The Bible

 

John 21:15-25 : Feed my lambs, Feed my sheep

     

Study the Inner Meaning

15 So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs.

16 He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep.

17 He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.

18 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not.

19 This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me.

20 Then Peter, turning about, seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved following; which also leaned on his breast at supper, and said, Lord, which is he that betrayeth thee?

21 Peter seeing him saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do?

22 Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me.

23 Then went this saying abroad among the brethren, that that disciple should not die: yet Jesus said not unto him, He shall not die; but, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?

24 This is the disciple which testifieth of these things, and wrote these things: and we know that his testimony is true.

25 And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.

   Study the Inner Meaning
From Swedenborg's Works

Explanations or references:

Arcana Coelestia 1017, 2371, 2788, 2921, 3934, 3994, 4169, ...

Apocalypse Revealed 17, 23, 383, 505, 879

Divine Love and Wisdom 19

Sacred Scripture 29

The Last Judgment 39

True Christian Religion 211, 764

The New Jerusalem and its Heavenly Doctrine 122


References from Swedenborg's unpublished works:

Apocalypse Explained 9, 10, 195, 228, 229, 250, 295, ...

On the Athanasian Creed 208

Divine Love 19

Divine Wisdom 11

An Invitation to the New Church 33

Scriptural Confirmations 4, 6, 36, 68

Hop to Similar Bible Verses

Joshua 22:22

Psalms 116:1, 139:1

Word/Phrase Explanations

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...

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
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...

son
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...

feed
When the Bible talks about "feeding" it is generally referring to instruction in spiritual things – teaching people the true concepts that can lead them...

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

time
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...

sheep
It’s pretty easy for most people to read the Bible and get a sense for what “sheep” means without any help. They are simple, peaceful,...

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

young
'The son of a cow' signifies the celestial natural level and natural exterior good.

Gird
To gird one’s self, as in John. 21:18, signifies to know and perceive truths in the light from good.

old
'Old waste places' signify the celestial aspects of faith.

hands
'Washing of the hands' was an ancient declaration of innocence, and signifies purification from evils and falsities, as in Psalms 73:13 and Matthew 27:24.

glorify
'To glorify' signifies acknowledgment and confession.

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

turning
Swedenborg says that the Lord is the sun of heaven, and like the natural sun of our world shines on everyone, good or evil. What...

disciple
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!...

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...

following
The basic meaning of "follow" in the Bible is pretty obvious if we consider what it means to "follow the Lord." That obviously doesn't mean...

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

seeing
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...

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

Tarry
'To tarry,' as in Genesis 27:44, signifies almost the same thing as 'to dwell,' except that 'to tarry' relates to the life of truth with...

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

Brethren
Brethren (Gen. 27:29) signify the affections of good.

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

wrote
In John 8:2-11, the Lord wrote twice on the ground, when the woman taken in adultery was brought to him, which signifies the condemnation of...

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

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...

written
If knowing what’s right were the same as doing what’s right, we would all be thin, healthy, hard-working, law-abiding, faithful to our spouses and free...

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

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

Amen
Amen signifies divine confirmation from truth, consequently from the Lord himself.Amen signifies truth, because the Lord was truth itself, therefore he so often said Amen...

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
Worship Talk | Ages over 18

 The Charge to Peter
This sermon describes the meaning of the Lord's charge to Peter to feed and tend His flocks. 
Worship Talk | Ages over 18

 The Disciples See the Lord After His Resurrection
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

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

 The Lord and His Disciple, Simon Peter
Activity | Ages 11 - 14

 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

 

An After-Breakfast Conversation      

By Joe David

This inscription is on a stone at the church hall in South Ronaldsey, in the Orkneys, northeast of Scotland.

An After-Breakfast Conversation
(A commentary on John 21:15-25)

In the first part of this chapter, seven disciples had come home to Galilee. They had gone fishing, seen Jesus on the shore, followed his instructions to fish on the right side of the boat, dragged a net loaded with 153 fish to shore, and... as the second half of the chapter begins, they have just finished breaking their fast with Him. Now they are relaxing.

