The Bible

 

Matthew 17:24-27 : The Temple Tax

Study the Inner Meaning

        

24 And when they were come to Capernaum, they that received tribute money came to Peter, and said, Doth not your master pay tribute?

25 He saith, Yes. And when he was come into the house, Jesus prevented him, saying, What thinkest thou, Simon? of whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? of their own children, or of strangers?

26 Peter saith unto him, Of strangers. Jesus saith unto him, Then are the children free.

27 Notwithstanding, lest we should offend them, go thou to the sea, and cast an hook, and take up the fish that first cometh up; and when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shalt find a piece of money: that take, and give unto them for me and thee.

   Study the Inner Meaning

Exploring the Meaning of Matthew 17      

By Rev. Dr. Ray Silverman

Chapter 17.

Glimpses of Heaven

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1. And after six days Jesus takes Peter, and James, and John his brother, and brings them up into a high mountain by themselves,

2. And was transformed before them; and His face shone as the sun, and His garments became white as the light.

3. And behold, there was seen by them Moses and Elijah, speaking with Him.

4. And Peter answering said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if Thou willest, let us make here three tabernacles: one for Thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”

5. While he was yet speaking, behold, an illuminated cloud overshadowed them; and behold, a voice out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye Him.”

6. And the disciples, hearing, fell on their face, and feared exceedingly.

7. And Jesus coming touched them, and said, “Arise, and be not afraid.”

8. And lifting up their eyes, they saw no one, except Jesus only.
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At the end of the previous episode, Jesus promised that “there are some standing here who shall not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.” In this next episode, He fulfills His promise — but not in the way that the disciples had expected. While they are thinking about a natural kingdom with thrones, imperial status, and political power, Jesus is preparing them for a spiritual kingdom that is governed by divine truth and filled with divine love. In this next episode, Jesus gives a few of His disciples a glimpse of that kingdom.

The disciples chosen for this special privilege are Peter, James and John. Leaving Caesarea Philippi, which is situated at the foot of Mt. Hermon, Jesus now takes these three disciples to the top of that mountain and there reveals Himself to them: “Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother and brought them up on a high mountain by themselves, and was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light” (17:1-2). 1

This mountain-top moment, known as “the Transfiguration,” is the spiritual fulfillment of what Jesus promised at the end of the preceding episode This is “the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.” It is a picture of what it is like to be in the presence of divine truth (“the Son of Man”) as it shines forth from the Word. The words “His face shone like the sun” is an image of God’s love, and “His clothes became as white as light” is an image of the truth that shines forth from that love. It is at moments like this that doubts about the divinity of the Word and the divinity of the Lord are overcome. The truth of Jesus’ divinity shines forth in fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy: “In that day … the light of the sun shall be as the light of seven days” (Isaiah 30:26).

This glimpse of divinity is granted everyone who undergoes the combats of temptation. It is granted to all who willingly lay down their life in the service of love and wisdom, and therefore find their life. In the Word, the labors of temptation are represented by the number “six.” As it is written, “Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh is the Sabbath” (Exodus 20:9). And as this episode begins, we read “After six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John, his brother, and brought them up on a high mountain.” 2

In the preceding episodes, Jesus has been teaching His disciples about the necessity of temptation, and preparing them for it. Jesus Himself will have to go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things before He will be raised up again. Similarly, we also must go through temptations so that our lower nature may be humbled and our higher nature “raised up.” These are the struggles that give us the opportunity to lay aside our selfish concerns. While the struggle can be difficult and arduous, it leads to mountain-top states. In the language of sacred scripture, this peak experience is described as “being on a high mountain with Jesus.”

When Jesus told His disciples that some of them “would not taste of death” until they saw Him coming in His kingdom, they could not have known that He was referring to Peter, James, and John. The question arises, therefore, why were these three selected, and not the others? Was it because they were specially favored? Or was it, perhaps, because of what they represented? As mentioned earlier, every disciple represents a specific spiritual principle. In this case, Peter, James, and John represent the three leading principles of our awakening spiritual life: Peter represents the principle of faith; James represents the principle of charity; and John,, who is the brother of James, represents the works of charity — that is, useful service to others. Note how closely related charity and the works of charity are: they are brothers. Since these are the three leading principles of our spiritual life, they are described as being separate from all the others: “He brought them up on a high mountain by themselves.” 3

Jesus now begins to perform another great wonder. Temporarily withdrawing them from the concerns of the body and the world, He opens their spiritual sight so that they might see heavenly things. 4 We, too, are sometimes granted an unearned glimpse of heaven so that we may be inspired to continue our journey. In this case, Peter, James, and John, are brought into an elevated spiritual state because Jesus wants to prepare them and strengthen them for the eventual temptations they will endure. Glimpses of heaven, such as this, are necessary in the beginning of regeneration. It is like the beginning of marriage when people experience a pure, heavenly love for their partner. They are convinced that they have found their true love, and will do anything for that person — even lay down their life. Recalling these glimpses of heaven can strengthen them when temptations arise. 5

On the mountain, Peter, James, and John are given a fleeting glimpse of Jesus in His Divine Humanity. The memory of this miraculous moment will serve them well throughout the temptations that lay ahead. It will also be important for them to know that Jesus is intimately connected to the Hebrew scriptures. We read therefore that “Moses and Elijah were seen along with Jesus, talking with Him” (17:3). This is a wonderful picture of the Law (Moses), the Prophets (Elijah) and Gospels (Jesus), now together as the complete Word of God — “speaking together.” In our temptation combats we need more than pleasant and delightful memories. We need more than “glimpses” of heaven. We also need the living truth of the Word, active in our minds, the law of Moses, the words of the Prophets, and the teachings of Jesus. And we need to see essential agreement among these teachings; we need to see them “speaking together.”

Peter, amazed and overwhelmed by this wonderful vision, expresses his desire to enshrine this memory in his heart forever: “Lord,” he says, “It is good for us to be here; if You wish, let us make here three tabernacles; one for You; one for Moses, and one for Elijah” (17:4). But even while Peter is still speaking, a response comes from heaven, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him’” (17:5). The voice from heaven does not say, “These are my three prophets. Hear them.” It says, “This is My beloved Son. Hear Him.”

The seamless connection of every episode — even very sentence — becomes especially clear in moments like this. Our spiritual rebirth may begin with seeing some truth shining from Word — the Son of Man coming in His kingdom. But the birth process cannot stop there. It’s not just about seeing the truth; it’s about hearing the truth. “Hear Him” says the voice.

The sense of hearing surpasses the sense of sight in that what is heard goes beyond what is seen. If we say to someone, “I hear you,” it means that we not only understand the meaning of the words; we also feel the affection behind the words. In scripture, “hearing the Word of the Lord,” is not just about listening; it’s also about having an inner perception of the truth and, at the same time, a worshipful desire to obey what has been heard. 6

Accordingly, when the disciples hear this voice from heaven, they fall on their faces and are greatly afraid (17:7). True adoration and worship is from a state of profoundest humility. It is the awe one feels in the presence of divinity. In states like this we experience something akin to reverential fear — the sense of how great God is, and how humbling it feels to be in His presence. It is from this state of utmost humility that we can be touched by the warmth and light of heaven. Therefore, we read, “Jesus came and touched them and said, ‘Arise, do not be afraid’” (17:7). They obey, and immediately they experience the profoundest, most interior moment of all. We read, “When they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only” (17:8). 7

The words, “They saw no one, but Jesus only” indicates that the whole Word points to Jesus only. In the words and life of Jesus, the whole of the law and the whole of the prophets is not only fulfilled but also infilled with more interior wisdom. Jesus becomes the way in which we understand the sacred truths contained within the Hebrew scriptures. As we read those scriptures in the light of Jesus’ teachings — lifting up our eyes — we are not just reading the words, we are hearing from the author Himself.

The Faith that Moves Mountains

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9. And as they came down from the mountain, Jesus commanded them, saying, “Tell the vision to no one, until the Son of Man rise again from the dead.”

10. And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Why then say the scribes that Elijah must first come?”

11. And Jesus answering said to them, “Elijah indeed comes first, and shall restore all things.

12. But I say unto you that Elijah has already come, and they did not know him, but have done unto him whatever they willed; so also the Son of Man is about to suffer by them”.

13. Then understood the disciples that He spoke to them concerning John the Baptist.

14. And when they had come to the crowd, there came to Him a man kneeling before Him, and saying,

15. “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is a lunatic, and suffers badly; for often he falls into the fire, and often into the water.

16. And I brought him to Thy disciples, and they could not cure him.”

17. And Jesus answering said, “O faithless and perverse generation, till when shall I be with you? Till when shall I bear with you? Bring him hither to Me.”

18. And Jesus rebuked him; and the demon came out of him; and the boy was cured from that [very] hour.

19. Then the disciples, coming to Jesus by themselves, said, “Why could not we cast him out?”

20. And Jesus said to them, “Because of your unbelief; for amen I say to you, If you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you shall say unto this mountain, ‘Pass on from here to there’; and it shall pass on; and nothing shall be impossible to you.

21. But this kind goes not out, except by prayer and fasting.”
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When Peter, James and John “lifted up their eyes” and saw “Jesus only” it was the end of their mountain-top vision. While it was merely a glimpse of heaven, it was an essential part of their preparation for the spiritual combats that they would soon have to undergo. It was now time to come down from the mountain and take on the normal routines of daily life.

The case is similar in our own lives. From time to time God allows us to experience “mountaintop states” in which we catch a glimpse of how wonderfully He has been working in our lives. Perhaps some truth from the Word shines forth with great glory, and we feel uplifted and inspired. Or maybe in a moment of reflection — whether it be on a mountaintop, or even in front of the mirror while brushing our teeth — we are given an insight which brings together a number of questions that have been on our mind. We feel elevated, and lifted to new heights.

