Spiritual Meaning of

Bible Meanings Back to Words index Back to Artifact words index
 Chariot, Horse

Chariots are very frequently mentioned in the Word, but hardly anyone knows that they signify doctrinal things of good and truth, and also the memory-knowledges belonging to doctrinal things. The reason is that when a chariot is mentioned nothing spiritual enters the idea, but only the natural historical, and it is the same with the horses in front of the chariot; and yet by horses in the Word are signified things of the understanding (AC 2760-2762, 3217), and therefore by a chariot are signified doctrinal things and the memory-knowledges belonging thereto.

[4] That chariots denote the doctrinal things of the church, and also memory-knowledges, has been evident to me from the chariots so often seen in the other life. There is also a place to the right near the lower earth where chariots and horses appear, with stalls set in order, and where are seen walking and conversing men who in the world have been learned, and have regarded the life as the end of learning. Such things appear to them from the angels in the higher heavens; for when these are discoursing about things of the understanding, of doctrine, and of knowledge, such objects appear to the spirits there.

[5] That such things are signified by chariots and horses is very obvious from the fact that Elijah appeared to be carried into heaven by a chariot of fire and horses of fire, and that he and also Elisha were called the chariot of Israel and the horsemen thereof, as we read in the second book of Kings:--

Behold a chariot of fire and horses of fire came between them; and Elijah went up in a whirlwind into heaven. And Elisha saw it, and he cried, My father, my father, the chariot of Israel and the horsemen thereof (2 Kings 2:11, 12);

and regarding Elisha in the same book:--

When Elisha was fallen sick of his sickness whereof he died, and Joash the king of Israel came down unto him, and wept before his faces, and said, My father, my father, the chariot of Israel and the horsemen thereof (2 Kings 13:14);

the reason why they were so called is that by both Elijah and Elisha was represented the Lord as to the Word (AC 2135a, 2762, 5247). The Word itself is chiefly the doctrine of good and truth, for from it is everything of doctrine. It was for the same reason that to the boy whose eyes Jehovah opened, the mountain appeared full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha (2 Kings 6:17).

[6] That a chariot signifies what is doctrinal, and a horse what is intellectual, is evident also from other passages in the Word, as in Ezekiel

Ye shall be sated upon My table with horse and chariot, with mighty man and every man of war. So will I set My glory among the nations (Ezek. 39:20; Rev. 19:18);

where the coming of the Lord is treated of. That by horse and chariot here are not signified horse and chariot, is plain to everyone; for they were not to be sated upon the Lord's table with these, but with such things as are signified by horse and chariot, which are the things of the understanding and of the doctrine of good and truth.

[7] Similar things are signified by horses and chariots, in the following passages. In David:--

The chariots of God are two myriads, thousands of peaceful ones; the Lord is in them; Sinai is in the sanctuary (Ps. 68:17).


Jehovah covereth Himself with light as with a garment, He stretcheth out the heavens like a curtain, He layeth the beams of His chambers in the waters, He maketh the clouds His chariots, He walketh upon the wings of the wind (Ps. 104:2, 3).

In Isaiah:--

The prophecy of the wilderness of the sea. Thus hath the Lord said unto me, Set a watchman to watch, he will declare; so he saw a chariot a pair of horsemen, a chariot of an ass, a chariot of a camel, and he hearkened a hearkening, a great hearkening; for a lion cried upon the watchtower, Lord, I stand continually in the daytime, and upon my ward I am set all the nights; then in very deed lo a chariot of a man, a pair of horsemen; and he said, Babylon is fallen, is fallen (Isa. 21:1, 6-9).

[8] In the same:--

Then will they bring all your brethren in all nations an offering to Jehovah, upon horses, and upon chariot, and upon litters, and upon mules, and upon couriers, to the mountain of My holiness, Jerusalem (Isa. 66:20).


Behold Jehovah will come in fire, and His chariots shall be like the whirlwind (Isa. 66:15).

