Spiritual Meaning of

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 Plow, Harvest

The signification of "plowing" is preparation by good for receiving truths; and the signification of "harvest" is truths from good--for harvest is the already ripe crop when it is being gathered, hence "harvest" is the truth which is from good. Before this truth comes into existence, truths indeed appear, but they are truths through which is good, and not truths from good. A man who acts from truth is in truths through which is good, but he who acts from good is in truths which are from good. That "plowing" is said to denote good, is because a "field" which is plowed signifies the church as to good (AC 2971), thus good which is of the church (AC 3310, 3317, 4982) Thus "plowing" is preparation by good for receiving truths; moreover the oxen which were used in plowing signify goods in the natural (AC 2180, 2566, 2781).

[2] As this was the signification of "plowing," it was forbidden in the representative church "to plow with an ox and an ass together" (Deut. 22:10), which never would have been forbidden except for some reason from within, thus from the spiritual world. For otherwise what harm could there be in their plowing together? and what the worthiness of such a law in the Word? The reason from within, or from the spiritual world, is that "plowing with an ox" signifies good in the natural, and "plowing with an ass" signifies truth therein. An "ass" denotes the truth of memory-knowledge, thus truth in the natural, (AC 5492, 5741). The interior or spiritual reason of this command was that the angels could not have a separate idea of good and truth, but they must be conjoined and make a one; and therefore they were not willing to view such plowing by an ox and an ass. The celestial angels are not even willing to think of truth separate from good, for all the truth with them is in good; thus also to them truth is good. For the same reason it was forbidden "to wear a mixed garment, of wool and linen together" (Deut. 22:11), for "wool" signifies good, and "linen" truth.

[3] That "to plow" and also "to harrow," "to sow" and "to reap," signify such things as belong to good and its truth, is manifest in Hosea:--

I will make Ephraim ride; Judah shall plow, Jacob shall harrow for him; sow for yourselves according to righteousness, reap according to piety; break up for you the fallow ground: and it is time to seek Jehovah, till He come and teach righteousness (Hosea 5:11, 12);

"to ride" is predicated of Ephraim because "to ride" is to enjoy understanding; and "Ephraim" is the intellectual of the church; but "to plow" is predicated of Judah because "Judah" is the good of the church.

[4] In Amos:--

Shall horses run on the rock? will one plow with oxen? that ye have turned judgment into gall, and the fruit of righteousness into wormwood (Amos 6:12);

"shall horses run on the rock?" denotes shall the truth of faith be understood? for "rock" in the spiritual sense is faith (AC 2760); and "horses" are those things which are of the understanding (AC 2761, 2762, 3217, 5321); "will one plow with oxen?" denotes shall he do good? "oxen" being good in the natural (AC 2180, 2566, 2781). That this could not be done is signified by the words which follow: "because ye have turned judgment into gall and the fruit of righteousness into wormwood."

[5] In Luke:--

Jesus said, No man putting his hand to the plough, but looking backward, is fit for the kingdom of God (Luke 9:62).

These words signify the same as those which the Lord speaks in Matthew:--

He that is upon the house, let him not go down to take anything out of his house; and he that is In the field, let him not return back to take his garments (Matthew 24:17, 18);

the sense of these words is: he who is in good shall not betake himself therefrom to the things that belong to the doctrinals of faith (AC 3652). Thus "he who puts his hand to the plough" is he who is in good; "but looking backward" is he who then looks to the doctrinal things of faith, and thus forsakes good. It was on this account that Elijah was displeased that Elisha, who was plowing in the field, when called, asked that he might first kiss his father and mother; for Elijah said, "Go, return; for what have I done to thee?" (1 Kings 19:19-21). In the opposite sense "plowing" signifies the evil which blots out good, thus vastation; as in Jeremiah:--

Zion shall be plowed as a field, and Jerusalem shall be heaps, and the mountain of the house as the lofty places of the forest (Jer. 26:18; Micah 3:12).

from AC 5895


That plowing signifies the implanting of truth in good, is because by field is signified the church in respect to good, thus also the good of the church; and by the seed which is sown is signified the truth of faith. That field denotes the church as to good, (AC 2971, 3196, 3310, 3317, 7502, 9139, 9141, 9295); and that seed denotes the truth of faith, (AC 1940, 3310, 3373, 3671, 6158).

from AC 10669

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