Spiritual Meaning of GENESIS 49:14-15
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AC 6387. Verses 14, 15. Issachar is a bony ass, lying down between the burdens. And he shall see rest that it is good, and the land that it is pleasant; and he shall bow his shoulder to bear, and shall be a servant to tribute. "Issachar," signifies reward from works; "is a bony ass," signifies the lowest service; "lying down between the burdens," signifies life among works; "and he shall see rest that it is good," signifies works of good without reward, that they are full of happiness; "and the land that it is pleasant," signifies that in this happiness are they who are in the Lord’s kingdom; "and he shall bow his shoulder to bear," signifies that nevertheless he labors with all exertion; "and he shall be a servant to tribute," signifies the he may have merit.

AC 6388. Issachar. That this signifies reward from works, is evident from the representation of Issachar, as being the mutual love which is "hire," or reward (n. 3956, 3957), here reward from works, as is plain from the details in the internal sense in this prophecy about Issachar. Moreover in the original tongue "Issachar" means "hire." That Issachar" here signifies reward from works, and previously mutual love, is because by "Issachar" are here meant those who are in a certain kind and appearance of mutual love, that is, of charity toward the neighbor, and who desire to be rewarded for the goods which they do. Thus they not only defile, but also pervert genuine mutual love, or charity; for they who are in genuine mutual love are in their delight and bliss when they are benefiting the neighbor, for they desire nothing more. This delight and bliss are what is meant by "hire" in the Word; for the delight and bliss is itself the reward; and in the other life this becomes the joy and happiness which are in heaven, thus it becomes heaven to them. For when they who are in this love perform uses, and do good to others, they are in such joy and happiness that then for the first time they seem to themselves to be in heaven; this is given them by the Lord, to everyone according to the uses he performs. But the happiness vanishes as soon as they think of reward, for being in the reward itself, thought about reward renders that love impure, and perverts it; the reason of which is that they are then thinking about themselves, and not about the neighbor, that is, about making themselves happy, and not others, except in so far as it affects themselves. Thus they convert love toward the neighbor into love toward themselves, and so far as they do this, so far the joy and happiness from heaven cannot be communicated to them, for they concentrate upon themselves the influx of happiness from heaven, and do not transmit it to others; and they are like objects which do not transmit the rays of light, but absorb them. Objects which transmit the rays of light appear in light, and sparkle, but those which absorb them appear opaque, and sparkle not at all; and therefore they who are of this nature are separated from angelic society, like those who have nothing in common with heaven. These are they who are here described under the name of "Issachar."

AC 6389. A bony ass. That this signifies the lowest service, is evident from the signification of an "ass," as being service (n. 5958, 5959); and from the signification of "bone," as being that which has little spiritual life (n. 5560, 5561). Thus a "bony ass" is the lowest service; for they who do what is good for the sake of reward, do indeed perform uses, and are of service; but yet are among those in the Lord‘s kingdom who are in the lowest place, for they do not dispense the good which is communicated to them, except to those who can recompense them; and they pass by the rest who need aid the most, or if they do good to these, it is from the end of being rewarded by the Lord. Hence what they do they regard as merit, and thus consider the Lord’s mercy as due them. In this way they recede from humiliation, and in the same proportion from a state of receiving what is blessed and happy through heaven from the Lord. From all this it is evident that in the other life such are indeed employed in uses, but as lowest services.

AC 6390. Lying down between the burdens. That this signifies a life among works, is evident from the signification of "lying down," as being life, but obscure life; and from the signification of" burdens," as being works. That" burdens" denote such works is because those here treated of do not do goods from the affection of love toward the neighbor, but from the affection of love toward self. The works which flow from the affection of this love are like the burdens carried by the meaner asses, for they belong to the lowest services. For all servitude is from the affection of the love of self and of the world, and all freedom is from the affection of love to the Lord and toward the neighbor. The reason is that the affection of the former love flows in from hell, which commands with violence; whereas the affection of the latter love flows in from the Lord, who does not command, but leads. Hence again it is plain that they who do what is good for the sake of reward are lowest services, and their works are "burdens." The like is signified by "burdens" in the book of Judges:--

The princes in Issachar were with Deborah; and Issachar so with Barak; in the valley he shall be put under his feet, in the classes of Reuben great as to the resolves of heart. Why satest thou between the burdens, to hear the hissings of the flocks? (Judges 5:15, 16);

here also "Issachar" denotes those who desire to be rewarded for works; "to be put in the valley under the feet" is to serve in lowest things; the "classes of Reuben" denote those who are in the knowledges of the truth of faith, among whom are those here signified by "Issachar," but in a place beneath them; "to hear the hissings of the flocks" denotes contempt from those who are in the good of charity, who are the "flocks;" to "sit between burdens" denotes among self-meritorious works.

