The Bible

 

Matthew 3:1-12 : John the Baptist (Gospel of 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 drafts, indexes & diaries:

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

Marriage 113

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

Related New Christian Commentary

  Stories and their meanings:



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

Bible Word Meanings

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...

john
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...

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
"Air" in the Bible represents thought, but in a very general way – more like our capacity to perceive ideas and the way we tend...

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...

prepare
In general, when something is "prepared" in the Bible it means that it is in the proper spiritual order, which happens when our hearts and...

way
In John 14:6, 'the way is doctrine,' 'the truth' is every thing pertaining to doctrine, and 'the life' is the essential good which is the...

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.

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

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

said
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...

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

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...

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....

ghost
There are two aspects to the life of each person. We might call them "heart" and "mind," a part of us that wants and feels...

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...

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.

Videos from the Swedenborg Foundation

The videos shown here are provided courtesy of our friends at the Swedenborg Foundation. You can find out more about them here: swedenborg.com.


Why Is God So Angry in the Bible? - Swedenborg & Life Live

The Bible gives us mixed messages about God: all-loving, yet angry. We offer a new perspective on this seeming contradiction.

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)
Sheet music for a beautiful song about the Lord’s baptism.
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 #543

Apocalypse Explained (Whitehead translation)      

Study this Passage

Go to section / 1232  

← Previous   Next →

543. Verse 3. And out of the smoke there went forth locusts upon the earth, signifies that from infernal falsities they became corporeal-sensual in the church. This is evident from the signification of "smoke," as being infernal falsity (see above, n. 539. Infernal falsity is what is here signified by "smoke," because it has just been said that this smoke "went up out of the pit of the abyss," and "the pit of the abyss" signifies the hell where and from which are the falsities of evil that falsify the truths of the Word. The above is evident also from the signification of "locusts," as being man's ultimate sensual, which is in the falsity of evil (of which presently); also from the signification of "to go forth upon the earth," as being upon the church, for the "earth" signifies the church; moreover, the things contained in Revelation are predictions respecting the church and its state.

(References: Revelation 9:3; The Apocalypse Explained 539)


[2] That "locusts" signify man's ultimate sensual which is in the falsity of evil, can be seen from each and all the particulars related in this chapter to verse 12, in the explanation of which it is shown that "locusts" have no other meaning. But here it shall first be told what is meant by man's ultimate sensual. It does not mean the sensual of sight, of hearing, of smell, of taste, and of touch, for these things are proper to the body, but the ultimate of thought and affection, which is the first to be opened with infants, and which is such that they think of nothing else and are affected by no other objects than what make one with the senses just named. For infants learn to think by means of the senses, and to be affected by objects that are in accord with the things that are pleasing to the senses; consequently the first internal that is opened with them is the sensual that is called man's ultimate sensual, or the corporeal-sensual. But afterwards, as the infant grows older and becomes a boy, a more interior sensual is opened, from which he thinks naturally, and is also affected naturally. Later, in youth and early manhood, a still more interior sensual is opened, from which he thinks rationally, and if he is in the good of charity and faith, he thinks spiritually, and is also affected rationally and spiritually. This thought and affection is what is called the rational and spiritual man, while the former is called the natural man, and the first the sensual man.

[3] With every man the interiors that are of his thought and affection are opened successively, and this by a continuous influx out of heaven from the Lord. By this influx the sensual that most nearly adheres to the body is first formed, and from this man becomes sensual; afterwards the natural from which he becomes natural; and after this the rational and with it the spiritual, from which he becomes a rational and spiritual man; but this he becomes only so far as he thinks about God and about the Divine things that are from God, and this is formed and perfected so far as he is affected by these things, that is, so far as he wills and lives according to them. If he does not do this the spiritual man is opened in a general way, but is not formed, still less perfected. By the general opening of his spiritual man, man has the faculty of thinking, and from thought of speaking rationally; this is the general effect of the influx of heaven with every man. This makes clear that man's thoughts and affections may be spiritual, or natural, or also sensual; and that spiritual thoughts and affections are with those who think from God respecting God and Divine things; while there are only natural thoughts and affections with those who do not think from God respecting God and Divine things, but think only from themselves or from the world respecting themselves or the world. But it should be known that to think from self or from the world is to think not from these but from hell; for whoever does not think from God thinks from hell; no one can think from both at the same time. But those who deny God, and thence the Divine things of heaven and the church, and confirm themselves against these, all become sensual men more or less, according to confirmations; when they are thinking about spiritual things they think falsities only, and are affected by evils; and if they think any truths, whether spiritual, moral, or civil, it is only from the knowledge (scientia) of such things as are in the memory; and they see nothing beyond the nearest causes which they also are able to prove; and if they are affected by goods, it is only from a delight for the sake of self or the world, thus from a cupidity belonging to the love of self or the love of the world. The thought of the sensual man is what is called material thought, and its affection is what is called corporeal affection, which is cupidity.

