The Bible

Matthew 6:24-34 : Seek Ye First the Kingdom of God

Study the Inner Meaning

24 No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

25 Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?

26 Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?

27 Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?

28 And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:

29 And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.

30 Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?

31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?

32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.

33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

34 Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

   Study the Inner Meaning
From Swedenborg's Works

Explanations or references:

Arcana Coelestia 1, 1749, 1839, 2357, 3069, 3875, 5449, ...

Divine Providence 18, 233

Doctrine of Life 28

Heaven and Hell 64, 281

True Christian Religion 383, 416, 536

The New Jerusalem and its Heavenly Doctrine 144


References from Swedenborg's unpublished works:

Apocalypse Explained 193, 683, 750, 847, 902, 1193

Charity 156

Spiritual Experiences 252, 1312

Other New Christian Commentary

  Stories and their meanings:



Hop to Similar Bible Verses

Exodus 15:24, 16:19

Joshua 24:14

1 Kings 3:13, 17:4, 9, 18:21

2 Kings 17:33

2 Chronicles 29:3, 31:21

Job 7:1, 12:7

Psalms 145:15, 147:9

Song of Solomon 2:1

Zephaniah 1:5

Haggai 2:19

Malachi 3:10

Word/Phrase Explanations

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

serve
Generally speaking, those who are at lower levels of an organization serve those at higher levels. Bosses boss and their employees serve; coaches devise strategy...

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

hate
If you truly hate someone, that means you would kill them and destroy their reputation if you could do so without repercussion – not a...

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

love
To some degree, there really is no spiritual meaning to the word “love” in the Bible. Why? Because if you truly love another, that is...

Hold
'A hold,' 'a den,' or 'dungeon,' as mentioned in Revelation 18:2, signifies hell, because people who are there are in confinement.

despise
We tend to think of "despising" something or someone as just a strong way of expressing dislike, but there is a further shade of meaning...

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

mammon
"Mammon" is an ancient word that means "wealth" or "riches," and is used in the Bible in a negative way, denoting worldly wealth as opposed...

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...

thought
Those who are 'anxious' are not content with their own lot, and do not trust the Divine, but only themselves. They only look to worldly...

life
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...

eat
When we eat, our bodies break down the food and get from it both energy and materials for building and repairing the body. The process...

drink
Food in the Bible represents the desire for good, and water and other drinks represent the understanding and true ideas we need to recognize what...

Body
The body (Matt. 6:22), signifies the man (homo). "His body shall not remain all night upon the tree" (Deut. 21:23), signifies lest it should be...

Put on
'To put on' is communication and imbuement.

Put
'To put' has reference to order, arrangement, application, and influx.

Meat
'Meat,' as in Genesis 40:17, signifies celestial good, because 'the meat of the angels' are nothing but the goods of love and charity, which not...

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

Sow
'To sow,' as in Isaiah 28:24, signifies learning. 'To sow beside all waters,' as in Isaiah 32:20, relates to people who allow themselves to be...

Reap
'To reap' signifies executing judgment. 'Reaping' denotes the reception of truth in good.

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

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

much
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...

field
When we have a desire to be good people and to do good things, the natural first questions are "What does that mean?" "What should...

Grow
‘To grow’ signifies to be perfected.

Solomon
Solomon was permitted to institute idolatrous worship to provide an image of the Lord's kingdom or the church in all the religions of the whole...

Glory
Glory, wisdom, and thanksgiving signify the Lord's divine spiritual principle. Honor, virtue and might signify his divine celestial principle, as in Revelation 7:12.

Grass
Grass signifies the scientific principle. Just as green grass serves animals for support, scientific truth serves men for spiritual nourishment. ‘Grass’ is scientific truth, and...