Jesus says to Peter,"Do you love me?" and Peter, perhaps a little startled at the question, thinking that the answer is obvious, answers "yes", and Jesus responds, "Feed my lambs". Twice more this sequence is repeated, but with some changes. Then, after this unusual conversation, the Lord tells them all a little parable about being young and later being old. Then the Lord tells Peter to follow him, and Peter, apparently jealous, asks what John is supposed to do. The Lord mildly rebukes Peter’s jealousy by saying, "If this man tarry until I come what is that to you?", but then He tells John also to follow him.

Finally, the gospel of John, and indeed the collection of all four gospels, closes with an explanation by John that he is the writer of this gospel.

So now, let’s look more closely at the conversation, the parable, and the outbreak of jealousy.

Only two of the seven disciples, Peter and John, are mentioned in this part of the story. Peter represents faith, or truth, but truth about spiritual things that we really believe are from God. John represents good, or love to the neighbor. The former resides in the understanding part of the mind and the latter in the will part of the mind.

In telling Peter to feed His sheep, the Lord is saying that to follow Him means to preach the truths that all the disciples now know about the Lord, His coming, and about how a life should be led, in order to be a follower of the Lord in a new church. In the conversation the Lord is direct and probing. "Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these?" I think Peter is being asked whether he loves the Lord, Jesus, more than he loves his fellow Galilean friends, though it’s ambiguous, it could mean "do you love me more than these other six do?’ When Peter answers the first time he says "Lord thou knowest that I love thee."

With this first of the three probing questions, the Lord answers "Feed my lambs," while after that the response is "Feed my sheep." Sheep and lambs both represent people who are in a love of doing good, but while sheep means those who love to do good for the sake of the neighbor, lambs mean those who do good for the sake of the Lord. The first is spiritual good, and the second is higher, and is called celestial good. But people who wish to do good at first don’t know what is good; they need to learn that from the Word and be taught. This is why Peter is told to "feed them", which is to say that truth must indicate how good is to be done. In order to do things that are good, the will's wanting to, and the understanding's knowing how to go about it, must be conjoined. For a successful Christian life, or on a larger scale, a Christian church, 'Peter' and 'John' must work in harmony.

Then comes the parable. "When you were young you got yourself ready and did what you wanted on your own. But when you become old, you have to reach out for help and another shall carry you where you don’t want to go."

This doesn’t seem to fit in here, but of course it does, and in two ways. The first way is given in the Biblical text; it is about the Lord’s death, that all the prophecies were leading Him to His crucifixion, as is mentioned. The second way is a lesson for all of us. When we are young, confident, and strong, we feel that we can do what we want and don’t need any help. Temptations to do evil we ourselves can deal with. But when we grow wiser we realize that all our strength comes from the lord, and if we continue to depend only on ourselves, the temptations from the hells will be too strong and we will be led into doing what the hells want for us, not what we want. We must learn at the start to follow the Lord and depend on Him. This he says at the end of the parable, where it seems not to fit until we understand the parable. "And when He had spoken this He saith unto (them), follow Me." That’s what we need to do also.

Peter is happy to do this preaching of the truth and maybe feels that he has been singled out, but he also realizes that John also loves the Lord and is loved in return. So he asks "And what is this man supposed to do?" It seems that the needed harmony is not yet present, and that Peter is jealous of the bond, and probably hopes to be assured that he is number one... but that doesn’t happen. Peter is simply told that it doesn’t matter; he needs to do the job he has been given.

