The Bible

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

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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

Commentary on this chapter:

Stories:

Explanation(s) or references from Swedenborg's works:

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

Apocalypse Revealed 277, 913

Sacred Scripture 23

True Christian Religion 205

Show references from Swedenborg's unpublished works

Spiritual Topics:

Prophecies About Jesus


Commentary

Departing into Our Own Country Another Way

The wise men are warned in a dream, not to return to Herod.

As the Christmas season winds down, there is with most of us a mix of emotions – some gratitude, some sadness, perhaps a little wistfulness, a blend of inspired, happy memories and much food for thought. In addition there is the hope and promise of a new year with all its important possibilities for natural and spiritual growth. Where will we be a year from now, and what will we have learned? How will we feel, and who will be sharing their feelings with us? Why will we make the particular decisions that take us into the next new year?

In Psalm 20, David offers a beautiful prayer of blessing for all who trust in the Lord:

"May the Lord answer you in the day of trouble; may the name of the God of Jacob defend you; may He send you help from the sanctuary, and strengthen you out of Zion; may He remember all your offerings, and accept your burnt sacrifice. Selah. May He grant you according to your heart's desire, and fulfill all your purpose... May the Lord fulfill all your petitions." (Psalms 20:1-5).

The prayer, of course, does not stop there, but goes on to acknowledge the power of the Lord and our need to trust Him if we are to receive these blessings. So as we read in the Heavenly Doctrines, the whole Psalm really is about redemption and salvation by the Lord. He is the one who provides for all our needs, and He has done so, at least initially, by coming into the world to bring the hells under control, to restore order in the heavens, and to establish His church on earth (True Christian Religion 84).

The fact is, the Lord HAS answered us in the day of trouble; the name, that is, the pure love and wisdom of the God of Jacob HAS defended us. He HAS sent us help from the sanctuary of heaven so that the desires of our hearts could be granted, our petitions fulfilled. The theme of the 20th Psalm is carried further in the 37th Psalm,

"Do not fret because of evildoers, nor be envious of the workers of iniquity. For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb. Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness. Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart." (Psalms 37:1-4).

It's not as if the Lord will give us anything we want, but if we want what He wants, and we take delight in that, He will bring it to pass, as He actually gives us the desires that fill our hearts. In the Christmas story we read of many whose inmost desires were fulfilled by the Lord's coming: Zacharias and Elizabeth were given a son in their old age; Mary was granted to be the mother of the Lord; the shepherds the wise men, Simeon and Anna all saw the fulfillment of ancient prophecies in their lives. But then what? How did these characters respond to these events in the days and years afterward? What became of them and what did they DO as a result of their extraordinary experiences?

It's at least interesting that hardly anything is said about any of them after the Lord's birth. But what little is said shows the impact it had on them. Simeon in his old age declared that his whole life had been fulfilled, saying, "Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word" (Luke 2:29). Anna, although very old as well, "spoke of Him to all who looked for redemption in Jerusalem" (Luke 2:38). Mary appears from time to time as a background figure in her role as mother, but, significantly, she is only quoted twice in all the Gospels after the birth story (Matt. 12:46, John 2:5), and on both occasions she seems bewildered by the whole experience – although she followed Jesus all the way to the cross (John 19:26). Zacharias and Elizabeth simply drop out of the picture. As for the shepherds, after they visited the infant Lord at the manger they "returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen," but that's all we know.

It's only in the story of the wise men who came from the east to Jerusalem and then to Bethlehem to worship this Child that we are given any slight indication of how this event really affected their lives. And although it is slight it is important, for in the few words that are said, with an appreciation of their spiritual implications, we can see the most vital issue of the Lord's birth coming to life in simple human terms: – "Then, being warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way."

What a simple sentence this is, but how full of meaning! Every word is expressive, every phrase instructive. It is something we can easily remember and reflect on as we, like the wise men, return to our normal lives after the very special events of this season. And it is something that may give us encouragement as we ponder the questions posed a few minutes ago: Where are we going in our lives? How are we getting there? Why? And who's going with us?

There has been a lot of scholarly speculation about who the wise men were and where they came from, and what exactly led them to Bethlehem. There was a television program years ago about astronomical research into the star and the Magi, who were supposed to have been Babylonian astrologers, taking note of a unique alignment of planets in the night sky.

The Writings tell us that they were students of the ancient Word, men who knew and understood the spiritual meaning of the prophecies foretelling the Advent thousands of years before it took place. The star represented their knowledge, indeed their insights about this. They may or may not have been studying the night sky and they may or may not have had royal status. But what we do know is that they found the Messiah, and it changed their lives, for "being warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way."

