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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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Arcana Coelestia #4281

Arcana Coelestia (Potts translation)      

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4281. That by “the hollow of Jacob’s thigh was out of joint in his wrestling with him,” is signified that this conjunction was wholly injured and displaced in Jacob’s posterity, is evident from the signification of being “out of joint” in the sense in question, as being to be displaced, and thus to be injured. That the “hollow of the thigh” denotes conjunction, is manifest from what was said above (n. 4280); and because in the Word “Jacob” denotes not only Jacob, but also all his posterity, as is evident from many passages in the Word (Numbers 23:7, 10, 21, 2 23:23; 24:5, 1 24:17, 19; Deuteronomy 33:10; Isaiah 40:27; 43:1, 22; 44:1-2, 21; 48:12; 59:20; Jeremiah 10:16, 25; 30:7, 10, 18; 31:7, 11; 46:27-28; Hosea 10:11 Amos 7:2; Micah 2:12; 3:8; Psalms 14:7; 24:6; 59:13; 78:5; 99:4 and elsewhere).

[2] That Jacob and his posterity were of such a character that with them celestial and spiritual love could not be conjoined with natural good (that is, the internal or spiritual man with the external or natural man), is manifest from everything which is related of that nation in the Word; for they did not know, nor were they willing to know, what the internal or spiritual man is, and therefore this was not revealed to them; for they believed that nothing exists in man except that which is external and natural. In all their worship they had regard to nothing else, insomuch that Divine worship was to them no otherwise than idolatrous; for when internal worship is separated from external, it is merely idolatrous. The church that was instituted with them was not a church, but only the representative of a church; for which reason that church is called a representative church. That a representative of a church is possible with such people may be seen above (n. 1361, 3670, 4208).

[3] For in representations the person is not reflected upon, but the thing which is represented; and therefore Divine, celestial, and spiritual things were represented not only by persons, but also by inanimate things, as by Aaron’s garments, the ark, the altar, the oxen and sheep that were sacrificed, the lampstand with its lamps, the bread of arrangement upon the golden table, the oil with which they were anointed, the frankincense, and other like things. Hence it was that their kings, the evil as well as the good, represented the Lord’s royalty; and the high priests, the evil as well as the good, represented the things that belong to the Lord’s Divine priesthood, when they discharged their office in an outward form according to the statutes and precepts. In order therefore that the representative of a church might come forth among them, such statutes and laws were given them by manifest revelation as were altogether representative; and therefore so long as they were in them and observed them strictly, so long they were able to represent; but when they turned aside from them, as to the statutes and laws of other nations, and especially to the worship of another god, they then deprived themselves of the faculty of representing. For this reason they were driven by outward means, such as captivities, disasters, threats, and miracles, to laws and statutes truly representative; but not by internal means, as are those who have internal worship in external. These things are signified by the “hollow of Jacob’s thigh being out of joint,” taken in the internal historical sense, which regards Jacob and his posterity.

(References: Genesis 32:25)

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Arcana Coelestia 4288, 4291, 4292, 4307, 4310, 4311, 4314, 4429, 4433, 4439, 4459, 4486, 4500, 4515, 4825, 4852, 5051, 6238, 6592, 7041, 7043, 7048, 8588, 8788, 8886, 8918, 8928, 8932, 9166, 9229, 9320, 9372, 9380, 9391, 9409, 9458, 10040, 10396, ...

The New Jerusalem and its Heavenly Doctrine 121, 248


References from Swedenborg's unpublished works:

Apocalypse Explained 130, 433, 443, 710

Other New Christian Commentary

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Apocalypse Explained #746

Apocalypse Explained (Tansley translation)      

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746. Because the accuser of our brethren is cast down.- That this signifies after those have been separated from heaven, and condemned to hell, who fought against the life of faith, which is charity, is evident from the signification of being cast down, when said of the dragon, as denoting that those meant by the dragon were separated from heaven and condemned to hell (concerning which see above, n. 739, 742), and from the signification of the accuser of our brethren, as denoting those who fought against the life of faith, which is charity. For an accuser signifies one who attacks, rebukes, and reproaches, for he who accuses also attacks, rebukes, and reproaches; moreover, in the original, an adversary and one who reproaches are expressed by the same word. What is wonderful, although those who are dragons make no account of life, yet they accuse the faithful in the spiritual world, if they observe [in them] any evil of ignorance, for they inquire into their life in order that they may reproach and condemn them, and therefore they are called accusers.

