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Numbers Chapter 12
Summary of the Spiritual Sense
On the opposition of perverted good and perverted truth to Divine Truth in
a state of temptation, vers. 1-5.
There is revelation in consequence, showing the distinction between the
manifestation of truth to the internal and the external, or to the celestial and
spiritual man, and also that the external man is averted from the Lord and
ceases to recognize the truth, vers. 6-9.
And then, when truth is revealed without appearances, there is
profanation, which, seen and acknowledged, induces a state of repentance, vers.
Consequently, there is, internally, a desire for restoration from a state
of profanation; and revelation is made that this can only be removed by
regeneration successively, vers. 13-16.
The Contents of each Verse
And Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Cushite woman whom
he had married: for he had married a Cushite woman.
But now a state of interior temptation follows; for good and truth
perverted are opposed to Divine Truth, because the latter is conjoined with
interior good; and this conjunction is according to order.
And they said, Has the lord indeed spoken only with Moses? has
he not spoken also with us? And the lord heard it.
But interior truth and good perverted, or those who pervert them, imagine
that they can discern the truth from themselves; and this is known to the Lord.
Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the
face of the earth.
Yet Divine Truth from the Lord immediately, especially induces a state of
humility; for this is in proportion to the love and practice of good and truth
in various degrees.
And the lord spoke suddenly to Moses, and to Aaron, and to
Miriam, Come out you three to the tent of meeting. And they three came out.
And Divine Love acting immediately by Divine Truth particularly
scrutinizes opposing principles in the man of the church by separation from the
Natural, and by the operation of love and charity through the heavens. Nor can
this scrutiny be avoided.
And the lord came down in a pillar of cloud, and stood at the door
of the Tent, and called Aaron and Miriam: and they both came forth.
And also by adapting the revelation of itself to the state of man, when he
is in the beginning of regeneration only, influencing those who are in perverted
states, and exposing those states;
And he said, Hear now my words: if there be a prophet among you, I the
lord will make myself known to him in a vision, I will speak with him in a
Giving perception also, that the power to teach truths is from the Lord
alone, and that by Him also revelation is made either in clearness or in
My servant Moses is not so; he is faithful in all mine house:
But that those who have the Divine Law inscribed on their hearts, like the
celestial, or like the Lord in His Human on earth, on account of the conjunction
of truth with good perceive truth immediately.
With him will I speak mouth to mouth, even manifestly, and not in dark
speeches; and the form of the lord shall he behold: wherefore then were
you not afraid to speak against my servant, against Moses?
And thus they are most of all in truths and least in appearances,
discerning that Divine Truth is the expression of Divine Good; and consequently
the Spiritual, who cannot thus perceive truths immediately, should fear to claim
to themselves this power or to ascribe truth to themselves.
And the anger of the lord was kindled against them; and he
For by so doing they are averted from the Lord exceedingly? and His truth
ceases to be known at all to them.
And the cloud removed from over the Tent; and, behold, Miriam was
leprous, as white as snow: and Aaron looked upon Miriam, and, behold,
she was leprous.
And even when it is revealed to those in such a state without
appearances, then it is discovered that they profane it; and this is made
manifest to those who are in temptation.
And Aaron said to Moses, Oh my lord, lay not, I pray you, sin upon us,
for that we have done foolishly, and for that we have sinned.
And thence repentance follows; prayer for remission is made; and
confession that to claim the power of discerning truths from and for the sake of
self is not only foolish but wicked.
Let her not, I pray, be as one dead, of whom the flesh is half consumed
when he comes out of his mother's womb.
Also a strong desire is felt to avoid spiritual death, and especially
such spiritual death as deprives the spiritual man of good through the entire
corruption of truth by profaning it, and thus preventing regeneration.
And Moses cried to the lord, saying, Heal her, O God, I beseech
Whence it follows, that the man of the church inmostly desires the
restoration of good through the medium of genuine truth.
