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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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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

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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 #2708

Arcana Coelestia (Potts translation)

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2708. And he dwelt in the wilderness. That this signifies in what is relatively obscure, is evident from the signification of “dwelling,” as being to live (see n. 2451); and from the signification of “wilderness,” as being that which has little vitality (see n. 1927); here what is obscure, but relatively. By what is relatively obscure is meant the state of the spiritual church relatively to the state of the celestial church, or the state of those who are spiritual relatively to that of those who are celestial. The celestial are in the affection of good, the spiritual in the affection of truth; the celestial have perception, but the spiritual a dictate of conscience; to the celestial the Lord appears as a Sun, but to the spiritual as a Moon (n. 1521, 1530, 1531, 2495). The former have light from the Lord, but giving both sight and the perception of good and truth, like the light of day from the sun; but the latter have light from the Lord like the light of night from the moon, and thus they are in relative obscurity. The reason is that the celestial are in love to the Lord, and thus in the Lord’s life itself; but the spiritual are in charity toward the neighbor and in faith, and thus in the Lord’s life indeed, but more obscurely. Hence it is that the celestial never reason about faith and its truths, but being in perception of truth from good, they say that it is so; whereas the spiritual speak and reason concerning the truths of faith, because they are in the conscience of good from truth; and also because with the celestial the good of love has been implanted in their will part, wherein is the chief life of man, but with the spiritual in their intellectual part, wherein is the secondary life of man; this is the reason why the spiritual are in what is relatively obscure (see n. 81, 202, 337, 765, 784, 895, 1114-1125, 1155, 1577, 1824, 2048, 2088, 2227, 2454, 2507).

(References: Arcana Coelestia 1530-1531)

[2] This comparative obscurity is here called a “wilderness.” In the Word a “wilderness” signifies what is little inhabited and cultivated, and also signifies what is not at all inhabited and cultivated, and is thus used in a twofold sense. Where it signifies what is little inhabited and cultivated, or where there are few habitations, folds of flocks, pastures, and waters, it signifies what has relatively little life and light-as what is spiritual, or those who are spiritual, in comparison with what is celestial, or those who are celestial. But where it signifies what is not inhabited or cultivated at all, or where there are no habitations, folds of flocks, pastures, or waters, it signifies those who are in vastation as to good and in desolation as to truth.

[3] That a “wilderness” signifies what is comparatively little inhabited and cultivated, or where there are few habitations, folds of flocks, pastures, and waters, is evident from the following passages.

In Isaiah:

Sing unto Jehovah a new song and His praise from the end of the earth; ye that go down to the sea, and the fullness thereof, the isles and the inhabitants thereof; let the wilderness and the cities thereof lift up, the villages 1 that Kedar doth inhabit; let the inhabitants of the rock sing, let them shout from the top of the mountains (Isaiah 42:10-11).

In Ezekiel:

I will make with them a covenant of peace, and will cause the evil wild beast to cease out of the land, and they shall dwell securely in the wilderness, and sleep in the woods; and I will make them and the places round about My hill a blessing; the tree of the field shall yield its fruit, and the earth shall yield her fruit (Ezekiel 34:25-27);

here the spiritual are treated of.

In Hosea:

I will bring her into the wilderness, and will speak to her heart; and I will give her her vineyards from thence (Hos. 2:14-15); where the desolation of truth, and consolation afterwards, are treated of.

In David:

The folds of the wilderness do drop, and the hills are girded with rejoicing; the pastures are clothed with flocks, the valleys also are covered over with corn (Psalms 65:12-13).

[4] In Isaiah:

I will make the wilderness a pool of waters, and the dry land springs of waters. I will plant in the wilderness the cedar of Shittim, and the myrtle, and the oil-tree; I will set in the desert the fir-tree; that they may see, and know, and consider, and understand together, that the hand of Jehovah hath done this, and the Holy One of Israel hath created it (Isaiah 41:18-20); where the regeneration of those who are in ignorance of truth, or the Gentiles, and the enlightenment and instruction of those who are in desolation, are treated of; the “wilderness” is predicated of these; the “cedar, myrtle, and oil-tree” denote the truths and goods of the interior man; the “fir-tree” denotes those of the exterior.