But we cannot remain there. We need to take these new insights with us as we descend the mountain, and resume our lives in the world. While Peter wants to remain on the mountain and build a tabernacle there, the reality is that the true tabernacle is in our hearts, and remains with us wherever we go. It is a living tabernacle of flesh and blood and spirit. It is an inner tabernacle that, according to Isaiah, “will not be taken down, nor shall one of its stakes ever be removed, nor any of its cords be broken” (Isaiah 33:20).

The goal, then, is to come down from the mountain without losing our inspiration. The mountaintop vision should become an integral part of us as we reach out in useful service to others. This is, of course, what Jesus has in mind for His disciples, but He cautions them about the importance of keeping this experience confidential. As they come down from the mountain, Jesus says, “Tell the vision to no one until the Son of Man is risen from the dead” (17:9).

This is not the first time that Jesus tells His disciples to be quiet about their knowledge of His divinity. Just after Peter has confessed that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, Jesus commands the disciples to tell no one about it (16:20). And here He says something similar: “Tell the vision to no one.” Peter’s confession of faith at Caesarea Philippi and the vision on the mountaintop are important moments in the gradual revelation of Jesus’ divinity, but the disciples have still not undergone any serious spiritual challenges. They have not experienced the “sign of the prophet Jonah” — spiritual resurrection — in their own hearts. Neither have they experienced “the Son of man rising from the dead” — not just Jesus’ physical resurrection, but also some truth that Jesus has taught them rising up within them to give them life. Therefore, while they have witnessed amazing miracles and seen great visions, this is not the testimony Jesus is seeking. The only testimony He seeks from them — and from us — is the testimony which comes from a purified heart after the struggles of temptation. 8

This is why we must continually return to the plain of our everyday lives, no matter how high we have climbed in the mountains of elevated insight, no matter what kind of “emotional high” we may have experienced. No matter how high we have risen, we must return to the world of application and service. And so, as Jesus and His three disciples return from their mountaintop adventure, they are immediately given an opportunity to be useful: a man approaches the disciples and asks them to heal his son. The disciples, who have been given the power to heal and the cast out demons, are unsuccessful: “I brought him to your disciples,” the man says to Jesus, “But they were unable to cure him” (17:16).

This is the first time that the disciples have attempted to cure someone — and this first attempt is a failure. 9 Jesus appears to be displeased with them: “O faithless and perverse generation,” He says, “How long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you?” (17:17). Jesus then cures the boy instantly: “And Jesus rebuked the demon, and he came out of him; and the child was cured from that very hour” (17:18).

It seems as though Jesus is upset with the disciples, calling them “faithless” and “perverse” — rather strong language — simply because they are unable to cure the demon-possessed child. What can this mean? They have just come down from a mountaintop experience where they have been given a special glimpse of Jesus’ divinity. Their faith must have been at an all-time high. Earlier, Jesus promised to give them “power over unclean spirits, to cast them out” and He commanded them to “heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, and cast out demons” (10:8). Why, then, could they not do so now?

Speaking privately with Jesus, they ask: “Why could we not cast him out?” And Jesus answers, “Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you” (17:20).

The story of enlightenment on the mountain followed by failure in the valley contains a vital spiritual lesson. If enlightenment is not followed by strong faith in the source of that enlightenment, the experience can lead to feelings of conceit, of being specially chosen, of being highly privileged, and therefore of being better than others. True enlightenment is just the opposite. It is always attended with a sense of humility and gratitude. It reveals to us our essentially sinful nature. We come to see that we are less worthy than others, and that we deserve hell rather than heaven. This is enlightenment. While Peter, James, and John caught a glimpse of this on the mountaintop when they fell on their faces in reverential fear, it is a lesson in humility that the disciples would still need to learn. 10

The power of humility, which is the only thing that can receive the Lord’s power, can move mountains — mountains of self-love, inordinate pride, and superiority. But this takes a special kind of faith, the faith that we have no power at all from ourselves, and that all power is from the Lord alone. 11

Jesus then explains how this faith should be practiced. Referring to the demons that had been possessing the boy, Jesus says, “This kind only goes out by prayer and fasting” (17:21). “Prayer,” in essence, is turning to the Lord and receiving the good and truth that flow in from Him; “fasting” is refusing to accept the evil and falsity that flow in from hell. 12

This is the faith that not only casts out demons, but also moves mountains.

Paying Taxes

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22. And while they were occupied in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is about to be delivered up into the hands of men;

23. And they shall kill Him; and on the third day He shall be raised up.” And they sorrowed greatly.

24. And when they were come to Capernaum, they that received the didrachma came to Peter, and said, “Does not your Teacher pay the didrachma?”

25. He says, “Yes.” And when he had come into the house, Jesus came before him, saying, “What thinkest thou, Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth take tribute or duty? From their own sons, or from strangers?”

26. Peter says to Him, “From strangers.” Jesus declares to him, “Therefore the sons are free.

27. But lest we should offend them, go thou to the sea, cast a hook, and take up the fish that first comes up, and when thou hast opened its mouth, thou shalt find a stater; that take, and give unto them for Me and thee.”
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As we descend the mountain of enlightenment, and enter daily life, there will not only be demons to cast out, but also civic duties to fulfill. A simple duty that awaits us when we “come down from the mountain” is that of paying taxes. Although tax-paying cannot compare with the majesty of our mountaintop states, or the essential work of removing evils, it still must be done. True spirituality involves all aspects of life, spiritual like as well as natural life. While we are in this world, we cannot be purely spiritual beings without also caring for temporal and worldly things. In fact, a responsible civic life provides a firm foundation for a spiritual life, even as the body provides a solid structure through which the spirit can operate. 13

Therefore, it is fitting that in the next episode Jesus is confronted with the question of whether or not it is appropriate for Him and His disciples to pay the temple tax. This was an annual tax, required of all Israelites, for the support and maintenance of the temple in Jerusalem. Since Jesus and His disciples were under the constant criticism of the corrupt temple authorities, the question of whether Jesus should pay the temple tax, or refuse to do so, is an important one. Should Jesus and His disciples continue to support a corrupt religious establishment?

Jesus is planning to pay the temple tax, but in a way that demonstrates that He does not directly support what the religious leaders have been doing. Moreover, He will use this situation as an opportunity to teach an enduring spiritual lesson about how the cares and concerns of everyday life must be subordinated to more interior, spiritual principles. In other words, spiritual values should never be ruled over, or be submissive to, materialistic concerns. The higher must rule over the lower — and never the other way around.

This is the interior lesson contained in Jesus’ words to Peter. “Go to the sea,” He says, “cast in a hook, and take the first fish that comes up. And when you open the fish’s mouth, you will find a coin” (17:27). Peter does so, and, miraculously, out of the sea containing thousands of fish, the first fish he catches has a coin in its mouth. Moreover,

the coin is exactly the amount needed to pay the temple tax for both Jesus and Peter. “Take the coin,” says Jesus, “and give it to them for Me and for you” (17:27).

This is a further manifestation of Jesus’ divinity. How could He have known that a coin would be in the mouth of a fish, and that the value of the coin would be exactly enough to pay the temple tax for Him and for Peter? And, at a more interior level, how could He have had the wisdom to provide an incident that perfectly answers the difficult question about paying the temple tax?

The question is answered on two levels. First, on the most external level, Jesus seems to be saying that the Lord will always provide, even in the most miraculous of ways. Therefore, there is never any need to worry. But at a more interior level Jesus is saying that natural life, represented by a fish in the water, must serve the higher, spiritual principles of our life represented by Jesus and Peter. The fact that neither Jesus nor Peter is directly providing that support — but rather paying indirectly from a fish caught in the water — demonstrates that neither Jesus (who represents that which is Divine) and Peter (who represents faith in that which is Divine) directly supports the temple. 14

A further wonder contained in this incident involves the details of the fishing incident. These include going fishing in the sea, the hook used to catch the fish, opening the mouth of the fish, and the silver coin that is extracted from the fish’s mouth. Whenever we go to the Word and search for some truth, we are “going fishing.” The “hook” that we use is our sincere desire to be enlightened so that we might discover some truth that will help us lead better lives. The “fish” that we catch is a literal teaching from the Word; and the silver coin that we extract from the fish’s mouth is the more interior truth contained within that literal teaching; this more interior truth shines forth, like bright silver, with a direct application to our lives.

In all of this, however, we should keep in mind the most general teaching of this entire sequence episodes, beginning with the transfiguration on the mountaintop. No matter how high we rise spiritually, it all must be brought down into practical life. While this chapter begins on the mountaintop where Jesus reveals Himself to the disciples in His transfigured glory, it ends by the sea, in a simple rustic scene describing a coin found in the mouth of a fish. In this closing scene, Jesus reveals both His omniscience and His omnipotence, demonstrating that His shining glory on the mountaintop is as universal as His splendor by the sea. It is everywhere, filling the universe, and providing for each of us at every moment.

One of the more obvious takeaways is that Peter would not have to worry about the temple tax; in his case, the funds would be miraculously provided. While this should not be interpreted to mean that the Lord will always cover our financial obligations, it does provide assurance that He will abundantly fill our spiritual needs in ways that are often surprising — even as the disciples found a coin in the mouth of a fish. In His omniscience, God is guiding us at all times, arranging the circumstances of our life in every least detail — from the top of the mountain to the bottom of the sea — so as to lead us into the greatest joy we can possibly receive.