I’m reminded of the story of Jacob and Esau, in Genesis 25, where Esau is the firstborn and will inherit the birthright and blessing from Isaac, as his due. Jacob by craft devised by his mother deceives Isaac and steals what is Esau’s. Then he runs off to Padan-Aram and stays there with his uncle and becomes rich. It is only on his return journey that he wrestles with the angel and has his name changed to Israel, that he again meets Esau. The change of name means that now that Jacob is rich with truth from the Word, now with the friendly meeting with Esau, also rich, that the two twins can in parable, be merged into one personage, called Israel, meaning the joining of good and truth in the mind.

Esau means something similar to John, they both represent goodness or true charity. Jacob means something similar to Peter, they both represent truth learned from the Word. Any seeming enmity between them as to which is more important can make them both useless, and in a person who is becoming angelic (as everyone should be aiming for), there is no enmity. Truth enables good, and good inspires truth in order to get something done. Although we can think and speak of them separately, they are (perfectly in the Lord and less so in angels) conjoined into a oneness so as to be seen as married. The marriage of the Lord's Divine good and Divine truth is the origin of all creation. Yes, all creation.

This marriage of good and truth, and the need for both to work in our lives, in balance and harmony, is a core New Christian concept.

In the Gospels, there is just one more story that takes place after this one. In it, the rest of the disciples join the seven mentioned here to hear the Lord’s last commands.

From Swedenborg's Works

 

Apocalypse Explained #532

Apocalypse Explained (Tansley translation)      

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532. Since all numbers in the Word signify things and states, and the compound numbers derive their significations from the simple numbers of which they are compounded, and since the simple numbers are principally two, three, five, and seven, it is important to point out their signification in the Word, and at present, that of the number three, because it is said; "Woe, woe, woe, to them that dwell on the earth by reason of the voices of the trumpet of the three angels which are yet to sound!" That all numbers, in the Word, signify something pertaining to a thing and to state, may be seen above (n. 203, 429); and that the greater and complex numbers signify the same as the simple numbers from which they arise by multiplication, and that the simple numbers are two, three, five, and seven, may also be seen above (n. 430).

(References: Mark 16:2; Revelation 8:13; The Apocalypse Explained 203, 429, 430)


[2] That by three in the Word is signified what is full and complete, and hence an entire period, greater or less, from beginning to end, is evident from the following passages; thus in Isaiah:

"Within three years, as the years of an hireling, the glory of Moab shall be contemned, with all that great multitude; and the remnant shall be very small and feeble" (xvi. 14).

Here by Moab are meant those who are in falsities from evil. His glory, and that great multitude, mean those falsities themselves. By the three years within which his glory shall be contemned, is signified that which is complete and consummated; it is therefore said, "then the remnant shall be very small," which signifies that it shall be no more. Three years are spoken of, which means consummation, thus, from beginning to end. It must be observed, that the same is signified by three years, as by three months, three weeks, three days, and three hours, for times, in the spiritual sense, signify states, and three times, whether greater or less, a full state.

(References: Isaiah 16:14)


[3] Again, in the same prophet:

"Like as my servant Isaiah hath walked naked and barefoot three years for a sign and wonder upon Egypt and upon Cush; so shall the king of Assyria lead the captivity of Egypt, and the multitude of Cush that is to be carried away; boys and old men, naked and barefoot" (xx. 3, 4).

Egypt and Cush do not mean Egypt and Cush, but Egypt means the External or Natural as to the Scientific, and Cush the External or Natural as to worship. When these are without an internal spiritual, they are also without truth and good, for all the truth, and all the good in the natural or external man, is from influx from the Lord through the spiritual man; and when it is destitute of truth and good, then the natural or external man, as to the things therein, is like a man naked and barefoot. That there will be only reasonings from falsities, and that these things will destroy, is signified by the king of Assyria leading the captivity of Egypt, and by the multitude of Cush, that is to be carried away naked and barefoot. By the boys and old men, whom the king of Assyria shall lead away, naked and barefoot, is signified that all innocence and all wisdom would perish. Their total and complete destruction was represented by the prophet going three years naked and barefoot; three years signifying an entire period from beginning to end, and therefore, total destruction.

