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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

Other New Christian Commentary

John the Baptist 1

Elijah 1

Leathern girdle, the, which john the Baptist wore 1

Locusts 1

Raiment 1

Reed shaken with the wind 1


Glossary of Terms Used by Emanuel Swedenborg
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 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?
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Arcana Coelestia #2015

Arcana Coelestia (Potts translation)      

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2015. Kings shall go forth from thee. That this signifies that all truth is from Him, is evident from the signification of a “king,” in both the historical and the prophetic Word, as being truth (stated above, n. 1672, but not yet fully shown). From the signification of “nations” as being goods, and from the signification of “kings” as being truths, we can see the nature of the internal sense of the Word, and also how remote it is from the sense of the letter. He who reads the Word, especially the historical portion, has no other belief than that the nations there are nations, and the kings kings, and thus that nations and kings are treated of in the very Word itself. But the idea of nations, as well as that of kings, altogether perishes when it is received by the angels, and in their place there succeed good and truth. This cannot but appear as strange and indeed as a paradox, but still it is really so, and the truth of it may appear to everyone from considering that if, in the Word, nations were signified by “nations,” and kings by “kings,” then the Word of the Lord would involve scarcely anything more than any other history, or any other writing, and thus would be a merely worldly affair, when yet there is nothing in the Word that is not Divine, and therefore celestial and spiritual.

[2] Take as a single instance what is said in this verse, that Abraham should be made fruitful and should be made nations, and that kings should go forth from him-what is this but a merely worldly matter, and in no respect heavenly? For in these things there is only the glory of the world, which is nothing at all in heaven; but if this is the Word of the Lord, there must be in it the glory of heaven, and none of the world’s glory. Therefore the sense of the letter is altogether obliterated and vanishes when it passes into heaven; and it is so purified that nothing that is worldly is intermingled. For by “Abraham” is not meant Abraham, but the Lord; by his being “made fruitful” is not meant that his posterity should increase exceedingly, but that the good of the Lord’s Human Essence should increase to infinitude; by the “nations” are not meant nations, but goods; and by the “kings,” not kings but truths. Still the history according to the sense of the letter remains true; for it is true that it was so said to Abraham; also that he was made fruitful, and that nations and kings came from him.

[3] That “kings” signify truths, may be seen from the following passages.

In Isaiah:

The sons of strangers shall build up thy walls, and their kings shall minister unto thee; thou shalt suck the milk of the nations, and the breast of kings shalt thou suck (Isaiah 60:10, 16);

what it is to “suck the milk of nations” and “the breast of kings,” is by no means plain from the letter, but it is from the internal sense, in which it signifies to be gifted with goods, and instructed in truths.

In Jeremiah:

There shall enter in by the gates of this city kings and princes sitting upon the throne of David, riding in chariots and on horses (Jeremiah 17:25; 22:4);

to “ride in chariots and on horses” is a prophetical saying which signifies an abundance of intellectual things, as may appear from very many passages in the Prophets; and thus by “kings entering in by the gates of the city” is signified in the internal sense that they should be imbued with truths of faith. This is the heavenly sense of the Word, into which the worldly literal sense passes.

[4] Again, in the same Prophet:

Jehovah hath despised in the indignation of His anger the king and the priest; the gates of Zion have sunk into the earth; He hath destroyed and broken her bars; her king and her princes are among the nations; the law is not (Lam. 2:6, 9);

“the king” here denotes the truth of faith; “the priest” the good of charity; “Zion” the church which is being destroyed, and whose bars are being broken; hence “the king and the princes are among the nations,” that is, truth and the things which are of truth will be banished to such an extent that there will be no “law,” that is, nothing of the doctrine of faith.

In Isaiah:

Before the child shall know to refuse the evil and choose the good, the ground shall be forsaken, which thou loathest in the presence of her two kings (Isaiah 7:16); where the Lord’s coming is treated of; the “ground which shall be forsaken” denotes faith, of which there would then be none, and the truths of which are the “kings that would be loathed.”

