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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
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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Arcana Coelestia #3325

Arcana Coelestia (Elliott translation)      

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3325. 'Sell me - as if today - your birthright' means that in the short term the doctrine of truth was apparently prior. This is clear from the meaning of 'selling' as claiming for oneself; from the meaning of 'as if today' as in the short term (for in the internal sense of the Word 'today' means that which is perpetual and eternal, 2838. But to avoid its meaning perpetual and eternal the expression 'as if today' is used, the expression as if indicating that it was so apparently); and from the meaning of 'birthright' as the fact that it - that is to say, the doctrine of truth, which Jacob represents, 3305 - is prior.

(References: Genesis 38:29)


[2] By the expressions prior and priority of place, describing the birthright, are meant not only first in time but also first in degree; that is to say, it is a question of which one is to have dominion, good or truth? For until it has been joined to good truth is always prior; or what amounts to the same, until they have been regenerated, people governed by truth believe that truth is prior to and higher than good. That is how it appears at that time; but once truth with them has been joined to good, that is, once they have been regenerated, they see and perceive that truth is posterior and lower than good, and with them good has dominion over truth. This is what is meant by that which Isaac his father told Esau,

Behold, of the fatness of the earth will be your dwelling, and of the dew of heaven from above. And by your sword you will live, and you will serve your brother; and it will be, when you have dominion, that you will break his yoke from above your neck Genesis 27:39-40.

[3] But because within the Church those who are not being regenerated outnumber those who are, and those who are not base their judgements on what is the appearance, it has therefore been disputed, even from ancient times, whether priority of place belongs to truth or to good. With those who have not been regenerated and also with those who are not completely regenerate the opinion prevails that truth is prior, for they have not yet acquired a perception of good; and as long as anybody is without a perception of good he is in the dark or ignorant regarding these matters. But because those who have been regenerated are governed by good itself, they are able to discern from resulting intelligence and wisdom what good is, and that good comes from the Lord and flows in by way of the internal man into the external, doing so constantly without the person being aware of it. They are able to perceive that it joins itself to the truths of doctrine that are in the memory, and that as a consequence good in itself is prior even though it has not appeared so beforehand. This then is why the dispute arose about which one was prior and higher than the other, a dispute which was represented by Esau and Jacob, as well as by Perez and Zerah, Judah's sons by Tamar, Genesis 38:28-30, and also after that by Joseph's sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, Genesis 48:13-14, 17-20. The dispute arises because the spiritual Church is such that it has to be led to good by means of truth, and while being led to good it does not have the perception of good except insofar as this, quantitatively and qualitatively, lies concealed within the affection for truth. At that time it is indistinguishable from the delight of self-love and of love of the world which exists at the same time within that affection and is believed to be good.

(References: Genesis 48:14)


[4] Good however is the firstborn, that is, good flowing from love to the Lord and from love towards the neighbour, for no other good is good except that which flows from these. This becomes clear from the fact that life is present within good but not within truth except the life received from good, and from the fact that good flows into truths and gives them life, as may be seen clearly from what has been stated and shown already in 3324 about good and truth. For this reason all in whom love to the Lord and charity towards the neighbour are present are called 'the firstborn'. They were also represented in the Jewish Church by firstborn creatures - that is, when these are understood in the relative sense; for the Lord is the Firstborn, and those people are likenesses and images of Him.

[5] The Lord as regards His Divine Human is the Firstborn. This is clear in David,

He will cry to Me, You are My Father, My God, and the Rock of My Salvation; I will also make Him the Firstborn, supreme over the kings of the earth. My mercy I will keep for Him for ever, and My covenant will stand firm for Him, and I will establish His seed for ever, and His throne as the days of the heavens. Psalms 89:26-29.

This refers to the Lord. And in John,

From Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the Firstborn from mortal men, and Prince of the kings of the earth. Revelation 1:5.

And to fulfil those things that had been written regarding Him and that represented Him He was also the Firstborn Son, Luke 2:7, 22-23.

[6] The Lord also calls 'the firstborn' those in whom love to Him and charity towards the neighbour are present because they are likenesses and images of Him This is clear in John,

The hundred and forty-four thousand purchased from the earth - these are the ones who were not defiled with women, for they are virgins; these are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes; these have been purchased from men as firstfruits (the firstborn) to God and the Lamb, and in their mouth no lie was found, for they are spotless before God's throne. Revelation 14:3-5.

