Commentary

Happiness

By Rev. Julian Duckworth and New Christian Bible Study Staff

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Does God want us to be happy? What does the Bible say about happiness?

“Happiness” may seem like a passing thing, and hardly the ultimate goal in most belief systems. In fact, though, it is the Lord’s greatest goal for us: He wants us to be happy. If we allow it, He will lead and guide us to be as happy as we are able to be.

The whole reason the Lord created us was so that he could love us, and what else but happiness do you wish for someone you love? But the happiness the Lord wants for us is not the passing joy of satisfying our bodily desires but the exquisite eternal joy of conjunction with the Lord and true love of the neighbor, things harder to see and harder to attain but ultimately far more delightful.

Swedenborg distinguishes heaven’s happiness from worldly happiness of satisfying our bodily desires. In heaven, all happiness is felt from loving the Lord and being of use, living for the sake of others. Everything the Lord does is part of his attempt to lead us to that state, and in everything that happens to us - even the things that are the most tragic on the natural level - he provides opportunities for us to move toward that state.

The Lord also, however, leaves us in freedom. We can reject his efforts and turn away if we choose to, and while that choice may seem to us to lead toward happiness, it is a passing, natural happiness that is ultimately only a shadow of the joy he desires for us. However, those in hell are "happy" being there because the life there matches their self-centered love they chose to cultivate while on earth. If those in hell could be lifted up to heaven, they would feel tormented.

From Psalm 65:9-13:

Thou visitest the earth, and blessest it; thou makest it very plenteous.
The river of God is full of water: thou preparest their corn, for so thou providest for the earth.
Thou waterest her furrows; thou sendest rain into the little valleys thereof; thou makest it soft with the drops of rain, and blessest the increase of it.
Thou crownest the year with thy goodness; and thy clouds drop fatness.
They shall drop upon the dwellings of the wilderness; and the little hills shall rejoice on every side.
The folds shall be full of sheep; the valleys also shall stand so thick with corn, that they shall laugh and sing.

From John 15:11:
I have told you these things so that My joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.

(References: Arcana Coelestia 1153 [2]; Divine Providence 37)

The Bible

Psalms 65:9-13

English: King James Version

Study the Inner Meaning

← Psalms 64   Full Chapter   Psalms 66 →

9 Thou visitest the earth, and waterest it: thou greatly enrichest it with the river of God, which is full of water: thou preparest them corn, when thou hast so provided for it.

10 Thou waterest the ridges thereof abundantly: thou settlest the furrows thereof: thou makest it soft with showers: thou blessest the springing thereof.

11 Thou crownest the year with thy goodness; and thy paths drop fatness.

12 They drop upon the pastures of the wilderness: and the little hills rejoice on every side.

13 The pastures are clothed with flocks; the valleys also are covered over with corn; they shout for joy, they also sing.

← Psalms 64   Full Chapter   Psalms 66 →

   Study the Inner Meaning
From Swedenborg's Works

Main explanations:

The Inner Meaning of the Prophets and Psalms 315


Other references to this chapter:

Arcana Coelestia 2702, 2708, 3580, 5943

Apocalypse Revealed 496, 546

The Last Judgment (Continuation) 13


References from Swedenborg's unpublished works:

Apocalypse Explained 644, 730

Other New Christian Commentary

  Stories and their meanings:


  Spiritual Topics:


Hop to Similar Bible Verses

Leviticus 26:4

Deuteronomy 11:12

Job 5:10, 36:31, 37:13

Psalms 68:10, 98:8, 104:13

Isaiah 41:5, 44:23, 49:13, 55:12

Daniel 4:2

Joel 2:22

Malachi 1:11

Acts of the Apostles 14:17

Hebrews 6:7

Word/Phrase Explanations

earth
"Earth" in the Bible can mean a person or a group of like-minded people as in a church. But it refers specifically to the external...

water
Water was obviously of tremendous importance in Biblical times (and every other time). It is the basis of life, the essential ingredient in all drinks,...

the river
The river Gihon, as in Genesis 2:13, signifies the knowledge of all things relating to goodness and truth.

God
The Lord is love itself, expressed in the form of wisdom itself. Love, then, is His essence, His inmost. Wisdom - the loving understanding of...

Full
'To satiate' relates to the extent of a person's will, for good or evil.

Corn
Corn,' as in Genesis 42:2, here stands for a word in the original language which means 'breaking,' and also for a similar word meaning to...

paths
These days we tend to think of "roads" as smooth swaths of pavement, and judge them by how fast we can drive cars on them....

upon
Over' or 'upon' in the Word, signifies being within, because the highest part in successive order becomes inmost in simultaneous order. This is why the...

wilderness
'The wilderness of Sin,' as in Exodus 16, signifies the good from truth in a state of temptation.

hills
The Writings tell us that the Lord's love is the sun of heaven, and it is natural for us to look above ourselves to the...

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

Side
'Side' signifies good or spiritual love.

pastures
Plants in the Bible generally represent facts, knowledge that can be gleaned from the world. Plants that can serve animals as food represent facts that...

valleys
Mountains in the Bible represent people's highest points, where we are closest to the Lord - our love of the Lord and the state of...

over
'Upon' or 'over' signifies being within.

Shout
'To shout from the top of the mountain,' as in Isaiah 42:11, signifies worship from the good of love.

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 A Time to Remember
Worship Talk | Ages 4 - 6

From Swedenborg's Works

Apocalypse Explained #730

Apocalypse Explained (Tansley translation)

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730. And the woman fled into the wilderness.- That this signifies the church among a few, because with those who are not in good, and therefore not in truths, appears from the signification of the woman, as denoting the church (concerning which see above, n. 707); from the signification of the wilderness, as denoting where there are no truths because there is no good, of which we shall speak presently; and from the signification of fleeing thither, as denoting to tarry among those who are not in truths, because not in good; and as, at the end of the church, there are few who are in truths from good, therefore it signifies among a few. It is evident from this what these words involve, namely, that a New Church, which is called the Holy Jerusalem, and is signified by the woman, can as yet be instituted only with a few, because the former church is become a wilderness; and the church is called a wilderness (desertum) when there is no longer any good; and where there is no good there are no truths. When the church is such, then evils and falsities reign, which hinder the reception of its doctrine, which is the doctrine of love to the Lord and of charity towards the neighbour, with its truths; and when doctrine is not received, there is no church, for the church is from doctrine.

