Spiritual Meaning of GENESIS 39:19-20
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AC 5030. Verses 19, 20. And it came to pass when his lord heard the words of his wife, which she spake unto him, saying, According to these words did thy servant to me; that his anger was kindled. And Joseph‘s lord took him, and put him into the prison house, the place where the king’s bound ones were bound; and he was there in the prison house. "And it came to pass," signifies a new state; "when his lord heard the words of his wife, which she spake unto him," signifies communication of falsity which appeared as truth; "saying, According to these words did thy servant to me," signifies confirmation; "that his anger was kindled," signifies aversion to spiritual truth. "And Joseph‘s lord took him," signifies temptation from the natural; "and put him into the prison house," signifies as to false-speaking against good; "the place where the king’s bound ones were bound," signifies the state in which those are who are in falsities; "and he was there in the prison house," signifies the duration of the temptation.

AC 5031. And it came to pass. That this signifies a new state, is evident from the signification of "it came to pass," or "it was," as involving something new, or a new state (n. 4979, 4987, 4999), here the state of spiritual natural good, which state is represented by Joseph, after the ultimate of truth had been taken away from him, and thus after there was no longer any conjunction with truth and good natural not spiritual.

AC 5032. When his lord heard the words of his wife, which she spake unto him. That this signifies communication of falsity which appeared as truth, is evident from the signification of "hearing words," as being communication, for "hearing" is perceiving (n. 5017), thus to be communicated; and from the signification of "wife," as being truth natural not spiritual, of which above, but in the present instance falsity. The false speaking itself is signified by the words which she spoke to him (n. 5024). The communication of falsity is with good natural not spiritual, which is here signified by his "lord" (n. 5023). That the falsity appeared to him as truth, is evident from what follows.

[2] The subject treated of here is that good natural not spiritual is easily persuaded, insomuch that falsity appears to it altogether as truth. What good natural not spiritual is, and what its quality, or who and of what quality are those who are in this good, may be seen above (n. 4988, 4992, 5008, 5013, 5028), namely, that they are such as are gentle and well disposed from what is hereditary and hence adventitious, thus such as do what is good from nature, but not from religion. It is one thing to do good from nature, and quite another to do it from religion. These two things cannot be distinguished by man in the world, for man is not acquainted with the interiors, but in the other life they are plainly discerned; for in that life the interiors lie open, the thoughts, intentions, and ends manifesting themselves and being open to view as in clear day.

[3] In consequence of this it has been given me to know the quality of those who are in good not spiritual, and that of those who are in spiritual good. They who are in good natural not spiritual suffer themselves to be persuaded by everyone, and easily by the evil; for evil spirits and genii are in their life, or the delight of their life, when they can enter into the evil affections of anyone; and when they have entered into them, they entice him to every kind of evil, for they then persuade him that falsity is truth. This they do easily with those who are in good natural not spiritual, but cannot do so with those who are in spiritual good, for these know from within what is evil and false. The reason is that when those in spiritual good lived in the world they received precepts from doctrine, and with these they imbued the internal man, the result being that heaven can operate into it; whereas when they who are in good natural not spiritual lived in the world, they did not receive any precepts from doctrine with which they imbued the internal man, and therefore with them there is no plane into which heaven can operate; but whatever flows in with them out of heaven, flows through, and when it comes into the natural man, it is not received, because the evil or diabolical crew instantly take it away, either by suffocating, by reflecting, or by perverting it.

[4] Therefore those who are in natural good only, in the other life suffer hard things, and sometimes complain much that they are among the infernals, when yet, as they believe, they had done what is good equally as well as others. But they were told that they had done what is good no otherwise than as gentle animals devoid of reason, and had not been solicitous about any good or truth of the church; and that as for this reason they have not in the internal man any receptacle for good and truth, therefore they cannot he defended by the angels; and also that they had done many evils under an appearance of good.

