Spiritual Meaning of EXODUS 20:15-17
(verses 18-20 in English Bible)
AC 8913. Verses 15-17. And all the people saw the voices, and the torches, and the voice of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking; and the people saw, and they quaked, and stood afar off And they said unto Moses, speak thou with us, and we will hear; and let not God speak with us, lest perchance we die. And Moses said unto the people, Fear not; because God is come to tempt you, and that the fear of Him may be before your faces, that ye sin not. "And all the people saw the voices, and the torches," signifies the perception of truths Divine from good; "and the voice of the trumpet," signifies the same things through heaven; "and the mountain smoking," signifies the good itself of truth not perceptible except in the external form; "and the people saw, and they quaked," signifies the tremor which there is when they are received; "and they stood afar off," signifies remoteness from internal things; "and they said unto Moses," signifies complaint; "Speak thou with us," signifies the reception of truth in an accommodated form, which in this manner they would obey; "and let not God speak with us," signifies truth in a form not accommodated; "lest perchance we die," signifies that thus the life of heaven with them would perish; "and Moses said unto the people," signifies information; "Fear not, because God has come to tempt you," signifies that the life of heaven will not perish, this is merely that it may be known that it exists, and what is its quality; "and that the fear of Him may be before your faces, that ye sin not," signifies holy fear therefrom of the Divine, and the consequent preservation of spiritual life.
AC 8914. And all the people saw the voices, and the torches. That this signifies the perception of truths Divine from good, is evident from the signification of "seeing," as being to understand and perceive (n. 2150, 2325, 2807, 3764, 3863, 3869, 4403-4421, 4567, 4723, 5400) from the signification of "voices" or thunderings, as being truths Divine (n. 7573, 8813); and from the signification of "torches" or lightnings, as being the brightnesses which truths have from the good of love, and which strike through and penetrate (n. 8813).
 By truths Divine from good are here meant all the commandments of the decalogue, which were pronounced from Mount Sinai out of the midst of thunderings and lightnings; these being then displayed because the thunderings signified truths Divine, which are also for this reason called "voices;" and the lightnings signified the brightnesses which truths have from good, which are also for this reason called "torches" or flames. "Flames" denote Divine truths proceeding from the Lord‘s Divine good, (n. 6832).
AC 8915. And the voice of the trumpet. That this signifies the same things through heaven, namely, Divine truths from good, is evident from the signification of "the voice of the trumpet," as being the state of the angelic heaven encompassing the Divine, and as being truth Divine therefrom (n. 8815, 8823); from which it can be seen what is signified by the words of the Lord where He foretells concerning the consummation of the age, or the last time of the church, that then the Lord shall send His angels with a great voice of a trumpet, who shall gather together His elect from the four winds (Matt. 24:31). He who does not know that all the words of the Lord have stored up within them also heavenly and Divine things, that is, that there is in them an internal sense, will believe that when the Last Judgment is at hand, angels will appear, and will announce it, and will also gather together the elect with the voice of a trumpet. But that by "the voice of a trumpet" is not there meant the voice of a trumpet, but truth Divine in the internal form through heaven, and the evangelization thereof, see (n. 4060, 8815, 8823).
AC 8916. And the mountain smoking. That this signifies the good itself of truth not perceptible except in the external form, Is evident from the signification of a "mountain," here Mount Sinai, as being the Divine good united to the Divine truth in heaven (n. 8805); and from the signification of "smoking," as being in the external form. That this is meant by "smoking," is because Divine truth, or the Word in the internal form, is like light and like flame, but in the external form it is like a cloud and like smoke. The reason is that truth Divine, or the Word in the internal form, is such as it is in heaven, thus such as it is in the light there; but in the external form it is such as it is in the world, thus such as it is in the light there; and relatively to the light of heaven, the light of the world is like a cloud, or like smoke relatively to flame. Truth Divine, or the Word in the internal form, is the internal sense of the Word, and in the external form it is its external or literal sense; that this literal sense is called a "cloud," (n. 2135a, 4060, 4391, 5922, 6343, 6752, 8106, 8781); and that it is called "smoke" is because by "smoke" is signified what is obscure of truth (n. 8819). That the mountain appeared smoking before the sons of Israel, was not because the Divine there was of such a quality, but because the Divine appears to everyone according to the quality of him who sees it; and the quality of those who then saw was that they made everything of worship to consist in externals, and nothing in internals; and that consequently they understood the Word only according to the sense of the letter. Therefore in respect to the truth which was being promulgated, the Divine must needs appear to them as smoke, that is, as obscure; whence it is also said that they "stood afar off," by which is signified that they were remote from internal things. But on this more below.
