2708. 'And dwelt in the wilderness' means that which is obscure comparatively. This is clear from the meaning of 'dwelling' as living, dealt with in 2451, and from the meaning of 'a wilderness' as that which possesses little life, dealt with in 1927, here as that which is obscure comparatively. By that which is obscure comparatively is meant the state of the spiritual Church in comparison with the state of the celestial Church, that is, the state of those who are spiritual in comparison with the state of those who are celestial. Those who are celestial are moved by the affection for good, those who are spiritual by the affection for truth. Those who are celestial possess perception, whereas those who are spiritual possess the dictate of conscience. To those who are celestial the Lord appears as a Sun, but to those who are spiritual as a Moon, 1521, 1530, 1531, 2495. The light which the former have - enabling them to see good and truth from the Lord with their eyes as well as to perceive it - is like the light of the sun in the daytime; but the light which the latter have from the Lord is like the light of the moon at night, and so, compared with those who are celestial, these dwell in obscurity. The reason for this is that those who are celestial dwell in love to the Lord, and so in the Lord's life itself, whereas those who are spiritual dwell in charity towards the neighbour and in faith, and so, it is true, in the Lord's life but in a rather more obscure way. All this explains why those who are celestial never reason about faith or the truths of faith, but because a perception of truth from good exists with them, simply say, 'That is so', whereas those who are spiritual talk and reason about the truths of faith because a conscience for what is good received from truth exists with them. A further reason for this difference is that with those who are celestial the good of love has been implanted in the will part of their minds, where man's chief life resides, but with those who are spiritual it has been implanted in the understanding part, where man's secondary life resides. This is the reason why, compared with the celestial, the spiritual dwell in obscurity, see 81, 202, 337, 765, 784, 895, 1114-1125, 1155, 1577, 1824, 2048, 2088, 2227, 2454, 2507. This comparative obscurity is here called 'a wilderness'.
Arcana Coelestia 1530-1531)
 In the Word 'a wilderness' can mean that which is sparsely inhabited and cultivated, or it can mean that which is totally uninhabited and uncultivated, and so is used in two senses. When it means that which is sparsely inhabited and cultivated, that is, where there are few dwellings, and where there are sheepfolds, pastures, and waters, it means that thing or those persons who, compared with others, have little life and light, as is the case with that which is spiritual or those who are spiritual in comparison with that which is celestial or those who are celestial. When however it means that which is totally uninhabited and uncultivated, that is, where there are no dwellings, sheepfolds, pastures, and waters, it means those who have undergone vastation as regards good and desolation as regards truth.
 That 'a wilderness' can mean that which, compared with other places, is sparsely inhabited and cultivated, that is, where there are few dwellings, and where there are sheepfolds, pastures, and waters, is clear from the following places: In Isaiah,
Sing to Jehovah a new song, His praise from the end of the earth, those that go down to the sea, and the fullness of it, the islands and their inhabitants. The wilderness and its cities will lift up [their voice]; Kedar will inhabit the settlements, 1
the inhabitants of the rock will sing, they will shout from the top of the mountains. Isaiah 42:10-11.
I will make with them a covenant of peace and I will banish the evil wild animal from the land, and they will dwell securely in the wilderness and sleep in the woods, and I will give them and the places around My hill a blessing. The tree of the field will give its fruit, and the earth will give its increase. 2
This refers to those who are spiritual. In Hosea,
I will bring her into the wilderness and will speak tenderly to her; and I will give her her vineyards from it. Hosea 2:14-15.
This refers to the desolation of truth and to the comfort that follows later.
 In David,
The folds of the wilderness drip, and the hills gird themselves with rejoicing; the meadows clothe themselves with flocks, and the valleys are covered over with grain. Psalms 65:12-13.
I will make the wilderness into a pool of water, and the parched land into streams of water. I will put in the wilderness the shittim-cedar, and the myrtle, and the oil tree. I will set in the wilderness the fir, that men may see and know, and may consider and understand together, for the hand of Jehovah has done this, and the Holy One of Israel has created it. Isaiah 41:18-20.