(References: Revelation 12:6; The Apocalypse Explained 707)


[2] Something shall first be said concerning the fact that there are no truths where there is no good. By good is meant the good of a life according to truths of doctrine from the Word. The reason is, that the Lord never flows immediately into truths with man, but mediately through his good; for good is of his will, and the will is the man himself; from the will the understanding is brought forth and formed. For the understanding is so connected with the will, that what the will loves the understanding sees and also brings forth into the light; if therefore the will is not in good, but in evil, then the influx of truth from the Lord into the understanding produces no effect, for it is dissipated, because it is not loved; in fact, it is perverted, and the truth is falsified. It is evident from this why the Lord does not flow immediately into man's understanding except so far as the will is in good. The Lord can enlighten the understanding with every man, and thus flow in with Divine truths, since every man has the ability to understand truth, and this for the sake of his reformation; nevertheless the Lord does not flow in, because truths remain only so far as the will has been reformed. Moreover, it would be dangerous to so enlighten the understanding in truths as to produce belief, except so far as the will acts as one with it, for man would then be able to pervert, adulterate, and profane truths, and this would be most damnatory. Besides, so far as truths are known and understood, and are not at the same time lived, they are nothing but lifeless truths, and lifeless truths are like statues which are without life. From these things it is evident why there are no truths where there is good not in essence, but only in form.

[3] The quality of the man of the church is such at its end because he then loves the things of the body and of the world above all things, and when these are loved supremely, then those which pertain to the Lord and heaven are not loved; for no one can at the same time so serve two masters as to love the one and hate the other, since they are opposites. For from the love of the body, which is the love of self, and from the love of the world, which is the love of riches - when these are loved above all things - evils of every kind flow forth, and falsities from evils, and these are the opposites of goods and truths, which come from love to the Lord, and from charity towards the neighbour. It is evident from these few observations why the woman is said to have fled into the wilderness, that is, among a few, because with those who are not in good, and thus not in truths.

[4] In many places in the Word mention is made of wilderness (desertum), and also of desert (solitudo) and waste, and these signify the state of the church when there is no longer any truth therein because there is no good. This state of the church is called a wilderness (desertum), because the place in the spiritual world, where those dwell who are not in truths because not in good, is like a wilderness (desertum), where there is no verdure in the plains, no harvest in the fields, no fruit trees in the gardens, - a barren land, parched and dry. Moreover wilderness, in the Word, signifies the state of the church with the nations who are in ignorance of truth, and yet in the good of life according to their religion, from which they have a desire for truths. Wilderness also signifies in the Word the state of those who are in temptations, because in temptations goods and truths are shut in by the evils and falsities that come forth and are presented to the mind. That wilderness has these significations in the Word is evident from the passages therein where mention is made of wilderness (desertum).

[5] (I). A wilderness (desertum) means the state of the church, when there is no longer any truth therein, because there is no good, as is evident from the following passages.

In Isaiah:

"Is this the man that moveth the earth, that maketh kingdoms tremble, that hath made the world a wilderness (desertum), and destroyed the cities thereof" (xiv. 16, 17).

This is said of Lucifer, by whom Babel is meant; and to move the earth, make kingdoms tremble, and make the world a wilderness, signifies to destroy all the truths and goods of the church, earth denoting the church, kingdoms its truths, world its goods, and wilderness where these are no longer. To destroy its cities signifies its doctrinals, a city denoting doctrine. The adulteration of the Word, by which doctrine and thus the church are destroyed, is here signified by Babel.

(References: Isaiah 14:16-17)


[6] In the same:

"Upon the land of my people shall come up the thorn of the briar, because upon all the houses of gladness in the joyous city; for the palace shall be a wilderness (desertum), the multitude of the city left behind. The hill and the watch-tower shall be over the caves for ever, a joy of wild asses, a pasture for flocks" (xxxii. 13, 14).

Upon the land of my people shall come up the thorn of the briar, signifies falsity of evil in the church, the thorn of the briar denoting falsity of evil, and land (terra) denoting the church. Upon all the houses of gladness in the joyous city, signifies where the goods and truths of doctrine from the Word have been received with affection. What is signified by "The palace shall be a wilderness, the multitude of the city left behind. The hill and the watch-tower shall be over the caves, a joy of wild asses, a pasture for flocks," may be seen above (n. 410:7), where they are explained.

(References: Isaiah 32:13-14; The Apocalypse Explained 410)


[7] In the same:

"By my rebuke I dry up the sea, I make the rivers into a wilderness (desertum), the fish thereof shall stink, because there is no water, and shall die with thirst" (l. 2).

To make the rivers into a wilderness signifies to deprive the understanding of truths, consequently to deprive man of intelligence; the rest of the passage may be seen explained above (n. 342:8).

In Jeremiah:

"I beheld, when lo! Carmel was a wilderness (desertum), and all the cities were desolated before Jehovah; the whole land shall be a waste" (iv. 26, 27).

Carmel signifies the spiritual church, which is in truths from good; that this was a wilderness, signifies that there were in it no truths from good; the cities which are desolated signify doctrinals without truths; the whole land being a waste signifies the church destitute of good and consequently of truths.

(References: Isaiah 50:2; Jeremiah 4:26-27; The Apocalypse Explained 342)


[8] In the same:

"Many shepherds have destroyed my vineyard, they have trodden my field under foot, they have made the field of my desire a wilderness (desertum) of solitude, upon all the hills in the wilderness spoilers have come, because the sword of Jehovah devoureth from the end of the land to the end thereof" (xii. 10, 12).

The truths and goods of the church being completely destroyed by falsities from evil, is signified by They have destroyed the vineyard, trodden the field under foot, made the field of desire a wilderness of solitude, and the spoilers have come upon all the hills in the wilderness, because the sword of Jehovah devoureth; - vineyard and the field signify the church as to truth and good, the field of desire the church as to doctrine, while a wilderness of solitude signifies where these are not; the spoilers in the wilderness signify evils from the absence of truths; the sword of Jehovah devouring signifies falsity destroying; from the end of the earth to the end of the earth, signifies all things of the church.