(References: Revelation 12:10; The Apocalypse Explained 739, 742)


[2] But by the brethren whom they accuse are meant all those in the heavens, and also all those on earth who are in the good of charity. Such are called brethren because they all have one Father, that is, the Lord; and those who are in the good of love to the Lord, and in the good of charity towards the neighbour, are His sons, and are also called sons of God, sons of the kingdom, and heirs. It follows, therefore, that since they are the sons of one Father, they are also brethren. Moreover, it is the chief commandment of the Lord the Father, that they should love one another, consequently it is love that makes them brethren; love also is spiritual conjunction. From this it came to pass that with the ancients, in the churches in which charity was the essential, all were called brethren; the same was the case in our Christian Church at its beginning. This is why brother, in the spiritual sense, signifies charity. That formerly all those who were of one church called themselves brethren, and that the Lord calls those brethren, who are in love to Him and in charity towards the neighbour, is evident from many passages in the Word. But in order that what is signified by brother may be distinctly seen, it shall be illustrated from the Word.

[3] (I.) All who were of the Israelitish Church called themselves brethren, as is clear from the following passages.

In Isaiah:

"Then shall they bring all your brethren, out of all nations, a gift to Jehovah" (lxvi. 20).

In Jeremiah:

"No one shall cause a Jew, his brother, to serve" (xxxiv. 9).

In Ezekiel:

"Son of man, thy brethren, thy brethren, the sons of thy kindred and the whole house of Israel" (xi. 15).

In Micah:

"Until the remnant of his brethren return unto the sons of Israel" (v. 3).

In Moses:

"Moses went out unto his brethren, that he might see their burdens" (Exod. ii. 11):

Moses said unto Jethro his father-in-law,

"I will return to my brethren, who are in Egypt" (Exod. iv. 18);

"When thy brother shall be impoverished" (Levit. xxv. 25, 35, 47).

"But as to your brethren, the sons of Israel, a man shall not rule over his brother with rigour" (Levit. xxv. 46);

"Would to God that we had died when our brethren died before Jehovah" (Numb. xx. 3).

"Behold, a man of the sons of Israel came and brought unto his brethren a Midianitish woman" (Numb. xxv. 6).

"Thou shalt open thine hand to thy brother; when thy brother, a Hebrew man or Hebrew woman, shall be sold to thee, he shall serve thee six years" (Deut. xv. 11, 12).

"If any man shall steal the soul (animam) of his brethren and shall make gain thereof" (Deut. xxiv. 7).

"Forty times shall he strike him, and not exceed, lest thy brother be accounted vile in thine eyes" (Deut. xxv. 3; and elsewhere).

It is evident from these passages that the sons of Israel were all called brethren among themselves; the chief reason of their being so called was that they were descended from Jacob, who was their common father; but a reason more remote was that brother signifies the good of charity, and as this good is the essential of the church, also all are spiritually conjoined by it. Another reason is that Israel, in the highest sense, signifies the Lord, and consequently the sons of Israel signify the church.

(References: Deuteronomy 15:11-12, Deuteronomy 24:7, 25:3; Exodus 2:11, 4:18; Ezekiel 11:15; Isaiah 66:20; Jeremiah 34:9; Leviticus 25:25, 25:35, Leviticus 25:46, 25:47, 25:47-50; Micah 5:3; Numbers 20:3, 25:6)


[4] (II.) They also called themselves man and brother, and also companion and brother, as in the following passages.

In Isaiah:

"The land is darkened and the people are become as fuel for the fire; they shall not spare a man (vir) his brother, they shall eat a man (vir) the flesh of his own arm, Menasseh Ephraim, and Ephraim Menasseh" (ix. 19-21).

