Spiritual Meaning of EXODUS 19:16-19
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AC 8810. Verses 16-19. And it was on the third day, when it was morning, that there were voices and lightnings, and a heavy cloud upon the mountain, and the voice of a trumpet exceeding strong, and all the people that were in the camp trembled. And Moses made the people go forth out of the camp to meet God; and they took their stand in the lower parts of the mountain. And Mount Sinai smoked, the whole of it, because Jehovah descended upon it in fire; and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain trembled mightily. And when the voice of the trumpet was going, and waxing strong mightily, Moses spake, and God answered him in a voice. "And it was on the third day," signifies at the end of the purification; "when it war morning," signifies a state when they were in good; "that there were voices and lightnings," signifies a Divine state in which was revelation; "and a heavy cloud upon the mountain," signifies a Divine state in respect to those who were about to receive; "and the voice of a trumpet exceeding strong," signifies a celestial state which was round about; "and all the people that were in the camp trembled," signifies a holy tremor on the part of those who were about to receive; "and Moses made the people go forth out of the camp to meet God," signifies the power of truth from the Divine to prepare them to receive the Divine in the good with them; "and they took their stand in the lower parts of the mountain," signifies far from the good of celestial love; "and Mount Sinai smoked, the whole of it," signifies the appearing of celestial good in the greatest obscurity; "because Jehovah descended upon it in fire," signifies because the Divine was there in celestial love; "and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace," signifies obscurity like the obscurity from cupidities; "and the whole mountain trembled mightily," signifies the commotion of heaven; "and when the voice of the trumpet was going, and waxing strong mightily," signifies what is general of revelation through the angelic heaven; "Moses spake, and God answered him in a voice," signifies by means of an influx of truth from the Divine wherein was the Divine Itself.

AC 8811. And it was on the third day. That this signifies at the end of the purification, is evident from the signification of "the third day," as being the end of a state of preparation to receive (n. 8791), thus the end of the purification.

AC 8812. When it was morning. That this signifies a state when they were in good, is evident from the signification of "morning," as being a state of the good of love (n. 8426). From what is here said, that Jehovah, that is, the Lord; descended upon Mount Sinai on the third day, and also on the morning of that day, it is very manifest that this was representative of some Divine thing in heaven, which cannot be made known to anyone except from the correspondence of such things as come forth in the natural world with things that are in the spiritual world, and from the consequent signification; as in the present case what "morning" signifies, and what "the third day." That "the third day" denotes the end of a former state, is because by three" is signified what is full from beginning to end (n. 8790); and that "morning" denotes a state of the good of love, is because the sun which in the other life gives light to the angels and to the universal heaven, is the Lord, and the fire there is His Divine love, which gives the heat of life to every living being, and the light there is the Divine truth which enlightens all who receive it; quite differently from the sun of this world, the fire of which is fire and not love, and the light from which is light and not truth.

[2] From all this it can be seen what are the effects of the fire and also of the light from the sun of the world, and what are the effects of the fire and light from the sun of heaven, namely, that from the former the heat and light are devoid of life, but from the latter the heat and light are attended with life. These latter, namely, those which come forth from the sun of heaven, are therefore called "spiritual," because they have life in them; and the former, which are from the sun of the world, are called "natural," and have no life in them. The life which in living beings is noticed in heat and from heat, is not from the heat of the sun of the world, but is from the heat of the sun of heaven. When this heat flows into the heat of the world, it produces that effect, and is felt in the body as elementary heat; but there is in it vital heat that has its origin from the love which is heat from the sun of heaven. That the origin of the heat of life is from some other source, and that it is in love and is according to the measure and the quality of the love, everyone can know provided he is willing to reflect aright, except those who do not acknowledge anything internal in man, and who ascribe all things to nature.

[3] As therefore the heat from the sun of heaven, which is the Lord, is the good of love, and as the light therefrom is the truth of faith, it can be seen what is signified by "morning," and what by "noon," by "evening" and by "night," in the other life, namely, that they are states of good and truth, or of love and faith; "morning," a state of the good of love "noon," a state of the truth of faith; and "evening," and "night," the privation of these, which is ignorance and blindness in the things that are of faith, also torpor and cold in the things that are of heavenly love.

