The Bible


Matthew 2 : Two Stories of Christmas

Study the Inner Meaning


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

13 And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him.

14 When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt:

15 And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son.

16 Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men.

17 Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying,

18 In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.

19 But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeareth in a dream to Joseph in Egypt,

20 Saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and go into the land of Israel: for they are dead which sought the young child's life.

21 And he arose, and took the young child and his mother, and came into the land of Israel.

22 But when he heard that Archelaus did reign in Judaea in the room of his father Herod, he was afraid to go thither: notwithstanding, being warned of God in a dream, he turned aside into the parts of Galilee:

23 And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene.

   Study the Inner Meaning

Exploring the Meaning of Matthew 2      

By Rev. Dr. Ray Silverman

Chapter 2.

After Jesus is Born

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

20. Saying, “Arise, take the little Child and His mother, and go to the land of Israel; for they are dead who sought the soul of the little Child.”

Joseph’s struggle within himself — as to whether or not to accept Mary and the child — represents the spiritual battle which each of us must undergo in the course of our regeneration. It is one thing to receive the Lord in the understanding (represented by Joseph), but quite another to allow Him to order the things of our will — represented by the angel telling Joseph to take Mary as his wife. This is the fiercer battle which now begins “after Jesus is born.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Growing up in Nazareth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


From Swedenborg's Works

Explanations or references:

Arcana Coelestia 113, 117, 1171, 1462, 1502, 1540, 2135, ...

Apocalypse Revealed 277, 503, 526, 913

Doctrine of the Sacred Scripture 23

True Christian Religion 205

References from Swedenborg's drafts, indexes & diaries:

Apocalypse Explained 72, 242, 324, 422, 433, 448, 449, ...

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

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

Hop to Similar Bible Verses

Exodus 4:19, 22

Numbers 23:22, 24:17

Joshua 5:14

2 Samuel 2

1 Kings 11:40

1 Chronicles 2

Psalms 72:10, 78:71

Isaiah 11:1, 40:11, 60:6

Jeremiah 26:21, 31:15

Hosea 11:1

Jonah 4:6

Micah 5:1, 2

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chief priests
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'A scribe,' as in Isaiah 33:18, denotes intelligence. 'A scribe,' as in Matthew 23, signifies the Word from which doctrine is derived.

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the least
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went before
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'Treasure,' as in Matthew 13:44, signifies divine truth in the Word.

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and frankincense
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Like "say," the word "speak" refers to thoughts and feelings moving from our more internal spiritual levels to our more external ones – and ultimately...

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Resources for parents and teachers

The items listed here are provided courtesy of our friends at the General Church of the New Jerusalem. You can search/browse their whole library at the New Church Vineyard website.

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

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

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

 Behold, the Star
Article | Ages 15 - 17

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

 Childhood of Jesus
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

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

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

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

 Five Christmas Scenes
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Flee to Egypt
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Flight into Egypt
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

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

 Following the Star
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

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

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

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

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

 His Star Still Shines
Worship Talk | Ages over 18

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Quotes: Using Our Talents
Teaching Support | Ages over 15

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

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

 Signs at Christmas
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

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

 Star Out of Jacob
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

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

Sunday School Lesson | Ages 9 - 12

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

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

 Strange Gifts
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

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

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

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

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

 The Innocence of Love
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 The Lord Come into the World
A New Church Bible story explanation for teaching Sunday school. Includes lesson materials for Primary (3-8 years), Junior (9-11 years), Intermediate (12-14 years), Senior (15-17 years) and Adults.
Teaching Support | Ages over 3

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

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

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

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

 The Slaughter of the Innocents
Worship Talk | Ages over 18

 The Star of Bethlehem
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

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

 The Visit of the Wise Men
A New Church Bible story explanation for teaching Sunday school. Includes lesson materials for Primary (3-8 years), Junior (9-11 years), Intermediate (12-14 years), Senior (15-17 years) and Adults.
Teaching Support | Ages over 3

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

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

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

 The Wise Men
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

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

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

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

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

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

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

 The Wisemen Present Gifts
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

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

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

 Three Christmas Initial Letters
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Three Christmas Scenes
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

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

 Three Wise Men
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

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

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

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

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

 Wisemen See Star
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

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



Two Stories of Christmas


By Rev. Peter M. Buss Sr.

Joseph and Mary arrive in Bethlehem, by William Brassey Hole

There are two stories of Christmas. We usually blend them into one chronological account, but they are very distinct. One appears in the Gospel of Matthew, 1:18-25, 2:1-23, and the other in Luke 2: 6-20.

Matthew tells the story from Joseph’s point of view. The angel appears to him, telling him not to fear to take Mary as his wife, even though she is expecting a Child. He names the child. The wise men appear, and then Joseph is warned to flee to Egypt, and told to return when Herod died.

Luke is Mary’s story - in fact, she alone could have recounted these things to Luke. The story of Zacharias and Elisabeth; Mary’s visit to Elisabeth; the birth of John; the angel appearing to Mary, the birth of Jesus, and the tale of the shepherds all speak of Mary’s part in this event.

