Spiritual Meaning of EXODUS 16:2-3
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AC 8402. Verses 2, 3. And all the assemblage of the sons of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron in the wilderness. And the sons of Israel said unto them, Oh that we had died by the hand of Jehovah in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh-pot, when we did eat bread to satiety! for ye have brought us forth unto this wilderness, to kill this whole congregation with hunger. "And all the assemblage of the sons of Israel murmured," signifies the suffering and the consequent complaint on account of the grievousness of the temptation; "against Moses and against Aaron," signifies against truth Divine; "in the wilderness," signifies a state of temptation; "and the sons of Israel said unto them," signifies thought from anxiety; "Oh that we had died by the hand of Jehovah in the land of Egypt," signifies that it would have been better for them to have been left by the Lord when they were in a state of infestations; "when we sat by the flesh-pot," signifies a life according to what they like, and as they had desired; "when we did eat bread to satiety," signifies that thus they had enjoyed the good of pleasures as much as they wished; "for ye have brought us out," signifies after they were liberated; "unto this wilderness," signifies a state of temptations; "to kill this whole congregation with hunger," signifies that they were expiring from a lack of delight and of good.

AC 8403. And all the assemblage of the sons of Israel murmured. That this signifies the suffering and the consequent complaint on account of the grievousness of the temptation, is evident from the signification of "to murmur," as being the suffering from the bitterness of the temptation, and the complaint (n. 8351); "the assemblage of the sons of Israel" denotes those who are of the spiritual church (n. 8398). Here a third temptation is treated of, which is on account of the lack of delight and of good. This temptation follows, in a series, the former one, which was on account of the lack of truth.

[2] They who have not been instructed about man’s regeneration suppose that a man can be regenerated without temptation; and some that he has been regenerated when he has undergone one temptation. But be it known that without temptation no one is regenerated, and that many temptations follow on, one after another. The reason is that regeneration takes place to the end that the life of the old man may die, and the new heavenly life be insinuated, which shows that there must needs be a fight, for the life of the old man resists, and is not willing to be extinguished, and the life of the new man cannot enter except where the life of the old man has been extinguished. Hence it is evident that there is a fight on both sides, and this fight is a fiery one, because it is for life.

[3] He who thinks from enlightened reason can see and perceive from this that no man can be regenerated without a fight, that is, without spiritual temptation; and also that he is not regenerated by one temptation, but by many. For very many kinds of evil have made the delight of his former life, that is, have made his old life; and it is impossible for all these evils to be suddenly and simultaneously mastered, because they cling to the man very firmly, having been rooted in parents from time immemorial, and consequently are innate in him, besides having been confirmed in him from his infancy through his own actual evils. All these evils are diametrically opposite to the heavenly good that is to be insinuated, and that is to make the new life.

AC 8404. Against Moses and against Aaron. That this signifies against truth Divine, is evident from the representation of Moses, as being truth Divine proceeding immediately from the Lord, thus internal truth; and from the representation of Aaron, as being truth proceeding mediately from the Lord, thus external truth (n. 7009, 7089, 7382).

AC 8405. In the wilderness. That this signifies a state of temptation, is evident from the signification of "wilderness," as being a state of undergoing temptations (n. 6828, 8098).

AC 8406. And the sons of Israel said unto them. That this signifies thought from anxiety, is evident from the signification of "saying," when it relates to such things as affect the mind, as being thought (n. 3395, 7097, 7244, 7937). That it is from anxiety is evident, because this is said in temptation.

AC 8407. Oh that we had died by the hand of Jehovah in the land of Egypt. That this signifies that it would have been better for them to have been left by the Lord when they were in a state of infestations, is evident from the signification of "oh that," as being that it would have been better, or would have been preferable; from the signification of "to have died by the hand of Jehovah," as being for them to have been left by the Lord. In the spiritual sense "to have died" signifies to be in evils and the derivative falsities, consequently to be in damnation, (n. 5407, 6119, 7494), and when it is said "to have died by the hand of Jehovah," it denotes to be left by the Lord, for they who are left by Him, that is, who leave Him, rush into evils and the derivative falsities, and thus into damnation. "Jehovah" in the Word denotes the Lord, and the signification of "the land of Egypt," is a state of infestations (n. 8401). Those who were of the spiritual church, who are represented by the sons of Israel, before they were liberated by the Lord, were infested by those who were in falsities from evil, who are represented by Pharaoh and the Egyptians, see (n. 6854, 6914, 7474, 7828, 7932, 8018, 8099, 8159, 8321).