And the lord said to Moses, If her father had but spit in her
face, should she not be ashamed seven days? let her be shut up without the camp
seven days, and after that she shall be brought in again.
But perception is given from Divine Good, that even when interior good is
but vitiated slightly by falsity from selfish love, the consciousness of sin and
of the necessity of purification by regeneration are present; how much more then
is this the case when there is the profanation of good and truth! It must needs
be therefore, that while any vestige of profanation remains with man, he is
excluded from heaven, and that only when he is fully regenerated can he enter
And Miriam was shut up without the camp seven days: and the people journeyed not till Miriam was
brought in again.
Hence, then, the state of profanation is only removed by regeneration successively, and every such
state, so long as it lasts, retards spiritual progress.
And afterward the people journeyed from Hazeroth, and pitched in the
wilderness of Paran.
But when the state of temptation is past, then there is progress from a
state of comparative obscurity to a state of spiritual light from the Divine
Human by the conjunction of truth with good producing alike charity internally
and the beauty of truth externally.
References and Notes
By Miriam and Aaron speaking against Moses, is denoted a state of interior
temptation, because Miriam, whose name means exalted, the mistress of
the sea, or the bitterness of the sea, here signifies the good of
faith perverted, and Aaron signifies the truth of faith
perverted, 8337, 8271, 1936, 28, 8349; and by "because of the Cushite woman whom he had married: for
he had married a Cushite woman," is denoted because the latter is conjoined with
interior good, and that this conjunction is according to order. For Moses
denotes Divine Truth, 7010; marriage denotes the conjunction of truth with good,
or of good with truth according to the subject, 48232; a Cushite, or
Ethiopian woman, denotes "those who are in possession of celestial things, which
are love, charity, and the works of charity," in this case charity, because this
is the interior good of the Spiritual Church, 3492; and Moses having married the
Cushite, or Ethiopian, woman, is said to be according to order, because the Lord
regenerates man by means of Divine Truth conjoined with Divine Good flowing into
the heavens, or into the mind of man which is to become a heaven, 9408, 8309;
and because Divine Truth is the very order of the Lord's universal kingdom, and
Divine Good is the very essential of that order, 1728. In the celestial heaven,
therefore, the Cushite woman is celestial good as received by the angels
there, and in the spiritual heaven it is spiritual good, or charity as received
by the angels there, while with the man of the church it is love or charity, by
which the Lord as Divine Truth, or the Divine Human, is conjoined with him and
he is reciprocally conjoined with the Lord.
[Back to 1]
By Miriam and Aaron saying, is denoted the thought or imagination of perverted good and truth, 2506; by "Has the Lord spoken only with Moses?" and "Has He not spoken also with us?" is denoted the apparent discernment of Divine Truth from the Lord, while yet it was from themselves as the affection in the words, and the
context clearly show, 2001, 2951, 7010; and by the Lord hearing it, is denoted
that this is known and provided against by the Lord, by permitting man to suffer
the consequences of his vain imaginations, as the context, in the internal
sense, also shows, 3869.
[Back to 2]
The man Moses being very meek above all the men that were upon the face of
the earth, denotes that Divine Truth immediately from the Lord, especially
induces a state of humility, in proportion to the love and practice of good and
truth in various degrees; for by the man Moses is particularly denoted Divine
Truth as distinguished from all human affections in man; or the Divine Human as
distinguished from all finite men, 914410, by his being very meek, is
denoted a state of humility exceedingly, 1937, 10646; and by "above all the men
that were upon the face of the earth," or more strictly, the ground, is denoted
the greatest degree of humility as is evident, 6866, 10570. Note that the
Hebrew word for man, as applied to Moses, is ish, because he
represents Divine Truth; and as applied the second time is adam, this
term having reference to affection or good, 49, 7120, 158, 160.
