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Arcana Coelestia #9372

Arcana Coelestia (Potts translation)      

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9372. And He said unto Moses. That this signifies that which concerns the Word in general, is evident from the representation of Moses, as being the Word (of which below); and from the signification of “He said,” as involving those things which follow in this chapter, thus those which concern the Word (see n. 9370). (That Moses represents the Word, can be seen from what has been often shown before about Moses, as from the preface to Genesis 18; and n. 4859, 5922, 6723, 6752, 6771, 6827, 7010, 7014, 7089, 7382, 8601, 8760, 8787, 8805.) Here Moses represents the Word in general, because it is said of him in what follows, that he alone should come near unto Jehovah (verse 2); and also that, being called unto out of the midst of the cloud, he entered into it, and went up the mount (verses 16-18).

(References: Exodus 24:16, 24:18)

[2] In the Word there are many who represent the Lord in respect to truth Divine, or in respect to the Word; but chief among them are Moses, Elijah, Elisha, and John the Baptist. That Moses does so, can be seen in the explications just cited above; that so do Elijah and Elisha, can be seen in the preface to Genesis 18; and n. 2762, 5247; and that John the Baptist does so is evident from the fact that he was “Elias who was to come.” He who does not know that John the Baptist represented the Lord as to the Word, cannot know what all those things infold and signify which are said about him in the New Testament; and therefore in order that this secret may stand open, and that at the same time it may appear that Elias, and also Moses, who were seen when the Lord was transfigured, signified the Word, some things may here be quoted which are spoken about John the Baptist; as in Matthew:

After the messengers of John had departed, Jesus began to speak concerning John, saying, What went ye out into the wilderness to see? a reed shaken by the wind? But what went ye out to see? a man clothed in soft raiment? Behold, they that wear soft things are in kings’ houses. But what went ye out to see? a prophet? Yea, I say unto you, even more than a prophet. This is he of whom it is written, Behold I send Mine angel before Thy face, who shall prepare Thy way before Thee. Verily I say unto you, Among those who are born of women there hath not arisen a greater than John the Baptist; nevertheless he that is less in the kingdom of the heavens is greater than he. All the prophets and the law prophesied until John. And if ye are willing to believe, he is Elias who was to come. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear (Matthew 11:7-15; and also Luke 7:24-28).

No one can know how these things are to be understood, unless he knows that this John represented the Lord as to the Word, and unless he also knows from the internal sense what is signified by “the wilderness” in which he was, also what by “a reed shaken by the wind,” and likewise by “soft raiment in kings’ houses;” and further what is signified by his being “more than a prophet,” and by “none among those who are born of women being greater than he, and nevertheless he that is less in the kingdom of the heavens is greater than he,” and lastly by his being “Elias.” For without a deeper sense, all these words are uttered merely from some comparison, and not from anything of weight.

(References: Arcana Coelestia 2135)

[3] But it is very different when by John is understood the Lord as to the Word, or the Word representatively. Then by “the wilderness of Judea in which John was” is signified the state in which the Word was at the time when the Lord came into the world, namely, that it was “in the wilderness,” that is, it was in obscurity so great that the Lord was not at all acknowledged, neither was anything known about His heavenly kingdom; when yet all the prophets prophesied about Him, and about His kingdom, that it was to endure forever. (That “a wilderness” denotes such obscurity, see n. 2708, 4736, 7313.) For this reason the Word is compared to “a reed shaken by the wind” when it is explained at pleasure; for in the internal sense “a reed” denotes truth in the ultimate, such as is the Word in the letter.

[4] That the Word in the ultimate, or in the letter, is crude and obscure in the sight of men; but that in the internal sense it is soft and shining, is signified by their “not seeing a man clothed in soft raiment, for behold those who wear soft things are in kings’ houses.” That such things are signified by these words, is plain from the signification of “raiment,” or “garments,” as being truths (n. 2132, 2576, 4545, 4763, 5248, 6914, 6918, 9093); and for this reason the angels appear clothed in garments soft and shining according to the truths from good with them (n. 5248, 5319, 5954, 9212, 9216). The same is evident from the signification of “kings’ houses,” as being the abodes of the angels, and in the universal sense, the heavens; for “houses” are so called from good (n. 2233, 2234, 3128, 3652, 3720, 4622, 4982, 7836, 7891, 7996, 7997); and “kings,” from truth (n. 1672, 2015, 2069, 3009, 4575, 4581, 4966, 5044, 6148). Therefore by virtue of their reception of truth from the Lord, the angels are called “sons of the kingdom,” “sons of the king,” and also “kings.”