AC 6391. And he shall see rest that it is good. That this signifies the works of good without reward, that they are full of happiness, is evident from the signification of "rest," as being the things that belong to heaven, and thus that are in the good of charity, or in works of good, without reward; from the signification of "that it is good," as being that they are full of happiness. The reason why "rest" denotes works of good without reward, is that in the highest sense "rest" or "peace" signifies the Lord; in the relative sense, heaven; thus the good which is from the Lord (n. 3780, 4681, 5662); and as no others are in the things signified by "rest" or "peace" than those who are in good of charity, thus in works of good without reward, these are signified by "rest;" for this follows from the connection of things in the internal sense.

[2] With regard to the subject itself, they who do goods with the sole end of reward cannot possibly know that in doing goods without any reward there is happiness so great as to be heavenly happiness itself. The reason of their ignorance is that they perceive happiness in the delight of the love of self, and in so far as a man perceives delight in this love, so far he does not perceive delight in heavenly love, for they are opposites. The delight which flows from the love of self completely extinguishes the delight which is from heavenly love, insomuch that it is absolutely unknown what heavenly delight is; and if its nature is told it is not believed, nay, it is denied.

[3] This it has been given me to know from evil spirits in the other life who, while they lived, did nothing of what is good to others or to their country except for the sake of themselves; such do not believe that any delight is possible in doing goods without the end of reward; for they suppose that if there is no end of reward all delight ceases. And if they are told further that when that delight ceases heavenly delight begins, they are amazed at the hearing; and they are still more amazed when they hear that this heavenly delight flows in through the inmost of man, and affects his interiors with inexpressible happiness; and they say that they cannot comprehend it, nay, that they do not desire to do so; for they believe that if they were to lose the delight of the love of self, they would be very miserable, because they would then be deprived of all the joy of life; and they also call those simple who are in a different state. Not unlike these persons are those who do works with an end of reward; for they do good works for themselves, and not for others, because they regard themselves therein, and not the neighbor, nor their country, nor heaven, nor the Lord, except as those who are thus placed under an obligation to do them a service. Such are the things described in the internal sense of this verse about Issachar.

AC 6392. And the land that it is pleasant. That this signifies that in this happiness are they who are in the Lord‘s kingdom, is evident from the signification of "land," as being the church, thus also the Lord’s kingdom (n. 662, 1066, 1067, 1413, 1607, 1733, 1850, 2117, 2118, 4447), that the "land" has this signification is because the land of canaan, which is meant by the "land" in the Word, represented the Lord‘s kingdom, and this because the church had been there from the most ancient time (n. 3038, 3481, 3686, 3705, 4447, 4454, 4516, 4517, 5136); and from the signification of "that it was pleasant," which signifies the happiness that is in works of good without reward. It is said that "he shall see rest that it is good, and the land that it is pleasant," and by both expressions is signified the happiness which is in the Lord’s kingdom, because "to see rest that it is good," refers to what is celestial or to good, and "to see the land that it is pleasant," refers to what is spiritual or to truth, and this on account of the marriage of good and truth (n. 6343). As to what further concerns happiness in works of good without reward, be it known that very few at this day know that in doing goods without the end of reward is heavenly happiness; for they do not know that there is any other happiness than in being advanced to honors, in being served by others in abounding in riches, and in living in pleasures. That above these things there is a happiness which affects the interiors of man, thus that there is a heavenly happiness, and that this happiness is the happiness of genuine charity, they are deeply ignorant. Inquire of the wise of this day whether they know that this is heavenly happiness. From this also it is that many reject good works, believing that no one can do them without regard to self-merit; for they do not know that they who are led by the Lord desire nothing more than to do good works, and that they think of nothing less than of meriting by them. This is in the new will, which is given by the Lord to those who are being regenerated, for this will is the will of the Lord in the man.

AC 6393. And he shall bow his shoulder to bear. That this signifies that nevertheless he labors with all exertion, is evident from the signification of "shoulder," as being all power, or all exertion (n. 1085, 4931-4937); and from the signification of "bearing a burden," as being to do works for the sake of merit; hence by "bowing the shoulder to bear" is signified to labor with all exertion to do works for the sake of merit. The reason why this is called "bearing," is that they do not do what is good from the affection of good, thus not from freedom, but from the affection of self, which is servitude (n. 6390).