Oven
'An oven,' as in Malachi 4:1, signifies hell, where the people live who confirm themselves in false doctrines and evils of life from earthly and...

faith
It's interesting to note that despite the prominent place of faith in mainstream Christian belief systems, the word itself appears exactly twice in the King...

seek
The meaning of "to seek" in the Bible is pretty straightforward, but there is a bit of nuance: Swedenborg tells us that in most cases...

first
Why would it be insulting for a man to refer to his married partner as his “first wife”? Because it implies there will be a...

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...

righteousness
The word "righteous" has taken on a bit of negative shading in modern language. That may be because we hear it most often as part...

Resources for parents and teachers

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Commentary

Worrying About the Future

By Rev. Brian W. Keith

A little boy, hands clasped tightly and eye squinched shut, says his prayers.

Consider the simple faith expressed in this psalm to the Lord. A confidence that evil will be punished and that good will always prevail. The future is bright. There is no need to worry.

We might assume that the author was an idealistic youth - one who has never experienced pain or disappointment. Yet this psalm did not come from any naive child. It was written by a very old man, a man who had known incredible hardships. It is a psalm of David.

Think of David. Although from a shepherd he became king, he also knew hardship. As a youth he had to flee for his life from the jealous Saul. He felt the grief over being responsible for the death of his infant son. Later, as king, he saw his children rape and kill one another. He was forced to flee Jerusalem for his life, because his own son Absalom had rebelled. Then he regained his throne at the cost of his beloved Absalom's life.

David experienced intense pain. Yet he could advise us not to worry about those who do evil. All we need do is trust in the Lord and do good. Indeed, he claims that those who commit their way to the Lord will have everything they need, even if it be but a little in comparison with those who are evil. There is nothing in the future to fear. The good will be rewarded for their efforts.

Comparing this psalm with David's life, we may think that he had an unrealistic view of providence. But consider a similar teaching from the doctrines of the New Church: "When the Lord is present with someone, he leads him, and provides that all things which happen, whether sad or joyful, befall him for good; this is the Divine providence" (Arcana Coelestia 6303). Whatever happens - being promoted or fired, realizing our dreams or having them dashed - all result in good!

A difficult idea to accept - in large part because it seems like the Lord thereby is just manipulating us, causing evil to come into our lives.

But such is not the case. The Lord would never make anything bad happen. And He would prefer that we never suffer any pain. His providence is a gentle leading which causes good things to happen, and tolerates evil things. However He permits us to hurt ourselves and He allows others to cause us pain. Not as punishment, but as the result of free choices by individuals and groups.

One of the greatest stumbling blocks to sensing mercy in His providence is that when we feel pain or worry about serious problems we think that is all there is in life. We cannot see beyond the suffering, the hurt. But while we are occupied with worry, the Lord is already looking ahead - to what can come from the experience, to how He can lead us to grow in spite of the difficulty. For the Lord's view is eternal. He sees hope when we see none. He leads to happiness when we feel hurt.

The apparently random and purposeless events in life are described in the Heavenly Doctrines with pebbles. The Lord allows a person "to go here and there, so that the moments of his life appear like scattered pebbles. But the Lord then sees whether he fills up that space between them; He sees what is lacking and where; and then, continually, what is next in order, after a hundred or a thousand years" (Spiritual Experiences 4692[m]). The Lord's sight and providence encompasses eons of time. He sees all we are, and all we might become. He then gradually provides for it - not immediately, but over the course of an eternal lifetime. Whatever happens, whatever decisions we make, or whatever others do to us - the Lord eventually turns everything to good.

Unfortunately, our view is seldom as long. We cannot see how things will turn out in twenty, much less two thousand years. And when we are suffering our sight is even more limited. So we worry about what will happen. We may try to trust in His guidance, but we are more likely to feel abandoned by the Lord. Whatever He might be doing is both invisible and insensible to us.

In such a frame of mind we might wish we could see the future, be certain of how things will work out. If we were assured of the specific outcome, or knew exactly which path were the best to follow, we could really trust in the Lord - have confidence in Him to lead us.