Man and brother signify truth and good, and, in the opposite sense, falsity and evil, it is therefore also said Menasseh shall eat Ephraim, and Ephraim Menasseh, for Menasseh signifies voluntary good, and Ephraim intellectual truth, both of the external church, and in the opposite sense evil and falsity. But these words may be seen explained above (n. 386:2, 440:4, 600:13, 617:29).

(References: Isaiah 9:19-21; The Apocalypse Explained 386, 440, 600, 617)


[5] In the same:

"I will mingle Egypt with Egypt, that they may fight, a man (vir) against his brother, and a man against his companion, city against city, and kingdom against kingdom" (xix. 2).

Egypt here signifies the natural man separated from the spiritual; and because this is in no light of truth, it is continually disputing about good and evil, and about truth and falsity; and such disputation is signified by "I will mingle Egypt with Egypt, that they may fight, a man against his brother, and a man against his companion," brother and companion signifying good from which is truth, and truth from good, and in the opposite sense, evil from which is falsity, and falsity from evil. Therefore it is also said, "City against city, and kingdom against kingdom, city denoting doctrine, and kingdom the church from doctrine, which will contend in a similar manner.

(References: Isaiah 19:2)


[6] In the same:

"They help a man his companion, and one saith to his brother, Be strong" (xli. 6).

The signification of companion and brother is similar to that explained above.

In Jeremiah:

"Take ye heed a man of his companion, and trust not in any brother; for every brother supplanteth, and every companion slandereth" (lx. 4).

In the same:

"I will scatter them, a man with his brother" (xiii. 14).

In the same:

"Thus shall ye say a man to his companion, and a man to his brother, What hath Jehovah answered" (xxiii. 35).

In the same:

"Ye have not hearkened unto me, to proclaim liberty a man to his brother, and a man to his companion" (xxxiv. 9, 17).

In Ezekiel:

"A man's sword shall be against his brother" (xxxviii. 21).

In Joel:

"They shall not drive forward, a man his brother" (ii. 8).

In Micah:

"They all lie in wait for bloods, they hunt, a man his brother, with a net" (vii. 2).

In Zechariah:

"Show kindness and compassion, a man to his brother" (vii. 9).

In Malachi:

"Wherefore do we deal treacherously, a man against his brother" (ii. 10).

In Moses:

"There was a thick darkness of darkness over all the land of Egypt, a man saw not his brother" (Exod. x. 22, 23).

In the same:

"At the end of seven years every creditor shall withhold his hand when he hath loaned anything to his companion, neither shall he urge his companion or his brother" (Deut. xv. 1, 2).

In the nearest sense a man means every one, and brother one of the same tribe, because in blood relationship; and companion means one who is of another tribe, because so only by alliance. But in the spiritual sense a man signifies every one who is in truths, and in the opposite sense, every one who is in falsities; brother signifies every one who is in the good of charity, and, in an abstract sense, that good itself, while companion signifies every one who is in truth from that good, and, in an abstract sense, that truth itself; and in the opposite sense these signify the evil opposite to the good of charity, and the falsity opposite to the truth from that good. The terms brother and companion are both used, because there are two things that make the church - charity and faith, just as there are two things that make the life of man, will and understanding. There are in man two things which act as one, as the two eyes, two ears, two nostrils, two hands and feet, two lobes of the lungs, two chambers of the heart, two hemispheres of the brain, and so on, of which one has reference to good from which is truth, and the other to truth from good. This is why it is said brother and companion, and why brother signifies good, and companion its truth.

(References: Deuteronomy 15:1-2; Exodus 10:22-23; Ezekiel 38:21; Isaiah 41:6; Jeremiah 9:4, 13:14, 23:35, Jeremiah 34:9, 34:17; Joel 2:8; Malachi 2:10; Micah 7:2; Zechariah 7:9)


[7] (III.) The Lord calls those of His church who are in the good of charity brethren, as is clear from the following passages.

In the Evangelists:

Jesus "stretching out his hand over his disciples, said, Behold my mother and my brethren; whosoever shall do the will of my Father, he is my brother and sister and mother" (Matt. xii. 49, 50; Mark iii. 33-35).