AC 8917. And when the people saw, they quaked. That this signifies the tremor which there is when Divine truths are received, is evident from the signification of "to quake," as being a tremor, here a tremor such as there is when Divine truths are received (n. 5459, 8816).
AC 8918. And they stood afar off That this signifies remoteness from internal things, is evident from the signification of "standing afar off," as being remotely, here, from internal things, because from Mount Sinai, by which is signified heaven and the Divine there (n. 8805). Whether you say "remotely from the Divine," or "from heaven," or "from internal things," it is the same, because heaven is in internal things. For the internal of man is in the light of heaven, and his external is in the light of the world; or what is the same, the soul or spirit of man is in heaven, but his body in the world. Heaven is nearer to the Divine than the world, because in heaven the Divine of the Lord reigns, and is the all in all. As further regards the signification of "afar off," be it known that in the spiritual sense "afar off" has no reference to space, but to the Divine, thus to good and truth. Distance from the very good itself which proceeds from the Divine, causes the appearance of distance in heaven. The angelic societies there appear distinct and even remote from one another; but as already said this idea of space comes from distance from the good and truth which are from the Divine of the Lord. This must needs appear a paradox, nay, absurd, to many in the world. The reason is that the thoughts and their ideas with man are founded upon spaces and times, insomuch that man cannot think without them. Consequently if you abstract times and spaces from a man’s thought, he scarcely perceives anything. Nevertheless the angels in heaven think absolutely without any idea of time and space, and with such fulness that in intelligence and wisdom their thoughts surpass the thoughts of man thousands, nay, myriads of times; and, wonderful to say, if there occurs to them an idea derived from time and space, shade and thick darkness at once come to their minds, because they then fall from the light of heaven into the light of nature, which to them is thick darkness.
 That there are no spaces and times in the other life, but states; or that the appearances of spaces and times arise from the variations of state in respect to good and truth, (n. 2625, 2837, 3356, 3387, 3404, 4321, 4882, 5605, 7381). From this then it is evident what "standing afar off" signifies in the spiritual sense, namely, remoteness from heaven where the Divine is; here, remoteness from internal things, because, as said above, that nation which then stood afar off from Mount Sinai was very remote from internal things, for it was in external things only, and it made everything of Divine worship to consist in these. Moreover to do so was permitted that nation, because thus it could represent heavenly and Divine things; for in order to be representative an external is required, and is also possible without an internal (n. 3147, 3670, 4208, 4281, 4288, 4307, 8588).
 "Afar off" signifies remoteness from good and truth, which are from the Divine, thus remoteness from internal things, also in the following passages. In Luke:--
In hell the rich man lifting up his eyes saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. Abraham said to him, Between us and you there is a great gulf fixed; that those who would pass over from hence to you cannot; neither can those who are there pass over to us (Luke 16:23, 26);
by "Abraham" is not meant Abraham, for he is not known in heaven; but in the supreme sense the Lord, and in the relative sense those in heaven who are in the good of love and faith in the Lord (n. 1834, 1876, 1965, 1989, 2011, 3245, 3305, 6098, 6185, 6276, 6894). They who are in hell are said to "see those who are in heaven afar off," because they are in a state most remote from good and truth. The "great gulf" between them denotes the remoteness itself from good, which also gives the appearance of an intervening gulf.
 They who think from an idea of space, as do all men in the world, perceive no otherwise than that hell is far distant from man, and that heaven is so too. But the case is otherwise. Hell and heaven are near to man, yea, in man; hell in an evil man, and heaven in a good man. Moreover everyone comes after death into that hell or into that heaven in which he has been while in the world. But the state is then changed; the hell which was not perceived in the world becomes perceptible, and the heaven which was not perceived in the world becomes perceptible; the heaven full of all happiness, and the hell of all unhappiness. That heaven is within us, the Lord teaches in Luke:--
The kingdom of God is within you (Luke 17:21).
See "afar off" also in the following:--
They come from a land afar off, from the extremity of the heavens (Isa. 13:5; Jer. 5:15).
Hear, ye that are far off, what I have done; and ye that are near, acknowledge My might (Isa. 33:13).
