The Bible

 

Matthew 2:1-12 : The Visit of the Wise Men

Study the Inner Meaning

        

1 Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem,

2 Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.

3 When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.

4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born.

5 And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet,

6 And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.

7 Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, inquired of them diligently what time the star appeared.

8 And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also.

9 When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.

10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.

11 And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.

12 And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.

   Study the Inner Meaning

Exploring the Meaning of Matthew 2      

By Rev. Dr. Ray Silverman

Chapter 2.

After Jesus is Born

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1. And when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came Magi from the east into Jerusalem,

2. Saying, “Where is He that is born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the east, and are come to worship Him.”

3. But having heard, Herod the king was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.

4. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where Christ should be born.

5. And they said unto him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for thus it is written by the prophet:

6. ‘And thou Bethlehem, [of] the land of Judah, art by no means the least among the governors of Judah, for out of thee shall come a Governor, who shall shepherd My people Israel.’”

7. Then Herod, privately calling the Magi, precisely inquired of them at what time the star appeared.

8. And sending them to Bethlehem, he said, “Go and search earnestly for the little Child; and when you have found [Him], report to me, so that I also may come and worship Him.”

9. And when they had heard the king they went [out]; and behold, the star which they saw in the east went before them, till it came [and] stood over where the little Child was.

10. And having seen the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy.

11. And coming into the house, they found the little Child with Mary His mother, and falling [down] they worshiped Him; and opening their treasures, they offered to Him gifts: gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.

12. And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed into their own country by another way.

13. And when they had departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appears in a dream to Joseph, saying, “Arise and take the little Child and His mother, and flee into Egypt, and be there until I tell thee; for Herod is about to seek the little Child to destroy Him.”

14. And when he arose, he took the little Child and His mother by night, and departed into Egypt,

15. And was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was declared by the Lord through the prophet, saying, “Out of Egypt have I called My Son.”

16. Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked by the Magi, was exceedingly wrathful, and sent out and slew all the boys that were in Bethlehem, and in all her borders , from two years and under, according to the time which he had precisely inquired of the Magi.

17. Then was fulfilled what was declared by Jeremiah the prophet, saying,

18. “A voice was heard in Rama, lamentation, and weeping, and much howling, Rachel weeping [for] her children; and she was not willing to be comforted, because they are not.”

19. And when Herod was dead, behold, the angel of the Lord, in a dream appears to Joseph in Egypt,

20. Saying, “Arise, take the little Child and His mother, and go to the land of Israel; for they are dead who sought the soul of the little Child.”
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Joseph’s struggle within himself — as to whether or not to accept Mary and the child — represents the spiritual battle which each of us must undergo in the course of our regeneration. It is one thing to receive the Lord in the understanding (represented by Joseph), but quite another to allow Him to order the things of our will — represented by the angel telling Joseph to take Mary as his wife. This is the fiercer battle which now begins “after Jesus is born.”

The antagonist is Herod, the king of Judea at the time of Jesus’ birth. Comfortable and secure in his role as the supreme ruler of the land, Herod is deeply troubled by the report of the Wise Men who say, “Where is He who is born King of the Jews?” Spiritually seen, Herod, as king of Israel, represents total self-absorption, our corrupt hereditary will, setting itself up as the ruler of our lives. This is our state after fourteen generations of captivity in Babylon — a state in which we are governed by our basest emotions: greed, control, anger, fear, hatred and jealousy. We can be sure that whenever we find ourselves in a state like this, Herod is sitting comfortably and securely on his throne. He is a tyrannical ruler, easily threatened, but not easily dethroned. His motivating force is to destroy the Lord in us — even at His birth — rather than relinquish his control over us.

God knows that we need divine protection from the wrath of Herod who represents our selfish desire to control. God therefore speaks to Joseph (as He does to us) in a dream, saying “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and remain there until I bring you word; for Herod is about to seek the young Child to destroy Him” (2:13).

Egypt, at that time, was a world center for education and learning. Medicine, mathematics, poetry and many other fields of study were flourishing. So Jesus’ flight into Egypt represents the need that all of us have for basic education, not just the standard three “R’s,” (reading, ‘riting, and ‘rithmetic) but the fourth “R” as well — the basics of religion.

Religious truth, especially the most basic, can help defend us against the onslaughts of Herod — the despot of our lower nature, a fierce tyrant who strives to murder everything that is true in us, even in its most innocent beginning. This is represented by Herod’s massacre of the male children in and around Bethlehem: “Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked by the wise men, was exceedingly angry; and he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem, and in all its districts, from two years old and under” (2:16; emphasis added).

The name “Bethlehem,” comes from two Hebrew words: “Beth” meaning “house” and “lechem” meaning “bread.” Therefore, Bethlehem means “House of Bread” — a place of spiritual nourishment. In the context of this episode, Herod’s destruction of all the male children of Bethlehem, two years old and under, represents how evil inclinations can destroy our earliest impulses to learn truth. These earliest desires to acquire knowledge of truth are symbolized by the male babies of Bethlehem. Whenever we fall into states of cynicism and skepticism, refusing to learn or trust the simple teachings of the Word, whenever we find ourselves without desire to seek the truth, and whenever the distractions of the world lure us away from the quest for wisdom, we can know that “Herod” has risen up in our hearts. A massacre has begun. “Herod in us” is striving to murder the innocent and tender qualities that have been born in our heavenly Bethlehem.

But if we flee to and remain in Egypt (as Jesus does), we will be protected. It is the place where our instruction begins. This is a temporary, but essential part of our spiritual development; temporary because we must eventually return to the land of Canaan where the truth will be applied to our lives; and essential, because these basic, natural truths are the only means by which we can be prepared to receive the higher insights that will eventually flow in from above. 1

For most of us, the period of our instruction in basic truths can last for many years, well into adolescence and beyond. In fact, it never really ends. Throughout our lives we will continue to acquire knowledge, both worldly and spiritual. We will, as it were, “go down into Egypt.” And, as we do so, learning truth and putting it into our lives, we will begin to see how the literal teachings of scripture “open up” like parting clouds, revealing more and more of the interior truths they contain.

In Jesus’ own case, this process of acquiring basic truth was much more rapid. Although Matthew does not tell us how long Jesus remained in Egypt, we can safely assume He was still quite young when He left, for an angel of the Lord came to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the soul of the young Child’s are dead” (2:20; emphasis added).

Growing up in Nazareth

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21. And he arose, [and] took the little Child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel.

22. And hearing that Archelaus reigned in Judea instead of his father Herod, he feared to go thither; but being warned in a dream, he departed into the parts of Galilee.

