The Bible

Matthew 3:1-12 : John the Baptist (Matthew)

Study the Inner Meaning

1 In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea,

2 And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

3 For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.

4 And the same John had his raiment of camel's hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey.

5 Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan,

6 And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins.

7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?

8 Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance:

9 And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.

10 And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.

11 I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire:

12 Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.

   Study the Inner Meaning
From Swedenborg's Works

Explanations or references:

Arcana Coelestia 794, 1017, 1861, 2371, 2708, 3301, 3540, ...

Apocalypse Revealed 315, 350, 378, 400, 553, 749, 839, ...

Doctrine of the Lord 15, 30, 51

Doctrine of Life 93, 104

Heaven and Hell 570

True Christian Religion 113, 144, 468, 483, 668, 677, 684, ...


References from Swedenborg's unpublished works:

Apocalypse Explained 109, 183, 374, 376, 395, 475, 504, ...

Marriage 113

Scriptural Confirmations 2, 4, 6, 13, 33, 67

Hop to Similar Bible Verses

Leviticus 11:22

1 Samuel 14:25

2 Kings 1:8

Isaiah 40:3, 56:1, 57:14, 59:5

Jeremiah 7:4

Daniel 2:44

Word/Phrase Explanations

days
"Day" describes a state in which we are turned toward the Lord, and are receiving light (which is truth) and heat (which is a desire...

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

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

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

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

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

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

prophet
The idea of a "prophet" is very closely tied to the idea of the Bible itself, since the Bible was largely written by prophets. At...

voice of one crying
'A voice crying,' and 'the voice of a cry,' are common expressions in the Word, and are applied whenever there is a noise or disturbance,...

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

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...

crying
As with most common verbs, the spiritual meaning of “crying” or “crying out” (meaning a shout or wail, not weeping) is highly dependent on context....

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

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...

Make
'To make,' as in Hosea 8:11, refers to good. In the opposite sense it refers to evil. To make heaven, and earth, and the sea,...

paths
These days we tend to think of "roads" as smooth swaths of pavement, and judge them by how fast we can drive cars on them....

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

Camel
A camel (Matt. 22:24) signifies scientific knowledge. Camels are confirming scientifics, and cattle are the knowledges of good and truth (Jer. 49:32.)

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

Leathern girdle
'The leathern girdle' which John the Baptist wore signifies an external band that receives and contains interior things.

girdle
In a sense, the whole point of trying to accept the Lord and align ourselves with His love and His leading is so that we...

Loins
'Loins' in general, signify love, and when referring to the Lord, divine love. 'Loins' signify the interiors of conjugial love. Loins,' as in Isaiah 11:5,...

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...

Locusts
'Locusts' signify falsities in the extremes, which consume the truths and goods of the church in a person. 'The locusts' which John the Baptist ate...

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

Round
Something 'round' relates to good. 'A small round thing,' as in Exodus 16:14, refers to the good of truth in its first formation. This is...

Round about
'Round about' denotes the things most distant from the middle, or from good and truth.

Jordan
The land of Jordan,' as in Psalm 42:6, signifies what is lowly, consequently, what is distant from the celestial, as the external parts of a...

sins
'Bound up transgressions,' as in Lamentations 1:14, stands for falsities coming up towards interior or rational things.

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...

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...

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

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...

vipers
'Viper' signifies mortal hatreds and also extremely deceitful people.

Flee
To flee signifies to escape, and be rescued. To flee signifies to be overcome.

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

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...

fruits
We tend to think of "fruit" in two ways in natural language. One is as food that grows on trees and vines, sweet and delicious,...

say
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...

abraham
Abraham (or Abram, as he is named in the beginning of his story) is one of the major characters in the story of the sacred...

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

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...

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

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....

Axe
The work of the hands of the workman with the axe, signifies that which is from man's proprium and from his own intelligence.

Root
'A root,' as in Malachi 4:1, signifies charity. The dried up root,' as in Hosea 9:16, 17, signifies charity which could not bear fruit.

tree
In general, plants in the Bible represent facts, thoughts and ideas – intellectual things. This makes sense: Plants are rooted in place, but can grow...

good
It seems rather circular to say that “good” in the Bible represents good, but in a general sense it’s true! The case is this: The...

fruit
In Zechariah 8:12, 'the vine shall give her fruit, and the ground her increase,' signifies that the spiritual affection of truth produces the good of...

down
"Down" is used many different ways in natural language, and its spiritual meaning in the Bible is highly dependent on context. Phrases like "bowing down,"...

