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References from Swedenborg's unpublished works: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

"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' 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...

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

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

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

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,...

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

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...

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....

'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...

'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,...

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....

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

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

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.

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

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.

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...

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

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...

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...

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",...

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

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

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

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

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...

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,...

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 (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 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...

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

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....

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

'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.

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

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...

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

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....

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

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...

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...

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...

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

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...

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...

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

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 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


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

Arcana Coelestia #3703

Arcana Coelestia (Elliott translation)

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3703. 'And He said, I am Jehovah, the God of Abraham your father' means the Lord in whom that good originated. This becomes clear from the fact that Jehovah is the Divine Being (Esse) itself of the Lord, who is called 'the God of Abraham' by virtue of Divine Good - 'Abraham' representing the Lord as regards Divine Good, see 2172, 2198. And because Divine Good is the source of all celestial and spiritual goods, and consequently of all truths also, the phrase 'your (that is, Jacob's) father Abraham' is used, when in fact Isaac was his father. The reason why 'father' in the internal sense means good is that good is the source of every single thing that has being and truth the means by which it is brought into being. Thus every single thing is born from a marriage of good and truth. Heaven itself, which consists of nothing else at all but the Divine marriage of Good and Truth, derives from the Divine Marriage of Good and Truth and of Truth and Good within the Lord.

[2] The whole natural order also in every single part has reference to what is good and what is true. In it, that is, the natural order, the celestial and spiritual goods and truths that belong to heaven are represented, and in heaven Divine Goods and Truths that are the Lord's are represented. From this it becomes clear that good is like the father and truth is like the mother, and that therefore 'father' in the internal sense of the Word means good, and 'mother' truth. Indeed they mean the goodness and truth in which lower or derived goods and truths originate, which in relation to them are as daughters and sons, and are also consequently called daughters and sons in the Word, 489-491, 2362. They are also in relation to that good and truth as brothers and sisters, as grandchildren and great grandchildren, as sons-in-law, fathers-in-law, and daughters-in-law; in short they are as every degree of blood relationship and relationship by marriage. And all these relationships stem from the marriage of good, which is the father, to truth, which is the mother. For all things - every single one - in heaven exist as in blood relationships of love to and faith in the Lord, or what amounts to the same, of good and truth, see 685, 917, 2739, 3612, and the most ancient people therefore compared all these things to marriages, 54, 55. See also 718, 747, 1432, 2508, 2516, 2524, 2556.

(References: Arcana Coelestia 54-55)

[3] That 'father' in the internal sense of the Word means good may be seen from very many places, as from the following: In Isaiah,

Pay attention to Me, you who are pursuing righteousness, who are seeking Jehovah; look to the rock from which you were hewn; and to the hole of the pit from which you were dug; look to Abraham your father and to Sarah who bore you, for when he was but one I called him; and I blessed him, and I will multiply him. For Jehovah will comfort Zion, He will comfort all her waste places, and will make her wilderness like Eden and her desert like the garden of Jehovah. Isaiah 51:1-3.

This refers to the Lord and His Coming, as is evident from every detail. As regards Divine Truth He is called 'a rock' and 'a pit', and as regards Divine Good 'Abraham your father'. And because the Divine marriage of Good and Truth is represented by Abraham and Sarah, see 1468, 1901, 1965, 1989, 2011, 2063, 2065, 2172, 2173, 2198, 2507, 2833, 2836, 2904, 3245, 3251, 3305 (end), the expressions 'Abraham your father' and 'Sarah who bore you' are used. This explains why it is said that they were to look to the rock and to the pit, and to Abraham their father and to Sarah. It also explains why the promises follow immediately after, declaring that 'Jehovah will comfort Zion', which is the celestial Church, see 2362, and that 'He will comfort her waste places, and will make her wilderness like Eden and her desert like the garden of Jehovah'.

(References: Arcana Coelestia 2172-2173)

[4] Abraham has a similar meaning when elsewhere in the Word he is called 'father', as in John,

Jesus said, I speak what I have seen with My Father, and you also do what you have seen with your father. They answered and said to Him, Our father is Abraham. Jesus said to them, If you were Abraham's sons, you would do the works of Abraham. You do the works of your father. John 8:38-39, 41.

And in Matthew,

Do not presume to say within yourselves, We have Abraham as our father. I tell you that God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees; every tree not bearing good fruit will be cut down and cast into the fire. Matthew 3:9-10.