[4] Furthermore, it is to be known that all the evils that man derives from his parents, which are called hereditary evils, have their seat in his natural and sensual man, but not in the spiritual; consequently the natural man, and especially the sensual man, is the opposite of the spiritual. For the spiritual man from infancy is closed, and is opened and formed only by Divine truths received by the understanding and will; and so far in extent and quality as the spiritual man is opened and formed, the evils of the natural and sensual man are removed, and goods are implanted in place of them. As all evils have their seat in the natural and sensual man it follows that falsities do also, because all falsities are of evil; for when man lusts and wills from evil he thinks and speaks from falsity. For the evil of the will, when it so forms itself in thought that it is manifest to others or to oneself as to its quality, is called falsity; thus falsity is the form of evil, as truth is the form of good. From this it can be seen who and of what quality the man is who is called a sensual man; also that a man becomes sensual when he follows out in act the evils into which he is born, and adds more to them from himself. So far as he does this and confirms himself in these evils, so far the spiritual man is kept closed; and when it is closed the natural and sensual man denies the Divine things that belong to heaven and the church, and acknowledges such things only as belong to the world and nature; and indeed, the sensual man is then so blind as to believe nothing but what he sees with his eyes and touches with his hands. Such are many of the learned, however intelligent and wise they may be thought to be from their ability of speaking from the knowledges [scientia] that are in the memory, and this apparently as the rational man speaks, since the spiritual mind is opened with them, as it is in every man in a general way, as has been said above.

[5] Because in what now follows in this chapter the locust is much treated of, and by it the sensual, which is the ultimate or extreme of the natural man, is signified, it is important that what the sensual is and what its quality is should be fully known, and thus who and what the sensual man is. I will therefore present here what is said and shown respecting it in the Arcana Coelestia, as follows: The sensual is the ultimate of man's life, adhering to and inhering in his corporeal, n. 5077, 5767, 9212, 9216, 9331, 9730. He is called a sensual man who judges all things from the senses of the body, and who believes nothing but what he can see with his eyes and touch with his hands, saying that this is something, and rejecting everything else, n. 5094, 7693. Such a man thinks in what is ultimate, and not interiorly from any spiritual light, n. 5089, 5094, 6564, 7693.

