Spiritual Meaning of GENESIS 21:33
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AC 2721. Verse 33. And he planted a grove in Beer-sheba; and he called there on the name of the God of eternity. "He planted a grove in Beer-sheba," signifies doctrine with its knowledges and its quality; "and he called on the name of the God of eternity," signifies worship from it.

AC 2722. He planted a grove in Beer-sheba. That this signifies doctrine thence with its knowledges and its quality, is evident from the signification of a "grove," and from the signification of "Beer-sheba." As regards groves:--In the Ancient Church holy worship was performed on mountains and in groves; on mountains, because mountains signified the celestial things of worship; and in groves, because groves signified its spiritual things. So long as that church, namely, the Ancient, was in its simplicity, their worship at that time on mountains and in groves was holy, for the reason that celestial things, which are those of love and charity, were represented by things high and lofty, such as mountains and hills; and spiritual things, which are therefrom, by things fruitful and leafy, such as gardens and groves; but after representatives and significatives began to be made idolatrous, by the worship of external things without internal, that holy worship became profane; and they were therefore forbidden to worship on mountains and in groves.

[2] That the ancients held holy worship on mountains is evident from the twelfth chapter of Genesis, where we read of Abraham:--

He removed thence unto a mountain on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, having Bethel on the sea, and Ai on the east; and there he built an altar, and called on the name of Jehovah (Genesis 12:8),

(n. 1449-1455); and also from the signification of a "mountain," as being the celestial of love (n. 795, 796, 1430). That they also held holy worship in groves is evident from what is stated in this verse: "Abraham planted a grove in Beer-sheba, and called there on the name of the God of eternity;" and also from the signification of a "garden," as being intelligence (n. 100, 108, 1588); and of "trees," as being perceptions (n. 103, 2163). That this was forbidden is evident from the following passages. In Moses:--

Thou shalt not plant thee a grove of any tree beside the altar of Jehovah thy God which thou shalt make thee, and thou shalt not set thee up a pillar; which Jehovah thy God hateth (Deut. 16:21, 22).

In the same:--

The altars of the nations shall ye break down, and dash in pieces their pillars, and cut down their groves (Exod. 34:13);

and they were commanded to burn the groves of the nations with fire (Deut. 12:3).

[3] And as the Jews and Israelites, among whom the representative ritual of the Ancient Church was introduced, were solely in externals, and at heart were nothing but idolaters, neither knowing nor wishing to know what anything internal was, nor the life after death, nor even that the Messiah‘s kingdom was a heavenly one, therefore whenever they were in freedom they held profane worship on mountains and hills, and also in groves and forests; and likewise in place of mountains and hills they made for themselves high places, and in place of groves carved representations of a grove, as is evident from many passages in the Word. As in the book of Judges:--

The sons of Israel served Baalim and the groves (Judges 3:7).

In the book of Kings:--

Israel made groves provoking Jehovah (1 Kings 14:15).

And in another place:--

Judah built them high places, and pillars, and groves, upon every high hill, and under every green tree (1 Kings 14:23).

And again:--

Israel built them high places in all their cities, and set up pillars and groves upon every high hill, and under every green tree (2 Kings 17:9, 10).

And again:--

Manasseh king of Judah reared up altars for Baal, and made a grove, as did Ahab king of Israel, and set the carved image of the grove which he had made in the house of God (2 Kings 21:3, 7);

from which it is manifest that they also made for themselves carved images of a grove. That these were destroyed by king Josiah may be seen in the same book:--

Josiah caused all the vessels that were made for Baal and for the grove, and for the sun and the moon, and for all the army of the heavens, to be brought out of the temple of Jehovah, and he burnt them without Jerusalem, and the houses which the women had woven there for the grove. He also cut down the groves which Solomon had made, and likewise the grove in Bethel which Jeroboam had made (2 Kings 23:4, 6, 7, 13-15).

That king Hezekiah also demolished such things may be seen in the same book:--

Hezekiah king of Judah removed the high places, and brake the pillars, and cut down the grove, and brake in pieces the brazen serpent which Moses had made (2 Kings 18:4).

[4] That the brazen serpent was holy in the time of Moses is evident; but when the external was worshiped it became profane, and was broken in pieces, for the same reason that worship on mountains and in groves was forbidden. These things are still more evident in the Prophets. In Isaiah:--

Inflaming yourselves with gods under every green tree; sacrificing the children in the rivers under the crags of the rocks; thou hast also poured out a drink-offering to the rivers, thou hast offered a gift; upon a high and lofty mountain hast thou set thy habitation, and thither wentest thou up to offer sacrifice (Isaiah 57:5-7).

In the same:--

In that day shall a man look unto his Maker, and his eyes shall see the Holy One of Israel; and he shall not look to the altars the work of his hands, neither shall he see that which his fingers have made, and the groves and the sun-images (Isaiah 17:7, 8).