And in Luke,

When the poor man Lazarus died he was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom. The rich man also died and was buried; and when he was in hell he raised his eyes and saw Abraham far off, and Lazarus in his bosom. Calling out he said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me. I ask you, father, to send him to my father's house. Luke 16:19-end.

In these places it is evident that Abraham was not meant but the Lord as regards Divine Good. For Abraham is unknown in heaven, and when his name is used in the Word the Lord is meant, see 1834, 1876, 1989, 3305 (end).

(References: John 8:30, 8:38; Luke 16:19-31, 16:22-24, 16:27)

[5] That 'father' means good in the internal sense becomes clear from the following places: In Moses,

Honour your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged on the land which Jehovah your God gives you. Exodus 20:12; Deuteronomy 5:16.

This commandment, like the rest of the Ten Commandments, is true in both senses - in the internal sense 'honouring father and mother' is loving what is good and true, and in what is good and true loving the Lord, see 2609, 3690. 'Days on the land' means resulting states of good within the Lord's kingdom, as is clear from the meaning of 'days' as states, 23, 487, 488, 493, 893, 2788, and from the meaning of Canaan, to which 'the land' refers here, as the Lord's kingdom, 1607, 3038, 3481, and from 'being prolonged' haying reference to good, 1613.

(References: Arcana Coelestia 487-488)

[6] Since 'father and mother' had these meanings many laws were therefore laid down in the Jewish representative Church relating to parents and sons. In every case good and truth were meant in the internal sense, and in the highest sense the Lord as regards Divine Good and Divine Truth, as in Moses,

Whoever strikes his father and his mother shall surely die. If anyone curses his father or his mother he shall surely die. Exodus 21:15, 17.

In the same author,

Any man who curses his father or his mother shall surely be put to death; he who curses his father and his mother, his blood shall be on him. Leviticus 20:9.

Cursed is he who treats his father and his mother with contempt; and all the people shall say, Amen. Deuteronomy 27:16, 17.

In Ezekiel,

Behold, the princes of Israel, every one according to his power, 1 have in you been intent on shedding blood; in you they have treated father and mother with contempt. Ezekiel 22:6-7.

In Moses,

When a man has a stubborn and rebellious son, in no way obeying the voice of his father or the voice of his mother, and though they correct him he still does not obey them, his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him to the elders of the city, and to the gateway of their place. And all the men of that city shall stone him with stones so that he dies. Deuteronomy 21:18-19, 21.

[7] In all these places 'father and mother' in the sense of the letter is used to mean father and mother, but in the internal sense good and truth are meant, and in the highest sense the Lord as regards Divine Good and Divine Truth. This is also the Lord's own teaching in Matthew,

Jesus stretching out His hand over His disciples said, Beyond My mother and My brothers; whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven is My brother, and sister, and mother. Matthew 12:49-50.

And in the same gospel,

Refuse to be called master, for one is your Master, Christ; but all you are brothers. And call nobody your father on earth, for one is your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 23:8-9.

It is not being called master or being called father on earth that is forbidden here, but acknowledging in the heart any other father than the Lord. That is, when the names master and father are used one should understand the Lord whom in the highest sense they represent, in the same way, as stated just above in 3702, as anything perceived on earth by the most ancient people who were celestial was to them the means for thought concerning the Lord.

(References: Matthew 12:49)

[8] Much the same is embodied in what the Lord told one of the disciples who said,

Lord, let me first go away and bury my father. Jesus said to him, Follow Me; leave the dead to bury the dead. Matthew 8:21-22.

Indeed the relationship of father on earth to Father in heaven, who is the Lord, is as one who is dead to one who is living, even as the law itself about honouring parents is so to speak dead unless it holds honour, worship, and love to the Lord within it. For that law about honouring parents comes down from the latter Divine law. And because it comes down from the latter, the living element which exists within the law about honouring parents is received from this Divine law. This is why the Lord said, 'Follow Me, leave the dead to bury the dead'. What Elijah told Elisha is also similar in meaning,

Elijah passed beside Elisha and cast his mantle over him, and he left the oxen and ran after Elijah, and said, Let me kiss, I beg you, my father and mother; then I will go after you. He therefore said to him, Go away; go back again; for what have I done to you? 1 Kings 19:19-20.

Elijah represented the Lord - see Preface to Chapter 18, and 2762.

(References: Arcana Coelestia 2135)

[9] In Malachi,

Lo, I am sending you Elijah the prophet before the great and terrible day of Jehovah comes. And he will turn the heart of the fathers to the sons, and the heart of the sons to their fathers lest I come and smite the earth with a ban. Malachi 4:5-6.

