Spiritual Meaning of
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The signification of an ass is explained in what now follows. There are in man things of the will and things of the understanding; to the former class belong the things of good, to the latter those of truth. There are various kinds of beasts by which the things of the will, or those of good, are signified; such as lambs, sheep, kids, goats, bullocks, oxen (AC 1823, 2179, 2180); and there are likewise beasts by which intellectual things, or those of truth, are signified, namely, horses, mules, wild-asses, camels, asses, and also birds. That the intellectual faculty is signified by the horse, has been shown above (AC 2761, 2762). That by the wild-ass truth separate from good is signified, see above (AC 1949). That by the camel there is signified memory-knowledge in general, and by the ass memory-knowledge in particular, may be seen above (AC 1486).
 There are two things which constitute the natural with man, or what is the same, which constitute the natural man, namely, natural good and natural truth. Natural good is the delight flowing forth from charity and faith; natural truth is the memory knowledge of them. That natural truth is what is signified by the ass, and rational truth by the mule, may be seen from the following passages. In Isaiah:--
The prophecy of the beasts of the south. In a land of straightness and distress; the lion and the old lion, and from them the viper and the flying fire-serpent; they carry their riches upon the shoulder of young asses, and their treasures upon the hump of camels, to a people that shall not profit; and the Egyptians shall help in vain and to no purpose (Isaiah 30:6, 7);
those are called the beasts of the south who are in the knowledges of good and truth, but who make them not of the life but of memory; of whom it is said that they shall bring their riches upon the shoulder of young asses, and their treasures upon the hump of camels, for the reason that young asses signify memory-knowledges in particular, and camels memory-knowledges in general: that the Egyptians are memory-knowledges, may be seen above (AC 1164, 1165, 1186); of whom it is said that they shall help in vain and to no purpose. That this prophecy has an internal sense, without which it is understood by nobody, is plain to every one; for without the internal sense it cannot be known what the prophecy of the beasts of the south is, the lion and the old lion, the viper and the flying fire-serpent; and what is meant by these beasts bringing their riches upon the shoulder of young asses, and their treasures upon the hump of camels, and why it immediately follows that the Egyptians shall help in vain and to no purpose. The like is meant by the ass" in the prophecy of Israel respecting Issachar, in Moses:--
Issachar is a bony ass, lying down between the burdens (Gen. 49:14).
 In Zechariah:--
This shall be the plague wherewith Jehovah will smite all the peoples that shall fight against Jerusalem there shall be the plague of the horse, of the mule, of the camel, and of the ass, and of every beast (Zechariah 14:12, 15);
that by the horse, mule, camel, and ass, are signified things of the understanding in man, which will be affected by the plague, is evident from all that precedes and follows there; for the plagues which precede the last judgment or consummation of the age are treated of, a subject also much treated of by John in the Apocalypse, and by the rest of the prophets in many places. By these animals are meant those who will then fight against Jerusalem, that is, against the Lord's spiritual church and its truths, and who will be affected by such plagues as to the things of their understanding.
 In Isaiah:--
Blessed are ye that sow beside all waters, that send forth the foot of the ox and the ass (Isaiah 32:20);
they that sow beside all waters denote those who suffer themselves to be instructed in spiritual things. That waters are spiritual things, thus intellectual things of truth, see (AC 680, 739, 2702). They that send forth the foot of the ox and the ass denote natural things which are to do service. The ox is the natural as to good (AC 2180, 2566). The ass is the natural as to truth.
 In Moses:--
Binding his young ass unto the vine, and his ass's colt unto the choice vine he hath washed his garments in wine, and his vesture in the blood of grapes (Gen. 49:11);
this is the prophecy of Jacob, at that time Israel, concerning the Lord; the vine and the choice vine denote the spiritual church external and internal (AC 1069); the young ass denotes natural truth; the ass's colt rational truth. The reason an ass's colt denotes rational truth is that a she ass signifies the affection of natural truth (AC 1486), the son of which is rational truth, as may be seen above (AC 1895, 1896, 1902, 1910).
 In old times a judge rode upon a she-ass, and his sons upon young asses; for the reason that the judges represented the goods of the church, and their sons the truths thence derived. But a king rode upon a she-mule, and his sons upon mules, by reason that kings and their sons represented the truths of the church (AC 1672, 1728, 2015, 2069). That a judge rode upon a she-ass, is evident in the book of Judges:--
My heart is toward the lawgivers of Israel, that offered themselves willingly among the people bless ye Jehovah, ye that ride upon white she-asses, ye that sit upon carpets (Judges 5:9, 10).
That the sons of the judges rode upon young asses:--
Jair the judge over Israel had thirty sons, that rode on thirty young asses (Judges 10:3, 4).
Abdon the judge of Israel had forty sons, and thirty sons' sons, that rode on seventy young asses (Judges 12:14).
That a king rode upon a she-mule:--
David said unto them, Take with you the servants of your lord, and cause Solomon my son to ride upon the she-mule which is mine. And they caused Solomon to ride upon king David's she-mule, and Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet anointed him king in Gihon (1 Kings 1:33, 38, 44, 45).