(References: Arcana Coelestia 2233-2234, 7996-7997)

[5] That the Word is more than any doctrine in the world, and more than any truth in the world, is signified by “what went ye out to see? a prophet? Yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet;” and by, “there hath not arisen among those who are born of women a greater than John the Baptist;” for in the internal sense “a prophet” denotes doctrine (n. 2534, 7269); and “those who are born,” or are the sons, “of women” denote truths (n. 489, 491, 533, 1147, 2623, 2803, 2813, 3704, 4257).

[6] That in the internal sense, or such as it is in heaven, the Word is in a degree above the Word in the external sense, or such as it is in the world, and such as John the Baptist taught, is signified by, “he that is less in the kingdom of the heavens is greater than he;” for as perceived in heaven the Word is of wisdom so great that it transcends all human apprehension. That the prophecies about the Lord and His coming, and that the representatives of the Lord and of His kingdom, ceased when the Lord came into the world, is signified by, “all the prophets and the law prophesied until John.” That the Word was represented by John, as by Elijah, is signified by his being “Elias who is to come.”

[7] The same is signified by these words in Matthew:

The disciples asked Jesus, Why say the scribes that Elias must first come? He answered and said, Elias must needs first come, and restore all things. But I say unto you, that Elias hath come already, and they knew him not, but did unto him whatsoever they wished. Even so shall the Son of man also suffer of them. And they understood that He spoke to them of John the Baptist (Matthew 17:10-13).

That “Elias hath come, and they knew him not, but did unto him whatsoever they wished” signifies that the Word has indeed taught them that the Lord is to come, but that still they did not wish to comprehend, interpreting it in favor of the rule of self, and thus extinguishing what is Divine in it. That they would do the same with the truth Divine itself, is signified by “even so shall the Son of man also suffer of them.” (That “the Son of man” denotes the Lord as to truth Divine, see n. 2803, 2813, 3704)

[8] From all this it is now evident what is meant by the prophecy about John in Malachi:

Behold I send you Elijah the prophet before the great and terrible day of Jehovah cometh (Malachi 4:5).

Moreover, the Word in the ultimate, or such as it is in the external form in which it appears before man in the world, is described by the “clothing” and “food” of John the Baptist, in Matthew:

John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, had His clothing of camel’s hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his food was locusts and wild honey (Matthew 3:1, 4).

In like manner it is described by Elijah in the second book of Kings:

He was a hairy man, and girt with a girdle of leather about his loins (2 Kings 1:8).

By “clothing,” or a “garment,” when said of the Word, is signified truth Divine there in the ultimate form; by “camel’s hair” are signified memory-truths such as appear there before a man in the world; by the “leathern girdle” is signified the external bond connecting and keeping in order all the interior things; by “food” is signified spiritual nourishment from the knowledges of truth and of good out of the Word; by “locusts” are signified ultimate or most general truths; and by “wild honey” their pleasantness.

[9] That such things are signified by “clothing” and “food” has its origin in the representatives of the other life, where all appear clothed according to truths from good, and where food also is represented according to the desires of acquiring knowledge and growing wise. From this it is that “clothing,” or a “garment,” denotes truth (as may be seen from the citations above; and that “food” or “meat” denotes spiritual nourishment, n. 3114, 4459, 4792, 5147, 5293, 5340, 5342, 5576, 5579, 5915, 8562, 9003; that “a girdle” denotes a bond which gathers up and holds together interior things, n. 9341; that “leather” denotes what is external, n. 3540; and thus “a leathern girdle” denotes an external bond; that “hairs” denote ultimate or most general truths, n. 3301, 5569-5573; that “a camel” denotes memory-knowledge in general, n. 3048, 3071, 3143, 3145, 4156; that “a locust” denotes nourishing truth in the extremes, n. 7643; and that “honey” denotes the pleasantness thereof, n. 5620, 6857, 8056). It is called “wild honey,” or “honey of the field,” because by “a field” is signified the church (n. 2971, 3317, 3766, 7502, 7571, 9139, 9295). He who does not know that such things are signified, cannot possibly know why Elijah and John were so clothed. And yet that these things signified something peculiar to these prophets, can be thought by everyone who thinks well about the Word.

[10] Because John the Baptist represented the Lord as to the Word, therefore also when he spoke of the Lord, who was the Word itself, he said of himself that he was “not Elias, nor the prophet,” and that he was “not worthy to loose the latchet of the Lord’s shoe,” as in John:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and God was the Word. And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory. The Jews from Jerusalem, priests and Levites, asked John who he was. And he confessed, and denied not, I am not the Christ. Therefore they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? But he said, I am not. Art thou the prophet? He answered, No. They said therefore unto him, Who art thou? He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said Isaiah the prophet. They said therefore, Why then baptizest thou, if thou art not the Christ, nor Elias, nor the prophet? He answered, I baptize with water; in the midst of you standeth one whom ye know not; He it is who is to come after me, who was before me, the latchet of whose shoe I am not worthy to unloose. When he saw Jesus, he said, Behold the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sin of the world! This is He of whom I said, After me cometh a man who was before me; for he was before me (John 1:1, 14, 19-30).

