Spiritual Meaning of GENESIS 22:3
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AC 2779. Verse 3. And Abraham rose early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his boys with him, and Isaac his son; and he clave the wood for the burnt-offering, and rose up, and went unto the place of which God told him. "And Abraham rose early in the morning," signifies a state of peace and innocence; "and saddled his ass," signifies the natural man which He prepared; "and took two of his boys," signifies the former rational which He had adjoined; "and Isaac his son," signifies the Divine rational begotten by Himself; "and he clave the wood for the burnt-offering," signifies the merit of righteousness; "and rose up," signifies elevation; "and went unto the place of which God told him," signifies the state at that time according to perception.

AC 2780. And Abraham rose early in the morning. That this signifies a state of peace and innocence, is evident from the signification of "morning," and also of "rising early," when predicated of the Lord, who here is "Abraham." "Morning" in the universal sense signifies the Lord, and hence His kingdom; consequently the celestial of love in general and in particular (n. 2333); and as it signifies these, it signifies the state itself in which they are, which state is that of peace and innocence. The state of peace in the heavens is like that of the dawn on earth. In the state of peace in the heavens come forth all celestial and spiritual things, and derive therefrom all that is auspicious, blessed, and happy in them, as in the time of dawn on earth all things come forth before man as things of delight and gladness; for all the singulars derive their quality from the general affection (n. 920, 2384). The case is the same with the state of innocence: this comes forth in the state of peace, and is a general thing affecting all the things of love and faith. Unless these have innocence in them, they lack their essential. Hence it is that no one can come into heaven unless he have something of innocence (Mark 10:15). It is plain from this what "morning" signifies in the internal sense, and still more when it is said that he "rose early in the morning;" and as in the highest sense "morning" is the Lord, and as the state is from Him which effects and affects all things in His kingdom, "morning" and "rising in the morning" signify many other things which come forth in that state; and this as related to the things which follow in the internal sense.

AC 2781. And saddled his ass. That this signifies the natural man which He prepared, is evident from the signification of an "ass," as explained in what now follows. There are in man things of the will and things of the understanding; to the former class belong the things of good, to the latter those of truth. There are various kinds of beasts by which the things of the will, or those of good, are signified; such as lambs, sheep, kids, goats, bullocks, oxen (n. 1823, 2179, 2180); and there are likewise beasts by which intellectual things, or those of truth, are signified, namely, horses, mules, wild-asses, camels, asses, and also birds. That the intellectual faculty is signified by the "horse," has been shown above (n. 2761, 2762). That by the "wild-ass" truth separate from good is signified, see above (n. 1949). That by the "camel" there is signified memory-knowledge in general, and by the "ass" memory-knowledge in particular, may be seen above (n. 1486).

[2] There are two things which constitute the natural with man, or what is the same, which constitute the natural man, namely, natural good and natural truth. Natural good is the delight flowing forth from charity and faith; natural truth is the memory knowledge of them. That natural truth is what is signified by the "ass," and rational truth by the "mule," may be seen from the following passages. In Isaiah:--

The prophecy of the beasts of the south. In a land of straightness and distress; the lion and the old lion, and from them the viper and the flying fire-serpent; they carry their riches upon the shoulder of young asses, and their treasures upon the hump of camels, to a people that shall not profit; and the Egyptians shall help in vain and to no purpose (Isaiah 30:6, 7);

those are called the "beasts of the south" who are in the knowledges of good and truth, but who make them not of the life but of memory; of whom it is said that "they shall bring their riches upon the shoulder of young asses, and their treasures upon the hump of camels," for the reason that "young asses" signify memory-knowledges in particular, and "camels" memory-knowledges in general: that the "Egyptians" are memory-knowledges, may be seen above (n. 1164, 1165, 1186); of whom it is said that they shall help in vain and to no purpose." That this prophecy has an internal sense, without which it is understood by nobody, is plain to every one; for without the internal sense it cannot be known what the prophecy of the beasts of the south is, the lion and the old lion, the viper and the flying fire-serpent; and what is meant by these beasts bringing their riches upon the shoulder of young asses, and their treasures upon the hump of camels, and why it immediately follows that the Egyptians shall help in vain and to no purpose. The like is meant by the "ass" in the prophecy of Israel respecting Issachar, in Moses:--

Issachar is a bony ass, lying down between the burdens (Gen. 49:14).

[3] In Zechariah:--

This shall be the plague wherewith Jehovah will smite all the peoples that shall fight against Jerusalem there shall be the plague of the horse, of the mule, of the camel, and of the ass, and of every beast (Zechariah 14:12, 15);

that by the "horse," "mule," "camel," and "ass," are signified things of the understanding in man, which will be affected by the plague, is evident from all that precedes and follows there; for the plagues which precede the last judgment or consummation of the age are treated of, a subject also much treated of by John in the Apocalypse, and by the rest of the prophets in many places. By these animals are meant those who will then fight against Jerusalem, that is, against the Lord’s spiritual church and its truths, and who will be affected by such plagues as to the things of their understanding.