The disciples over whom the Lord stretched out His hand signify all those who are of His church; His brethren signify those who are in the good of charity from Him; sisters, those who are in truths from that good; while mother signifies the church from these.

(References: Mark 3:33-35; Matthew 12:49-50)


[8] In Matthew:

Jesus said to Mary Magdalene and to the other Mary, "Fear not, go ye, tell my brethren to go into Galilee, and there they shall see me" (xxviii. 10).

Here also brethren mean the disciples, who signify all those of the church who are in the good of charity.

In John:

Jesus said to Mary, "Go to my brethren, and say to them, I ascend to my Father" (xx. 17).

Similarly here the disciples are called brethren, because the disciples, equally as brethren, signify all those of His church who are in the good of charity.

(References: John 20:17; Matthew 28:10)


[9] In Matthew:

"The King answering said unto them, I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it to one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me" (xxv. 40).

That those who have done the good works of charity are here called by the Lord brethren is evident from the words which precede the above. It must, however, be understood that although the Lord is their Father, still He calls them brethren; but He is their Father from the Divine Love, and brother from the Divine which proceeds from Him. The reason is that all in the heavens are recipients of the Divine which proceeds from Him, and the Divine which proceeds from the Lord, of which they are recipients, is the Lord in heaven and also in the church; and this is not of angel or man, but of the Lord in them; therefore the good of charity itself in them, which is the Lord's own, He calls brother, as He also calls angels and men, because they are the recipient subjects of that good. In a word, the proceeding Divine, which is the Divine of the Lord in the heavens, is the Divine born of the Lord in heaven; therefore from that Divine, angels, who are its recipients, are called Sons of God, and since these are brethren, because of the Divine received in themselves, it is therefore the Lord in them who says "brother," for angels, when they speak from the good of charity, do not speak from themselves, but from the Lord.

This then is why the Lord says, "Inasmuch as ye have done it to one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." The goods of charity, enumerated in the verses preceding, are therefore, in the spiritual sense, the brethren of the Lord, and are called brethren by the Lord, for the reason just given. The King, also, who thus calls them, signifies the proceeding Divine, which in one word is called Divine Truth or the Spiritual Divine, which in its essence is the good of charity.

(References: Matthew 25:40)


[10] It must therefore be born in mind, that the Lord did not call them brethren because He was a man like themselves, according to an opinion received in the Christian world; for this reason it follows that it is not allowable for any man to call the Lord brother, for He is God even as to the Human, and God is not a brother, but a Father. The Lord is called brother in the churches on earth because the idea which they have of His Human is the same as that which they have of the human of another man; nevertheless the Lord's Human is Divine.

[11] Because kings formally represented the Lord as to Divine Truth, and as Divine Truth received by angels in the spiritual kingdom of the Lord is the same as Divine spiritual good, and as spiritual good is the good of charity, therefore the kings appointed over the sons of Israel called their subjects brethren, although on the other hand, the subjects were not permitted to call their king brother; much less should the Lord, who is King of kings and Lord of lords be so called.

So in David:

"I will declare thy name to my brethren; in the midst of the congregation will I praise thee" (Psalm xxii. 22).

In the same:

"I am become an alien to my brethren, and a stranger to my mother's sons" (Psalm lxix. 8).

In the same:

"For my brethren and companions' sake I will say peace be unto thee" (Psalm cxxii. 8).

David spoke these things as though they were about himself, yet David, in the representative spiritual sense, here means the Lord.

In Moses:

"Thou shalt set over them a king from the midst of thy brethren; thou mayest not set over them a man that is a stranger, who is not thy brother; but let him not lift up his heart above his brethren" (Deut. xvii. 15, 20).

The brethren out of whom a king might be set over them, signify all who are of the church, for it is said, "Thou mayest not set over them a man that is a stranger," a man that is a stranger signifying one not of the church.