[Back to 3]
The Lord speaking suddenly to Moses, denotes Divine Love acting
immediately by Divine Truth, 2001, 2951, 7010, 2406; Moses denotes Divine Truth
by which there is scrutiny, 7010; Aaron and Miriam denote the opposing
principles in the church, or in the human mind, ver. 1; their coming out,
denotes separation from the Natural, implying that man in temptation must be
elevated and separated from his evil in order that he may be enlightened, and
see its true nature, 1853; and to the tent of meeting, denotes operation through
the heavens, 35403; while by their actually coming out is denoted
that this scrutiny cannot be avoided, because it was the effect of the Divine
[Back to 4]
The Lord coming down in a pillar of cloud, denotes adaptation to the state
of man, 8106; standing at the door of the tent of meeting, denotes the Lord's
presence with those in the beginning of regeneration, 3136, 2356, 35403;
calling Aaron and Miriam, denotes influencing those in perverted
states, 6047, ver. 1; and their coming forth, denotes the exposure of those states, 5934.
[Back to 5]
The Lord saying, "Hear now my words," denotes perception that the power to
teach truths is from the Lord alone, 1822, 3869, 1288; a prophet denotes one who
teaches, 2534; and the Lord making Himself known in a vision to him, and
speaking to him in a dream, denotes that by the Lord all revelation is made
either in clearness or in obscurity, 2001, 683, 1970, 6000.
[Back to 6]
By the Lord's servant Moses, are denoted those who perceive truth
immediately, having the Divine Law inscribed on their hearts, like the
celestial, or like the Lord in His Human on earth, 5161, 3019; and his being
faithful in all the Lord's house, denotes the conjunction of
truth with good, 34, 2233.
[Back to 7]
The Lord speaking with Moses mouth to mouth; manifestly and not in dark
speeches, denotes that thus they are most of all in truths, and least of all in
appearances, 2001, 2951, 6987, 1860, 589; beholding the form of the Lord,
denotes that Divine Truth is the expression of Divine Good; 3094, 4985; and
being afraid to speak against the Lord's servant, against Moses, denotes that the spiritual, who
cannot thus perceive truths immediately, should fear to claim to themselves this
power, or to ascribe truth to themselves, because, in this case, Miriam and
Aaron in respect to Moses, denote the Spiritual in respect to the Celestial, and
their speaking against the Lord's servant, signifies not acknowledging Divine
Truth immediately proceeding from and conjoined with Divine Good, 5161, 3019,
but on the contrary being disposed, in their state of temptation, to ascribe it
to themselves, ver. 1.
[Back to 8]
The anger of the Lord being kindled against Miriam and Aaron, and His
departing, denotes that, by so doing, the Spiritual are averted from the Lord
exceedingly; and that His truth ceases to be known at all to them, 5798, 5827.
[Back to 9]
By the cloud removing from over the Tent, is denoted the revelation of
the truth without appearances, 8106; by Miriam being leprous as white as snow,
is denoted the profanation of truth, 6963, 8459, 4007; and by Aaron looking upon
Miriam, is denoted that this is made manifest to those who are in temptation,
that is, they are shown that by claiming the truth for themselves they profane
[Back to 10]
Aaron saying to Moses, denotes perception from Divine Truth, 1822; "Oh,
my lord," denotes the acknowledgement that Divine Truth revealed from the Lord
involves good, 3049; "lay not, I pray you, sin upon us," denotes prayer for
remission, 2535; and "for that we have done foolishly and for that we have
sinned," denotes confession that to claim the power of discerning truths from
and for the sake of self, is not only foolish but wicked, vers. 1, 2, 7589, 683.
[Back to 11]
" Let her not, I pray you, be as one dead, of whom the flesh is half
consumed when he comes out of his mother's womb," denotes a strong desire to
avoid spiritual death, 81, 2908, and especially such spiritual death as deprives
the spiritual man of good through the entire corruption of truth through
profaning it and thus preventing regeneration, 780, 9488, 10431, 6963, 4904.