23. And coming, He dwelt in a city called Nazareth, so that it might be fulfilled which was declared by the prophets, that He should be called a Nazarene.
---

Eventually, Joseph, Mary, and the young Child decide to return to Judea. This represents the next step in our spiritual journey. Once we have learned the simple, basic, most literal truths of the Word (sojourning in Egypt), it is time to return to Judea. It is time to be further instructed, and to see what is more interiorly concealed within the letter of the Word. This is a necessary step in every person’s spiritual development. The letter of the Word serves as a literal history of people and places; it is an introduction to basic truth. It does not, however, reveal the full details of our spiritual journey, or provide the kind of discernment we need for the refinement of our souls. Not yet, but that will surely come when we are ready to receive further instruction.

Meanwhile, as the divine narrative continues, Joseph is “warned by God in a dream” that it is not yet time to return to their home. Though Herod is dead, his son is still in power. And so Mary, Joseph, and the young Child turn aside into the region of Galilee, into a city called Nazareth. This is yet another step on the journey of spiritual development. In the language of sacred scripture, it could be called, “growing up in Nazareth.

But what does it mean to “grow up in Nazareth”?

Nazareth of Galilee was a primitive region populated mostly by farmers, fishermen and uneducated tradespeople who knew very little about theology or the laws of the temple.

Unlike the well-educated (but misguided) religious leaders in Judea, the people of Galilee were not part of the religious establishment of the time. Although they had a strong belief in God, they were not familiar with the main doctrines taught by the religious leaders or the traditions of the temple authorities. And yet, a simple belief in God is often better than a more complicated belief system based on human reason rather than divine revelation. In this regard, the “learned world” often looks down upon people who believe in simplicity that there is a God, and that God is good. 2

The simple, hard-working, good people of Nazareth, therefore, symbolize the humility and simplicity we need to believe in God and live according to His teachings. It is remarkable that almost all the early disciples came from Galilee. It was not their theological training that made them receptive to the teachings of Jesus — for they had very little. In fact, it might be said that it was the absence of theological training — or to be more precise, the absence of false and misleading theology — that made them receptive to Jesus’ words. 3

Galilee, then, and the city of Nazareth which was in the region of Galilee, represent the simplicity of heart and the goodness of life that can receive God openly without skepticism or negativity. Because their religious principles are simple and uncomplicated — love God, love your neighbor — these people can receive Jesus’ teachings readily and with joy. All this is contained in the scriptural statement that Jesus grew up in Nazareth of Galilee, in the “land of the Gentiles.” 4 These words speak about a state in us “where Jesus grows up” — a state in which we are willing to receive basic truths simply, uncritically, and with joy.

As we shall see later in the narrative, the fact that Jesus grows up in Nazareth, in the land of the Gentiles, will be held against Him. The religious leaders will regard Him as poor and uneducated, untrained in their religious tenets, and therefore incapable of understanding or conveying spiritual truth to anyone. And yet, as this episode closes, we learn that His growing up in Nazareth is the fulfillment of prophecy, for we read, “And He came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, ‘He shall be called a Nazarene’” (2:23).

As we reflect on this miraculous moment in the early life of Jesus, it becomes evident that those simple, most basic truths we learn (Egypt) must be protected in a place of simple trust and unalloyed faith (Nazareth of Galilee). This is a necessary stage in which early truths from the letter of the Word can deepen and develop. It is why we feel a natural desire to protect the innocence of children from corrupting influences — Herod, and the son of Herod. And it is the same with each of us as we learn new truth from the letter of the Word, and allow it to grow up within us in a state of simple faith.

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Footnotes:

1. Arcana Coelestia 1462:6: “That the Lord when an infant was brought into Egypt, signified the same that is here signified by Abram [instruction in truths from the letter of the Word]; and it took place for the additional reason that He might fulfill all the things that had been represented concerning Him. In the inmost sense the migration of Jacob and his sons into Egypt represented the first instruction of the Lord in knowledges from the Word.” See also Apocalypse Explained 654.

2. Apocalypse Explained 447:5: “Galilee signifies the establishment of the church with the Gentiles who are in the good of life and who receive truths.”

3. Arcana Coelestia 4760:4: “It is well-known that the learned have less belief than the simple in a life after death, and that in general they see Divine truths less clearly than the simple do. The reason is that they consult facts, of which they possess a greater abundance than others, with a negative attitude, and by this destroy in themselves any insight gained from a higher or more interior position. Once this has been destroyed they no longer see anything in the light of heaven but in the light of the world; for facts exist in the light of the world, and if they are not lit up by the light of heaven they bring darkness, however different it may seem to be to them. This was why the simple believed in the Lord but not the scribes and Pharisees, who were the learned in that nation.”

4. Apocalypse Explained 730: “Gentiles signify those who are in ignorance of truth, and yet are in the good of life according to their religious principle, from which they have a desire for truths.”

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From Swedenborg's Works

Explanations or references:

Arcana Coelestia 113, 117, 1171, 2135, 3249, 3762, 4262, ...

Apocalypse Revealed 277, 913

Doctrine of the Sacred Scripture 23

True Christian Religion 205


References from Swedenborg's drafts, indexes & diaries:

Apocalypse Explained 72, 242, 324, 422, 433, 449, 491, ...

Coronis (An Appendix to True Christian Religion) 2, 41

Scriptural Confirmations 2, 4, 6, 9, 12, 14, 31, ...

Related New Christian Commentary

  Stories and their meanings:


  Spiritual Topics:



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Bible Word Meanings

bethlehem
There is a strong relationship between Ephrath and Bethlehem in the Bible; they might be two different names for the same town, or it’s possible...

wise
At its heart, wisdom is love's imperative desire to take form. That's a tricky statement, but think of it this way: If you love someone,...

jews
It would be simple to think that when the Bible mentions "Jews" it is simply talking about the descendants of the tribe of Judah, the...

seen
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...

star
'Stars' signify the knowledge of truth and good. 'Stars' are frequently mentioned in the Word, and always signify goods and truths, but in an opposite...

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

worship
To adore, in the Word, signifies to acknowledge and believe.

heard
Thanks to modern science, we now understand that hearing actually happens in the brain, not the ears. The ears collect vibrations in the air and...

troubled
The Bible often talks of people being "troubled." The internal meaning is pretty straightforward; it indicates a state of spiritual turmoil, usually due to the...

chief priests
'The chief priests and scribes,' as in Matthew 20:18, signify the adulterations of good and the falsifications of truth.

scribes
'The chief priests and scribes,' as in Matthew 20:18, signify the adulterations of good and the falsifications of truth.

christ
Christ is one of the names of the Lord. It derives from Greek, and means "the anointed one," a King or Messiah. Christ as King...

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...

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

the least
'Tittle' or 'the least' in the Word represents heavenly things.

least
The idea of "least" is not addressed directly in Swedenborg, but a central idea is relatively clear from several references to Matthew 25:40: And the...

governor
"Rulers" or "governors" in the Bible represent the most basic, most essential true ideas that guide us in life, ideas that spring directly from the...

go
In the physical world, the places we inhabit and the distances between them are physical realities, and we have to get our physical bodies through...