'A hundred and forty-four', or twelve times twelve, stands for those who have the faith that is grounded in charity, 3272, 'thousands' for countless numbers or for them all, 2575, 'virgins' for the good that flows from love to the Lord and from charity towards the neighbour, 2362, 3081, and so for those with whom innocence is present, which is also the meaning of 'following the Lamb' since the Lord by virtue of His innocence is called 'the Lamb'. This is why they are called the firstfruits or the firstborn.

[7] From these quotations it is evident that the Lord as regards the Divine Human was represented in the Jewish Church by firstborn beings, as also are those with whom love to Him is present, for they abide in the Lord. But the firstborn beings mentioned in the Word have a dual representation. They represent the Lord as regards Divine celestial love and as regards Divine spiritual love. The Lord's Divine celestial love is specific to the celestial Church, or to those belonging to that Church, who are called celestial on account of their love to the Lord. The Lord's Divine spiritual love is specific to the spiritual Church, or to those belonging to that Church, who are referred to as spiritual on account of their love to the neighbour. The Lord's Divine love goes out to all, but because people receive it variously - the celestial person in one way, the spiritual in another - it is said to be specific.

[8] Concerning the firstborn beings which represented the Lord as regards Divine celestial love, and also the people who belonged specifically to the celestial Church, the following is said in Moses,

The firstborn of your sons you shall give to Me. You shall do the same with your oxen and your flock. Seven days it shall be with its mother; on the eighth you shall give it to Me. And you shall be men who are sanctified to Me. Exodus 22:29-31.

The reason why it was to stay seven days with its mother was that the seventh day meant the celestial man, 84-87, and that seven consequently means that which is holy, 395, 433, 716, 881. The reason why on the eighth day they were to be given to Jehovah was that the eighth day meant the continuation from a new beginning, that is to say, the continuation of love, 2044. In the same author,

The firstborn among beasts, which is given as the firstborn to Jehovah, no man shall consecrate it; whether an ox or of the herd, it is Jehovah's. Leviticus 27:26, 27.

In the same author,

The firstfruits of all that is in the land, which they bring to Jehovah, shall be yours (Aaron's); every clean person in your house shall eat them. All that opens the womb among all flesh which they offer to Jehovah, man and beast, shall be yours. Nevertheless you shall redeem the firstborn of man, and the firstborn of unclean beasts you shall redeem. The firstborn of an ox, or the firstborn of a sheep, or the firstborn of a goat you shall not redeem; they are holy. Their blood you shall sprinkle over the altar and burn their fat as a fire-offering for an odour of rest to Jehovah. Numbers 18:13, 15-18.

In the same author,

Every firstborn male that is born among your herds and among your flocks you shall sanctify to Jehovah your God; you shall do no work by means of the firstborn of your oxen, and you shall not shear the firstborn of your flock. And if there is a blemish in it, lameness or blindness, any ill blemish whatever, you shall not sacrifice it to Jehovah your God. Deuteronomy 15:19-22.

(References: Deuteronomy 15:19, 15:21; Numbers 18:12-13, 18:15, 18:17)


[9] Because 'the firstborn [among beasts]' represented the Lord and those who are the Lord's by virtue of love to Him, the tribe of Levi was therefore taken instead of all the firstborn, the reason for this being that Levi represented the Lord as regards His love. Also, Levi means love, for Levi is a name that means to cling to and to be joined together - and 'to cling to' and 'to be joined together' in the internal sense is love. This will in the Lord's Divine mercy be dealt with later on, at Genesis 29:34. Regarding the Levites the following is said in Moses,

Jehovah spoke to Moses. saying, Behold, I Myself will take the Levites from the midst of the children of Israel, instead of every firstborn, that which opens the womb, from the children of Israel; and the Levites will be Mine. For every firstborn is Mine; on the day I struck every firstborn in the land of Egypt I sanctified every firstborn for Myself in Israel; from man even to beast they shall be Mine. Numbers 3:11-13.

In the same author,

Jehovah said to Moses, Number every firstborn male from the children of Israel, a month old and over, and take the number of their names. And take the Levites for Me - I am Jehovah - instead of every firstborn among the children of Israel, and the beast of the Levites instead of every firstborn among the beasts of the children of Israel. Numbers 3:40-41, and following verses.

Also Numbers 8:14, 16-18. And the Levites were given to Aaron, Numbers 8:19, because Aaron represented the Lord as regards the priesthood, that is, as regards Divine love; for the priesthood represented the Lord's Divine love, see 1728, 2015 (end).