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....

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...

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

Worthy
People in truths from the Lord, because they are in conjunction with Him, are called 'worthy,' as in Revelation 3:4. All worth in the spiritual...

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

holy
The Bible describes many things as being holy, or sacred. The Ark of the Covenant is one very holy object. The inmost chamber of the...

Fan
A fan, referred to in Matthew 3:12, signifies the separation of falsities from goods.

Floor
The floor, as in Matthew 3:12, signifies the world of spirits which is between heaven and hell, and where the separation of evils and falsities...

Gather
To gather, as in Genesis 6:21, refers to those things which are in the memory of man, where they are gathered. It also implies that...

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

Garner
A garner, granary, or barn, as in as in Matthew 3:12 and 8:30, signify where there is a collection of the good.

Chaff
Chaff is mentioned in Matthew 3:12 signifies falsity of every kind, derived from an in­fernal origin.

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.


 Baptism of the Lord
Use felt tip markers to draw a picture of John baptizing the Lord in the Jordan River. Then dip a paintbrush in water and go over the picture to give the effect of watercolor. 
Project | Ages 4 - 14

 Dove Poster or Mobile
The dove symbolizes purification by Divine truth. Make a poster or mobile with the color picture of a dove and truths which can help us "clean up" our lives.
Project | Ages 11 - 17

 Flight into Egypt
This lesson discusses a story from the Word and suggests projects and activities for young children.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 4 - 6

 God Is a Divine Man
Article | Ages 15 - 17

 Jesus Comes to John the Baptist
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 John the Baptist
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Lord's Baptism
Put together this project to make a picture of the Lord that can be moved to show Him going into the waters of the Jordan to be baptized. 
Project | Ages 4 - 10

 Quotes: The Promise of Baptism
Teaching Support | Ages over 15

 The Dove
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 9 - 12

 The Lord’s Baptism
Lesson outline provides teaching ideas with questions for discussion, projects, and activities.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 7 - 10

 The Lord’s Baptism (3-5 years)
Project | Ages 4 - 6

 The Lord’s Baptism (6-8 years)
Project | Ages 7 - 10

 The Lord’s Baptism (9-11 years)
Project | Ages 11 - 14

 The Lord's Baptism: Matthew
A New Church Bible story explanation for teaching Sunday school. Includes lesson materials for Primary (3-8 years), Junior (9-11 years), Intermediate (12-14 years), Senior (15-17 years) and Adults.
Teaching Support | Ages over 3

 You Are My Beloved Son (sheet music)
Song | Ages over 11

Commentary

The Kingdom of Heaven is at Hand

By Rev. William Woofenden

"Repent ye; for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." Matthew 3:3
Additional readings: Isaiah 1:1-20

In the childhood of the human race, before men had departed from right ways of life, heaven was near to them. They could be led directly by the Lord, for their hearts and minds were open to him. Of this Golden Age of the human race it is written, "Man walked with God." But we have all read in the history of the human race as revealed in the Scripture the account of how many departed from the way of life and, following the devices of his own heart, closed his mind to the direct reception of goodness and truth from the Lord, until finally he reached a state in which all true knowledge of God and heaven was lost.

Then the Lord came to bring salvation to mankind, and preparation for His reception was made through John the Baptist, the messenger sent in fulfillment of a prophecy given centuries before. John’s message is our text: "Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." And when John was put to death, and the Lord began His active ministry in the world, the words of our text were also His first message. For He came to make clear the way of life, and wrong ideas held possession of the minds of men then, as they do of many minds today.

It is not by chance that this first message turns our thoughts to heaven. The purpose of our creation is that we may so live that we shall find our homes in heaven. Belief in heaven had been lost, along with the knowledge about it. And today belief in heaven is for the most part vague, and many think that eternal life does not mean personal existence in the spiritual world, but only the persistence of one’s influence in this world. Great men like Homer, Plato, Moses, Shakespeare, Gladstone, Lincoln, Pasteur, and many others perpetuate themselves in the influence they exert in the minds of living men. This, they say, is what is meant by immortality, by everlasting life. But we should realize that this type of everlasting life is open to the evil as well as to the good. A Diocletian may be remembered forever as well as the beloved Apostle. We need to know the truth that men and women, as individuals, live forever after death in the spiritual world.