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...

went before
To "go before" in the Bible means either to lead or to prepare, depending on context. When it is said of the Lord or things...

rejoiced
Feelings of joy and rejoicing flow from our affections, not from our thoughts. Some people might argue that that's not true, that you can rejoice...

joy
Feelings of joy and rejoicing flow from our affections, not from our thoughts. Some people might argue that that's not true, that you can rejoice...

worshipped
'Worship,' as in Revelation 13:12, signifies acknowledging something to be sacred in the church.

opened
To open,' as in Revelation 9, signifies communication and conjunction.

treasures
'Treasure,' as in Matthew 13:44, signifies divine truth in the Word.

gifts
The gift which Abraham gave to the sons of the concubines which he had, as in Genesis 25:6, signifies lots in the Lord's spiritual kingdom....

and frankincense
'Perfumes, ointment, and frankincense,' as in Revelation 18:13, signify spiritual aspects of worship.

frankincense
Frankincense was one of the three gifts presented by the wise men, sometimes called the magi, to Jesus. The three gifts - gold, frankincense, and...

and myrrh
In Genesis 37:25, 'spices, resin, and myrrh' signify interior natural truths joined to good in the natural level. Among the ancients, they used things with...

myrrh
Myrrh is a perfume and medicine made from the resin from a genus of thorn trees. In the Word, is represents our early knowledges about...

own
In many cases, the spiritual meaning of "own," both as a verb and as an adjective, is relatively literal. When people are described as the...

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...

Related Music

Brightest and Best, Morgan State Choir

Provided to YouTube by NAXOS of America. Brightest and Best · Morgan State University Choir. 49 Hidden Treasures from the African American Heritage Hymnal. ℗ 2005 GIA Publications, Inc. Released on: 2005-01-01 Conductor: James Abbington Choir: Morgan State University Choir Composer: John Harding Composer: Reginald Heber

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.


 Adoration of the Wise Men
Lesson outline provides teaching ideas with questions for discussion, projects, and activities.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 7 - 10

 Adoration of the Wise Men
A lesson for younger children with discussion ideas and a project.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 4 - 6

 Angels in the Christmas Story
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 Behold, the Star
Article | Ages 15 - 17

 Birth of the Lord
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 9 - 12

 Childhood of Jesus
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Christmas Star
Gives directions for assembling four large triangles into a beautiful star. 
Project | Ages 7 - 14

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Illustrations of three stories in the Word that mention gold. (Quotations are the King James translation.)
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Fall Down and Worship Him
Think about your day tomorrow, and prioritize your various activities by thinking about what the Lord wants you to do.
Activity | Ages over 15

 Five Christmas Scenes
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Flee to Egypt
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Flight into Egypt
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Flight into Egypt Silhouette
"Cut out the pieces to show the silhouettes of Mary and Joseph taking the young Child to Egypt, then assemble on a large piece of blue paper and add stars by using glitter or small star stickers. "
Project | Ages 7 - 14

 Following the Star
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 Follow the Star Dramatization
This simple dramatization of the story of the wise men following the star to find the baby Lord includes a script and an illustration of Mary, Joseph, and the young Child.
Activity | Ages 3 - 7

 Gifts for the Lord
Spiritual tasks offer a reflection on a Biblical story and suggest a task for spiritual growth.
Activity | Ages over 18

 Gifts of Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Gifts of the Wise Men
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 His Star Still Shines
Worship Talk | Ages over 18

 Jesus' Childhood
People are born without a set purpose and develop a purpose as they learn and choose a pathway. Jesus was born with an identity and a purpose; He had to discover His identity and become true to it.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 11 - 17

 Joy in the Coming of Our Lord
Like the star that led the wise men, the truth will lead us to the Lord and make us happy. But the real joy in our lives will be when we come to the Lord offering gifts to Him, as the wise men did.
Worship Talk | Ages over 18

 Lacing Star
Print this star onto card stock, punch holes around the edge, then use yarn with sparkly (metallic) strands to “sew” around the edge of the star to make it sparkle.
Project | Ages 4 - 8

 Making Christmas Star Cookies
Ideas for decorating rolled cookies cut in the shape of stars. 
Project | Ages over 7

 Memory Verse: The Guiding Star
Activity | Ages 4 - 14

 Pop-up Crèche Card for Christmas
A lovely project to color and assemble. Designed by Eudora Sellner Walsh.
Project | Ages 7 - 17

 Quotes: Prophecies of the Advent
Teaching Support | Ages over 15

 Quotes: The Guiding Star
Teachings from the Lord's Word for Christmas about the guiding star.
Teaching Support | Ages over 15

 Quotes: Unto Us a Child Is Born
Teaching Support | Ages over 15

 Quotes: Using Our Talents
Teaching Support | Ages over 15

 Scroll of Angelic Appearances in Christmas Story
Project | Ages 7 - 14

 Show and Tell the Gifts of the Wise Men
Read about the three gifts in Matthew 2. Then show everyone some gold, frankincense and myrrh. Discuss ways we can give these symbolic gifts to the Lord.
Activity | All Ages

 Signs at Christmas
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 Star of Wonder
Four ways to picture the star in the dark of night.
Project | Ages 7 - 10

 Star Out of Jacob
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Star Out of Jacob with Quote
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Stars
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 9 - 12

 Story of the Wise Men Scene Boxes
Paint four sides of a box to show 4 different scenes from the story of the wise men.
Project | Ages 7 - 14

 Story of the Wisemen Stained Glass Windows
Make stained glass windows depicting the star of wonder, the three wise men following the star or the wise men presenting their gifts before the Lord.
Project | Ages 4 - 14

 Strange Gifts
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 The Christmas Star
As we think about stars at Christmas time, let us invite the Lord into our hearts and minds so that His Christmas star will light the way to heaven for us.
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 The Flight into Egypt
Angels came to Joseph in a dream to help protect the baby Lord. Angels can help protect us too. Sample from the Jacob's Ladder Program, Level 1, for ages 6-7.
Religion Lesson | Ages 6 - 7

 The Gold of the Wisemen
Gold stands for loving the Lord. This was the first gift that the wise men gave the Lord because it is essential for worshiping the Lord. You can give the Lord the gift of spiritual gold - the gift of love. 
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 The Guiding Star [salt crystal star]
Paint a beautiful guiding star and then use salt crystals on wet paint to make a starry sky for the background.
Project | Ages over 7

 The Innocence of Love
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 The Lord Come into the World
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

