Spiritual Meaning of GENESIS 29:14-15
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AC 3811. Verses 14, 15. And Laban said to him, Surely thou art my bone and my flesh. And he dwelt with him a month of days. And Laban said unto Jacob, Because thou art my brother, shouldest thou therefore serve me for nought? Tell me, what shall be thy reward? "And Laban said to him, Surely thou art my bone and my flesh," signifies conjoined in respect to truths and to goods; "and he dwelt with him a month of days," signifies a new state of life; "and Laban said unto Jacob, Because thou art my brother," signifies because they have blood relationship from good; "shouldest thou therefore serve me for nought? tell me what shall be thy reward," signifies that there must be a means of conjunction.

AC 3812. And Laban said to him, Surely thou art my bone and my flesh. That this signifies conjoined in respect to truths and to goods, is evident from the signification of the words, "thou art my bone and my flesh," as being conjunction. The ancients had this form of speaking concerning those who were of one house, or of one family, or in some relationship-" my bone and my flesh" (n. 157); and hence by these words is signified conjunction. The reason why it signifies as to truths and as to goods, is that all spiritual conjunction is effected by these, and all natural conjunction has relation to the same. Moreover by "bone and flesh" is signified what is man‘s own; by "bone," the own of his understanding, and by "flesh" the own of his will; thus by "bone" is signified what is his own in respect to truth, for this is of the understanding; and by "flesh" is signified what is his own in respect to good, for this is of the will (n. 148, 149).

[2] As regards man’s own in general it is of two kinds, one infernal and the other heavenly; that which is infernal is received by man from hell, and that which is heavenly from heaven, that is, through heaven from the Lord; for all evil, as well as all the derivative falsity, flows in from hell; and all good, and the derivative truth, from the Lord. This is known to men from the doctrine of faith, but scarcely one in ten thousand believes it. For this reason man appropriates to himself or makes his own the evil which flows in from hell, and the good which flows in from the Lord does not affect him, consequently is not imputed to him. The reason why man does not believe that evil flows in from hell, and good from the Lord, is that he is in the love of self, which love carries this with it, insomuch that it is exceedingly indignant when it is said that everything inflows. This therefore is the reason why all that is man‘s own is nothing but evil (n. 210, 215, 694, 731, 874-876, 987, 1023, 1044, 1047). But that man believes that evil is from hell and good from the Lord comes from the fact that he is not in the love of self, but in love toward his neighbor and in love to the Lord, for this love is attended with such a belief. Thus it is that man receives from the Lord a heavenly own (n. 155, 164, 731, 1023, 1044, 1937, 1947, 2882, 2883, 2891).

[3] In both senses this own is signified by "bone and flesh;" and consequently by "bones" in the Word is signified truth, and in the opposite sense falsity, and by "flesh" good, and in the opposite sense evil. That this is the signification of "bones," may be seen from the following passages. In Isaiah:--

Jehovah shall lead thee continually, and shall satisfy thy soul in droughts, and shall make strong thy bones that thou mayest be like a watered garden (Isa. 58:11);

where "making strong the bones" signifies to make alive the own of the understanding, that is, to enlighten it with intelligence; whence it is said, "that thou mayest be like a watered garden." A "garden" signifies intelligence, (n. 100, 108, 1588). Again:--

Then ye shall see, and your heart shall rejoice, and your bones shall flourish like the grass (Isa. 66:14);

where by "bones flourishing like the grass," the like is signified as above.

[4] In Jeremiah:--

Her Nazirites were whiter than snow, they were fairer than milk; their bones were more ruddy than gems, a sapphire was their polishing; their form is darker than blackness, they are not known in the streets their skin cleaveth to their bone, it is withered, it is become like wood (Lam. 4:7, 8);

the "Nazirite" denotes the celestial man (n. 3301); "whiter than snow and fairer than milk" denotes to be in celestial truth; and because this truth is from the love of good, it is said that "their bones were more ruddy than gems." "Whiteness" and "fairness" are predicated of truth, (n. 3301); "ruddiness," of good, (n. 3300); "gems," of truths which are from good, (n. 114). By "their skin cleaving to their bone" is described a changed state as to the celestial things of love, namely, that there was no flesh on the bones, that is, no longer any good; for then all truth becomes like skin which cleaves to the bone; it is "withered and become like wood."

