After the publication of The Two Books of Kings Explained, in the early part of the year 1905, several very favorable notices of that work appeared in various periodicals; and this fact, combined with the expressed wishes of some ministers and friends, induced the writer to attempt and carry to a completion a similar work on the books of Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. And these were selected for the purpose, in order that the internal or spiritual sense of all the books of the Pentateuch might thus be before the public, and might show clearly the inner signification of all the laws of Moses.
With sincere thankfulness to the Lord, therefore, Who alone can enable any one to perceive, explain and apply daily to life the hidden treasures of His Holy Word; and, at the same time, with due acknowledgments to those friends who have so highly appreciated the former work, the present volumes are now placed before the Church.
But some introductory and explanatory remarks are necessary. The general plan of this work is as follows: the summary of the spiritual sense of each chapter is placed first, so that the reader may have a general idea of its contents to begin with, and may thence proceed to the study of the particulars in each verse as given in the connected series, which immediately follows, printed in a parallel column with the text of the Revised Version, permission for its use having been kindly granted by the authorities of Oxford and Cambridge, all editorial responsibility, however, resting with the author.
The advantage of this arrangement is obvious, as it affords a ready means of comparing, sentence by sentence, the internal sense of each verse with the text, and besides this, adequately shows how well the continuity of the spiritual sense is sustained. This is not a slight advantage, as it is not always easy, when the mind is intent upon the sense of a particular part, to see that connection with what goes before and with what follows. No doubt it is a spiritually profitable and delightful thing to be able to read a long portion of the Word itself and perceive the inner sense as we read, without much concerning ourselves with the literal sense, or appearing to notice it; but comparatively few have this faculty at present, and this is another reason why the aid here supplied is valuable.
In addition, those who learn by means of this regularly written series to apprehend the connection and continuity of the spiritual sense, may be aided in following the order of that sense while reading the text. Furthermore, as we become more and more familiar with the correspondences and especially as we come to understand the various spiritual principles that combine to make up the complex life of man, we will find ourselves enlightened concerning spiritual laws in relation to our own progress and regeneration. Now these remarks are made to show the value of a connected statement of the internal sense expressed in ordinary language, and also to indicate the way in which any work like this may be studied with advantage. Lastly, if, as we know, the summaries of the internal sense written by Swedenborg himself, and the interesting general outlines thereof written by the Rev. John Clowes, M.A. and others, have been found so valuable, much more must a complete exposition be of use, if it is carefully expressed, in humble reliance on the Divine aid.
But before quite leaving this subject of the continuous connected series, one or two possible objections and difficulties connected with it may be noticed. For it may be asked why such a plan was not adopted in the writing of the Arcana Coelestia? That a continuous series is there given is evident, but it was not connected so as to appear such. These reason for this is also evident. It was because the writer had not only to give and explain the internal sense of each verse and each sentence as he proceeded, but it was also necessary, in his case, to give abundant demonstrations from the Word as to the particular correspondences occurring. This he did by sometimes covering several pages with illustrations of the signification of one expression, thus providing the means for interpreting the Word generally as well as specifically, in Genesis and Exodus. In addition, his first great work is taken up with an account of things concerning the other life, and with expositions of doctrines and important spiritual principles! But the very fact that he gives general summaries shows that the full series is involved and can be worked out with proper care and expressed intelligently. It is evident that this might be done with any of the Prophets, or with portions of the Psalms, for the Lord has provided that there should be power given to do this. For it is written: "A time is about to come when there will be illustration" (AC. 44023).
Again, it must be remembered that the connected series as given in ordinary language in the following work, although it involves, does not express, the full internal sense. Only the correspondential expressions of the Word itself can do both. And hence the internal sense, say, of any particular verse or sentence must itself be regarded as a summary. For ordinary language is not adequate to the full expression of Divine, celestial and spiritual truths. But, on the other hand, care must be taken by no means to look upon the connected series as merely a commentary on the inner sense and not a definite statement of it; for this would be a great mistake. And in order to see this, take here an illustration from the Arcana Coelestia: "And Abram went as Jehovah had spoken unto him, signifies that the Lord, in His Human, made progression to things Divine." Now is this a commentary on the internal sense? It is neither a commentary nor an explanation of it. It is only a statement of what the internal sense is. And it is so in all other cases where the writer makes similar statements, and afterwards explains them and comments upon them. Exactly so it is, therefore, with every statement of the "contents of each verse," given in a regular manner throughout the chapter of this work. What is contained in the right-hand parallel columns all along is a continuous, or running statement of the internal sense in its series. And the illustration has been given in order that the reader may not confuse the explicit statements of what the spiritual sense of a verse is with any explanation of them or commentary upon them that is given afterwards.
The next division of this works consists of the references, with some notes combined. These are to the Arcana Coelestia, with a few exceptions, which occur in cases where the signification of certain terms has not been found there, or where a passage form some other book has been thought to be especially helpful. The order of the references also requires a word of explanation. Very often they are given separately at the end of the sentence, which states the internal sense as deduced from the correspondences, as in Leviticus 1:7-8. In other cases it has been found more convenient to give several references together and indeed those relating to one whole verse at the end of it. Then the order is, as a rule, according to the order of the terms in the verse; and examples of this are to be seen in Leviticus 23:12-13. Again, the reader will find that the references are not all given to demonstrate the correspondence of a term, or to show that Swedenborg himself has given us the explanation of certain passages, but often the place indicated illustrates some great spiritual principles involved in the verse under consideration.
Again, the reason why why the same reference is so repeatedly named is, not only because this is natural and easy, but because it shows that the general signification of a term is universally applicable. Also, that the reader who consults and wishes to develop any particular verse, may have all the particular correspondences before them.
And here it is proper to observe that, by means of the references, and thorugh them by means of the literal sense of the Word, which is written entirely in correspondences, the spiritual sense as contained in each verse and stated in the right-hand parallel column, is truly DOCTRINE FROM THE WORD, being legitimately deduced from those correspondences. It is not the private opinion of the writer, any more than is a statement of the established laws of the material universe, legitimately deduced from the facts of that universe by a man of science like Sir Isaac Newton, the private opinion of that man of science.
The purpose of the notes, combined with the references, is, for the most part, to explain some points relating to doctrine, or to illutrate the spiritua sense. Those following the references at the end of each chapter are intended to form a fourth division of the work, involving a review of the subjects that have been explained, in order to show the application of the internal sense to the uses of life and in connection with man's experience in regeneration.
I have been generously assisted in the reading of the proof-sheets by the Rev. Joseph Ashby of Southport and he has my hearty thanks for his very valuable help.