There are remarkably consistent differences in the accounts. In the Matthew story the angel always appears in a dream, and he gives commands. “Do not be afraid to take to yourself Mary your wife.” “Call His name Jesus.” “Do not return to Herod” was the command to the wise men. “Arise, take the young child and Mary his mother, and flee into Egypt.” “Return, for they are dead who sought the young Child’s life.” Specific commands, which Joseph and the wise men obeyed.

In the Luke story the angel is actually seen, and carries on conversations with both Zacharias and Mary. An angel choir appears to the shepherds. What is surprising is that no actual commands are given. Zacharias is told that his prayer will be answered, and he will have a son. Mary is told she will be with child of the Holy Spirit, and she willingly accepts it. The shepherds are told the tidings of great joy, but it is they who say, one to another, “Let us now go, even to Bethlehem, and see this thing which has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.”

Another amazing difference is the presence of Herod and his people in Matthew. He is shown in his wickedness and deceit, pretending to wish to worship Jesus while plotting to kill Him. He uses his counselors, none of whom are interested in the actual birth of the Christ, though they now know that a star has heralded His birth. Then there is the terrible story of Herod’s murder of the little ones around Bethlehem.

None of this appears in Luke. There is just a glancing reference: “There was in the days of Herod the king of Judea......” What a different tone, therefore, appears in Luke. It is one of peace and rejoicing, of wonder and gratitude, spoken from the heart by Zacharias, by Mary, and by Simeon. By contrast, Matthew tells of Joseph’s sadness and thought of putting Mary away privately, of Herod’s treachery and the sin of infanticide. And Matthew tells also how futile were Herod’s efforts, for the angel of the Lord provided that Joseph brought the infant Lord safely out of his reach.

So what are these two stories telling us about our lives, here, today? They speak of how the Lord is born in our minds and hearts. Let us leave Zacharias and Elisabeth and John out of this sermon. John represents repentance, and his birth precedes the birth of Jesus. But after we have repented of our sins, then the Lord Himself comes to be born in us. That birth is the implanting within us of charity - the ability to love others unselfishly. It is this birth which makes us into angels, which puts the stamp of eternal love in our hearts, which causes us to be “born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”

When charity begins to become felt in us we respond in two distinct ways. Matthew tells how our understanding reacts to His coming. Luke speaks of how His birth receives a response in the new will which the Lord is creating in us.

Joseph seems to represent the good of truth. He was a carpenter, working with tools of iron on wood to shape it, and his very act pictures the efforts of the human understanding, taking the truths of revelation and working to apply them to a life of goodness.

Joseph at first feared that Mary had been unfaithful to him, and that the child was conceived of a man. When we have done the deeds of repentance, and the Lord begins to create this wonderful, heavenly love inside of us, we too will doubt. How can I, a person who has been selfish up to date, how can I feel these tender, loving thoughts towards others? How can I be moved to do kind deeds with no thought of reward? I must be deceiving myself. This is just human-born selfishness under another guise.

But an angel of the Lord told Joseph that this birth was unique in all of history. The angel represents an insight from within, the presence of the Lord within the truths that we have learned, which gives us assurance that indeed unselfish love can be ours. The Word has promised that it will be so. Don’t doubt it. You can be a truly loving, unselfish, caring person. And when you feel this love inside of you, call it by its proper name. Call it “Jesus,” which means, “Jehovah is the Savior.” Realize that this is salvation come into your heart.

Joseph obeyed the angel. We need to believe that charity can be ours, and unite ourselves to the innocent love for the truth (which is what Mary represents).

Then, when this beautiful charity blossoms in our hearts, new truths come to herald that birth. The wise men had studied the Word, knew that a star would appear when the Christ was born, and took a long journey to find Him. The truths they represent, learned because we are moved to study and reflect on His Word, are the ones that tell us how to live the life of love. They are conscious truths, and they spur us to action.

The wise men gave three gifts to Jesus, and for two thousand years they were the last people on earth to know why these gifts, and no others, were suitable. For there are only three things we can give to the Lord, only three things we can withhold. Myrrh represents obedience; frankincense, love to others; and gold, love to the Lord Himself. We can withhold these from the Lord and He cannot make us give them to Him. When moved by charity, we plan to offer Him the only gifts which we can possibly give - the offerings of a grateful heart to obey, to love His children, and to love Him.

But the Matthew story contains Herod also. Within each of us there is a powerful love of self, and all sorts of false and horrible thoughts are tied to it. Through this love the hells seek to kill our unselfish instincts. They use deceit, they even use the truths of the Word (as Herod did when seeking to know where Christ should be born). For much of our lives we have given a fairly free rein to our selfish impulses. They don’t relinquish their kingship over us without a struggle. The story of Herod speaks of the plots of the hells to destroy our love for others, and of how the Lord protects us. When we obey the commands of His Word our love grows, quietly and secretly, in a safe place where Herod cannot find it.