I will say to the north, Give; and to the south, Keep not back; bring My sons from far, and My daughters from the extremity of the earth. Bring forth the blind people that have eyes, and the deaf that have ears (Isa. 43:6, 8; 19:12).
Attend, O isles, unto Me; hearken, ye peoples, from far (Isa. 49:1; Jer. 31:10).
The voice of the cry of the daughter of My people from a land afar off: Is not Jehovah in Zion? is not her King in her? (Jer. 8:19).
Jehovah, Thou hast planted them, and they have also taken root. But Thou art near in their mouth, but far off from their reins (Jer. 12:2).
Am I a God near, and not a God afar off? (Jer. 23:23).
In all these passages "afar off" signifies remoteness from good.
AC 8919. And they said unto Moses. That this signifies complaint, is evident from what follows in this verse; for what they said are complaints.
AC 8920. Speak thou with us, and we will hear. That this signifies the reception of truth in an accommodated form which so they would obey, is evident from the signification of "speaking," as being influx and communication (n. 2951, 3060, 4131, 5481, 5797, 6228, 7270, 8128), therefore also reception, for that which flows in and is communicated is received; and from the representation of Moses, who was to speak, as being truth from the Divine beneath heaven conjoined with truth Divine in heaven, thus mediating between the Lord and the people (n. 8760, 8787, 8505); hence it is that "Moses" here denotes truth in an accommodated form.
 As regards truth in an accommodated form, be it known that when truth Divine descends through the heavens to men, as the Word has descended, it is on the way accommodated to all, both to those who are in the heavens, and to those who are on the earth. But truth Divine is in quite a different form in the heavens from what it is in the world. In the heavens it is such as is the internal sense of the Word; in the world it is such as is its sense in the letter. Nay, in the heavens themselves it is in diverse forms, in one form in the inmost or third heaven, in another form in the middle or second heaven, and in still another in the first or ultimate heaven. The form of truth Divine, that is, the perception, thought, and utterance of it, in the inmost or third heaven, so transcends that in the middle or second heaven, that in this heaven it cannot be apprehended, it is so Divine and exalted; for it contains innumerable things that cannot be uttered in the second heaven; it consists of mere changes of state in respect to the affections of love. But the form of truth Divine in the middle or second heaven transcends in like manner that in the first or ultimate heaven, and still more the form of truth Divine in the world. Hence it is that the things which are uttered in those heavens are such as no human mind has ever perceived, nor any ear heard, as those know from experience who have been raised into heaven.
 They who do not know this believe that in the heavens they think no otherwise and speak no otherwise than on the earth; but this they believe because they do not know that the interiors of man are in a more exalted state than his exteriors, and that the thought and speech of those who are in the heavens is celestial and spiritual, but of those who are on the earth it is natural, the difference between which is so great that it cannot be described in words. But concerning these kinds of speech, (n. 1634-1650, 1757-1759, 1876, 2157, 2472, 2476, 3342-3345, 4104, 4609, 5225, 5287, 6040, 6982, 7002, 7089, 7131, 7191, 7381, 8343, 8733, 8734).
 From all this it is also evident that unless truth Divine or the Word were presented in an accommodated form, it could not be apprehended; for if it were in a more exalted form than the state of perception, it would not fall into the understanding, thus not into the faith. Hence it is that truth Divine was given to man such as is the Word in the letter; for if it were to appear such as it is in heaven, no man would apprehend it, and on the first view and notice would reject it, because it would not fall into such things as are of natural light; and moreover it would be full of arcana such as could in no wise enter into any idea of man, because they are altogether repugnant to the appearances and fallacies which are derived from the world through the external senses; to say nothing of the deeper arcana which lie hidden within these arcana in manifold series, and that cannot possibly be expressed except by means of variations and changes of state of heavenly light and flame, by which angelic speech and thought are carried on.
AC 8921. And let not God speak with us. That this signifies truth in a form not accommodated, is evident from what precedes; for by "Moses" is signified truth Divine beneath heaven conjoined with truth Divine in heaven, thus mediating between the Lord and the people, consequently truth Divine in an accommodated form (n. 8920). Consequently by "Let not God speak with us," is signified truth Divine in a form not accommodated; for by "God" is here meant the Lord as to Divine truth in heaven (n. 8805), consequently the Divine truth itself; which is also the reason why it is said "God," and not "Jehovah;" for in the Word where "God" is named, the Lord as to Divine truth is meant; but where "Jehovah" is named the Lord as to Divine good is meant (n. 2586, 2769, 2807, 2822, 3921, 4295, 4402, 7091, 7268, 7873, 8301, 8867).