[Back to 12]
Moses crying to the Lord, and saying, "Heal her, O God, I beseech
You," denotes that the man of the church inmostly desires the restoration of
good through the medium of genuine truth, 7010, 2535, 8337. 6502.
[Back to 13]
The Lord saying to Moses, denotes perception given from
Divine Good, 2001, 1822, 7010;
"If her father had but spit in her lace should she not be
ashamed seven days? " denotes that even when interior good is but vitiated
slightly by falsity from selfish love, the consciousness of sin, and of the
necessity for purification by regeneration are
present, 370320, 66696, 48354, Lev 15:8, 358, 213, 2044;
and "let her be shut out of
the camp seven days and after that let her be brought in again," denotes "how
much more is this the case when there is the profanation of good and truth!"
And that it must needs be that while any vestige of profanation remains with
man, he is excluded from heaven, and that only when he is fully regenerated can
he enter therein, 6963, 4236, 2044.
[Back to 14]
Miriam being shut up without the camp seven days, denotes that the state
of profanation is only removed by regeneration successively, vers. 1, 2, 6963, 2044, 4236; and the people not journeying until she was
brought in again, denotes that every such state, so long as it lasts, retards
spiritual progress, 1259, 3654, 1457.
[Back to 15]
The people afterwards journeying from Hazeroth, and pitching in the
wilderness of Paran, denotes that when the state of temptation is past, then
there is progress from a state of comparative obscurity to a state of spiritual
light from the Divine Human by the conjunction of truth with good producing
alike charity internally and the beauty of truth
externally, 1457, 3271, 7407, 1616, 2708, 2714, chap 10:12.
[Back to 16]
In beginning to review this short but interesting chapter, we may reflect for
a moment that the temptations of the spiritual man take place in a series and
successively, as all that goes before and follows in the book of Numbers clearly
indicates. And the same truth is, evident also from the account of the Lord's
temptations as described in the gospels. For as in regeneration we must have
first the blade, then the ear, and after that the full corn in the ear, so the
temptations endured must be first external, then interior, and lastly internal,
since according to his consciousness, man is first in natural truths, then in
spiritual truths, and lastly in celestial truths; and besides this, his evils
are successively manifested to him according to the degree of truth in which he
is. Now this appears in the series before us, since the three states of conflict
represented respectively, by the Israelites lusting for flesh, by the trouble of
Moses in consequence, and now by a still greater trial, clearly denote
temptations more and more interior. And hence we see that what is spiritually
described in our first section is an interior temptation.
But let us consider the case as history, in the first place, and even in this
respect we have important instruction. For it is a predominant thought, with
many, that in the sight of the Lord, all men are upon equality; that He is quite
impartial; and that He does not withhold His benefits from any, whether they be
rich or poor, or of low birth or noble birth, as far as their worldly position
is concerned. And this, of course, is true. But there is another way of
regarding this matter. While the Lord is impartial, and desires equally the
salvation of all, yet all are not alike, and, in fact, no two human beings are
alike; and consequently all cannot receive from the Lord the same benefits
equally, but each according to his state and capacity. And hence it really
happens, that not every one, or any one, can be a prophet or receive revelation
as a particular instructor of mankind; and that the Lord appoints persons for
this purpose, who are best adapted for the precise kind of revelation to be
made. For He knows the capacities of all men, and leads each into his proper
function. Now we see from these thoughts that, even literally, Miriam and Aaron
reasoned falsely; for they were not capable of performing the duties, for which
Moses was particularly fitted.