[4] Moreover the case is similar with the sun of heaven as with the sun of the world, namely, that it is fixed and does not cause those states by any circumgyration; but that they are caused by the surrounding bodies, as by the earth revolving around the sun and at the same time around its own axis; from which comes the appearance that those changes arise from the sun, when yet they are not from the sun, but from the world revolving about it. So also in heaven, the changes of state there, to which morning, noon, evening, and night correspond, do not arise from the sun there, for the sun is always sending forth heat and light, that is, the good of love and the truth of faith; but those changes arise with those who receive, namely, with angels and spirits who by stated alternations according to their life are now in morning, that is, in the good of love; now in noon, that is, in the truth of faith; now in evening and night, that is, in shade and torpor as to love and faith.

[5] The reason why the case is similar in the world as in heaven, with the difference that in the world they are states of times which so succeed each other, and in heaven states of life, is that all things in the world were created after the image of things that are in heaven, because natural things come forth from spiritual things as effects from their causes. Hence there is a correspondence of all things in the world with those which are in heaven, and hence universal nature is a theater representative of the Lordís kingdom (n. 3483, 4939, 8211).

AC 8813. That there were voices and lightnings. That this signifies a Divine state which was revelation, is evident from the signification of "voices" which are sounds of thunders, as being truths Divine; and from the signification of "lightnings," as being the ruddy glow and brightness of these truths, for truths Divine are bright and glowing from the flame of the light that is from the sun of heaven. Hence it is that by "voices and lightnings" is signified a Divine state in which is revelation; a Divine state, by the descent of such things from heaven; and revelation, by the voices and lightnings being truths Divine. That by "voices" which are of thunders from heaven are signified truths Divine, see (n. 7573); and that "lightnings" denote the brightnesses from them which strike upon the internal sight of man, enlightening those who are in truth from good, and confounding those who are in falsity from evil, is evident from passages in the Word where "lightnings" are mentioned, as in David:--

The clouds dripped waters, the skies gave forth a voice, and Thine arrows went abroad, the voice of Thy thunder into the world, the lightnings enlightened the world, the earth shook and trembled (Ps. 77:17, 18);

where "the voice of thunder" denotes truth Divine (n. 7573); "lightnings" denote its brightness; and "the world," the church; consequently "the lightnings enlightened the world" denotes the enlightening of the church by truth Divine.

[2] In like manner in the same:--

His lightnings enlightened the world, the earth shall see and shall fear, the mountains shall melt like wax before Jehovah (Ps. 97:4, 5).

What Jehovah willeth, He doeth in the heavens and in earth, in the seas and in all abysses, who maketh the vapors to ascend from the extremity of the earth, He maketh lightnings for the rain (Ps. 135:6, 7; Jer. 10:13; 51:16);

where "lightnings for the rain" denotes the brightness of the truth that comes down from heaven. In John:--

There were lightning, voices, and thunders (Rev. 11:19; 16:18);

where "voices, lightnings, and thunders" denote truths Divine which enlighten the good and terrify the evil.

[3] In Ezekiel:--

The appearance of the living creatures (which were cherubs) was like burning coals of fire, like the appearance of torches, and it went along among the living creatures, so that there was the brightness of fire, and out of the fire went forth lightning. And the living creatures were running and returning according to the appearance of lightning (Ezek. 1:3, 14);

where "fire" denotes the good of love, and "lightning going forth out of the fire," the truth Divine therefrom. The Divine Providence of the Lord, which is truth Divine proceeding from the Divine good of the Lord, is here described by the "cherubs."

[4] In Daniel:--

Behold one clothed in linen, whose loins were girded with gold of Uphaz, and his body was like a tarshish, his face as the appearance of lightning, and his eyes as torches of fire (Daniel 10:5, 6);

"the face as the appearance of lightning" denotes the love of truth, because the truth which is from love bears with it a flaming from fire, which flaming is "lightning."