AC 5033. Saying, According to these words did thy servant to me. That this signifies confirmation, is evident from the belief in which he was that his wife had spoken the truth, and from its being thus confirmed to him; for the wife who persuaded him is truth natural not spiritual, but here falsity. That good natural not spiritual suffers itself to be easily persuaded by falsity, may be seen just above (n. 5032). It is well known that falsities can be confirmed so as to appear altogether as truths. This is plain from every heresy, and all its particulars, which, though they are falsities, yet by confirmations appear as truths to those who are in the heresy. It is plain too from those who have no religion, who confirm themselves so thoroughly against the things of the church, that they see as a truth the notion that the church is only for the sake of the common people, to keep them in some restraint; also that nature is all in all, and the Divine so remote as to be scarcely anything, and that man dies like a beast. Regarding these and the like opinions, they who are good natural not spiritual suffer themselves to be more easily persuaded and confirmed than others, since they have as it were no mirror within, but only outside of them, before which falsities appear as realities.

AC 5034. That his anger was kindled. That this signifies aversion to spiritual truth, is evident from the signification of "anger," as being a receding from the good of charity (n. 357), thus aversion, and here aversion to spiritual truth, because this is the subject treated of. That "anger" denotes aversion, is because so long as a man is in anger against anyone, he averts his mind from him; for anger exists or is excited when anyone or anything is contrary to one‘s love, by which there is conjunction with anyone or anything. When this conjunction is broken, the man becomes angry or wrathful, as if something were lost from the delight of his life, and consequently from his life. This sadness is turned into grief, and the grief into anger.

AC 5035. And Joseph’s lord took him. That this signifies temptation from the natural, is evident from what now follows, where it is told of Joseph that he was put into the prison house, by which is described in the internal sense the temptation of spiritual good in the natural; and because the words, "Joseph‘s lord took him" involve this, they also signify it. Temptations are of two kinds--as to truths, and as to goods. Temptations as to truths are effected by spirits, but temptations as to good are effected by genii. Spirits and genii in the other life are distinguished by the fact that spirits act into the intellectual part of the mind, consequently into those things which are of faith; while genii act into the will part, consequently into those things which are of love. Spirits present themselves to view, and also manifest themselves by speech; but genii make themselves invisible, and do not manifest themselves except by an influx into the desires and cupidities. In the other life the two are kept separate, evil or infernal spirits appearing in front and on both sides under the earth of the lower regions, while evil or infernal genii appear under the hinder part and behind the back deep down under the earth there. As already said, temptations as to truths are effected by evil spirits, and temptations as to goods by evil genii. In the following pages those temptations are treated of which are effected by evil spirits, and thus which are effected as to false-speaking against good. These temptations are milder than those which are effected by evil genii, and they also occur first.

AC 5036. And put him into the prison house. That this signifies as to false-speaking against good, is evident from the signification of being "put into the prison house, and kept bound there," as being to be let into temptations as to false-speaking against good, of which in what follows; but something must first be said in regard to temptations. Scarcely anyone in the Christian world at this day knows whence temptations come. He who undergoes them has no other belief than that they are torments arising from the evils which are within man, and which at first make him uneasy, then anxious, and finally torment him; but he is altogether ignorant that they are effected by the evil spirits who are with him. The reason why he is ignorant of this, is that he does not believe that he is in company with spirits while he lives in the world, and scarcely believes that there is any spirit with him; when yet as to his interiors man is continually in the society of spirits and angels.

[2] As regards temptations, they take place when the man is in the act of regeneration; for no one can be regenerated unless he undergoes temptations, and they then arise from evil spirits who are about him. For the man is then let into the state of evil in which he is, that is, in which is that very (life) which is his own; and when he comes into this state, evil or infernal spirits encompass him, and when they perceive that he is inwardly protected by angels, the evil spirits excite the falsities which he has thought, and the evils which he has done, but the angels defend him from within. It is this combat which is perceived in the man as temptation, but so obscurely that he scarcely knows otherwise than that it is merely an anxiety; for man--especially if he believes nothing about influx--is in a state that is wholly obscure, and he perceives scarcely a thousandth part of the things about which the evil spirits and angels are contending. And yet the battle is then being fought for the man and his eternal salvation, and it is fought from the man himself; for they fight from those things which are in man, and concerning them. That this is the case has been given me to know with the utmost certainty. I have heard the combat, I have perceived the influx, I have seen the spirits and angels, and at the time and afterward have conversed with them on the subject.