[5] In the same Prophet:

I will lift up My hand to the nations, and raise up My ensign to the peoples; and they shall bring thy sons in their bosom, and thy daughters shall be carried upon the shoulder; and kings shall be thy nourishers, and their queens those that give thee suck (Isaiah 49:22-23);

“the nations” and “the daughters” denote goods; and “the peoples” and “the sons” truths (as shown in Part First, where it may be seen that “nations” denote goods, n. 1259, 1260, 1416, 1849; and that “daughters” have a similar signification, n. 489-491; also that “peoples” denote truths, n. 1259, 1260; and “sons” likewise, n. 489, 491, 533, 1147). “Kings” therefore denote truths in general, by which they will be nourished, and their “queens” the goods from which they will be “suckled.” Whether you say goods and truths, or those who are in goods and truths, it is the same.

(References: Arcana Coelestia 1259-1260)


[6] Again in the same Prophet:

He shall sprinkle many nations, upon him kings shall shut their mouth-for that which was [not] told them have they seen; and that which they did not hear have they understood (Isaiah 52:15),

where the Lord’s coming is spoken of; the “nations” denote those who are affected by goods, and “kings” those who are affected by truths.

In David:

Now, O ye kings, be intelligent; be instructed, ye judges of the earth; serve Jehovah with fear, and exult with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and ye perish in the way (Psalms 2:10-12).

“Kings” denote those who are in truths; who also from their truths are often called “king’s sons;” “the Son” here denotes the Lord, who is here called “the Son” because He is the truth itself, and because all truth is from Him.

[7] In John:

They shall sing a new song, Worthy art Thou who takest the book, and openest the seals thereof; Thou hast made us unto our God kings and priests, that we may reign upon the earth (Revelation 5:9-10); where they who are in truths are called “kings.” The Lord also calls such persons “the sons of the kingdom,” in Matthew:

He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man; the field is the world; the seed is the sons of the kingdom, and the tares are the sons of the evil one (Matthew 13:37-38).

In John:

The sixth angel poured out his vial upon the great river Euphrates; and the water thereof was dried up, that the way of the Kings that are from the sun rising might be prepared (Revelation 16:12).

That by the “Euphrates” is not meant the Euphrates, nor by “the kings from the sun-rising” any kings therefrom, is evident (what is meant by the “Euphrates” may be seen above, n. 120, 1585, 1866); so that “the way of the kings that are from the sun-rising” means the truths of faith that are from the goods of love.

[8] In the same:

The nations that are saved shall walk in the light of it, and the kings of the earth shall bring their glory and honor into it (Revelation 21:24); where “the nations” denote those who are in goods, and “the kings of the earth” those who are in truths, as may be inferred from the fact that these words are prophetic, and not historical. In the same:

With the great harlot that sitteth upon many waters the kings of the earth have committed whoredom, and have been made drunken with the wine of her whoredom (Revelation 17:1-2).

And again:

Babylon hath made all the nations drink of the wine of her whoredom, and the kings of the earth have committed whoredom with her (Revelation 18:3, 9); where in like manner it is evident that kings are not meant by “the kings of the earth;” for the falsification and adulteration of the doctrine of faith, that is, of truth, is treated of, and this is the “whoredom;” “the kings of the earth” denote the truths that are falsified and adulterated.

(References: Revelation 17:2)


[9] In the same:

The ten horns which thou sawest are ten kings, that have received no kingdom as yet, but they receive authority [potestas] as kings with the beast for one hour. These shall have one mind, and shall give their power and authority to the beast (Revelation 17:12-13).

That these “kings” are not kings, is evident to everyone; for if so it would be wholly unintelligible that the ten kings should receive authority as kings one hour. So too in another passage:

I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together to make war with him that sat upon the horse, and with his army (Revelation 19:19).

That “he that sat upon the horse” is “the Word of God,” is openly stated in verse 13; and it is against this that the kings of the earth are said to have been gathered together. “The beast” denotes the goods of love, profaned; and “the kings” denote the truths of faith, adulterated; these are called “the kings of the earth,” because they are within the church. (That “the earth” is the church may be seen above, n. 662, 1066, 1067, 1262.) The “white horse” denotes the understanding of truth; and “he that sat upon the horse,” the Word. This meaning is still more manifest in Daniel (chapter 11), where the war between “the king of the south” and “the king of the north” is treated of; by which terms are signified the truths and falsities that had fought, the combats being described here also in an historical manner by this “war.”