Yet, in this, as in all other things, the Lord knows us better than we know ourselves. He does not hide the workings of providence from us as a test of our trust, or a puzzle for us to sort out. The Divine does not tease us. But the Lord is fully aware that if we were to know the future, or if we received the "right" answers to our specific questions by a voice out of heaven, we would wind up destroying ourselves.

Imagine what we would feel like if someone predicted every last thing that we would experience for the 24 hours. At first we would disbelieve, but what if the predictions started coming true? It would be disturbing, to say the least. And would we not begin to feel restricted, and try to prevent the predictions from coming true?

We value our freedom, our sense of self. We will protect it at all costs. When we are forced to do something, or if we are pressured into one course of action, do we not rebel, wanting to act against that pressure?

Such resistance is not adolescent or infantile reaction to authority. It stems from our inner freedom of thought. For us to be human beings we need to think things out for ourselves and then act in freedom. Whatever choices we make determine the kind of person we become - and whether our choices are good or bad, at least they make us who we choose to be, not who someone else forces us to be.

Yet, when we are confused or suffering, we have a tremendous yearning to see something of the potential the Lord sees for us and those we love. Unfortunately, if we were able to glimpse it, we would probably work against it. A paradox which can be frustrating and lead us to worry about the future.

It would be much better if we could just let go and trust the Lord to make the best of whatever we do. That is what the angels do. They have no memory of past events from their earthly life to trouble them. Nor do they have any desire to know what is to come. For they are content in the present. Imagine if we could be so fully engaged in our present activities, dealing with what we can do rather than what is beyond our power, that we had no time to worry about the future! It is a goal worth striving for.

But for now, we tend to worry. We tend to worry about our jobs, our health, our children, the international situation, our spiritual state. It can on go on and on. Certainly some amount of thoughtful consideration is important. We are meant to make plans for the future - use good judgment to provide for our families. And we can delight in looking forward to continued productivity or happier times. But planning and worrying about what might or might not occur can become excessive.

The Psalms admonish us: "Cease from anger, and forsake wrath; do not fret - it only causes harm" (37:8). Do not worry, it only causes pain. Thinking too much of the future can lead us to forget that the Lord's providence is silently guiding us. The doctrines of the New Church point out that, "a longing to know the future is innate with most people; but this longing derives its origin from the love of evil" (Psalm 179).

Anxiety about the future stems from a lack of confidence that the Lord can lead us to happiness. Since He works invisibly, we can think that we are the only ones who have any direct influence upon what happens. It is a subtle trust in self, and denial that the Lord can be relied upon. Certainly it appears as if we have to do all the work, but it is not the reality. For we could not have created ourselves. We can't even make ourselves happy!

So the Heavenly Doctrines describe the Lord's providence "as when one walks in thick forests, the exit out of which he does not know; but when he finds it, he attributes the discovery to himself, whereas providence meantime is as one who stands in a tower, sees the wanderings of such a person, and leads him without his knowing it to the place of exit" (Spiritual Experiences 4393). The Lord is in the tower, inspiring our thoughts, motivating our actions so that we can be led from darkness into light.

But His guiding can only be effective when we cooperate. We have to search for ways out of the forest. The Lord gave us the ability to think so we would use it. If we sit back and ponder our situation, how hopeless it may seem, little is accomplished. Can we add one cubit to our height by worrying about it? We also need to act. If we stand around and complain about how lost we are, or how unfair life is, it is very difficult for the Lord to lead us anywhere. He will not drag us out of our forests against our wills.

It is as the Psalm said: "Trust in the Lord and do good." Such simple advice, but so true! We cannot alter the past, but we can do something in the present, enabling the Lord to create a happy future.

There will still be times of selfishness where we long to know how things could possibly work out, and there will still be things happening to us which are not pleasant. We cannot control life. But we can avoid being defeated by it. We have been given the knowledge of how the Lord operates to bring about happiness in the long term. We have been given the freedom to act with reason. We have the basis for trusting in Him.