(References: Numbers 8:16-19)


[10] Concerning the firstborn creatures however which represented the Lord as regards Divine spiritual love, and also the people who belonged specifically to the spiritual Church, the following is said in Jeremiah,

With weeping they will come, and with supplications I will lead them, I will bring them to springs of water in a straight path on which they will not stumble; and I will be a Father to Israel, and Ephraim will be My firstborn. Jeremiah 31:9.

This refers to a new spiritual Church. 'Israel' stands for spiritual good, 'Ephraim' for spiritual truth, who is called 'the firstborn' because the subject is a Church that is to be established in which the understanding - which is the holder of truth - is apparently the firstborn. Indeed Ephraim took Reuben's place and became the firstborn, Genesis 48:5, 20; 1 Chronicles 5:1. He did so because Joseph, whose sons were Ephraim and Manasseh, represented the Lord as regards Divine spiritual love. But fundamentally Israel, that is, spiritual good, is the firstborn. This is clear in Moses,

Jehovah said to Moses, You shall say to Pharaoh, Thus said Jehovah, My firstborn son is Israel, and I say to you, Send My son so that he may serve Me, and you have refused to send him; behold, I kill your son, the firstborn. Exodus 4:22-23.

Here 'Israel' in the highest sense is the Lord as regards Divine spiritual love, and in the relative sense those in whom spiritual love, that is, charity towards the neighbour, is present.

(References: Acts of the Apostles 5:1; Exodus 4:21-23)


[11] In the case of the spiritual Church, in the beginning or when it is about to be established, it is the doctrine of truth that is the firstborn with the external Church and the truth taught by doctrine the firstborn with the internal Church - or what amounts to the same, the doctrine of faith is the firstborn with the external Church and faith itself with the internal Church. But once it has been set up, or is a reality among its members, it is the good flowing from charity that is the firstborn with the external Church and charity itself with the internal Church. When however the Church does not allow itself to be established, as happens when it is no longer possible for the member of the Church to be regenerated, it gradually retreats from charity and turns aside to faith. Furthermore it no longer concerns itself with life but with doctrine; and when that happens it casts itself into shadows and sinks into falsities and evils. In so doing it ceases to be a Church and brings about its own annihilation. This was represented by Cain, in that he slew Abel his brother - Cain meaning faith separated from charity, and Abel the charity which he annihilated, see 340, 342, 357, 362, and following paragraphs. Later on it was represented by Ham - and Canaan his son - in that he mocked Noah his father, 1062, 1063, 1076, 1140, 1141, 1162, 1179. After that it was represented by Reuben, Jacob's firstborn, in that he defiled his father's bed, Genesis 35:22, and at length by Pharaoh and the Egyptians, in that these afflicted the children of Israel. It is clear from the Word that all these were accursed, as the following shows:

Cain

Jehovah said, What have you done? The voice of your brother's blood is crying out to Me from the ground. And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother's blood from your hand. Genesis 4:10-11.

Ham and Canaan

Ham, the father of Canaan, saw his father's nakedness and pointed it out to his two brothers. And Noah awoke from his wine. He said, Cursed be Canaan, a slave of slaves will he be to his brothers. Genesis 9:22, 24-25.

Reuben

Reuben, my firstborn, you are my strength, and the beginning of my power, excelling in eminence, and excelling in might. Unstable as water, may you not excel, for you went up to your father's bed; then you defiled it. He went up to my couch. Genesis 49:3-4.

This was why he was deprived of the birthright, 1 Chronicles 5:1. The same was represented by Pharaoh and the Egyptians, and therefore their firstborn sons and firstborn creatures were slain. This is clear from their representation as facts, 1164, 1165, 1186, for whenever anyone enters into the arcana of faith along the path of factual knowledge, he no longer believes anything, apart from that which he is able to grasp through sensory evidence and factual knowledge. In that case things which belong to the doctrine of faith, and above all those which are matters of charity, he perverts and annihilates.

(References: Acts of the Apostles 5:1; Arcana Coelestia 1062-1063, 1140-1141)


[12] These are the considerations which are represented in the internal sense by the slaying of the firstborn sons and firstborn creatures of Egypt, referred to in Moses as follows,

I will pass through the land of Egypt during that night, and will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from man even to beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgement; I am Jehovah. And the blood will be a sign on your houses where you are; and when I see the blood I will pass by over you, and the plague will not be on you for a destroyer when I strike the land of Egypt. Exodus 12:12-13.