[5] In Ezekiel:--

Utter a parable against the rebellious house, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord Jehovih, Set on the caldron, set it on, and also pour waters into it gathering the pieces thereof into it, every good piece, the thigh and the shoulder fill-it with the choice bones; taking the choice of the flock and let there be also a hearth of bones under it; let the bones also be boiled in the midst of it (Ezek. 24:3-5, 10);

where a "caldron" signifies violence offered to good and truth, wherefore it is called a city of bloods" (Ezek. 24:6) the pieces, the good piece, the thigh, and the shoulder gathered into it," are flesh, by which are meant goods; the "choice bones" with which the caldron was filled, denote truths a " hearth of bones," the affection of truth; the "bones being boiled in the midst of it," violence offered to truths. Everyone can see that Divine arcana are stored within this parable; and also that these arcana can in no wise be known unless it is known what is signified in the internal sense by a " caldron" or "pot," by "pieces," by "thigh and shoulder," by "choice bones," by a "hearth of bones," and by "boiling." In Micah:--

Is it for you to know judgment, who hate the good, and love the evil who pluck off their skin from off them, and their flesh from off their bones; who have eaten the flesh of My people, and have flayed their skin from off them and have broken their bones, and have divided them as into the pot, and as flesh in the midst of the caldron? (Micah 3:1-3);

where the signification is the same.

[6] In Ezekiel:--

He brought me out in the spirit of Jehovah, and set me down in the midst of the valley, which was full of bones. And He said unto me, Shall these bones live? He said unto me, Prophesy upon these bones, and say unto them, O ye dry bones hear the word of Jehovah; thus saith the Lord Jehovih unto these bones, Behold I will cause breath to enter into you that ye may live I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come up upon you, and will cover you with skin, and put breath in you that ye may live. I prophesied, and the bones came together, bone to its bone; and I beheld and lo there were sinews upon them, and flesh came up, and skin covered them above and there was no breath in them and breath came into them, and they revived, and stood upon their feet (Ezek. 37:1, 3-8, 10).

The subject here treated of in general is the setting up again of the church among the Gentiles; and in particular, the regeneration of man: "dry bones" denote the own of the understanding, which is inanimate before it receives the life of good from the lord, but is thereby animated or made alive; the "flesh which the Lord causes to come up upon the bones" is the own of the will, which is called the heavenly or celestial own, and thus signifies good; "breath" is the Lord’s life, and when this inflows into that good of the man which he seems to himself to will and do from his own, the good is then vivified, and from the good the truth, and out of the dry bones there is made a man.

[7] In David:--

All my bones are unloosed, my heart is become like wax, I can number all my bones. They have parted my garments among them, and upon my vesture have they cast a lot (Ps. 22:14, 17, 18);

where the subject is the Lord‘s temptations as to Divine truths, which were the Lord’s own, and hence are called "my bones;" and as to Divine good, which was the Lord‘s own, and hence is called "my heart." The "heart" signifies good, (n. 3313, 3635). And because "bones" signify these truths, the numbering of which denotes to desire to dissipate them through reasonings and falsities, therefore there immediately follow the words, "they parted my garments, and cast a lot upon my vesture;" for "garments" also signify truths, but exterior ones (n. 297, 1073, 2576); "dividing them and casting a lot upon the vesture," involves the like as also in (Matthew 27:35). Again:--

My soul exulteth in Jehovah it shall be glad in His salvation. All my bones shall say, Who is like unto Thee? (Ps. 35:9, 10);

where it is evident that in the spiritual sense "bones" denote the own of the understanding. Again:--

Thou shalt cause me to hear joy and gladness the bones which Thou hast bruised shall exult (Ps. 51:8);

where the "exulting of the bones which were bruised" signifies re-creation through truths after temptations.