Let us then listen to the Psalm, not worrying about the future, not worrying about what is or what might be. Let us do the good that we can, and leave the rest to the Lord. After all, He should be able to do a much better job than we. Let us commit our ways to the Lord, trusting in Him, and He can give us the heavenly desires of our hearts.

(References: Arcana Coelestia 6303; Divine Providence 176; Spiritual Experiences 2178, 4393, 4692)

From Swedenborg's Works

Arcana Coelestia #2799

Arcana Coelestia (Elliott translation)

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2799. 'And he took in his hand the fire and the knife' means the good of love and the truth of faith. This is clear from the meaning of 'the fire' as the good of love, dealt with in 934, and from the meaning of 'the knife' as the truth of faith. As regards 'the knife' used on the victims in sacrifices meaning the truth of faith, this may be seen from the meaning of 'a sword' or 'a small sword' in the Word, for the expression 'small sword' is used instead of 'knife'. Both have the same meaning, the only difference being that 'a knife' which was used on sacrificial victims meant the truth of faith, whereas 'a sword' meant truth engaged in conflict. Now since the word 'knife' occurs but rarely in the Word, for a hidden reason given below, 1 let the meaning of 'a sword' be shown. In the internal sense 'a sword' means the truth of faith engaged in conflict, and also the vastation of truth; and in the contrary sense it means falsity engaged in conflict and the punishment of falsity.

[2] A sword means the truth of faith engaged in conflict This becomes clear from the following places: In David,

Gird Your sword on Your thigh, O Mighty One; prosper in Your glory and honour, ride on the word of truth, and Your right hand will teach You marvellous things. Psalms 45:3-4.

This refers to the Lord. 'Sword' stands for truth engaged in conflict. In the same author,

The merciful will exalt in glory, they will sing on their beds. The high praises of God will be in their throats and an extremely sharp sword in their hand. Psalms 149:5-6.

In Isaiah,

Jehovah called Me from the womb, from My mother's body 2 He made mention of My name, and made My mouth like a sharp sword, and made Me into a polished arrow. Isaiah 49:1-2.

'A sharp sword' stands for truth engaged in conflict, 'a polished arrow' for the truth of doctrine, see 2686, 2709. In the same prophet,

Asshur will fall by a sword, not of man (vir); a sword, not of man (homo), will devour him; and he will flee before the sword, and his young men will become tributary. Isaiah 31:8.

'Asshur' stands for reasoning in Divine things, 119, 1186, 'a sword, not of man (vir)' and 'not of man (homo)' stand for falsity, 'the sword before which he will flee' stands for truth engaged in conflict.

[3] In Zechariah,

Turn to the stronghold, O prisoners of hope; even today I declare I will render double to you - I who have bent for Myself Judah as a bow, I have filled Ephraim, and have roused your sons, O Zion, against your sons, O Javan; and I will set you as the sword of one who is mighty, and Jehovah will appear over them, and His arrow will go forth like lightning. Zechariah 9:12-14.

'The sword of one who is mighty' stands for truth engaged in conflict. In John,

In the midst of the seven lampstands one like the Son of Man was holding in His right hand seven stars; out of His mouth a sharp two-edged sword was going forth, and His countenance was like the sun shining in full strength. Revelation 1:13, 16.

And further on,

These things says He who has the sharp two-edged sword, I will come to you quickly and engage in conflict with them with the sword of My mouth. Revelation 2:12, 16.

'A sharp two-edged sword' plainly stands for truth engaged in conflict, which was therefore represented as 'a sword going out of His mouth'.

[4] In the same book,

Out of the mouth of Him who sat on the white horse went forth a sharp sword, and with it He is to smite the nations. And they were slain by the sword of Him sitting on the horse, which went out of His mouth. Revelation 19:15, 21.

Here it is plain that 'a sword going out of His mouth' means truth engaged in conflict. The one 'sitting on the white horse' is the Word, and thus the Lord who is the Word; see above 2760-2763. This explains what the Lord says in Matthew,

Do not think that I have come to bring peace on to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. Matthew 10:34.