 The Lord Comes into the World (3-5 years)
Project | Ages 4 - 6

 The Lord Comes into the World (6-8 years)
Project | Ages 7 - 10

 The Lord Comes into the World (9-11 years)
Project | Ages 11 - 14

 The Murder of the Innocents and the Flight into Egypt
Within each one of us the Lord’s wonderful Providence keeps what is most important safe from harm. In time, this protection makes it possible for us to prepare ourselves to become angels in heaven.
Worship Talk | Ages 15 - 17

 The Slaughter of the Innocents
Worship Talk | Ages over 18

 The Star of Bethlehem
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 The Three Gifts of the Wise Men
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 The Visit of the Wise Men
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

 The Visit of the Wise Men (3-5 years)
Project | Ages 4 - 6

 The Visit of the Wise Men (6-8 years)
Project | Ages 7 - 10

 The Visit of the Wise Men (9-11 years)
Project | Ages 11 - 14

 The Wise Men
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 The Wise Men
Two project ideas for picturing the wise men.  
Project | Ages 4 - 14

 The Wise Men
Spiritual tasks offer a reflection on a Biblical story and suggest a task for spiritual growth.
Activity | Ages over 18

 The Wise Men
The wise men brought gifts to the baby Lord. How are we to search for the Lord? What gifts should we bring Him?
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 11 - 17

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

 The Wise Men
A story for young children with color illustrations.
Story | Ages 4 - 10

 The Wisemen Diorama
Print this project onto thick paper (such as cover stock). Then color the wise men, the camels, and the background scene of Bethlehem and assemble a diorama with the wise men looking at the star. 
Project | Ages 7 - 14

 The Wisemen Present Gifts
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 The Wisemen Rejoice to See the Star
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 The Wise Men Worship the Lord
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Three Christmas Initial Letters
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Three Christmas Scenes
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Three Kings from the East
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Three Wise Men
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Why Does God Let Bad Things Happen?
Lesson and activities comparing what the Lord wills to what He permits so that people can be free to make heavenly or hellish choices in their lives.
Religion Lesson | Ages over 15

 Why the Lord Was Taken into Egypt
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 Wise Men Follow the Star
At the time of the Lord’s birth a beautiful star appeared in the night sky. It was a star of heavenly light and only people whose spiritual eyes had been opened could see it. Far away from Bethlehem, in the land to the east, this special star was seen by some wise men. Sample from the Jacob’s Ladder Program, Level 2, for ages 7-8.
Religion Lesson | Ages 7 - 8

 Wise Men from the East
Presents a dramatic word-picture of the wise men's journey and a message for us all: If you wish to be wise, and to be made happy with an exceeding great joy, follow the Lord's star.
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 Wisemen See Star
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Wisemen's Gift Ornaments
Make ornaments for your tree by printing pictures of wise men's gifts on stiff paper (such as cover stock). Then color the gifts, cut them out, and display on your tree.
Project | Ages up to 10

Commentary

 

Christmas Gifts of Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh

     

By New Christian Bible Study Staff

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The Cambridge Singers and Orchestra, John Rutter, 2019

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Morgan State University Choir NAXOS of America

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Philadelphia Brass Ensemble, 2017

The Adoration of the Magi, a Design for Bas Relief.

In the Christmas story, the wise men bring gifts to the Lord: gold, frankincense and myrrh.

The gold is listed first, because it is the inmost - signifying good, e.g. the good that we do when we love the Lord and the neighbor.

The frankincense is next. It signifies rational truth, which is the set of true ideas that we know, not about external things like cars or cooking, but about what is really good, and what is really true.

These rational truths are built on earlier knowledges that we learn, before we have really made them our own. Those early knowledges about spiritual things - often learned in childhood - are represented by the myrrh.

In a way, these gifts are really a reciprocation. We can't actually give them to the Lord until the Lord has given them to us. We necessarily start out by learning and doing the Lord's law (myrrh). The Lord can then call up those memories to become rational truths (frankincense). Then, over time, and with effort, those truths can be transformed into good (gold). The wise men from the East had gone through this process of learning and becoming vessels that could receive truths and goods. They were able to perceive the Lord's birth, and find him, and bring gifts to him.

The Bible

 

Isaiah 40:11

Study the Inner Meaning

              

11 He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.

   Study the Inner Meaning

Explanation of Isaiah 40      

By Rev. John H. Smithson

THE EXPLANATION of Isaiah Chapter 40

(Note: Rev. Smithson's translation of the Isaiah text is appended below the explanation)

1. COMFORT you, comfort you, My people, says your God.

VERSES 1, 2. Treating of the advent of the Lord, and of the New Church to be established by Him. That the New Church is signified by "Jerusalem", to "the heart of which they should speak"; by "the warfare which is fulfilled", is signified the state of combat against evils; by "the infirmity being expiated or pardoned", is signified evil removed by the Lord; by "receiving double for all her sins", is denoted much suffering in combat or temptation. Apocalypse Explained 1115.

2. Speak you to the heart of Jerusalem, and proclaim unto her, that her warfare is fulfilled; that her iniquity is pardoned; that she has received from the hand of Jehovah double for all her sins.

Verse 2. As to tithe signification of "warfare" and of "wars", when mentioned in the Word, see Chapter 7:1, the Exposition.

That a man must combat against falsities and evils, in order that they may be removed by the Lord, and that on this account the church is called "militant", see Doctrine of Life, 98.

Her iniquity is pardoned [or expiated]. - By "expiation" is meant deliverance from damnation, and hence the pardoning and cleansing of sin. Arcana Coelestia 9076.

How false the doctrine of Expiation (or Atonement) is, as commonly received, may be seen illustrated and shown in Arcana Coelestia 9937.

She has received from the hand of Jehovah double for all her sins. - By "double" is signified much according to quantity and quality, as is evident from the following passages:

"Let them be confounded that persecute me; break them with a double breach [destruction]." (Jeremiah 17:18)

Also much according to the quantity and quality of their conversion from evils, as in these passages :

"Comfort you, My people; because her warfare is fulfilled, her iniquity is expiated; for she has received from the hand of Jehovah double." (Isaiah 40:1, 2)

Again,

"Return you to the stronghold, you prisoners of hope; this day do I declare that I will render unto you double." (Zechariah 9:12)

As to the law of retaliation, it is according to the literal sense that they whom they had seduced and destroyed, were to recompense them [who had seduced], as in Revelation 18:6; whereas, according to the spiritual sense, they were to recompense themselves, because every evil carries along with it its own punishment. The case herein is similar to what is said in many parts of the Word, that God will recompense and take vengeance upon the injustice and injuries done to Him, and will destroy the unjust out of anger and wrath, when nevertheless the evils themselves which they have committed against God, do this, consequently they do it to themselves; for this is the law of retaliation [jus talionis], which derives its origin from the following divine law:

"All things whatsoever you would that men should do to you, do you even so to them; this is the Law and the Prophets." (Matthew 7:12; Luke 6:31)

This law, in heaven, is the law of mutual love or charity, from which is produced what is opposite in hell, namely, that what anyone does to another, the same is done to himself: not that they who are in heaven do it, but they who are in hell do it to themselves, for the retribution of retaliation, grounded in their opposition to the above law of life in heaven, is, as it were, inherent in their evils. Apocalypse Revealed 762.