In David:

Jehovah maketh rivers into a wilderness, and watersprings into dry ground; He maketh a wilderness into a pool of waters, and a dry land into watersprings (Psalms 107:33, 35); where the meaning is the same.

In Isaiah:

The wilderness and the parched land shall be glad for them, and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose; budding it shall bud; in the wilderness shall waters break out, 2 and streams in the desert (Isaiah 35:1-2, 6).

In the same:

Thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water whose waters do not fail; and they that be of thee shall build the deserts of old (Isaiah 58:11-12).

In the same:

Until the spirit be poured upon us from on high, and the wilderness become Carmel, and Carmel be counted for a forest; and judgment shall dwell in the wilderness, and righteousness in Carmel (Isaiah 32:15-16); where the spiritual church is treated of, which though inhabited and cultivated is called relatively a “wilderness;” for it is said, “judgment shall dwell in the wilderness and righteousness in Carmel.” That a “wilderness” denotes a comparatively obscure state, is plain from these passages by its being called a “wilderness” and also a “forest;” and very evidently so in Jeremiah:

O generation, see ye the Word of Jehovah. Have I been a wilderness unto Israel? or a land of darkness? (Jeremiah 2:31).

[5] That a “wilderness” signifies what is not at all inhabited or cultivated, or where there are no habitations, folds of flocks, pastures, and waters, and thus those who are in vastation as to good and in desolation as to truth, is also evident from the Word. This kind of “wilderness” is predicated in a double sense, namely, of those who are afterwards reformed, and of those who cannot be reformed. Concerning those who are afterwards reformed (as here in regard to Hagar and her son) we read in Jeremiah:

Thus saith Jehovah, I remember for thee the mercy of thy youth, thy going after Me in the wilderness, in a land that was not sown (Jeremiah 2:2); where Jerusalem is treated of, which here is the Ancient Church that was spiritual.

In Moses:

Jehovah’s portion is His people, Jacob is the line of His inheritance; He found him in a desert land, and in a waste howling wilderness; He led him about, He made him understand, He kept him as the pupil of His eye (Deuteronomy 32:9-10).

In David:

They wandered in the wilderness in a solitary way, they found no city of habitation (Psalms 107:4); where those who have been in desolation of truth and are being reformed are treated of.

In Ezekiel:

I will bring you to the wilderness of the peoples, and I will judge with you there, as I judged with your fathers in the wilderness of the land of Egypt (Ezekiel 20:35-36); where in like manner the vastation and desolation of those who are being reformed are treated of.

[6] The journeyings and wanderings of the people of Israel in the wilderness represented nothing but the vastation and desolation of believers before reformation; consequently their temptation, if indeed they are in vastation and desolation when they are in spiritual temptations; as may also be seen from the following passages in Moses:

Jehovah bare them in the wilderness as a man beareth his son, in the way, even unto this place (Deuteronomy 1:31).

And in another place:

Thou shalt remember all the way which Jehovah thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to afflict thee, to tempt thee, and to know what is in thy heart; whether thou wouldest keep His commandments or no. He afflicted thee, He suffered thee to hunger, He made thee to eat manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that thou mightiest know that man doth not live by bread only, but by everything that proceedeth out of the mouth of Jehovah doth man live (Deuteronomy 8:2-3).

And again in the same chapter:

Lest thou forget that Jehovah led thee in the great and terrible wilderness, where were serpents, fiery serpents, and scorpions; a thirsty land where was no water; who brought thee forth water out of the rock of flint; He fed thee in the wilderness with manna, which thy fathers knew not, that He might afflict thee, and might tempt thee, to do thee good at thy latter end (Deuteronomy 8:15-16).

Here the “wilderness” denotes vastation and desolation, such as those are in who are in temptations. By their journeyings and wanderings in the wilderness forty years, all the state of the combating church is described-how of itself it yields, but conquers from the Lord.