That the sons of a king rode upon he-mules:--
All the sons of king David rose up, and rode each one upon his mule, and fled, because of Absalom (2 Sam. 13:29).
 Hence it is manifest that to ride on a she-ass was the badge of a judge, and to ride on a she-mule, the badge of a king; and that to ride on a young ass was the badge of a judge's sons, and to ride on a mule was the badge of a king's sons; for the reason as already said that a she-ass represented and signified the affection of natural good and truth, a she-mule the affection of rational truth, an ass or a young ass natural truth itself, and a mule and also the son of a she-ass rational truth. Hence it is plain what is meant by the prophecy concerning the Lord in Zechariah:--
Rejoice, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem; behold, thy King cometh unto thee. He is just and having salvation, lowly and riding upon an ass, and upon a young ass the son of she-asses. His dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the river to the ends of the earth (Zechariah 9:9, 10).
That the Lord, when He came to Jerusalem, willed to ride upon these animals, is known from the Evangelists, as in Matthew:--
Jesus sent two disciples, saying unto them, Go into the village that is over against you, and straightway ye shall find a she-ass tied, and a colt with her; loose them, and bring them unto Me. This was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, Tell ye the daughter of Zion, behold thy King cometh unto thee, meek, sitting upon a she-ass, and upon a colt the son of a beast of burden. And they brought the she-ass and the colt, and put their garments upon them, and set Him thereon (Matthew 21:1, 2, 4, 5, 7);
 to ride upon an ass was a sign that the natural was made subordinate; and to ride upon a colt the son of a she ass was a sign that the rational was made subordinate. The son of a she-ass signified the same as a mule, which has been explained at (Gen. 49:11). From this their signification, and because it belonged to the highest judge and to a king to ride upon them, and at the same time that the representatives of the church might be fulfilled, it pleased the Lord to do this: as is thus described in John:--On the next day a great multitude that had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, took branches of palm trees, and went forth to meet Him, and cried, Hosanna, Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel. And Jesus, having found a young ass, sat thereon as it is written, Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold thy King cometh sitting on the colt of a she-ass. These things understood not His disciples at the first; but when Jesus was glorified, then remembered they that these things were written of Him, and that they had done these things unto Him (John 12:12-16; Mark 11:1-12; Luke 19:28-41).
 From all this it is now evident that all and everything in the church of that period was representative of the Lord, and therefore of the celestial and spiritual things that are in His kingdom even to the she-ass and the colt of a she-ass, by which the natural man as to good and truth was represented. The reason of the representation was that the natural man ought to serve the rational, and this the spiritual, this the celestial, and this the Lord: such is the order of subordination.
 Since by an ox and an ass the natural man as to good and truth is signified, many laws were therefore given in which oxen and asses are mentioned, which laws at first sight do not appear to be worthy of mention in the Divine Word; but when unfolded as to their internal sense, the spiritual meaning in them appears to be of great moment--as the following in Moses:--
If a man shall open a pit, or if a man shall dig a pit, and not cover it, and an ox or an ass fall into it, the owner of the pit shall give money to the owner, and the dead shall be his (Exod. 21:33, 34).
If thou meet thine enemy's ox or his ass going astray, thou shalt surely bring it back to him again. If thou see the ass of him that hateth thee lying under his burden, and wouldest forbear to remove it, removing thou shalt remove it from him (Exod. 23:4, 5; Deut. 22:1, 3).
Thou shalt not see thy brother's ass or his ox falling down in the way, and hide thyself from them lifting thou shalt lift them up again (Deut. 22:4).
Thou shalt not plow with an ox and an ass together. Thou shalt not wear a mixed web of wool and linen together (Deut. 22:10, 11).
Six days thou shalt do thy works, and on the seventh day thou shalt best, that thine ox and thine ass may rest also, and the son of thy handmaid, and the sojourner (Exod. 23:12).
Here the ox and ass signify nothing else in the spiritual sense than natural good and truth.
from AC 2781
The signification of asses, is memory-knowledges (AC 5492). As regards the signification of asses, be it known that they signified one thing when they were used for riding, and another when they served for carrying burdens; for judges, kings, and their sons rode upon he-asses, she-asses, and also upon mules, and these then signified rational, and also natural, truth and good (AC 2781); for which reason when the Lord as Judge and King entered Jerusalem, He rode upon an ass with a colt; for this was the mark of judgeship, and also of royalty. But when asses served for carrying burdens, as here, then they signified memory-knowledges. for is the case different with these knowledges. One who in thinking of man's interior things advances no further than to the knowledges that are of the memory, supposes that everything of man consists in these knowledges, not being aware that memory-knowledges are the lowest things in man, and such as for the most part are put away when the body dies (AC 2475-2480); but the things that are in them, namely truth and good together with their affections, remain; and also with the evil there remain falsity and evil together with their affections; memory-knowledges being as it were the body of these. So long as a man lives in the world, he has truth and good, or falsity and evil, in the memory-knowledges, for these are what contain them; and because memory-knowledges contain, and therefore as it were carry, interior things, they are signified by the asses which serve for carrying burdens.
from AC 5741
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|Author: E. Swedenborg (1688-1772).||Design: I.J. Thompson, Feb 2002.||www.BibleMeanings.info|