In His omniscience, the Lord perceives the possible outcomes of every decision we make. Because of this, He is with us every step of the way; He foresees the possibilities of wrong turns we might take, while simultaneously leading us — if we are willing to follow — into paths that lead to greatest joy. As the psalmist writes, “Thou wilt show me the path of life. In Thy presence is fullness of joy; at Thy right hand there are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11). 15

In the miracle of the coin in the fish’s mouth, Jesus reveals the omniscience of God — a divine omniscience that both foresees and provides a wonderful pathway for each of us to follow. The awareness of this profound truth can lead us into surrender to the Lord’s will, faith in His leading, and, finally, into states of profoundest humility. 16

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Footnotes:

1. Some scholars have claimed that the transfiguration took place on Mt. Tabor in Galilee. But in the previous episode Jesus was in Caesarea Phillipi (in the foothills of Mt. Hermon). Moreover, Mt. Tabor is not a “high mountain,” being only 1,750 feet tall, while Mt. Hermon is the tallest mountain in Israel, reaching upwards to 9,400 feet. It would, therefore, seem appropriate that the transfiguration took place on Mt. Hermon — not on Mt. Tabor. 2. Arcana Coelestia 737:2: “Genesis 1 describes the six days of a person’s regeneration prior to becoming celestial. During those six days there is constant conflict, but on the seventh day comes rest. Consequently there are six days of labor, and the seventh is the Sabbath, a word which means rest. This also is why a Hebrew slave was to serve for six years and in the seventh was to go free” See also, Arcana Coelestia 8494: “ The word ‘rest’ signifies a state of peace when there is no temptation . . . such as there was on the days of the Sabbath. . . . But the six preceding days represented the combat and labor, consequently the temptations, which precede a state of peace; for after temptations comes a state of peace, and then there is the conjunction of good and truth.”

3. Apocalypse Explained 64[2]: “The Lord took Peter, James, and John, because by them the church in respect to faith, charity, and the works of charity was represented; He took them ‘into a high mountain,’ because ‘mountain’ signifies heaven; ‘His face did shine as the sun,’ because ‘face’ signifies the interiors, and it did shine as the sun because His interiors were Divine, for the ‘sun’ signifies Divine love.” See also Arcana Coelestia 7038:3: “The Lord loved John more than the rest; but this was not for his own sake, but because he represented the exercises of charity, that is, uses.”

4. Heaven and Hell 119: “The Lord was seen by the disciples when they were withdrawn from the body and were in the light of heaven.” See also Arcana Coelestia 1530: “He so appeared to them because their interior sight was opened.”

5. Conjugial Love 333: “Are there not and have there not been men who, for the woman they long for and implore to be their bride, regard their very life as worthless and wish to die if she does not consent to their entreaty — evidence, as also testified to by the many battles of rival suitors even to their death, that this love exceeds love of life?

6. Apocalypse Explained 14: “The things that enter by the sense of sight, enter into the understanding and enlighten it … but the things that enter by the sense of hearing, enter into the understanding and at the same time into the will…. That the things which enter by hearing, enter directly by the understanding into the will, may be further illustrated from the instruction of the angels of the celestial kingdom, who are the wisest; these receive all their wisdom by hearing and not by sight; for whatever they hear of Divine things, they receive in the will from veneration and love, and make a part of their life.”

7. Arcana Coelestia 3719: “In the internal sense ‘fear’ signifies what is sacred … [It is a state of] veneration and reverence, or reverential fear.”

8. This will become a major theme in the Gospel According to Mark. 9. It is recorded that Jesus gave them “power over unclean spirits” (10:1) and commanded them to “cast out demons” (10:8), but up to this point Matthew does not record any instances of them performing any of these actions.

10. Arcana Coelestia 2273: “A person is not saved on account of temptations if he places anything of merit in them; for if he does this, it is from the love of self, in that he congratulates himself on their account, and believes that he has merited heaven more than others, and at the same time he is thinking of his own preeminence over others by despising others in comparison with himself; all of which things are contrary to mutual love, and therefore to heavenly blessedness. The temptations in which a person overcomes are attended with a belief that all others are more worthy than himself, and that he is infernal rather than heavenly.”

11. Apocalypse Explained 405: “The Lord spoke those things to the disciples when they supposed that they could do miracles from their own faith, thus from themselves, when notwithstanding such things are only done by faith derived from the Lord, and thus by the Lord.”

12. Arcana Coelestia 6206: “All evil flows in from hell, and all good through heaven from the Lord.”

13. Heaven and Hell 528: “To receive the life of heaven a person must needs live in the world and engage in the duties and employments there, and by means of a moral and civil life receive the spiritual life. In no other way can the spiritual life be formed with a person, or a person’s spirit prepared for heaven; for to live an internal life and not at the same time an external life is like dwelling in a house that has no foundation, that gradually sinks or becomes cracked and rent asunder, or totters till it falls.”

14. Apocalypse Explained 513:18: “What is natural is subject to what is spiritual and serves it, for the spiritual man is like a lord, and the natural man like a servant; and as the natural are servants, and are therefore meant by those who pay tribute, so it was brought about that neither the Lord nor Peter, but the ‘fish,’ which signified the natural man, should furnish the tribute.” See also Arcana Coelestia 6394: “Peter’s catching a fish out of the sea and finding in its mouth a piece of money which he was to give [to pay the temple tax], represented that the lowest natural, which serves, should do this; for ‘fishes’ signify this natural.”

15. Spiritual Diary 5002: “The life of every person is foreseen by the Lord, as to how long he will live, and in what manner; therefore, each person is directed from earliest infancy with a regard to a life to eternity. The Providence of the Lord, therefore, commences from earliest infancy.” It should be noted that Divine foresight is such that it foresees every possibility. However, because of human free will, which is never taken away, nothing is inevitable.

16. Arcana Coelestia 5122:3: “The Lord knows all things, and every single thing, provides for them every moment. If He were to pause even for an instant, all the progressions would be disturbed; for what is prior looks to what follows in a continuous series and produces a series of consequences to eternity. Therefore, it is plain that the Divine foresight and providence are in everything, even the very least; and that unless this were so, or if they were only universal, the human race would perish.”

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From Swedenborg's Works

Explanations or references:

Arcana Coelestia 6394

Apocalypse Revealed 405


References from Swedenborg's drafts, indexes & diaries:

Apocalypse Explained 513, 820

Related New Christian Commentary

  Stories and their meanings:



Hop to Similar Bible Verses

Exodus 30:12, 16

2 Kings 6:7

2 Chronicles 24:6, 9

Nehemiah 10:33

Bible Word Meanings

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

peter
Peter – born Simon, son of Jonah – is certainly one of the Bible's most important figures, second only to Jesus in the New Testament....

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...

saith
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...

simon
'Simon, son of Jonah,' as in John 21:15, signifies faith from charity. 'Simon' signifies worship and obedience, and 'Jonah,' a dove, which also signifies charity.

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...

sea
'The sea and the waves roaring' means heresy and controversies in the church and individual.

cast
For something to be cast down or cast out generally refers to a rather dramatic move from a higher spiritual state to a lower one....

fish
Fish signify sensual affections which are the ultimate affections of the natural man. Also, those who are in common truths, which are also ultimates of...

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

Resources for parents and teachers

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 The Lord Is Transfigured
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 9 - 12

 The Transfiguration
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 Transfiguration
Since His resurrection, the Lord appears in heaven much as He looked when He was transfigured so this is a wonderful project for children to do! 
Project | Ages 4 - 10

 The Transfiguration
A lesson for younger children with discussion ideas and a project.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 4 - 6

 The Transfiguration (3-5 years)
Project | Ages 4 - 6

 The Transfiguration (6-8 years)
Project | Ages 7 - 10

 The Transfiguration (9-11 years)
Project | Ages 11 - 14

 The Transfiguration: A Wonderful Vision
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Transfiguration: One Lord, Two Prophets, Three Disciples
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Ways That the Lord Appeared to People on Earth
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 9 - 12

Commentary

 

Exploring the Meaning of Matthew 17

     

By Rev. Dr. Ray Silverman

Chapter 17.

Glimpses of Heaven

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1. And after six days Jesus takes Peter, and James, and John his brother, and brings them up into a high mountain by themselves,

2. And was transformed before them; and His face shone as the sun, and His garments became white as the light.

3. And behold, there was seen by them Moses and Elijah, speaking with Him.

4. And Peter answering said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if Thou willest, let us make here three tabernacles: one for Thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”

5. While he was yet speaking, behold, an illuminated cloud overshadowed them; and behold, a voice out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye Him.”

6. And the disciples, hearing, fell on their face, and feared exceedingly.

7. And Jesus coming touched them, and said, “Arise, and be not afraid.”

8. And lifting up their eyes, they saw no one, except Jesus only.
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At the end of the previous episode, Jesus promised that “there are some standing here who shall not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.” In this next episode, He fulfills His promise — but not in the way that the disciples had expected. While they are thinking about a natural kingdom with thrones, imperial status, and political power, Jesus is preparing them for a spiritual kingdom that is governed by divine truth and filled with divine love. In this next episode, Jesus gives a few of His disciples a glimpse of that kingdom.

The disciples chosen for this special privilege are Peter, James and John. Leaving Caesarea Philippi, which is situated at the foot of Mt. Hermon, Jesus now takes these three disciples to the top of that mountain and there reveals Himself to them: “Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother and brought them up on a high mountain by themselves, and was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light” (17:1-2). 1

This mountain-top moment, known as “the Transfiguration,” is the spiritual fulfillment of what Jesus promised at the end of the preceding episode This is “the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.” It is a picture of what it is like to be in the presence of divine truth (“the Son of Man”) as it shines forth from the Word. The words “His face shone like the sun” is an image of God’s love, and “His clothes became as white as light” is an image of the truth that shines forth from that love. It is at moments like this that doubts about the divinity of the Word and the divinity of the Lord are overcome. The truth of Jesus’ divinity shines forth in fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy: “In that day … the light of the sun shall be as the light of seven days” (Isaiah 30:26).

This glimpse of divinity is granted everyone who undergoes the combats of temptation. It is granted to all who willingly lay down their life in the service of love and wisdom, and therefore find their life. In the Word, the labors of temptation are represented by the number “six.” As it is written, “Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh is the Sabbath” (Exodus 20:9). And as this episode begins, we read “After six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John, his brother, and brought them up on a high mountain.” 2

In the preceding episodes, Jesus has been teaching His disciples about the necessity of temptation, and preparing them for it. Jesus Himself will have to go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things before He will be raised up again. Similarly, we also must go through temptations so that our lower nature may be humbled and our higher nature “raised up.” These are the struggles that give us the opportunity to lay aside our selfish concerns. While the struggle can be difficult and arduous, it leads to mountain-top states. In the language of sacred scripture, this peak experience is described as “being on a high mountain with Jesus.”