But in this case, what is naturally true is so because it is spiritually
true. For although all regenerated persons are equally images and likenesses of
the Lord, no two are adapted for the same heavenly use. Recurring now, however,
to the temptation here described, by Miriam and Aaron speaking against Moses,
and observing that Miriam denotes the good of faith perverted, and Aaron the
truth of faith perverted, while Moses denotes Divine Truth immediately
proceeding from the Lord, we may easily see that this concerns that state of the
man of the church in which he is disposed to claim to himself the power to rule in spiritual things from selfish love. And how much
mischief this evil has caused in the churches of former times, and also in the
corrupted Christian Church, may be known from the history of those churches. But
it is said that Miriam and Aaron acted as they did, because Moses had married a
Cushite, or Ethiopian woman, who signifies the celestial things of love,
charity, and good works therefrom. And is it not evident, that persons of the
character here described, who act from selfish love, greatly despise the very
things that constitute the true church? Hence, therefore, we see how truly the
internal sense of the Word describes human life and experience. But another
thing that is peculiar to those who aspire after dominion in spiritual things
is, that they do not openly deny the Lord and the Word, as we read that neither
did Miriam and Aaron. On the contrary, they claim to themselves the authority of
the Lord and the Word. And then how finely does the next verse set before us the
character of the true prophet, and of the Lord Himself in His Human. For He only
could wisely and lovingly say, "Learn of Me for I am meek, and lowly of heart,
and you shall find rest to your souls" (Matt 11:29). And, moreover, we see
here how truly Moses was a representative of the Lord. But now we are told, the
Lord spoke suddenly to Moses, and we pause to think of this. The Lord does
nothing suddenly, or in a hurry, and although He says in one place, "Behold, I
come quickly" (Rev 22:7, 12), yet seventeen hundred and fifty-seven years
elapsed between His first and second advent (LJ 45). Suddenly, or
immediately, or quickly, therefore, in the internal sense, signifies
certainly, and expresses the Lord's ardent love for the salvation of men,
and also His continual operation for that purpose. Judgement is always taking
place; and whenever men do wrong their sin is surely found out. Miriam and Aaron
could not escape the scrutiny of Divine Truth, nor can any man ever do so. And
also, as far as good men are concerned, who are in temptation, it is necessary
that their evil tendencies should be revealed to them. Hence, therefore, we see
the spiritual meaning of vers. 4-5, both as regards general and particular
judgements; and it is also evident that the Lord coming down in a pillar of
cloud, is significative of His second coming, as the reference shows.
And again, the next section enables us still further to see the analogy
between this particular case of exploration, or scrutiny, and what takes place
at the Lord's appearance for the establishment of a new church. For this does
not mean His personal coming in the clouds of the earthly sky, but the
revelation of Divine Truth (HH 1), and particularly of the central doctrine of
the church, or of the Divine Human, here represented by Moses, with whom the
Lord spoke manifestly and not in dark speeches. For now it is known from the
Word, that the Human Nature of the Lord is one with the Divine, and is the full
manifestation of the Divine, so that, in Jesus, God is man, and man is God in
one Divine Person. It is true, indeed, that the Lord actually did speak to
Moses, as here described, by means of an angel, who, for the time being was
filled with the Divine Life, his own individuality being quiescent, and that
thus he spoke as the Lord; and the reason is, because Moses represented, on such
occasions, in the highest sense, the Divine Human, and in the lower senses, the
celestial or spiritual man, as the case might be; and certainly, it was not
because Moses himself was superior to all other men; and it is of great
consequence that we should remember this. And also, we must remember that the
Lord thus by His second coming, has, through the Word, exposed the great evil
and error of those who, in the Christian Church, presume to claim the power of opening and shutting heaven. These considerations, therefore,
will clearly show us the deep significance of what is involved in the supreme
sense in this section, and at the same time illustrate the internal sense as
regards the man of the Spiritual Church. And now, consequently, the last verse
of the section shows that all who would ascribe the truth to themselves, and
assume powers, which belong only to the Lord, thereby separate themselves from
Him. For in very truth, He does not depart from man, but it is the wicked who,
of their own free will, separate themselves from Him, because they cannot bear
the intensity of the Divine Love, or the surpassing splendour of the Divine
Truth. And for this reason it is that His love appears to them as anger kindled
against them; and that, in the Word, anger is frequently ascribed to Him, that
the natural man, in his early states of life, may be induced, even through fear,
to desist from his evils.