(References: Jeremiah 12:10, 12:12)


[9] In Lamentations:

"With the peril of our souls we get our bread, because of the sword of the wilderness (desertum)" (v. 9).

To get bread with the peril of their souls, signifies the difficulty and danger of procuring for themselves truths of life from the Word; because of the sword of the wilderness, signifies because the falsity of evil prevails in the church and falsifies truths, and thus destroys them.

(References: Lamentations 5:9)


[10] In Ezekiel:

"The vine is now planted in the wilderness (desertum), in a land of drought and thirst" (xix. 13).

Vine signifies the church, which in the beginning of the chapter is called a mother who became a lioness; it is said to be planted in the wilderness when there is no longer any truth therein, because no good; a land of drought means where there is no good but evil instead of it, and a land of thirst means where there is no truth, but falsity instead of it.

(References: Ezekiel 19:13)


[11] In Hosea:

"Contend with your mother, that she may put away her whoredoms from her faces, lest peradventure I strip her naked and set her as in the day of her birth, and make her as a wilderness (desertum), and set her as a land of drought, and slay her with thirst" (ii. 2, 3).

This treats of the church that has falsified the truths of the Word; mother denotes the church, and her whoredoms the falsifications of truth. To deprive the church of all truth, as it was before it was reformed, is signified by stripping her naked, and setting her as in the day of her birth; wilderness and land of drought signifies the church without good. To slay with thirst signifies the deprivation of truth; thirst is said of truths, because water, for which one thirsts, signifies truth, while drought has reference to the want of good, because it is a result of being scorched.

(References: Hosea 2:2-3)


[12] In the same:

"He is fierce among the brethren; an east wind, the wind of Jehovah, shall come, coming up from the wilderness (desertum), and his spring shall become dry, and his fountain shall be dried up" (xiii. 15).

This is said of Ephraim, by whom is meant the understanding of the Word, which is called fierce among the brethren when it eagerly defends falsities, and fights for them against truths. An east wind, the wind of Jehovah, signifies the ardour of desire arising from a love for and a pride in destroying truths; this is said to come up from the wilderness, when it is from an understanding in which there are no truths from good but only falsities from evil; such an understanding is a wilderness because it is empty and void. That such ardour and pride destroys everything of doctrine and of the Word, is signified by "his spring shall become dry, and his fountain shall be dried up," a spring signifying doctrine, and a fountain the Word.

(References: Hosea 13:15)


[13] In Joel:

"Unto thee, O Jehovah, do I cry, because the fire hath consumed the dwellings of the wilderness and the flame hath burned up all the trees of the field; because the beasts of the field hath panted after thee, because the brooks of waters are dried up, and the fire hath consumed the dwellings of the wilderness (desertum)" (i. 19, 20).

The fire hath consumed the dwellings of the wilderness and the flame hath burned up all the trees of the field, signifies that the love of self and the pride of their own intelligence have consumed all perception of good, and all understanding of the truth of doctrine from the sense of the letter of the Word; fire signifies the love of self, and flame the pride of their own intelligence; the dwellings of the wilderness signify the goods of doctrine from the sense of the letter of the Word, and the trees of the field the cognitions of its truth; the sense of the letter of the Word is called a wilderness when it is understood only naturally, thus according to appearances, and not at the same time spiritually, or according to the genuine sense. The beasts of the field pant after Thee, signifies the lamentations of those who are natural, and yet desire truths. That beasts signify the affections of the natural man may be seen above (n. 650). Because the brooks of waters are dried up, and the fire hath consumed the dwellings of the wilderness, signifies that there are consequently no longer any truths and goods of life.

(References: Joel 1:19-20; The Apocalypse Explained 650)


[14] In the same:

"The day of Jehovah cometh; a fire devoureth before him, and behind him a flame burneth; the land is as the garden of Eden before him, but behind him a wilderness (desertum) of wasteness, and nothing escaped him" (ii. 1, 3).

The day of Jehovah means the end of the church, which is called the consummation of the age, and the Lord's coming at that time. That at the end of the church the love of self, and consequently the pride of [man's] own intelligence, consumes all the goods and truths of the church is signified by a fire devoureth before him, and behind him a flame burneth, fire signifying the love of self, and flame the pride of [man's] own intelligence (as above). The land before him is as the garden of Eden, but behind him a wilderness of wasteness, signifies that in the beginning, when that church was established with the ancients, there was the understanding of truth from good, but at its end falsity from evil; the garden of Eden denoting the understanding of truth from good, and wisdom therefrom, and a wilderness of wasteness denoting no understanding of truth from good, and thus insanity from falsities that are from evil; by nothing escaping him is signified that there is nothing whatever of truth from good.

(References: Joel 2:1, 2:3)


[15] In Isaiah:

"The land (terra) mourneth and languisheth, Lebanon is ashamed and is withered, Sharon is become as a wilderness (desertum), Bashan is shaken, and Carmel" (xxxiii. 9).

These words also describe the devastation of good and the desolation of truth in the church. Lebanon signifies the church as to the rational understanding of good and truth. Sharon, Bashan, and Carmel, signify these as to the knowledges of good and truth from the natural sense of the Word, the devastation and desolation of these being signified by mourning, languishing, and withering, and becoming like a wilderness, wilderness meaning where there is no truth, because no good.

(References: Isaiah 33:9)


[16] In Jeremiah:

"Because the land (terra) is full of adulteries, because the land mourneth on account of the curse, the pastures of the wilderness (desertum) have become dry" (xxiii. 10).

The land full of adulteries signifies the church in which the goods and truths thereof from the Word are adulterated; the curse, on account of which the land mourneth, signifies all evil of the life and falsity of doctrine; while by the pastures of the wilderness, which have become dry, are signified the knowledges of good and truth from the Word, pastures denoting those knowledges because they nourish the mind, and wilderness, the Word when it is adulterated.