[8] As "bone" signified the own of the understanding, that is, the own as to truth, and in the supreme sense the Divine truth which was the Lord’s own, it was for this reason ordained as a statute of the passover that they should not break a bone of the paschal lamb; concerning which we read in Moses:--

In one house shall it be eaten thou shall not carry forth of the flesh abroad out of the house; neither shall ye break a bone thereof (Exod. 12:46).

And in another place:--

They shall not leave of it until the morning, nor break a bone thereof (Num. 9:12);

"not to break a bone," in the supreme sense signifies not to do violence to truth Divine; and in the representative sense, not to do violence to the truth of any good whatever; for the quality of good and the form of good are from truths, and truth is the support of good, as bones are of flesh.

[9] That the Word, which is Divine truth itself, vivifies the dead, was represented by the man reviving and standing upon his feet who when cast into the sepulchre of Elisha, touched his bones (2 Kings 13:21). Elisha represented the Lord as to truth Divine, or the Word, (n. 2762). That in the opposite sense "bones" signify the falsity which is from man‘s own, is manifest from the following passages. In Jeremiah:--

In that time they shall bring out the bones of the kings of Judah, and the bones of his princes, and the bones of the priests, and the bones of the prophets, and the bones of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, out of their sepulchres; and they shall spread them before the sun, and the moon, and all the army of the heavens, which they had loved, and which they had served (Jer. 8:1, 2).

In Ezekiel:--

I will lay the carcases of the sons of Israel before their idols, and I will scatter your bones round about your altars (Ezek. 6:5).

In Moses:--

God who brought him forth out of Egypt; he hath as it were the strength of a unicorn: he shall eat up the nations his enemies, and shall break their bones, and shall destroy their arrows (Num. 24:8).

In the second book of Kings:--

Josiah the king brake in pieces the pillars, and cut down the groves, and filled their place with the bones of man he took the bones out of the sepulchres, and burned them upon the altar that he might defile it he sacrificed all the priests of the high places who were there, upon the altars, and burned men’s bones upon them (2 Kings 23:14, 16, 20).

In Moses:--

The soul that hath touched upon the surface of the field one that is slain with the sword, or one dead, or the bone of a man, or a sepulchre, shall be unclean seven days (Num. 19:16, 18).

[10] As "bones" signify falsities, and "sepulchres" the evils in which they are, and as hypocrisy is evil appearing outwardly as good, but is inwardly defiled with things false and profane, therefore the Lord says in Matthew:--

Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites for ye make yourselves like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but are within full of dead men‘s bones and of all uncleanness even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity (Matthew 23:27, 28).

From these passages it is now evident that by "bones" is signified the own of the understanding, both as to truth and as to falsity.

AC 3813. As regards "flesh," in the supreme sense it signifies, the own of the Lord’s Divine Human, which is Divine good, and in the relative sense it signifies the own of man‘s will made alive by the own of the Divine Human, that is, by His Divine good. This own is what is called the heavenly own, which in itself is the Lord’s alone appropriated to those who are in good, and thence in truth. Such an own have the angels who are in the heavens, and men who as to their interiors or as to the spirit are in the Lord‘s kingdom. But in the opposite sense, "flesh" signifies the own of man’s will, which in itself is nothing but evil, and not being vivified by the Lord is called "dead," and thus the man himself is said to be dead.

[2] That in the supreme sense "flesh" is the own of the Lord‘s Divine Human, thus His Divine good, is evident from the Lord’s words in John:--