Let's consider this statement phrase by phrase: – first, that they were warned in a dream. Most translations say they were Divinely warned, or warned by God, but there's no such reference in the original Greek. They were simply warned in a dream. The "warning" part is a big Greek word derived from a root that has to do with the practical uses of life, including the transaction of business, particularly the consulting and deliberation that has to do with business. So it is a word with a very pragmatic focus, and when it refers to someone being acted on, rather than someone taking action, it carries the sense of warning, caution, or advice given after very careful thought.

So how do you suppose the wise men were warned? Did God suddenly appear to them in a blaze of light and tell them what to do? No. The word suggests a lot of deep thought and careful reflection. These men were wise because they used their heads. They knew the teachings of the ancient Word and they spent serious time reflecting on their meaning. So they were able to be enlightened in the practical business of their daily lives.

The same principle applies to us. We're not likely to be jolted out of some complacent passivity by a lightning bolt of revelation saying "Do this," or "Don't do that." We, too, if we want to be wise, need to dedicate real time and effort to the study of Divine revelation. Then the Lord can teach us without imposing on our freedom, and lead us according to our own determination.

But we read that the wise men were warned "in a dream." What does this mean? Well, dreams normally occur at night, when we are asleep, and this represents a state of obscurity, a state of mind in which we don't have much clarity or control. But to be warned in a dream is to be enlightened; it is to get a clear, purposeful message in an otherwise obscure, confusing state. It is, perhaps, like seeing a lighthouse through a fog at sea. And as in the case of a lighthouse the wise men were not especially told what to DO, but what to avoid, what NOT to do. This makes perfect sense in our own lives, too, because when we are in states of darkness or obscurity the first and most important thing we can do is to step away from what is harmful or disorderly, or as the Writings put it, shun evils as sins against the Lord. Only when we do that are we in a position to receive anything genuinely good from Him without corrupting it in one way or another.

So what was the warning to the wise men? Of course! "...that they should not return to Herod," the epitome of self-love and the love of the world. Now this is interesting. The wise men were wise because of their dedication to the Word. But they had come to a place – Jerusalem – which at that time represented a religion corrupted by evils and falsities. And it's not hard to see how this represents at least some of the temptations any wise person might encounter on his – or her – journey to find the Lord, for despite the wisdom we all have we are all born into natural and selfish loves, and if we're not careful these loves will drag us down. Sure, they guide us to the Lord, but not for HIS sake. They always want to know "What's in it for ME?" or "What am I going to get out of it?" That said, it's worth noting that while they were in the sphere of such loves and the falsities that went with them the wise men couldn't even see the star. But when they left Herod and continued to Bethlehem the star appeared again. Surely this experience taught them a valuable lesson, and it shows us, too, how self-interest or love of the world can corrupt our thinking.

So when we come to see the Lord, and really appreciate all that He stands for, like the wise men we cannot turn back. We cannot go back to the selfish attitudes or any of the old falsities represented by the place where Herod ruled. Rather, as we read, the wise men "departed into their own country another way," and so must we.

Here again, a single word carries a lot of nuances: in the original Greek "depart" is based on a root meaning to lift up or hold high. From this we get the sense of upholding or continuing, that is, carrying on in a certain way. It also suggests strength and endurance, as when someone holds up or holds out for something. With all this in mind the word in this case describes not only the return of the wise men but actually their continuation in the strength of their profound experience. Their perseverance. Their determination.

This is important as we think about what can happen in our own lives. When we see the Lord for ourselves in any particular situation; when we see His love, His wisdom, or what He wants for us, and we recognize that and acknowledge it, then we have a special responsibility to apply it in our daily lives, that is, to uphold it and continue in it with real determination. In fact, it is very dangerous for us not to do this, since we run the risk of profanation, which is a permanent, inseparable mingling of goodness and truth with evil and falsity in our minds, leading to an impossibly conflicted life. So, just as the wise men risked being killed if they went back to Herod, our own spiritual lives are threatened if we go back to the loves of self and the world after we have come to see the Lord in our lives. "No one having put his hand to the plow and looking back is fit for the kingdom of God" (Luke 9:62).