[4] In Isaiah:--

Blessed are ye that sow beside all waters, that send forth the foot of the ox and the ass (Isaiah 32:20);

"they that sow beside all waters" denote those who suffer themselves to be instructed in spiritual things. That "waters" are spiritual things, thus intellectual things of truth, see (n. 680, 739, 2702). "They that send forth the foot of the ox and the ass" denote natural things which are to do service. The "ox" is the natural as to good (n. 2180, 2566). The "ass" is the natural as to truth.

[5] In Moses:--

Binding his young ass unto the vine, and his ass‘s colt unto the choice vine he hath washed his garments in wine, and his vesture in the blood of grapes (Gen. 49:11);

this is the prophecy of Jacob, at that time Israel, concerning the Lord; the "vine" and the "choice vine" denote the spiritual church external and internal (n. 1069); the "young ass" denotes natural truth; the "ass’s colt" rational truth. The reason an "ass‘s colt" denotes rational truth is that a "she ass" signifies the affection of natural truth (n. 1486), the son of which is rational truth, as may be seen above (n. 1895, 1896, 1902, 1910).

[6] In old times a judge rode upon a she-ass, and his sons upon young asses; for the reason that the judges represented the goods of the church, and their sons the truths thence derived. But a king rode upon a she-mule, and his sons upon mules, by reason that kings and their sons represented the truths of the church (n. 1672, 1728, 2015, 2069). That a judge rode upon a she-ass, is evident in the book of Judges:--

My heart is toward the lawgivers of Israel, that offered themselves willingly among the people bless ye Jehovah, ye that ride upon white she-asses, ye that sit upon carpets (Judges 5:9, 10).

That the sons of the judges rode upon young asses:--

Jair the judge over Israel had thirty sons, that rode on thirty young asses (Judges 10:3, 4).

Abdon the judge of Israel had forty sons, and thirty sons’ sons, that rode on seventy young asses (Judges 12:14).

That a king rode upon a she-mule:--

David said unto them, Take with you the servants of your lord, and cause Solomon my son to ride upon the she-mule which is mine. And they caused Solomon to ride upon king David‘s she-mule, and Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet anointed him king in Gihon (1 Kings 1:33, 38, 44, 45).

That the sons of a king rode upon he-mules:--

All the sons of king David rose up, and rode each one upon his mule, and fled, because of Absalom (2 Sam. 13:29).

[7] Hence it is manifest that to ride on a she-ass was the badge of a judge, and to ride on a she-mule, the badge of a king; and that to ride on a young ass was the badge of a judge’s sons, and to ride on a mule was the badge of a king‘s sons; for the reason as already said that a she-ass represented and signified the affection of natural good and truth, a she-mule the affection of rational truth, an ass or a young ass natural truth itself, and a mule and also the son of a she-ass rational truth. Hence it is plain what is meant by the prophecy concerning the Lord in Zechariah:--

Rejoice, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem; behold, thy King cometh unto thee. He is just and having salvation, lowly and riding upon an ass, and upon a young ass the son of she-asses. His dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the river to the ends of the earth (Zechariah 9:9, 10).

That the Lord, when He came to Jerusalem, willed to ride upon these animals, is known from the Evangelists, as in Matthew:--

Jesus sent two disciples, saying unto them, Go into the village that is over against you, and straightway ye shall find a she-ass tied, and a colt with her; loose them, and bring them unto Me. This was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, Tell ye the daughter of Zion, behold thy King cometh unto thee, meek, sitting upon a she-ass, and upon a colt the son of a beast of burden. And they brought the she-ass and the colt, and put their garments upon them, and set Him thereon (Matthew 21:1, 2, 4, 5, 7);

[8] to "ride upon an ass" was a sign that the natural was made subordinate; and to "ride upon a colt the son of a she ass" was a sign that the rational was made subordinate. The "son of a she-ass" signified the same as a "mule," which has been explained at (Gen. 49:11). From this their signification, and because it belonged to the highest judge and to a king to ride upon them, and at the same time that the representatives of the church might be fulfilled, it pleased the Lord to do this: as is thus described in John:--On the next day a great multitude that had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, took branches of palm trees, and went forth to meet Him, and cried, Hosanna, Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel. And Jesus, having found a young ass, sat thereon as it is written, Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold thy King cometh sitting on the colt of a she-ass. These things understood not His disciples at the first; but when Jesus was glorified, then remembered they that these things were written of Him, and that they had done these things unto Him (John 12:12-16; Mark 11:1-12; Luke 19:28-41).

[9] From all this it is now evident that all and everything in the church of that period was representative of the Lord, and therefore of the celestial and spiritual things that are in His kingdom even to the she-ass and the colt of a she-ass, by which the natural man as to good and truth was represented. The reason of the representation was that the natural man ought to serve the rational, and this the spiritual, this the celestial, and this the Lord: such is the order of subordination.