[3] As before said, temptations take place chiefly at the time when the man is becoming spiritual; for he then apprehends spiritually the truths of doctrine. The man is often unaware of this, but still the angels with him see in his natural things the spiritual; for his interiors are then open toward heaven. For this reason also the man who has been regenerated is among angels after his life in the world, and there both sees and perceives the spiritual things which before appeared to him as natural. When therefore a man has come into such a state, then in temptation, when assaulted by evil spirits, he can be defended by angels, who then have a plane into which they can operate; for they flow into what is spiritual with him, and through this into what is natural.

[4] But when ultimate truth has been withdrawn, and therefore the man has nothing by which to defend himself against those who are natural (n. 5006, 5008, 5009, 5022, 5028), he then comes into temptations, and by evil spirits--who are all merely natural--he is accused especially of speaking falsely against good; as for example of having thought and said that the neighbor ought to be benefited, and having also approved this in act, and yet now meaning by the neighbor only those who are in good and truth, and not those who are in evil and falsity and cannot be amended; and consequently, because he is no longer willing to benefit the evil, or if he will benefit them, he desires them to be punished for the sake of their amendment, and for the purpose of averting evil from his neighbor, they charge him with thinking and speaking what is false, and with not thinking as he speaks.

[5] Take another example. Because when a man becomes spiritual, he no longer believes it holy and for pious use to give to monasteries, or even to churches which abound in wealth; and because before he became spiritual he had thought that such giving was holy and pious, they charge him with falsehood, and stir up all his thoughts which he had before cherished as to its being holy and pious, and also the works which he had done from such thought. And so they do in numberless other cases, but let these few examples serve by way of illustration. These spirits enter principally into the affections which the man had before, and excite them, and also the false and evil things which he had thought and done; and thus they bring him into anxiety, and often into doubt even to despair.

[6] Such then is the source of spiritual anxieties, and of the torments which are called torments of conscience. By influx and communication these things appear to the man as if they were in himself. One who knows and believes this may be compared to a man who sees himself in a mirror, and knows that it is not himself that appears in it, or on the other side of it, but only his image; whereas one who does not know and believe this, may be compared to a person who sees himself in a mirror, and supposes it is himself that appears there, and not his image.

AC 5037. That "to be put into the prison house, and to be kept bound there," denotes to be let into temptations as to false-speaking against good, is because all that region next under the sole of the foot and around about, is called a "prison house," where those are kept who are in vastation, that is, those who have been in principles of falsity and in a life of evil from falsity, and yet in good as to intentions. Such cannot be received into heaven until they have put off the principles of falsity, and also the delight of life thence derived. They who are there are let into temptations; for principles of falsity and the derivative delights of life cannot be cast out except by means of temptations. The place where they are, or rather the state in which they are, is signified in general by a "prison house," and the places themselves by "pits." In regard to vastations in the other life, see what has been said above (n. 698, 699, 1106-1113, 2699, 2701, 2704). They who are in vastations are called the "bound"--not that they are in any bond or chain, but that they are not in freedom as to their former thoughts and the derivative affections.

[2] That such are they who are meant in the Word by the "bound," and by those who are "in prison," is plain from other passages in the Word, as in Isaiah:--

I will give Thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles, to open the blind eyes, to bring out the bound from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the house of confinement (Isa. 42:6, 7);

speaking of the Lord, and of His coming. Here "to open the blind eyes, and to bring out the bound from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the house of confinement," denotes those who are in ignorance of good and truth, and yet are in the desire of knowing and being imbued with them; but in the original language "prison" is here expressed by a different word.

[3] Again:--

All the youths are hid in prison houses; they are made for a prey, and none rescueth, and none saith, Bring forth (Isa. 42:22);

"youths" in the internal sense are the truths of faith, which are said "to be hid in prison houses," and "to be made for a prey," when they are no longer acknowledged. Again:--

It shall be in that day that Jehovah shall visit upon the army of the height in the height, and upon the kings of the ground upon the ground. And they shall be gathered, the bound over the pit, and they shall be shut over the place of confinement; after a multitude of days they shall be visited (Isa. 24:21, 22);

"the bound over the pit" denotes those who are in vastations or those who are in temptations.