[7] By the “woman who fled into the wilderness,” in John, nothing else is signified than the temptation of the church, thus described:

The woman who brought forth a son, a man child, fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God; there were given unto the woman two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place; and the serpent cast out of his mouth after the woman water as a flood, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood. But the earth helped the woman; for the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth (Revelation 12:6, 14-16).

[8] That “wilderness” is predicated of a church altogether vastated, and of those who are altogether vastated as to good and truth, who cannot be reformed, is thus shown in Isaiah:

I make the rivers a wilderness; their fish stink because there is no water, and die for thirst; I clothe the heavens with thick darkness (Isaiah 50:2-3).

In the same:

Thy holy cities were become a wilderness, Zion was become a wilderness, Jerusalem a desolation (Isaiah 64:10).

In Jeremiah:

I beheld and lo Carmel was a wilderness, and all her cities were broken down at the presence of Jehovah (Jeremiah 4:26).

In the same:

Many shepherds have destroyed My vineyard, they have trodden My portion under foot; they have made My pleasant portion a wilderness of desolation, they have made it a desolation, it hath mourned unto Me, being desolate; the whole land is made desolate, because no man layeth it to heart. Spoilers are come upon all the hillsides in the wilderness (Jeremiah 12:10-12).

In Joel:

The fire hath devoured the folds of the wilderness, and the flame hath burned all the trees of the field, the water brooks are dried up, the fire hath devoured the folds of the wilderness (Joel 1:19-20).

In Isaiah:

He made the world as a wilderness, and overthrew the cities thereof (Isaiah 14:17); where Lucifer is spoken of. In the same:

The prophecy of the wilderness of the sea. As whirlwinds in the south, it cometh from the wilderness, from a terrible land (Isaiah 21:1).

The “wilderness of the sea” denotes truth vastated by memory-knowledges and the reasonings from them.

[9] From all this it may be seen what is signified by the following concerning John the Baptist:

It was said by Isaiah, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way for the Lord, make His paths straight (Matthew 3:3; Mark 1:3; Luke 3:4; John 1:23; Isaiah 40:3);

which means that the church was then altogether vastated, so that there was no longer any good, nor any truth; which is plainly manifest from the fact, that then no one knew that man had any internal, nor that there was any internal in the Word, and thus that no one knew that the Messiah or Christ was to come to eternally save them. Hence it is also manifest what is signified by John being in the wilderness until the days of his appearing to Israel (Luke 1:80); and by his preaching in the wilderness of Judea (Matthew 3:1-17 and following verses); and by his baptizing in the wilderness (Mark 1:4); for by that he also represented the state of the church. From the signification of a “wilderness” it may also be seen why the Lord so often withdrew into the wilderness (see for examples Matthew 4:1; 15:32 {ign3}; Mark 1:12-13, 35-40, 45; 6:31-36; Luke 4:1; 5:16; 9:10, John 11:54, and the following verses). From the signification of a “mountain” also it is manifest why the Lord withdrew into the mountains (as in Matthew 14:23; 15:29-31; 17:1; 28:16-17; Mark 3:13-14; 6:46; 9:2-9; Luke 6:12-13; 9:28; John 6:15).


1. Atria habitabit, but villae quas habitat, n. 3628. [Rotch ed.]

2. Effusae sunt, but erumpent, n. 6988. [Rotch ed.]


(References: Genesis 21:20; Mark 1:35; Matthew 3:1, 15:32-39)

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Arcana Coelestia 2709, 2713, 2714, 2715, 2830, 2831, 2849, 2971, 3187, 3235, 3385, 3900, 3941, 4402, 4448, 4493, 4736, 6256, 6289, 6363, 6427, 6828, 6854, 6904, 7093, 7233, 7313, 7975, 8098, 8457, 8607, 8819, 8928, 8945, 9166, 9277, 9372, 9404, ...

The New Jerusalem and its Heavenly Doctrine 140

References from Swedenborg's unpublished works:

Apocalypse Explained 240, 275, 331

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