So we come to the gospel of Luke. Why is Herod not mentioned there? It is in the Lord’s amazing mercy that there are times when selfishness seems to be a distant memory. We know it’s there - “In the days of Herod the King,” Luke says. We know that battles lie ahead, but there are moments when we see the joy of life, and these feelings give us an inner reason to fight for heaven. When you first fall in love, you feel only unselfish love for that person. At times you read the Word, and feel in its pages the certainty of the Lord’s love, and its promise of a heaven, a life of charity, just for you!

Selfishness seems far off. You know it will come back, but right now you know that there is a life beyond selfishness. There truly is a greater love that leaves self behind, and at times, at oh-so-precious times, you are allowed to feel it. The Lord touches our hearts, and the best image of that is Christmas night in the stable in Bethlehem.

In our peaceful states there is Mary, the innocent affection for truth. We often call it idealism. It is a deep-seated conviction about the highest ideals in life. We see deeply into the Word, see the values it teaches, we want a value system that will last for all time. We want the Lord to be our God, the God of our hearts and minds. In our innocent times we just don’t question these things, we long for them. Mary, betrothed, and longing for marriage, represents this innocent love, longing to experience the full heavenly marriage of good and truth, to make ideals work.

Mary went to Bethlehem, for that little town represents new truth, the truth of the internal sense of the Word. To go from Galilee to Bethlehem is to go upward, into the deeper regions of our minds, and experience that love which is the birth of the Lord in us. It is to feel, in the living waters of the Word, that we do love others, and this love is “God with us.”

Yet the inn at Bethlehem had no room for the infant Jesus. Many spiritual truths in our minds have languished, and lost their meaning. Other needs have crowded them out, even falsified them. There are many places in our minds where we know the truth, but that knowledge is full of earthly concerns which take the joy, the wonder out of it.

In His mercy the Lord prepares other places in our minds. The spiritual manger stands for lower truths, simple ideals long held precious. For example, you have truths in your minds about how to care for infants and how to teach little children about the Word and how to care for the needs of the elderly or those who are hurting. You understand these truths. A manger, where horses feed, represents such an understanding.

And you have simple, innocent ideas in your minds also which are, as it were, wrapped around charity. These truths tell you that certain things hurt others, that certain things, said with gentleness, touch their hearts. These truths tell you when to deal gently with others, and when to be firm but loving at the same time. They are simple ideas from the Word, first truths, which keep charity warm in your heart. “....and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger.”

How beautiful is the story of the shepherds. They too represent interior truths, long held, which through the night of our selfish lives have kept us turning towards good values. They kept watch over our spiritual flock, our valuable feelings, even though we have often been selfish and uncaring. These values are called forth, and respond with joy when love is born in our hearts.

The story of Luke is one of a free response to the Lord and His creation of heaven in our minds. It is full of joy. Zacharias prophesied, with a heart full of gratitude. Mary’s soul magnified the Lord and her spirit rejoiced in God her Savior. Simeon gave thanks because he had seen the Lord’s salvation, prepared for all people. The shepherds returned, praising God for all that they had seen.

When you feel heartfelt gratitude in your lives because of a special love the Lord has granted you, - why then, stop, stand still, lift up your heart and rejoice in that moment. And know this: that if you persist in following Him, that special love will become your heaven. It will be a love born of no human father. The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you, and that holy love growing in you is indeed born of God.

Two stories of Christmas. Both so beautiful. The Lord gave each to us that we may see with our understandings, and feel in our hearts the wonder of this holy birth. They are secret stories, scarce felt because of the noisy pressures of worldly life, but revealed in all their wonder for the New Church. The spiritual Joseph and wise men are conscious, understood truths which are obeyed, and bring deep joy to the human mind. The spiritual Mary and Bethlehem and the manger and the swaddling cloths and the shepherds represent affections for deep ideals, and for practical ideas. These find inner happiness and peace when He comes to us.

For the greatest event in human history was the birth on earth of God Himself. And the greatest event in anyone’s life is when there is born to you the love from God that will never die. This is truly the spirit of Christmas.

(References: Matthew 2; The Apocalypse Explained 706)

From Swedenborg's Works


Apocalypse Explained #242

Study this Passage

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242. To buy of Me gold tried by fire, that thou mayest be enriched, signifies that they should acquire for themselves from the Lord genuine good, that they may be able to receive the truths of faith. This is evident from the signification of "buying," as being to acquire and appropriate to oneself (see Arcana Coelestia 4397, 5374, 5397, 5406, 5410, 5426); also from the signification of "gold tried by fire," as being genuine good, thus good from the Lord (of which presently); also from the signification of "that thou mayest be enriched," as being to be enabled to receive the truths of faith. This is the signification of being "enriched," because "riches" and "wealth" signify the knowledges of truth and good, and "the rich" are those who are in intelligence by means of knowledges, here, those who are in faith by means of them, since those who are in the doctrine of faith alone are here treated of. From this it is clear that "to buy of Me gold tried by fire, that thou mayest be enriched," signifies that they must acquire for themselves genuine good from the Lord so that they may receive the truths of faith.