[4] Again:--

What will ye do in the day of visitation, and of laying waste? it cometh from afar; to whom will ye flee for help? he who hath not bowed down himself; they shall fall under the bound, and under the slain (Isa. 10:3, 4);

"under the bound" denotes the hell which is under the places of vastation; and "the slain" denotes those who have extinguished in themselves the truths of faith by principles of falsity, in a less degree than "the pierced," of whom see above (n. 4503).

[5] In Zechariah:--

He shall speak peace to the nations; and His dominion shall be from sea even to sea, and from the river even to the ends of the earth. As for Thee also, by the blood of Thy covenant I will send forth the bound ones out of the pit wherein is no water. Return ye to the stronghold, ye bound ones of hope (Zech. 9:10-12);

"sending forth the bound out of the pit" denotes those who are in vastation and those who are in temptation. That the places where they are who are in vastation are called "pits" may be seen above (n. 4728, 4744). In David:--

Jehovah heareth the needy, and despiseth not His bound ones (Ps. 69:33).


Let the sighing of the bound one come before Thee (Ps. 79:11).


From the heavens did Jehovah look back to the earth, to hear the sighing of the bound one, to open to the sons of death (Ps. 102:19, 20);

where "the bound ones" denote those who are in vastation, and those who are in temptations. In Isaiah:--

In the time of what is well pleasing have I answered Thee, and in the day of salvation have I heard Thee; and I have also guarded Thee, and I gave Thee for a covenant of the people, to restore the land, to share the wasted heritages, to say to them that are bound, Go forth; and to them that are in darkness, Unveil yourselves. They shall feed upon the ways, and in all the heights there is good pasture; and they shall not hunger nor thirst (Isa. 49:8-10).

[6] Again:--

The spirit of the Lord Jehovih is upon me, Jehovah hath anointed me, He hath sent me to preach good tidings to the poor, and to bind up the broken-hearted; to proclaim liberty to the captives, and to the bound, to the holden in eyes, to proclaim the year of what is well pleasing to Jehovah (Isa. 61:1, 2).

In David:--

Jehovah, who executeth judgment for the oppressed; who giveth food to the hungry; Jehovah who looseth the prisoners; Jehovah who openeth the blind; Jehovah who raiseth up the bowed down; Jehovah who loveth the just; Jehovah who guardeth the strangers; He upholdeth the fatherless and the widow (Ps. 146:7-9);

"the bound" denote those who are in vastation and in temptations on account of falsities. From these passages it is also plain who are meant in Matthew by the "bound," or "those who are in prison," and likewise by the "hungry," the "thirsty," and "strangers":--

Then shall the King say to those who are on His right hand, I was hungry and ye gave Me to eat, I was thirsty and ye gave Me drink, I was a stranger and ye gathered Me, naked and ye clothed Me, I was sick and ye visited Me, I was in prison and ye came unto Me (Matthew 25:34-36);

regarding whom see the preface to this chapter (n. 4954-4958).

AC 5038. The place where the king’s bound ones were bound. That this signifies the state in which those are who are in falsities, is evident from the signification of "place," as being state (n. 2625, 2837, 3356, 3387, 4321, 4882); and from the signification of the "king‘s bound Ones," as being those who are in falsities, and because they are in falsities they are in vastation, and who are being regenerated in the world in temptation; for temptation is the vastation of what is false, and at the same time the confirmation of what is true. They are called the "king’s bound ones," because a "king" in the internal sense is truth (n. 1672, 1728, 2015, 2069, 3009, 3670, 4575, 4581, 4789, 4966), and his "bound ones" are therefore those who are in falsity. Moreover the places where the king‘s bound ones were kept, were called "pits;" wherefore Joseph says, "I was taken away out of the land of the Hebrews; and here also have I done nothing that they should put me into the pit" (Gen. 40:15). That a "pit" denotes a place of vastation may be seen above (n. 4728, 4744).

AC 5039. And he was there in the prison house. That this signifies the duration of the temptation, is evident from the signification of a "prison house," as being vastation, and also temptation (n. 5036, 5037); and from the signification of "being in it," as being to stay there, thus duration.

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