(References: Jeremiah 23:10)


[17] In David:

Jehovah "turneth rivers into a wilderness (desertum), and the springing forth of water into dry ground, a land of fruit into saltness, for the wickedness of them that dwell therein" (Psalm cvii. 33, 34).

The rivers which are turned into a wilderness signify intelligence from the understanding of truth and of the Word in its interior sense - which has been devastated by falsities from evils; rivers denoting such things as belong to intelligence, and a wilderness, where these things are absent and falsities from evil in their place. The springing forth of waters that are turned into dry ground, signify that the ultimate things of the understanding, called the knowledges (cognitiones) of truth and good, have no light of truth and no spiritual affection for truth, waters signifying truths, dry ground, lack of these from the absence of light and affection, and springing forth, the ultimates of truths such as are the truths of the sense of the letter of the Word. The land of fruit which shall be turned into saltness, signifies the good of love and of life profoundly vastated by falsities, saltness denoting the devastation of truth by falsities; and as all devastation by falsities comes from evil of life, it is therefore added, "for the wickedness of them that dwell therein."

(References: Psalms 107:33-34)


[18] In Jeremiah:

"Lift up thine eyes unto the hills, and see where thou hast been defiled; upon the ways hast thou sat as an Arab in the wilderness (desertum), whence thou hast profaned the land with thy whoredoms and thy wickedness" (iii. 2).

These words also describe the adulteration and falsification of the Word, which are signified by being defiled and committing whoredom. Lift up thine eyes to the hills and see where thou hast been defiled, signifies to observe that the knowledges of truth and good in the Word have been adulterated; to lift up the eyes signifies to observe, hills signify those knowledges because the trees and groves which are upon them signify knowledges; hills also signify the goods of charity which are thus destroyed. Upon the ways hast thou sat as an Arab in the wilderness, signifies to lie in wait lest any truth should come forth and be received, ways denoting the truths of the church, to sit in them denoting to lie in wait; and an Arab in the wilderness means one who, like a robber in the wilderness, kills and plunders. Thou hast profaned the land with thy whoredoms and wickedness, signifies the falsification of the truths of the Word by evils which have come to be ends of the life.

(References: Jeremiah 3:2)


[19] In the same:

"O generation, see ye the Word of Jehovah; have I been a wilderness (desertum) to Israel, have I been a land of darkness?" (ii. 31).

That all good of life and truth of doctrine is taught in the Word, and not evil of life and falsity of doctrine, is meant by See ye the Word of Jehovah, have I been a wilderness to Israel, have I been a land of darkness?

(References: Jeremiah 2:31)


[20] In Joel:

"Egypt shall be a wasteness, and Edom a wilderness (desertum) of wasteness, for the violence of the sons of Judah, whose innocent blood they have shed in their land" (iii. 19).

Egypt and Edom signify the natural man, which has perverted the truths and goods of the Word that it must be so destroyed, as to see only such things as serve for purposes of confirmation, is signified by Egypt shall be a wasteness, and Edom a wilderness of wasteness; that this will be on account of the adulteration of all good and truth in the Word is signified by For the violence of the sons of Judah, whose innocent blood they have shed, - the violence of the sons of Judah signifying the adulteration of the Word as to good, and the shedding of innocent blood the adulteration of the Word as to its truths. That Judah signifies a celestial church, and also the Word, may be seen above (n. 211, 433); and that to shed innocent blood signifies to do violence to Divine Truth, thus to adulterate the truth of the Word, may also be seen above (n. 329). The adulteration of the Word is affected by the knowledges (scientifica) of the natural man, when these are applied to confirm falsities and evils, and the natural man becomes a wasteness and a wilderness when its knowledges are used to confirm falsity and evil, Egypt signifying those knowledges, and Edom the pride that falsifies by means of these.

(References: Joel 3:19; The Apocalypse Explained 211, 329, The Apocalypse Explained 433)


[21] In Malachi:

"Esau I hated, and I made his mountains a waste, and gave his heritage to the dragons of the wilderness (desertum)" (i. 3).

Esau signifies the love of the natural man; his mountains signify evils from that love, and his heritage signifies falsities from those evils, while the dragons of the wilderness signify mere falsifications from which these come.

Since all things of the Word had been adulterated with the Jewish nation, and there was no longer any truth because there was no good, therefore John the Baptist was in the wilderness, which represented the state of that church, about which it is thus written in the Evangelists:

John the Baptist "was in the wilderness, until the days of his appearing unto Israel" (Luke i. 80); and "he preached in the wilderness of Judea (Matt. iii. 1-3; Mark i. 2-4; Luke iii. 2, 4, 5);

and in Isaiah,

"The voice of one crying in the wilderness (desertum), Prepare the way of Jehovah, make plain in the desert (solitudo) a path for our God" (xl. 3).

(References: Isaiah 40:3; Luke 1:80, 3:2-4; Malachi 1:3; Mark 1:2-4; Matthew 3:1-3)


[22] Therefore also the Lord says concerning Jerusalem, which means the church as to doctrine,

"Your house shall be left deserted" (Luke xiii. 35).

A house deserted signifies the church without truths because without good.

In Matthew:

"If they say to you, Lo," Christ is "in the wilderness (desertum), go not forth; if in the secret chambers, believe not " (xxiv. 25).

These words may be seen explained in the Arcana Coelestia (n. 3900); for by Christ is meant the Lord as to Divine Truth, consequently as to the Word and as to doctrine from the Word; and false Christs, concerning whom those things are said, signify falsities of doctrine from falsified truths of the Word. From the passages now quoted from the Word it is evident that a wilderness means a church in which there are no truths because no good, consequently where there is falsity because there is evil; for where truth and good do not exist, there falsity and evil are; both cannot exist together, which is meant by the words of the Lord, that no man can serve two masters.

(References: Arcana Coelestia 3900; Isaiah 40:3; Luke 1:80, Luke 3:2, 3:4-5, Luke 13:35; Mark 1:2-4; Matthew 3:1-3, Matthew 24:26)


[23] (II) A wilderness (desertum) also signifies the state of the church with the nations who were in ignorance of truth, and yet in good of life according to their religion, from which they desired truths, as is also evident from the passages in the Word, where the church to be established among the nations is treated of.