From these words it is plain that when John spoke about the Lord Himself, who was Truth Divine itself, or the Word, he said that he himself was not anything, because the shadow disappears when the light itself appears, that is, the representative disappears when the original itself makes its appearance. (That the representatives had in view holy things, and the Lord Himself, and not at all the person that represented, see n. 665, 1097, 1361, 3147, 3881, 4208, 4281, 4288, 4292, 4307, 4444, 4500, 6304, 7048, 7439, 8588, 8788, 8806.) One who does not know that representatives vanish like shadows at the presence of light, cannot know why John denied that he was Elias and the prophet.

[11] From all this it can now be seen what is signified by Moses and Elias, who were seen in glory, and who spoke with the Lord when transfigured, of His departure which He should accomplish at Jerusalem (Luke 9:29-31); namely, that they signified the Word (“Moses” the historic Word, and “Elias” the prophetic Word), which in the internal sense throughout treats of the Lord, of His coming into the world, and of His departure out of the world; and therefore it is said that “Moses and Elias were seen in glory,” for “glory” denotes the internal sense of the Word, and the “cloud” its external sense (see the preface to Genesis 18, and n. 5922, 8427).

(References: Arcana Coelestia 2135; Exodus 24:1-2)

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Inbound References:

Arcana Coelestia 9374, 9378, 9379, 9382, 9386, 9429, 9504, 9779, 9806, 9828, 9954, 10027, 10090, 10215, 10251, 10337, 10355, 10375, 10396, 10397, 10400, 10432, 10450, 10460, 10468, 10528, 10549, 10551, 10635, 10636, 10641, 10690

References from Swedenborg's unpublished works:

Apocalypse Explained 19, 64, 66, 83, 130, 355, 375, 701, 710, 735, 746

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.

 John the Baptist
Compare the birth of John the Baptist with the birth of Jesus Christ. What do the births of these men mean in our lives?
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 11 - 17

 The Lord's Baptism: Matthew
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

Thanks to the Swedenborg Foundation for the permission to use this translation.



The Unjust Steward      

By Mr. Brian P. David

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Dutch artist Marinus van Reymerswale painted "The Two Tax Collectors" in the 1540s.

This parable has for centuries caused confusion and consternation for Biblical commentators. The steward has been wasting his master’s goods, and under threat of being fired goes scrambling around settling debts on the cheap. His motivation is rotten – he does it to ingratiate himself with the debtors so they will take him in after he loses his job. And for this he gets praised!

Jesus then proceeds to say that worldly men are wiser than enlightened, angelic ones, and advises us to embrace ill-gotten wealth – and then, in a seeming contradiction, tells us we cannot serve both God and mammon. Huh? Didn’t he just tell us to serve mammon?

Understood on an internal level – through the Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg – the story makes much more sense.

Let’s say your church decides to start a Sunday night Bible study. The pastor notes that this is part of the Sabbath, and there should be no excuses. He also encourages participants to buy a study guide which he wrote and the church is selling.

You find this troubling. You and your wife read and study the Bible together; you’ve taken part in some other Bible studies, but don’t like feeling coerced. What’s more, Sunday is the one day all your children are home, and you have a tradition of Sunday dinners that tend to evolve into long, rich conversations. You and your wife talk about it, and decide to keep your family tradition instead.

This leads to some pressure. The pastor keeps calling to remind you of the study nights, and you keep catching snide remarks from other members. Finally you tell the pastor that the reaction is hurtful and unwarranted, and you might decide to seek another church.

You tell this to a friend, and his reaction is unexpected. “I hear what you’re saying,” he says, “and I might be right with you someday. But for me, I’d never gone to a Bible study before. I always figured that I knew all the stories, and I was busy, I was tired, all that stuff. But I really couldn’t argue with the fact that it is the Sabbath. So I went, and you know, I’m seeing things in the Bible I never saw before. I mean, I knew all the stories, but now I’m seeing ways I can apply it to my life.”

That, in essence, is the parable of the unjust steward. In this example, “you” are the rich man, with a wealth of spiritual knowledge which you’ve confirmed in your life. The church is the steward, who represents external ideas about religion, based in truth but not necessarily filled with a desire for good. You can see that he is wasting your goods – the church’s ideas are hampering your ability to live the best life you can.