'The firstborn of Egypt' is doctrinal teaching regarding faith and regarding charity, which is perverted, as has been stated, by means of facts. 'The gods of Egypt' on whom judgement would be executed are falsities. No plague would be brought by the destroyer where there was blood on houses means in the highest sense the place where the Lord as regards Divine spiritual love resides, and in the relative sense where spiritual love, that is, charity towards the neighbour, resides, see 1001.

(References: Arcana Coelestia 1164-1165)


[13] Further reference to Pharaoh and the Egyptians is made in the same book as follows,

Moses said, Thus said Jehovah, As at midnight I will go out into the midst of Egypt, and all the firstborn in the land of Egypt will die, and Pharaoh's firstborn who was to sit on his throne, even to the firstborn of the servant-girl who is behind the mill, and all the firstborn of the beasts. But on all the children of Israel not a dog will move its tongue, from man even to beast. Exodus 11:4-7.

And after that,

It happened at midnight, that Jehovah struck all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from Pharaoh's firstborn who was to sit on his throne even to the firstborn of the prisoner who was in the dungeon, 1 and all the firstborn of the beasts. Exodus 12:29.

The reason why it took place at midnight was that 'night' means the final state of the Church when there is no faith any longer because there is no charity any longer, 221, 709, 1712, 2353. In David,

He struck all the firstborn in Egypt, the beginning of powers in the tents of Ham. Psalms 78:51.

In the same author,

Then Israel came to Egypt, and Jacob became a sojourner in the land of Ham. God struck all the firstborn in their land, the beginning of all their powers. Psalms 105:23, 36.

'The tents of Ham' is the name given to the worship of the Egyptians, which is based on false assumptions that result from truth separated from good, or what amounts to the same, from faith separated from charity - 'tents' meaning worship, see 414, 1102, 1566, 2145, 2152, 3312, and 'Ham' faith separated from charity, 1062, 1063, 1076, 1140, 1141, 1162, 1179.

(References: Arcana Coelestia 1062-1063, Arcana Coelestia 1140-1141)


[14] This confirms yet again that 'the slaying of the firstborn of Egypt' had no other meaning. Now because all the firstborn of Egypt had been slain, and yet so that the firstborn might represent the Lord as regards Divine spiritual love and at the same time represent those who are governed by that love, [the Israelites] were commanded to sanctify all the firstborn the instant they were leaving. These matters are stated in Moses as follows,

Jehovah spoke to Moses, saying, Sanctify to Me all the firstborn, whatever opens the womb among the children of Israel; with man and with beast let them be Mine. You shall make over to Jehovah all that opens the womb, and every firstling of a beast, that are yours; the males shall be Jehovah's. And every firstling of an ass you shall redeem in the herd. If you do not redeem it, you shall break its neck. And all the firstborn of man among your sons you shall redeem. And it shall be - when your son asks you in time to come, saying, What is this? - that you shall say to him, By a strong hand Jehovah led us out of Egypt, from the home of slaves. And so it was, that Pharaoh hardened himself against sending us away, and Jehovah slew all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of man even to the firstborn of the beasts. Therefore I sacrifice to Jehovah all that open the womb, the males, and all the firstborn of my sons I redeem. Exodus 13:1-2, 12-15; 34:19-20; Numbers 33:3-4.

From all these quotations one may now see what is meant in the spiritual sense by the birthright.

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Footnotes:

1. literally, in the house of the pit

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(References: Genesis 25:31; Numbers 8:17, 18:12-13)

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From Swedenborg's Works

Inbound References:

Arcana Coelestia 3329, 3330, 3336, 3519, 3539, 3582, 3593, 3654, 3726, 4242, 4335, 4601, 4605, 4821, 4830, 4835, 4923, 4925, 5351, 5354, 6272, 6273, 6342, 6344, 7035, 7039, 7871, 8042, 8080, 8093, 9224, 9723, 10110

The Last Judgment 39

The White Horse 8

The New Jerusalem and its Heavenly Doctrine 22, 24, 106, 121, 186, 257


References from Swedenborg's unpublished works:

Apocalypse Explained 211, 237, 329, 391, 434, 475

Other New Christian Commentary

What's Good? 1

First-born 1

Phares and Zarah 1


Glossary of Terms Used by Emanuel Swedenborg

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


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