And in Luke where the angel addresses Zechariah regarding his son John,

He will go before the Lord in the spirit and power of Elijah to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children. Luke 1:17.

From these places it is evident that 'fathers' and 'sons' are not used to mean fathers and sons but the goods and truths of the Church which the Lord is going to restore.

[10] In Malachi,

May Jehovah be magnified upon the border of Israel! A son should honour his father, and a servant his lord. If I am a Father, where is My honour? If I am a Lord, where is the fear of Me? Malachi 1:5-6.

'A son' stands for those who are governed by the good of the Church, 'a servant' those who are governed by its truth. Here 'a Father' clearly stands for the Lord as regards Divine Good, and 'a Lord' as regards Divine Truth.

[11] In David,

My father and my mother have forsaken me, and Jehovah welcomes me. Psalms 27:10.

'Father and mother' stands for good and truth which are said to have forsaken a person when it is realized that of himself he is unable to perform anything good or to know anything true. For the meaning, it is evident, is not that David's mother and father forsook him.

[12] In the same author,

You are more beautiful by far than the sons of men. All glorious is the king's daughter within, in her clothing with gold interweavings. Instead of your fathers will be your sons; you will make them into princes in all the earth. Psalms 45:2, 13, 16.

This refers to the Lord. 'Instead of your fathers will be your sons' stands for Divine Truths becoming as Divine Goods. 'The king's daughter' stands for the love of truth; 'clothing with gold interweavings' for the nature of that truth grounded in good. Since the subject is the Lord and His Divine Human, as is evident from this Psalm as a whole and in every part, every single phrase clearly has reference to one and the same thing. So the phrase 'the king's daughter' is not used to mean the daughter of the king, nor are the phrases 'clothing with gold interweavings', 'instead of your fathers will be your sons', and 'their being made into princes in all the earth' to be taken literally, but each phrase means Divine celestial and spiritual things. 'A daughter' means affection or love, see 490, 491, 2362; 'the king' Divine Truth, 1672, 1728, 2015, 2069, 3009; 'gold' good, 113, 1551, 1552. 'That which is interwoven' has reference to natural knowledge, 2831, in this case therefore to Divine natural truth. 'Clothing' means such truths as clothe good, 297, 2576; 'sons instead of fathers' truths begotten from good, in this case Divine Truths being as Divine Goods, 264, 489, 491, 533, 1147, 1729, 1733, 2159, 2623, 2803, 2813. 'Princes in all the earth' are the first and foremost things of the Lord's kingdom and Church - 'princes' being the things that are first and foremost, 1482, 2089, 'the earth' the Lord's kingdom and Church, 1413, 1607, 1733, 1850, 2117, 2118 (end), 3355.

(References: Arcana Coelestia 490-491, 1551-1552, 2117-2118)

[13] In Moses,

Your fathers Jehovah delighted to love, and He chose their seed after them, even you out of all peoples, as at this day. Therefore circumcise the foreskin of your heart and be stiff-necked no longer. Deuteronomy 10:15-16.

'Fathers' here in the internal sense stands for the Ancient and Most Ancient Churches, whose members were so called by virtue of the love they had of good and truth - the most ancient people, who were celestial, by virtue of their love of good, the ancients, who were spiritual, by virtue of their love of truth. The goods and truths existing in the Church are referred to as 'the seed Jehovah chose'. Clearly Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and the latter's twelve sons are not meant by the fathers referred to here, nor the Israelite and Jewish people by 'the seed'. Rather the statement is made regarding them and addressed to them in order that the internal sense may be given some external form and so be intelligible to men.

[14] In Isaiah,

The boy will uplift himself against the old man, and the base fellow against the honourable; for a man will take hold of his brother in his father's house, [saying,] You have clothing, you will be leader for us. He will say, In my house there is neither bread [nor clothing]. Do not make me a leader 2 of the people. Isaiah 3:5-7.

This refers in the internal sense to a perverted state of the Church when truth is no longer acknowledged as truth, and it is not known what good is. 'A man will take hold of his brother in his father's house' stands for acknowledging everything as good. 'Clothing' stands for truth, 1073, 2576, 'a leader (or prince)' for a first and foremost matter of doctrine drawn from truth, 1482, 2089. 'In the house there is neither bread nor clothing' stands for neither good nor truth - 'bread' meaning good, 276, 680, 3478, and 'clothing' truth, 297, 2576.