And in Luke,

Now he who has a purse, let him take it, and likewise a bag. But he who has none, let him sell his garments and buy a sword. They said to Him, Behold, Lord, here are two swords. And Jesus said, It is enough. Luke 22:36-38.

'A sword' here is used to mean nothing else than the truth, from which and for which they were to engage in conflict.

[5] In Hosea,

I will make for them a covenant on that day with the wild animals of the field, and with the birds of the air, and the creeping things of the ground. And I will abolish 3 the bow, and the sword, and war from the land, and I will make them lie down in safety. Hosea 2:18.

Here the subject is the Lord's kingdom. 'Abolishing the bow, the sword, and war' means the absence of any conflict there over doctrine and truth. In Joshua,

Joshua lifted up his eyes and saw, and behold, a man was standing before him, with a sword drawn in his hand. He said to Joshua, I am the Prince of the army of Jehovah; and Joshua fell on his face to the earth. Joshua 5:13-14.

These words, which refer to the time when Joshua together with the children of Israel entered the land of Canaan, are used to mean the entry - of those who have faith - into the Lord's kingdom. Truth engaged in conflict, which is the Church's, is 'the sword drawn in the hand of the Prince of the army of Jehovah'.

[6] But as for 'small swords' or 'knives' meaning the truth of faith, this becomes clear from the fact that they were used not only in sacrifices but also in circumcision. Those used in circumcision were made of flint and were called 'small swords of flint', as is evident in Joshua,

Jehovah said to Joshua, Make small swords of flint for yourself; and again, circumcise the children of Israel a second time. And Joshua made small swords of flint for himself, and circumcised the children of Israel on the hill of the foreskins. Joshua 5:2-3.

'Circumcision' was a representative of purification from self-love and love of the world, see 2039, 2632. And because such purification is achieved by means of the truths of faith, 'small swords of flint' were therefore used, 2039 (end), 2046 (end).

[7] II A sword means the vastation of truth This is clear from the following places: In Isaiah,

These two will happen to you; who is to condole with you? Vastation and demolition, and famine and sword; who is to comfort you? Your sons fainted, they lay at the head of every street. Isaiah 51:19-20.

'Famine' stands for vastation of good, and 'sword' for vastation of truth. 'Lying at the head of every street' stands for being deprived of all truth. 'Street' means truth, 2336; and for what vastation is, see 301-304, 407, 408, 410, 411. In the same prophet,

I will destine 4 you for the sword, and all of you will bow down to the slaughter, because I called but you did not answer, I spoke but you did not listen. Isaiah 65:12.

(References: Arcana Coelestia 407-408, 410-411)


[8] In the same prophet,

By fire Jehovah will judge, and by sword, all flesh; and the slain of Jehovah will be many. Isaiah 66:16.

'The slain of Jehovah' stands for those who have undergone vastation. In Jeremiah,

On all the hills in the wilderness those who cause devastation have come, for the sword of Jehovah is devouring from one end of the land even to the other end of the land. There is no peace for any flesh. They have sown wheat and reaped thorns. Jeremiah 12:12-13.

'The sword of Jehovah' plainly stands for the vastation of truth. In the same prophet,

They have lied against Jehovah and said, It is not He; and no evil will come upon us; neither shall we see sword and famine. And the prophets will become wind, and there is no utterance in them. Jeremiah 5:12-13.

[9] In the same prophet,

I am visiting them; the young men will die by the sword; their sons and their daughters will die by famine. Jeremiah 11:22.

In the same prophet,

When they offer burnt offering and minchah I will not accept them, for I am consuming them by sword and by famine and by pestilence. And I said, Ah, Lord Jehovih, behold, the prophets say to them, You will not see the sword, nor will you have famine. Jeremiah 14:12-13.