[5] In Zechariah:--

Jehovah shall appear over them, and His arrow shall go forth as the lightning; and the Lord Jehovah shall sound with the trumpet, and shall advance in whirlwinds of the south (Zech. 9:14);

"the arrow which shall go forth as the lightning" denotes truth Divine which reproves and penetrates. That "an arrow" denotes the truth of doctrine, see (n. 2686, 2709); thus "an arrow from Jehovah" denotes truth Divine.

[6] In Nahum:--

The brightness of a sword, the lightning of a spear, and a multitude of slain (Nahum 3:3).

In Moses:--

I will sharpen the lightning of My sword (Deut. 32:41);

denoting the penetration of truth Divine with the evil, " sword" denotes truth fighting (n. 2799, 8294); and "lightning" the brightness of it which strikes upon the intellectual and deprives it of the faculty of seeing truth: in like manner in (Ezekiel 21:20-32). From all this it is also evident that by "lightning" is meant truth Divine, as in (Matthew 28:3; Luke 17:24).

AC 8814. And a heavy cloud upon the mountain. That this signifies a Divine state in respect to those who were about to receive, is evident from the signification of "a cloud," as being truth accommodated to those who are about to receive, thus the Word in the letter (n. 8443, 8781); here truth Divine accommodated to the people descended from Jacob; and because this people was in great darkness as to truths Divine, it is therefore called "a heavy cloud," and above (verse 9) "the density of a cloud," and below (verse 18) "smoke of fire as the smoke of a furnace." In what great darkness they were, can be seen from what has been related above (n. 8788) about that nation, and also from the fact that the things which pertain to the internal man were not revealed to them, but only those which pertain to the external man. For they did not apprehend internal things, nor were they willing to apprehend them, because these were contrary to their loves, which were that they might be the most exalted of all peoples in the world, and also the most opulent of all, and that all other nations might be as nothing in comparison with them. Where these loves are, there heavenly loves cannot be received, for these are extinguished and suffocated by the worldly loves. This is the reason why Jehovah, that is, the Lord, appeared to them in a dense and heavy cloud, in like manner as is the case in the other life, where they who are in falsities from evil are encompassed with a dense and black cloud in accordance with the quality and the amount of the falsities. This appears to everyone there before the eyes, and yet the sun there is continually shining. On this subject (n. 6832, 8137, 8138). Speaking generally, the Divine in the other life appears to everyone according to the quality of his faith and love.

AC 8815. And the voice of a trumpet exceeding strong. That this signifies a celestial state which was round about, is evident from the signification of "the voice," or sound, "of a trumpet," as being the truth of celestial good, "a voice" denoting truth, and "a trumpet" celestial good (n. 8802). That it denotes a celestial state which was round about, is because the Divine in heaven is in the midst or inmost, that is, in the highest there; but relatively to the angels heaven is around or outside of them, that is, is beneath, for that which is around is also outside, and that which is outside is also beneath. Truth Divine itself in heaven is signified by "voices" and "lightnings," but the celestial or angelic truth adjoined to what is Divine, which is beneath or around, is signified by "the voice of a trumpet," in like manner as in Zechariah:--

Jehovah shall appear over them, and His arrow shall go forth as the lightning; and the Lord Jehovah shall sound with the trumpet, and shall advance in whirlwinds of the south (Zech. 9:14);

and in David:--

God is gone up with a sounding, Jehovah with the voice of a trumpet (Ps. 47:5);

where "a sounding" denotes the truth of spiritual good; "the voice of a trumpet," the truth of celestial good.