Your friend, meanwhile, is a debtor – someone with a collection of knowledge from others, but not confirmed as part of life. Pressured into the Bible study, he starts confirming some of the knowledge he has and applying it to life – akin to the debtors “writing” down lesser amounts, which represents confirming themselves in intermediate spiritual states.

The explains, then, why the steward was praised. Despite his limits, he found a way to be useful – and in doing so made a move toward improving his spiritual state.

That brings us to the mysterious line, “the sons of this world are more shrewd in their generation than the sons of light.” This means that if we are in external states (“this generation”) – which the steward was, and the debtors were – the most effective tool for us is going to be external thought and knowledge (“sons of this world”). That’s what the steward got from the debtors, and what the debtors got from steward. They shared external things, to the benefit of both.

And what of “making friends with unrighteous mammon”? “Unrighteous mammon” is truth and knowledge possessed by evil people. To “make friends” with it is making a connection to the truth and knowledge without embracing the evil. Which, again, is something the steward and the debtors did for each other.

So the Lord here is telling us that if we are in a worldly state and want to become more spiritual, we need to collect true ideas from the world around us – even an evil world – and make use of them.

But we do have to be careful. When we’re seeking truth that is infused with evil, it’s easy to embrace both instead of separating them. So we need to be aware of which master we’re really serving – do we love the truth and feel an aversion to the evil? Or do we justify the evil and regard the truth as unimportant? That will tell us whether we’re serving God or mammon.

(References: Arcana Coelestia 3875 [3], 9093, 9210 [3]; Divine Providence 250; The Apocalypse Explained 847 [3]; True Christian Religion 437)

From Swedenborg's Works


Apocalypse Explained #946

Apocalypse Explained (Tansley translation)      

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946. Because thy judgments have been made manifest. That this signifies that Divine truths are revealed to them, is evident from the signification of judgments, as denoting Divine truths, of which we shall speak presently; and from the signification of being manifested, as denoting to be revealed. That Divine truths are revealed at the end of the church, and that they have been revealed, will be shown in what follows in this chapter, because the subject there treated of is concerning them.

The reason why judgments signify Divine truths is, that the laws of government in the Lord's spiritual kingdom are called judgments; but the laws of government in the Lord's celestial kingdom are called justice. For the laws of government in the Lord's spiritual kingdom are laws from Divine truth, whereas the laws of government in the Lord's celestial kingdom are laws from Divine Good. This is why judgment and justice are mentioned in the following passages in the Word.

In Isaiah:

"There shall be no end to peace upon the throne of David, to establish it, and to uphold it in judgment and justice from now and for ever" (ix. 7).

This speaks of the Lord and His kingdom. His spiritual kingdom is signified by the throne of David; and because this kingdom is in Divine truths from the Divine Good, it is said, in "judgment and justice."

In Jeremiah:

"I will raise up to David a just shoot, and he shall reign a king, and he shall act intelligently, and shall execute judgment and justice" (xxiii. 5).

These words also are spoken of the Lord, and of His spiritual kingdom. And since this kingdom is in Divine truths from the Divine Good, it is said that He shall reign a King, and shall act intelligently, and that He shall execute judgment and justice. The Lord is called King from Divine truth. And whereas Divine truth is also Divine intelligence, it is said that He shall act intelligently. And because Divine truth is from the Divine Good, it is said that He shall execute judgment and justice.

(References: Isaiah 9:7; Jeremiah 23:5; Revelation 15:4)

[2] In Isaiah:

"Jehovah shall be exalted; for he dwelleth on high; he hath filled Zion with judgment and justice" (xxxiii. 5).

By Zion is meant heaven and the church, where the Lord reigns by Divine truth. And because all Divine truth is from Divine Good, it is said, "He hath filled Zion with judgment and justice."

In Jeremiah:

"I Jehovah, doing justice and judgment in the earth; for in these I am well pleased" (ix. 23).

Here also by judgment and justice is signified Divine truth from the Divine Good.

In Isaiah:

"They shall ask of me the judgments of justice; they shall desire to draw near unto God" (lviii. 2).

The judgments of justice are Divine truths from the Divine Good. Similarly judgment and justice; for the spiritual sense conjoins those things the sense of the letter separates.

In Hosea:

"I will betroth thee to me for ever; and I will betroth thee to me in justice and judgment, and in mercy and in truth" (ii. 19, 20).