But the Word goes on to say. "They departed into their own country...." This, too, is an important concept because the Greek word for country here really means any particular place, use, function or position that is properly our own. Of course it means "country," too, but the point is that we can easily relate to the phrase when we know its whole meaning as describing the opportunities and responsibilities the Lord has given each one of us according to our individual skills, insights and loves. Like the wise men we can go back to our jobs, our functions, our uses, our personal relationships; we can go back to whatever positions we hold in life and carry on – but completely changed and with a whole new perspective.

So we read that the wise men went back "another way." And we too must go back "another way." Now of course a way literally is a road or path, but it is also a spiritual life determined by our understanding of what is true and good. So it has to do with what we call doctrine, our way of thinking about what the Lord presents to us. And the truth is, when we come to see the Lord in our lives, and all the potential that He represents, we begin to think differently about everything. We speak differently, we make our daily decisions differently, we live differently; we go in strength and confidence, and with determination into our own country another way. In fact, if the vision of the Lord in His Divine Humanity does not change our lives, especially our inner lives, our attitudes and thought processes, we are in real danger. But if it does, and being warned in a dream that we should not return to Herod, we return instead to our proper places, our special uses, inspired and determined more than ever to live according to the truths of His Word, then surely in this and in every New Year He will answer us in the day of trouble, He will defend us, He will help us and strengthen us; He will remember our offerings and our sacrifices. He will give us the desires of our hearts; He will fulfill all our purpose, and He will, as David said, fulfill all our petitions.

(References: True Christian Religion 571)

From Swedenborg's Works

Apocalypse Explained #422

Apocalypse Explained (Tansley translation)

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422. And I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun. That this signifies the Divine Love going forth from the Lord, is clear from the signification of an angel, as denoting somewhat Divine proceeding from the Lord. For by an angel in the Word in a proximate sense, is meant a whole angelic society, and in a general sense, every one who receives the Divine Truth in doctrine and life; but in the highest sense, by an angel is signified something Divine which proceeds from the Lord, and specifically the Divine Truth. Concerning these significations of an angel see above (n. 90, 130, 200, 302, 307). Here, therefore, by the "angel ascending from the rising of the sun" is signified the Divine going forth from the Love of the Lord. The rising of the sun, or the east, signifies the Divine Love of the Lord, and to ascend thence, signifies to go forth, and to proceed; therefore, by the "angel ascending from the rising of the sun"; is signified the Divine Love going forth from the Lord. Those things which follow also are of the Divine Love, lest the good should suffer hurt. The rising of the sun signifies the Divine Love of the Lord, because the Lord in the angelic heaven is the Sun, and the Lord appears as the Sun from His Divine Love. Where the Lord appears as the Sun, there is the east in heaven, and because He is always there, He is also constantly rising.

(References: Revelation 7:2; The Apocalypse Explained 90, 130, The Apocalypse Explained 200, The Apocalypse Explained 302, 307)


[2] In the spiritual world there are four quarters, the eastern, western, southern, and northern. They all derive their position from the Sun, which is the Lord; and where the Sun is, there is the east, opposite this is the west, to the right the south, and to the left the north. In the eastern quarter dwell those angels who are in love to the Lord, because they are under the immediate auspices of the Lord, for the Lord flows into them intimately and directly from Divine Love, and therefore the rising of the sun, and the east, in the Word, signify the Divine Love of the Lord. That the Lord in the angelic heaven appears as a Sun, and that it is the Divine Love of the Lord which so appears, may be seen in Heaven and Hell (n. 116-125); that the sun in the Word therefore signifies the Divine Love, may be seen above (n. 401). That all the quarters in the spiritual world derive their position from the east, where the Lord is as a Sun, see Heaven and Hell (n. 141); and that therefore those dwell in the eastern quarter who are in the good of love to the Lord (n. 148, 149).

(References: Heaven and Hell 116-125, Heaven and Hell 141; The Apocalypse Explained 148-149, The Apocalypse Explained 401)


[3] The eastern, western, southern, and northern quarters are frequently mentioned in the Word, and those who are unacquainted with the spiritual sense of the Word believe that they mean the quarters in our solar world, and therefore they do not suppose that they involve arcana of heaven and of the church. But the quarters named in the Word mean the quarters in the spiritual world, which differ altogether from the quarters in our world; for all the angels and spirits dwell there in quarters determined according to the quality of their good and truth; those who are in the good of love to the Lord dwell in the east and the west, and those who are in truths from that good dwell in the south and north.