[2] As further regards those who desire a reward for the works which they perform, be it known that they are never contented; but are indignant if they have not a greater reward than others; and if they see others more blessed than themselves, they are sad and find fault. Neither do they make bliss consist in inward bliss, but in outward, namely, in being eminent, in having dominion, and being served by angels, thus in being above the angels, consequently in being princes and great men in heaven; when yet heavenly bliss consists, not in wishing to rule, nor in being served by others, but in wishing to serve others, and in being the least; as the Lord teaches:--

James and John the sons of Zebedee came, saying, Grant unto us that we may sit, one on Thy right hand, and the other on Thy left hand, in Thy glory. But Jesus said to them, Ye know not what ye ask. To sit on My right hand and on My left hand is not Mine to give, except to whom it has been prepared. Ye know that they who are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones have authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you; but whosoever will be great among you shall be your minister, and whosoever of you will be first shall be servant of all; for the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister (Mark 10:35-45).

[3] And that they have heaven who do what is good without the end of reward, the Lord teaches in Luke:--

Everyone that exalteth himself shall be humbled, but he that humbleth himself shall be exalted. When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friend, nor thy brethren, nor thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbors, lest haply they also call thee in turn, and a recompense be made thee. But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind; then thou shalt be blessed; because they have not wherewith to recompense thee; for thou shalt be recompensed in the resurrection of the just (Luke 14:11-14);

the "recompense in the resurrection of the just" is internal happiness from doing well without reward, which they receive from the Lord when they perform uses; and they who love to serve without recompense, the more they love it, the more noble are the uses to which they are appointed, and they are in fact greater and more powerful than others.

[4] They who do good works for the sake of recompense, say the same, because they know from the Word that they should desire to be the least in heaven; but at the time they are thinking that by so saying they will become great, thus there is the same end in view; but they who do what is good without recompense, really think nothing about being eminent, but only about being of service.

[5] See what was said and shown above about merit from works, and about the quality of those who are in it in the other life: that they appear to cut wood and to mow grass (n. 1110, 1111, 4943) how they are represented (n. 1774, 2027): that they who have done what is good for the sake of self and the love of the world receive no recompense for this good in the other life (n. 1835): that they who place merit in works interpret the Word according to the letter in their favor, and that they derive its interior contents (n. 1774, 1877) that true charity is wholly void of self-merit (n. 2371, 2373, 2380, 3816): that they who separate faith from charity make the works which they have done self-meritorious (n. 2373): that they who enter into heaven put off from themselves what is their own and self-merit (n. 4007): that to believe that they do good from themselves, and that by this good they have merit, is the case with most persons in the beginning of reformation, but that they put this off as they are being regenerated (n. 4174).

AC 6394. And he shall be a servant to tribute. That this signifies that he may have merit, is evident from the signification of "being a servant to tribute," as being to be subject and to serve; and as it is said of those who desire to have merit through works that they are "bony asses, lying down between burdens," and that "he bows the shoulder to bear," by "being a servant to tribute" are also signified those who desire to have merit through works; for that they are lowest services was shown above (n. 6389). That "serving to tribute" denotes to be subject and to serve, is evident in Moses:--

When thou drawest nigh unto a city to fight against it, thou shalt invite them unto peace; and it shall be, if it answer thee for peace, and open to thee, it shall be that all the people that is found therein shall become for tribute to thee, and shall serve thee (Deut. 20:10, 11).

In Jeremiah:--

How hath the city dwelt solitary that was great in people! She is become as a widow. She that was great among the nations, who ruled in the provinces, she is become tributary (Lam. 1:1);

where it is plain that by "becoming for tribute," and by "tributary," is signified serving. In Matthew:--

Jesus said, How seemeth it to thee, Simon? of whom do the kings of the earth receive tribute or tax? of their own sons, or of strangers? Peter saith to Him, of strangers. Jesus saith to him, Therefore the sons are free. But lest we should be a stumbling block to them, go thou to the sea, and cast a hook, and take up the fish that first cometh up; and when thou hast opened its mouth thou shalt find a piece of money: that take, and give it for Me and thee (Matthew 17:25-27);

here also by "giving tribute," or "tax," are meant those who serve, and therefore it is said that "strangers should give and sons should be free," for strangers were servants (n. 1097). That Peter should take up a fish out of the sea and should find in its month a piece of money which he was to give, represented that the lowest natural, which serves, should do this; for "fishes" signify this natural.

GENESIS 49:14-15    previous  -  next  -  text  -  summary  -  Genesis  -  Full Page

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