The subject there treated of is the celestial kingdom of the Lord, which consists of those who are in love to the Lord. And because the Lord's conjunction with them is comparatively like the conjunction of a husband with a wife - for the good of love so conjoins - therefore it is said, I will betroth thee to me in justice and judgment. And justice is mentioned in the first place, and judgment in the second, because those who are in the good of love to the Lord are also in truths; for they see them from good. Because justice is said of good, and judgment of truth, therefore it is also said, in mercy and in truth; mercy being also said of good, because it is of love.

(References: Hosea 2:19-20; Isaiah 33:5, 58:2; Jeremiah 9:23, 9:24)

[3] In David:

"Jehovah is in the heavens; thy justice as the mountains of God, and thy judgments as a great abyss" (Psalm xxxvi. 5, 6).

Justice is said of Divine Good, therefore it is compared to the mountains of God; for by mountains of God are signified the goods of love; see above (n. 405, 510, 850). And judgments are said of Divine truths, therefore they are compared to a great abyss; for by a great abyss is signified Divine truth. From these things it is now evident that by judgments are signified Divine truths.

(References: Psalms 36:5-6; The Apocalypse Explained 405, 510, 850)

[4] In many passages in the Word, judgments, precepts, and statutes are mentioned. And by judgments are there signified civil laws; by precepts the laws of spiritual life; and by statutes the laws of worship. That by judgments are signified civil laws, is clear from Exodus (xxi., xxii., xxiii.), where the things that are there commanded are called judgments; because from them judgments were given by judges in the gates of the city. But still they signify Divine truths, such as are in the Lord's spiritual kingdom in the heavens, for they contain them in the spiritual sense, as is evident from the explanation in Arcana Coelestia (n. 8971-9103, 9124-9231, 9247-9348).

That the laws with the sons of Israel were called judgments, precepts, and statutes, is clear from the following passages:-

In Moses:

"I will speak unto thee all the precepts, the statutes, and the judgments, which thou shalt teach them, that they may do them" (Deut. v. 31).

In the same:

"These are the precepts, the statutes, and the judgments, which Jehovah your God commanded to teach you" (Deut. vi. 1).

In the same:

"Therefore, thou shalt keep the precepts, the statutes, and the judgments, which I command thee this day, to do them" (Deut. vii. 11).

In David:

"If his sons forsake my law and walk not in my judgments; if they profane my statutes, and keep not my precepts, I will visit their prevarication with a rod" (Psalm lxxxix. 31-33),

besides frequently elsewhere:

As Lev. xviii. 5; xix. 37; xx. 22; xxv. 18; xxvi. 15; Deut. iv. 1; v. 1, 6, 7; xvii. 19; xxvi. 17; Ezek. v. 6, 7; xi. 12, 20; xviii. 9; xx. 11, 13, 25; xxxvii. 24.

By precepts in these passages are meant the laws of life, especially those in the Decalogue, which are therefore called the Ten Precepts. But by the statutes are meant the laws of worship, which principally related to sacrifices, and the ministry of holy things. And by judgments are meant civil laws, which, because representative of spiritual laws, were therefore significative of Divine truths, such as those in the Lord's spiritual kingdom in the heavens.


(References: Arcana Coelestia 8971-9103, 9124-9231, 9247-9348; Deuteronomy 4:1, 5:1, 5:6-7, 5:31, 6:1, 7:11, 17:19, 26:17; Exodus 21:1, 22:1, 23:1; Ezekiel 5:6-7, 11:12, 11:20, 18:9, 20:11, 20:13, 20:15, 20:25, 37:24; Leviticus 18:5, 19:37, 20:22, 25:18, 26:15; Psalms 89:30-32)

[5] When, therefore, a man shuns and turns away from evils as sins, and is raised into heaven by the Lord, it follows that he is no longer in his proprium, but in the Lord, and that consequently he thinks and wills goods. Now because a man thinks and wills, so also does he act; for every action of a man proceeds from the thought of his will, therefore again it follows, that when a man shuns and turns away from evils, he does goods, not from himself, but from the Lord. Therefore to shun evils is to do goods. The goods which a man then does are meant by good works; and good works in their whole extent are meant by charity.

Because a man cannot be reformed unless he thinks, wills, and acts as of himself, that which he does as of himself is conjoined to him, and remains with him. Because that which a man does as of himself receives no life, but flows through like ether, therefore the Lord wills that a man should not only shun and turn away from evils as of himself, but should also think, will, and act as of himself, yet still acknowledge in heart, that all these things are from the Lord. This he will acknowledge because it is the truth.

(References: Revelation 15:4)

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References from Swedenborg's unpublished works:

Apocalypse Explained 930, 1027, 1199

Other New Christian Commentary

Thanks to the Swedenborg Society for the permission to use this translation.