But this is not the implication of the text which I have chosen for consideration this morning." The kingdom of heaven is at hand." We know that heaven is not in some remote part of the natural sky, that we cannot say, "Lo, here, or Lo, there" (Luke 17:21). But we are still apt to think of it as far away. We are also inclined to think of it as remote in time. We speak commonly of the "future" world. In the thought of some even, it lies at the indefinitely remote time, when they expect a general resurrection along with others; death is the gateway of heaven, but heaven still seems too distant to be of much practical and present interest.

But the truth is that heaven is far away neither in space nor in time. It is here, it is now, it is "at hand." We live in it now, or we may do so. It is a present reality, the most real and the most important element of the life we are now living. When we speak of heaven, and of living for heaven, we are not, as some charge, setting our hearts on something far away, and despising the real world in which we now are. If one lives for a far-off heaven — and no doubt some have lived so — he may be careless of this world’s joys and sorrows, of opportunities for usefulness, keeping his eyes fixed on some vision of the future. But we may live for heaven and still live thoroughly in the present. We ought to value heaven as the most real of present realities. The Gospel is true: "The kingdom of heaven is at hand."

We are taught in the New Church that heaven is essentially a state of human feeling, thought and life, a state in which love to the Lord and love to the neighbor are the ruling motives. We are taught that no outward paradise which could be made by human or by Divine skill would be a heaven if those affections were absent from the heart, that there is no real or lasting satisfaction except in the exercise of these affections. It follows that we can come into heaven in this world, and live in heaven while we live on earth, for we may learn here to love the Lord and one another, and to find our chief enjoyment in the exercise of these heavenly loves.

But this is an abstract way of speaking. Concretely, heaven is not merely a heavenly state in ourselves; it is the great world of human beings who are living in that state, those people in whose hearts are heavenly affections, whose minds are bright with spiritual light, and whose hands are busy with heavenly works. There are many such people in this world. There are countless more who have gone from the earth to the spiritual world, and are there living the same good life under freer and happier conditions. All these people are heaven.

When we have love to the Lord and the neighbor in ourselves, we are brought spiritually near to those in like affections, both of this world and of the spiritual world. It is not a figure of speech when we say that heaven is about us when we are in heavenly states. It is a literal and positive fact. Heaven is so really around us at such times that if it were granted to us, as it was to Elisha’s servant and to others in Bible days to have our spiritual eyes opened, we should see the angels who are our companions and the beautiful land in which they dwell. Among them we should see and recognize some who were dear to us on earth, who still love and help us, and there would be some whom we had not known before but who would from the first glance seem to us as old friends, because they have similar desires and thoughts. And we should recognize them as the source of our happiness.

The Lord created the world and all things in it. All things in the world were made for man to use and enjoy, from the very materials of the earth to all the myriad things of the vegetable and animal kingdoms, the beast of the field, the fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea. For man’s needs of food, clothing, shelter, for gratification of his senses, and the improvement of his mind these things were made. All these were created and given to man for blessings. But they are subject to one important condition: man must indeed labor to make these things of service to himself, but he must also use them in the service of others. Only so can he have any security or peace. The world of nature and of human beings is not for one man, or a few men, or a nation to control or exploit. Indeed we cannot rightly claim sovereignty over ourselves. We need the guidance of the Lord. And whatever under the Divine Providence we have been able to acquire, whether of material wealth, or of skill, or of learning, we did not acquire it by our unaided efforts. Our daily knowledge of the happenings in the world, our libraries, our schools are made possible by the labor of mind and body of other men and women, great or humble, living or dead. We depend on others and they on us, and life and security today, as always, depend upon the honesty and good will of the community in which we live.

Yet we should also realize that behind the labors and sufferings and the honesty and good will of men stands the Lord. Through His power alone man achieves progress. It is a law of the Divine Providence that man must act in freedom according to reason. This applies to the life of nations as well as to the life of individuals. But the Lord is present and operative always.

For infinitely wise and good reasons, the Lord does not draw the veil aside for us and allow us to see the heavenly world. Some argue that if only they could see heaven, they would believe in it. But to see that world as an outward, objective reality would destroy our freedom. We should be lured by its outward attractiveness, and it would be less possible for us to come into its true spirit.

When we are living in selfish and evil affections, we are in hell. Not only is hell within us at such times but it is also about us, not by a figure of speech, but actually. We are breathing its poisoned atmosphere and, if our eyes were opened, we should see the forms and faces of those who find their life in evil and who exult in influencing others to evil. Why, at least then, does the Lord not draw the veil aside and show us the terribleness of evil? The sight might for the moment frighten us, but we should be less able to shun evil freely because it is evil, and our power to escape permanently from it would be greatly lessened.