The interiors of his mind, which sees from the light of heaven, are closed, so that he sees there nothing of the truth of heaven and the church, n. 6564, 6844, 6845. In a word, he is in a gross natural light, and thus perceives nothing that is from the light of heaven, n. 6201, 6310, 6564, 6844, 6845, 6598, 6612, 6614, 6622, 6624. Thence interiorly he is against the things of heaven and the church, n. 6201, 6317, 6844, 6845, 6948, 6949. The learned who have confirmed themselves against the truths of the church are sensual, n. 6316. Sensual men reason acutely and readily, because their thought is so near their speech as to be almost in it, and because they place all intelligence in speaking merely from the memory, n. 195, 196, 5700, 10236. But they reason from the fallacies of the senses, by which the common herd are captivated, n. 5084, 6948, 6949, 7693. Sensual men are more crafty and malicious than others, n. 7693, 10236. The covetous, adulterers, the voluptuous, and the deceitful, are especially sensual, n. Arcana Coelestia 6310. Their interiors are foul and filthy, n. Arcana Coelestia 6201. Through their interiors they communicate with the hells, n. 6311. Those who are in the hells are sensual, and this in proportion to the depth of their hells, n. 4623, 6311. The sphere of infernal spirits conjoins itself with the sensual of man from behind, n. 6312. Those who reasoned from the sensual, and thence against the genuine truths of faith, were called by the ancients "serpents of the tree of knowledge [scientia]," n. 195, 196, 197, 6398, 6949, 10313. The sensual of man and the sensual man are further described, n. Arcana Coelestia 10236; and the extension of the sensual principle in man, n. 9731. Sensual things ought to be in the last place and not in the first, and with a wise and intelligent man they are in the last place, and are subject to things interior, but with an unwise man they are in the first place, and are dominant, and these are such as are properly called sensual, n. 5077, 5125, 5128, 7645. If sensual things are in the last place, through them a way is opened to the understanding, and truths are disengaged by a kind of extraction, n. Arcana Coelestia 5580. These sensual things of man stand next to the world, and admit the things that flow from the world, and as it were sift them, n. 9726.

Through these the external or natural man communicates with the world, and through rational things with heaven, n . 4009. Sensual things thus supply such things as are serviceable to the interiors belonging to the mind, n. 5077, 5081. There are sensual things that minister to the intellectual part, and others that minister to the will part, n. 5077. Unless the thought is elevated from sensual things, man has but little wisdom, n. 5089. A wise man thinks above the sensual, n. 5089, 5094. When a man's thought is elevated above sensual things he comes into a clearer light, and at length into heavenly light, n. 6183, 6313, 6315, 9407, 9730, 9922. Elevation above sensual things and withdrawal from them were known to the ancients, n. 6313. Man in his spirit is able to see things that are in the spiritual world if he can be withdrawn from the sensual things which are from the body and be elevated into the light of heaven by the Lord, n. 4622. The reason is that it is not the body that thinks, but the spirit of man in the body, and so far as man thinks in the body so far he thinks grossly and obscurely, thus in darkness, but so far as he does not think in the body he thinks clearly and in light, n. 4622, 6614, 6622. The ultimate of the understanding is sensual knowledge, and the ultimate of the will is sensual delight, concerning which see n. 9996. The difference between the sensual things that man has in common with the beasts and those not in common with them, n. 10236. There are sensual persons not evil because their interiors are not shut in the manner above referred to; the state of such in the other life, n. 6311.

(References: Arcana Coelestia 195-196, Arcana Coelestia 6844-6845, 6948-6949)


[6] That the "locust" signifies nothing else but this sensual of man that has now been described can be seen also from other passages in the Word where the locust is mentioned. As in Moses:

Moses stretched forth his staff over the land of Egypt, and Jehovah brought along an east wind all the day, and all the night; and when it was morning, the east wind brought the locust. And the locust went up over all the land of Egypt, and rested in all the border of Egypt, very grievous; before it there was no such locust, nor after it shall there be such. And they covered the surface of the whole earth, so that the land was darkened; and they did eat every herb of the land, and all the fruit of the trees which the hail had left remaining; so that there remained not any green thing in the tree or in the herb of the field, in all Egypt. And the locust filled the house of Pharaoh, and the house of all his servants, and the house of all the Egyptians (Exodus 10:13-15, 6).