(References: Revelation 3:18)

[2] It shall first be told how this is to be understood. It has often been said before, that there is no truth which is truth in itself unless it be from good, thus no faith that is faith in itself unless it be from charity: for there is no truth that is truth in itself unless there is spiritual life within it, and spiritual life is within it when it is formed out of the good of charity; for truth is the form of good, and good is the esse of truth, thus also its life; and good is from no other source than from the Lord. When there is good from the Lord, the truth that is from the good looks primarily to the Lord and also to the neighbor and his good, for the Lord flows in with good and by it forms truth, which is the truth of faith, and causes man's spiritual sight to look to him and to the neighbor. (That this is so, may be seen in the work on Heaven and Hell 145, 251, namely, that the Lord looks at angels and men in the forehead, and these look to the Lord through the eyes; for the reason that the forehead corresponds to the good of love, and the eyes to the understanding illustrated thereby, consequently to the truths of faith. Also in the same work, n. Heaven and Hell 17, 123, 124, 142-144, 510, it is shown that in the spiritual world all are turned to their own loves, and those who have acknowledged the Lord and believed in Him are turned to Him, and thereby have good, and through good, illustration in respect to truths.) From this it can be seen what the genuine good is that is signified by "gold tried by fire," namely, that it is good from the Lord alone.

(References: The Apocalypse Explained 17, The Apocalypse Explained 123-124, The Apocalypse Explained 142-144, The Apocalypse Explained 510)

[3] As what is written to the angel of this church treats of those who live according to the doctrine of faith alone, and as those who had confirmed themselves in that doctrine, and were on that account called learned in the world, were able to join falsities with truths and make the doctrine appear as if it were true, therefore, it was granted me to talk with some of them in the other life; and as the things that were then said on either side may serve for illustration I will present them. These learned ones, from their belief while in the world, supposed that there might be faith without charity, and that man may be justified by that alone. Their talk was very ingenious; they said that there is faith without charity, because it is prior to charity, and because by it man is in good. "Who," they said, "is not able to believe that there is a God, that the Word is Divine, and other like truths, which unless believed could not be received and thought of by man?"

From this they concluded that as faith precedes, or is prior to, charity, there can be faith without charity; and if there can be, that it must be saving, since man cannot do good from himself; unless, therefore, that faith were saving all would perish: moreover, without faith there could be no presence of God with man; and without the presence of God evil would reign, and no one would have any good. This, they said, is what is meant by justification by faith alone. But it was shown them that there could not be faith unless there was at the same time charity; and that what they called faith was nothing but the knowledges that are first with every man; for example, that there is a God, that the Word is Divine, and the like, and that these knowledges are not in the man before they are in his will, but are in the entrance to him, which is his memory; but so far as they are in his will so far they are in the man himself, for the will is the man himself; and so far as they are in the will so far they are in his sight, which is faith. The knowledges themselves that precede, and that appear to the natural sight as if believed, do not until then come to be of faith; consequently this seeing the knowledges, that is thought to be of faith, recedes step by step from man as he begins from willing evil to think evil, and also recedes from him after death when man becomes a spirit, if the knowledges have not been rooted in his life, that is, in his will or love.

[4] This may be illustrated by a comparison with the stomachs of birds and beasts of the earth that are called ruminating stomachs. Into these they first collect their food, and afterwards by degrees take it out and eat it, and thus nourish the blood; food thus becomes a part of their life. With man the memory corresponds to these stomachs; and man is endowed with memory instead of these because he is spiritual; into this he first gathers spiritual foods, which are knowledges, and afterwards he takes them out by a sort of ruminating, that is, by thinking and willing, and appropriates them, and thus makes them a part of his life.

From this comparison, although trifling, it can be seen that knowledges, unless implanted in the life by thinking and willing them and then doing them, are like food that remains unconsumed in ruminating stomachs, where it either becomes putrid or is vomited out. Moreover, the circle of man's life is to know, 1 to understand, to will, and to do; for man's spiritual life begins with knowing, passes next to understanding, then to willing, and finally to doing. From this it is clear that so long as knowledges are in the memory they are merely in the entrance to the life, and that they are not fully in man until they are in acts, and the more fully they are in acts the more fully they are in the understanding and will.

[5] It was further shown that the faith of knowledges before it becomes the faith of life is historical faith, the nature of which is well known, namely, that it is believed because another has said it; until this has been made man's own it is an alien thing, or something with ourself belonging to someone else. Historical faith, moreover, is like a belief in things unknown, for it is said that things must be believed though not understood, yea, that they must not be searched into by the understanding; and yet spiritual faith is such that in it truths themselves are seen and are consequently believed. In heaven no one believes any truth unless he sees it or has seen it; for they say, "Who can believe that a thing is so unless he sees it? It may possibly be false." And only the evil can believe what is false; for the evil from evil see falsities, but the good from good see truths; and as good is from the Lord, so also seeing truth from good is from the Lord. Angels see truths because the light of heaven, in which they are, is Divine truth proceeding from the Lord; all, therefore, even those in the world, who are in that light are able to see truth. (Of the light of heaven, and that it is such, see in the work on Heaven and Hell 126-140.)