(References: Deuteronomy 17:15, 17:20; Psalms 22:22, 69:8, 122:8)


[12] In the same:

"Jehovah thy God will raise up unto thee a prophet out of the midst of thee from thy brethren, like unto me; him shall ye obey" (Deut. xviii. 15, 18).

This is a prophecy concerning the Lord, who is meant by the prophet whom Jehovah God will raise up from the brethren. They are called thy brethren, that is, of Moses, because Moses, in the representative sense, means the Lord as to the Word, and a prophet means one who teaches the Word; thus also the Word and doctrine from the Word are meant, and this is why it is said, "like unto me." That Moses represented the Lord as to the law, thus as to the Word, may be seen in the Arcana Coelestia (n. 4859 at end, 5922, 6723, 6752, 6771, 6827, 7010, 7014, 7089, 7382, 9372, 10,234).

(References: Arcana Coelestia 4859, Arcana Coelestia 5922, 6723, 6752, 6771, 6827, 7010, 7014, 7089, 7382, Arcana Coelestia 9372, 10234; Deuteronomy 18:15, 18:18)


[13] (IV.) That all those who acknowledge Him, and are in the good of charity from Him, are called brethren by the Lord, follows from this, that the Lord is the Father of all and the teacher of all, and from Him, as a Father, is all the good of charity, and from Him, as a teacher, all the truth of that good; therefore the Lord says in Matthew:

"Be not ye called teacher, for one is your teacher, the Christ, but all ye are brethren. And call [no man] your Father upon earth, for one is your Father who is in the heavens" (xxiii. 8, 9).

It is manifestly clear from this that the Lord's words must be spiritually understood. For what teacher is there who may not be called teacher? or what father is there who is not called father? But because father signifies good, and the Father in the heavens the Divine Good, and as teacher or Rabbi signifies truth, and the "teacher, the Christ," the Divine Truth, therefore, on account of the spiritual sense in all things of the Word, it is said that they should not call a father on earth their father, nor anyone teacher. This refers to the spiritual sense, but not to the natural sense. In the natural sense men may be called teachers and fathers, but representatively, that is to say, teachers in the world do indeed teach truths, but from the Lord, not from themselves; and fathers in the world are indeed good, and lead their children to good, but from the Lord, not from themselves. It therefore follows, that although they are called teachers and fathers, still they are not teachers, and fathers, but the Lord alone is Teacher and Father. To call, and to call any one by a name also signifies, in the Word, to recognise the quality of any one. Because all in heaven and in the church are disciples and sons of the Lord as their Teacher and Father, therefore the Lord says, "All ye are brethren"; for the Lord calls all in heaven and in the church sons and heirs, from their consociation by love from Him, and thus by mutual love which is charity. It is consequently from the Lord that they are brethren; in this way must the common saying be understood that all are brethren in the Lord.

(References: Matthew 23:8-9)


[14] From these considerations also it is evident that the Lord means by brethren all those who acknowledge Him, and are in the good of charity from Him, consequently those who are of His church. Such also the Lord means by brethren in the following passages.

In Luke:

Jesus said to Peter, "When thou hast turned again, strengthen thy brethren" (Luke xxii. 32).

Brethren here do not mean the Jews, but all those who acknowledge the Lord and are in good from charity and faith, thus all who should receive the gospel through Peter, both Jews and Gentiles; for Peter, in the Word of the Evangelists, means truth from good, consequently also faith from charity, but here Peter means faith separated from charity, for just previously it is said of him, "Simon, lo, Satan hath demanded you, that he may sift you as wheat; but I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not" (verses 31, 32); and afterwards it is said to him, "I say unto thee, Peter, the cock shall not crow this day until thou hast thrice denied that thou knowest me" (verse 34). Such also is faith without charity. But by Peter turned again is signified truth from good, which is from the Lord, or faith from charity, which is from the Lord, therefore it is said, "When then thou hast turned again, strengthen thy brethren."

(References: Luke 22:31, 22:31-32, 22:32, 22:34)


[15] In Matthew:

"Peter said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him?" (xviii. 21).

In the same:

"So also will my heavenly Father do to you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses" (xviii. 35).

