Spiritual Meaning of EXODUS 20:18-20
(verses 21-23 in English Bible)
AC 8926. Verses 18-20. And the people stood afar off, and Moses came near unto the thick darkness where God was. And Jehovah said unto Moses, Thus shalt thou say unto the sons of Israel, Ye have seen that I have spoken with you from heaven. Ye shall not make with Me gods of silver and gods of gold, ye shall not make unto you. "And the people stood afar off," signifies remoteness from internal truths; "and Moses came near unto the thick darkness were God was," signifies conjunction still of the truth of spiritual good with truth Divine; "and Jehovah said unto Moses," signifies instruction further; "Thus shalt thou say unto the sons of Israel," signifies those who are of the spiritual church; "Ye have seen that I have spoken with you from heaven," signifies all things of the Word by means of influx from the Divine through heaven; "ye shall not make with Me gods of silver and gods of gold," signifies that they should wholly abstain from such things as in the external form appear as true and good, but in the internal form are false and evil; "ye shall not make unto you," signifies that they must carefully beware.
AC 8927. And the people stood afar off That this signifies remoteness from internal truths, is evident from the signification of "standing afar off," as being remoteness from internal things (n. 8918).
AC 8928. And Moses came near unto the thick darkness where God was. That this signifies the conjunction still of the truth of spiritual good with truth Divine, is evident from the representation of Moses, as being truth Divine beneath heaven conjoined with truth Divine in heaven, consequently mediating (n. 8760, 8787, 8805), thus the truth of spiritual good, for this is truth Divine beneath heaven, in which truth is the spiritual church that is represented by the sons of Israel - this truth is represented by Moses as the head of that church (n. 7041); from the signification of "coming near," as being conjunction, for to come near unto the Divine is to be conjoined therewith; and from the signification of "thick darkness," as being truth Divine relatively to those who are of the spiritual church, also relatively to that people which Moses was in charge of as their leader. That truth Divine is thick darkness to that church and that people, is because they are not in any light in respect to truths Divine.
 In the first place, those who are of the spiritual church believe that they are in light; but that they are in obscurity, nay, in thick darkness, in respect to truth Divine, is evident from the fact that they do not know from any internal perception that what the church says is true, but merely from the fact that the church says so; and this they confirm with themselves whether it be false or true; and he who is not in any internal perception concerning truth Divine is in thick darkness, or what is the same thing, to him Divine truth is thick darkness. For example, they who are of the spiritual church do not know, nor desire to know, that there is any internal sense of the Word; and if perchance they were to believe it, it would not be from any internal perception that it is so, but from persuasion from some other source.
 To take another example: they who are of the spiritual church say that faith is the only means of salvation, even without charity and its goods. This they believe because the church says so, nor do they come to such a light of perception as to perceive that there is no faith except where there is charity, and that the one belongs to the other as consort to consort; consequently that charity is an essential of the church, because it is of good. From this also it is plain in what obscurity, or in what thick darkness, the spiritual church is. And because they are in this thick darkness they divide the church into as many churches as there are diverse doctrines concerning the truths of faith; which they would not do if they were in light. For he who is in light never doubts, still less denies, that love to the Lord and charity toward the neighbor are essentials of the church, and that upon them are based all the truths of the Word, consequently all the truths of faith. The case is similar with all the other truths which hang upon this and are called truths of faith. But these things have been more plainly shown above, (n. 2708, 2715, 2831, 2849, 2935, 2937, 3241, 3246, 6289, 6427, 6865, 6945, 7233). That they who are of the spiritual church do not attain unto the first threshold of the wisdom, or unto the first ray of light, in which they are who are of the celestial church, (n. 2718, 3833, 6500).
 Another reason why Moses is said to have entered into thick darkness when he came near unto God, is that Moses as a leader represented the Israelitish and Jewish people, which was in such thick darkness concerning internal truths as to be wholly ignorant of them, for they made everything of worship and everything Divine to consist in external things. This is the reason why to them the Divine was thick darkness; for it is known to everyone that the Divine is never in darkness, but in light, for the Divine is light itself; and therefore when it is called "thick darkness" it is relatively to those who are in no light, for unto such the Divine truths make the light of heaven appear no otherwise; because they are not believed, and are even denied. And the Divine appears unto everyone according to the quality of his life and faith, consequently as light to those who are in light, and as thick darkness to those who are in thick darkness. That the Israelitish and Jewish people was of such a quality, (n. 3479, 3769, 4281, 4293, 4307, 4314, 4316, 4433, 4680, 4825, 4832, 4844, 4847, 4865, 4903, 6304); also that the Lord appeared unto them upon Mount Sinai in smoke, in a cloud, and in thick darkness, in accordance with their quality, (n. 1891, 6832, 8814, 8819).