In the same prophet,

The city has been given into the hand of the Chaldeans fighting against it, in face of the sword, and famine, and pestilence. Jeremiah 32:24, 36.

In the same prophet,

I will send sword, famine, and pestilence upon them, until they are consumed from the ground which I gave to them and their fathers. Jeremiah 24:10.

[10] In these places vastation is described as 'sword, famine, and pestilence'. 'Sword' describes the vastation of truth, 'famine' the vastation of good, and 'pestilence' preying upon even to destruction. In Ezekiel,

Son of man, Take a sharp sword, use it as a barber's razor and pass it over your head and over your beard. And you are to take balances and you are to divide the hair. A third part you are to burn with fire in the midst of the city; a third part you are to strike with the sword round about it; and a third part you are to scatter to the wind, and I will unsheathe the sword after them. A third part will die of pestilence, and be consumed with famine in the midst [of you], and a third part will fall by the sword round about [you], and a third part I will scatter to every wind; and I will unsheathe the sword after them. Ezekiel 5:1-2, 12, 17.

This refers to the vastation of natural truth, which is described in this fashion. In the same prophet,

The sword is without, and pestilence and famine within; he that is in the field will die by the sword, and him that is in the city famine and pestilence will devour. Ezekiel 7:15.

[11] In the same prophet,

Say to the land of Israel, Thus said Jehovah, Behold, I am against you, and will draw My sword out of its sheath, and will cut off from you the righteous and the wicked. Because I will cut off from you the righteous and the wicked, therefore My sword will go out of its sheath against all flesh from south to north; and all flesh will know that I Jehovah have drawn My sword out of its sheath, and it will not return any more. The word of Jehovah came to me, saying, Son of man, prophesy and say, Thus said Jehovah, Say: A sword, a sword has been sharpened and also polished, sharpened, for great slaughter, so that it is polished to flash like lightning! Son of man, prophesy and say, Thus said the Lord Jehovih against the children of Ammon, and against their reproach, Say: A sword, a sword is bared for the slaughter, and polished to consume because [polished to shine like] lightning - while they see vanity for you, while they divine a lie for you. Ezekiel 21:3-5, 8-20, 28-29.

Here 'a sword' means nothing other than vastation, as is evident in the internal sense from each detail included here.

(References: Ezekiel 21:8-10)


[12] In the same prophet,

The king of Babel will destroy your towers with his swords. By reason of the abundance of horses their dust will cover you; by reason of the noise of horsemen, and wheels, and chariots, your walls will be shaken. With the hoofs of his horses he will trample all your streets. Ezekiel 26:9-11.

What 'Babel' is, see 1326, and that it causes vastation, 1327. In David, If he does not turn back God will whet His sword, bend His bow, and make it ready. Psalms 7:12.

In Jeremiah,

I said, Ah, Lord, truly You have utterly deceived this people and Jerusalem, saying, You will have peace; but the sword has reached even to the soul. Jeremiah 4:10.

[13] In the same prophet,

Declare in Egypt, and cause it to be heard in Migdol, Stand up and prepare yourself, for the sword will devour round about you. Jeremiah 46:14.

In the same prophet,

A sword over the Chaldeans and against the inhabitants of Babel, and against her rulers, and against her wise men! A sword against the boasters, and they will become insane! A sword against her mighty men, and they will be dismayed! A sword against her horses, and against her chariots, and against the whole mingled crowd in her midst, and they will become as women! A sword against her treasures, and they will be plundered! A drought on her waters, and they will dry up! Jeremiah 50:35-38.

'A sword' plainly stands for the vastation of truth, for it is said to be 'a sword against the wise men, against the boasters, against the mighty men, against the horses and chariots, against the treasures', and that there will be 'a drought on the waters and they will dry up'.

[14] In the same prophet,

We have given the hand to Egypt, to Asshur to be satisfied with bread. Slaves have had dominion over us; there is nobody to free us from their hand. In [peril of] our souls we acquired our bread, in face of the sword of the wilderness. Lamentations 5:6, 8-9.