In Micah:--

I will cut off thy graven images and thy pillars out of the midst of thee, and thou shalt no more bow thyself down to the work of thy hands; and I will pluck up thy groves out of the midst of thee, and I will destroy thy cities (Micah 5:13, 14).

In Ezekiel:--

That their slain may be among their idols, round about their altars, upon every high hill, on all the tops of the mountains, and under every green tree, and under every tangled oak, the place where they did offer an odor of rest to all their idols (Ezekiel 6:13).

[5] From all this it is now manifest from what origin idolatrous worship came, namely, the worship of objects that were representative and significative. The most ancient people who were before the flood saw in each and everything--in mountains, hills, plains, and valleys, gardens, groves, and forests, rivers and waters, fields and plantations, trees and animals of every kind, and the luminaries of heaven--something representative and significative of the Lord’s kingdom; but they never dwelt with their eyes, still less with their minds, on these objects; but these things served them as means for thinking about the celestial and spiritual things in the Lord‘s kingdom; and this to such a degree that there was nothing at all in universal nature that did not serve them as such means. The real fact is that everything in nature is representative, which is an arcanum at this day and scarcely believed by anyone. But after the celestial which is of love to the Lord had perished, the human race was then no longer in that state--namely, that from objects as means they could see the celestial and spiritual things of the Lord’s kingdom.

[6] Yet the ancients after the flood knew, from traditions, and from collections made by certain persons, that these things had such a signification; and as they were significative they esteemed them holy. Hence came the representative worship of the Ancient Church; which church, being spiritual, was not in the perception that a thing was so, but was in the knowledge of the fact; for it was relatively in obscurity (n. 2715). Nevertheless they did not worship outward things, but by means of outward things they called to mind inward things; and hence when they were in those representatives and significatives, they were in holiness of worship. They were able to be so because they were in spiritual love, that is, in charity, which they made an essential of worship; and therefore holiness from the Lord could flow into their worship. But when the state of the human race had become so changed and perverted that they removed themselves from the good of charity, and thus no longer believed that there was any heavenly kingdom, or any life after death, but that men were in a similar condition with animals, save only that they could think (as is also believed at this day), then the holy representative worship was turned into idolatry, and the outward things were worshiped. Hence with many Gentiles at that time, and also with the Jews and Israelites, the worship was not representative, but was a worship of the representatives and significatives; that is, of the outward things without the inward.

[7] As regards groves in particular, among the ancients they were of various signification, and indeed according to the kinds of trees in them. Groves of olive-trees signified the celestial things of worship; groves of vines signified the spiritual things of worship; but groves of fig-trees, cedars, fir-trees, poplars, and oaks, signified various things relating to what is celestial and spiritual. In the passage before us mention is made simply of a grove or plantation of trees; and this signifies the things of reason that were adjoined to doctrine and its knowledges; for trees in general signify perceptions (n. 103, 2163), but when they are predicated of the spiritual church they signify knowledges, for the reason that the man of the spiritual church has no other perceptions than those which come through knowledges from doctrine or the Word; for these become of his faith, and thus of conscience, from which he has perception.

AC 2723. But in regard to Beer-sheeba--"Beer-sheba" signifies the state and quality of the doctrine, namely, that it is Divine and to which what is of human reason is adjoined-as is evident from the series of things treated of from (verse 22) to this verse (n. 2613, 2614); and also from the signification of the word itself in the original language, which is "the well of the oath," and "of seven." That a "well" is the doctrine of faith may be seen above (n. 2702, 2720); that an "oath" is conjunction (n. 2720); and that a "covenant made by an oath," has the same meaning (n. 1996, 2003, 2021, 2037); and that "seven" denotes what is holy and thus Divine (n. 395, 433, 716, 881); from all which it is evident that "Beer-sheba" signifies doctrine which is in itself Divine together with things of human reason or appearances adjoined.

[2] That the name Beer-sheba comes from all this is manifest from Abraham‘s words:--

Because these seven ewe lambs shalt thou take from my hand, that it may be a witness unto me that I have digged this well; therefore he called that place Beer-sheba, because there they sware both of them; and they struck a covenant in Beer-sheba (Genesis 26:30-32).

In like manner from Isaac’s words in chapter 26:--It came to pass on that day that Isaac‘s servants came and told him concerning the well which they had digged, and said unto him, We have found water; and he called it Shibah (an "oath" and "seven"); therefore the name of the city is Beer-sheba unto this day (verses 32, 33). There also wells are spoken of about which there was contention with Abimelech, and a covenant with him is treated of and by "Beer-sheba" are signified the things of human reason again adjoined to the doctrine of faith; and because they are again adjoined, and the doctrine thus became adapted to human comprehension, it is called a "city". That a "city" signifies doctrine in its complex see (n. 402, 2268, 2450, 2451). Moreover Beer-sheba is mentioned with a similar signification as to the internal sense in other places (Gen 22:19; 26:22, 23; 28:10; 46:1, 5; Josh. 15:28; 19:1, 2; 1 Sam. 8:2; 1 Kings 19:3); and also in the opposite sense, (Amos 5:5; 8:13, 14).