When Jesus told His disciples that some of them “would not taste of death” until they saw Him coming in His kingdom, they could not have known that He was referring to Peter, James, and John. The question arises, therefore, why were these three selected, and not the others? Was it because they were specially favored? Or was it, perhaps, because of what they represented? As mentioned earlier, every disciple represents a specific spiritual principle. In this case, Peter, James, and John represent the three leading principles of our awakening spiritual life: Peter represents the principle of faith; James represents the principle of charity; and John,, who is the brother of James, represents the works of charity — that is, useful service to others. Note how closely related charity and the works of charity are: they are brothers. Since these are the three leading principles of our spiritual life, they are described as being separate from all the others: “He brought them up on a high mountain by themselves.” 3

Jesus now begins to perform another great wonder. Temporarily withdrawing them from the concerns of the body and the world, He opens their spiritual sight so that they might see heavenly things. 4 We, too, are sometimes granted an unearned glimpse of heaven so that we may be inspired to continue our journey. In this case, Peter, James, and John, are brought into an elevated spiritual state because Jesus wants to prepare them and strengthen them for the eventual temptations they will endure. Glimpses of heaven, such as this, are necessary in the beginning of regeneration. It is like the beginning of marriage when people experience a pure, heavenly love for their partner. They are convinced that they have found their true love, and will do anything for that person — even lay down their life. Recalling these glimpses of heaven can strengthen them when temptations arise. 5

On the mountain, Peter, James, and John are given a fleeting glimpse of Jesus in His Divine Humanity. The memory of this miraculous moment will serve them well throughout the temptations that lay ahead. It will also be important for them to know that Jesus is intimately connected to the Hebrew scriptures. We read therefore that “Moses and Elijah were seen along with Jesus, talking with Him” (17:3). This is a wonderful picture of the Law (Moses), the Prophets (Elijah) and Gospels (Jesus), now together as the complete Word of God — “speaking together.” In our temptation combats we need more than pleasant and delightful memories. We need more than “glimpses” of heaven. We also need the living truth of the Word, active in our minds, the law of Moses, the words of the Prophets, and the teachings of Jesus. And we need to see essential agreement among these teachings; we need to see them “speaking together.”

Peter, amazed and overwhelmed by this wonderful vision, expresses his desire to enshrine this memory in his heart forever: “Lord,” he says, “It is good for us to be here; if You wish, let us make here three tabernacles; one for You; one for Moses, and one for Elijah” (17:4). But even while Peter is still speaking, a response comes from heaven, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him’” (17:5). The voice from heaven does not say, “These are my three prophets. Hear them.” It says, “This is My beloved Son. Hear Him.”

The seamless connection of every episode — even very sentence — becomes especially clear in moments like this. Our spiritual rebirth may begin with seeing some truth shining from Word — the Son of Man coming in His kingdom. But the birth process cannot stop there. It’s not just about seeing the truth; it’s about hearing the truth. “Hear Him” says the voice.

The sense of hearing surpasses the sense of sight in that what is heard goes beyond what is seen. If we say to someone, “I hear you,” it means that we not only understand the meaning of the words; we also feel the affection behind the words. In scripture, “hearing the Word of the Lord,” is not just about listening; it’s also about having an inner perception of the truth and, at the same time, a worshipful desire to obey what has been heard. 6

Accordingly, when the disciples hear this voice from heaven, they fall on their faces and are greatly afraid (17:7). True adoration and worship is from a state of profoundest humility. It is the awe one feels in the presence of divinity. In states like this we experience something akin to reverential fear — the sense of how great God is, and how humbling it feels to be in His presence. It is from this state of utmost humility that we can be touched by the warmth and light of heaven. Therefore, we read, “Jesus came and touched them and said, ‘Arise, do not be afraid’” (17:7). They obey, and immediately they experience the profoundest, most interior moment of all. We read, “When they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only” (17:8). 7

The words, “They saw no one, but Jesus only” indicates that the whole Word points to Jesus only. In the words and life of Jesus, the whole of the law and the whole of the prophets is not only fulfilled but also infilled with more interior wisdom. Jesus becomes the way in which we understand the sacred truths contained within the Hebrew scriptures. As we read those scriptures in the light of Jesus’ teachings — lifting up our eyes — we are not just reading the words, we are hearing from the author Himself.

The Faith that Moves Mountains

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9. And as they came down from the mountain, Jesus commanded them, saying, “Tell the vision to no one, until the Son of Man rise again from the dead.”

10. And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Why then say the scribes that Elijah must first come?”

11. And Jesus answering said to them, “Elijah indeed comes first, and shall restore all things.

12. But I say unto you that Elijah has already come, and they did not know him, but have done unto him whatever they willed; so also the Son of Man is about to suffer by them”.

13. Then understood the disciples that He spoke to them concerning John the Baptist.

14. And when they had come to the crowd, there came to Him a man kneeling before Him, and saying,

15. “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is a lunatic, and suffers badly; for often he falls into the fire, and often into the water.

16. And I brought him to Thy disciples, and they could not cure him.”

17. And Jesus answering said, “O faithless and perverse generation, till when shall I be with you? Till when shall I bear with you? Bring him hither to Me.”

18. And Jesus rebuked him; and the demon came out of him; and the boy was cured from that [very] hour.

19. Then the disciples, coming to Jesus by themselves, said, “Why could not we cast him out?”

20. And Jesus said to them, “Because of your unbelief; for amen I say to you, If you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you shall say unto this mountain, ‘Pass on from here to there’; and it shall pass on; and nothing shall be impossible to you.

21. But this kind goes not out, except by prayer and fasting.”
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When Peter, James and John “lifted up their eyes” and saw “Jesus only” it was the end of their mountain-top vision. While it was merely a glimpse of heaven, it was an essential part of their preparation for the spiritual combats that they would soon have to undergo. It was now time to come down from the mountain and take on the normal routines of daily life.

The case is similar in our own lives. From time to time God allows us to experience “mountaintop states” in which we catch a glimpse of how wonderfully He has been working in our lives. Perhaps some truth from the Word shines forth with great glory, and we feel uplifted and inspired. Or maybe in a moment of reflection — whether it be on a mountaintop, or even in front of the mirror while brushing our teeth — we are given an insight which brings together a number of questions that have been on our mind. We feel elevated, and lifted to new heights.

But we cannot remain there. We need to take these new insights with us as we descend the mountain, and resume our lives in the world. While Peter wants to remain on the mountain and build a tabernacle there, the reality is that the true tabernacle is in our hearts, and remains with us wherever we go. It is a living tabernacle of flesh and blood and spirit. It is an inner tabernacle that, according to Isaiah, “will not be taken down, nor shall one of its stakes ever be removed, nor any of its cords be broken” (Isaiah 33:20).

The goal, then, is to come down from the mountain without losing our inspiration. The mountaintop vision should become an integral part of us as we reach out in useful service to others. This is, of course, what Jesus has in mind for His disciples, but He cautions them about the importance of keeping this experience confidential. As they come down from the mountain, Jesus says, “Tell the vision to no one until the Son of Man is risen from the dead” (17:9).

This is not the first time that Jesus tells His disciples to be quiet about their knowledge of His divinity. Just after Peter has confessed that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, Jesus commands the disciples to tell no one about it (16:20). And here He says something similar: “Tell the vision to no one.” Peter’s confession of faith at Caesarea Philippi and the vision on the mountaintop are important moments in the gradual revelation of Jesus’ divinity, but the disciples have still not undergone any serious spiritual challenges. They have not experienced the “sign of the prophet Jonah” — spiritual resurrection — in their own hearts. Neither have they experienced “the Son of man rising from the dead” — not just Jesus’ physical resurrection, but also some truth that Jesus has taught them rising up within them to give them life. Therefore, while they have witnessed amazing miracles and seen great visions, this is not the testimony Jesus is seeking. The only testimony He seeks from them — and from us — is the testimony which comes from a purified heart after the struggles of temptation. 8

This is why we must continually return to the plain of our everyday lives, no matter how high we have climbed in the mountains of elevated insight, no matter what kind of “emotional high” we may have experienced. No matter how high we have risen, we must return to the world of application and service. And so, as Jesus and His three disciples return from their mountaintop adventure, they are immediately given an opportunity to be useful: a man approaches the disciples and asks them to heal his son. The disciples, who have been given the power to heal and the cast out demons, are unsuccessful: “I brought him to your disciples,” the man says to Jesus, “But they were unable to cure him” (17:16).

This is the first time that the disciples have attempted to cure someone — and this first attempt is a failure. 9 Jesus appears to be displeased with them: “O faithless and perverse generation,” He says, “How long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you?” (17:17). Jesus then cures the boy instantly: “And Jesus rebuked the demon, and he came out of him; and the child was cured from that very hour” (17:18).

It seems as though Jesus is upset with the disciples, calling them “faithless” and “perverse” — rather strong language — simply because they are unable to cure the demon-possessed child. What can this mean? They have just come down from a mountaintop experience where they have been given a special glimpse of Jesus’ divinity. Their faith must have been at an all-time high. Earlier, Jesus promised to give them “power over unclean spirits, to cast them out” and He commanded them to “heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, and cast out demons” (10:8). Why, then, could they not do so now?

Speaking privately with Jesus, they ask: “Why could we not cast him out?” And Jesus answers, “Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you” (17:20).