AC 8929. And Jehovah said unto Moses. That this signifies instruction further, is evident from the signification of "saying," as being instruction, for "saying" involves what follows, here instruction (n. 6879, 6881, 6883, 6891, 7186, 7267, 7304, 7380, 8127).
AC 8930. Thus shalt thou say unto the sons of Israel. That this signifies those who are of the spiritual church, is evident from the representation of the sons of Israel, as being those who are of the spiritual church (n. 6426, 6862, 6868, 7035, 7062, 7198, 7201, 7215, 7223, 7957, 8234, 8805).
AC 8931. Ye have seen that I have spoken with you from heaven. That this signifies all things of the Word by means of influx from the Divine through heaven, is evident from the signification of "speaking from heaven," when by Jehovah to those who are of the church, who are represented by the sons of Israel (n. 8930), as being truth Divine, or the Word from the Divine through heaven; for that which Jehovah speaks is truth Divine, thus the Word which is in the church; and that which He speaks passes through heaven.
 Be it known that heaven is not in any certain and determinate place, thus not, according to the common opinion, on high; but heaven is where the Divine is, thus with everyone and in everyone who is in charity and faith; for charity and faith are heaven, because they are from the Divine, and there also the angels dwell. That heaven is where the Divine is, that is, where the Lord is, is evident from the fact that Mount Sinai, from which the Lord spoke, is here called "heaven;" and this is also the reason why by "Mount Sinai" is signified heaven, from which is Divine truth (n. 8805).
 That all things of the Word are signified, is because Jehovah or the Lord then began to reveal the Word which should serve the human race for doctrine and life, first by Moses, and afterward by the prophets. In order therefore that they might know that the Word was from the Divine through heaven, the Lord Himself willed to come down, and with a living voice proclaim the ten commandments, and thus show that all that follows of the law, that is, of the Word, was in like manner by means of influx from the Divine through heaven.
AC 8932. Ye shall not make with Me gods of silver and gods of gold. That this signifies that they should wholly abstain from such things as in the external form appear as true and good, but in the internal form are false and evil, is evident from the signification of "making gods," as being to worship, for he who makes unto himself gods does it for the sake of worship; from the signification of "silver," as being truth, consequently in the opposite sense, falsity; and from the signification of "gold," as being good, and consequently in the opposite sense, evil (n. 113, 1551, 1552, 2954, 5658, 6914, 6917, 7999). That those things are meant which appear true and good in the external form, but in the internal are false and evil, is because it is said, "Ye shall not make then’ with Me," that is, with Jehovah God; for Divine truth itself and Divine good itself are in internals and are likewise in externals; but in externals Divine truth and good are in representative types; for external things in a type have reference to and represent internal things. External things are false and evil whenever, being separate from internal things, they are accounted holy or are worshiped; and yet they still appear as true and good, because they represent what is true and good. These things are signified by "making with Jehovah God gods of silver and gods of gold."
 This commandment follows immediately after the ten commandments, for the reason that the Israelitish and Jewish people was such that it accounted holy, and worshiped altogether as Divine, external things separated from internal (n. 3479, 3769, 4281, 4293, 4307, 4314, 4316, 4433, 4680, 4825, 4832, 4844, 4847, 4865, 4903, 6304, 6832, 8814, 8819). That it may be further known what and of what quality are those things which in the external form appear as true and good, but in the internal are false and evil, let us take as an example all the rites of the Jewish Church; as the sacrifices, incenses, washings, and many others. In the external form these were true and good, not of themselves, but because in a type they had reference to or represented internal truths and goods, which are of love and faith in the Lord. When such things were accounted holy in the external form, and especially when they were worshiped, as by the Jews and Israelites when becoming idolaters they applied them to the worship of strange gods, they then retained nothing of the truths and goods which in a type they had reference to or represented, except the appearance, because in the internal form they were falsities and evils.
