Spiritual Meaning of GENESIS 18:8
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AC 2182. Verse 8. And he took butter and milk, and the son of an ox that he had made, and set before them; and he stood before them under the tree, and they did eat. "He took butter and milk, and the son of an ox that he had made," signifies all those things thus conjoined together; "butter" is the celestial of the rational, "milk" is the derivative spiritual, a "son of an ox" is the corresponding natural; "and set before them," signifies that He so prepared Himself to receive; "and be stood before them under the tree," signifies derivative perception (the "tree," as before, is perception); "and they did eat," signifies communication in this manner.

AC 2183. He took butter and milk, and the son of an ox that he had made. That this signifies all those things thus conjoined together, is evident from the signification of "butter," of "milk," and of a "son of an ox," to be explained presently. In the verses which precede, the subject was the Lord‘s rational in that it was instructed in the celestial and the derivative spiritual, which are signified by the "meal of fine flour made into a cake" (n. 2176, 2177); and it also was the celestial natural, which is signified by the "son of an ox" (n. 2180). The same things are now expressed by other words, namely, by "butter," "milk," and also a "son of an ox," by which are signified all those things conjoined together.

[2] But these things can with difficulty be described to the ordinary understanding, because to most people it is unknown that every man has an internal, a rational, and a natural, and that these are most distinct from each other, nay, so distinct, that one of them may be dissident from another; to wit, that the rational, which is called the rational man, may be dissident from the natural, which is the natural man; nay, that the rational man can even see and perceive the evil which is in the natural man and, if it is a genuine rational, may chastise it (n. 1904). Before these two have been conjoined together, the man cannot be an entire (or perfect) man, nor can he be in the tranquillity of peace, for the one fights with the other. For the angels who are with the man rule his rational, but the evil spirits who are with him, his natural, and hence comes combat.

[3] If the rational then conquers, the natural is subjugated, and the man is thus gifted with conscience; but if the natural conquers, he can then receive nothing of conscience. If the rational conquers, his natural then becomes as if it also was rational; but if the natural conquers, the rational becomes as if it also was natural. And further, if the rational conquers, the angels then draw nearer into the man, and insinuate to him charity (which is the celestial that comes from the Lord through the angels), and the evil spirits remove themselves to a distance; but if the natural conquers, the angels then remove themselves further away (that is, more toward the man’s interiors), while the evil spirits draw nearer toward the rational, and continually attack it, and fill the lower parts of his mind with hatreds, revenges, deceits, and the like. If the rational conquers, the man then comes into the tranquillity of peace, and in the other life into the peace of heaven; but if the natural conquers, then, while the man lives he appears as if he were in tranquillity, but in the other life he comes into the unrest and torment of hell.

[4] In this way may be known what is the quality of a man‘s state as to his rational, and as to his natural; so that there is nothing else that can make a man blessed and happy but that his natural be conformed to his rational, and both be conjoined together. This is effected solely by means of charity, and charity is solely from the Lord.

AC 2184. That "butter" is the celestial of the rational; that "milk" is the derivative spiritual; and that a "son of an ox" is the corresponding natural, is evident from the signification of "butter," of "milk," and of a "son of an ox.-’ As regards butter, it signifies in the Word what is celestial, and this from its fatness. That fat denotes what is celestial was shown (n. 353); and that "oil," because fat, is the celestial itself, (n. 886). That "butter" also is the celestial, is evident in Isaiah:--

Behold, a virgin beareth a son, and shall call His name Immanuel, Butter and honey shall He eat, that He may know to refuse what is evil, and choose what is good (Isaiah 7:14, 15),

where the Lord (who is "Immanuel") is treated of; and anyone can see that butter is not signified by "butter," nor honey by "honey;" but that by "butter" is signified His celestial, and by "honey" that which is from the celestial.

[2] In the same:--

And it shall come to pass, for the multitude of the making of milk He shall eat butter; for butter and honey shall every one eat that is left in the midst of the land (Isaiah 7:22),

where the Lord‘s kingdom is treated of, and those on earth who are in the Lord’s kingdom. "Milk" here denotes spiritual good, "butter" celestial good, and "honey" the derivative happiness.