[6] It was then shown that charity and faith act as one and enter together into man, thus that man is so far in faith as he is in charity, since faith as to its essence is charity, just as truth as to its essence is good; for good, when it exists in shape or in form is truth; in like manner charity is faith, for good is of charity and truth is of faith; moreover, the one loves the other and conjoins itself to the other, therefore one is not given unless the other be with it. This was illustrated by man's thought, which is of his understanding, and his affection, which is of his will; to think apart from affection is impossible, for the very essence of thought is affection or love. Man is able, to be sure, to think all things that he knows from the doctrine of the church, but only from a natural affection, which is the affection or love of glory, fame, honor or gain; but such an affection does not make thought to be spiritual; this requires charity, which is spiritual affection itself. When this is conjoined with knowledges there is faith, and then so far as man is in that affection he sees in thought the things that are of his faith, which are called truths, and acknowledges them, because they are from his very spirit, thus from his very spiritual life. This also is what is called illustration; and this is why no one can be illustrated from the Word unless he is in the spiritual affection of truth. Something like illustration there is, indeed, with those who have confirmed themselves in such things as are of the doctrine of faith alone and justification by faith; but that illustration is a fatuous illustration, since falsities as well as truths can be confirmed, like all those heresies that prevail both among the Jews and among Papists. With those who are called naturalists, and who deny God, the Divinity of the Word, and all other things belonging to the church, there is a similar light after confirmations; like that with those who have confirmed themselves in faith alone and justification by faith. (That the light of confirmation is natural, not spiritual, and exists also with the evil, see Arcana Coelestia 8780.)

[7] But let us return to the faith that in its essence is charity. That faith is continually perfected by such things as confirm; for from spiritual light more truths are constantly being seen, and all these join themselves to the good of charity, and perfect it. From this man has intelligence and wisdom, which at length become angelic. Moreover, those who are merely in the knowledges of faith, and not in a life according to them, believe that man can easily receive faith, if not in the world yet in another life, saying within themselves, "When I hear and see that a thing is so can I not believe it?" But they are greatly mistaken; for those who have not received spiritual faith in the world can never afterwards receive it, even if they were to hear of it and see it a thousand times; and for the reason that such a faith is not in man, but outside of him. That this is so can be clearly seen from this, that all who come from the world are first received by angels and good spirits, and instructed in every way, yea, many things are shown them to the life and before their very eyes, and yet they do not receive; thus they alienate themselves from angels and good spirits, and join those who are in no faith.

[8] Again, it was also told them, that if faith could be received by merely knowing and thinking it would be received by all, 2 the evil and the good alike, and thus no one would be damned. That charity, which is spiritual affection, can never be given to anyone unless he knows truths, examines himself by means of them, accepts them, and leads a new life in accordance with them, may be seen above n. 239. From this it follows that charity is the life of faith, and that there is nothing of life in faith except in the measure of the charity that is in it; and also that in the measure that charity is in faith man is led by the Lord, but in the measure that charity is not in faith man is led by himself; and he who is led by himself and not by the Lord is unable to think of good, still less to will and do good which is good in itself; for from what is man's own [ex proprio] nothing proceeds except evil; for when a man thinks of good, and wills and does good and 3 what is his own [ex propio], it is only for his own sake and for the sake of the world, which are the ends of what he does, and the ends are the loves that lead him; and man cannot be withdrawn from his selfhood [a suo proprio] or elevated unless he looks to the Lord in regard to the things that are of life; by this looking he is conjoined with heaven, and from heaven a spiritual affection is given him by the Lord. When this had been said, it was granted to those with whom I was talking on this subject to be in spiritual light, which light is such that in it truths can be seen as clearly as objects in the world are seen in its light; and then those who were in the doctrine of faith alone and justification by faith could not but affirm that this was true; but as soon as that light was taken away from them, and they were let back into their own light, which was natural, they were unable to see otherwise than that the sight of knowledges is saving faith, and therefore that the falsities that they had made part of their faith were truths. Falsities come to be of the faith when evils are of the life.

(References: The Apocalypse Explained 239)

[9] But to return to the explanation of the words of this passage, "I counsel thee to buy of Me gold tried by fire, that thou mayest be enriched," which signifies that they should acquire for themselves from the Lord genuine good, that they may be able to receive truths. It now remains to be shown that "gold" in the Word signifies the good of love. This can be seen from the following passages. In Malachi:

Behold, I send My angel [messenger] who shall prepare the way before Me; and the Lord whom ye seek shall suddenly come to His temple, even the angel [messenger] of the covenant whom ye desire; He shall sit refining and purifying silver, and shall purify the sons of Levi, and shall purge them as gold and silver, that they may bring to Jehovah an offering in righteousness (Malachi 3:1-3).