[2] The Divine truth which passes through heaven is also meant by the trumpets with which the angels sounded (Rev. 8:2, 6-8, 12, 13; 9:14). Truth Divine from heaven was also represented by the seven trumpets with which the seven priests sounded before the ark or before Jehovah, when the walls of the city Jericho fell (Josh. 6); also by the trumpets with which the three hundred men who were with Gideon sounded round about the camp of Midian, Amalek, and the sons of the east (Judges 7). The reason why the trumpets produced this effect was that they represented the truth Divine through the heavens, which is such that it perfects the good, but destroys the evil; the reason why it perfects the good is that these receive the Divine good which is in the truth; but that it destroys the evil is because these do not receive the Divine good which is in it. The "walls of Jericho" signified the falsities which defended evils; and "Midian, Amalek, and the sons of the east," round about whose camp the three hundred men of Gideon sounded the trumpets, signified those who were in evils and in the derivative falsities.

AC 8816. And all the people that were in the camp trembled. That this signifies a holy tremor on the part of those who were about to receive, is evident from the signification of "trembling," as being a holy tremor; and from the signification of "the people that were in the camp," as being those who were about to receive the Divine truth. It is said in the Word in various places that when Jehovah comes down, "the earth trembles, and the mountains melt" (Ps. 77:17, 18; 97:4, 5; 104:32, and elsewhere); whereby is signified the commotion of all at the presence of the Divine; for the Divine is such that no one can endure it unless he is in a kind of cloud, and thus is accommodated to its reception; for it is like the fire which is in the sun, which if it were to fall naked on anyone, would consume him in a moment. But the reception is according to the good with each person. They who are in good do indeed tremble at the presence of the Divine, but it is a holy tremor which precedes reception. But they who are in evil are in terror at the presence of the Divine, and therefore flee away, and are then enveloped in their falsities as in a dusky cloud, and are hidden. These things are signified by the "caves of the rocks" into which they then betake themselves. From all this it can be seen what is signified by "all the people that were in the camp trembled."

AC 8817. And Moses made the people go forth out of the camp to meet God. That this signifies the power of truth from the Divine to prepare them to receive the Divine in the good with them, is evident from the signification of "making the people go forth to meet God," as being the power to prepare them to receive the Divine; for in what follows the subject treated of is the law promulgated upon Mount Sinai, which denotes the Divine that they were to receive, for "the law" denotes Divine truth from Divine good. Hence it is that "making go forth to meet" denotes the power of preparing for reception by means of the truth from the Divine which is represented by Moses (n. 8760, 8787, 8805).

AC 8818. And they took their stand in the lower parts of the mountain. That this signifies far from the good of celestial love, is evident from the signification of "Mount Sinai," as being heaven, and thus good Divine united to Divine truth there (n. 8805); and from the signification of "taking their stand in the lower parts" of it, as being far or remote from it. In the internal historical sense the Israelitish nation is here meant, which was devoid of the good of celestial love (n. 8788, 8806), and consequently was far from it; and therefore it is also said below that Moses charged the people and also the priests not to break through the bounds and touch the mountain and thus die (verses 21, 22, 24, 25). But in the internal sense, wherein those who are of the spiritual church are treated of, by their "taking their stand in the lower parts of the mountain," is signified that it was not allowable to ascend to a higher heaven by reason of self-confidence, and that if they ascended they would die (n. 8794, 8797).

AC 8819. And Mount Sinai smoked, the whole of it. That this signifies the appearing of celestial good in the greatest obscurity, is evident from the signification of "Mount Sinai," as being celestial good (n. 8818); and from the signification of "smoking," as being an appearing in obscurity. By obscurity is meant the obscurity of faith, such as is theirs who are of the spiritual church as compared with the faith of those who are of the celestial church (n. 2708, 2715, 2718, 2831, 2935, 2937, 3241, 3833, 6289). By the greatest obscurity, which is signified by "Mount Sinai smoked, the whole of it," and by what is said just below, that "the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace," is meant that obscurity in which was the Israelitish nation, before whom the appearing took place; for Jehovah or the Lord appears to everyone according to his quality (n. 8788, 8814), thus as love and as the light of truth to those who are in good, but as an enemy and avenger to those who are in evil. That so did He appear to the Israelitish people, is also evident from other passages in Moses:--

The appearance of the glory of Jehovah was like devouring fire on the top of the mountain before the eyes of the sons of Israel (Exod. 24:17).