If we are tempted to question the Lord’s Providence in not revealing to us more openly the conditions of the good and evil in the spiritual world, we do well to remember His words, "They have Moses and the prophets, let them hear them….If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead" (Luke 16:29-31).

The Lord said, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness" (Matthew 6:33). We should seek those good things which endure forever, and should not sacrifice them for the sake of money or health or life itself. To acquire love to the Lord and to the neighbor is the only thing worth living for. Our business dealings should have as their motive the love of use, of service to others. The most necessary thing in making a home is having in it the sunshine of heaven. The only absolute requirement for our happiness as we go to and fro in the ways of the world is that heaven shall go with us. This is to live for heaven, and yet to live must fully in the present. This is the practical meaning of living for heaven.

It may be stated still more simply. Heaven is not heaven from locality, neither is it heaven from anything which belongs to the angels as their own. It is heaven from what is received from the Lord into the lives and hearts of the angels. To be near the Lord, not in place merely, but in heart, to feel the protection and peace of His presence is heaven. Heaven is being near to the Lord and keeping near to Him. There is no other heaven for men or angels.

"The kingdom of heaven is at hand." When John first spoke this message, the kingdom of heaven was in a special sense at hand, because the Lord had come to live with men and to make Himself accessible to them. A power to heal and bless went forth from the Lord during His life on earth. Men obsessed felt his saving power and sat at His feet clothed and in their right mind.

At the Transfiguration Peter said, "Lord, it is good for us to be here" (Matthew 17:4, Mark 9:5, Luke 9:33). In following the Lord, in hearing His Word and in doing His work, they were tasting of heaven. But we need to note that the mere physical nearness of the Lord did not make heaven. Some cried out with fear at His approach. It was not heaven to them. It was not heaven to those who followed Him to accuse and to betray Him. His presence was a blessing only to those who in some measure drew near to Him in spirit.

Even in the Lord’s coming on earth the kingdom of heaven was not forced on me. It was made accessible to them; it was brought within their reach.

It is brought within our reach. Just as there is no royal road to knowledge, there is no royal road to heaven. We must cease to do evil before we can learn to do well. Repentance, the willingness to recognize and acknowledge our faults and weaknesses and to struggle to overcome them opens the door. Heavenly life comes into the soul when selfish desires are replaced by kindly thoughts and the desire to serve. The Lord tell us to seek these heavenly virtues now, not for the sake of honor for ourselves, but that we may be really kind and helpful to others, that our lives may have something of the Lord’s love in them. Then we shall find that life here makes one with heavenly life, and that our Heavenly Father is the Source of happiness in both alike.

From Swedenborg's Works

Apocalypse Explained #619

Apocalypse Explained (Tansley translation)

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619. But it shall be in thy mouth sweet as honey.- That this signifies exterior delight, is evident from the signification of the mouth, as denoting what is exterior, for the subject here treated of is the little book, and the eating of it up; by the little book is signified the Word, and by eating it up are signified perception and exploration, whence by the mouth, which first receives, is meant the external of the Word; and from the signification of "sweet as honey," as denoting the delight of natural good. The reason why the external of the Word was sweet as honey, that is, thus delightful, was, that it is of such a nature as to be capable of application to any love whatever, and to any principle thence conceived; and these can be confirmed by it. The reason why the external of the Word, which is the sense of the letter is such, is that many things therein are written according to appearances with the natural man, and many appearances, if not interiorly understood, are fallacies, like the fallacies of the senses. Those therefore who love to live for the body and the world, use the external of the Word by means of those appearances to confirm evils of life and falsities of faith.

(References: Revelation 10:9)


[2] This was especially the case with the sons of Jacob, who applied all things of the Word to themselves, and from the sense of the letter maintained that belief, which they also retain to this day, that they were chosen in preference to others, and were therefore a holy nation; they believed that their Jerusalem, and its temple, the ark, the altar, the sacrifices, with innumerable other things, were of themselves holy, not knowing or being willing to know, that the holiness of all those things consisted solely in the fact that they represented Divine things proceeding from the Lord, which are called celestial and spiritual, and are the holy things of heaven and the church, and that to think them to be holy of themselves, and not from the Divine things which they represented, was to falsify and adulterate the Word by applying it to themselves and to their own loves. The case was similar in regard to their faith concerning the Messiah, which was, that He would be king of the world, and raise them above all the nations and peoples in the whole world; not to mention other things which they gathered from the mere sense of the letter of the Word, which were to them as sweet as honey in the mouth. For this reason those things that are in the spiritual sense of the Word are undelightful, for in that sense are truths themselves, and these are not according to appearances; as for example, that that nation was not holy, but worse than every other nation, consequently that it was not a chosen nation; that the city of Jerusalem merely signifies the church of the Lord, and doctrine concerning Him and concerning the holy things of heaven and the church; and that the temple, the ark, the altar, and the sacrifices, represented the Lord and the holy things proceeding from Him, and that their holiness was from this and no other source. These are the truths stored up interiorly in the sense of the letter of the Word, that is, in its internal spiritual sense. These truths they deny, because, as stated, they falsified and adulterated the Word in the sense of the letter, and therefore they are undelightful to them like food that is bitter in the belly.