Having thus seen the consequences of the revelation signified by the Lord
coming down in a pillar of cloud as far as the wicked are concerned, we turn to
consider its effects with regard to the regenerating man. And here two things
attract our attention, that is, the lifting up of the cloud, and the leprosy of
Miriam. With regard to the former, it might at first sight appear to denote the
withdrawal of Divine aid, because it happened in consequence of the Lord's
departure. And, in fact, as far as the wicked are concerned, it does represent
the removal of truths from them because they themselves reject the Word, even as
to its literal sense signified by the cloud. But with regard to the good, the
raising of the cloud, as we have before seen, denotes progress, and thus, as it
is said, the removal of appearances, and the manifestation of interior Divine
truths in the spiritual sense of the Word. For the revelation of these
particularly distinguishes the coming of the Lord, not only in the general
sense, by means of a Revelator appointed for the purpose, but also in a
particular sense by perception given to the ministers and members of the church
individually. And, secondly, do we not all know very well, that it is the
function, so to speak, of the Word, to reveal to man his real character
when he is disposed to attribute the truth to himself, or in other words to
profane the truth, which profanation is denoted by leprosy. And so then, it
happened that, when the cloud was raised Miriam was leprous. But a very natural
question comes in here. Why was it Miriam who was leprous, and why not Aaron as
well? For surely he sinned as Miriam did! The answer appears to be twofold.
Miriam and Aaron respectively, denote the good of faith and the truth of faith,
and thus the will and the understanding of the regenerating man. But it is the
will that constitutes the person primarily, and only the understanding so far as
it agrees with the will, and therefore it was Miriam who was leprous; and
besides this, truth considered distinctly, although it is said to be profaned
when it is applied to selfish purposes, is still the truth even if it is wrongly
used, and thus Aaron was not leprous. Also note, that the profanation of truth,
signified by leprosy, is its perverted use by an affection external to itself,
that is, by a selfish affection; and the new will of the spiritual man is an
internal affection implanted in the understanding; and hence we find that it is
Aaron who makes the double confession by saying, "we have done foolishly," which
is a fault of the understanding, and "we have sinned," which is an act of the
will. And thus we see how, in spiritual temptation, the corrupt will, and the
new will are both active, and that there is profanation when the natural will
prevails, or predominates, and repentance when the new will does so. And now consider the entreaty of Aaron. For the spiritual man may here truly fear
spiritual death, that kind of spiritual death, namely, which is caused by
profanation. But read all the passages referred to in connection with ver. 12,
and also remember that spiritual death, which is caused by profanation, is
attended by much suffering to the subject of it, because the vastation of such
persons is more difficult; and it is necessary that every one who thus confirms
himself in evil, should finally reject truths altogether, not only that he may
have less suffering, but that he may be prevented from doing injury to the good
by continuing in the intermediate state. But now we must consider the last
And the predominant general thought that arises out of the spiritual sense
here is, that he who is regenerated, cannot enter heaven so long as the least
remains of falsity from evil are active with him; while the great lesson we have
to learn is, that we must be most particular in our daily lives, not to allow
merely natural motives to contaminate our love of the truth. To this we are
stimulated particularly by the study of ver. 14. But another thing here taught
is also of great practical importance. Regeneration is retarded by indulgence in
evil; and also the whole church is checked in its progress by the persistence of
certain forms of evil and error, which is described by the people not journeying
so long as Miriam remained out of the camp, because without the good of faith
there can be no advance. And the advance here, is from the comparatively obscure
state denoted by Hazeroth into the comparatively clear one represented by the
wilderness of Paran, as the correspondence of each name shows. But we shall
discover as we proceed, that the general progress of man in regeneration,
involves many fluctuations between good and evil, so that sometimes he may
appear not only to make no progress, but even to glide back into former states
of discontent and evil and error, as indeed we saw in the last chapter.
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