3. A voice of one proclaiming in the wilderness, Prepare you the way of Jehovah! make straight in the desert a highway for our God!

4. Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill be made low; and the crooked shall become straight, and the rough places a plain:

Verses 3, 4. The subject here treated of is also concerning the advent of the Lord, and the Last Judgment which then took place. The "voice of one proclaiming in the wilderness, Prepare you the way or Jehovah! make straight in the desert a highway for our God!" signifies that they should prepare themselves to receive the Lord; the "wilderness" is where there is no Good, because there is no Truth, thus where there is as yet no church. By "every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill be made low", is signified that all the humble in heart, who are those that are in Goods and Truths, shall be received, for they who are received by the Lord are raised up to heaven; and by "every mountain and hill shall be made low", is signified that all the high-minded, who are those that are in the love of self and the world, shall be put down. Apocalypse Explained 405.

As to what is meant by "mountains and hills being made low" at the time of Judgment in the spiritual world, see above, Chapter 2:12-17, the Exposition.

5. And the glory of Jehovah shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of Jehovah has spoken it.

Verses 5-7. These things are said concerning the advent of the Lord, and the revelation of Divine Truth about to take place from Him. which is understood by "the glory Jehovah shall be revealed", and "they shall see it." That then there would be no scientific truth nor spiritual truth with man is signified by "all flesh is grass, and all the glory [or sanctity] thereof is as the flower of the field"; "grass" denoting scientific Truth, and the "flower of the field" spiritual Truth. That man is of such a nature and quality, is understood by "all flesh is grass", and by "the grass withers; verily the people is grass"; "all flesh" denoting every man, and the "people" [in a good sense] those who are in truths, but, in the opposite sense, those who are in falsities. Apocalypse Explained 507.

6. A voice says, Proclaim! And I said, What shall I proclaim? All flesh is grass, and all the glory thereof is as the flower of the field:

7. The grass withers, the flower fades, because the spirit of Jehovah blows upon it: verily the people is grass.

8. The grass withers, the flower fades; but the Word of our God shall stand for ever.

Verses 6-8. All flesh is grass, and all the glory thereof is as the flower of the field, etc.

- That "grass", "herb", and what is "green" signify scientifics, or knowledges of Truth, in which there is some spiritual life, see Chapter 15:6, the Exposition, [By the "grass withering" and the "flower fading" is consequently signified that the knowledges of Truth and of Good are destitute of any living or spiritual principle. Hence it is that this knowledge, rendered worthless by its not being applied to the uses of the spiritual life, is contrasted in verse 8 with the living Word of God.]

9. O [daughter of] Zion, that brings good tidings, get you up into the high mountain: O [daughter of] Jerusalem, that brings good tidings, lift up your voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid: say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God!

Verses 9, 10. Inasmuch as these things are spoken of the Lord and of His kingdom, and this is signified by "Zion" and "Jerusalem", therefore it is said that Zion and Jerusalem evangelize it, or "bring good tidings", -Zion from the Good of Love, and Jerusalem from Truths of Doctrine."

Evangelization, or "good tidings", from the Good of Love, is signified by "getting up upon the high mountain", and from the Truths of Doctrine, by "lifting up the voice with strength." By the "cities of Judah" is meant the doctrine of love to the Lord and of love to the neighbour in all its complex.

The Lord, as to Divine Truth and as to Divine Good, who was about to come and effect Judgment, is understood by "Behold your God!behold, the Lord Jehovih shall come with power; for the Lord is called "God", in the Word, from "Divine Truth, and "Jehovah" from Divine Good, and also the "Lord Jehovih"; to "come with power" is to effect judgment, thus to subjugate the cells. Apocalypse Explained 850.

As to the specific meaning of "Jehovih", as distinguished from "Jehovah", see Chapter 3:15, the Exposition and note.

Verses 9-11. That these things are said concerning the advent of the Lord is evident, and hence it is that "Zion" and "Jerusalem " are called evangelizers, or "bringers of good tidings."

- By "Zion" are understood all who are of the celestial church, who are those that are principled in love to the Lord, wherefore it is said "Get you up into the high mountain"; the "high mountain" denoting that love, as may be seen above, Apocalypse Explained 405.

By "Jerusalem" are understood all who are of the spiritual church, who are those that are principled in the doctrine of genuine Truth, wherefore it is said, "Lift up your voice with strength"; by which is signified confession from genuine Truths. By the "cities of Judah", to which it is said "Behold your God! behold, the Lord Jehovih shall come with power" are signified doctrinals from the Word; by "cities" doctrinals, and by "Judah" the Word. That "Zion" and "Jerusalem" are called evangelizers by reason that the "Gospel", [evangelium] signifies the advent of the Lord, is manifest, for it is said "Behold your God! behold, the Lord Jehovih shall come with power." That He will accomplish a Judgment, and defend those, who acknowledge Him, is signified by "His arm shall rule for Him, and "like a Shepherd shall He feed His flock", etc. Apocalypse Explained 612.

10. Behold, the Lord Jehovih shall come with power, and His arm shall rule for Him: behold, His reward is with Him, and the recompense of His work before Him.

Verse 10. And in the Apocalypse:

"Behold, I come quickly; and My reward is with Me, to give to every one as his work shall be." (Revelation 22:12)

"Behold, the Lord Jehovih shall come with power", Behold, your salvation cometh" and "Behold, He cometh quickly", signify the first and second advent of the Lord.

"His reward is with Him" signifies heaven and all things belonging thereto, inasmuch as where the Lord is, there is heaven; for heaven is not heaven from the angels there, but from the Lord with the angels.

That they shall receive heaven according to the love and affection of Good and of Truth from the Lord, is understood by "the recompense of His work before Him", and by " giving to every one according as his work shall be"; by the "work" for which heaven shall be given as a reward, nothing else is meant than what proceeds from the love or affection of Good and of Truth, inasmuch as nothing else can produce heaven in man; for every work derives all that it has from the love or affection whence it proceeds, as the effect derives all that it has from the efficient cause; wherefore, according to the quality of the love or affection, such is the work.

Hence it may appear what is understood by "the work according to which it shall be given", and by "the recompense of His work." Apocalypse Explained 695.

As to the true nature of heavenly "reward" and "recompense " see above, Chapter 3:10, the Exposition.