[3] It is said that the little book should be in the mouth sweet as honey, because honey signifies the delight of natural good. That honey signifies that delight is evident from the following passages.

Thus, in Ezekiel:

It was said to the prophet, "Open thy mouth, and eat that I give thee. And I looked, and behold, a hand was sent unto me; and lo, a roll of a book was therein. And when he had spread it before me, it was written before and behind; and there were written thereon lamentations, and mourning, and woe. Then he said unto me, Son of man, eat this roll, and go speak unto the house of Israel. And he said unto me, Cause thy belly to eat, and fill thy bowels with this roll that I give thee. And when I ate it, it was in my mouth as honey for sweetness. And then he said unto me, Go unto the house of Israel, and speak my words unto them" (ii. 8-10; iii. 1-4).

These words involve things similar to those in the Apocalypse. The command given to the prophet Ezekiel to eat the roll of the book, involves the same thing as the command to John to eat the little book, that is to say, exploration as to how the Divine Truth which is in the Word is as yet received, perceived, and appropriated by those who are of the church. For as the prophet Ezekiel and John represented the doctrine of truth and the Word, exploration was therefore made with them. The reason why this was done by eating a book is, that to eat signifies to perceive and thus to appropriate to oneself, as shown above; and when exploration was made as to the manner in which the Word was as yet perceived, it is then said to the prophet Ezekiel, that, he should go unto the house of Israel and speak the words of God unto them, also to the prophet John, that he must prophesy, that is, as yet teach the Word in the church; and this because in his mouth the book was perceived to be as sweet as honey, that is, because the Word as to the sense of the letter, is yet delightful, though only so for the reason that this sense can be used in favour of any principle of falsity whatever, and of any loves of evil whatever, and thus serve to confirm the delights of the natural life separated from the delights of the spiritual life, which, when separated, are merely delights of the loves of the body and of the world, whence arise principles of falsity from fallacies.

(References: Ezekiel 2:8-10, 3:1-4)


[4] Again, in Isaiah:

"A virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name God with us. Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know to refuse the evil, and choose the good" (vii. 14, 15).

That these words are spoken of the Lord may be seen proved in Matthew (i. 23). Any one may see that butter and honey there mentioned do not mean butter and honey, but something Divine corresponding [to them], for it follows, "that he may know to refuse the evil and choose the good," and this is not known by eating butter and honey. But by butter is signified the delight of spiritual good, and by honey, the delight of natural good, consequently the spiritual Divine and the natural Divine of the Lord are signified by these, thus His interior and exterior Human. That the Lord's Human is what is meant is evident from its being said that a virgin shall conceive and bear a son; and that it is Divine, is evident from the words, "and shall call his name God with us," to call a name denoting quality, here Divine quality, for he was to be called God with us.

(References: Isaiah 7:14-15; Matthew 1:23)


[5] Butter and honey also signify the delight of spiritual and natural good in these words in the same chapter:

"Butter and honey shall every one eat that is left in the land" (ver. 22).

Those left in the land mean those who are interiorly and also exteriorly good from the Lord, consequently those who receive good proceeding from the Lord in truths; the blessedness therefore of the internal or spiritual man, and also of the external or natural, is signified by butter and honey.

(References: Isaiah 7:22)


[6] Thus also in Job:

"He shall suck the poison of asps; the viper's tongue shall slay him. He shall not see the brooks, the flowings of the torrents of honey and butter" (xx. 16, 17).