In Isaiah:

"The spirit shall be poured out upon you from on high, then the wilderness (desertum) shall be a fruitful field, and the fruitful field shall be counted for a forest; judgment shall dwell in the wilderness, and justice shall abide in the fruitful field" (xxxii. 15, 16).

This is said of those who are in natural good, and are being reformed. Influx out of heaven into such is signified by The spirit shall be poured out upon you from on high. That truth from a spiritual origin shall then be implanted in them, is signified by The wilderness shall be a fruitful field, - a wilderness denoting the natural man destitute of truths, and the fruitful field, or land of harvest, denoting the natural man made fruitful in truths; that as a result it will possess the knowledge (scientia) of the cognitions of truth and good, is signified by The fruitful field shall be counted for a forest; forest is said in reference to the natural man as a garden is to the spiritual, therefore a forest signifies knowledge (scientia), and a garden intelligence. That in it there will consequently be what is right and just is signified by Judgment shall dwell in the wilderness, and justice shall abide in the fruitful field; judgment and justice, in the spiritual sense, signify truth and good, but in the natural sense, what is right and just.

(References: Isaiah 32:15-16)


[24] In the same:

"I will open rivers upon the heights, and set fountains in the midst of the valleys; I will turn the wilderness (desertum) into a pool of waters, and the dry land into springs of waters; I will give in the wilderness the cedar of shittah, the myrtle and the oil tree; I will set in the desert (solitudo) the fir, the pine, and the box" (xli. 18, 19).

This also treats of the reformation and enlightenment of the nations. To open rivers upon the heights, and to set fountains in the midst of the valleys, signifies to give intelligence from spiritual truths and from natural truths, rivers upon the heights signifying intelligence from spiritual truths, and fountains in the midst of the valleys intelligence from natural truths. To turn the wilderness into a pool of waters, and the dry land into springs of waters, signifies to fill the spiritual and the natural man with truths, where before there were no truths; the spiritual man in which there were no truths is meant by a wilderness, since truth was not previously there, and the natural man in which there was no truth, is meant by dry land, since into it there had previously been no spiritual influx. Truths in abundance for the spiritual man are meant by the pool of waters, and truths in abundance for the natural man are meant by the springs of waters. To set in the wilderness the cedar of shittah, the myrtle, and the oil tree, signifies to give rational truths and the perception of them; and to set in the desert the fir, the pine, and the box, signifies similarly, natural truths, which are knowledges (scientifica) and cognitions, with the understanding of them; the cedar denoting higher rational truth, the myrtle, lower rational truth, and the oil tree, the perception of good, and thus of truth; the fir denotes higher natural truth; the pine, lower natural truth; and the box, the understanding of good and truth in the natural man.

(References: Isaiah 41:18-19)


[25] In David:

"He turneth the wilderness (desertum) into a pool of waters, and the dry land into the springing forth of waters; and there he maketh the hungry to dwell, that they may build a city of habitation" (Psalm cvii. 35, 36).

This is also said of the enlightenment of the nations. To turn the wilderness into a pool of waters has a signification similar to that above; and there he maketh the hungry to dwell, signifies for those who desire truths, these being meant in the Word by the hungry and thirsty. That they may build a city of habitation, signifies that out of those truths they may formulate for themselves doctrine of life, a city denoting doctrine, and to inhabit denoting to live.

(References: Psalms 107:35-36)


[26] In Isaiah:

"Behold, I do a new thing, now it shall spring forth, I will also make a way in the wilderness (desertum), rivers in the desert (solitudo); the wild beasts of the field shall honour me, the dragons and the daughters of the owl, because I will give waters in the wilderness, rivers in the desert, to give drink to my people, my chosen" (xliii 19, 20).

This also is said of the new church to be established by the Lord among the nations. By wilderness is signified the state of the church with those who are ignorant of truth, and yet desire to know it. But the signification of the details of this passage in the spiritual sense may be seen explained above (n. 518).

(References: Isaiah 43:19-20; The Apocalypse Explained 518)


[27] In the same:

"Jehovah will comfort Zion, he will comfort all her waste places, and he will make her wilderness (desertum) like Eden, and her desert (solitudo) like the garden of Jehovah; gladness and joy shall be found in her, confession and the voice of singing" (li. 3).

This also is said of a new church among the nations who will acknowledge the Lord; such church is meant by Zion, and its establishment and the reformation of the nations by being comforted. The wilderness, that shall be made like Eden, and the desert like the garden of Jehovah, signify wisdom and intelligence from love to the Lord, which those have who before had no understanding of truth, and no perception of good. But these things have been explained above (n. 721).

(References: Isaiah 51:3; The Apocalypse Explained 721)


[28] In David:

"The habitations of the wilderness (desertum) drop, and the hills gird themselves with exultation; the meadows are clothed with flocks, and the valleys are covered with corn" (Psalm lxv. 12, 13).

This also is said of the church among the nations. By "the habitations of the wilderness drop (stillant)" is signified that their minds, which before were in ignorance of truth, acknowledge and receive truths, to drop being said of the influx, acknowledgment, and reception of truth; habitations denote the interiors of man's mind, and wilderness denotes a state of ignorance of truth. The hills gird themselves with exultation, signifies that goods with them receive truths with joy of heart; the meadows are clothed with flocks, and the valleys covered with corn, signifies that both the spiritual mind and the natural mind receive truths suitable to themselves, meadows signifying those things that belong to the spiritual mind, and thus to the rational, and valleys those which belong to the natural mind, while a flock signifies spiritual truth, and corn signifies natural truth.

(References: Psalms 65:12-13)


[29] In Isaiah:

"Let them sing praise, the end of the earth, those that go down to the sea, and the fulness thereof, the islands and the inhabitants thereof; let the wilderness (desertum) and the cities thereof lift up the voice, the villages which Arabia doth inhabit; let the inhabitants of the rock sing, let them cry out from the top of the mountains" (xlii. 10, 11).

This is said of the church with those who have been removed from the truths of the church because they were natural and sensual; their state of ignorance is meant by the wilderness, and the joy which they feel from the proclamation of the truth and from its knowledges is meant by singing praise and lifting up the voice. The rest has been explained above (n. 406:5).

