Spiritual Meaning of

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 Merchant, Trading, Buying

A merchant in the Word signifies those who have the knowledges of good and truth; and their merchandise signifies the knowledges themselves; hence silver current with the merchant signifies truth, as much as can be received; or what is the same, adapted to the state and capacity of each one. That these added words involve some arcanum, anyone may see.

[2] Concerning the signification of merchant and of merchandise, something will be said presently; but as regards the thing itself the case is this. All who are being reformed and regenerated are gifted with charity and faith by the Lord, but each according to his capacity and his state; for there are evils and falsities with which man has imbued himself from infancy, which stand in the way of one person's receiving a like gift with another; these evils and falsities must be vastated before the man can be regenerated; and in so far as there is a residue of heavenly and spiritual life after vastation, this can be enlightened with truth and enriched with good. It is the remains, which are goods and truths from the Lord stored up with man, that then receive life. These goods and truths are acquired from infancy even to the time of reformation, with one person more, with another fewer. These are reserved in his internal man; nor can they be brought forward until his external man has been reduced to correspondence, which is effected chiefly by temptations, and by many kinds of vastation; for until corporeal things, which are contrary to them, become quiescent (such as the things of the love of self and of the world), celestial and spiritual things, which are of the affection of good and truth, cannot flow in; this is the reason why every one is reformed according to his state and capacity. This also the Lord teaches in the parable concerning the man who went abroad:--

Who called his own servants and delivered unto them his goods; and unto one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one to each according to his several ability. He that received the five talents traded with them, and made other five talents in like manner he also that received the two, he also gained other two (Matt. 25:14-17).

So too concerning the ten servants, to whom were given ten pounds, that they might trade with them (Luke 19:12, 13).

[3] That a merchant signifies those who have the knowledges of good and truth; and that merchandise signifies the knowledges themselves, is evident from the passages that have just been quoted from Matthew and Luke, and also from those which now follow. In Ezekiel:--Say unto Tyre, O thou that dwellest at the entrances of the sea, that art the trader of the peoples unto many isles, Tarshish was thy merchant by reason of the multitude of all kinds of riches in silver, iron, tin, and lead, they furnished thy fairs. Javan, Tubal, and Meshech, these were thy traders; in the soul of man and vessels of brass they furnished thy commerce. The sons of Dedan were thy traders; many isles were the mart of thy hand. Syria was thy merchant in the multitude of thy handiworks. Judah and the land of Israel, they were thy traders; in wheat, minnith and pannag, and honey, and oil, and balm, they furnished thy commerce. Damascus was thy merchant in the multitude of thy handiworks, by reason of the multitude of all kinds of riches, in the wine of Helbon and wool of Zahar. Dan also and Javan furnished yarn in thy fairs. Dedan was thy trader in flowing garments for riding. The Arabian and all the princes of Kedar, they were the merchants of thy hand, in lambs, in rams, and goats, in these were they thy merchants. The traders of Sheba and Raamah, they were thy traders in the chief of all spices. Haran and Canneh, and Eden, the traders of Sheba; Asshur, Chilmad, were thy traders. These were thy traders in perfect things (Ezek. 27:3, 12, 13, 15-24). These things are said concerning Tyre; and by Tyre are signified the knowledges of good and truth (AC 1201), as is plain from the several particulars. The traffickings, and merchandise, and the wares that are here mentioned, are nothing else than these knowledges; and for this reason Tyre is called the dweller at the entrances of the sea. Waters are knowledges; and the sea is a collection of these, (AC 28); and is also called the trader of the peoples unto many isles, that is, even to those who are more remotely in worship. Islands are the more remote kinds of worship, (AC 1158); also what is signified by Tarshish, (AC 1156). The silver, iron, tin, and lead, which are from thence, are truths in their order, even to the last which are sensuous. What silver signifies, see (AC 1551, 2048); also what iron signifies, (AC 425, 426); also what Javan, Tubal, and Meshech, (AC 1151-1153, 1155). The soul of man, and the vessels of brass, therefrom, are the things which are of natural life (that soul signifies all life that is from the Lord, see (AC 1000, 1040, 1436, 1742); also that vessels of brass are the natural goods which receive that life, (AC 425, 1551). (What Dedan signifies has been stated, see (AC 1172); and what Syria, (AC 1232, 1234). That Judah and the land of Israel are traders in wheat, minnith and pannag, honey, oil, balm, signifies celestial and spiritual things from the Word. The other nations and their merchandise which are mentioned, are the various genera and species of truth and good, thus the knowledges which are with those who are signified by Tyre. That they are knowledges from which come wisdom and intelligence, is plainly evident in the same Prophet, where it is thus said:--