These things are said concerning hypocrites, who speak well and smoothly concerning God, their neighbour, and also heaven and the church, when nevertheless they think quite differently; and because they can thus cunningly devise how to captivate the minds of others, although in their heart they cherish what is infernal, it is said, "He shall suck the poison of asps, the viper's tongue shall slay him." That these have no delight in natural good or spiritual good, is meant by, He shall not see the brooks, the flowings of the torrents of honey and butter, rivers denoting those things that pertain to intelligence, and the flowings of the torrents of honey and butter, those that pertain thence to the affection and love, which are the very delights of heavenly life. All the delight of life which remains to eternity is the delight of spiritual good and truth, and thence of natural good and truth, whereas hypocritical delight is a natural delight separated from spiritual delight, but this delight, in another life, is turned into what is direfully infernal. That butter and honey in this passage also do not mean butter and honey, is evident, for where in the world are flowings of torrents of honey and butter found?

(References: Acts of the Apostles 20:16-17; Job 20:16-17)


[7] The signification of butter and honey is similar to that of milk and honey. And since milk signifies the delight of spiritual good, and honey, the delight of natural good, and these delights are enjoyed by those who are of the church of the Lord, therefore the land of Canaan, which signifies the church, was called "a land flowing with milk and honey" (Exod. iii. 8, 17; Levit. xx. 24; Num. xiii. 27; xiv. 8; Deut. vi. 3; xi. 9; xxvi. 9, 15; xxvii. 3; xxxi. 20; Joshua v. 6; Jer. xi. 5; xxxii. 22; Ezek. xx. 6). That the land of Canaan in the Word means the church was shown above (n. 29, 304:59, 431:9). And the church is with those only who are in spiritual good and at the same time in natural good; the church is formed in these by the Lord. For the church is in man, and not outside of him, consequently, not with those who do not possess those goods; these goods with their delights are signified by milk and honey.

(References: Deuteronomy 6:3, Deuteronomy 11:9, 26:9, 26:15, 27:3, 31:20; Exodus 3:8, 3:17; Ezekiel 20:6; Jeremiah 11:5, 11:9, 32:22; Joshua 5:6; Leviticus 20:24; Numbers 13:27, 14:8; The Apocalypse Explained 29, 304, The Apocalypse Explained 431)


[8] That in the land of Canaan there was also much honey at that period, because the church of the Lord was there then, is evident from the First Book of Samuel, where it is said, that they came into a wood where were honey upon the faces of the ground, and a stream of honey, and that the eyes of Jonathan were opened from tasting of the honey (xiv. 25-27, 29). The reason why Jonathan's eyes were opened by his tasting of the honey was, that honey corresponds to natural good and its delight, and this good imparts intelligence and enlightens, consequently Jonathan knew that he had done evil; as is said in Isaiah, that he shall eat butter and honey, that he may know to refuse the evil and choose the good. For correspondences at that time manifested their effect, since all things of the Israelitish church existed from correspondences, by which things celestial and spiritual were represented and signified.

(References: 1 Samuel 14:25-27, 14:29)


[9] The signification of butter and honey is similar to that of oil and honey in the following passages.

Thus in Moses:

"He made him to ride on the high places of the earth, and fed him with the increase of the fields; he made him to suck honey out of the rock, and oil out of the stone of the rock" (Deut. xxxii. 13).

These words occur in the song of Moses, in which the subject treated of is the church in its beginning and afterwards in its progression, and at length at its end. Those who formed the Ancient Church are described by these words, but not those who constituted the Israelitish Church, for the latter were evil from the beginning even to the end, as is evident from their fathers in Egypt, and afterwards in the wilderness. But the Ancient Church, the men of which are meant by their fathers, was that which the Lord caused to ride upon the high places of the earth, and fed with the increase of the fields. That the good of natural love and the good of spiritual love, with their delights, were imparted to them by means of truths, from which their intelligence was derived, and according to which was their life, is signified by, he made him to suck honey out of the rock, and oil out of the stone of the rock, honey denoting the delight of natural love, oil the delight of spiritual love, and the rock, and the stone of the rock, truth from the Lord. That oil signifies the good of love and of charity, may be seen above (n. 375), and that rock and stone signify truth from the Lord (n. 411, 443).

(References: Deuteronomy 32:13; The Apocalypse Explained 375, 411, The Apocalypse Explained 443)


[10] So in David:

"I fed them with the fat of wheat, and with honey out of the rock I satisfied them" (Psalm lxxxi. 16).