In Hosea,

He will not return to the land of Egypt, and Asshur will be his king, because they have refused to return to Me. And the sword will come down on his cities, and consume his bars, and devour because of their counsels. Hosea 11:5-6.

In Amos.

I have sent the pestilence upon you in the way of Egypt, I have slain your young men with the sword, along with your captured horses. 5 Amos 4:10.

'In the way of Egypt' stands for the facts which cause vastation when, on the basis of these, people reason in Divine things. 'Captured horses' stands for the understanding when stripped of its own inherent qualities.

[15] III A sword in the contrary sense means falsity engaged in conflict. This becomes clear in David,

As to my soul, I lie in the midst of lions setting on fire the children of men; their teeth are spear and arrows, and their tongues a sharp sword. Psalms 57:4.

In the same author,

Behold, they belch out with their mouths, swords are in their lips - for who hears? Psalms 59:7.

In Isaiah,

You are cast out from your sepulchre like an abominable stock, a garment of the slain pierced by the sword, who go down to the stones of the pit like a dead body trodden underfoot. Isaiah 14:19

This refers to Lucifer. In Jeremiah,

In vain have I smitten your sons, they took no correction Your own sword is devouring your prophets, like a ravaging lion. O generation, observe the Word of Jehovah, Have I been a wilderness to Israel? Jeremiah 2:30-31.

[16] In the same prophet,

Do not go out into the field, and do not walk on the road, for the enemy has a sword, terror is all around. Jeremiah 6:25-26.

In the same prophet,

Take the cup of the wine of wrath and make all the nations to which I send you drink it. And they will drink and reel, and go mad in face of the sword which I am sending among them. Drink and get drunk, and vomit, and fall, and do not get up again in face of the sword. Jeremiah 25:15-16, 27.

In the same prophet,

Go up, O horses; rage, O chariots; let the mighty men go forth, Cush and Put, that handle the shield, and the Ludim that handle and bend the bow. And that day is to the Lord Jehovih of hosts a day of vengeance. And the sword will devour, and be sated, and become drunk on their blood. Jeremiah 46:9-10.

[17] In Ezekiel,

They will strip you of your garments, and take the jewels 6 of your glory, and leave you naked and bare. And they will bring up an assembly upon you, and they will stone you with stones; they will run you through with their swords. Ezekiel 16:39-40.

This refers to the abominations of Jerusalem. In Zechariah,

Woe to the worthless shepherd, the deserter of the flock! The sword will fall upon his arm and upon his right eye. His arm will be wholly withered, and his right eye utterly darkened. Zechariah 11:17.

In Hosea,

They thought what was evil against Me. Their princes will fall by the sword for the rage of their tongue. This will be their derision in the land of Egypt. Hosea 7:15-16.

[18] In Luke,

There will be great distress over the earth, and wrath on that people; for they will fall by the edge of the sword, and will be led captive among all the gentiles; 7 at length Jerusalem will be trodden down by the gentiles. 7 Luke 21:23-24.

Here the Lord was referring to the close of the age - in the sense of the letter to the dispersion of the Jews and the destruction of Jerusalem, but in the internal sense to the final state of the Church. 'Falling by the edge of the sword' means that there was no truth any longer, but merely falsity. 'All the gentiles' means every kind of evil among which 'they will be led captive'. 'The gentiles' - or 'the nations' - means evils, see 1259, 1260, 1849, 1868, and 'Jerusalem' means the Church, 2117, which will be so 'trodden down' by them.

(References: Arcana Coelestia 1259-1260)


[19] IV A sword also means the punishment of falsity

This is clear in Isaiah,

On that day Jehovah will make a visitation with His hard and great and strong sword upon Leviathan the full-length serpent, 8 and upon Leviathan the twisting serpent, and He will slay the monsters that are in the sea. Isaiah 27:1.