Jesus said, I am the living bread which came down from heaven if anyone eat of this bread he shall live forever and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world. The Jews therefore strove one with another, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat? Jesus therefore said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink His blood, ye have no life in you; he that eateth My flesh, and drinketh My blood, hath eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day; for My flesh is meat indeed, and My blood is drink indeed he that eateth My flesh, and drinketh My blood, dwelleth in Me, and I in him. This is the bread which came down from heaven (John 6:51-56, 58);

that here "flesh" is the own of the Lord‘s Divine Human, thus the Divine good, is very evident; and this is what in the Holy Supper is called the "body." That in the Holy Supper the "body" or "flesh" signifies the Divine good; and the "blood" the Divine truth, may be seen above (n. 1798, 2165, 2177, 3464, 3735); and because "bread and wine" signify the same as "flesh and blood," namely, "bread," the Lord’s Divine good, and "wine," His Divine truth, therefore the latter were enjoined instead of the former. This is the reason why the Lord said, "I am the living bread; the bread which I shall give is My flesh; he that eateth My flesh, and drinketh My blood, abideth in Me, and I in him; this is the bread which came down from heaven." To eat" signifies to be communicated, to be conjoined, and to be appropriated, (n. 2187, 2343, 3168, 3513, 3596).

[3] The same was represented in the Jewish Church by the ordinance that Aaron, his sons, and they who sacrificed, and others who were clean, might eat the flesh of the sacrifices, and that this was holy (Exod. 12:7-9; 29:30-34; Lev. 7:15-21; 8:31; Deut. 12:27; 16:4). If therefore an unclean person ate of that flesh, he was to be cut off from his people (Lev. 7:21). These sacrifices were called "bread," (n. 2165). That "flesh" was called the "flesh of holiness" (Jer. 11:15; Haggai 2:12), and the "flesh of the offering which was on the tables in the Lord‘s kingdom," see (Ezek. 40:43), where the new temple is described, by which there is evidently signified the worship of the Lord in His kingdom.

[4] That in the relative sense "flesh" signifies the own of man’s will made alive by the Lord‘s Divine good, is evident also from the following passages. In Ezekiel:--

I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit in the midst of you and I will remove the heart of stone out of their flesh, and will give them a heart of flesh (Ezek. 11:19; 36:26);

where the "heart of stone out of their flesh" denotes the will and the own not vivified and the "heart of flesh," the will and the own vivified. The "heart" is a representative of the good of the will, (n. 2930, 3313, 3635). In David:--

0 God Thou art my God; in the morning I seek Thee; my-soul thirsteth for Thee, my flesh longeth for Thee in a dry land; and I am weary without waters (Ps. 63:1).


My soul longeth for the courts of Jehovah my heart and my flesh cry out for joy unto the living God (Ps. 84:2).

[5] In Job:--

I have known my Redeemer, He liveth, and at the last He shall rise upon the dust; and afterwards these things shall be encompassed with my skin, and from my flesh I shall see God whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold and not another (Job 19:25-27);

to be "encompassed with skin" denotes with the natural, such as man has with him after death (n. 3539); "from the flesh to see God" denotes the own vivified; therefore he says, "whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another." As it was known to the churches that flesh signified man’s own, and as the book of Job is a book of the Ancient Church (n. 3540), he therefore spoke concerning these things from what is significative, as concerning many other things, in accordance with the custom of that time; so that those who deduce from this passage that the dead body itself shall be collected from the four winds, and shall rise again, are not acquainted with the internal sense of the Word. They who know the internal sense, know that they shall come into the other life with a body, but a purer one; for in the other life there are purer bodies; for they see each other, converse together, and enjoy every sense as in the present body, but in a more exquisite degree. The body which man carries about here on earth is for uses on earth, and therefore consists of bones and flesh; and the body which the spirit carries about in the other life is designed for uses in that life, and does not consist of bones and flesh, but of things which correspond to them (n. 3726).

[6] That in the opposite sense "flesh" signifies the own of man‘s will, which in itself is nothing but evil, is evident from the following passages. In Isaiah:--

They shall eat every man the flesh of his own arm (Isa. 9:20).


I will feed their oppressors with their own flesh and they shall be drunken with their own blood, as with new wine (Isa. 49:26).

In Jeremiah:--

I will feed them with the flesh of their sons, and the flesh of their daughters, and they shall eat everyone the flesh of his companion (Jer. 19:9).

In Zechariah:--

Let those who are left eat everyone the flesh of another (Zech. 11:9).