The story of enlightenment on the mountain followed by failure in the valley contains a vital spiritual lesson. If enlightenment is not followed by strong faith in the source of that enlightenment, the experience can lead to feelings of conceit, of being specially chosen, of being highly privileged, and therefore of being better than others. True enlightenment is just the opposite. It is always attended with a sense of humility and gratitude. It reveals to us our essentially sinful nature. We come to see that we are less worthy than others, and that we deserve hell rather than heaven. This is enlightenment. While Peter, James, and John caught a glimpse of this on the mountaintop when they fell on their faces in reverential fear, it is a lesson in humility that the disciples would still need to learn. 10

The power of humility, which is the only thing that can receive the Lord’s power, can move mountains — mountains of self-love, inordinate pride, and superiority. But this takes a special kind of faith, the faith that we have no power at all from ourselves, and that all power is from the Lord alone. 11

Jesus then explains how this faith should be practiced. Referring to the demons that had been possessing the boy, Jesus says, “This kind only goes out by prayer and fasting” (17:21). “Prayer,” in essence, is turning to the Lord and receiving the good and truth that flow in from Him; “fasting” is refusing to accept the evil and falsity that flow in from hell. 12

This is the faith that not only casts out demons, but also moves mountains.

Paying Taxes

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22. And while they were occupied in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is about to be delivered up into the hands of men;

23. And they shall kill Him; and on the third day He shall be raised up.” And they sorrowed greatly.

24. And when they were come to Capernaum, they that received the didrachma came to Peter, and said, “Does not your Teacher pay the didrachma?”

25. He says, “Yes.” And when he had come into the house, Jesus came before him, saying, “What thinkest thou, Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth take tribute or duty? From their own sons, or from strangers?”

26. Peter says to Him, “From strangers.” Jesus declares to him, “Therefore the sons are free.

27. But lest we should offend them, go thou to the sea, cast a hook, and take up the fish that first comes up, and when thou hast opened its mouth, thou shalt find a stater; that take, and give unto them for Me and thee.”
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As we descend the mountain of enlightenment, and enter daily life, there will not only be demons to cast out, but also civic duties to fulfill. A simple duty that awaits us when we “come down from the mountain” is that of paying taxes. Although tax-paying cannot compare with the majesty of our mountaintop states, or the essential work of removing evils, it still must be done. True spirituality involves all aspects of life, spiritual like as well as natural life. While we are in this world, we cannot be purely spiritual beings without also caring for temporal and worldly things. In fact, a responsible civic life provides a firm foundation for a spiritual life, even as the body provides a solid structure through which the spirit can operate. 13

Therefore, it is fitting that in the next episode Jesus is confronted with the question of whether or not it is appropriate for Him and His disciples to pay the temple tax. This was an annual tax, required of all Israelites, for the support and maintenance of the temple in Jerusalem. Since Jesus and His disciples were under the constant criticism of the corrupt temple authorities, the question of whether Jesus should pay the temple tax, or refuse to do so, is an important one. Should Jesus and His disciples continue to support a corrupt religious establishment?

Jesus is planning to pay the temple tax, but in a way that demonstrates that He does not directly support what the religious leaders have been doing. Moreover, He will use this situation as an opportunity to teach an enduring spiritual lesson about how the cares and concerns of everyday life must be subordinated to more interior, spiritual principles. In other words, spiritual values should never be ruled over, or be submissive to, materialistic concerns. The higher must rule over the lower — and never the other way around.

This is the interior lesson contained in Jesus’ words to Peter. “Go to the sea,” He says, “cast in a hook, and take the first fish that comes up. And when you open the fish’s mouth, you will find a coin” (17:27). Peter does so, and, miraculously, out of the sea containing thousands of fish, the first fish he catches has a coin in its mouth. Moreover,

the coin is exactly the amount needed to pay the temple tax for both Jesus and Peter. “Take the coin,” says Jesus, “and give it to them for Me and for you” (17:27).

This is a further manifestation of Jesus’ divinity. How could He have known that a coin would be in the mouth of a fish, and that the value of the coin would be exactly enough to pay the temple tax for Him and for Peter? And, at a more interior level, how could He have had the wisdom to provide an incident that perfectly answers the difficult question about paying the temple tax?

The question is answered on two levels. First, on the most external level, Jesus seems to be saying that the Lord will always provide, even in the most miraculous of ways. Therefore, there is never any need to worry. But at a more interior level Jesus is saying that natural life, represented by a fish in the water, must serve the higher, spiritual principles of our life represented by Jesus and Peter. The fact that neither Jesus nor Peter is directly providing that support — but rather paying indirectly from a fish caught in the water — demonstrates that neither Jesus (who represents that which is Divine) and Peter (who represents faith in that which is Divine) directly supports the temple. 14

A further wonder contained in this incident involves the details of the fishing incident. These include going fishing in the sea, the hook used to catch the fish, opening the mouth of the fish, and the silver coin that is extracted from the fish’s mouth. Whenever we go to the Word and search for some truth, we are “going fishing.” The “hook” that we use is our sincere desire to be enlightened so that we might discover some truth that will help us lead better lives. The “fish” that we catch is a literal teaching from the Word; and the silver coin that we extract from the fish’s mouth is the more interior truth contained within that literal teaching; this more interior truth shines forth, like bright silver, with a direct application to our lives.

In all of this, however, we should keep in mind the most general teaching of this entire sequence episodes, beginning with the transfiguration on the mountaintop. No matter how high we rise spiritually, it all must be brought down into practical life. While this chapter begins on the mountaintop where Jesus reveals Himself to the disciples in His transfigured glory, it ends by the sea, in a simple rustic scene describing a coin found in the mouth of a fish. In this closing scene, Jesus reveals both His omniscience and His omnipotence, demonstrating that His shining glory on the mountaintop is as universal as His splendor by the sea. It is everywhere, filling the universe, and providing for each of us at every moment.

One of the more obvious takeaways is that Peter would not have to worry about the temple tax; in his case, the funds would be miraculously provided. While this should not be interpreted to mean that the Lord will always cover our financial obligations, it does provide assurance that He will abundantly fill our spiritual needs in ways that are often surprising — even as the disciples found a coin in the mouth of a fish. In His omniscience, God is guiding us at all times, arranging the circumstances of our life in every least detail — from the top of the mountain to the bottom of the sea — so as to lead us into the greatest joy we can possibly receive.

In His omniscience, the Lord perceives the possible outcomes of every decision we make. Because of this, He is with us every step of the way; He foresees the possibilities of wrong turns we might take, while simultaneously leading us — if we are willing to follow — into paths that lead to greatest joy. As the psalmist writes, “Thou wilt show me the path of life. In Thy presence is fullness of joy; at Thy right hand there are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11). 15

In the miracle of the coin in the fish’s mouth, Jesus reveals the omniscience of God — a divine omniscience that both foresees and provides a wonderful pathway for each of us to follow. The awareness of this profound truth can lead us into surrender to the Lord’s will, faith in His leading, and, finally, into states of profoundest humility. 16

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Footnotes:

1. Some scholars have claimed that the transfiguration took place on Mt. Tabor in Galilee. But in the previous episode Jesus was in Caesarea Phillipi (in the foothills of Mt. Hermon). Moreover, Mt. Tabor is not a “high mountain,” being only 1,750 feet tall, while Mt. Hermon is the tallest mountain in Israel, reaching upwards to 9,400 feet. It would, therefore, seem appropriate that the transfiguration took place on Mt. Hermon — not on Mt. Tabor.

2Arcana Coelestia 737:2: “Genesis 1 describes the six days of a person’s regeneration prior to becoming celestial. During those six days there is constant conflict, but on the seventh day comes rest. Consequently there are six days of labor, and the seventh is the Sabbath, a word which means rest. This also is why a Hebrew slave was to serve for six years and in the seventh was to go free” See also, Arcana Coelestia 8494: “ The word ‘rest’ signifies a state of peace when there is no temptation . . . such as there was on the days of the Sabbath. . . . But the six preceding days represented the combat and labor, consequently the temptations, which precede a state of peace; for after temptations comes a state of peace, and then there is the conjunction of good and truth.”

3Apocalypse Explained 64[2]: “The Lord took Peter, James, and John, because by them the church in respect to faith, charity, and the works of charity was represented; He took them ‘into a high mountain,’ because ‘mountain’ signifies heaven; ‘His face did shine as the sun,’ because ‘face’ signifies the interiors, and it did shine as the sun because His interiors were Divine, for the ‘sun’ signifies Divine love.” See also Arcana Coelestia 7038:3: “The Lord loved John more than the rest; but this was not for his own sake, but because he represented the exercises of charity, that is, uses.”

4Heaven and Hell 119: “The Lord was seen by the disciples when they were withdrawn from the body and were in the light of heaven.” See also Arcana Coelestia 1530: “He so appeared to them because their interior sight was opened.”

5Conjugial Love 333: “Are there not and have there not been men who, for the woman they long for and implore to be their bride, regard their very life as worthless and wish to die if she does not consent to their entreaty — evidence, as also testified to by the many battles of rival suitors even to their death, that this love exceeds love of life?

6Apocalypse Explained 14: “The things that enter by the sense of sight, enter into the understanding and enlighten it … but the things that enter by the sense of hearing, enter into the understanding and at the same time into the will…. That the things which enter by hearing, enter directly by the understanding into the will, may be further illustrated from the instruction of the angels of the celestial kingdom, who are the wisest; these receive all their wisdom by hearing and not by sight; for whatever they hear of Divine things, they receive in the will from veneration and love, and make a part of their life.”

7Arcana Coelestia 3719: “In the internal sense ‘fear’ signifies what is sacred … [It is a state of] veneration and reverence, or reverential fear.”

8. This will become a major theme in the Gospel According to Mark.

9. It is recorded that Jesus gave them “power over unclean spirits” (10:1) and commanded them to “cast out demons” (10:8), but up to this point Matthew does not record any instances of them performing any of these actions.