(References: Arcana Coelestia 1066-1067; Daniel 11; Revelation 19:13)


[10] As “a king” signifies truth, it may be seen what is meant in the internal sense when the Lord is called a King and also a Priest; and also what it was in the Lord that was represented by kings, and what by priests. Kings represented His Divine truth, and priests His Divine good. All the laws of order by which the Lord governs the universe as King, are truths; but all the laws by which He governs the universe as Priest, and by which also He rules truths themselves, are goods; for government from truths alone would condemn everyone to hell; but government from goods lifts everyone out thence and uplifts him into heaven (see n. 1728). Because in the Lord’s case these two are conjoined, they were anciently represented by kingship conjoined with priesthood; as with Melchizedek, who was king of Salem and at the same time priest to God Most High (Genesis 14:18); and afterwards with the Jews, among whom the representative church was instituted in its own form, by judges and priests, and afterwards by kings.

[11] But as the kings represented truths, which ought not to have command, for the reason, as before said, that they condemn, therefore the desire to have kings was so displeasing as to call for rebuke, and the nature of truth as regarded in itself was described by the rights [jus] of the king (1 Samuel 8:11-18); and at an earlier day it was commanded by Moses (Deuteronomy 17:14-18) that they should choose genuine truth which is from good, and not spurious; and that they should not defile it by reasonings and memory-knowledges [scientifica]. This is what is involved in the directions concerning a king, given in Moses in the place just cited; which no one can possibly see from the sense of the letter, but yet is evident from the several points contained in the internal sense; so that “king” and “kingship” evidently represented and signified nothing else than truth.

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Inbound References:

Arcana Coelestia 2069, 2089, 2466, 2504, 2509, 2567, 2761, 2781, 2826, 2830, 2832, 2851, 2906, 3009, 3105, 3325, 3355, 3365, 3441, 3703, 3708, 3858, 3863, 3875, 3969, 4391, 4402, 4575, 4669, 4677, 4728, 4763, 4809, 4876, 4973, 5038, 5044, 5068, ...

Apocalypse Revealed 854

The White Horse 10

The New Jerusalem and its Heavenly Doctrine 1, 259, 309


References from Swedenborg's unpublished works:

Apocalypse Explained 27, 31, 126, 155, 236, 701

Other New Christian Commentary

Melchizedek 1

Queens as nursing mothers 1


Glossary of Terms Used by Emanuel Swedenborg
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 Asking for a King
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.
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 The Choosing of Saul
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Arcana Coelestia #2781

Arcana Coelestia (Elliott translation)      

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2781. 'And saddled [his] ass' means the natural man which He prepared. This is clear from the meaning of 'an ass', dealt with below. In man there are things of the will and there are those of the understanding; with the former go those things which spring from good, with the latter those which spring from truth. There are various kinds of animals, by which things of the will springing from good are meant, such as lambs, sheep, goats, she-goats, young bulls, and oxen, see 1823, 2179, 2180; and there are also those by which are meant things of the understanding springing from truth, namely horses, mules, wild asses, camels, and asses, in addition to birds. 'A horse' means the understanding part of the mind, as has been shown above in 2761, 2762; 'a wild ass' means rational truth separated from good, see 1949; and 'a camel' means factual knowledge in general, and 'an ass' factual knowledge in particular, see 1486.

(References: Arcana Coelestia 2179-2180, 2761-2762)


[2] There are two elements which constitute the natural degree of man's mind, or what amounts to the same, the natural man - natural good and natural truth. Natural good is the delight that flows forth from charity and faith, natural truth is knowledge of these. That natural truth is what is meant by 'an ass', and rational truth by 'a mule', becomes clear from the following places:In Isaiah,

A prophecy of the beasts of the south. In the land of distress and repression are the lion and the tiger, and from them come the viper and the flying fiery-serpent. They will bear their riches on the shoulders of young asses, and their treasures on the humps of camels - on a people [who] will not be any use [to them]; for the Egyptians will help in vain and to no advantage. Isaiah 30:6-7.