In Habakkuk:--

was Jehovah enraged with the rivers? was Thine anger against the rivers? was Thy wrath against the sea, that Thou didst ride upon Thy horses? Thy chariots are salvation (Habakkuk 3:8).

In Zechariah:--

I lifted up mine eyes and saw, and behold four chariots coming out from between two mountains; and the mountains were mountains of brass. In the first chariot were red horses; in the second chariot, black horses; in the third chariot, white horses; and in the fourth chariot, grizzled horses (Zech. 6:1-3).

[9] Also in Jeremiah:--

There shall enter in by the gates of this city kings and princes sitting upon the throne of David, riding in the chariot and on horses, they and their princes, the man of Judah, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and this city shall be inhabited forever (Jer. 17:25; 22:4).

The city that shall be inhabited forever is not Jerusalem, but the Lord's church signified by Jerusalem (AC 402, 2117, 3654); the kings who shall enter in by the gates of that city are not kings, but the truths of the church (AC 1672, 1728, 2015, 2069, 3009, 3670, 4575, 4581, 4966, 5044, 5068); thus princes are not princes, but the primary things of truth (AC 1482, 2089, 5044); they who sit upon the throne of David are Divine truths that proceed from the Lord (AC 5313); they who ride in chariot and on horses are the derivative things of understanding and of doctrine. Chariots are frequently mentioned also in the histories of the Word; and because these histories are all representative, and the expressions signify things such as are in the Lord's kingdom and in the church, chariots therein also have a similar signification.

[10] As most of the expressions in the Word have also an opposite sense, so have chariots, and in this sense they signify doctrinal things of evil and falsity, and also the memory-knowledges that confirm them, as in these passages:

Woe unto them that go down into Egypt for help, and depend upon horse, and trust upon chariot, because they are many, and upon horse men because they are very strong; but they look not unto the holy one of Israel (Isa. 31:1).


By the hand of thy servants hast thou blasphemed the Lord, and hast said, By the multitude of my chariot am I come to the height of the mountains, the sides of Lebanon; where I will cut off the loftiness of its cedars, the choice of its fir trees (Isa. 37:24);

a prophetic reply to the haughty words of Rabshakeh, the king of Assyria's general. In Jeremiah:--

Behold waters coming up from the north that shall become an overflowing stream and shall overflow the land and the fulness thereof, the city and them that dwell therein, and all the inhabitant of the land shall howl at the voice of the stamping of the hoofs of his strong horses, at the tumult of his chariot, at the rumbling of his wheels (Jer. 47:2, 3).

[11] In Ezekiel:--

By reason of the abundance of his horses their dust shall cover thee; thy walls shall shake by reason of the voice of the horseman and of the wheel and of the chariot, when he shall come into thy gates, beside the entrances of a city wherein is made a breach; by the hoofs of his horses shall he tread down all thy streets (Ezek. 26:10, 11).

In Haggai:--

I will overthrow the throne of kingdoms, and I will destroy the strength of the kingdoms of the nations; I will also overthrow the chariot and those that ride in it, and the horses and their riders shall come down (Haggai 2:22).

In Zechariah:--

I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim, and the horse from Jerusalem, I will cut off the battle bow; and He shall speak peace unto the nations (Zech. 9:10).

In Jeremiah:--

Egypt riseth up like a stream, and his waters toss themselves like the streams; for he said, I will go up, I will cover the earth, I will destroy the city and the inhabitants therein. Go up, ye horses; rage, ye chariots (Jer. 46:8, 9).

[12] By the horses and chariots with which the Egyptians pursued the sons of Israel, and with which Pharaoh entered the sea Suph, where the wheels of the chariots were taken off, and by other things said of the horses and chariots, which make the larger part of that description (Exod. 14:6, 7, 9, 17, 23, 25, 26; 15:4, 19), are signified the things of understanding, of doctrine, and of false knowledge, together with the reasonings founded on them, that pervert and extinguish the truths of the church. The destruction and death of such things is there described.

from AC 5321

Back to Words index, Back to Artifact words index

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