AC 8408. When we sat by the flesh-pot. That this signifies a life according to what they like, and as they had desired, is evident from the signification of a "pot," as being a containant of good, and in the opposite sense a containant of evil; and from the signification of "flesh," as being the heavenly own, thus good, and in the opposite sense man‘s own, thus evil; and as by "flesh" is signified one’s own, so by "sitting by the flesh-pot" is signified a life according to what they like, and as they desire, for this life is the life of one‘s own. A "pot" denotes a containant of good, and in the opposite sense a containant of evil, for the reason that by the flesh which is boiled in it is signified good, and in the opposite sense evil. As a "pot" has this signification, therefore by it is also signified the corporeal or natural of man, because these are the containants of good or of evil. Therefore in the universal sense by a "pot" is signified a man, and in a still more universal sense a people or a city, and then "flesh" signifies the good or the evil therein; as in Ezekiel:

The men that devise iniquity, and that give wicked counsel in this city, saying, It is not near, itself is the pot, We are the flesh; therefore thus said the Lord Jehovah, Your slain whom ye have put in the midst of it, these are the flesh, but itself is the pot (Ezek. 40:2, 3, 7);

here "the pot" denotes the city, or the people there; and "the flesh" denotes evil; for "the slain," who are called "the flesh," denote those with whom good and truth have been extinguished (n. 4503).

[2] Again:--

Utter a parable against the house of rebellion, and say unto them, Thus said the Lord Jehovah, Set on the pot, set it on, and also pour the pieces into it, every good piece, the thigh, and the shoulder; fill it with the choice of the bones; said the Lord Jehovih, Woe to the city of bloods, to the pot whose scum is therein, and whose scum is not gone out of it (Ezek. 24:3, 4, 6);

here "the pot’ denotes a city, or the people there, in whom is the evil of the profanation of good; the good which is "the flesh" there, is "the thigh and the shoulder," the evil is "the scum" therefrom; the profanation of good is the remaining "scum;" therefore also it is called "the city of bloods."

[3] In Jeremiah:--

Jehovah said unto Jeremiah, What seest thou? I said, I see a pot that is boiling, whose face is toward the north; then Jehovah said, From the north evil shall be opened upon all the inhabitants of the land (Jer. 1:12-14);

here a "boiling pot" denotes a people whom falsities have taken possession of; "the north" denotes the sensuous and corporeal of man from which evil springs. The end of the church is here treated of, when the external, consequently the sensuous and corporeal, and with these falsity and evil, rule; for the Lord‘s church goes successively from internal to external, and then expires.

[4] In Zechariah:--

In that day shall there be upon the bells of the horses, Holiness to Jehovah; and the pots in the house of Jehovah shall be like the bowls before the altar; and every pot in Jerusalem and in Judah shall be holiness to Jehovah Zebaoth, and all they that sacrifice shall come and take of them and shall boil in them (Zech. 14:20, 21);

the salvation of the faithful is here treated of; the faithful are "the pots," so called from the reception of good from the Lord, and from this the pot is called "Holiness to Jehovah;" "the bells of the horses upon which is Holiness" denote truths corresponding to good. As "pots" denote recipients and containants of good, therefore also these together with the rest of the vessels of the altar were made of brass (Exod. 38:3); for "brass" signifies the good of the natural (n. 425, 1551).