10Arcana Coelestia 2273: “A person is not saved on account of temptations if he places anything of merit in them; for if he does this, it is from the love of self, in that he congratulates himself on their account, and believes that he has merited heaven more than others, and at the same time he is thinking of his own preeminence over others by despising others in comparison with himself; all of which things are contrary to mutual love, and therefore to heavenly blessedness. The temptations in which a person overcomes are attended with a belief that all others are more worthy than himself, and that he is infernal rather than heavenly.”

11Apocalypse Explained 405: “The Lord spoke those things to the disciples when they supposed that they could do miracles from their own faith, thus from themselves, when notwithstanding such things are only done by faith derived from the Lord, and thus by the Lord.”

12Arcana Coelestia 6206: “All evil flows in from hell, and all good through heaven from the Lord.”

13Heaven and Hell 528: “To receive the life of heaven a person must needs live in the world and engage in the duties and employments there, and by means of a moral and civil life receive the spiritual life. In no other way can the spiritual life be formed with a person, or a person’s spirit prepared for heaven; for to live an internal life and not at the same time an external life is like dwelling in a house that has no foundation, that gradually sinks or becomes cracked and rent asunder, or totters till it falls.”

14Apocalypse Explained 513:18: “What is natural is subject to what is spiritual and serves it, for the spiritual man is like a lord, and the natural man like a servant; and as the natural are servants, and are therefore meant by those who pay tribute, so it was brought about that neither the Lord nor Peter, but the ‘fish,’ which signified the natural man, should furnish the tribute.” See also Arcana Coelestia 6394: “Peter’s catching a fish out of the sea and finding in its mouth a piece of money which he was to give [to pay the temple tax], represented that the lowest natural, which serves, should do this; for ‘fishes’ signify this natural.”

15Spiritual Diary 5002: “The life of every person is foreseen by the Lord, as to how long he will live, and in what manner; therefore, each person is directed from earliest infancy with a regard to a life to eternity. The Providence of the Lord, therefore, commences from earliest infancy.” It should be noted that Divine foresight is such that it foresees every possibility. However, because of human free will, which is never taken away, nothing is inevitable.

16Arcana Coelestia 5122:3: “The Lord knows all things, and every single thing, provides for them every moment. If He were to pause even for an instant, all the progressions would be disturbed; for what is prior looks to what follows in a continuous series and produces a series of consequences to eternity. Therefore, it is plain that the Divine foresight and providence are in everything, even the very least; and that unless this were so, or if they were only universal, the human race would perish.”

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The Bible

 

Isaiah 33:20

Study the Inner Meaning

              

20 Look upon Zion, the city of our solemnities: thine eyes shall see Jerusalem a quiet habitation, a tabernacle that shall not be taken down; not one of the stakes thereof shall ever be removed, neither shall any of the cords thereof be broken.

   Study the Inner Meaning

Explanation of Isaiah 33      

By Rev. John H. Smithson

THE EXPLANATION of Isaiah Chapter 33

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

1. WOE unto you, you spoiler, who has not been spoiled; and who dealest treacherously, and they have not dealt treacherously with you! when you shalt cease to spoil, you shalt be spoiled; and when you shalt make an end to deal treacherously, they shall deal treacherously with you.

VERSE 1. There are two kinds of "desolation" or of "devastation", or of" spoiling", mentioned in the Word. One is predicated of the regenerate, which is apparent only; the other of the unregenerate or of the evil, and is absolute. The man who is born within the church, from earliest childhood learns out of the Word, and from the doctrinals of the church, what the Truth of faith is, and also what the Good of charity is; but when he becomes adult, he begins either to confirm in himself, or to deny in himself, the Truths of faith which he had learnt, for he then looks at them with his own proper sight; thereby he causes them either to be appropriated to himself, or to be rejected: for nothing can be appropriated to anyone which is not acknowledged from his own proper intuition, that is, which he does not know from himself, not from another, to be so. The Truths, therefore, which he had imbibed from childhood, could not enter further into his life than to the first entrance, from which they may be admitted more interiorly, or else be cast forth abroad. With those who are regenerated, that is, who the Lord foresees will suffer themselves to be regenerated, those Truths are exceedingly multiplied, for all such are in the affection of knowing Truths, but when they accede nearer to the very act of regeneration, they are, as it were, deprived of those Truths, which are then drawn inwards, and in this case the man appears in desolaiion; nevertheless those Truths are successively remitted into the natural principle, and are there conjoined with Good, during man's regeneration. But with those who are not regenerated, that is, who the Lord foresees will not suffer themselves to be regenerated, Truths indeed are wont to be multiplied, inasmuch as they are in the affection of knowing such things for the sake of reputation, honour, and gain; but when they come to maturer age, and submit those Truths to their own proper sight, in this case they either do not believe, or they deny, or turn them into falsities; thus Truths with such are not drawn inwards, but are cast forth abroad, yet still they remain in the memory for the sake of ends in the world without life. This state is also called "desolation" or " devastation", but it differs from the former in that the desolation of the former state is apparent, whereas the desolation of this state is absolute: for in the former state man is not deprived of Truths, but in this latter state he is altogether deprived of them. These two kinds of "desolation" and of "devastation" are often mentioned in the Word. (See Chapter 49:17, 18, 19, the Exposition.) How the case is with "desolation", is evident from those who are in desolation in the other life. They are vexed by evil spirits and genii, who infuse persuasions of what is evil and false, insomuch that they are almost overflooded, in consequence of which Truths do not appear; but as the time of desolation comes to an end, they are illustrated by light from heaven, and thus the evil spirits and genii are driven away everyone into his own hell, where they undergo punishments. In Isaiah it is said- "Woe unto you, you spoiler; who has not been spoiled, and who dealest treacherously", etc.; (Isaiah 33:1) by which is meant that the "spoiler", or those [the evil spirits] who devastate and cause devastation to the good, will, in their turn, be devastated of everything true and good in the external which they had assumed, and be cast into hell; hence it is that a "woe" is denounced against them. Arcana Coelestia 5376.

To "deal treacherously", or perfidiously; is to act against revealed Truths.. Apocalypse Explained 710. See above, Chapter 21:2, the Exposition.

2. O Jehovah, have mercy on us; we have waited for You: be You their arm every morning; even our salvation in the time of distress.

Verse 2. We often read of "morning" in the Word, and it has a various signification according to the series of things treated of in the internal sense; in the supreme sense it signifies the Lord, and also His coning; by it, in the internal sense, is signified His kingdom and church, and their state of peace; it signifies, moreover, the first state of a New Church, and also a state of love, likewise a state of illustration, consequently a state of intelligence and wisdom, find also a state of conjunction of Good and Truth, which is when the internal man is conjoined to the external. The ground and reason why "morning" has such various significations is, because in the suprerne sense it signifles the Divine Human of the Lord; and hence it likewise signifies all those things which proceed from Him, so that He Himself is there. The reason why the Divine Human of the Lord in the supreme sense is understood by "morning" is, because the Lord is the Sun of the angelic heaven, and the Sun of that heaven does not make a progression from morning to evening, or from rising to setting, as the sun of the world does to appearances but it remains constant in its place, in front above the heavens; hence it is that it is always in the morninq, and never in the evening; and inasmuch as all intelligence and wisdom which the angels possess, exists with them from the Lord as a Sun, therefore also their state of love, and their state of wisdom and intelligence, and, in general, their state of illustration, is signified by "morning"; for those things proceed from the Lord as a Sun, and what proceeds from Hirn is Himself, for from the Divine nothing but what is Divine proceeds, and everything Divine is Himself. That the Lord is the Sun of the angelic heaven, and that from Him, as a Sun, exists all love, wisdom, and intelligence, and, in general, all illustration as to divine Truths, from which wisdom is derived, may be seen in the work concerning Heaven and Hell 116-125, 126-143, 155, 156. Apocalypse Explained 179.

Be You their arm, every morning. - That the "hands", the "arms", and the "shoulders" correspond to power in the Grand Man, is because the forces and powers of the whole body, and of all its viscera, relate to those members, for the body exercises its powers by the arms and the hands. Hence also it is that, in the Word, powers are signified :by the "'hands", the "arms", and the "shoulders", as might be proved by many passages, as in Isaiah:

"Be You their arm every morning. (See also Isaiah 40:10; 44:12; 51:5) Arcana Coelestia 4933. See also above, Chapter 5:25, the Exposition.

3. At the voice of the tumult the peoples flee; at the lifting up of Yourself the nations are scattered.

Verse 3. "Peoples" here signify falsities, and "nations" evils, which, at the time of Judgment, are said "to flee and to be scattered." Apocalypse Explained 331.

4. And your spoil shall be gathered, as the caterpillar gathereth: as the running to and fro of locusts, so shall he run upon it.

Verse 4. The false in extremes, or the most dense false, is here signified [by the "caterpillar" and] by the "locusts", as is evident from many passages in the Word, especially from the Apocalypse, Chapter ix., "where" locusts" were seen ascending from the bottomless pit. The "locust" specifically signifies the sensual principle, which is the ultimate of the life of man, or the ultimate in which terminates and upon which rests the understanding of man. Hence this ultimate is like a basis upon which interior or superior principles, which belong to the will and to the understanding of man, rest as upon their foundation. In like manner the interior and superior things of the Word, which are called spiritual and celestial, since they must have a foundation upon which they can stand and subsist, wherefore the literal sense of the Word, which is its ultimate and its basis, is natural and sensual, and is also, in a good sense, understood by the "locust"; consequently the Good and Truth of the literal sense is understood by "locusts." Hence it was that John the Baptist "fed upon locusts", (Matthew 3:4; Mark 1:6) and that the, people of Israel were "permitted to eat them." (Leviticus 11:20-22) Apocalypse Explained 543.

5. Jehovah is exalted; yea, He dwells on high: He has filled Zion with judgment and justice.

Verse 5. What is Divine is signified by what is "exalted" and "high"; hence it is that Jehovah, or the Lord, is said "to be exalted, and to dwell on high." See also Isaiah 57:15, and many other passages. Arcana Coelestia 8153.