The expression 'the beasts of the south' is used of those who possess cognitions of good and truth but who make them matters of knowledge, not of life. In reference to those beasts it is said that those people 'bear their riches on the shoulders of young asses, and their treasures on the humps of camels', for the reason that 'young asses' means facts in particular, and 'camels' facts in general. 'The Egyptians', of whom it is said that they will help in vain and to no advantage, means knowledge, see 1164, 1165, 1186. It is evident to anyone that this prophecy has an internal sense and that without this it is understood by nobody, for without the internal sense no one can know what 'the prophecy of the beasts of the south' is, or what 'the lion and the tiger', or what 'the viper and the flying fiery-serpent', or what is meant by the words that 'those beasts were to bear their riches on the shoulders of young asses, and their treasures on the humps of camels', or why the assertion immediately follows that 'the Egyptians will help in vain and to no advantage'. 'Ass' is used with a like meaning in Israel's prophecy concerning Issachar, in Moses,

Issachar is a bony ass lying down between burdens. Genesis 49:14.

(References: Arcana Coelestia 1164-1165)


[3] In Zechariah,

This will be the plague with which Jehovah will smite all the peoples that wage war against Jerusalem. It will be a plague of the horse, the mule, the camel, and the ass, and every beast. Zechariah 14:12, 15.

'The horse, the mule, the camel, and the ass' means things of the understanding residing in man which will suffer from the plague. This is clear from every single detail before and after those verses, for the subject there is the plagues which are to precede the Last Judgement or. Close of the Age and to which John makes much reference in Revelation, as do the rest of the Prophets in various places. Those who are going to wage war at that time against Jerusalem, that is, against the Lord's spiritual Church and its truths, are meant by those animals. It will be the things of the understanding that will suffer from such plagues

[4] In Isaiah,

Blessed are you who sow beside all waters, who send forth the foot of the ox and the ass. Isaiah 32:20.

'Sowing beside all waters' stands for those who allow themselves to be taught spiritual things - 'waters' meaning spiritual things and so things that constitute an understanding of truth, see 680, 739, 2702. 'Who send forth the foot of the ox and the ass' stands for natural things that are to be of service, 'ox' meaning the natural as regards good, 2180, 2566, 'ass' the natural as regards truth.

[5] In Moses,

Binding his young ass to the vine and the foal 1 of his she-ass to the choice vine. He washes his vesture in wine and his cloak in the blood of grapes. Genesis 49:11.

This is the prophecy of Jacob, by then Israel, concerning the Lord. 'The vine' and 'the choice vine' stand for the spiritual Church, external and internal, 1069. 'Young ass' stands for natural truth, 'the foal of a she-ass' for rational truth. The reason 'the foal of a she-ass' means rational truth is that 'a she ass' means the affection for natural truth, 1486, while her foal means rational truth, see 1895, 1896, 1902, 1910.

(References: Arcana Coelestia 1895-1896)


[6] In former times a judge used to ride on a she-ass and his sons on young asses, the reason being that judges represented the goods of the Church and their sons truths derived from those goods. A king however used to ride on a she-mule and his sons on mules, the reason being that kings and their sons represented the truths of the Church, see 1672, 1728, 2015, 2069. The fact that a judge rode on a she-ass is clear in the Book of Judges,

My heart goes out to the law-givers of Israel offering themselves willingly among the people. Bless Jehovah, you who ride on white she-asses, you who sit on Middin. 2 Judges 5:9-10.

The fact that judges' sons rode on young asses,

Jair the judge over Israel had thirty sons who rode on thirty young asses. Judges 10:3-4.

And elsewhere in the same book,

Abdon the judge of Israel had forty sons and thirty grandsons who rode on seventy young asses. Judges 12:14.

David said to them, Take with you the servants of your lord and cause Solomon my son to ride on the she-mule which is mine. And they caused Solomon to ride on King David's she-mule. And Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet anointed him king in Gihon. 1 Kings 1:33, 38, 44-45.

The fact that the king's sons rode on mules,

All King David's sons arose, and they rode each on his mule and fled because of Absalom. 2 Samuel 13:29.