(References: Isaiah 42:10-11; The Apocalypse Explained 406)


[30] Since the state of ignorance of truth, in which the nations were, is signified by a wilderness, a desire for truth by hunger, and instruction from the Lord by feeding, therefore, it came to pass that the Lord departed into a wilderness (desertum), taught the multitude there which sought Him, and afterwards fed them. That this took place in a wilderness can be seen in Matthew xiv. 13-22; xv. 32-38; Mark vi. 31-43; viii. 1-9; Luke ix. 12-17; for all things which the Lord did, and all things connected with Him, were representative, because they were correspondences, so also were these things. From these passages, and those cited above, it is evident that a wilderness (desertum) signifies such a state with man as is uncultivated and uninhabited, thus a state not yet vitalized by what is spiritual; consequently, in reference to the church, it signifies a state unvivified by truths; thus it signifies the religion of the nations, which was almost empty and void, because they did not possess the Word wherein are truths, and thus did not know the Lord, who teaches them. And because they did not possess truths, therefore their good did not differ from their truth; for good is like its truth, because the one belongs to the other. From these things it is evident what a wilderness signifies, where the nations are treated of, namely that they have no truth, and yet that they desire it in order that their good may be vivified.

(References: Luke 9:12-17; Mark 6:31-34, 6:31-44, 8:1-9; Matthew 14:13-22, 14:13-21, 15:32-38)


[31] (III.) A wilderness also signifies the state of those who are in temptations, because in them truths and goods are shut in by the falsities and evils that rise up and come before the mind, as is evident from the wandering of the sons of Israel in the wilderness forty years; for this represented every state of the temptations into which those come who are being regenerated, and of whom a church is about to be formed. Every man is born natural, and so lives, until he becomes rational, and when he has become rational, then he can be led by the Lord, and become spiritual; and this is effected by the implantation of the knowledges of truth from the Word, and, at the same time, by the opening of the spiritual mind, which receives the things of heaven, and by the calling forth and raising up of those knowledges out of the natural man, and by the conjunction of them with the spiritual affection for truth. This opening and conjunction is possible only through temptations, because in these man interiorly fights against the falsities and evils which are in the natural man; in a word, man is brought into the church, and becomes a church, by means of temptations. These things were represented by the wandering of the sons of Israel, and by their being led about in the wilderness. The state of the natural man before he is regenerated was represented by their dwelling in the land of Egypt, for the land of Egypt signified the natural man, with its knowledges (scientifica) and cognitions, together with the desires and appetites, which reside in it, as is evident from what has been said and shown above concerning Egypt (n. 654). But the spiritual state, which is the state of the church in man, was represented by the introduction of the sons of Israel into the land of Canaan; for the land of Canaan signified the church with its truths and goods, together with its affections and delights, which reside in the spiritual man, while the reformation and regeneration of man, before he from natural becomes spiritual, and thus a church, was represented by their wanderings and journeyings in the wilderness forty years.

(References: The Apocalypse Explained 654)


[32] That this is the case, and that a wilderness signified a state of temptations, is evident from the following passages in Moses:

"Thou shalt remember all the way which Jehovah thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness (desertum), that he might afflict thee, and try thee, and know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments or not; and he afflicted thee and caused thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither have thy fathers known, that he might teach thee that man doth not live by bread alone, but by every word (enuntiatum) of the mouth of Jehovah doth man live; thy raiment waxed not old upon thee, neither did thy foot swell, these forty years" (Deut. viii. 2, 3, 4):

"In the wilderness (desertum) which thou sawest, Jehovah thy God bore thee, as a man doth bare his son, he went before you in the way to seek you out a place, in which ye might encamp, in fire by night to show you the way, and in a cloud by day" (Deut. i. 31, 33).

Jehovah, "who led thee through the great and terrible wilderness (desertum) of the serpent, of the fiery serpent, and of the scorpion, and of drought, where there were no waters; who brought thee forth waters out of the rock of flint, and fed thee with manna in the wilderness, that he might afflict and try thee, to do thee good in thy latter end" (Deut. viii. 15, 16).

Again:

Jehovah found Jacob "in a land of wilderness (desertum), in emptiness, in howling, in a desert (solitudo); he led him about, he instructed him, he guarded him as the pupil of the eye" (Deut. xxxii. 10).

All these particulars, and all the details related in the book of Exodus concerning the journeyings of the sons of Israel in the wilderness, from their going forth from Egypt to their entrance into the land of Canaan, depict the temptations in which the faithful are, before they become spiritual, that is, before the goods of love and of charity and their truths, constituting the

church in man, are implanted.

(References: Deuteronomy 1:31, 1:33, 8:2-4, 8:15-16, 32:10)


[33] He who knows what spiritual temptations are, knows that when a man is in them, he is so infested by evils and falsities that he scarcely knows but that he is in hell. He knows too that the Lord fights in man against temptations from within; also that He sustains him in the meantime with spiritual food and drink, which are the goods and truths of heaven; that the natural man loathes these things; that the natural man with its lusts is nevertheless thus subdued, and as it were dies; and that thus it is brought into subjection to the spiritual man; and that a man is thus reformed, and regenerated, and introduced into the church. All this is involved in what is related concerning the sons of Israel in the wilderness.

[34] But in order to make it clear that this is meant, it will be well to explain in detail some of the passages here quoted.

(1). That man in temptations is so infested by evils and falsities, that he scarcely knows but that he is in hell, is meant by "Jehovah led thee through the great and terrible wilderness of the serpent, of the fiery serpent, of the scorpion, and of drought, where there were no waters." The great and terrible wilderness signifies grievous temptations; the serpent, the fiery serpent, and the scorpion, signify evils and falsities with their persuasions proceeding from the sensual and natural man, serpents denoting evils therefrom, fiery serpents falsities therefrom, and scorpions persuasions; drought, where there were no waters, signifies a want of truth, and the interception of it. These things are also meant by the words, "that Jehovah might afflict thee, and try thee, and know what was in thine heart."

[35] (2). That the Lord fights in man against evils and falsities from hell, is signified by Jehovah found Jacob in a wilderness, in emptiness, in howling, in a desert, He guarded him as the pupil of His eye; also by He bore him as a man doth bare his son; and by His going before them in fire by night and in a cloud by day.