The fat of wheat also signifies the delight of spiritual good, and honey out of the rock, the delight of natural good by means of truths from the Lord, as above. It must be observed, that natural good is not good, unless it be also spiritual good. For all good inflows through the spiritual man or mind into the natural man or mind, and so far as the natural man or mind receives the good of the spiritual man or mind, so far he receives good. There must be both, or both sides, in order to constitute good; wherefore natural good separated from spiritual good is in itself evil, which nevertheless is perceived by man as good. Since there must be both therefore in the passages quoted, and in those still to be quoted, mention is made of butter and honey, milk and honey, fat and honey, and also of oil and honey; and butter, milk, fat and oil, signify the good of spiritual love, and honey, the good of natural love, together with their delights.

(References: Psalms 81:16)


[11] Again, in Ezekiel:

"Thus wast thou decked with gold and silver; and thy raiment was of fine linen and silk, and needlework; thou didst eat fine flour, and honey, and oil; whence thou wast exceeding beautiful, and thou didst prosper into a kingdom. But my bread which I gave thee, fine flour, and oil, and honey, wherewith I fed thee, thou hast even set before idols for an odour of rest" (xvi. 13, 19).

These things are said concerning Jerusalem, by which is signified the church, first the Ancient Church, and afterwards the Israelitish Church. It is said of the Ancient Church, that she was decked with gold and silver, which signifies, the love of good and truth with the men of the church. The raiment of fine linen, silk, and needlework, signifies the cognitions of celestial, spiritual, and natural truth; fine linen signifies truth from a celestial origin, silk, truth from a spiritual origin, and needlework, truth from a natural origin, which is called scientific [truth]. By eating fine flour, honey, and oil, are signified the perception of truth and good natural and spiritual, and the appropriation of them; to eat denoting to be appropriated, fine flour denoting truth, honey, natural good, and oil spiritual good, which were appropriated to them by a life according to the truths above mentioned. By becoming exceedingly beautiful and prospering into a kingdom, is signified to become intelligent and wise, so as to constitute a church from these, beauty denoting intelligence and wisdom, and a kingdom signifying a church. But concerning the Israelitish Church, which was merely in externals without internals, whence the men of that church were idolatrous, it is said, that they placed the fine flour, honey, and oil, before images of a male, or of idols, for an odour of rest, that is, that they turned the truths and goods of the church into falsities and evils, and thus profaned them.

(References: Ezekiel 16:13, 16:19)


[12] Again, in the same prophet:

"Judah, and the land of Israel, they were thy traders; they traded in the wheat of Minnith, and pannag, and honey, and oil, and balm" (xxvii. 17).

This is spoken of Tyre, which signifies the church as to the cognitions of truth and good, therefore also by Tyre are signified the cognitions of truth and good pertaining to the church; by oil and honey are signified things similar to those above. The meaning in the spiritual sense of Judah, and the land of Israel, also of wheat of Minnith and pannag, and balsam, also of the trading of Tyre, may be seen explained above (n. 433:22).

(References: Ezekiel 27:17; The Apocalypse Explained 433)


[13] Again, in Moses:

"A land of brooks of water, of fountains and depths that spring out of the valley and mountain; a land of wheat and barley, and the vine, and the fig-tree, and pomegranate; a land of oil, olive, and honey" (Deut. viii. 7, 8).

These things are said concerning the land of Canaan, by which is understood the church which is in celestial, spiritual, and natural good, and thence in truths; but the details of this verse are explained above (n. 374:7, 403:11), where it is shown, that oil and honey signify the good of love in the internal or spiritual man and in the external or natural man.

(References: Deuteronomy 8:7-8; The Apocalypse Explained 374-403)


[14] So in David:

"The judgments of Jehovah are truth, they are just altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the droppings of the honeycomb" (Psalm xix. 9, 10).

In the same,

"I have not departed from thy judgments, for thou hast taught me. How sweet are thy words to my palate! [Sweeter] than honey to my mouth" (Psalm cxix. 102, 103).

The judgments of Jehovah signify the truths and goods of worship; therefore it is said, "the judgments of Jehovah are truth, they are just altogether"; just being used in reference to the good of life and worship therefrom. And as good is also signified by gold and fine gold, it is therefore said, that they are more desirable than gold and than much fine gold, gold denoting celestial good, fine gold, spiritual good, while desirable denotes what is of affection and love. Since the goods with which a man is affected are also delightful, therefore it is said, that they are sweeter than honey and the droppings of the honeycomb, and that the words of the Lord are sweet to the palate and [sweeter] than honey to the mouth, sweet denoting what is delightful, honey, natural good, the droppings of the honeycomb, natural truth, and because honey signifies natural good, and the mouth the external, therefore it is said [sweeter] than honey to my mouth; as in the Apocalypse, that the little book was sweet as honey in the mouth.