Verses 10, 12. Treating also concerning the Lord, and concerning Divine Truth, from which is heaven and the church, and all wisdom. The advent of the Lord, and the arrangement of all things in the heavens by Him, from His own proper power, is signified by "Behold, the Lord Jehovih shall come with power, and His arm shall rule for Him"; "His arm which shall rule" denoting His own power. The arrangement thence of all things in the heavens by Divine Truth, is signified by "Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand; and has meted out the heavens with His span; and has comprehended the dust of the earth in measure; and has weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance?"

By "measuring the waters", is signified to designate divine Truths; by "meting out the heavens with a span", is signified thence to set in order, or arrange the heavens; by "comprehending the dust of the earth in a measure", is denoted the same with respect to things inferior; by "the hollow of the hand, the span and the measure", are signified the same as by "measures" and by the "hand" namely, the quantity of a thing, and His own or proper power; by "weighing the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance", is meant to bring all things into subordination and equilibrium; the "scales" and the "balance" denoting just equilibrium, and the "mountains" and "hills" the superior heavens, - the "mountains" those which are principled in love to the Lord, and the "hills" those which are principled in charity to the neighbour. Apocalypse Explained 629.

11. Like a shepherd shall He feed His flock; in His arms shall He gather up the lambs, and shall carry them in His bosom; and He shall gently lead them that give suck.

Verse. 11. By "the flock which He shall feed like a Shepherd", are signified those who are in the good of charity and by "the lambs whom He shall gather up in His arms, are signified those who are in love to Him, which love, viewed in itself, is innocence, and therefore all who are principled in it are in the heaven of innocence, which is the third heaven and inasmuch as that love is signified by "lambs", it is therefore also said:

"He shall gently lead them that give suck." By "sucklings" and infants in the Word, are understood those who are in innocence as may be seen in the work concerning Heaven and Hell 277, 280. Apocalypse Explained 314.

12. Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand; and has meted out the Heavens by His span; and has comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure; and has weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance?

Verse 12. In this passage is described, by "measures", the just arrangement and estimation of all things in heaven and in the church, according to the quality of Good and of Truth. The "measures" by which this is described are the hollow of the hand, the span, the tierce, the scale, and balances. By "waters" are signified truths; by the "heavens", interior or spiritual Truths and Goods; by the "dust of the earth", exterior or natural truths and goods; - each appertaining to heaven and the church. By "mountains", the goods of love; by "hills", the goods of charity; and by "weighing them", the estimation and arrangement of them according to their quality. That these words have such a signification, can only be seen from the science of correspondences. Apocalypse Explained 33.

13. Who has directed the Spirit of Jehovah, and as a man of His counsel has informed Him?

14. With whom has He consulted, that he should instruct Him, and teach Him the path of judgment; that he should teach Him knowledge, and show Him the way of understanding?

15. Behold, the nations are as a drop from the bucket, and are accounted as the small dust of the balance: behold, the islands He takes up as an atom;

Verses 13, 14. The "Spirit of Jehovah" is the Divine Truth; that to "teach Him the path of judgment" is to render Him knowing, intelligent, and wise, is evident. Arcana Coelestia 9857.

Verse 15. Inasmuch as most things in the Word have also an opposite sense, so "islands", in that sense, signify the falsities opposite to the truths which are in the natural man. In that sense "islands" are mentioned in the above passage, where "nations" denote evils, and "islands" falsities. Apocalypse Explained 406.

As to the meaning of "peoples" and "nations", see Chapter 9:2, 3; 25:3, 7, 8, the Exposition.

16. And Lebanon is not sufficient to burn; nor the beasts thereof sufficient for a burnt-offering.

17. All the nations are as nothing before Him; they are accounted by Him as less than nothing, and emptiness.

Verse 16. [That is, the forests of Lebanon are not sufficient to supply fuel for burnt-offerings, adequate to the worship and praise of Jehovah. As to the meaning of "sacrifices" and of "burnt-offerings in worship, see Chapter 1:11, the Exposition.]

18. To whom therefore will you liken God ? or what likeness will you compare unto Him?

19. The workman casts a graven image; and the smith overlays it with gold, and casts chains of silver.

Verses 18-20. By these words is described how doctrine is forged and compacted by falsities, thus by such things as are from self-derived intelligence, for all these are falsities.

By the "workman" and "smith", likewise by the "Wise [or skilful] workman" whom he seeks to himself, is understood one that feigns and forms such a doctrine.

That it may appear as good in the external form is signified by "overlaying it with gold"; that falsities may cohere and appear as truths, is signified by "casting chains of silver"; that so it may be acknowledged, and that the false may not be seen, is signified by "Choosing wood that will not rot", and by "preparing a graven image that will not be moved. Apocalypse Explained 587. See also Arcana Coelestia 8869, 10406.

As to "graven and molten images", see above, Chapter 2:7, 8, 20, the Exposition.

20. He that cannot afford an oblation chooses wood that will not rot; he seeks for himself a wise workman to prepare a graven image, which shall not be moved.

Verse 20. By "wood" here signified evil which is adored as good, for the "graven image" denotes the evil of worship; "wood that will not rot signifies some good from the Word which is adulterated, and thence becomes evil. This is said to "choose", because that which is derived from the Word persuades, and thereby does not perish in the mind; for thus it is with every evil and false confirmed from the Word. His "seeking a wise [or skilful] workman", signifies to seek one who, from self-deemed intelligence, has the gift of confirming and falsifying. Apocalypse Explained 1145.

21. Have you not known? have you not heard? has it not been declared unto you from the beginning? have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?

Verse 21. He who does not know what is signified by a "foundation", and what by the "earth", conceives no otherwise than that the bottoms of the earth are here meant "the foundations of the earth", although he may perceive, if he attends, that something else is meant; for what would it be "to know to hear, and to understand the foundations of the earth"? Hence it may be evident that by the "foundations of the earth" are signified such things as are of the church.

That "earth", in the Word, denotes the church, is very manifest from the passages in the Word where "earth" is named; see those which are cited, Arcana Coelestia 9325; and that its "foundations" are the truths of faith, for these truths of the church are foundations, as may also be still further manifest from the following passages:

They do not acknowledge, neither do they understand; they walk in darkness: all the foundations of the earth totter." (Psalm 82:5)

That the "foundations of the earth" do not totter, but the truths of the church, to those who do not acknowledge and do not understand them, and who walk in darkness, is evident. Arcana Coelestia 10043.

That the "earth" signifies the church, see Chapter 14, the Exposition.

Verses 21-23. Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth. It is He that sits upon the circle of the earth, that reduces princes to nothing; that makes the judges of the earth as emptiness.

By the "princes" who shall be reduced to nothing, and by the "judges of the earth" whom He makes as emptiness, are signified those things which are from self-derived intelligence, and from self-derived judgment. Apocalypse Explained 304.