Son of man, say unto the prince of Tyre, By thy wisdom, and by thine intelligence thou hast gotten thee riches, and hast gotten gold and silver into thy treasures; by the multitude of thy wisdom, by thy trading, thou hast multiplied thy riches, and thy heart is lifted up because of thy riches; therefore behold I will bring strangers upon thee, the terrible of the nations (Ezek. 28:2, 4-7);

where it is manifestly evident that the wares with which they traded are the knowledges of good and truth; for from these, and from no other source, come wisdom and intelligence; and it is therefore said, by thy wisdom and by thine intelligence thou hast gotten thee riches, and thou hast gotten gold and silver into thy treasures. But when knowledges are for the sake of self, for gaining eminence and reputation, or wealth, then they have no life, and those who acquire them are altogether deprived of them; they are deprived of them in the life of the body by embracing falsities for truths and evils for goods; and in the other life they are wholly deprived even of those which are true; and from this it is said, because thy heart is lifted up because of thy riches, therefore behold I will bring strangers upon thee (that is, falsities) and the terrible of the nations (that is, evils).


[5] Also in another place in the same Prophet:--

Tyre is like one that is cut off from the midst of the sea; when thy traffickings went forth out of the seas, thou didst satiate many peoples; thou didst enrich the kings of the earth with the multitude of thy riches and of thy merchandise. Now thou art broken by the seas, in the depths of the waters; thy commerce and all thy company are fallen in the midst of thee he merchants among the peoples hiss at thee (Ezek. 27:32-34, 36).

Also in Isaiah:--

The prophecy concerning Tyre. Let the inhabitants of the isle be silent; the merchants of Zidon that pass over the sea have replenished thee and in (great) waters (the seed) of Shihor, the harvest of the river, was her revenue, and thou wast the mart of the nations. Who hath purposed this against Tyre that crowneth herself, whose merchants are princes? (Isaiah 23:2, 3, 8);

where the vastation of Tyre is treated of.

[6] Of Babylon in like manner are predicated trading and merchandise, which are the knowledges of good adulterated, and the knowledges of truth falsified. As in the Revelation:--

Babylon hath made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her whoredom, and the kings of the earth have committed whoredom with her, and the merchants of the earth were made rich by the abundance of her delicacies. The merchants of the earth shall weep and mourn over her, for no man buyeth their merchandise any more the merchandise of gold, and silver, and precious stones, and pearl, and fine linen, and crimson, and silk, and scarlet. The merchants of these things who were made rich by her shall stand afar off for the fear of her torment, weeping and mourning (Apoc. 18:3, 11, 15).

That Babylon is worship the externals of which appear holy while the interiors are profane, may be seen above (AC 1182, 1283, 1295, 1304, 1306, 1326) and from this it is plain what its tradings and merchandise are.

[7] That a merchant is one who procures for himself knowledges of truth and good, and thence intelligence and wisdom, is evident from the Lord's words in Matthew:--

The kingdom of the heavens is like unto a merchant man seeking goodly pearls; who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it (Matthew 13:45, 46)

the goodly pearl is charity, or the good of faith.

[8] That all the knowledges of good and truth are from the Lord, is taught in Isaiah:--

Thus said Jehovah, The labor of Egypt, and the merchandise of Cush and of the Sabeans, men of stature, shall pass over upon thee, and they shall be thine; they shall go after thee, in chains they shall pass over, and they shall bow themselves down to thee, they shall pray unto thee. Surely God is in thee, and there is no God else (Isaiah 45:14);

treating of the Divine Human of the Lord.

[9] From all this it may now be seen what is meant by trading, that is, buying and selling; namely, that it is procuring for one's self the knowledges of good and truth, and by means of them good itself. That this is from the Lord alone is taught in the same Prophet:--

Ho every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no silver; come ye, buy and eat yea come, buy wine and milk without silver and without price (Isaiah 55:1, 2);

where buying denotes procuring for one's self; wine denotes spiritual truth (AC 1071, 1798); milk, spiritual good (AC 2184). Any one may see that coming to the waters here is not coming to the waters, that buying is not buying, that silver is not silver, and that wine and milk are not wine and milk, but are that which is said to correspond to them in the internal sense; for the Word is Divine, and to its several expressions which are from the natural world and man's sensuous things correspond Divine spiritual and celestial things. In this way and in no other is the Word Divinely inspired.

from AC 2967

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