The reason of their dwelling in this manner is that the Lord there is the Sun, and from Him as the Sun all heat and light, or all good and truth proceed. The heat there, which is spiritual heat, or the good of love, flows directly from the east into the west, and decreases according to reception by the angels, and therefore according to distances, for in the spiritual world all distance from the Lord is according to the reception of good and truth from Him. And this is the reason why those dwell in the east who are in the good of love in an interior and consequently clear degree, and in the west those who are in an exterior and therefore obscure degree of that good. But light, which is spiritual light, or Divine Truth, also flows directly from the east into the west, and likewise flows in on both sides, but with this difference, that the Divine Truth which flows in from east to west is, in its essence, the good of love, while that which flows in laterally is, in its essence, the truth from that good. Those therefore who dwell respectively in the south and in the north, the quarters situated laterally, are in the light of truth, those in the south being in a clear, and those in the north in an obscure light of truth. The light of truth is intelligence and wisdom. But concerning these quarters more may be seen in Heaven and Hell (n. 141-153). These quarters then are meant in the Word, where mention is made of quarters, therefore they also signify such Divine things as exist in those quarters; for the east signifies the good of love in clearness; the west, the good of love in obscurity; the south, truth from that good in clearness; and the north, truth from that good in obscurity.

(References: Heaven and Hell 141-153)


[4] Moreover, there are quarters in the spiritual world differing from the quarters just named, and distant from them about thirty degrees, and these are under the auspices of the Lord as a moon; for the Lord appears as a Sun to those who are in love to Him, but as a moon to those who are in charity towards their neighbour, and in faith therefrom. Concerning this appearance, see also Heaven and Hell (n. 111, 119, 122). In the eastern and western quarters there, dwell those who are in the good of charity towards their neighbour; and in the southern and the northern those who are in truths from that good, called the truths of faith. These quarters also are sometimes meant in the Word, where those truths and goods are the subject treated of.

(References: Heaven and Hell 118-119, 122)


[5] It is evident from these facts that he who knows nothing of the quarters of heaven of which we have spoken, cannot possibly know anything of the spiritual things of the Word where those quarters are mentioned, as in the following passage.

Thus, in Isaiah:

"I will bring thy seed from the east, and gather thee from the west; I will say to the north, Give up; and to the south, Keep not back; bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the end of the earth" (xliii. 5, 6).

Jacob and Israel is here the subject, and unless it be known that the spiritual things explained above are meant by those quarters, it may be supposed that nothing more is implied, than that the sons of Israel and Jacob are to be gathered from all sides. But by Jacob and Israel is meant the church which is from those who are in the good of love and in truths from that good; and by their seed are meant all who are of that church. The bringing and gathering together of those who are in the good of love, is meant by, "I will bring thy seed from the east, and will gather thee from the west"; and the same, with respect to those who are in truths from that good, is meant by, "I will say to the north, Give up; and to the south, Keep not back." That all who are in those truths and goods, even to those who are in the ultimates, shall be brought together, is signified by "bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the end of the earth." Sons denote those who are in truths, and daughters denote those who are in goods; the words, "from far, and from the end of the earth," signify those who are in the ultimate truths and goods of the church. Similar things are also signified by those quarters in the following passages. Thus, in David:

Jehovah will gather the redeemed from the earth, "from the east, and from the west, from the north, and from the sea" (cvii. 3).

And in Moses:

Jehovah said to Jacob in a dream, "thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south" (Gen. xxviii. 14).

In Luke:

"They shall come from the east, and from the west, and from the north, and from the south, and shall recline (accumbentes),* in the kingdom of God" (xiii. 29).

(References: Genesis 28:14; Isaiah 43:5-6; Luke 13:29; Psalms 107:3)


[6] In very many passages it is said from east to west only, and not at the same time from the south and from the north; in such passages all who are in the good of love to the Lord, and in the good of charity towards the neighbour are meant. These quarters also imply the two others, because all who are in good are also in truths, for good and truth everywhere act as one; these therefore are meant where it is said "from east to west."

Again, in Matthew:

"Many shall come from the east and the west, and shall recline with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of the heavens" (viii. 11).

In the passage quoted above from Luke, it is said of those who shall recline in the kingdom of the heavens, "that they shall come from the east and from the west, and from the north and from the south;" but in the passage in Matthew it is simply said the east and the west; the reason of which is that these quarters imply the two others as just stated. Similarly in the following passages.

Thus in Malachi:

"From the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same, my name shall be great among the gentiles" (i. 11).

And in David:

"From the rising of the sun even to his setting, the name of Jehovah is to be praised" (Psalm cxiii. 3).

And in Isaiah:

"They shall fear the name of Jehovah from the west, and his glory from the rising of the sun" (lix. 19).

Again, in the same prophet:

"That they may know from the rising of the sun, and from the west, that there is none beside me" (xlv. 6).

Again, in David:

"God, God Jehovah speaks, and will call the earth from the rising of the sun unto the going down thereof" (Psalm l. 1).

And in Zechariah:

"Behold, I will save my people from the east country, and from the west country" (viii. 7).

In these passages "from the rising and setting" signifies all who are in the goods and truths of heaven and the church. Similar things are signified by the quarters according to which the temple was measured (Ezek. xlii.); also according to which the land was measured for an inheritance (xlvii.); and was distributed among the tribes of Israel (xlviii.); then according to which the Israelites measured the camp (Numb ii.), according to which they journeyed (x.); and according to which the gates of the new city were placed (Ezek. xl.; Rev. xxi. 12), besides similar things elsewhere.

(References: Ezekiel 40:1, 42:1, Ezekiel 47:1, Ezekiel 47:13, 48:1; Isaiah 45:6, 59:19; Luke 13:29; Malachi 1:11; Matthew 8:11; Numbers 2:1, Numbers 10:1; Psalms 50:1, Psalms 113:3; Revelation 21:13; Zechariah 8:7)


[7] The reason why the temple was measured according to the quarters as in Ezekiel, and the land distributed among the tribes according to the quarters, as mentioned both in Ezekiel and in Joshua, and also the reason why the sons of Israel encamped, and also journeyed, according to the same order, is, that everything in the spiritual world is arranged according to the quarters, not only generally but also particularly. In general, all angels and spirits dwell in the quarters corresponding to their states of good and truth, as said above. The case is the same individually, for in all their assemblies, those who are present take their places in the quarters that correspond to the states of their life; there they sit in the temples, and dwell in their houses in a similar manner. There in a word, all things generally and particularly are arranged according to the quarters of heaven; for the form of heaven is the same in every detail as it is in general. From these considerations it is clear what is signified in the Word by arrangements according to the quarters, also by the quarters according to which the tabernacle was built, and according to which the temple was built by Solomon; besides other similar things.

[8] So far concerning the quarters generally. That the east signifies the Lord as to Divine Love, and therefore the good of love to the Lord with those who are recipients of it, is plain from the following passages.

Thus in Ezekiel:

"He brought me to the gate of the temple that looketh toward the east; and, behold, the glory of the God of Israel came from the way of the east; and his voice was like the voice of many waters; and the earth shone with his glory. The glory of Jehovah came into the house by the way of the gate, whose prospect is toward the east. Then the spirit took me up, and brought me into the inner court; and, behold, the glory of Jehovah filled the house" (xliii. 1-5).

Here the subject is the building of the new temple which signifies the New Church to be established by the Lord; and because introduction into it is effected by the good of love to the Lord, and by truth from that good, therefore the gate that looketh toward the east, and the God of Israel coming from the way of the east were seen. By the gate is signified introduction and approach; by the God of Israel is meant the Lord; by the east, the good of love from Him and manifested towards Him; and by glory, truth from that good. For the Lord enters into heaven, and thence into the church, from His Divine Love, which, as said above, appears in the heavens as the Sun; thence are all the Divine Good and the Divine Truth there. The glory of Jehovah seen to enter the house by the way of the gate whose prospect was towards the east, and also the glory of Jehovah filling the house, have a similar signification; for the house or temple signifies heaven and the church. By glory in the Word is signified the Divine Truth proceeding from the Lord; by "the glory of the God of Israel," the Divine Truth enlightening those who are in the Lord's spiritual kingdom; and by "the glory of Jehovah," the Divine Truth enlightening, those who are in the Lord's celestial kingdom. The Divine Truth is called glory because it is the light of heaven, and that light is the cause of all splendour, magnificence, and glory in the heavens; for everything that appears before the eyes in the heavens is from that light. So also it is said that "the earth shone with his glory," and by the earth is meant the church. The influx of Divine Truth towards lower things on every side is signified by "his voice was like the voice of many waters," voice signifying influx, and waters, truths.

(References: Ezekiel 43:2, 43:4-5, 43:1-5)


[9] Again:

"Then he brought me back by the way of the gate of the outward sanctuary that looketh toward the east; and it was shut; but Jehovah the God of Israel will enter in by it" (Ezekiel xliv. 1, 2).

And in the same:

"The gate of the inner court that looketh toward the east shall be shut the six days of labour; but on the day of the sabbath it shall be opened" (xlvi. 1).

By the "gate that looketh toward the east" is also signified introduction into heaven and the church by the Lord by means of the good of love proceeding from Him, which is therefore meant by the east; and that this is from the Lord, is signified by Jehovah the God of Israel entering by that gate. That introduction is the result of the worship of Him from that good, is signified by the words "on the day of the sabbath it shall be opened;" and that introduction does not take place when worship is not from that good, is signified by the gate being shut during the six days of labour.

(References: Ezekiel 44:1-2, 46:1)


[10] Again, in the same prophet:

"And the cherubim lifted up their wings, and they stood at the door of the gate [of the house] of Jehovah toward the east; and the glory of the God of Israel was over them above" (x. 19).

The cherubim signify the Lord as to Divine Providence, and as to defence, to prevent His being approached except by means of the good of love; see above (n. 152, 277); and because the Lord is signified by cherubim, and from the Lord as the Sun, where the east is, proceed all the good of love, and all truth from that good, therefore the cherubim were seen to stand at the door of the gate of the house of Jehovah towards the east, and the glory of the God of Israel was over them above. By the house of Jehovah, by the east, and by the glory of the God of Israel, similar things are signified here as above.

(References: Ezekiel 10:19; The Apocalypse Explained 152, The Apocalypse Explained 277)


[11] So in Isaiah:

"Who raised up one from the east, called him in justice to his foot, gave the nations before him, and made him rule over kings?" (xli. 2).

This is said of the Lord, who is said to be raised up from the east, because conceived from the Divine Itself, which in its essence is Divine Love, and from which also the Lord is the Sun of the angelic heaven. To call in justice, here signifies to restore heaven and the church; for the justice of the Lord in the Word signifies, that from His own power He saved the human race, which was accomplished by reducing all things in the heavens and the hells into order (see n. 293). The signification of the rest of this passage is explained above (n. 357:5).

(References: Isaiah 41:2; The Apocalypse Explained 293, The Apocalypse Explained 357)


[12] Thus also in the second book of Samuel,

"The spirit of Jehovah spake in me. The God of Israel said, the Rock of Israel spake to me. As the light of the morning, when the sun riseth, a morning without clouds; from the clear shining after rain cometh grass out of the earth" (xxiii. 2-4).

"The God of Israel," and "the Rock of Israel," are the Lord, and because He is the Sun of the angelic heaven, and from Him as the Sun proceeds and flows all the Divine Truth, which enlightens angels and men, imparts intelligence, and reforms, it is said as "the light of the morning when the sun riseth, a morning without clouds; through the clear shining after rain cometh grass out of the earth." The light of the morning when the sun riseth, signifies the Divine Truth from the Lord as the Sun; a morning without clouds, denotes its purity, rain its influx, and the grass out of the earth, intelligence, and reformation therefrom; for these are signified by grass because it springs out of the earth by the power of the sun after rain, but intelligence comes from the Lord as the Sun by the influx of Divine Truth.

(References: 2 Samuel 23:2-4)


[13] Again in Isaiah:

"Jehovah shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee. And the nations shall walk according to thy light, and kings according to the brightness of thy rising" (lx. 2, 3).

This is said of the Lord. The Divine in Him is meant by "Jehovah shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee." The Divine Good of Divine Love is meant by Jehovah shall arise upon thee, and the Divine Truth from that Good is meant by His glory shall be seen upon thee. The nations signify those who are in good, and kings those who are in truths from good. It is said of the former that "they shall walk according to thy light," which signifies a life according to the Divine Truth; and of the latter, they shall walk "according to the brightness of thy rising," which signifies the life of intelligence from Divine Good; to walk denoting to live; light, the Divine Truth; and the brightness of His rising, the Divine Truth from the Divine Good from which comes intelligence.

(References: Isaiah 60:2-3)


[14] Again in Ezekiel:

"The cherubim did lift up their wings; and the glory of the God of Israel was over them above. And the glory of Jehovah ascended over the midst of the city, and stood over the mountain which is on the east of the city" (xi. 22, 23).

The cherubim signify the Lord as to Divine Providence and defence, and the glory of the God of Israel signifies the Divine Truth proceeding from the Lord as was said above. And because the Divine Truth, which is light, proceeds from the Lord as the Sun in the angelic heaven, therefore the glory of Jehovah was seen to ascend over the midst of the city, and to stand over the mountain which is on the east side of the city. By the city is meant Jerusalem, which signifies the church as to doctrine; and because the doctrine of the church is from the Divine Truth, therefore the glory of Jehovah was seen to ascend over the midst of the city; and since all Divine Truth proceeds from the Lord as the Sun, where the east is, therefore the glory was seen to stand over the mountain on the east of the city. The mountain on the east of the city was the mount of Olives. That the mount of Olives signifies the Divine Love of the Lord, and that therefore the Lord used sometimes to be there, may be seen above (n. 405:24); and that the mount of Olives was situated before Jerusalem on the east, may be seen in Zech. xiv. 4.

(References: Ezekiel 11:22-23; The Apocalypse Explained 405; Zechariah 14:4)


[15] Again in Ezekiel:

"He brought me back unto the door of the house; and, behold, waters issued out from under the threshold of the house eastward, for the forefront of the house was toward the east; and the waters came down from under, from the right side of the house, from the south side of the altar. He brought me out by the way of the gate towards the north, and led me round by the way without unto the outer gate, by the way that looketh eastward; and, behold, there ran out waters from the right side. Then said he unto me, These waters issue out toward the eastern boundary, and go down into the plain, and come towards the sea; which being brought forth into the sea, the waters shall be healed. Whence it comes to pass, that every living soul, which creepeth, whithersoever the rivers come, lives; and there shall be a very great multitude of fish. And by the river upon the bank thereof, on this side and on that side, cometh up every tree for food, whose leaf falleth not, neither is the fruit thereof consumed" (xlvii. 1, 2, 8, 9, 12).

The New Church to be established in the heavens and on the earth by the Lord is here described, when all the Divine will proceed from His Divine Human; for before the coming of the Lord the Divine proceeded from His Divine, which He calls the Father, but this did not extend to ultimates after the church was vastated. By house is here signified the church; by its gate, approach and introduction; by the east, the Lord, where His Divine love appears as the Sun; and by the waters going forth thence is signified the Divine Truth proceeding therefrom. By the plain and the sea are signified the ultimates of the church, or where those are who are in ultimate truths and goods because they are natural and sensual, and who are spiritual only in a slight degree; to these the Divine did not previously extend. Life from the Divine to these also after the coming of the Lord, is signified by the waters of the sea being healed by the inflowing of the river from the east; the very great multitude of fish, signifies abundance of cognitions and scientifics which also become spiritually living with them. The fructification of good and multiplication of truth are signified by every tree for food coming up upon the bank of the river, whose leaf falleth not, neither is the fruit thereof consumed. From this it is evident what the particulars in a series there signify, and that the east, where they all originate, signifies the Lord and His Divine Love.

(References: Ezekiel 47:8-9, 47:1-2, 47:12)


[16] The same is signified in Zechariah,

"And it shall come to pass in that day, that living waters shall go out from Jerusalem; part of them toward the eastern sea" (xiv. 8).

Here also the subject is the Lord. "In that day," signifies His coming, and the eastern sea signifies the ultimate boundary towards the east in the spiritual world, where there was no reception of Divine Truth before the coming of the Lord, but when it proceeded from His Divine Human then there was reception. That the ultimate [boundaries] in the spiritual world are like seas, may be seen above (n. 342); and that there are dry and waste places there, may be seen in Joel ii. 20.

(References: Joel 2:20; The Apocalypse Explained 342; Zechariah 14:8)


[17] Since the Lord in heaven where the angels are appears as the Sun, and [where He appears] there is the east, therefore when Aaron offered the sin offering for himself and his house, he sprinkled the blood of the bullock on the mercy-seat towards the east (Levit. xvi. 14, 15); and therefore Moses, Aaron and his sons measured out the camp before the tabernacle of the congregation towards the east (Numb. iii. 38); and also the tribe of Judah (Numb. ii. 3). Moses, Aaron, and his sons, and the tribe of Judah, represented the Lord as to the Divine Good and the Divine Truth proceeding from the Divine Love; their camp was therefore towards the east. So also the ancients in their worship turned their faces to the rising of the sun, and therefore they built their temples in such a way that the front, where the most sacred place was, should look towards the east; this is also the case at the present day, the practice being derived from ancient custom. The whole angelic heaven also is turned to the Lord as the Sun, thus collectively to the east. All the interiors of the angels in the heavens are also turned in the same direction; consequently the angels of heaven turn their faces to the Lord. Many important facts upon this subject are related in Heaven and Hell (n. 17, 123, 142, 143, 144, 272).

(References: Heaven and Hell 17, Heaven and Hell 123, Heaven and Hell 142-144; Leviticus 16:14-15; Numbers 2:3, Numbers 3:38)


[18] Because the Lord is the east, therefore it is said in Matthew,

"For as the lightning cometh forth out of the east, and shineth even unto the west, so shall also the coming of the Son of Man be" (xxiv. 27).

Since, when man is the subject, the rising of the sun signifies the good of love proceeding from the Lord as the Sun, and received by him, it is therefore said in the book of Judges,

"So let all thine enemies perish, O Jehovah; but let them that love him be as the sun when he goeth forth in his might" (v. 31).

These words occur in the prophetic song of Deborah and Barak; and of those who love Jehovah, that is those who are in the good of love to the Lord, it is said, "as the sun when he goeth forth in his might."

(References: Judges 5:31; Matthew 24:27)


[19] In Moses:

Joseph shall possess "the firstfruits of the mountains of the east, and the precious things of the hills of an age" (Deut. xxxiii. 15).

Joseph, in the representative sense, signifies the Lord's spiritual kingdom, it is therefore said of him that he shall possess the firstfruits of the mountains of the east, and the precious things of the hills of an age. The firstfruits of the mountains of the east signify the genuine goods of love to the Lord, and thence of charity towards the neighbour, the mountains of the east denote goods of love to the Lord, and firstfruits those things that are genuine and primary; and the hills of an age signify the goods of charity towards the neighbour, these when genuine being called precious. The rest of the blessing of Joseph is explained above (n. 405:31).

(References: Deuteronomy 33:15; The Apocalypse Explained 405)


[20] The church existed, in ancient times, in several kingdoms of Asia, as in the land of Canaan, in Syria and Assyria, in Arabia, Ethiopia, Egypt, Chaldea, in Tyre and Sidon, and in other parts; but with those peoples it was a representative church, for in every detail of their worship, and in each of their statutes, spiritual and celestial things, which are the interior things of the church, were represented, and in the highest sense the Lord Himself. These representatives of their worship and statutes remained with many even up to the time of the Lord's coming, and from these they possessed a knowledge of His coming. This is evident from the predictions of Balaam, who was from Syria, and who prophesied concerning the Lord, in these words:

"I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not nigh; there shall come forth a star out of Jacob, and a sceptre shall rise out of Israel" (Numb. xxiv. 17).

Then again it is evident from the fact that certain wise men from the east, when the Lord was born, saw a star in the east, and followed it; of this circumstance Matthew thus speaks:

"In the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, 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. And, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was" (Matt. ii. 1, 2, 9).

The star was seen in the east by the wise men, because the Lord is the East; and because they knew of the coming of the Lord from those representatives which remained with them, therefore they saw the star and it went before them, first to Jerusalem, which represented the church itself, as to doctrine and the Word, and then to the place where the infant Lord was. A star also signifies the cognitions of good and truth, and in the highest sense, knowledge concerning the Lord. That stars in the Word signify cognitions of good and truth, see above (n. 72, 179, 402). As the Orientals possessed such knowledges, they were on that account called "sons of the east." That those who came from Arabia were thus called, is seen in Jeremiah (xlix. 28). By sons of the east in the Word, knowledges of good and truth are also signified; similarly by Kedar or Arabia. That Job was of the sons of the east is evident from chapter i. 3.

(References: Acts of the Apostles 1:3; Jeremiah 49:28; Job 1:3; Matthew 2:9, 2:1-2; Numbers 24:17; The Apocalypse Explained 72, The Apocalypse Explained 179, The Apocalypse Explained 402)


[21] As most things in the Word have also an opposite sense, so also has the "east," which, in this sense, signifies the love of self, because this love is the opposite of love to the Lord. In this sense the east is named in Ezekiel (viii. 16); and in Isaiah (ii. 6). That the east signifies the Lord as to Divine Love, and consequently the good of love to Him, is still further evident from what has been stated above concerning the sun (n. 401), and concerning the morning (n. 176); for in the angelic heaven, the east is where the sun is situated; and since where the sun rises is the morning, and the Sun there is always in its rising, and never sets, therefore the morning also has a similar signification.

* "Recline in the kingdom of God' = "accumbentes I regno Dei." Swedenborg renders "anaklino" by accumbo. The A.V. renders "to sit down"; the R.V. follows the A.V. but has "recline" in the margin. Accumbo = "to recline," is according to classical usage. It was the custom for guests "to recline" at the triclinium or table, and not to sit.

(References: Ezekiel 8:16, Ezekiel 43:1-5; Isaiah 2:6; The Apocalypse Explained 176, The Apocalypse Explained 401)

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