22. It is He that sits upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as locusts; that extends the heavens as a curtain, and spreads them out as a tent to dwell in:

Verse 22. To "sit upon the circle of the earth", means upon the heavens, for the heavens encompass the earth as a circle a centre; whence the Lord is called the "Most High", and "He that dwells in the highest.

"The inhabitants of the earth are as locusts", signifies men in extremes or outermost principles for the "locust" signifies what is alive in ultimates, specifically truth in ultimates, and, in the opposite sense, the false.

"Who extends the heavens as somewhat thin [or a curtain]", signifies Omnipotence to amplify the heavens at will; and " spreads them out as a tent to dwell in", signifies nearly the same, but the latter expression denotes the amplification of the heavens as to Goods, and the former as to Truths. Apocalypse Explained 799

Concerning "locusts", see above, Chapter 33:4, the Exposition.

23. That reduces princes to nothing; that makes the judges of the earth as emptiness.

Verse 23. "Princes", in a good sense, are primary truths; but in a bad sense, as in this verse they are primary falsities; and "judges" are the evils in connection with those falsities. See Chapter 1:23; 3:6, 7, the Exposition,

24. Yea, they shall not be planted; yea, they shall not be sown: yea, their trunk shall not strike its root in the earth: and He shall also blow upon them, and they shall wither; and the whirlwind shall bear them away like the stubble.

25. To whom then will you liken Me, that I should be equal? says the Holy One.

Verse 24. He shall also blow upon them, and they shall wither; and the whirlwind shall bear them away, etc. - As to "winds" and "tempests" at the period of Judgment, see Chapter 17:13, the Exposition.

26. Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who has created these. He leads forth their army by number; He calls them all by name: through the greatness of His strength, and the mightiness of His power, not a man fails.

27. Wherefore say you then, O Jacob, and why speak you thus, O Israel: My way is bidden from Jehovah, and my judgment has passed away from my God?

28. Hast you not known, bast you not heard, that the everlasting God is Jehovah, the Creator of the ends of the earth? He faints not, neither is He weary; His understanding is unsearchable.

Verse 26. By "calling them all by name" is denoted that He knows the qualities of all, and gives to them according to their state of love and faith. Apocalypse Explained 148.

He leads forth their army by number; He calls them all by name, etc.

- By "the host [or army] of the heavens", in the literal sense, are understood the sun, the moon, and the stars, for these, in the Word, are called "the host of Jehovah"; but, in the spiritual sense, by the "host" are signified all the Goods and Truths of heaven and the church in the complex: for by the "sun" is signified the Good of Love, by the "moon" the Good of Faith, and by the "stars" the knowledges of Good and Truth. Hence it is evident what is signified by "Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who has created these."

By "creating", when predicated of Goods and Truths, is signified to form them in man, and so to regenerate him; by "leading forth their armies by number", is signified to arrange Goods and Truths, according to their quality, in those with whom they are; to "call them all by name", signifies to know the quality of all, and to dispose accordingly; for by "name", in the Word, is signified the quality of a thing or state, as in John :

"His sheep hear His voice; and He calls His own sheep by name, and leads them out." (John 10:3)

Where also it is said to "lead out" and to "call by name", as above in Isaiah, and by these expressions the same things are signified as above. Apocalypse Explained 453. See also Arcana Coelestia 10217.

Verses 26, 28. Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who has created these; - Jehovah, the Creator of the ends of the earth, etc.

- These words treat of the reformation of man, which is signified by "to create"; by "the army which He leads forth "are understood all Goods and Truths; and "calling them by name" signifies reception according to the quality of each. By "creating the ends of the earth", is signified the restoration [or establishment] of the church, thus the reformation of those who are there. Apocalypse Explained 294.

What is further signified by a " name", and by being "called by a name", see above, Chapter 4:1; 26:8, the Exposition.

29. He giveth power to the faint; and to him that has no might He increases strength.

Verse 29. "Power" is predicated of Good, and "strength" of Truth. All power in the spiritual world is from Good by Truth, for without Good, Truth bas no power whatever. Truth is as a body, and Good is as the soul of that body; that the soul may do anything, it must be by its body. Hence it is evident that Truth without Good bas no power whatever, just as the body has no power without the soul, for the body is then a carcase; so also is Truth without Good. Arcana Coelestia 6344.

30. The youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall:

Verse 30. For the meaning of "young men", both in a good and in a bad sense, see Chapter 13:17, 18; 23:4; 31:8, the Exposition.

31. But they that wait upon Jehovah shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles: they shall run, and not be weary; they shall walk, and not faint.

Verse 31. To "renew strength" is to increase as to the willing of Good; to "mount up with wings like eagles" is to increase as to the understanding of Truth, thus as to the rational. The subject here is explained, as elsewhere, by, two expressions, of which the one involves the Good which is of the will, and the other the Truth which is of the understanding: in like manner "to run and not be weary", and "to walk and not faint." Arcana Coelestia 3001.

To "mount up with wings like eagles" is to be elevated to the knowledges of what is True and Good, and hence into intelligence; thus into the light of heaven, which is the Divine Truth, or the Divine-Spiritual principle, from which is all intelligence. Apocalypse Revealed 244; Apocalypse Explained 281, 283.

"Eagles", when mentioned in the Word, signify man's rational principles, which, when predicated of the good, are true rational principles, but when predicated of the wicked, are false rational principles, or principles of mere ratiocination.

"Birds", in general, signify man's knowledges, even in both a good and a bad sense, see n. 40, 745, 776; and each species corresponds to some particular species of knowledge.

"Eagles", as flying aloft and being sharp-sighted, signify rational principles. That this is the case, may appear from several passages in the Word, of which we shall adduce the following by way of confirmation; first, where "eagles" signify true rational principles, as in Moses:

"He found him in a desert land, and, in the waste howling wilderness; He led him about, He instructed him, He kept him as the apple of His eye. As an eagle stirs up her nest, flutters over her young, spreads abroad her wings, takes them, bears them on her wings: so Jehovah alone did lead him." (Deuteronomy 32:10-12)

Instruction in the Truths and Goods of faith is what is here described and compared to an "eagle." In the description and comparison is contained the whole process of instruction until man is made rational and spiritual; all comparisons in the Word are made by significatives, and hence in the present case by an "eagle" denoting the rational principle.

So Again,

"And Moses went up unto God, and the Lord called unto him out of the mountain, saying, Thus shalt you say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel: You have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles' wings, and brought you unto Myself"; (Exodus 19:3, 4) where the signification is the same.