(References: Psalms 19:9-10, Psalms 119:102-103)


[15] So in Luke:

Jesus said to His disciples, when they believed that they saw a spirit, "Behold, my hands and my feet, that it is I myself; handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have. Then he said unto them, Have ye here any meat? And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and of a honeycomb. And he took it, and did eat it before them" (xxiv. 39, 41-43).

From this series of words regarded in their spiritual sense it is evident, that honeycomb and honey signify natural good, for the Lord showed His disciples that He had glorified or made Divine His whole Human, even as to its Natural and Sensual. This is signified by the hands and feet, and by the flesh and bones, which they saw and felt; the hands and feet, signify the ultimate of man, called the Natural, the flesh signifies its good, and the bones signify its truth. For everything in the human body corresponds to spiritual things, the flesh to the good of the natural man, and the bones to its truths. More may be seen concerning this correspondence in Heaven and Hell (n. 87-102). The Lord also proved this by eating of the broiled fish and also of the honeycomb in the presence of His disciples, the broiled fish signifying the truth of the good of the natural and sensual man, and the honeycomb, the good of truth of the same, therefore the Lord by being touched (palpationem) showed and proved that His whole Human, even to its ultimates, was glorified, that is, was made Divine; and [this He showed too] by eating, in that He ate in their presence a piece of a broiled fish and of an honeycomb.

(References: Heaven and Hell 87-102; Luke 24:39, 24:41-43)


[16] Since honey signifies the good of the natural man, therefore also John the Baptist

"had his raiment of camel's hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey" (Matt. iii. 4; Mark i. 6).

The reason of this was, that John the Baptist represented the same as Elias, therefore also it was said, that Elias should come, by whom was meant John. Elias represented the Lord as to the Word, or the Word which is from the Lord; and similarly John. And because the Word teaches that the Messiah or the Lord was about to come, therefore John was sent before to preach concerning the coming of the Lord, according to the predictions of the Word. And because John represented the Word, therefore the ultimates of the Word, which are natural, were represented by John, by his clothing, and also by his food, that is, by having his raiment of camel's hair, and the leathern girdle about his loins. For camel's hair signifies the ultimates of the natural man, such as are the exteriors of the Word, and the leathern girdle about his loins, their external bond and connection with the interior things of the Word, which are spiritual. Similar things are signified by locust and wild honey; by locust, is signified the truth of the natural man, and by wild honey, its good. Whether we speak of the truth and good of the natural man, or of natural truth and good, such as the Word is in its ultimate sense, called the sense of the letter, or natural sense, it is the same thing, for John represented this by his clothing and food.

(References: Mark 1:6; Matthew 3:4)


[17] The reason why neither leaven, nor honey, was used in the offerings made by fire to Jehovah (Levit. ii. 11), was, that leaven signifies the falsity of the natural man, and honey, the delight of the good of the natural man, and, in the opposite sense, the delight of his evil, which also is like leaven when it is mingled with those things that signify things of a holy interior nature. For natural delight derives its all from the delights of the love of self and the love of the world. And because the Israelitish nation was in those delights more than other nations, therefore it was forbidden them to use honey in their sacrifices. More may be seen concerning the signification of honey, as denoting the delight of the good of the natural man, in the Arcana Coelestia (n. 5620, 6857, 8056, 10,137, 10,530).

(References: Arcana Coelestia 5650, 6857, 8056, 10137, 10530; Leviticus 2:11)


[18] It is recorded of Samson, that, after he had rent the young lion, and taken a wife from the nation of the Philistines, he found "a swarm of bees and honey in the carcase of the lion" (Judges xiv. 8). This circumstance signified the dissipation of faith separated from charity, which the Philistine nation represented. It was on this account that the Philistines were called the uncircumcised, and this name signifies that they were without spiritual love and charity, and were only in natural love, which is the love of self and of the world. Such faith, because it destroys the good of charity, was represented by the young lion, which attacked Samson with intent to tear him in pieces; but Samson, because he was a Nazarite, and by his Nazariteship represented the Lord as to His ultimate Natural, rent the lion in pieces, and afterwards found in his carcase a swarm of bees and honey, which signified, that after such faith is dissipated, the good of charity succeeds in its place. Similar things were represented and signified by the rest of the acts related of Samson in the Book of Judges. For nothing is written in the Word which does not represent and signify such things as pertain to heaven and the church, and these can be understood only from the knowledge (scientia) of correspondences, and thence from the spiritual sense of the Word.

(References: Judges 14:8; Revelation 10:9)

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