[15] Because father and mother, and also daughters and sons, represented goodness and truth in the representative Churches many laws existed which possessed from those representatives that which was Divine within them, such as the following,

If a priest's daughter has acted profanely by committing whoredom, she is profaning her father; she shall be burnt with fire. Leviticus 21:9.

'A priest's daughter' stands for the affection for good, 'father' for the good from which that affection springs. 'Committing whoredom' stands for profaning what is good. What 'committing whoredom' is, see 2466, 2729, 3399, and what 'acting profanely', 1008, 1010, 1059, 2051, 3398, 3399. Also,

If a priest's daughter has been made a widow or divorced and has no seed she shall return to her father's house, as in her youth; she shall eat of her father's bread. No stranger shall eat of it. Leviticus 22:13.

(References: Arcana Coelestia 3398-3399)

[16] And this law also,

If you see among the captives a wife with a beautiful form and you desire her to take her for yourself as wife you shall bring her inside your home; and she shall shave her head and pare her nails; and she shall take off the clothing of her captivity born upon her, and shall sit in your house and lament her father and her mother a hill month; and after that you shall go in to her and know her, and she shall be your wife. Deuteronomy 21:11-13.

Every single detail in this law is representative of natural truth, which is adopted by good once it has been purified from falsities. Such truth is meant by 'a wife beautiful in form among the captives'; purification from falsities by 'bringing her inside your home', and by her 'shaving her head, paring her nails, taking off the clothing of her captivity, and lamenting her father and mother'; and adoption by 'after that going in to her, knowing her, and taking her as a wife'.

[17] The Marriage Laws requiring marriages to be contracted within the tribe and the family, and also the Inheritance Laws forbidding the transfer of inheritances from one tribe to another, which are written in the Word, also had the same origins, that is to say, in the celestial and spiritual marriage in the Lord's kingdom, or the marriage of good and truth, which are meant by 'father and mother'. The same applies to the laws laid down relating to the permissible and the forbidden degrees of affinity. Each law in the Word concerning those matters has reference inwardly to the law of the affiliation and joining together of good and truth in heaven, and to the affiliations of evil and falsity in hell, which are separated from the former. For laws to do with permissible and forbidden degrees, see Leviticus 20; for laws forbidding the transfer of inheritances from one tribe to another, and for those requiring marriages to be contracted within the tribe, see Numbers 27:7-9, and elsewhere. In heaven the position of every single thing is fixed according to blood relationships of good and truth and to relationships of them through marriage, see 685, 917, 2739, 3612.

(References: Numbers 27:7-11)

[18] Since the Israelitish people represented the Lord's kingdom in heaven and so the heavenly order existing there, the command was also given for them to be singled out according to tribes, according to families, and according to the houses of their fathers, see Numbers 26:1-end. In addition to this they were required to pitch camp around the tent of meeting in conformity with that heavenly order, and also to journey in conformity with it, as stated in Moses,

Each one of the children of Israel shall pitch camp beneath his own standard, by the ensigns of his father's house, at a distance around the tent of meeting. And in the same formations they also set out. Numbers 2:2, 34.

This was why, when Balaam saw Israel dwelling according to their tribes, the Spirit of God came upon him and he delivered this utterance, How good your tabernacles are, O Jacob, your dwelling-places, O Israel? They are like valleys that are planted, like gardens beside a river, etc., etc. Numbers 24:2, 5-6, and following verses.

From every word used here it is evident that not Jacob or Israel were meant but the Lord's kingdom in heaven and His Church on earth, which were represented by that order in which he saw them spread out at that time.

(References: Numbers 24:2-3)

[19] From these examples one may also know what is meant in the internal sense of the Word by orphans! that is, the fatherless, namely people whose state is a state of innocence and charity and who wish to know and put into effect what is good but are not able to do so. Such a state exists in particular with those outside the Church whom the Lord cares about and adopts in the next life as His sons. And since those people are meant by 'orphans', when these are mentioned in the Word, sojourners and widows are in many instances mentioned too. For 'sojourners' means those who are receiving instruction in goods and truths, 1463, and 'widows' those whose state is one of good but not so much of truth, or those whose state is one of truth but not so much of good, and who yet desire what they lack. Since these three - orphans, sojourners, and widows - belong to a very similar line of meaning, therefore all three are in most places mentioned together, as has been stated, see Deuteronomy 14:29; 16:11, 14; 24:17, 19; Jeremiah 7:6; 22:3; Ezekiel 22:6-7; Zechariah 7:10; Psalms 94:6; 146:9. From these considerations one may now see what 'father' means in the genuine sense, namely good, and in the highest sense the Lord.