All the miracles in Egypt, like all other miracles recorded in the Word, involve and signify spiritual things pertaining to heaven and the church, thus the Egyptian plagues signify spiritual plagues; this plague of the locusts signifies the destruction of the whole natural man by the breaking in of evil and falsity from the sensual; "Egypt" signifies the natural man in respect to knowledge [scientificum] and to what is pleasurable in it, and "the locust" the falsity and evil of the sensual man laying waste the natural man, that is, driving out from it or destroying there all the truth and good of the church; it is therefore said, "and the locust went up over all the land of Egypt, and rested in all its border," "the land of Egypt" signifying the natural with the men of the church, and "its border" the sensual with them, for the sensual is the ultimate or most external of the natural, consequently its border; the "locust" means falsity and evil there. Because the falsity and the evil of the sensual man are the most grievous, for they are corporeal and earthly, it is said that the locust was "very grievous, and that before it there was no such locust, nor after it shall there be such;" and this for the reason that the Egyptians had a knowledge of correspondences, and from that a knowledge of the spiritual things which belong to heaven; but these they turned into magic. Because the falsity and the evil of the sensual man, when they break into the natural man, entirely lay it waste by destroying every truth and every good therein, it is said that "the locust covered the whole surface of the earth so that the land was darkened, and did eat every herb of the land, 1 and all the fruit of the tree," "the land of Egypt" meaning the natural with the men of the church, "the herb of the land" the truth there, and "the fruit of the tree" the good there. "The locust filling the house of Pharaoh, and of his servants, and of all the Egyptians," has a similar meaning, for "the house of Pharaoh, of his servants, and of all the Egyptians," signifies the natural mind in its whole extent, "house" in the Word signifying the interiors of man which belong to his mind and disposition, here the things of his natural mind.

(References: Exodus 10:4)


[7] It is said that here "the locust going up over all the land of Egypt" signifies the breaking in of falsity and evil out of the sensual man into the natural; and yet the natural man is interior and the sensual exterior, and there is no breaking in or influx from the exterior into the interior, but only from the interior into the exterior. It should be known, therefore, that the breaking in or influx of the sensual man into the natural means the blocking up of the natural man until it becomes like the sensual, whereby evil and falsity become more widely extended, and the natural and the sensual become alike corporeal and earthly. In other cases, man learns from infancy to separate the sensual man from the natural, by speaking truth and doing good, even while his thoughts from the sensual man are false, and his will is evil; and this he continues to do until they are entirely separated, which is done when man is reformed and regenerated by the Lord. But if these are not separated man can think and will no otherwise than insanely, and thus speak 2 and act insanely.

[8] Because the "locust" here signifies the sensual in respect to falsity and evil, or, what is the same, the falsity and evil of the sensual man, the "locust" and the "caterpillar" have the same signification in David:

He sent among them a swarm that devoured them, and the frog that destroyed them. He also gave their increase unto the caterpillar, and their labor unto the locust (Psalms 78:45, 46).

And in the same:

He spake, and the locust came, and the caterpillar without number, which did eat up every herb in the land, and did eat up the fruit of their land (Psalms 105:34, 35).

But here the "locust" signifies the falsity of the sensual man, and the "caterpillar" its evil, or the falsity and evil in the sensual man and from it. The latter is signified by "caterpillar," and the former by "locust," because the caterpillar is also a locust, as is evident from this fact that this was said by David respecting the locusts in Egypt, and yet in Moses the locust only is mentioned, and not the caterpillar.

(References: Psalms 78:45-46, 105:34-35)


[9] The "locust" and the "caterpillar" have a similar signification in Joel:

That which the palmerworm hath left hath the locust eaten; and that which the locust hath left hath the cankerworm eaten; and that which the cankerworm hath left hath the caterpillar eaten. Awake, ye drunkards, and weep; and howl, all ye drinkers of wine, because of the new wine which has been cut off from your mouth (Joel 1:4, 5).

And elsewhere in the same:

The floors shall be full of pure grain, and the vats shall overflow with new wine and oil. And I will recompense to you the years that the locust hath eaten, the cankerworm, and the caterpillar, and the palmerworm, My great army which I sent among you (Joel 2:24, 25).

Evidently these noxious little animals signify falsities and evils devastating or consuming truths and goods with the man of the church, since it is said that "all drinkers of wine should howl because of the new wine which is cut off from your mouth," "wine" and "new wine" signifying the truth of the church; likewise because it is said that "the floors shall be full of grain, and the presses shall overflow with new wine and oil," the "floor" signifying the doctrine of the church, "grain" and "oil" its goods, and "new wine" its truths.