[5] Moreover by "a pot" is signified doctrine. because of its containing the good and truth of the church. Doctrine is signified by "the pot" in which by command of Elisha pottage was boiled for the sons of the prophets of which we read in the second book of Kings:--

Elisha returned to Gilgal when there was a famine in the land, when the sons of the prophets were sitting before him: he said to his lad, Set on the great pot, and boil pottage for the sons of the prophets: one went out into the field to gather vegetables, and found a vine of the field, and gathered from it wild gourds of the field, and shred them into the pot of pottage: while they were eating of the pottage they cried, death in the pot, O man of God! but he said that they should take meal, which he threw into the pot; and he said, Pour out for the people, and let them eat; then there was no evil thing in the pot (2 Kings 4:38-41);

be it known that all Divine miracles involve such things as are of the Lord’s kingdom and church (n. 7337, 8364), and that Elisha represents the Word of the Lord (n. 2762), and the prophets the doctrines therefrom (n. 2534, 7269); whence it is evident what of the church was represented by this miracle, namely, that the good of the church which has been falsified becomes good by means of truth from the Word; "famine" denotes a lack of the knowledges of truth and of good; "the pot," doctrine; "pottage," the good of the external rituals of the Jewish church; "wild gourds from the vine of the field," falsification; "meal," truth from the Word (n. 2177), whereby that which has been falsified, and which is "death in the pot," becomes good. That "pots" signify containants of good, is because they were among the useful vessels in which food was prepared, and by food and all kinds of it are signified such things as nourish the soul, thus affections of good and of truth (n. 681, 1480, 3114, 4792, 5147, 5293, 5340, 5342, 5576, 5915).

AC 8409. As "flesh" signifies ones own in both senses, in the supreme sense the Lords Divine own, which is His Divine Human, thus the good of His love toward the universal human race; therefore "flesh" in the sense which has reference to man denotes one‘s own made alive by the Lord’s own, that is, it denotes the Lord‘s own with man, thus the good of love to Him. On the signification of "flesh" in this sense, (n. 3813, 7850). But in the opposite sense, "flesh" denotes man’s own, thus the evil of the love of self, and from this the cupidities or concupiscences of this love (n. 999, 3813). That man‘s own is nothing but evil, (n. 210, 215, 694, 874-876, 987, 1023, 1044, 1047, 3812, 5660, 5786). That "flesh" denotes man’s own, thus evil of every kind, is further evident from the following passages in Isaiah:--

I will feed thine oppressors with their flesh, and they shall be drunken with their blood, as with new wine (Isa. 49:26);

"to feed with flesh" denotes to be gorged with their own evil.

[2] In Jeremiah:--

Cursed is the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, but his heart departeth from Jehovah (Jer. 17:5);

"to make flesh his arm" denotes to trust in his own power; and therefore in (Isaiah 9:20) "to eat the flesh of his arm" denotes to trust in himself. Again in Isaiah:--

Egypt is a man, and not God; and his horses flesh, and not spirit (Isa. 31:3);

"the horses of Egypt" denote memory-knowledges from a perverted understanding (n. 6125); "flesh" denotes what is dead‘ "spirit," what is alive; therefore the sons of Egypt are said to be "great in flesh" (Ezek. 16:26). What is "dead" is so called from evil, for spiritual death is from evil; and what is alive is so called from good, for spiritual life is from good.

[3] Hence it is that "flesh" and "spirit" in the Word are opposed to each other, as in the following passages:--

That which is born from the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the spirit is spirit (John 3:6).

It is the spirit that maketh alive, the flesh profiteth nothing; the words that I speak to you are spirit, and are life (John 6:63).

Jehovah said, My Spirit shall not reprove man forever, for that he is flesh (Gen. 6:3);

here "flesh" denotes man’s own. In like manner in the following:--

Jesus said, Blessed art thou, Simon son of Jonah, for flesh and blood hath not revealed it, but My Father who is in the heavens (Matt. 16:17).

As many as received, to them gave He power to be son‘s of God, to them that believe on His name; who were born, not of bloods, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God (John 1:12, 13);

"the will of the flesh" denotes one’s own of the will; "the will of man," one‘s own of the understanding; "sons of God" denote the regenerate, and they who are being regenerated are all made alive from the Lord’s own, which is "the flesh and body of the Lord," and is the Divine good itself.