This refers to the regeneration of those who have no knowledge of the truth, that is, gentiles, and to the enlightenment and teaching of those who have experienced desolation. 'The wilderness' is used in reference to these. 'The cedar, the myrtle, and the oil tree' stands for the truths and goods of the interior man, 'fir' for those of the exterior man. In David,
Jehovah turns rivers into a wilderness, and streams of waters into dryness. He turns a wilderness into a pool of water, and parched land into streams of water. Psalms 107:33, 35
Here the meaning is similar. In Isaiah,
The wilderness and the dry land will be glad for them, and the lonely place will rejoice and blossom like the rose. It will bud prolifically. Waters will break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the lonely place. Isaiah 35:1-2, 6.
In the same prophet,
You will be like a watered garden and like a spring of waters whose waters do not fail; and those that be of you will build the wilderness of old. Isaiah 58:11-12.
In the same prophet,
Until the spirit is poured out on us from on high, and the wilderness will become Carmel, and Carmel counted as a forest. And judgement will dwell in the wilderness and righteousness on Carmel. Isaiah 32:15-16.
This refers to the spiritual Church which, though inhabited and cultivated, is, in comparison [with the celestial Church], called 'a wilderness', for it is said that 'judgement will dwell in the wilderness and righteousness on Carmel'. It is evident from the places just quoted that 'a wilderness' means an obscure state compared with other states not only because it is described as 'a wilderness' but also as 'a woodland'; and an obscure state is plainly the meaning in Jeremiah,
O generation, observe the word of Jehovah. Have I been a wilderness to Israel, or a land of darkness? Jeremiah 2:31.
 That 'a wilderness' can mean that which is totally uninhabited and uncultivated, that is, where there are no dwellings, sheepfolds, pastures, and waters, and so can mean those who have experienced vastation as regards good and desolation as regards truth, is also clear from the Word. This kind of wilderness is used with two different meanings; that is to say, it may be used in reference to those who are subsequently reformed or in reference to those who are unable to be reformed. Regarding those who are subsequently reformed, such as Hagar and her son represent here, it is said in Jeremiah,
Thus said Jehovah, I have remembered you, the mercy of the days of your youth, your going after Me in the wilderness, in a land not sown. Jeremiah 2:2.
This refers to Jerusalem, which in this case means the Ancient Church that was spiritual. In Moses,
The portion of Jehovah is His people, Jacob is the line of His inheritance. He found him in a wilderness land and in the waste, the howling, the lonely place. He encompassed him, led him to understand, and kept him as the pupil of His eye. Deuteronomy 32:9-10.
They wandered in the wilderness, in a desolate way; they did not find an inhabited city. Psalms 107:4.
This refers to those who have experienced desolation of truth and are being reformed. In Ezekiel,
I will bring you to the wilderness of the peoples and I will enter into judgement with you there, as I entered into judgement with your fathers in the wilderness of the land of Egypt. Ezekiel 20:35-36.
This likewise refers to the vastation and desolation of those who are being reformed.
 The travels and wanderings of the Israelites in the wilderness represented nothing else than the vastation and desolation prior to reformation of those who have faith. It consequently represented the temptation of them, for when people undergo spiritual temptations they experience vastation and desolation, as may also become clear from the following in Moses,
Jehovah carried you 3
along in the wilderness, as a man carries his son, in [all] the way [you went], until [you reached] this place. Deuteronomy 1:31.
And elsewhere in the same book,
You shall remember all the way in which Jehovah your God has led you forty years already in the wilderness to afflict you, to tempt you, and to know what is in your heart, whether you will keep His commandments or not. He afflicted you, caused you to hunger, caused you to eat manna which you do not know nor your fathers knew, so that you may recognize that man does not live by bread only but that man lives by all that goes out of the mouth of Jehovah. Deuteronomy 8:2-3.