[3] In Moses:--

Jehovah alone leadeth him, and there is no strange god with him. He maketh him to ride upon the high places of the earth, and to eat the produce of the fields, and He maketh him to suck honey out of the rock, and oil out of the flint of the rock butter of the herd, and milk of the flock, with the fat of lambs, and of rams the sons of Bashan, and of he-goats, with the fat of the kidneys of wheat; and of the blood of the grape shalt thou drink unmixed wine (merum) (Deut. 32:12-14).

No one can understand what these things denote unless be knows the internal sense of each one. It appears like a heap of expressions such as are used by the eloquent among the wise ones of the world, and yet every expression signifies the celestial and its spiritual, and also the derivative blessedness and happiness, and all these in a well-ordered series. "Butter of the herd" is the celestial natural, " milk of the flock" is the celestial spiritual of the rational.

[4] But as regards milk, as before said, this signifies the spiritual from the celestial, that is, the celestial spiritual. What the celestial spiritual is, see (n. 1577, 1824). That "milk" is the spiritual which is from the celestial, comes from the fact that "water" signifies what is spiritual (n. 680, 739) but "milk," as there is fat in it, signifies the celestial spiritual, or what is the same, the truth of good; or what is the same, the faith of love or of charity; or what is also the same, the intellectual of the good of the will; and again the same, the affection of truth in which there is inwardly the affection of good; and yet again the same, the affection of knowledges (cognitiones et scientiae) from the affection of charity toward the neighbor, such as exists with those who love the neighbor, and confirm themselves in this love from the knowledges of faith, and also from memory-knowledges, which they love on this account. All these things are the same as the Celestial-spiritual, and are predicated according to the subject treated of.

[5] That this is signified, is evident also from the Word, as in Isaiah:--

Every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no silver, come ye, buy, and eat; yea come, buy wine and milk without silver, and without price. Wherefore do ye weigh silver for that which is not bread? (Isaiah 55:1, 2),

where "wine" denotes the spiritual which is of faith, and "milk" the spiritual which is of love. In Moses:--

He hath washed his garment in wine, and his clothing in the blood of grapes; his eyes are redder than wine, and his teeth are whiter than milk (Gen. 49:11, 12),

which is the prophecy of Jacob, then Israel, concerning Judah; and by Judah the Lord is here described, and by his "teeth being whiter than milk," is signified the celestial spiritual that pertained to His natural.

[6] In Joel:--

It shall be in that day that the mountains shall drop new wine, and the hills shall flow with milk; and all the brooks of Judah shall flow with waters (Joel 3:18),

speaking of the Lord‘s kingdom "milk" denotes the celestial spiritual. In the Word the land of Canaan also (by which the Lord’s kingdom is represented and signified) is called a "land flowing with milk and honey" (Num. 13:27; 14:8; Deut. 26:9, 15; 27:3; Jer. 11:5; 32:22; Ezek. 20:6, 15), and in these passages nothing else is meant by "milk" than an abundance of celestial spiritual things, and by "honey" an abundance of the derivative happinesses the "land" is the celestial itself of the kingdom, from which those things come.

[7] As regards the "son of an ox," it was shown just above that thereby is signified the celestial natural (n. 2180), the celestial natural being the same as natural good, or good in the natural. The natural of man, like his rational, has its good and its truth; for there is everywhere the marriage of good and truth (n. 2173). The good of the natural is the delight which is perceived from charity, or from the friendship which is of charity; from which delight there comes forth a pleasure which is properly of the body. The truth of the natural is the memory-knowledge (scientificum) which favors that delight. Hence it is evident what the celestial natural is.

AC 2185. And set before them. That this signifies that He thus prepared Himself to receive, is evident from the signification in the internal sense of "setting before them," when the subject treated of is the preparation of the rational to receive perception from the Divine, thus without further explication.

AC 2186. And he stood before them under the tree. That this signifies the derivative perception, follows from the signification of a tree," as being perception (n. 103, 2163). It has been already stated (verse 4), that the three men who came to Abraham lay down under a tree, by which was signified that the Divine approached the perception of that state in which the Lord then was. But it is here said that Abraham stood under the tree, by which is signified that the Lord approached Divine perception, after He had prepared Himself; and this is the reciprocality. Every one can see that it is not without a cause, that mention is made of the three men and of Abraham standing under a tree, consequently that it was said for the sake of the arcana which lie hidden in these things.