That "eagles", in an opposite sense, signify rational principles not true, consequently false, is evident from the following passages:

" Jehovah shall bring a nation against you from afar, from the end of the earth, as swift as the eagle flies; a nation whose tongue you shalt not understand; a nation of fierce countenance, which shall not regard the person of the old, nor show favour to the young." (Deuteronomy 28:49, 50)

"They who pursued us were swifter than eagles; they pursued us on the mountains, they have laid snares for us in the wilderness". (Lamentations 4:19)

And in Micah:

"Make you bald, and shave yourself upon the sons of your delights; dilate your baldness as an eagle, because they have removed from you." (Micah 1:16)

And in Obadiah:

"If you exalt yourself as an eagle, and if you set your nest amongst the stars, I will pull you down from there." (Obadiah 1:4)

In these passages by "eagle" is signified the false principle induced by reasonings grounded in the fallacies of the senses and in external appearances. Arcana Coelestia 3901.

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Isaiah Chapter 40

Prophecies of Comfort

1. COMFORT you, comfort you, My people, says your God.

2. Speak you to the heart of Jerusalem, and proclaim unto her, that her warfare is fulfilled; that her iniquity is pardoned; that she has received from the hand of Jehovah double for all her sins.

3. A voice of one proclaiming in the wilderness, Prepare you the way of Jehovah! make straight in the desert a highway for our God!

4. Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill be made low; and the crooked shall become straight, and the rough places a plain:

5. And the glory of Jehovah shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of Jehovah has spoken it.

6. A voice says, Proclaim! And I said, What shall I proclaim? All flesh is grass, and all the glory thereof is as the flower of the field:

7. The grass withers, the flower fades, because the spirit of Jehovah blows upon it: verily the people is grass.

8. The grass withers, the flower fades; but the Word of our God shall stand for ever.

9. O [daughter of] Zion, that brings good tidings, get you up into the high mountain: O [daughter of] Jerusalem, that brings good tidings, lift up your voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid: say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God!

10. Behold, the Lord Jehovih shall come with power, and His arm shall rule for Him: behold, His reward is with Him, and the recompense of His work before Him.

11. Like a shepherd shall He feed His flock; in His arms shall He gather up the lambs, and shall carry them in His bosom; and He shall gently lead them that give suck.

12. Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand; and has meted out the Heavens by His span; and has comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure; and has weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance?

13. Who has directed the Spirit of Jehovah, and as a man of His counsel has informed Him?

14. With whom has He consulted, that he should instruct Him, and teach Him the path of judgment; that he should teach Him knowledge, and show Him the way of understanding?

15. Behold, the nations are as a drop from the bucket, and are accounted as the small dust of the balance: behold, the islands He takes up as an atom;

16. And Lebanon is not sufficient to burn; nor the beasts thereof sufficient for a burnt-offering.

17. All the nations are as nothing before Him; they are accounted by Him as less than nothing, and emptiness.

18. To whom therefore will you liken God ? or what likeness will you compare unto Him?

19. The workman casts a graven image; and the smith overlays it with gold, and casts chains of silver.

20. He that cannot afford an oblation chooses wood that will not rot; he seeks for himself a wise workman to prepare a graven image, which shall not be moved.

21. Have you not known? have you not heard? has it not been declared unto you from the beginning? have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?

22. It is He that sits upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as locusts; that extends the heavens as a curtain, and spreads them out as a tent to dwell in:

23. That reduces princes to nothing; that makes the judges of the earth as emptiness.

24. Yea, they shall not be planted; yea, they shall not be sown: yea, their trunk shall not strike its root in the earth: and He shall also blow upon them, and they shall wither; and the whirlwind shall bear them away like the stubble.

25. To whom then will you liken Me, that I should be equal? says the Holy One.

26. Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who has created these. He leads forth their army by number; He calls them all by name: through the greatness of His strength, and the mightiness of His power, not a man fails.

27. Wherefore sayest you then, O Jacob, and why speakest you thus, O Israel: My way is bidden from Jehovah, and my judgment has passed away from my God?

28. Hast you not known, bast you not heard, that the everlasting God is Jehovah, the Creator of the ends of the earth? He faints not, neither is He weary; His understanding is unsearchable.

29. He giveth power to the faint; and to him that has no might He increases strength.

30. The youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall:

31. But they that wait upon Jehovah shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles: they shall run, and not be weary; they shall walk, and not faint.

From Swedenborg's Works

Main explanations:

The Inner Meaning of the Prophets and Psalms 40


Other references to this verse:

Arcana Coelestia 343, 1736, 1793, 2921, 3994, 3995, 6960, ...

Apocalypse Revealed 383, 962

A Brief Exposition of New Church Doctrine 120

Conjugial Love 81

Doctrine of the Lord 6

True Christian Religion 82, 188, 294, 625, 637


References from Swedenborg's drafts, indexes & diaries:

Apocalypse Explained 314, 482, 612

Coronis (An Appendix to True Christian Religion) 60

De Domino 36

Marriage 82

Scriptural Confirmations 2, 3, 18, 28

Related New Christian Commentary

  Stories and their meanings:


  Bible Study Videos:  (see all)


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Hop to Similar Bible Verses

Psalms 23:1, 28:9

Ezekiel 34:12, 15

Zechariah 11:7

Matthew 2:6

John 10:11, 14

1 Peter 2:25

Revelation 7:17

Bible Word Meanings

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

shepherd
The Writings tell us that shepherds represent those who lead and teach others, using knowledge and true ideas to help people reach the goodness of...

arm
Arms and feet (Daniel 10:6) signify the exterior things of the Word, which are its literal sense.

bosom
"Bosom" in general terms means the chest, but more as the seat of the emotions than simply as part of the body. You'd think of...

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.


 He Will Feed His Flock Like a Shepherd
Shows the Good Shepherd alongside excerpts from Isaiah 40.
Coloring Page | All Ages

 Like a Shepherd
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Memory Verse: The Lord Is My Shepherd
Activity | Ages 4 - 14

 Memory Verse: Visions in Heaven
Activity | Ages 4 - 14

 Miniature Word Project
Make a project picturing a miniature book of the Word with two birthday candles set beside it.
Project | Ages 4 - 6

 Prophecies of the Messiah
One of the most important events in the history of human beings is the birth of the Lord on earth as an infant. By the time the Lord was actually born, the truths of the Word had been lost or perverted. But there had been prophets who told people that the Lord was going to come on earth and gave them hope. Sample from the Jacob’s Ladder Program, Level 6, for ages 11-12.
Religion Lesson | Ages 11 - 12

 The Grass Withers, the Flower Fades
Illustrated poster of "The grass withers, the flower fades, but the Word of our God stands forever." Isaiah 40:8
Picture | Ages over 15

 The Joy of the Angels at the Lord’s Birth
Worship Talk | Ages over 18

 The Lord, the Good Shepherd
Worship Talk | Ages over 18

 The Shepherd Gathers Sheep
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 The Word Made Flesh
Worship Talk | Ages over 18

 Wings of Truth
Lesson and activities exploring how truth can uplift, protect, and free us.
Religion Lesson | Ages over 15

 Works of Charity
Worship Talk | Ages over 18


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