[3] The extension of the celestial and spiritual things belonging to doctrine is signified in the internal sense, where the extent of the land of Canaan is described by the expression "from Dan even to Beer-sheba;" for by the land of Canaan is signified the Lord’s kingdom, and also His church, consequently the celestial and spiritual things of doctrine; as in the book of Judges:--

All the sons of Israel went out, and the congregation was assembled as one man from Dan even to Beer-sheba (Judges 20:1).

In the book of Samuel:--

All Israel from Dan even to Beer-sheba (1 Sam. 3:20).

And again:--

To transfer the kingdom from the house of Saul, and to set up the throne of David over Israel and over Judah, from Dan even to Beer-sheba (2 Sam. 3:10).

And again:--

Hushai said to Absalom, Let all Israel be gathered together, from Dan even unto Beer-sheba (2 Sam. 17:11).

And again:--

David told Joab to go through all the tribes of Israel from Dan even to Beer-sheba (2 Sam. 24:2, 7).

And again:--

There died of the people from Dan even to Beer-sheba seventy thousand men (2 Sam. 24:15).

In the book of Kings:--

Judah dwelt under his vine and under his fig-tree, from Dan even to Beer-sheba, all the days of Solomon (1 Kings 4:25).

AC 2724. And called there on the name of the God of eternity. That this signifies worship therefrom, is evident from the signification of calling upon the name of God," as being worship (n. 440). They who were of the Ancient Church did not by a name understand the name, but all the quality (n. 144, 145, 440, 768, 1754, 1896, 2009); and thus by the " name of God" all that in one complex by which God was worshiped, consequently everything of love and faith; but when the internal of worship perished, and only the external remained, they then began to understand by the name of God nothing else than the name, so much so that they worshiped the name itself, feeling no care about the love and the faith from which they worshiped. On this account the nations began to distinguish themselves by the names of their gods; and the Jews and Israelites set themselves up above the rest, because they worshiped Jehovah, placing the essential of worship in uttering the name and invoking it, when in truth the worship of a name only is no worship, and may also be found among the worst of men, who thereby profane the more.

[2] But as by the "name of God" everything of worship is signified, that is, everything of love and faith from which He is worshiped, it is therefore evident what is meant by "hallowed be Thy Name," in the Lord‘s Prayer (Matt. 6:9) also by what the Lord said:--

Ye shall be hated for My name’s sake (Matt. 10:22).

If two shall agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in the heavens; for where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them (Matt. 18:19, 20).

Every one that hath left houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for My name‘s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and shall inherit eternal life (Matt. 19:29).

Hosanna to the Son of David! blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord (Matt. 21:9).

Jesus said, Ye shall not see Me henceforth till ye shall say, Blessed is He that cometh In the name of the Lord (Matt. 23:39).

Ye shall be hated of all nations for My name’s sake and then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another (Matt. 24:9, 10).

As many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, to them that believe on His name (John 1:12).

He that believeth not is judged already, because he hath not believed on the name of the only begotten Son of God (John 3:18).

Jesus said, Whatsoever ye shall ask in My name, that will I do (John 14:14, 15; 15:16; 16:23, 24, 26, 27).

Jesus said, I have manifested Thy name unto the men (John 17:6).

Holy Father, keep them in Thy name whom Thou hast given Me, that they may be one, as We are (John 17:11, 12).

I have made known unto them Thy name, and will make it known; that the love wherewith Thou hast loved Me may be in them, and I in them (John 17:26).

That ye may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye may have life in His name (John 20:31).

Besides very many passages in the Old Testament, in which by the "name" of Jehovah and of God the name is not meant, but everything of love and faith from which is worship.

[3] But they who worship a name only, without love and faith, are thus spoken of in Matthew:--

Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied by Thy name, and by Thy name have cast out demons, and in Thy name done many mighty works? But I will confess unto them, I know you not; depart from Me ye that work iniquity (Matthew 7:22, 23).

When as before said the men of the church became external, from being internal, and began to place worship in a name alone, they then no longer acknowledged one God, but many. For it was a common thing for the ancients to add something to the name of Jehovah, and thereby call to mind some benefit or attribute of His, as in the passage before us, "he called upon the name of the God of eternity;" and in chapter 22, "Abraham called the name of that place, Jehovah-jireh," that is, "Jehovah shall see" (Genesis 22:14). "Moses built an altar, and called the name of it Jehovah-nissi," that is, "Jehovah my banner" (Exod. 17:15); "Gideon built an altar there unto Jehovah, and called it Jehovah-shalom" that is, "Jehovah of peace" (Judges 6:24); besides other places. From this it came to pass that they who placed worship in a name only, acknowledged so many gods; and also that among the Gentiles, especially in Greece and at Rome, so many gods were acknowledged and worshiped whereas the Ancient Church, from which the epithets emanated, never worshiped but one God, reverenced under so many names, because by the "name" they understood the quality.

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