In the same:

"If thy brother hath sinned against thee, go and accuse him between thee and him alone; if he hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother" (xviii. 15).

Here brother means the neighbour in general, thus every man, but specifically one whoever he may be who is in the good of charity and thus in faith from the Lord; for these passages treat of the good of charity, since to forgive one who sins against you is of charity. It is also said, "If he hear, thou hast gained thy brother," which signifies if he acknowledges his trespasses, and turns again.

(References: Matthew 18:2, 18:15, 18:21, Matthew 18:35)


[16] Again in Matthew:

"Why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me cast out the mote out of thine eye, when yet there is a beam in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye" (vii. 3-5).

Here also the term brother is used, because the subject treated of is charity; for to cast out the mote out of a brother's eye signifies to give instruction about falsity and evil, and to reform. The reason why the Lord said "a mote out of thy brother's eye," and "a beam out of one's own eye," is that a spiritual sense is contained in every thing which the Lord spoke; for without that sense, of what consequence would it be to see a mote in the eye of another, and not consider a beam in one's own eye, or to cast a beam out of one's own eye before one casts a mote out of another's eye? For a mote signifies a small falsity of evil, and a beam a great falsity of evil, while the eye signifies the understanding and also faith. Mote and beam signify the falsity of evil because wood signifies good; thus a beam signifies the truth of good, and, in the opposite sense, the falsity of evil, and the eye the understanding and faith. It is therefore plain what is signified by seeing the mote and the beam, and by casting them out of the eye. That wood signifies good, and, in the opposite sense, evil, may be seen in the Arcana Coelestia (n. 643, 3720, 4943, 8354, 8740), and that the eye signifies the understanding, and also faith (n. 2701, 4403-4421, 4523-4534, 9051, 10,569), and also above (n. 37, 152). Moreover, in some passages beam is mentioned, and it signifies falsity of evil. As in Gen. xix. 8; 2 Kings vi. 2, 5, 6; Habak. ii. 11; Cant. i. 17.

(References: 2 Kings 6:2, 6:5-6; Arcana Coelestia 643, 2701, 3720, 4403-4421, 4523-4534, Arcana Coelestia 4943, Arcana Coelestia 8354, 8740, 9051, Arcana Coelestia 10569, Genesis 19:8; Habakkuk 2:11; Matthew 7:3-5; Romans 1:17; The Apocalypse Explained 37, 152)


[17] Again in Matthew:

"He who doeth and teacheth shall be called great in the kingdom of the heavens. I say unto you, Except your justice shall exceed the justice of the Scribes and Pharisees, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of the heavens. Ye have heard that it was said to them of old time, Thou shalt not kill, but whosoever shall kill shall be liable to the judgment; but I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother rashly shall be liable to the judgment; but whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be liable to the council; but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be liable to the gehenna of fire. If thou offer thy gift upon the altar, and there remember that thy brother hath ought against thee, leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way, first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift" (v. 19-24).

In the whole of that chapter the subject treated of is the interior life of man, which is that of his soul, consequently of his will and the thought therefrom, thus it treats of the life of charity, which is the spiritual moral life. Of this life the sons of Jacob knew nothing before, because even from their fathers downward they were external men. On this account also they were kept in the observance of external worship, according to external statutes that represented the internal things of worship and of the church. But the Lord in this chapter teaches that the interior things of the church ought not only to be represented by external acts, but must also be loved and done from the soul and heart. Therefore that whosoever from interior life teaches and does the external things of the church will be saved, is signified by "He who doeth and teacheth shall be called great in the kingdom of the heavens." "Except your justice shall exceed the justice of the Scribes and Pharisees, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of the heavens," signifies that unless the life be internal, and from that, external, heaven is not in man and man is not received into heaven; justice signifies the good of life from the good of charity, and to exceed that of the Scribes and Pharisees signifies that the life must be internal, and not external without the internal. The Scribes and Pharisees were only in representative externals, and not in internals.