These things are said of the Lord's coming. It is said that Jehovah is to send a messenger [an angel] who will prepare the way before Him; and the messenger [angel] meant is John the Baptist, as is known. "Before Me," or before Jehovah, means before the Lord's Divine Itself; "the temple to which He is to come" means His Divine Human; this is also called "the messenger [angel] of the covenant," because through it there is a conjunction of men and angels with the Divine Itself, for covenant means conjunction. "The silver that He shall sit refining and purifying" means truth from good; "the sons of Levi" mean all those who are in the good of charity and in the truths of faith therefrom; it is therefore said, "He shall purge them as gold and silver." This is said because "gold" signifies good, and "silver" the truth therefrom. "Bringing to Jehovah an offering in righteousness" means worship of the Lord from the good of charity. (That "temple" signifies the Lord's Divine Human, see above, n. 220; that "covenant" signifies conjunction, see Arcana Coelestia 665, 666, 1023, 1038, 1864, 1996, 2003, 2021, 6804, 8767, 8778, 9396, 10632; that "silver" signifies truth from good, n. 1551, 1552, 2954, 5658; that "an offering" signifies the good of love and charity, n. 4581, 9992-9994, 10079, 10137; that "righteousness" is predicated of good, n. 2235, 9857.) Therefore "to bring an offering in righteousness" signifies worship from the good of love.

(References: Arcana Coelestia 665-666, 1551-1552; The Apocalypse Explained 220)

[10] In Zechariah:

Two parts in all the land shall be cut off, shall expire, but the third shall be left therein. Yet I will lead the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and I will try them as gold is tried. (Zechariah 13:8-9)

"All the land" does not mean all the land, but the whole church; nor does "the third part" mean a third part, but some in the church. "To lead it through the fire, and refine as silver is refined, and to try as gold is tried," signifies to so purify them from falsities and evils that good and truth may be implanted. (That "earth" [land] in the Word signifies the church, see Arcana Coelestia 662, 1066, 1068, 1262, 1413, 1607, 2928, 3355, 4447, 4535, 5577, 6516, 9325, 9643; that "a third part" signifies some, n. 2788.) In these passages there are comparisons of "silver" and "gold" with truth and good; but in the Word all things that serve as comparisons also correspond, and thence signify (see Arcana Coel (Arcana Coelestia 3579, 8989[1-11]) estia, n. 3579, 8989). Because "gold tried by fire" signifies the good of love purified from evils, it was commanded:

That the gold and silver taken from the Midianites should be passed through the fire, and thus be purified (Numbers 31:22-23).

[11] That "gold" signifies the good of love and of charity is shown further in the following passages.

In Hosea:

Israel hath forsaken good; the enemy pursueth him; they have made their silver and their gold into idols for themselves (Hosea 8:3-4).

"Making their silver and their gold into idols for themselves" signifies that they have turned truth and good into falsities and evils, as is evident from its being said, "Israel hath forsaken good, and the enemy pursueth him;" "the enemy" is falsity from evil, and evil from falsity.

[12] In Joel:

What are ye to Me, O Tyre and Zidon? My silver and My gold ye have taken, and the desirable things of My goods have ye brought into your temples, and the sons of Judah, and the sons of Jerusalem ye have sold to the sons of the Grecians, that ye might remove them far from their borders (Joel 3:4-6).

"Tyre and Zidon" mean those within the church who are in the knowledges of truth and good; here those who have perverted these, and applied them to falsities and to the evils of falsities; this is signified by "Ye have taken My silver and My gold, and the desirable things of My goods have ye brought into your temples;" "silver" signifying truth, "gold" good, and "the desirable things of goods" signifying derived truths and goods, which are knowledges from the sense of the letter of the Word; "to bring them into their temples" signifies to turn them into profane worship; that "they sold the sons of Judah and the sons of Jerusalem to the sons of the Grecians" means that they changed all the truths of good into the falsities of evil; "removing them far from their borders" means far from truths themselves. (That "Tyre and Zidon" mean those within the church who are in the knowledges of truth and good, see Arcana Coelestia 1201; that "sons of Judah and sons of Jerusalem" mean all truths of good, because "sons" signify truths, n. 1729, 1733, 2159, 2623, 2803, 2813, 3373, 3704, 7499, 8897, 9807; "Judah" the celestial church, n. 3654, 6364; "Jerusalem" the church where there is genuine doctrine, n. 3654, 9166; that "sons of the Grecians" mean falsities, because "Grecians" signify the nations that are in falsities, see above, n. 50.)

(References: The Apocalypse Explained 50)

[13] In Ezekiel:

The traders of Sheba and Raamah, by the chief of all spices, and by every precious stone and gold, they gave for thy tradings (Ezekiel 27:22).

In the same:

In thy wisdom and thine intelligence thou hadst made to thyself wealth, and hast gotten gold and silver in thy treasures. Thou wast in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone was thy covering, and gold (Ezekiel 28:4, 13).