(References: Joel 1:4-5, 2:24-25)


[10] So in Nahum:

The fire shall devour thee; the sword shall cut thee off, it shall devour thee like the caterpillar; make thyself many as the caterpillar; make thyself many as the locust. Thou hast multiplied thy merchants above the stars of the heavens; the caterpillar spreadeth itself abroad and flieth away. Thy crowned are as the locusts, and thy commanders as the locust of locusts, which encamp in the walls in the day of cold; when the sun ariseth they fly away, and their place is not known where they are (Nahum 3:15-17).

This is said of "the city of bloods," which signifies doctrine fabricated out of falsified truths, thus out of falsities; the destruction of those who are in a faith and life according to that doctrine is signified by "the fire shall devour thee; the sword shall cut thee off," "the fire that shall devour" signifying evil destroying good, and "the sword" falsity destroying truth; and because evil and falsity from the sensual man are meant it is said, "the caterpillar shall devour thee; make thyself many as the caterpillar; make thyself many as the locust; thou hast multiplied thy merchants above the stars of the heavens." Multiplication like that of the caterpillar and of the locust is mentioned because falsifications of the Word are made in the greatest abundance by those who are sensual, thus by the sensual man, for the sensual man is signified here by the "caterpillar and locust" as has been said above. The sensual man falsifies the Word more than others, because the ultimate sense of the Word, which is the sense of its letter, is for the natural and sensual man, while the interior sense is for the spiritual man; consequently when man is not a spiritual man, but is natural and sensual, and is in evil and in falsities therefrom, he does not see the truths and goods in the Word, but applies its ultimate sense to confirm his falsities and evils. "Merchants" signify those who falsify and who communicate and who offer for sale. "Thy crowned are as the locust, and thy commanders as the locust of locusts," signifies that the primary and chief things of doctrine, that is, "a city of bloods," are the falsities of evil, and from these again come the falsities of evil; "which sit in the walls in the day of cold" signifies in the truths of the Word that do not appear to be truths, because they have become falsified, and are from evil, "walls" meaning truths that do not appear because they are falsified, and "the day of cold" meaning a state of the love of evil; "the sun ariseth, they fly away, and their place is not known where they are," signifies that they consume every truth and good, so that there is nothing left. "Multiplying as the locust" has a similar signification in Jeremiah 46:20, 22, 23; also in the (Judges 6:5) book (Judges 7:12) of Judges 6:5; 7:12.

(References: Jeremiah 46:22-23)


[11] The "locust" signifies also falsity in the most external things, or the densest falsity, in Moses:

Thou shalt carry out much seed into the field, but shall gather but little; for the locust shall consume it (Deuteronomy 28:38);

which is one of the curses if they did not keep and do the commandments of Jehovah. "The seed of the field" means the truth of the Word, and the "locust" dense falsity from the sensual man that consumes and destroys it. "Locust" has a similar signification in Amos 7:1, 2; Isaiah 33:3, 4; and in David Psalms 109:22, 23.

(References: Amos 7:1-2; Isaiah 33:3-4; Psalms 109:22-23)


[12] Because the sensual of man is the ultimate and lowest of the life of man's thought and affection (as has been said above) and because the lowest, when viewed by those who are in a higher or more eminent place, is little, for this reason it is compared to locusts. As in Isaiah:

Jehovah who dwelleth above the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as locusts (Isaiah 40:22).

This signifies that men in respect to intelligence are in things lowest, and the Lord in things highest.

[13] In like manner, men viewed by those who are in the persuasion of their superiority over others are compared to locusts, in Moses:

The spies of the land of Canaan said, We saw the Nephilim, the sons of Anak which come of the Nephilim; and we were in our own eyes as locusts, and so we were in their eyes (Numbers 13:33).

The "Nephilim" and the "Anakim" signify in the Word those who are in the strongest persuasion of their being more eminent and wise than others; and in the abstract sense they signify direful persuasions (see Arcana Coelestia 311, 567, 581, 1268, 1270, 1271, 1673, 3686, 7686). That the spies appeared to these and also to themselves like locusts, is in agreement with the appearances in the spiritual world, for there, when those who are in a persuasion of their own superiority look at others, they see them as little and vile, and these then also appear such to themselves.