6. And wisdom and knowledge shall be the stability of your times, the strength of [your] salvations: the fear of Jehovah, this shall be his treasure.

Verse 6. "Wisdom" and "knowledge" signify the Good of faith conjoined with its Truth. The fear of Jehovah, a treasure", is the Good of love. Arcana Coelestia 2826.

7. Behold, the mighty men shall cry without: the angels of peace shall weep bitterly [saying],

Verses 7, 8. Inasmuch as peace is of the Lord, and in heaven from Him, therefore the angels are there called "the angels of peace:" and as there is no peace to those upon earth who are in evils and falsities thence derived, therefore it is said that "they weep bitterly [saying], The highways are devastated; the wayfaring man ceases"; "paths" and "ways" signifying the goods of life and truths of faith; wherefore "the highways being devastated" slgnify the goods of life being no more, and "the wayfaring man having ceased." signifies the same with respect to the truths of faith. A.. Apocalypse Explained 365.

8. The highways are devastated; the wayfaring man ceases: he has broken the covenant; he has despised the cities; he regards no man,

Verse 8. The devastation of the church is here treated of. "The highways are devastated, the wayfaring man ceases", signifies that the goods and truths which lead to heaven were no more; "he has broken the covenant", signifies that there was no conjunction with the Lord; "he has despised the cities", denotes that they refuse doctrine; "he regards no man", signifies that they make no account of wisdom. Apocalypse Explained 280.

Verses 8, 9. To "despise the cities", denotes to despise truths of doctrine; to "regard no man", is not to consider Truth and Good. "The earth mourns, it langnisheth", is the church as to Good; "Lebanon is ashamed, it withers", is the church as to Truth. Apocalypse Explained 223.

9. The earth mourns, it languishes: Lebanon is ashamed, it withers: Sharon is become like a desert; and Bashan and Carmel shake off [their leaves].

Verse 9. Where also the "earth" denotes the church, which is said to "mourn" and to "languish" when falsities begin to be apprehended and acknowledged for Truths, wherefore it is said "Lebanon is ashamed, it withers"; by "Lebanon" is signified the same as by the "cedar", namely, the Truth of the church. Apocalypse Explained 304.

Sharon is become like a desert. - "Sharon" is the internal of the celestial church. Arcana Coelestia 10609.

Basham and Carmel, etc. - "Bashan" is the good of the natural principle. (Arcana Coelestia 3923)

But what it means, in a bad sense, and what the "Oaks of Bashan " signify, see Chapter 2:12-17, the Exposition.

10. Now will I arise, says Jehovah; now will I lift up Myself; now will I be exalted.

Verses 10, [The Lord's rising to Judgment is here described, and, instead of producing the fruits represented by "Sharon", "Bashan", and "Carmel", which denote the celestial, spiritual, and natural good of the church, which the wicked, or the "hypocrites", had assumed in the external whilst they lived in the world, they will now" conceive chaff, and bring forth stubble", which are the fallacies and falsities conjoined with the evils in their internal, which at Judgment are brought forth to their condemnation.]

11. You shall conceive chaff; you shall bring forth stubble: as to your spirit, fire shall consume you.

Verse 11. "The spirit whichfire shall consume" signifies the understanding of Truth, thus intelligence; "fire" is lust or concupiscence which, because it is from evil, destroys. Arcana Coelestia 9818. See also True Christian Religion 156.

Verses 11, 12, 14. As to your spirit, fire shall consume you" etc.Where "fire", in the Word, is predicated of the evil and of the hells, it signifies the love of self and of the world, and thence every evil affection and cupidity which torment the wicked after death in hell. The reason of this opposite signification of "fire" is, because the Divine Love, when it descends out of heaven, and falls into the societies where the evil are, is turned into a love contrary to the Divine Love, and thence into various burnings of concupiscences and cupidities, and thus into evils of every kind; and inasmuch as evils carry with them the punishments of evil, hence arise their torments from this conversion of the Divine Love into infernal love with the evil. The hells, where the love of self and of the world, and thence hatred and revenge, have rule, appear as in a flaming fire, both within and round about, although no fire is perceived by the diabolic crew who are in those hells; from these loves, also, the diabolic crew themselves, who are in such hells, appear with their faces inflamed and reddening as from fire. Hence may appear the signification of "fire" in the above passage, and in the following:

"Wickedness burns like a fire: the brier and the thorn it shall consume, and it shall kindle the thicket of the wood; and they shall mount up in a volume of smoke, And the people shall be as food for the fire: a man shall not spare his brother." (Isaiah 9:18, 19)

And Again,

"All the people shall be for burning, even food for the fire." (Isaiah 9:5) Apocalypse Explained 504.

12. And the peoples shall be as the burnings of lime; as the thorns are cut up, and burned in the fire.

Verse 12. "Thorns burned in the fire" signify falsities, which catch fire and consume Goods and Truths. Arcana Coelestia 9144.

As to what is understood by "thorns" and "briers", see above, Chapter 7:23, 24, 25, the Exposition.

["Burnings of lime" signify evils of life, and "thorns" are falsities conjoined with those evils.]

13. Hear, O you that are afar off, what I have done; and acknowledge, O you that are near, My power.

14. The sinners in Zion are afraid; terror has seized the hypocrites. Who among us can abide this devouring fire? who among us can abide these everlasting burnings?

Verse 13. What is meant by being "far off" and "near", see Chapter 5:26, 28; also Chapter 34:1, the Exposition.

15. He who walks in justice, and speaks right things; who despises the gain of oppressions; who shakes his hands from holding a bribe; who stoppeth his ear from the hearing of bloodshed; who shutteth his eyes from seeing evil:

16. He shall dwell in the high places; the strongholds of the rocks shall be his place of defence: his bread shall be given him; his waters shall be sure.

Verses 15, 17. To "walk in justice" and to "speak right things", signifies to live in the Good of love and charity, and to think and perceive Truths; for to "walk" signifies to live, "justice" is predicated of Good, and "right things" of Truth. To "see the King in His beauty", signifies to attain to wisdom; for "king" denotes Truth from Good, and "beauty" its wisdom, forasmuch as in wisdom Divine Truth is in its beautiful form. "They shall behold the land far extended", signifies the extension of wisdom into heaven; for "land" or the "earth" signifies the church and also heaven, and "far extended" signifies extension there. Apocalypse Explained 453.

Who shutteth his eyes from seeing evil: thine eyes shall see the King in His beauty. - To "shut the eyes from seeing evil", denotes not to admit evil into the thought. That "the eyes should see the King in His beauty", signifies that they should understand Truth in its own light with pleasantness; for by the "King" in this passage is not understood any king, but Truth, as may be seen above, n. 31. Apocalypse Explained 152.

17. Thine eyes shall see the King in His beauty: they shall behold the land far extended.

Verse 17. They shall behold the land far extended, etc. - To "see the King in His beauty", denotes genuine Truth which is from the Lord; to "behold the land far extended" [or of far distances], signifies the extension of wisdom and intelligence. Apocalypse Explained 304.

18. Thine heart shall meditate terror. Where is the scribe ? where is the weigher? where is he that numbered the towers?

19. You shalt not see a fierce people, a people of a deep speech, which you couldst not hear; and of a barbarous tongue of no understanding.

Verses 18, 19. The above words signify remembrance of the state of the church when there is no intelligence nor wisdom, and when interior Truths are falsified. "Terror" denotes that state; "scribe" means intelligence; the "weigher" denotes wisdom; "towers" denote interior Truths; and to destroy the quality thereof by falsifications is here signified by "numbering" them. "You shalt not see a fierce [or obstinate] people", signifies those who are in the falsities of evil, and, abstractedly, those falsities; "a people of a deep speech", signifies falsities of doctrine confirmed until they appear as Truths; "speech" denoting the Truth of doctrine, but, in the present case, the false not visible. Apocalypse Explained 453.

Verse 18. Where is he that numbered the towers ?-As to the signification of "numbering", in a bad sense, see Chapter 22:10, the Exposition.

20. Look unto Zion, the city of our appointed feasts: thine eyes shall behold Jerusalem, a quiet habitation, a tabernacle that shall not be taken down: whose stakes shall not be removed for ever, and of whose cords none shall be plucked up.

21. But Jehovah shall be magnificent unto us, a place of rivers and of streams, and of broad spaces, in which no ship with oars shall pass, neither shall any magnificent vessel go through.

Verse 20. By " Zion" is not understood Zion, nor by "Jerusalem " Jerusalem, but heaven and the church, as to the Good of Love and the Truth of Doctrine. These are "a quiet habitation", and "a tabernacle which shall not be taken down" or dissipated. By "the stakes that shall not be removed", is signified confirmation by divine Truths; and by "the cords which shall not be plucked up [or rent asunder]", is signified conjunction by divine Good. Apocalypse Explained 709.

A tabernacle that shull not be taken down, etc. - The reason why a "tabernacle" signifies the church as to doctrine and worship, is, because they who were of the church in the most ancient times dwelt in tabernacles and tents, with which also they journeyed; for in those times they were mostly feeders of sheep, and the father of the family taught those who were descended from his house the precepts of charity, and thence the life of love, in tabernacles, as was the case afterwards, in temples, Hence the "tabernacle" signified the same as the "house of God", that is, the worship of God according to doctrine, consequently also the church, inasmuch as the church is a church from a life according to doctrine, and a life according to doctrine is worship. Inasmuch as those most ancient people, with whom the church was, adored God under a human form, ' and under a human form is the Lord, they consequently worshipped Him; hence their church was a celestial church, which is distinguished from the spiritual church in this, that the celestial church, is in love to the Lord and in worship from that love, and the spiritual church is in love towards the neighbour and in worship from that love; and whereas such was the quality of the church with the most ancient people, and the doctrine of love to the Lord was taught in their tabernacles, and, hence tabernacles were loved by the Lord above temples, therefore, by command of the Lord on Mount Sinai, a tabernacle was built, in which the Israelitish nation might perform holy worship; and afterwards, in memory of this most holy worship, the "feast of tabernacles" was instituted. Apocalypse Explained 799.