[4] As "flesh" in the opposite sense denotes man‘s own, thus evil, it also denotes concupiscence, for the life of the flesh, which is the body’s own life, is nothing but the pleasure of the senses, the delight of the appetites, and concupiscence. That "flesh" denotes concupiscence, is evident from these words in Moses:--

The rabble that was in the midst of the people lusted a lust, whence the sons of Israel wept again, and said, Who shall feed us with flesh our soul is now dry, our eyes have nothing to turn to but the manna: and Jehovah said unto Moses, Say thou unto the people, Sanctify yourselves for the morrow, that ye may eat flesh, for ye have wept in the ears of Jehovah, saying, who shall feed us with flesh? for it was better with us in Egypt; Jehovah will give you flesh to eat, for a month of days, even until it come out from your nose, and it shall be a loathing to you. The flesh was yet between their teeth, before it was swallowed, when the anger of Jehovah was kindled against the people, and Jehovah smote the people with a very great plague, whence he called the name of that place "the graves of lust," because there they buried the people that lusted (Num. 11:4, 6, 16, 18, 20, 33, 34).

From all this it is now evident what is signified by "sitting by the flesh-pot in the land of Egypt," namely, a life according to what they like and as they had desired, thus a life of their own.

AC 8410. When we did eat bread to satiety. That this signifies that thus they had enjoyed the good of pleasures as much as they wished, is evident from the signification of "eating," as being appropriation (n. 3168, 3513, 3596, 4745), and also enjoyment (n. 7849); and from the signification of "bread," as being the good of heavenly life, and in the opposite sense the good of natural life separate from heavenly life, thus the good of pleasures. For by "bread" in the spiritual sense is meant the primary thing that nourishes the soul and preserves its spiritual life. That this is the good of love, is evident from the life of heaven, which consists solely of this good. But in the opposite sense by "bread" is meant the primary thing that nourishes those who are in hell, and sustains their life. That this is the evil of the love of self and of the world, is evident from the life of hell, which consists solely in this. Evil is to them good, for nothing is more delightful and sweet to them. This is here meant by "the good of pleasures." And from the signification of "to satiety," as being as much as they wished (or willed), for with the good it is the will that is sated with good, and With the evil it is the will that is sated with evil.

AC 8411. For ye have brought us forth. That this signifies after they were liberated, is evident from the signification of " bringing forth," in this case from the land of Egypt, as being to liberate, namely, from a state of infestations.

AC 8412. Unto this wilderness. That this signifies a state of temptations, is evident from the signification of a "wilderness," as being a state of undergoing temptations (n. 8098).

AC 8413. To kill this whole congregation with hunger. That this signifies that they were expiring from a lack of delight and of good, is evident from the signification of "killing," as being to deprive of life, here, of that which is from delight and good, for in these the life of man consists (n. 3607, 6767); from the signification of "the congregation," as being those who are of the spiritual church (n. 7843); and from the signification of "hunger," as being a lack of good (n. 5893), here of the good of pleasures, which is signified by "bread" (n. 8410); for when that which nourishes the spiritual life, or the life of the spirit, is taken away, hunger results. How the case herein is shall be briefly told.

[2] When the good of charity, which makes the spiritual life, is to be insinuated, the delight of the pleasures which had made the natural life is removed. When this delight is removed, the man comes into temptation, for he believes that if he is deprived of the delight of pleasures, he is deprived of all life, because his natural life consists in this delight, or good, as he calls it. But he does not know that when this delight of life is removed, spiritual delight, or good, is insinuated by the Lord in its place. It is this good that is signified by the "manna;" the former good or delight being meant by the "flesh and bread in the land of Egypt," and the privation of this being meant by "hunger."

[3] But it is to be carefully observed that the man who is being regenerated is not deprived of the delight of the pleasures of the body and lower mind, for he fully enjoys this delight after regeneration, and more fully than before, but in inverse ratio. Before regeneration, the delight of pleasures was everything of his life; but after regeneration, the good of charity becomes everything of his life; and then the delight of pleasures serves as a means, and as an ultimate plane, in which spiritual good with its happiness and blessedness terminates. When therefore the order is to be inverted, the former delight of pleasures expires and becomes no delight, and a new delight from a spiritual origin is insinuated in its place.

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Author:  E. Swedenborg (1688-1772). Design:  I.J. Thompson, Feb 2002. www.BibleMeanings.info