Ye came near and stood under the mountain; when the mountain burned with fire unto the heart of heaven, darkness, and cloud, and thick darkness. And Jehovah spake unto you out of the midst of the fire (Deut. 4:11, 12; 5:22).

It came to pass, when ye heard the voice out of the midst of the darkness, and the mountain did burn with fire, that ye came near unto me, and ye said, Why shall we die? because this great fire will devour us: if we hear the voice of Jehovah our God any more, we shall die (Deut. 5:23-25).

[2] The reason for this is that no one can see God otherwise than from such things as are in himself, so that he who is in hatred sees Him from hatred, he who is in unmercifulness sees Him in unmercifulness; and on the other hand, they who are in charity and mercy see Him from, and thus in, charity and mercy. The case herein is as it is with the rays of light, which when they fall into ugly forms are turned into ugly colors; but when they fall into beautiful forms are turned into beautiful colors. "Smoke" denotes the obscurity of truth and also the thick darkness which is of falsity, (Isa. 9:18, 19; 34:9, 10; Joel 2:30, 31; Hosea 13:3; Rev. 9:17, 18; 18:18; 19:3).

AC 8820. Because Jehovah descended upon it in fire. That this signifies because the Divine was there in celestial love, is evident from the signification of the "fire in which Jehovah was," as being Divine celestial love; that "fire" denotes love, see (n. 934, 4906, 5071, 5215, 6314, 6832, 6834, 6849), here Divine celestial love, that is, love Divine such as is in the heaven where the celestial angels are.

AC 8821. And the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace. That this signifies obscurity like the obscurity from cupidities, is evident from the signification of "smoke," as being obscurity (n. 8819); and from the signification of"a furnace," as being cupidity (n. 7519). The reason why the Lord, when in celestial love, appeared so to the sons of Israel, (n. 8819, 1861, 6832).

AC 8822. And the whole mountain trembled mightily. That this signifies the commotion of heaven, is evident from the signification of "to tremble," as being commotion; and from the signification of "Mount Sinai," as being heaven (n. 8805). There is commotion at the presence of the Divine, (n. 8816).

AC 8823. And when the voice of the trumpet was going, and waxing strong mightily. That this signifies what is general of revelation through the angelic heaven, is evident from the signification of "the voice of the trumpet," as being heavenly or angelic truth conjoined with what is Divine (n. 8815), thus what is general of revelation; for truth Divine is revelation, and that which is manifested through the medium of heaven is general relatively to the truth Divine itself in heaven, for it is without or around (n. 8815), and what is around and without is general relatively to that which is in the midst, or which is within; and from the signification of "going and waxing strong," as being the increase thereof. For the case herein is as it is with sound which is on high, where the atmosphere is purer, and the sound is silent; but when it descends to lower regions where the atmosphere is denser, it becomes louder and more sonorous. So it is with Divine truth and Divine good, which in the highest are peaceful and cause no disturbance whatever; but when they descend toward lower things they gradually become unpeaceful, and finally tumultuous. This is what is so described by the Lord in the first book of the Kings to Elijah, when he was in Horeb:--

Go forth, and stand on the mountain before Jehovah; behold Jehovah is passing by; so that there was a treat and strong wind rending the mountains, and breaking in pieces the rocks before Jehovah; Jehovah was not in the wind: then after the wind an earthquake; yet Jehovah was not in the earthquake: after the earthquake a fire; Jehovah was not in the fire: lastly after the fire a still small voice (1 Kings 19:11, 12).

AC 8824. Moses spake, and God answered him in a voice. That this signifies by means of an influx of truth from the Divine in which was the Divine Itself, is evident from the representation of Moses, as being truth from the Divine (n. 8760, 8787, 8505); from the signification of "speaking," as being influx (n. 5797, 7270, 8128); and from the signification of "answering in a voice," as being the Divine truth which is the source. The reason why these things are signified, is that Divine answers are truths in which is what is Divine.

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