In Moses:--

I will chastise you seven times for your sins; and ye shall eat the flesh of your sons; and the flesh of your daughters shall ye eat (Lev. 26:28, 29).

The own of man’s will, that is, the nature of man, is thus described, for this is nothing else than evil and the derivative falsity; thus is hatred against truths and goods, which is signified by "eating the flesh of his arm, the flesh of sons and daughters, and the flesh of a companion."

[7] In John:--

I saw an angel standing in the sun and he cried with a great voice, saying to all the birds that By in the midst of heaven, Come and gather yourselves together to the supper of the great God, that ye may eat the flesh of kings, and the flesh of captains, and the flesh of mighty men, and the flesh of horses and of them that sit thereon, and the flesh of all both free and bond, both small and great (Rev. 19:17, 18; Ezek. 39:17-20);

that here by the "flesh of kings, of captains, of mighty men, of horses and of those that sit upon them, of all, both free and bond," are not signified such things as these, must be evident to everyone; thus that by "flesh" are signified other things which have hitherto been unknown. That evils which are from falsities, and evils from which are falsities, both from the own of man‘s will, are signified, is manifest from the several expressions.

[8] As in the internal sense the falsity which results from the own of man’s understanding is "blood;" and as the evil which results from the own of his will is "flesh," therefore the Lord speaks as follows concerning the man who is to be regenerated:--

As many as received, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe in His name who were born, not of bloods, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God (John 1:12, 13).

Hence it is that by "flesh" in general is meant every man (n. 574, 1050); for whether you say man, or man‘s own, it is the same thing.

[9] That by "flesh" in the supreme sense is signified the Lord’s Divine Human, is manifest from the passage above quoted, and also from this in John:--

The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father (John 1:14).

From this "flesh" all flesh is vivified, that is to say, every man is vivified from the Lord‘s Divine Human by the appropriation of His love, which appropriation is signified by "eating the flesh of the Son of man" (John 6:51-58), and by "eating the bread" in the Holy Supper; for the "bread" is the "body" or "flesh" (Matt. 26:26, 27).

AC 3814. And he dwelt with him a month of days. That this signifies a new state of life, is evident from the signification of "dwelling," as being life (n. 1293, 3384, 3613); and from the signification of a "month of days," as being a new state. All "times" denote states, (n. 1274, 1382, 2625, 2788, 2837, 3254, 3356, 3404); and therefore so do "years, "months," and "days;" but the quality of the states signified is evident from the numbers affixed). But when a "year," "month," or "day" is mentioned in the singular number, it signifies an entire state; thus the end of the preceding and the beginning of the subsequent state, as has been shown above throughout the explications. Here therefore by a "month" is signified the end of the preceding and the beginning of the subsequent state, thus a new state, as also in other parts of the Word. As in Isaiah:--

At last it shall come to pass from month to its month, and from sabbath to sabbath, all flesh shall come to bow themselves down before Me, saith Jehovah (Isa. 66:23).

In John:--

He showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, going forth from the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the midst of the street of it, and of the river, on this side and on that, was the tree of life, bearing twelve fruit, yielding its fruit every month (Rev. 22:1, 2);

"yielding its fruit every month" signifies a state ever new, in regard to the reception of good, and the practice thence resulting.

[2] In Moses:--

Number the sons of Levi by their fathers’ house and by their families, every male from a month old and upward thou shalt number them. Number every firstborn male of the sons of Israel, from the son of a month and upward, and take the number of their names (Num. 3:15, 40);

it was because the end of a preceding and the beginning of a subsequent state (that is, a new state), was signified by a "month," that it was commanded that their numbering should be "from the son of a month and upward." Again:--

If thou seest among the captives a woman beautiful in form, and thou hast a desire unto her, and wouldest take her to thee to wife, she shall put the raiment of her captivity from off her, and shall sit in thy house, and bewail her father and her mother a month of days, and after that thou shalt go in unto her, and shalt know her; and she shall be unto thee for a wife (Deut. 21:11, 13);

where a "month of days" plainly denotes the end of a preceding, and the beginning of a subsequent or new state.