(References: Ezekiel 22:7)

[20] Now because most things in the Word also have a contrary sense, so has the word 'father'. In that sense it means evil. Equally so 'mother', which in the genuine sense means truth, in the contrary sense means falsity. The contrary meanings may be seen from the following places: In David,

The iniquity of his fathers will be remembered before Jehovah, and the sin of his mother will not be wiped out. Psalms 109:14.

In the same author,

They drew back and acted treacherously like their fathers; they turned about like a deceitful bow. Psalms 78:57.

In Moses,

Until the remainder of you waste away in their iniquity in the lands of your enemies: and they will also waste away in their fathers' iniquities with them. Leviticus 26:39. In Isaiah,

Prepare slaughter for his sons because of the iniquity of their fathers, and let them not rise up again and possess the earth, and fill the face of the earth with cities. Isaiah 14:21.

In the same prophet, I will repay your iniquities, and the iniquities of your fathers together. Isaiah 65:7.

(References: Isaiah 65:6-7)

[21] In Jeremiah,

The house of Israel is ashamed, they, their kings, their princes, and their priests, and their prophets, who say to wood, You are my father, and to a stone, You gave birth to me. For they have turned their neck to Me and not their face. Jeremiah 2:26-27.

In the same prophet,

Behold, I am laying before this people stumbling-blocks, and fathers and sons together will stumble against them, neighbour and his friend, and they will perish. Jeremiah 6:21.

In the same prophet,

The sons gather pieces of wood, and the fathers kindle fire, and the women knead dough to make cakes for Melecheth. 3 Jeremiah 7:18.

In Ezekiel,

I will do in you that which I have not done, and such things as I will not do any longer, because of your abominations. Therefore fathers will eat their sons, and sons will eat their fathers; and I will execute judgements on you, and I will scatter the whole remnant of you to every wind. Ezekiel 5:9-10.

This refers to the profanation of what is holy. In the same prophet,

Thus said the Lord Jehovih to Jerusalem, Your tracings and your births are of the land of the Canaanite. Your father was an Amorite and your mother a Hittite. Ezekiel 16:3.

[22] In Matthew,

Brother will deliver up brother to death, and father the son; and children will rise up against parents and put them to death. And so you will be hated by everyone for My name's sake. I have come to set a man (homo) against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man's (homo) foes will be those in his own household. Whoever loves father and mother more than Me is not worthy of Me, and whoever loves son and daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. Matthew 10:21-22, 35-37; Luke 12:49, 52-53.

In the same gospel,

Everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for My name's sake will receive a hundredfold and will be allotted the inheritance of eternal life. Matthew 19:29; Luke 18:29-30; Mark 10:29-30.

In Luke,

If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and his mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own soul, he cannot be My disciple. Luke 14:26.

[23] In Mark,

Brother will deliver up brother to death, and the father his children, and children will rise up together against parents and will kill them; for you will be hated by all for My name's sake. Mark 13:12-13; Luke 21:16-17.

This refers to the close of the age and is describing the state of the Church when perverted as regards good and truth, that is to say, when evil rises up against truth, and falsity against good. The meaning of 'father' in the contrary sense as evil is evident from the places just quoted and also from the following in John,

Jesus said, If God were your father you would love Me, for from God I went forth and now come. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desire. He was a murderer from the beginning and took no stand on the truth because the truth is not in him. When he speaks a lie he speaks from what are his own, for he is the teller of a lie and the father of it. John 8:42, 44.


1. literally, arm

2. or a prince

3. melecheth is a Hebrew word for a queen.


(References: Genesis 28:13; John 8:41-42; Luke 21:17, 21:18; Numbers 24:2-3)

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From Swedenborg's Works

Inbound References:

Arcana Coelestia 3704, 3794, 3803, 4069, 4111, 4145, 4159, 4207, 4334, 4576, 4615, 4674, 5506, 5515, 5902, 6041, 6050, 6075, 6098, 6276, 6432, 6458, 6549, 8876, 8897, 9185, 9226, 10623

The New Jerusalem and its Heavenly Doctrine 121, 122, 246

References from Swedenborg's unpublished works:

Apocalypse Explained 9, 118, 200, 240, 254, 376, 721, 821, 966

Other New Christian Commentary

Father 1

Wrought 1

Father and Lord 1

Orphans 1

Prolonged 1

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