(References: Isaiah 20:3-4)


[4] So in Hosea:

Jehovah "after two days will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up" (vi. 2).

To revive after two days, and to raise up the third day, signifies to reform and restore the church, the third day denoting full reformation and restoration, wherefore it is said, that Jehovah shall then raise them up; that neither two days are meant nor the third day is evident.

(References: Hosea 6:2)


[5] Since the number three signified completeness even to the end, therefore that number was adopted in the representative church, and used as often as completeness was represented, as is evident from these things in the Word. They were to go a three days' journey, and sacrifice (Exod. iii. 18; v. 3); in the third month after their departure from Egypt, they came to mount Sinai (Exod. xix. 1); they were commanded to prepare themselves against the third day, because on the third day Jehovah would descend upon mount Sinai (Exod. xix. 11, 15, 16, 18). For three days there was darkness in the land of Egypt (Exod. x. 22, 23). During three years the fruits of the trees planted in the land of Canaan were to be uncircumcised (Levit. xix. 23-25). No part of the flesh of the sacrifice was to be left till the third day (Levit. vii. 16, 17, 18; xix. 6, 7). The water of separation was to be sprinkled upon the unclean on the third day, and on the seventh, day (Num. xix. 11-22). Those who touched what was slain, were to be cleansed the third day, and the seventh day (Num. xxxi. 19-25). Joshua commanded the people, that within three days they should pass over Jordan (Joshua i. 11; iii. 2). Jehovah called Samuel three times, and three times Samuel ran to Eli, and the third time Eli understood that Jehovah called Samuel (1 Samuel iii. 1-8). Jonathan told David to hide himself in a field until the third evening, and afterwards Jonathan threw three arrows to the side of the stone, and David bowed himself three times to the earth before Jonathan (1 Sam. xx. 5, 12, 19, 20, 35, 36, 41). Three things, were proposed to David, of which he was to choose one, a famine of seven years, or he should flee three months before his enemies, or a pestilence should be in the land three days (2 Sam. xxiv. 11-13). Elijah stretched himself upon the son of the widow three times (1 Kings xvii. 21). Elijah commanded them to pour water upon the burnt-offering, and upon the wood three times, and they poured it three times (1 Kings xviii. 34). Jonah was in the belly of the whale three days and three nights (Jonah i. 17; Matt. xii. 40). Daniel mourned three weeks (Dan. x. 2, 3, 4). The third year was the year of tenths (Deut. xxvi. 12). The Lord said of the man who planted a vineyard, that he sent his servants three times, and afterwards his son (Mark xii. 2-6; Luke xx. 12, 13). The Lord said to Peter, that before the cock should crow twice, he would deny him thrice (Matt. xxvi. 34, 69, to the end; Luke xxii. 34, 57-61; John xiii. 38). The Lord said three times to Peter, Lovest thou me? and feed my lambs and my sheep; and the third time Peter was grieved (John xxi. 15, 16, 17). The Lord said, that the kingdom of heaven was like to leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal, until the whole was leavened (Matt. xiii. 33; Luke xiii. 21). The Lord said, I do cures to-day and to-morrow, and the third day I shall be perfected (Luke xiii. 32, 33). The Lord said that He should be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights (Matt. xii. 40). He said that He should rise again the third day (Matt. xvi. 21; xvii. 22, 23; xx. 18, 19; Luke xviii. 32, 33; xxiv. 46). He said that He was able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days (Matt. xxvi. 61; xxvii. 40; John ii. 19, 20). He prayed three times in Gethsemane (Matt. xxvi. 39, 42, 44); He was crucified at the third hour (Mark xv. 26); and then there was darkness over the whole land for three hours, from the sixth hour to the ninth, when He said, it is finished, and expired (Matt. xxvii. 45; Mark xv. 33, 37; John xix. 30). The Lord rose again the third day (Matt. xxviii. 1; Mark xvi. 2; Luke xxiv. 1; John xx. 1).