In these two passages also Tyre is treated of, and by it, as was said above, those within the church who are in the knowledges of truth and good are meant. (By "her tradings" those knowledges themselves are meant. "Sheba and Raamah" also mean those who are in these knowledges, see Arcana Coelestia 1171, 3240; "spices" signify truths which are pleasing because from good, see n. 4748, 5621, 9474, 9475, 10199, 10254; "precious stones" signify truths, which are beautiful because from good, n. 9863, 9865, 9868, 9873, 9905; "the garden of Eden" signifies intelligence and wisdom therefrom, n. 100, 108, 1588, 2702, 3220.) Now because these things signify the knowledges of truth and of good, and "gold and silver" the goods and truths themselves, and because through these all intelligence and wisdom are acquired, it is said, "In thine intelligence and thy wisdom thou hast gotten gold and silver in thy treasures."

(References: Arcana Coelestia 9474-9475)

[14] In Lamentations:

How is the gold become dim! How is the most pure gold changed! The stones of holiness are poured out at the head of every street. The sons of Zion are esteemed equal to pure gold; how are they reputed as earthen bottles, the work of the hands of the potter! (Lamentations 4:1-2).

Here the vastation of the church is treated of; "the gold that is become dim, and the most pure gold that is changed," signify the goods of the church; "the stones of holiness that are poured out at the head of every street," signify the truths therefrom that are falsified; "the sons of Zion, who were esteemed equal to pure gold," signify the truths of the former church; "earthen bottles, the work of the hands of the potter," signify evils of life from falsities of doctrine, which are from self-intelligence.

[15] In Ezekiel:

I decked thee with ornaments, and I gave bracelets upon thy hands, and a chain on thy neck. Thus wast thou decked with gold and silver; and thy garments of fine linen and silk and broidered work. Thou didst also take the vessels of thine adorning of My gold and My silver, which I had given thee, and madest for thee images with which thou couldst commit whoredom (Ezekiel 16:11, 13, 17-18).

Here Jerusalem is treated of, which signifies the church in respect to doctrine (as above). "The ornaments with which she was decked" signify in general all truths from good and intelligence therefrom (Arcana Coelestia 10536, 10540); "bracelets upon the hands" signify in particular, truths from good (3103, 3105); "the chain upon the neck" signifies the conjunction of interior truths and goods with exterior, or things spiritual with things natural (5320); "fine linen" signifies genuine truth, and "silk" the same, resplendent from interior good (5319, 9469); "broidered work" signifies knowledge [scientificum] pertaining to the natural man (n. 9688); "the images with which she committed whoredom" are the fallacies of the senses, that appear as truths to those who are in falsities; "to commit whoredom with them" is to establish falsities by fallacies (that "to commit whoredom" signifies to imbue with falsities, see above, n. 141. From this it is clear that the contents of this chapter describe the church as it was when first established by the Lord, and as it afterwards became.

(References: Ezekiel 16:17; The Apocalypse Explained 141)

[16] In Isaiah:

Behold, I stir up against them the Medes, who shall not value silver, and shall not delight in gold; their bows shall dash to pieces the young men, their eye shall not spare the sons (Isaiah 13:17-18).

The "Medes" mean those who are against the truths and goods of the church; it is therefore said of them, "they shall not value silver nor delight in gold;" "silver" is the truth of the church, and "gold" its good. Their "bows" signify the doctrinals of falsity fighting against truths and goods (Arcana Coelestia 2686 Arcana Coelestia 2686[1-8], 2709); "the young men whom they shall dash to pieces" signify those who are intelligent from truths (n. 7668); "the sons whom they shall not spare" signify the truths themselves.

[17] In the same:

The troop of camels shall cover thee; they all shall come from Sheba; they shall bring gold and frankincense; and they shall proclaim the praises of Jehovah. The isles hope in Me, and the ships of Tarshish, to bring thy sons from far, their silver and their gold with them (Isaiah 60:6, 9).

Here the coming of the Lord is treated of, and "the troop of camels" means all who are in the knowledges of truth and good (Arcana Coelestia 3048, 3071, 3143, 3145); "Sheba, from which they shall come," means where those knowledges themselves are (n. 1171, 3240); "the gold and frankincense which they shall bring" mean goods and truths from good, which are therefore pleasing, "gold" is goods, and "frankincense" truths (n. 9993, 10177, 10296); "the isles which shall hope" mean the nations that are in Divine worship, but more remote from the truths of the church (n. 1158); "the ships of Tarshish" mean the general knowledges of truth and good, which contain many knowledges in particular (n. 1977, 6385); "the sons whom they shall bring from far" mean truths more remote, "sons" meaning truths (as above), and "from far" those more remote (n. 1613, 9487); "their silver and gold with them" signify the knowledges of truth and good with them.

Like things are signified by:

The wise men who came from the East to the place where Christ was born, offering gifts, gold, frankincense, and myrrh (Matthew 2:11).

They offered these because these signified goods and truths, interior and exterior, which are gifts pleasing to God.

