine things lie hidden in each thing written in the Word.

[20] From this the signification of "there died the third part of the creatures in the sea having souls" can now be seen, namely, that every living knowledge in the natural man perished; or, what is the same, that the natural man in respect to knowledges therein died. The natural man is said to be dead when it is not made alive from the spiritual man, that is, by influx out of heaven from the Lord through the spiritual man, for the Lord flows in through the spiritual man into the natural. When, therefore, no truth of heaven is any longer acknowledged, and no good of heaven affects man, the spiritual mind, which is called the spiritual man, is closed up, and the natural mind receives mere falsities from evil, and falsities from evil are spiritually dead, since truths from good are what are spiritually alive.

[21] It is said "the third part of the creatures," because "creatures" and "animals" signified in the Word the affections and thoughts therefrom in man; consequently they mean men themselves in respect to affections and thoughts. Such is the signification of "creatures" in Mark:

Jesus said to the disciples, Going into all the world, preach ye the Gospel to every creature (Mark 16:15).

Also above in Revelation:

And every creature that is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth, and those that are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Unto Him that sitteth upon the throne and unto the Lamb be the blessing, and the honor, and the glory, and the strength, unto the ages of the ages (Revelation 5:13).

It is evident that here "every creature" means both angels and men, for it is said that "he heard them saying." (See above, n. 342-346, where this is explained.)

(References: Ezekiel 47:1; Matthew 4:18-19; The Apocalypse Explained 342-346)

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References from Swedenborg's unpublished works:

Apocalypse Explained 508, 514, 518, 817

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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


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