And further on in the same chapter,
Do not forget that Jehovah led you in the great and terrible wilderness where there were serpents, fiery snakes, and scorpions, parched places where there was no water, and that He brought you water out of the rock of flint. He fed you in the wilderness with manna which your fathers did not know, that He might afflict you, tempt you, to do you good in the end. Deuteronomy 8:15-16.
Here 'wilderness' stands for the vastation and desolation such as people experience who undergo temptations. Their travels and wanderings in the wilderness for forty years describe every state of the Church militant - how when it is self-reliant it goes under but when it relies on the Lord it overcomes.
 The description in John of the woman who fled into the wilderness means nothing else than temptation experienced by the Church, referred to as follows,
The woman who brought forth the male child fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God. To the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, so that she might fly into the wilderness, into her own place. And the serpent poured water like a stream out of his mouth after the woman, to swallow her up in the river. But the earth helped the woman, for the earth opened its mouth and swallowed the stream which the dragon poured out of his mouth. Revelation 12:6, 14-16.
 That 'a wilderness' may be used in reference to a totally vastated Church and to people totally vastated as regards good and truth who are unable to be reformed may be seen in the following in Isaiah,
I will make the rivers a wilderness; their fish will stink for lack of water and will die of thirst; I will clothe the heavens with thick darkness. Isaiah 50:2-3.
In the same prophet,
The cities of Your holiness were a wilderness - Zion was a wilderness, Jerusalem lay waste. Isaiah 64:10,
I looked, and behold, Carmel was a wilderness, and all its cities were destroyed from before Jehovah. Jeremiah 4:26.
In the same prophet,
Many shepherds have spoiled My vineyard, they have trampled down [My] portion, they have made the portion of My delight into a desolate wilderness. They have made it into a desolation; desolate, it has mourned over Me. The whole land has been made desolate, for nobody takes it to heart. On all the slopes in the wilderness those who lay waste have come. Jeremiah 12:10-12.
Fire has devoured the folds of the wilderness, and flame will burn up all the trees of the field. The streams of water have dried up, and fire has devoured the folds of the wilderness. Joel 1:19-20.
In Isaiah, He made the world like a wilderness and destroyed its cities. Isaiah 14:17.
This refers to Lucifer. In the same prophet,
The prophecy concerning the wilderness of the sea. Like storms in the south it comes from the wilderness, from a terrible land. Isaiah 21:1 and following verses.
'The wilderness of the sea' stands for truth that has been vastated by facts and by reasonings based on these.
 All these places show what is meant by the following reference to John the Baptist,
It was said by Isaiah, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare a way for the Lord, make His paths straight. Matthew 3:3; Mark 1:3; Luke 3:4; John 1:23; Isaiah 40:3.
These words imply that at that time the Church was so totally vastated that no good and no truth remained any longer. This is quite evident from the fact that nobody at that time knew of the existence in man of anything internal, or of anything internal in the Word, so that nobody knew that the Messiah or Christ was coming to save them for ever. The places quoted above also show what is meant by the statement that John was in the wilderness until the time of his manifestation to Israel, Luke 1:80, that he preached in the wilderness of Judea, Matthew 3:1 and following verses, and that he baptized in the wilderness, Mark 1:4; for by this he also represented the state of the Church. From the meaning of 'a wilderness' it may also be seen why the Lord retired so often into the wilderness, as in Matthew 4:1; Matthew 15:32-end; Mark 1:12-13, 35, 45; 6:31-36; Luke 4:1; 5:16; 9:10 and following verses; John 11:54; and also from the meaning of 'a mountain' why the Lord retired into the mountains, as in Matthew 14:23; 15:29-31; 17:1 and following verses; 28:16-17; Mark 3:13-14; 6:46; 9:2-9; Luke 6:12-13; 9:28; John 6:15.
Genesis 21:20; Mark 1:35-40; Matthew 3, 15:32-39)