AC 3815. And Laban said unto Jacob, Because thou art my brother. That this signifies because they have blood relationship from good, is evident from the representation of Laban, as being the collateral good of a common stock; and from the representation of Jacob, as being the good of the natural; and from the signification of "brother," as being good (n. 3803); here consanguineous good, because it is said by Laban to Jacob, consequently by good to good. Moreover all blood relationship derives its origin from good, for good is of love. The nearest degree of love in the descending line is called blood relationship, and is understood in the proper sense by "brother." That in the spiritual world, or in heaven, no other consanguinities and affinities exist than those of love to the Lord and of love toward the neighbor, or what is the same, of good, has been made manifest to me by the fact that all the societies which constitute heaven, and which are innumerable, are perfectly distinguished from one another, in accordance with the degrees and differences of love, and thence of the derivative faith (n. 685, 917, 2739, 3612); and also from the fact that they recognize each other, not from any relationship that had existed in the life of the body; but solely from good and the derivative truth. A father does not recognize a son or a daughter, nor a brother a brother or sister, nor even a husband a wife, unless they have been in similar good. They indeed meet when they first come into the other life, but are soon dissociated; for good itself, or love and charity, determines and assigns everyone to his own society. The blood relationship commences in the society in which each person is; and from this proceed the other relationships, even to the circumferences.

AC 3816. Shouldest thou therefore serve me for nought? Tell me, what shall be thy reward? That this signifies that there must be a means of conjunction, is evident from the signification of "serving for nought," as being without any obligation; and from the signification of "reward" as being a means of conjunction. "Reward" is occasionally mentioned in the Word, and in the internal sense signifies nothing else than a means of conjunction. The reason is that the angels are utterly unwilling to hear anything about a reward, as being on account of anything in them; nay, they are utterly averse to the idea of reward for any good or good action; for they know that with everyone that which is his own is nothing but evil, and that therefore whatever they do from their own would be attended with that which is contrary to reward; and that all good is from the Lord, and flows in, and this solely from mercy; thus that that is not from themselves for which they would think of reward. In fact good itself becomes not good when reward for it is thought of, for then a selfish end instantly adjoins itself, and in so far as this is the case, it induces a denial that the good is from the Lord, and from mercy; consequently so far it removes the influx, and of course so far removes from itself heaven and the bliss which are in good and its affection. The affection of good (that is, love to the Lord and love toward the neighbor) has bliss and happiness within it; these being within the affection and love itself. To do anything from affection and its bliss and to do it at the same time for the sake of reward, are things diametrically opposed to each other. Hence it is that when "reward" is mentioned in the Word, the angels do not perceive anything of reward, but that which is bestowed gratis and of mercy by the Lord.

[2] Nevertheless reward is of service as a means of conjunction with those who have not yet been initiated; for they who are not as yet initiated in good and its affections (that is, who are not yet fully regenerated) cannot do otherwise than think about reward, because the good which they do, they do not from the affection of good, but from the affection of bliss and happiness for the sake of self; and at the same time from the fear of hell. But when a man is being regenerated, this is inverted and becomes the affection of good, and then he no longer looks to reward.

[3] This may be illustrated by what passes in civic life: he who loves his country, and has such an affection toward it as to find a pleasure in promoting its good from good will, would lament if this should be denied him, and would entreat that there might he granted the opportunity to do good to it; for this is the object of his affection, consequently the source of his pleasure and bliss. Such a one is also honored, and is exalted to posts of dignity; for to him these are means of serving his country, although they are called rewards. But those who have no affection for their country, but only an affection of self and the world, are moved to take action for the sake of honors and wealth, which also they regard as the ends. Such persons set themselves before their country (that is, their own good before the common good), and are relatively sordid; and yet they more than all others are desirous to make it appear that they do what they do from a sincere love. But when they think privately about it, they deny that anyone does this, and marvel that anyone can. They who are such in the life of the body with regard to their country, or the public good, are such also in the other life with regard to the Lord‘s kingdom, for everyone’s affection or love follows him, because affection or love is the life of everyone.

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