 The case was similar with all the other things which with that people were types representative of heavenly and Divine things. For as soon as the external things which represented internal things were applied to the worship of other gods, they became idols which they worshiped, or gods of silver and of gold which they made with Jehovah God; for then in external form they appeared as true and good, but in the internal they were false and evil.
 In general "gods of silver and of gold" denote all the falsities and derivative evils of worship, which are rendered like truth and good by wrong applications and interpretations of the Word, and at the same time by reasonings from self-intelligence. Such things are signified by "the gods of silver and of gold" in the following passages. In Isaiah:--
In that day a man shall cast forth his idols of silver, and his idols of gold, which they made for themselves to how down to, to the moles and to the bats; to enter into the clefts of the rocks, and into the clefts of the crags (Isa. 2:20, 21);
"moles and bats" denote those who are in darkness, that is, in falsities and in the derivative evils.
 Again in Isaiah:--
In that day they shall cast away every man his idols of silver, and his idols of gold, which your hands have made for you, a sin (Isa. 31:7);
"which the hands have made" denotes those things which are from self-intelligence. Again:--
The craftsman casteth a graven image, and the caster overlayeth it with gold, and casteth silver chains (Isa. 40:19);
"graven images" denote those things which are from one‘s own (n. 8869); "to overlay with gold" denotes to make them appear good in the external form; "casting silver chains," denotes to make them cohere together as if connected with truths. "Gold" denotes good, and "silver" truth.
 In like manner in Jeremiah:--
The statutes of the nations are vanity: surely he cutteth out wood from the forest, the work of the hands of the workman. He decketh it with gold and with silver; they fasten them with nails and with hammers, that it sway not to and fro (Jer. 10:3, 4).
The Ephraimites sin more and more, and make them a molten image of silver, idols in their intelligence, all the work of the craftsmen (Hosea 13:2);
"Ephraim" denotes the intellectual of the church (n. 5354, 6222, 6234, 6238, 6267); "a molten image of silver" denotes falsity appearing as truth, wherefore it is said "in their intelligence " "all the work of the craftsmen" denotes that all was through reasonings from their own.
 In Habakkuk:--
Woe unto him that saith to the wood, Awake; to the dumb stone, This shall teach. Behold this is fixed with gold and silver, but there is no breath in the midst of it (Habakkuk 2:19);
"wood" denotes evil; "stone" falsity; "fixed with gold and silver" denotes the appearance of good and truth by means of applications. In Daniel:--
Belshazzar said while he well tasted the wine, that they should bring the vessels of gold and of silver which his father Nebuchadnezzar had brought out of the temple that was in Jerusalem; that the king and his great ones, his wives and his concubines, might drink therefrom. And they drank wine, and praised the gods of gold, and of silver, of brass, of iron, of wood, of stone (Daniel 5:2-4, 23);
"the vessels of gold and of silver, which were from the temple of Jerusalem," represented the goods and truths of the church and kingdom of the Lord; "to drink wine out of them" signified to profane by means of evils and falsities, which are "the gods of gold and of silver."
 In David:--
Their idols are silver and gold, the work of a man’s hands. They have a mouth, but they speak not; eyes have they, but they see not (Ps. 115:4, 5; 135:15, 16);
"the silver and gold which are idols" denote falsities and evils; "the work of a man‘s hands" denote that they are from self-intelligence. In Moses:--
The graven images of the gods of the nations shall ye burn with fire; thou shalt not covet the silver and the gold that is on them, to take it unto thee, for that is an abomination to Jehovah thy God; therefore thou shalt not bring an abomination into thy house, that there become what is accursed, like unto it, thou shalt utterly abhor it (Deut. 7:25, 26);
"the silver and gold upon graven images" denote the falsities and evils which are worshiped as truths and goods by reason of the appearance that is induced on them.
AC 8933. Ye shall not make unto you. That this signifies that they must carefully beware, is evident from the fact that it is again said that it was not to be done. The iteration or repetition involves that it was not to be done at all, or that they must carefully beware.EXODUS 20:18-20 previous - next - text - summary - Exodus - Full Page
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