External from internal life is taught in the commandment of the decalogue, "Thou shalt not kill." But they did not know that wishing to kill a man is the same as killing him, therefore it is first said, "Ye have heard that it was said to them of old time, Thou shalt not kill, and whosoever shall kill shall be liable to the judgment." For the opinion had prevailed among the Jews from ancient time, that it was lawful to kill those who injured them, especially the Gentiles, and that they were only to be punished for it lightly or grievously according to the state of the case in regard to the enmity manifested, consequently only as to the body and not as to the soul; this is meant by being liable to the judgment.

(References: Matthew 5:1, 5:19-24)


[18] That he who without adequate cause thinks ill of his neighbour, and turns himself away from the good of charity, will be punished lightly as to the soul, is signified by Whosoever is angry with his brother rashly shall be liable to the judgment; to be angry signifies to think ill, for it is distinguished from "to say Raca," and "to say Thou fool." Brother means the neighbour, and also the good of charity, and to be liable to the judgment means to be examined and punished according to circumstances. That he who from evil thought slanders his neighbour, and thus holds the good of charity in contempt as of no account, will be grievously punished, is signified by Whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be liable to the council, - for to say Raca signifies from evil thought to slander the neighbour, thus to hold in contempt the good of charity as of no account, to say Raca signifying to account as nothing, thus of no account, and brother the good of charity. That he who hates the neighbour, that is he who altogether turns away from the good of charity, is condemned to hell, is signified by Whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be liable to the gehenna of fire, - to say "Thou fool" denoting entire aversion, brother denoting the good of charity, and gehenna of fire denoting the hell where those are who hate that good and thus the neighbour. Three degrees of hatred are described by these three, the first is that of evil thought, which is "to be angry," the second is that of a consequent evil intention, which is "to say Raca," and the third is that of an evil will, which is "to say Thou fool." All these are degrees of hatred against the good of charity; for hatred is the opposite of this good. The three degrees of punishment are signified by the judgment, the council, and the gehenna of fire, punishments for the evils of a lighter kind being signified by the judgment, punishments for those of a more grievous kind by the council, and for the most grievous of all, by the gehenna of fire.

[19] Since the whole of heaven is in the good of charity towards the neighbour, and the whole of hell is in anger, enmity, and hatred against the neighbour, and as these are the opposites of that good, and as the worship of the Lord when it is internal is worship from heaven, but is not worship if anything of it is from hell, and yet external worship without internal is from hell, therefore it is said, "If thou offer thy gift upon the altar, and there remember that thy brother hath aught against thee, go thy way, first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift upon the altar." The gift upon the altar signifies the worship of the Lord, from love and charity; brother means the neighbour, and in the abstract, the good of charity; to have aught against thee signifies anger, enmity or hatred, and to be reconciled signifies the dispersion of these, and consequent conjunction by love.

[20] It is evident from these things that the Lord meant by brother the same as by neighbour; and neighbour, in the spiritual sense, signifies good in its whole extent; and good in its whole extent is the good of charity. Brother has a similar meaning in the spiritual sense in many passages in the Old Testament.

As in Moses:

"Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart" (Levit. xix. 17).

In David:

"Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity" (Psalm cxxxiii. 1).

In this sense also, Lot called the inhabitants of Sodom brethren (Gen. xix. 7); and this is also meant by "the covenant of brethren" between the sons of Israel and Edom (Amos i. 9); and by "the brotherhood between Judah and Israel" (Zech. xi. 14). For by the sons of Israel and Edom, also by Judah and Israel, are not meant these in the spiritual sense, but the goods and truths of heaven and the church, which are all conjoined one with another.

(References: Amos 1:9; Genesis 19:7; Leviticus 19:17, Leviticus 25:46-47; Matthew 18:21; Psalms 133:1; Revelation 12:10; Zechariah 11:14)

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References from Swedenborg's unpublished works:

Apocalypse Explained 743, 747, 757, 1012

Other New Christian Commentary

Accuse 1

Brother 1

Least 1

Looking for Good in Other People 1

Pharisees 1

Beam 1

Doctor, or rabbi 1

Fool 1

Mote 1

Raca 1

Reconciled 1

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Glossary of Terms Used by Emanuel Swedenborg

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


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