(References: 1 Kings 17:21, 18:34; 1 Samuel 3:1-8, 20:5, 20:12, 20:19-20, 20:35-36, 20:41; 2 Samuel 24:11-13; Daniel 10:2-4; Deuteronomy 26:12; Exodus 3:18, 5:3, 10:22-23, 19:1, 19:11, 19:15-16, 19:18; John 2:19-20, 13:38, 19:30, 20:1, 21:15-17; Jonah 1:17; Joshua 1:11, 3:2; Leviticus 7:16-18, 19:6-7, 19:23-25; Luke 13:21, 13:32-33, 18:32-33, 20:12-13, 22:34, 22:57-61, 24:1, 24:46; Mark 12:2-6, 12:2, 12:4-6, 15:25, 15:33, 15:37, 16:2; Matthew 12:40, 13:33, 16:21, 17:22-23, Matthew 20:18-19, 20:19, 26:34, 26:39, 26:42, 26:44, 26:61, 26:69-75, 27:15, 27:40, Matthew 27:45, Matthew 27:50, 28:1; Numbers 19:11-22, 31:19-24, Numbers 31:19-25)


[6] It is evident from these references that the number three signified what was consummated or complete to the end, and therefore an entire period, greater or less, from beginning to end. From this simple number many compound numbers derive their significations, as 6, 9, 12, 60, 72, which consequently signify all truths and goods in the aggregate. Similarly the numbers 30, 300, 3000; for, as shown above, the compound numbers derive their significations from the simple numbers of which they are compounded. Moreover, it is to be observed, that the number three, in the Word, is used in reference to truths, and two and four, to goods. The reason of this is that two and four signify conjunction, while three signifies fulness; and spiritual conjunction is love, and all good is of love, and spiritual fulness is formed by means of truths. Those who do not know that all numbers in the Word are significative, think and believe that nothing more is meant when the numbers two and three, also three and four, are mentioned, than two and three, or a few, whereas they denote all who are in good and truth, as in the following passages.

[7] Thus, in Isaiah:

"Gleaming grapes shall be left in it, as in the shaking of an olive tree, two-three berries in the top of the bough, four-five in the branches of the fruit-bearing [olive]" (xvii. 6).

The subject here is the vastation of the church, and these words are said of the remaining few who are in good and truth. Comparison is made with the shaking of an olive tree, because the olive tree signifies the church as to the good of love, and the branches the truths therefrom. Two-three signify the few who are in good, and thence in truths, two denoting good, and three denoting truths; and four-five signify the few who are in good, four denoting those who are in good, and five denoting few. And because four-five signify the few who are in good, therefore it is said, four-five, in the branches of the fruit- bearing [olive], the fruit-bearing olive signifying those in the church who are in good as to life; and in consequence of this signification of those numbers, it is said two-three, four-five, and not two and three, four and five.

(References: Isaiah 17:6)


[8] So in Amos:

"Two-three cities wandered into one city, to drink waters, but yet they were not satisfied" (iv. 8).

This is said respecting the defect of truth at the end of the church, and means that they who then desire truth from a spiritual affection will not find any in doctrines, wherever they may enquire. It is therefore said, "two-three cities wandered into one city, to drink waters, but yet they were not satisfied." By two-three cities are signified those who are in the affection of truth from good. City signifies the truth of doctrine. By drinking waters is signified to learn truths; by wandering is signified to enquire; and by not being satisfied is signified not to find truth which in itself is truth. Two-three cities are mentioned, because by two-three are signified those who are in good and thence in truths.

(References: Amos 4:8)


[9] So in Zechariah:

"It shall come to pass, that in all the earth, two parts therein shall be cut off, they shall expire; but the third shall be left therein. Yet I will bring the third part through the fire, and will try them" (xiii. 8, 9).