This refers to those who by means of reasonings based on sensory evidence and factual knowledge enter into the mysteries of faith. 'The hard, great, and strong sword' stands for the punishments of the falsity that results from those reasonings.

[20] When one reads about people being put to, and being slain by, the edge of the sword, sometimes including 'both men and women, young people and old, oxen, sheep, and asses', the meaning in the internal sense is punishment consisting in the condemnation of falsity, as in Joshua 6:21; 8:24-25; 10:28, 30, 37, 39; 11:10-12, 14; 13:22; 19:47; Judges 1:8, 25; 4:15-16; 18:27; 20:37; 1 Samuel 15:8; 2 Kings 10:25; and elsewhere. This also explains why it was commanded to put to the sword any city which worshipped other gods, and to destroy it utterly and to burn it with fire, and to let it remain a heap for ever, Deuteronomy 13:12-18. 'The sword' stands for the punishment of falsity, 'fire' for the punishment of evil. The angel of Jehovah with a drawn sword who stood in the path against Balaam, Numbers 22:22, 31, meant the truth which stood in the way of the falsity which possessed Balaam. For that reason also he was slain with a sword, Numbers 31:8.

(References: 1 Samuel 15:11; Deuteronomy 13:12-17, 13:12-16, 13:13, 13:15-17; Numbers 31:1-8)


[21] The meaning of 'a sword' in the genuine sense as truth engaged in conflict, and in the contrary sense as falsity engaged in it, also the vastation of truth and the punishment of falsity, has its origin in the representatives that occur in the next life. For in that life, when anyone utters that which he knows to be false, daggers so to speak instantly come down over his head and strike terror, while truth engaged in conflict is represented there as well by objects which have sharp points like the tips of swords; for such is the nature of truth if it is devoid of good, but if it exists together with good it is rounded and gentle. Such being the origin of the meaning of a sword, therefore with angels, whenever a knife, spear, small sword, or sword is mentioned in the Word, truth engaged in conflict comes to mind.

[22] The reason why a knife is hardly mentioned at all in the Word is that in the next life there are evil spirits who are called 'knifers'. They seem to have knives hanging by their sides, and the reason for this is that they possess so brutal a nature that they wish to cut everyone's throat with their knife. This is why knives are not mentioned, but small swords and swords, for the latter being implements normally used in battle give rise to the idea of war and so of truth engaged in conflict.

[23] Because it was well known to the ancients that a small sword, a lance, and a knife meant truth, the gentiles, who received the practice through tradition, were therefore accustomed during sacrifices to stab and slash themselves, even until they bled, with small swords, lances, or knives, as one reads of the priests of Baal,

The priests of Baal cried out with a loud voice and cut themselves after their custom with swords and lances, until blood gushed out. 1 Kings 18:28.

As regards all weapons of war in the Word meaning things that have to do with spiritual conflict, each one having some specific meaning, see 2686.

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Footnotes:

1. literally, the son

2. A Hebrew word, the meaning of which is uncertain.

3. literally, break

4. literally, Number

5. literally, the captivity of your horses

6. literally, the vessels

7. or the nations

8. i.e. a serpent that is on the move and not coiled up

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(References: Deuteronomy 13:12-17; Genesis 22:6)

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From Swedenborg's Works

Inbound References:

Arcana Coelestia 2817, 3021, 3601, 3696, 3727, 3941, 4135, 4496, 4499, 4843, 5044, 5120, 5694, 6306, 6353, 6767, 7044, 7102, 7162, 7225, 7456, 7918, 8185, 8294, 8593, 8595, 8617, 8653, 8813, 8902, 9050, 9088, 9164, 9182, 9193, 9205, 9231, 9327, ...

Apocalypse Revealed 161

The New Jerusalem and its Heavenly Doctrine 22, 24, 186


References from Swedenborg's unpublished works:

Apocalypse Explained 73, 235, 240, 701

Other New Christian Commentary

Flint 1

Knife 1

Knives of flints 1

Lancet 1

Sword 1


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


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