(References: Arcana Coelestia 1270-1271)


[14] As the "locust" signifies the sensual, which is the ultimate of the life of man's thought, or the ultimate in which the understanding closes, and upon which it rests, so this ultimate is like a base and foundation upon which interior or higher things stand, which belong to man's understanding and will, likewise the interior and higher things in the Word that are called spiritual and celestial. And as all things, to continue and to subsist, must have a foundation, so the sense of the letter of the Word, which is its ultimate and base, is natural and sensual; and this in a good sense, and, consequently, its truth and good, are meant by the "locust." This is why John the Baptist ate locusts, and why the sons of Israel were allowed to eat them. Of John the Baptist it is said:

That he had his raiment of camel's hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and he did eat locusts and wild honey (Matthew 3:4; Mark 1:6).

John the Baptist was so clothed because like Elijah he represented the Word; and by "his raiment of camel's hair, and leathern girdle, and eating locusts and wild honey," he represented the ultimate sense of the Word, which, as was said, is sensual-natural, because it is for the sensual-natural man. "Raiment" signifies truth clothing good; "camel's hair" the ultimate of the natural man, which is the sensual; the "locusts and wild honey" also signify that ultimate or the sensual as regards appropriation; the "locust" the sensual in respect to truth, "wild honey" the sensual in respect to good, and "eating" appropriation. It is to be known that in ancient times, when the churches were representative churches, all who were in ministries were clothed and also ate according to what they represented.

[15] That the sons of Israel were permitted to eat locusts is evident from these words in Moses:

Every winged thing that creeps, that walks on four feet, shall be an abomination unto you, but that which walks upon four, which has legs above its feet to leap withal upon the earth, ye shall eat; and among these the locust is mentioned (Leviticus 11:20-22).

To eat locusts was permitted on account of their having legs above the feet to leap with, because "legs" signify natural good conjoined to spiritual good, and "feet" natural truth from that good; and every truth that is from good ought to be appropriated and conjoined to man, but not truth that is not from good, for such truth is conjoined with some evil; therefore it is said that "every winged thing that creeps, that walks upon four, that had no legs above its feet, shall be an abomination. " It is said also "to leap upon the earth," because "leaping," in reference to flying things, signifies to live, the same as "walking" in reference to the animals of the earth; and spiritual living comes from truths that are from good, which are signified by "leaping with the feet, above which are legs;" but spiritual dying comes from truths conjoined to evil, which is signified by "walking upon four feet, above which are no legs;" therefore to eat such is said to be "an abomination. "

[16] As a "horse" signifies the intellectual, and a "locust" the sensual, which is the ultimate of the intellectual, and the intellect lives when it is in its ultimate, the ancients spoke of horses as leaping and jumping like locusts. Thus in Job:

Dost thou give the horse might? Dost thou clothe his neck with shaking? Dost thou make him to leap as a locust? The glory of his nostril is terror (Job 39:19, 20).

The understanding is here described by a horse, namely, that like a horse it is mighty, it shakes and curves the neck, and leaps as it goes; and as the ultimate of the understanding is the sensual, and this is signified by the "locust," and the life of the understanding in this ultimate is signified by "jumping and leaping as it goes," therefore the horse is said "to leap as a locust." The most ancient books, among which is Job, were written by pure correspondences; for a knowledge [scientia] of correspondences was then the knowledge of knowledges; and those writers were held in highest esteem who were able to compose books abounding in the most numerous and significant correspondences. Such is the book of Job; but the spiritual sense therein collected from correspondences does not treat of the holy things of heaven and the church, as the spiritual sense in the Prophets does; consequently that book is not among the books of the Word; but yet passages are quoted from it on account of the correspondences of which it is full.

-----
Footnotes:

1. Latin "land," the Hebrew in the passage quoted has "field."

2. Latin is "will."

-----

(References: Exodus 10:4; Job 39:19-20)

Go to section / 1232  

← Previous   Next →

   Study this Passage
From Swedenborg's Works

References from Swedenborg's drafts, indexes & diaries:

Apocalypse Explained 542, 552, 562, 573, 632


   Swedenborg Research Tools

Related New Christian Commentary

Thanks to the Swedenborg Foundation for their permission to use this translation.


Translate: