The Bible

Matthew 2:1-12 : The Story 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
From Swedenborg's Works

Explanations or references:

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

Apocalypse Revealed 277, 913

Sacred Scripture 23

True Christian Religion 205

References from Swedenborg's unpublished works:

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, ...

Other New Christian Commentary

  Stories and their meanings:

  Spiritual Topics:

Hop to Similar Bible Verses

Numbers 24:17

Joshua 5:14

2 Samuel 2

1 Chronicles 11:2

Psalms 72:10, 78:71

Isaiah 40:11, 60:6

Jonah 4:6

Micah 5:1

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 by following this link.

 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

 Correspondences of Gold
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

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 (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


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

Arcana Coelestia #2135

Arcana Coelestia (Elliott translation)

Study this Passage

Go to section / 10837  

← Previous    Next →


[Each chapter belonging to Volume Two of the Latin (Genesis 16-21) was published separately, and therefore this Preface belongs to Chapter 18 only.]

At the end of the previous chapter the subject dealt with was the Last Judgement, and there it was shown what is meant by it - not the destruction of the world, but the final period of the Church. When this is imminent, says the Lord, He will come in the clouds of heaven with power and glory, Matthew 24:30; Mark 13:26; Luke 21:27. Nobody until now has known what was meant by 'the clouds of heaven'. But it has been disclosed to me that nothing else is meant than the literal sense of the Word, and that by 'power and glory' is meant the internal sense of the Word; for the internal sense of the Word holds glory within itself, since everything within that sense has regard to the Lord and His kingdom; see Volume One, in 1769-1772. Something similar is meant by 'the cloud' which surrounded Peter, James, and John when the Lord appeared to them in glory, concerning which the following is said in Luke,

A voice came out of the cloud, saying, This is My beloved Son; listen to Him! When however the voice had gone Jesus was found alone. Luke 9:35-36.

Moses and Elijah there who conversed with the Lord represented the Old Testament Word, which is also called Moses and the Prophets - 'Moses' representing the books by him, together with the historical books, 'Elijah the prophet' representing all the Prophets. Peter, James, and John however represented, as they do wherever else they are mentioned in the Gospels, faith, charity, and good flowing from charity. Their presence alone on that occasion meant that no others are able to see the glory of the Lord which is present in His Word than those with whom faith, its partner charity, and good flowing from charity are present. All others do indeed have the ability to see; nevertheless they do not see because they do not believe. Such is the internal sense of these two passages. In various places in the Prophets as well, 'cloud' means the Word as to its letter, and 'glory' the Word as to its life. What the internal sense of the Word is, and the nature of it, has been stated in many places, and has been shown in the word-by-word explanation that has been given. Those expert in the Law in the Lord's time had least belief of all in the idea that anything in the Word had been written regarding the Lord. Today such experts do, it is true, recognize this, but they perhaps will have least belief of all in the idea that any glory is present in the Word other than that visible in the letter - though the letter is in fact the cloud which has the glory within it.

From this chapter especially do the nature of the internal sense of the Word and the manner in which angels perceive the Word when it is read by man become clear. From the historical sense that belongs to the letter nothing else is understood than that Jehovah appeared to Abraham in the guise of three men, and that Sarah, Abraham, and his servant prepared food for them, namely cakes of fine flour, a young bull, and also butter and milk. Although these are historically true descriptions of things which actually took place, they are nevertheless not perceived by angels in any such historical manner. Instead the angels perceive abstractedly, quite apart from the letter, the things which are represented and are meant spiritually by such descriptions; that is to say, they perceive them according to the explanation set out in the Contents. In place of the historical details stated in this chapter they perceive the state of the Lord's perception within the Human, and also the communication at that time with the Divine, before the perfect union existed of His Divine Essence with His Human Essence and of His Human Essence with His Divine Essence, which state is also what the Lord is referring to when He says,

Nobody has even seen God; the only begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father, He has made Him known. John 1:18.

[2] Also, by the different kinds of food mentioned in this chapter angels perceive nothing else than celestial and spiritual goods, details of which goods are given in the explanation of the chapter. And by what is said further on in it about a son whom Sarah would bear at the appointed time in the following year, angels perceive nothing else than this, that the Lord's human rational would be made Divine. By what is stated at the end of the chapter about Abraham speaking to Jehovah concerning the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah they perceive nothing else than the Lord's interceding on behalf of the human race. By the numbers fifty, forty-five, forty; thirty, twenty, and ten mentioned there they perceive His interceding on behalf of those with whom truths were to be allied to goods, and to whom goods were to come through temptations and conflicts, or through other states. And their perception is the same with everything else in the Word, as may become clearer still from the word-by-word explanation that is given, where it is shown that similar things are embodied within each individual expression in the Word, both in the historical part and in the prophetical part.

[3] That such an internal sense is present everywhere in the Word, which deals solely with the Lord, with His kingdom in heaven, with His Church on earth, and in particular with every individual, and so deals with the goods of love and the truths of faith, may also become clear to anyone from Old Testament texts quoted in the Gospels, as in Matthew,

The Lord said to My Lord, Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool. Matthew 22:44; Psalms 110:1.

That these words refer to the Lord cannot be seen from the literal sense of them as they stand in David; yet that no one other than the Lord is meant, He himself teaches at this point in Matthew.

[4] In the same gospel,

You, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the leaders of Judah, for from you will come a leader who will shepherd my people Israel. Matthew 2:6; Micah 5:2.

Those who confine themselves to the literal sense, as Jews do, do indeed know from this that the Lord was to be born there; but because they are waiting for a leader and king who will lead them back into the land of Canaan they therefore explain the words here literally. That is to say, they take 'the land of Judah' to mean the land of Canaan and '[My people] Israel' to mean [the tribes of] Israel, even though they do not know where the latter are now; and 'a leader' they still take to mean their Messiah. But in fact 'Judah' and 'Israel' are used to mean things other than Judah and Israel; that is to say, 'Judah' means those who are celestial and 'Israel' those who are spiritual, in heaven and on earth. And 'a leader' is used to mean the Lord.

[5] In the same gospel,

A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation, crying out, and much wailing; Rachel weeping for her children, and she refused to be consoled because they are not. Matthew 2:18; Jeremiah 31:15.

Those who confine themselves to the literal sense cannot possibly gain from it that sense which is the internal meaning of these words. Yet the existence of this internal sense is evident from the gospel itself. In the same gospel,

Out of Egypt have I called My son. Matthew 2:15; Hosea 11:1.

In Hosea the wording is,

When Israel was a boy I loved him, and out of Egypt I called My son. [As] they called them, so they went away from their presence. And I taught Ephraim to walk. Hosea 11:1-3.

Those who have no knowledge of the existence of the internal sense cannot know otherwise than that here Jacob is meant when he entered Egypt, and his descendants when they left, and that 'Ephraim' is used to mean the tribe of Ephraim - thus the same things as occur in historical sections of the Word. Nevertheless it is clear from the Word of the Evangelists that they mean the Lord, though what each detail means could not possibly be known unless it were disclosed by means of the internal sense.

Genesis 18
1. And Jehovah appeared to him in the oak-groves of Mamre, and he was sitting at the tent door, as the day was getting warmer.
2. And he lifted up his eyes and saw, and behold, three men standing over him. And he saw, and ran from the tent door to meet them, and bowed down towards the ground. 1
3. And he said, My Lord, if now I have found grace in your eyes, do not, I beg of you, pass from over your servant.
4. Let now a little water be taken, and [all of you] wash your feet, and recline under the tree.
5. And I will take a piece a bread, that you may refresh yourselves; 2 after that you may pass on, for this is why you have passed over to your servant. And they said, Do as you have spoken.
6. And Abraham hastened towards the tent to Sarah, and said, Take quickly three measures of meal of fine flour, knead it, and make cakes.
7. And Abraham ran to the herd and took a young bull, 3 tender and good, and gave it to the servant, and he hastened to make it ready.
8. And he took butter and milk, and the young bull, 3 which he made ready, and set it before them. And he stood before them under the tree, and they ate.
9. And they said to him, Where is Sarah your wife? And he said, Behold, in the tent.
10. And he said, I will certainly return to you about this time next year, 4 and behold, Sarah your wife will have a son. And Sarah heard it at the tent door, and this was behind him.
11. And Abraham and Sarah were old, well advanced in years; 5 and it had ceased to be with Sarah in the way it is with women.
12. And Sarah laughed within herself, saying, After I have grown old, shall I have this pleasure, and my lord being old?
13. And Jehovah said to Abraham, Why did Sarah laugh, saying, Shall I really, in truth, bear a child, and I have grown old?
14. Will anything be too wonderful for Jehovah? At the set time I will return to you, about this time next year, 4 and Sarah will have a son.
15. And Sarah denied it, saying, I did not laugh; for she was afraid. And He said, No, but you did laugh.
16. And the men rose up from there and looked towards the face of Sodom; and Abraham went with them, to send them on their way.
17. And Jehovah said, Shall I hide from Abraham that which I am doing?
18. And Abraham will certainly become a great and numerous nation, and in him all the nations of the earth will be blessed.
19. For I know him that he will command his sons, and his house after him, and they will keep the way of Jehovah to do righteousness and judgement, in order that Jehovah may bring upon Abraham that which He has spoken concerning him.
20. And Jehovah said, The cry of Sodom and Gomorrah has become great, and their sin has become extremely grave.
21. I will go down now, and I will see whether they have brought it to a close according to the cry of it which has come to Me; and if not, I will know.
22. And the men looked from there and went towards Sodom; and Abraham still stood before Jehovah.
23. And Abraham drew near and said, Will You also destroy the righteous and the wicked?
24. Perhaps there may be fifty righteous persons in the midst of the city. Will You also destroy and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous persons who are in the midst of it?
25. Far be it from You to do such a thing as to make the righteous die with the wicked, so that the righteous will be as the wicked; far be it from You; will not the Judge of the whole earth execute judgement?
26. And Jehovah said, If I find in Sodom fifty righteous persons in the midst of the city, I will spare the whole place for their sakes.
27. And Abraham answered and said, Behold now, I have undertaken to speak to my Lord, and I am [but] dust and ashes.
28. Perhaps the fifty righteous persons will lack five; will You for five destroy the whole city? And he said, I will not destroy it if I find forty five there.
29. And he spoke to Him yet again, and said, Perhaps forty will be found there. And He said, I will not do it for the sake of the forty.
30. And he said, Let not now my Lord be incensed and I will speak; perhaps thirty will be found there. And He said, I will not do it if I find thirty there.
31. And he said, Behold now, I have undertaken to speak to my Lord; perhaps twenty will be found there. And He said, I will not destroy it for the sake of the twenty.
32. And he said, Let not now my Lord be incensed, and I will speak just once more; perhaps ten will be found there. And He said, I will not destroy it for the sake of the ten.
33. And Jehovah departed, when He had finished speaking to Abraham; and Abraham returned to his place.


1. literally, earth or land

2. literally, and support your heart

3. literally, a son of an ox

4. literally,. near this time of life

5. literally, entering into days


Go to section / 10837  

← Previous    Next →

   Study this Passage
From Swedenborg's Works

Inbound References:

Arcana Coelestia 2606, 2760, 2761, 3652, 3703, 3712, 3858, 3934, 3994, 4391, 4859, 4926, 5247, 5321, 5922, 6000, 6073, 6343, 6534, 6752, 6832, 7038, 7643, 7912, 8106, 8443, 8781, 8916, 9031, 9086, 9198, 9212, 9372, 9391, 9405, 9406, 9410, 9427, ...

The White Horse 9

The New Jerusalem and its Heavenly Doctrine 258

Other New Christian Commentary

James 1

What can we learn from James? 1