[18] In David:

All kings shall bow themselves before Him; and all nations shall serve Him. He shall save the souls of the needy. And they shall live, and He shall give them of the gold of Sheba (Psalms 72:11, 13, 15).

Here also the coming of the Lord is treated of; by "kings that shall bow themselves before Him," and "nations that shall serve Him," all who are in truths from good are meant (that "kings" signify those who are in truths, see above, n. 31; and that "nations" signify those who are in good, see also above, n. 175; "the needy whom He shall save" mean those who are not in the knowledges of good and truth but yet long for them (see also above, n. 238; "the gold of Sheba, of which He shall give them," means the good of love into which the Lord shall lead them by means of knowledges (what "Sheba" signifies see just above).

(References: The Apocalypse Explained 31, The Apocalypse Explained 175, The Apocalypse Explained 238)

[19] In Haggai:

I will stir up all nations, that they may come, the choice of all nations, and I will fill this house with glory. The silver is Mine, and the gold. The glory of this latter house shall be greater than that of the former (Haggai 2:7-9).

This also treats of the coming of the Lord; by "nations" those who are in good and in truths therefrom are meant; by "house" the church (Arcana Coelestia 3720); "the glory with which it shall be filled" means Divine truth (n. 4809, 5922, 8267, 8427, 9429). "The silver is Mine, and the gold," means that truth and good are from the Lord alone.

[20] In Zechariah:

The wealth of all nations round about shall be gathered together, gold, silver, and garments in great abundance (Zechariah 14:14).

"The wealth of all nations" means knowledges, wheresoever they are, even with the evil; "gold, silver, and garments, in great abundance," mean goods and truths, spiritual and natural. The like was signified by:

The gold, silver, and garments that the sons of Israel borrowed from the Egyptians, when they went away from them (Exodus 3:22; 11:2, 3; 12:35-36).

Why this was done, and what it involves, may be seen in The Arcana Coelestia 6914, 6917, namely, to represent that the things the evil have shall be taken away from them and given to the good (according to the Lord's words in Matthew 25:28, 29; and in Luke 19:24, 26); and that they should make to themselves friends by the unrighteous mammon (according to the words of the Lord in Luke 16:9). "The unrighteous mammon" means the knowledges of truth and good with those who do not possess them justly, who are those that do not apply them to life.

(References: Exodus 11:2-3; Matthew 25:28-29)

[21] In David:

Kings' daughters are among thy precious ones; at Thy right hand stood the queen in the best gold of Ophir. The king's daughter is all glorious within; her vesture is inwrought with gold (Psalms 45:9, 13).

This treats of the Lord; and "a king's daughter" means the church that is in the affection of truth, which is described by "kings' daughters are among His precious ones," which means the affections of truths themselves; "at His right hand doth stand the queen in the best gold of Ophir" means the Lord's celestial kingdom, which is in the good of love; "her vesture is inwrought with gold" means that its truths are from good.

[22] In Matthew:

Jesus said to His disciples whom He sent forth to preach the gospel, that they should possess no gold, nor silver, nor brass in their purses (Matthew 10:9);

by this was represented that they should have nothing of good and truth from themselves, but only from the Lord, and that all things would be given them freely. Because "gold" signified the good of love:

The table on which the shewbread was placed was overlaid with gold (Exodus 25:23-24);

Likewise the altar of incense, which was thence called the golden altar (Exodus 30:3);

For the same reason the lampstand was made of pure gold (Exodus 25:31, 38);

Also the cherubim (Exodus 25:18);

And for the same reason the ark was overlaid within and without with gold (Exodus 25:11);

Likewise many things in the temple at Jerusalem.

For the tabernacle, in which were the ark, the cherubim, the table on which was the shewbread, the altar of incense, and the lampstand, represented heaven, and so did the temple; therefore the gold therein signified the good of love, and the silver truth from good.

(References: Exodus 25:17-18, 25:31-38)

[23] As what is most holy in heaven was represented by the gold in the temple:

When Belshazzar drank wine out of the vessels of gold brought out of that temple, and at the same time praised the gods of gold, silver, brass, iron, wood, and stone, there appeared written on the wall: Numbered, weighed, divided; and in that night he was slain (Daniel 5:2);

for thereby was signified the profanation of good.

[24] Moreover "gold" in the Word in a contrary sense signifies the evil of self-love, and "silver" the falsity therefrom. As in Moses:

The silver and gold of the nations they shall not covet, for they are abominations, nor bring them into their houses, but they shall be accursed, because they are to be abhorred and abominated (Deuteronomy 7:25-26).

But this signification of "gold" and "silver" shall be spoken of further on.


1. For "is to know" the Latin has "and to know."

2. For "received by all" the Latin has "received that by all."

3. For "and what is his own" the context requires "from what is his own. "


(References: Exodus 25:31-38; Ezekiel 16:17; Revelation 3:18)

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Apocalypse Explained 226, 272, 277, 324, 340, 430, 444, 701, 907, 1043, 1120, 1141

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