[10] Since by an "ox and an ass" the natural man as to good and truth is signified, many laws were therefore given in which oxen and asses are mentioned, which laws at first sight do not appear to be worthy of mention in the Divine Word; but when unfolded as to their internal sense, the spiritual meaning in them appears to be of great moment--as the following in Moses:--

If a man shall open a pit, or if a man shall dig a pit, and not cover it, and an ox or an ass fall into it, the owner of the pit shall give money to the owner, and the dead shall be his (Exod. 21:33, 34).

If thou meet thine enemy’s ox or his ass going astray, thou shalt surely bring it back to him again. If thou see the ass of him that hateth thee lying under his burden, and wouldest forbear to remove it, removing thou shalt remove it from him (Exod. 23:4, 5; Deut. 22:1, 3).

Thou shalt not see thy brother‘s ass or his ox falling down in the way, and hide thyself from them lifting thou shalt lift them up again (Deut. 22:4).

Thou shalt not plow with an ox and an ass together. Thou shalt not wear a mixed web of wool and linen together (Deut. 22:10, 11).

Six days thou shalt do thy works, and on the seventh day thou shalt best, that thine ox and thine ass may rest also, and the son of thy handmaid, and the sojourner (Exod. 23:12).

Here the "ox and ass" signify nothing else in the spiritual sense than natural good and truth.

AC 2782. And took two of his boys. That this signifies the former rational which He had adjoined, is evident from the signification of "boys." A "boy" and "boys" signify various things in the Word; because these terms are applied not only to the sons of the house but also to the sons of the stranger, and to servants also; here to servants. Man’s natural things which are to serve the rational are signified by "servants" (n. 1486, 1713, 2541, 2567). As however they are not here called " servants," but "boys," the former or merely human rational, which was to serve the Divine rational, is signified; as may also be seen from the very series of the things.

AC 2783. And Isaac his son. That this signifies the Divine rational begotten by Himself, is evident from the representation of Isaac, as being the Lord‘s Divine rational, often spoken of before. That it was begotten by Him is meant by its being called his "son" (n. 2772).

AC 2784. And he clave the wood for the burnt-offering. That this signifies the merit of righteousness, is evident from the signification of "wood" and of " cleaving wood." That "wood" signifies the goods that are of works, and of righteousness; and that "cleaving wood" signifies the placing of merit in the goods that are of works, but " cleaving wood for a burnt-offering" the merit of righteousness, appears too remote to be known without revelation. That "cleaving wood" denotes placing merit in the goods that are of works, was made clear to me by what I have seen and have described in (n. 1110) respecting the hewers of wood, as being those who had desired to merit salvation by the goods which they had done. Moreover there are others also, in front, above, a little to the right, from a certain world, who in the same way had claimed all good to themselves, and appear in like manner to cut and cleave wood. When these seem to themselves to be laboring, they sometimes shine in the face from a kind of fatuous fire, which is the good of merit that they attribute to themselves. The reason of its appearing so is that wood is a representative of good; as was all the wood in the ark and in the temple, and also all the wood upon the altar when the burnt-offerings and sacrifices were made. But they who attribute good to themselves, and make it self-meritorious, these also are said in the Word to "worship wood," or a "graven image" of wood.

AC 2785. And he rose up. That this signifies elevation, is evident from the signification of "rising up," as meaning where it occurs in the Word some elevation.

AC 2786. And went unto the place of which God told him. That this signifies His state at that time according to perception, is evident from the signification of "place," as being state (n. 1273-1277, 1376-1381, 2625); and from the signification of "God saying," as being to perceive from the Divine (n. 2769, 2778). As regards the state itself, it is described in this verse, that is, the state which the Lord assumed when He underwent temptations, and here that which He assumed when He underwent the most grievous and inmost temptations. His first preparation for that state was that He entered into a state of peace and innocence, and that He prepared the natural man in Himself, as also the rational, so that they should serve the Divine rational, and that He adjoined the merit of righteousness, and in this manner elevated Himself. These things cannot be explained at all to the comprehension, or be presented to the idea, of anyone who does not know that many states exist together, and these distinct from one another; and who does not also know what a state of peace and innocence is, what the natural man is, what the rational man, and also what the merit of righteousness is; for he must first have a distinct idea of all these, and must also know that the Lord from His Divine could induce upon Himself whatever states He pleased, and that He prepared Himself for temptations by inducing many states. Although these things are in obscurity as of night with men, they are nevertheless in clearness as of day with the angels, who being in the light of heaven from the Lord, see in these and similar things innumerable things distinctly, and from the affection flowing in at the time perceive ineffable joy. Hence it is evident how far human understanding and perception fall short of angelic understanding and perception.

GENESIS 22:3    previous  -  next  -  text  -  summary  -  Genesis  -  Full Page

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