AC 2187. And they did eat. That this signifies communication in this manner, is evident from the signification of "eating," as being to be communicated and to be conjoined; as is also evident from the Word. The fact that Aaron, his sons, the Levites, and also the people, ate the hallowed things of the sacrifices in the holy place, signified nothing else than communication, conjunction, and appropriation, as above said at the explication of the passage from (Leviticus 6:9, 10), (n. 2177), for it was celestial and spiritual food that was signified by the hallowed things which they ate, consequently the appropriation of it. The hallowed things were the parts of the sacrifices which were not burned upon the altar, and were eaten either by the priests, or by the people that made the offering; as is evident from many passages where the sacrifices are treated of. What should be eaten by the priests, (Exod. 29:32, 33; Lev. 6:9, 16, 18, 26; 7:6, 15, 16, 18; 8:31; 10:12, 13; Num. 18:9-11); what should be eaten by the people, (Lev. 19:5, 6; Deut. 12:27; 27:7); and that the unclean should not eat of them, (Lev. 7:19-21; 22:4-7). These feastings were made in a holy place near the altar, either at the door, or in the court of the tabernacle and they signified nothing else than the communication, conjunction, and appropriation of celestial goods; for by them were represented celestial foods, concerning which food see (n. 56, 57, 58, 680, 681, 1480, 1695), and they were all called "bread," the signification of which may be seen above (n. 2165). The like was represented by Aaron and his sons eating the showbread or "bread of faces, in a holy place (Lev. 24:9).

[2] The law given for the Nazirite-that in the days of his Naziriteship he should not eat of anything from the grape, whence wine is made, from the seeds even to the skin (Num. 6:4) - was because the Nazirite represented the celestial man, and the celestial man is such that he is not willing even to mention spiritual things (n. 202, 337, 880, 1647); and as wine and the grape, and also whatever is from the grape, signified what is spiritual, it was therefore forbidden the Nazirite to eat of them; that is, to have communication with them, to conjoin himself with them, and to appropriate them to himself.

[3] The like is meant by "eating" in Isaiah:--

Every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no silver, come ye, buy, and eat yea come, buy wine and milk without silver and without price. Wherefore do ye weigh silver for that which is not bread? and your labor for that which satisfieth not? Hearken diligently unto Me, and eat ye that which is good, and your soul shall be deliciated in fatness (Isaiah 55:1, 2).

As also in John:--

To him that overcometh I will give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God (Rev. 2:7).

The "tree of life" is the celestial itself, and in the supreme sense is the Lord Himself, because from Him is all the celestial, that is, all love and charity. Thus to "eat of the tree of life" is the same as to eat the Lord, and to eat the Lord is to be gifted with love and charity, and thus with those things which are of heavenly life. This the Lord Himself says in John:--

I am the living bread that came down from heaven, if anyone eat of this bread, he shall live to eternity he that eateth Me shall live by Me (John 6:51, 57).

But they said, This is a hard saying. And Jesus said, The words that I speak unto you are spirit, and are life (John 6:60, 63).

[4] Hence it is manifest what is meant by eating in the Holy Supper (Matt. 26:26-28; Mark 14:22, 23; Luke 22:19, 20); namely, to have communication, to be conjoined, and to appropriate to one‘s self. Hence also it is clear what is meant by the Lord’s saying that:--

Many shall come from the east and the west, and shall recline with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Matt. 8:11),

not that they are to eat with them in the kingdom of God but that they will enjoy the celestial goods which are signified by "Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob," namely, the celestial things of love; not only the inmost, which are "Abraham," but also the lower that are intermediate, as are those of the rational, which are "Isaac;" and the still lower, which are the celestial natural, such as are in the first heaven, and which are meant by "Jacob." Such is the internal sense of these words. That these things are meant by "Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob," may be seen in (n. 1893), and wherever else they are treated of. For whether we speak of enjoying those celestial things, or of enjoying the Lord, who is represented by those men, it is the same thing; for all those things are from the Lord, and the Lord is the all in all of them.

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