AC 8922. Lest perchance we die. That this signifies that thus the life of heaven with them would perish, is evident from the signification of "dying," as being to die spiritually (n. 6119), thus to perish in respect to the life of heaven. That truth Divine in a form not accommodated has this effect, is evident from what was shown just above (n. 8920). For truth in a form not accommodated, such as it is in heaven, transcends the apprehension, and that which transcends the apprehension is not received, and that which is not received does not flow into any faith, thus neither into the life of faith, which is the life of heaven. For man is regenerated, that is, receives the life of heaven, by means of the truth Divine which is of faith (n. 2046, 2063, 2189, 2979, 3155, 3876, 3877, 5893, 5912, 6247, 8635-8640, 8772).)
AC 8923. And Moses said unto the people. That this signifies information, is evident from the signification of "saying," here by Moses unto the people, as being information; for the things which he said are matters of information about that of which they complained. In like manner in other places by "saying" is signified information, when information is given about the subject of inquiry (n. 7769, 7793, 7825, 8041).
AC 8924. Fear not, because God is come to tempt you. That this signifies that the life of heaven will not perish; this is merely that it may be known that it exists, and what is its quality; is evident from the signification of "not fearing," namely, that they will die, as being that they will perish in respect to the life of heaven (n. 8922); and from the signification of "to tempt you," as being to teach that there is a life of heaven and what its quality is. That this is signified by "tempting," is because all spiritual temptation teaches and confirms such things with man. For temptations are to the intent that the faith of truth, and the affection of truth, and afterward the affection of good, may be implanted and inrooted, and that thus the man may receive new life, which is the life of heaven.
 For temptations are combats with evils and falsities, and when the man conquers these, he is confirmed, for he fights from truths and for truths against falsity and evil. That he fights from truths and for truths, the man is not sensible of at the time, because truths are in the interiors; and therefore they do not come manifestly to sense, which is of the exteriors; but that it is from them and for them is evident from the fact that there is combat and afterward victory, which is not possible except by collisions of things opposite to each other: the opposites are evil and good, and falsity and truth.
 But be it known that the man does not fight, but the Lord for the man, and indeed against the hells, which then attempt to attack and subdue the man (n. 840, 1661, 1692, 8159, 8168, 8172, 8175, 8176). From all this it is evident that by the words "Fear not, for God is come to tempt you," is signified that they ought not to fear that the life of heaven will perish, for this comes to pass that they may be taught and know that there is a life of heaven, and also what its quality is. But concerning temptations, see (n. 2272, 2768, 3318, 3927, 3928, 4249, 4299, 4341, 4572, 5036, 5246, 5356, 6144, 6574, 6611, 6657, 6663, 6666, 6829, 8131, 8273, 8351, 8367, 8370, 8403, 8567).
AC 8925. And that the fear of Him may be before your faces, that ye sin not. That this signifies holy fear therefrom of the Divine, and the consequent preservation of spiritual life, is evident from the signification of "the fear of God," as being a holy fear of the Divine; from the signification of "faces," as being the interiors (n. 1999, 2434, 3527, 4066, 4796, 4797, 5102, 5585, 5592); consequently "the fear of God before their faces" denotes a holy fear of the Divine in their interiors; and from the signification of "that ye sin not," as being the preservation of spiritual life, for spiritual life is preserved by not sinning. To sin is to do and think what is evil and false intentionally and from the will, for the things which are done intentionally and from the will are such as come forth out of the heart and defile the man (Matt. 15:11, 17-19), consequently which destroy spiritual life with him (n. 8910). As regards the holy fear which is signified in the Word by "the fear of God," be it known that this fear is love, but love such as is the love of little children toward their parents, of parents toward their children, of consorts toward each other, who fear to do anything which displeases, thus which in any way does injury to love. Such fear is insinuated into love during man‘s regeneration. As this fear is in agreement with love, and can be within and actually is within or united to love, it is for this reason called holy fear, and is the fear of sinning or doing contrary to the commandments, thus contrary to the Lord. But this fear differs with everyone according to the quality and amount of the love (n. 2826, 3718, 3719, 5459, 7280, 7788).EXODUS 20:15-17 previous - next - text - summary - Exodus - Full Page
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