Here also the subject is the vastation of the church as to good. That all good is about to perish is signified by its being said, "In all the earth two parts therein shall be cut off, and they shall expire," in the whole earth denoting the church universal, and two parts all good. That something of truth would remain, but scarcely any genuine truth, is signified by, "The third part shall be left therein, yet I will bring the third part through the fire, and will prove them." By the third part are meant the remaining truths; proving the genuineness of these is signified by bringing them through the fire. To prove by fire is to prove by the affection of love, with which if the truth does not agree it is not genuine truth, for fire, in the Word, signifies love; when the good of love perishes, the truth also becomes not truth, because all truth derives its essence from good.

(References: Zechariah 13:8-9)


[10] The signification of these words of the Lord in Matthew is therefore evident:

"Where two and three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them" (xviii. 20).

Here, two and three do not mean two and three, but they who are in good and in truths thence; neither by the name of the Lord is meant His name, but all the good of love and the truth of faith by which He is worshipped (see above, n. 102, 135).

(References: Matthew 18:20; The Apocalypse Explained 102, 135)


[11] From this also the signification of the words of the Lord in Luke is evident:

"From henceforth there shall be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three" (xii. 52).

These words mean, that after the coming of the Lord, when He Himself has become known, and the interior things of the Word have been revealed by Him, and with Him, then both in the church in general, and with the man of the church in particular, there will be dissension between good and truth, and between truth and good. This is understood by five being divided in one house, three against two, and two against three; house denoting the church in general, and with the man of the church in particular, and three denoting truths, and two denoting goods. The statement that five shall be divided, signifies that such dissension shall exist with those who are reformed; therefore, it follows also that "the father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father; the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother" (ver. 53). For father signifies the good of the church, son the truth of the church, mother the truth of the church, and daughter its good. Who cannot see that the numbers five, two, and three, would not be mentioned here unless they were significative? Five, in the Word, when two and three follow, signifies all those; but when preceded or followed by the numbers ten or twenty, five then signifies some and few.

(References: Luke 12:1, Luke 12:52, 12:53)


[12] Similar things are meant in the precept of the decalogue by "the third and fourth generation," or by "the third and fourth sons," upon whom Jehovah will visit the iniquity of the parents (Exod. xx. 5; Num. xiv. 18; Deut. v. 9, 10). By the third and fourth generation are signified all who are in falsities from evil. The third generation signifies those who are in falsities of evil, and the fourth generation those who are in evils of falsity; for, in the opposite sense, three signifies falsities, and four evils. Who does not see that it would be contrary to the Divine justice to visit the iniquity of the parents upon the sons, even to the third and fourth generation? For the Lord teaches that "The soul that sinneth, it shall die; the son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son; the justice of the just shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him" (Ezek. xviii. 20; Deut. xxiv. 16; 2 Kings xiv. 6). It is evident therefore, that the expression third and fourth generation does not mean third and fourth generation, but that which those numbers signify. Similar things are signified by "For three and four transgressions" (Amos i. 3, 6, 9, 11, 13; ii. 1, 4, 6). From this it is evident how great are the interior things contained merely in numbers in the Word, and these things no one can know without the spiritual sense.

(References: 2 Kings 14:6; Amos 1:3, 1:6, 1:9, 1:11, 1:13, 2:1, 2:4, 2:6; Deuteronomy 5:9-10, 24:16; Exodus 20:5; Ezekiel 18:20; Luke 12, 12:52-53; Matthew 27:45, Matthew 27:50; Numbers 14:18, Numbers 31:19-24; Revelation 8:13)

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From Swedenborg's Works

References from Swedenborg's unpublished works:

Apocalypse Explained 528, 548, 569, 627, 638, 658, 680, 732, 811, 816, 847, 924, 1000, 1019, 1115

Other New Christian Commentary

Naked 1

Three 1

Four-five 1

Two or three and four or five 1

Wander 1


Glossary of Terms Used by Emanuel Swedenborg

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


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