(3). That the Lord sustains man in the meantime with spiritual meat and drink, which are the goods and truths of heaven, is signified by feeding them with manna, bringing forth waters for them out of the rock of flint, and by leading and instructing them, manna meaning the good of celestial love, and waters out of the rock of flint the truths of that good from the Lord.

(4). That in temptations the natural man loathes these things, is meant by the sons of Israel complaining so often of the manna, and longing for the foods of Egypt; wherefore it is here said, "Jehovah afflicted thee and caused thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna."

[36] (5). That nevertheless the natural man with his lusts is subdued, and as it were dies, and is subject to the spiritual man, was represented by the death in the wilderness of all those who went forth out of Egypt, and desired to return thither, being unwilling to enter the land of Canaan; and by their children being introduced into that land. That such was the representation and signification of those circumstances, can be known and seen only from the spiritual sense.

(6). That man after temptations becomes spiritual, and is introduced into the church, and through the church into heaven, was represented by their being brought into the land of Canaan, for the land of Canaan signified the church, and also heaven; and this is signified by these words: "That Jehovah might afflict thee, and try thee, to do thee good in thy latter end." Their spiritual life is described by Jehovah's teaching them that man doth not live by bread alone, but by every word of the mouth of Jehovah. That their raiment waxed not old, and neither did their foot swell, signified that the natural man is not hurt by these afflictions, for garments signify the truths of the natural man, and the foot the natural man itself. Moreover forty, whether years or days, signifies the entire duration of temptations; as may be seen above (n. 633).

(References: The Apocalypse Explained 633)


[37] Similar things are involved in these words in David:

"They wandered in the wilderness (desertum) in a solitary way, they found not a city of habitation, hungry and thirsty; when their soul fainted in the way, they cried out to Jehovah, he led them that they might go to a city of habitation" (Ps. cvii. 4-7).

This is said in general of those who have been redeemed, in particular of the sons of Israel in the wilderness; and the above words describe the temptations of such as are being regenerated by the Lord. The city of habitation which they found not, signifies the doctrine of life which constitutes the church in man; and as the church is formed in man by a life according to doctrine, when temptations have been passed through, it is said that Jehovah led them in a straight way, that they might go to a city of habitation; the want of truth even to despair, and yet desire for it, is signified by their being hungry and thirsty, and their soul fainting in the way.

(References: Psalms 107:4-7)


[38] In Jeremiah:

"I remembered thy youth, the love of thine espousals, when thou wentest after me in the wilderness (desertum). They said not, Where is Jehovah, who caused us to come up out of the land of Egypt, who led us in the wilderness, in the land of the desert (solitudo) and of the pit, in a land of drought and of dense shade, in a land through which no man (vir) passed; and where no man (homo) dwelt; and I led you into a land of corn, to eat the fruit thereof and the good thereof" (ii. 2, 6, 7).

The youth and love of espousals which Jehovah remembered, signify the state of man's reformation and regeneration when from natural he becomes spiritual; since man is by this means conjoined to the Lord, and as it were espoused to Him, it is this that is meant by the love of espousals; and because this is effected by temptations, it is said, "When thou wentest after me in the wilderness" He led me in the wilderness, in the land of the desert and the pit, in a land of drought and dense shade, describes a state of temptations, a wilderness signifying that state, the land of the desert and the pit signifying that state as to the evils and falsities that come forth, while a land of drought and dense shade signifies the perception of good and the understanding of truth obscured. I led you into a land of corn, that ye might eat the fruit thereof and the good thereof, describes the state of man after temptations, which signifies introduction into the church in which there are truths of doctrine, by means of which there is an appropriation of the good of love and of charity, land signifying the church; land of corn denotes the church as to truths of doctrine, while to eat signifies to appropriate, fruit the good of love, and good the good of charity and of life.

(References: Jeremiah 2:2, 2:6-7)


[39] In Ezekiel:

"I will lead you out from the peoples, and will gather you from the lands, and I will lead you into the wilderness (desertum) of the peoples, and I will plead with you there face to face, even as I pleaded with your fathers in the wilderness of the land of Egypt; then will I cause you to pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant" (xx. 34-37).

Here also a wilderness denotes a state of temptations, which state is called the wilderness of the peoples and also the wilderness of the land of Egypt, because the state of the natural man before regeneration is meant, which, because there are then no goods and truths in it, but only evils and falsities, is a wilderness and a desert (solitudo), but when falsities and evils have been driven out therefrom, and truths and goods implanted in their place, then from being a wilderness he becomes Lebanon and a garden. To plead with them in the wilderness face to face, signifies to show them to the life and to acknowledgment of what quality they are; for in temptations the evils and falsities of man come forth and appear; face to face means to the life and to acknowledgment. That after man has endured hard things, conjunction with the Lord, which is reformation, is effected, is signified by Then will I cause you to pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bonds of the covenant, - to cause you to pass under the rod denoting to suffer hard things, and the bond of the covenant denoting conjunction with the Lord.

(References: Ezekiel 20:34-37)


[40] In Hosea:

"I will visit upon her the days of the Baalim, in which she went after her lovers; therefore behold I will bring you into the wilderness (desertum), and afterwards I will speak upon her heart, and I will give her her vineyards thence, and the valley of Achor for a door of hope, and she shall answer there according to the days of her youth, and according to the days of her coming up out of the land of Egypt; and in that day thou shalt call me my husband, and shalt no more call me my Baal" (ii. 13-16).

The Baalim and lovers, after whom she went, signify such things as pertain to the natural man, and are loved, namely, desires and the falsities therefrom; that these must be removed by means of temptations is signified by I will bring you into the wilderness. That afterwards there will be consolation is signified by Afterwards I will speak upon her heart; that then they will have spiritual and natural truths is signified by I will give her her vineyards thence, and the valley of Achor. That afterwards they will have influx of good from heaven and consequent joy such as those had who were of the Ancient Churches, and who from natural became spiritual, is signified by She shall answer or sing there according to the days of her youth, and according to the days of her coming up out of the land of Egypt, - the days of youth signifying the times of the Ancient Church, and according to the days of her coming up out of the land of Egypt, signifying when from natural they have become spiritual. Conjunction with the Lord at that time through the affections for truth when the desires from the natural man have been rejected, is signified by In that day thou shalt call me my husband, and shalt no more call me my Baal.