Verses 20, 21. By "Zion and Jerusalem." is understood the church of the Lord; by "Zion" the church where the Good of love is the ruling principle, and by "Jerusalem" the church where the Truth of doctrine is the ruling principle. Jehovah is called "magnificent" when the men of the church are of such a nature and quality as to be receptive of divine Good and Truth from the Lord; and Zion and Jerusalem are called "a place of rivers and of streams, and of broad spaces", when all their intelligence and wisdom, and Good and Truth, are from the Lord; "rivers" denoting wisdom, "streams" intelligence, and the "broad spaces" Truths from Good in multitude and extension. "No ship wth oars shall pass, neither shall any magnificent vessel go through", signifies that in the church there shall be no lntelhgence and wisdom from the proprlum; for the "ship with oars" is intelligence from the proprium, because it is moved by men by means of oars; and the "magnificent vessel" is wisdom from the proprium, because man, by reason of that wisdom, glories and is proud, for a "ship", when it is going along and paesmg through the sea, being then in its course, carrying its wealth, signifies intelligence and wisdom. That a ship is not here [literally] understood, is evident, for it is said concerning Zion and Jerusalem. Apocalypse Explained 514.

As to the signification of "ships", and especially of the "ships of Tarshish", see above, Chapter 23:1-3, the Exposition.

22. For Jehovah is our Judge; Jehovah is our Lawgiver; Jehovah is our King: He shall save us.

Verse 22. The Lord is a "Judge", because He acts from Good; He is a "Lawgiver" or "Legislator", because He acts from Truth by that Good; and He is a "King", because He acts from Truth; thus these things follow in order. Arcana Coelestia 6372.

23. Your cords are loosed; they could not well strengthen their mast; they could not spread the sail: then is the prey of a great spoil divided; the lame take the prey.

Verse 23. That "cords" and "ropes" signify coujunction mediums, see Chap: Isaiah 5:18, the Exposition. [When Truths are separated from Good, as in this verse, they have no longer any power to support the doctrine (ship) In which the mind of man can trust for salvation; see verse 20, where "cords" are used in a good sense.]

The lame take the prey. - By the "lame", in the Word, are signified [In a bad sense] those who are in no good, and hence in no truth as in Isaiah 33:23. In the original tongue, "to be lame" is expressed by one term, and "to halt" by another. By the "lame", in a proper sense, are signified those who are In natural good, into which spiritual truths cannot flow, on account of the natural appearances and fallacies of the senses; and, in the opposite sense, those who are in no natural good, but in evil, which entirely prevents the influx of spiritual Truth. But by "halting", in a proper sense, are signified those who are in natural good in which common [or general] truths are admitted, but not particular and singular truths, because of ignorance; but, in the opposite sense, those who are in evil, and thus who do not even admit general truths. Arcana Coelestia 4302.

[By the "prey" which the lame are here said to take is signified the literal sense, the spoil of the Assyrian army, which, as it signified falsified and perverted truths and adulterated goods, was taken, .according to the above extract, by the "lame" in a bad sense' that is appropriated to the evil when separated at the time of Judgment from the good, and cast into hell, which was signified by the total destruction of the Assyrian army, as recorded in Chapter Isaiah 37:36.]

24. And the inhabitant shall not say, I am sick: the people that dwell therein shall be forgiven their iniquity.

Verse 24. As to what is signified by "sickness", "diseases", "wounds", "bruises" and "sores" when mentioned in the Word, see Chapter 1:6, 7, the Exposition.

The people that dwell therein shall be forgiven their iniquity. - It is commonly supposed that when sins are remitted, they, are wiped away or washed off as filth is by water; but sins are not wiped Rway, but removed, that is, man is withheld from them when he is kept in good by the Lord; and, when this is the case, it appears to him as if he were without his sins, thus as if they were wiped away. And, so far as man is reformed, so far he is capable of being kept in good. How this reformation is effected, will be shown in the following chapter on Regeneration. He who supposes that sins are remitted in any other way is greatly deceived. The evidences that accompany the remission, that is, the removal, of sins, are the following. They whose sins are remitted experience a delight in worshipping God for His own sake, and in serving the neighbour for the sake of the neighbour; in doing good for the sake of good, and in speaking truth for the sake of truth. Such persons disclaim all merit in the exercise of their charity and faith; they are utterly averse to all evils, as enmity, hatred, revenge, adultery; and not only do they shun them, but they abhor the very thought of them connected with any intention. But the evidences that sins are not remitted, or removed, are these. They whose sins are not remitted do not worship God for His own sake, or serve the neighbour for his own sake; thus they do not do good and speak truth for the sake of good and truth, but for the sake of themselves and the world. They claim merit on account of their deeds; they perceive nothing undelightful in evils, such as enmity, hatred, revenge, and adultery; and, influenced with these lusts, they cherish the thought of them in all licentiousness. The New Jerusalem and its Heavenly Doctrine 166, 167.

---
Isaiah Chapter 33

1. WOE unto you, you spoiler, who has not been spoiled; and who dealest treacherously, and they have not dealt treacherously with you! when you shalt cease to spoil, you shalt be spoiled; and when you shalt make an end to deal treacherously, they shall deal treacherously with you.

2. O Jehovah, have mercy on us; we have waited for You: be You their arm every morning; even our salvation in the time of distress.

3. At the voice of the tumult the peoples flee; at the lifting up of Yourself the nations are scattered.

4. And your spoil shall be gathered, as the caterpillar gathereth: as the running to and fro of locusts, so shall he run upon it.

5. Jehovah is exalted; yea, He dwelleth on high: He has filled Zion with judgment and justice.

6. And wisdom and knowledge shall be the stability of your times, the strength of [your] salvations: the fear of Jehovah, this shall be his treasure.

7. Behold, the mighty men shall cry without: the angels of peace shall weep bitterly [saying],

8. The highways are devastated; the wayfaring man ceases: he has broken the covenant; he has despised the cities; he regards no man,

9. The earth mourns, it languishes: Lebanon is ashamed, it withers: Sharon is become like a desert; and Bashan and Carmel shake off [their leaves].

10. Now will I arise, says Jehovah; now will I lift up Myself; now will I be exalted.

11. You shall conceive chaff; you shall bring forth stubble: as to your spirit, fire shall consume you.

12. And the peoples shall be as the burnings of lime; as the thorns are cut up, and burned in the fire.

13. Hear, O you that are afar off, what I have done; and acknowledge, O you that are near, My power.

14. The sinners in Zion are afraid; terror has seized the hypocrites. Who among us can abide this devouring fire? who among us can abide these everlasting burnings?

15. He who walks in justice, and speaks right things; who despises the gain of oppressions; who shakes his hands from holding a bribe; who stoppeth his ear from the hearing of bloodshed; who shutteth his eyes from seeing evil:

16. He shall dwell in the high places; the strongholds of the rocks shall be his place of defence: his bread shall be given him; his waters shall be sure.

17. Thine eyes shall see the King in His beauty: they shall behold the land far extended.

18. Thine heart shall meditate terror. Where is the scribe ? where is the weigher? where is he that numbered the towers?

19. You shalt not see a fierce people, a people of a deep speech, which you couldst not hear; and of a barbarous tongue of no understanding.

20. Look unto Zion, the city of our appointed feasts: thine eyes shall behold Jerusalem, a quiet habitation, a tabernacle that shall not be taken down: whose stakes shall not be removed for ever, and of whose cords none shall be plucked up.

21. But Jehovah shall be magnificent unto us, a place of rivers and of streams, and of broad spaces, in which no ship with oars shall pass, neither shall any magnificent vessel go through.

22. For Jehovah is our Judge; Jehovah is our Lawgiver; Jehovah is our King: He shall save us.

23. Your cords are loosed; they could not well strengthen their mast; they could not spread the sail: then is the prey of a great spoil divided; the lame take the prey.

24. And the inhabitant shall not say, I am sick: the people that dwell therein shall be forgiven their iniquity.

From Swedenborg's Works

Main explanations:

The Inner Meaning of the Prophets and Psalms 33


Other references to this verse:

Arcana Coelestia 414, 8990, 9777, 9854

Apocalypse Revealed 585, 612, 880

A Brief Exposition of New Church Doctrine 100

Doctrine of the Lord 64

True Christian Religion 782, 789


References from Swedenborg's drafts, indexes & diaries:

Apocalypse Explained 518, 799, 850

Scriptural Confirmations 4, 43

Related New Christian Commentary

  Stories and their meanings:


  Related Books  (see all)


Hop to Similar Bible Verses

Deuteronomy 16:16

Psalms 46:6, 48:13, 128:5

Isaiah 4:5, 32:18

Bible Word Meanings

look
To look,' as in Genesis 18:22, signifies thinking, because seeing denotes understanding. Look not back behind thee,' as in Genesis 19:17, means that Lot, who...

eyes
It’s common to say “I see” when we understand something. And indeed, “seeing” in the Bible represents grasping and understanding spiritual things. So it makes...

see
To look,' as in Genesis 18:22, signifies thinking, because seeing denotes understanding. Look not back behind thee,' as in Genesis 19:17, means that Lot, who...

jerusalem
Jerusalem, on Mount Zion, signifies the doctrine of love to the Lord, and how it governs your life. Jerusalem first comes to our attention in...

habitation
'The sanctuary and habitation' together signify heaven and the church, 'sanctuary' regarding the good of love, and 'tabernacle' regarding truths of that good, because the...

tabernacle
'The tabernacle' has almost the same meaning as 'temple,' that is, in the highest sense, the Lord’s divine humanity, and in a relative sense, heaven...

removed
As with many verbs, the meaning of "remove" in the Bible varies a good bit depending on context. It generally involves a separation of spiritual...

cords
Rope or cord denotes conjunction.

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