(References: Judges 12:13-14)


[7] From all this it is evident that riding on a she-ass indicated the judge, and riding on a she-mule the king; riding on a young ass indicated the judge's sons, and doing so on a mule the king's sons. They indicated these personages because, as has been stated, 'a she-ass' represented and meant the affection for natural good and truth, 'a she-mule' the affection for rational truth, 'an ass or young ass' natural truth itself, and 'a mule' as well as 'the foal of a she-ass' rational truth. This shows what is meant by the prophetical words that refer to the Lord, in Zechariah,

Exult, O daughter of Zion! Rejoice, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King will come to you. He is just and having salvation, humble and riding on an ass, and on a young ass, the foal of she-asses. His dominion will be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth. Zechariah 9:9-10.

The fact that the Lord wished to ride on these when He was about to enter Jerusalem is well known from the Gospels. The event is referred to in Matthew as follows,

Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a she-ass tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to Me. This took place to fulfil what was spoken by the prophet saying, Tell the daughter of Zion, Behold, your King is coming to you, meek seated on a she-ass, and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden. And they brought the she-ass and the colt and laid their garments on them and set Him on them. Matthew 21:2, 4-5, 7.

(References: Matthew 21:1-2)


[8] 'Riding on an ass' served to indicate that the natural was subordinate, and 'riding on a colt, the foal of a she-ass' that the rational was so; for 'the foal of a she-ass' is similar in meaning to 'a mule', as has been shown above, where Genesis 49:11 is referred to. 3 From this - the spiritual meaning of these animals - and because it was the right of the supreme judge and of the king to ride on them, and at the same time so that He might fulfil the representatives of the Church, the Lord was pleased to ride in this way. His doing so is described in John as follows,

The next day a great crowd who had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, took branches of palm trees, and went to meet Him, and cried, Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel! Jesus found a young ass and sat on it, as it is written, Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your King is coming, sitting on a she-ass's colt! These things however His disciples had not understood at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written of Him, and that they had done these things for Him. John 12:12-16; Mark 11:1-12; Luke 19:28-41.

(References: Luke 19:28-40; Mark 11:1-11)


[9] From an this it may now be clear that every single thing in the Church of that period was representative of the Lord, and consequently of the celestial and spiritual things that are in His kingdom; even the she-ass and the colt of the she-ass were so, which represented the natural man as regards good and truth. The reason for the representation was that the natural man ought to serve the rational, and the rational to serve the spiritual; but the spiritual ought to serve the celestial, and the celestial to serve the Lord. This is the order in which one is subordinated to another.

[10] Because 'an ox and an ass' meant the natural man as regards good and truth many laws were therefore laid down in which oxen and asses are mentioned. At first glance these laws do not seem to be worthy of mention in the Divine Word, but when they are interpreted as to their internal sense, that which is spiritual and of great importance is seen within these laws, such as the following laws in Moses,

If anyone opens a pit, or if anyone digs a pit and does not cover it, and an ox or an ass falls into it, the owner of the pit shall recompense its owner with silver, and the dead animal shall be his. Exodus 21:33-34.

If you meet your enemy's ox or his ass going astray you shall certainly lead it back to him. If you see the ass of one who hates you lying under its burden, and you are disinclined to remove it, you shall certainly help to remove it from it. Exodus 23:4-5; Deuteronomy 22:1, 3.

You shall not see your brother's ass or ox falling down in the road and hide yourself from them; you shall certainly help to lift them. Deuteronomy 22:4.

You shall not plough with an ox and an ass together. You shall not wear mingled material made of wool and linen together. Deuteronomy 22:10-11.

Six days you shall do your works, and on the seventh day you shall rest, in order that your ox and your ass may rest, and the son of your woman servant, and the settler. Exodus 23:12.

Here 'ox and ass' in the spiritual sense means nothing other than natural good and truth.

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Footnotes:

1. literally, the son

2. A Hebrew word, the meaning of which is uncertain.

3. i.e. in subsection 5 of this paragraph 378:5

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(References: Genesis 22:3; Judges 12:13-14)

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References from Swedenborg's unpublished works:

Apocalypse Explained 140, 355, 537

Other New Christian Commentary

Beast 1

Don’t 1

Mule 1

Saddle 1

Sow 1

Palm Sunday in the Gospel of Mark 1


Glossary of Terms Used by Emanuel Swedenborg
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