(References: Hosea 2:13-16)


[41] Since a wilderness signifies a state of temptations, and forty, whether years or days, the whole duration thereof from beginning to end, therefore the temptations of the Lord, which were the most dreadful of all, and which He sustained from childhood to the passion of the cross, are meant by the temptations of forty days in the wilderness, concerning which it is written as follows in the Evangelist:

"Jesus was led by the spirit into the wilderness (desertum), that he might be tempted of the devil; and when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he afterwards hungered; and the tempter drew near unto him" (Matt. iv. 1-3; Luke iv. 1-3):

"The spirit urging" Jesus "caused him to go out into the wilderness (desertum), and he was in the wilderness forty days, tempted, and was with the beasts" (Mark i. 12, 13).

This does not mean that the Lord was tempted by the devil only forty days, and at the end of these, but that he was tempted throughout his whole life even to the last moment, when he suffered cruel anguish of heart in Gethsemane, and afterwards in the terrible passion of the cross; for by means of temptations admitted into the Human which He had from the mother, the Lord subjugated all the hells, and at the same time glorified His Human. But concerning these temptations of the Lord, see what is related in the Arcana Coelestia, and in the quotations brought together from that work in the Doctrine of the New Jerusalem (n. 201). All these temptations of the Lord are signified by the temptations in the wilderness during forty days and forty nights, because wilderness signifies a state of temptations, and forty days and forty nights their whole duration. No more is recorded of these by the Evangelists, because thus much only was revealed concerning them; still in the prophets, and especially in the Psalms of David, they are described at length. The beasts with which the Lord is said to have been, signify infernal societies; and fasting here signifies affliction, such as exists in the combats of temptations.

(References: Luke 4:1-3; Mark 1:12-13; Matthew 4:1-3; The New Jerusalem and its Heavenly Doctrine 201)


[42] (IV.) A wilderness also signifies hell, because that is called a wilderness where there is no harvest or habitation, also where there are wild beasts, serpents, and dragons, which signify where there is no truth of doctrine, or good of life, consequently where there are desires (concupiscentiae) arising from evil loves, and thence falsities of every kind. And as these exist in hell, and the former in a wilderness, therefore a wilderness also signifies hell from correspondence. Moreover, the natural man in every one, so long as it is separated from the spiritual - as is the case before regeneration - is hell, because all the hereditary evil into which man is born resides in his natural man, and is cast out from it, that is, removed, only by means of the influx of Divine Truth through heaven from the Lord. And this influx into the natural man can come only through the spiritual, for the natural man is in the world, and the spiritual man in heaven, therefore the spiritual man must first be opened before the Lord out of heaven can remove the hell which is in the spiritual man.

[43] How this is removed was represented by the he-goat, called Azazel, which was cast out into the wilderness; for the he-goat from correspondence signifies the natural man, as to its affections and knowledges, and in the opposite sense, as to its desires and falsities. Of this he-goat it is written in Moses, that Aaron should take two he-goats, and cast lots upon them, one for the he-goat to be sacrificed, the other for Azazel; and after he had atoned for the tent of meeting and the altar with the blood of the sacrificed bullock and of the sacrificed he-goat, he should lay his hands upon the head of the he-goat Azazel, and confess upon it the iniquities and sins of the sons of Israel, which he should put upon the head of the he-goat, and afterwards should send him into the wilderness (desertum) by the hand of a man appointed.

"So the he-goat shall bear upon himself all the iniquities" of the sons of Israel "into a land cut off and into the wilderness; and also the skin, the flesh, and the dung of the bullock and of the sacrificed he-goat should be burned in the wilderness; thus should they be atoned for and cleansed from all their sins" (Lev. xvi 5-34).

These things were commanded in order that expiation might thereby be represented, that is, purification from evils and falsities. Two he-goats were taken to represent this, because a he-goat signified from correspondence the natural man, the he-goat that was to be sacrificed the natural man as to the part purified, and the he-goat that was to be sent into the wilderness the unpurified natural man. And this latter abounds with disorderly desires and impurities of every kind, as said above, therefore the he-goat was sent out of the camp into a land cut off and into the wilderness, that he might bear away the iniquities and sins of all in that church. A land cut off and the wilderness signify hell; Aaron's laying his hands upon its head, and confessing sins, represented communication and translation; for this comes to pass when man is purified or expiated from sins, for sins are then sent back to hell, and affections for good and truth are implanted in their place. These were represented in part by the fat from the bullock and from the other he-goat offered in sacrifice, also by their blood, and especially by the burnt-offering from the ram - concerning which see verses 5-24 in the same chapter; for the ram from correspondence signifies the natural man as to the good of charity. It must, however, be understood that the Israelitish people were not in the least purified from their sins by these things, but that simply the purification of the natural man, while he is being regenerated, was represented. All things pertaining to man's regeneration were represented by such external things, especially by sacrifices, and this was done for the sake of the conjunction of heaven with that church by means of those externals of worship, the internals which the externals represented being seen in the heavens. Who cannot see that the sins of a whole assembly could not be transferred to the he-goat, and borne by him to hell? From these details the signification of wilderness in its various senses is evident.

(References: Isaiah 32:13-16; Leviticus 16:5-24, 16:5-34; Psalms 107:33-36)

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From Swedenborg's Works

References from Swedenborg's unpublished works:

Apocalypse Explained 731, 740, 758, 760, 764, 821, 1029, 1037, 1038, 1081

Other New Christian Commentary

Good 1

Apple of the eye 1

Baalim 1

Espousals, love of thine 1

Fast 1

Fir tree 1

Goat 1

Land of drought and of thick shade 1

Land not inhabited 1

Manna 1

Meadow 1

Myrtle tree 1

Pine tree 1

Ram 1

Sharon, Bashan, and Carmel 1

Shittah tree 1

Swell 1

Spoilers 1

Wilderness 1


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