Spiritual Meaning of

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A staff is frequently mentioned in the Word, and it is surprising that scarcely anyone at this day knows that anything in the spiritual world was represented by it, as where Moses was commanded that whenever miracles were wrought, he was to lift up his staff, and thereby they were wrought. This was known among Gentiles also, as is evident from their fabulous tales in which staffs are ascribed to magicians. That a staff signifies power, is because it is a support; for it supports the hand and arm, and through them the whole body; wherefore a staff takes on the signification of the part which it immediately supports, that is, the hand and arm, by both of which in the Word is signified the power of truth. Moreover it will be seen at the end of the chapters that in the Grand Man the hand and are correspond to this power.

[2] That by a staff was represented power, appears, as just said, from what is related of Moses, in that he was commanded to take a staff (or rod), with which he was to do miracles; and that he took the rod of God in his hand (Exod. 4:17, 20); that when smitten by the rod, the waters in Egypt became blood (Exod. 7:15, 19, 20); that when the rod was stretched out over the streams, frogs came up (Exod. 8:1-11); that when the dust was smitten by the rod, it became lice (Exod. 8:16-20); that when the rod was stretched out toward heaven, there was hail (Exod. 9:23); and that when the rod was stretched out over the land, locusts came up (Exod. 10:3-21). As the hand is the principal, by which power is signified, and a rod is the instrumental, therefore miracles were also wrought when his hand was stretched forth (Exod. 10:12, 13); when his hand was stretched forth toward heaven, there was thick darkness over the land of Egypt (Exod. 10:21, 22); and when his hand was stretched forth over the sea Suph, by an east wind the sea was made dry land; and on again stretching forth his hand, the waters returned (Exod. 14:21, 26, 27).

[3] Moreover when the rock of Horeb was smitten with the rod, waters flowed out (Exod. 17:5, 6; Num. 20:7-10). When Joshua fought against Amalek,

Moses said unto Joshua, Choose us out men, and go out, fight with Amalek; tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the rod of God in my hand. And it came to pass, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed; and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed (Exod. 17:9, 11).

From these passages it is very evident that a rod or staff, like the hand, represented power, and in the supreme sense the Divine omnipotence of the Lord; and it is also evident that at that time representatives constituted the externals of the church; and that the internals, which are spiritual and celestial things such as are in heaven, corresponded to them; and that from this came their efficacy. From this it is also plain how irrational those are who believe that there was any power infused into the staff or the hand of Moses.

[4] That in the spiritual sense, a staff is power, appears also from many passages in the prophets, as in Isaiah:

Behold the Lord Jehovah Zebaoth doth take away from Jerusalem staff and stay, the whole staff of bread, and the whole staff of water (Isa. 3:1);

the staff of bread denotes support and power from the good of love, and the staff of water, support and power from the truth of faith. That bread is the good of love may be seen above (AC 276, 680, 2165, 2177, 3464, 3478, 3735, 3813, 4211, 4217, 4735); and that water is the truth of faith (AC 28, 680, 739, 2702, 3058, 3424). The staff of bread is mentioned in like manner in (Ezekiel 4:16; 5:16; 14:13; Ps. 105:16).

[5] Again in Isaiah:

Thus said the Lord Jehovih Zebaoth, O My people that dwellest in Lion, be not afraid of Asshur, who shall smite thee with a rod, and shall lift up his staff upon thee, in the way of Egypt. Jehovah shall stir up against him a scourge, as in the plague of Midian at the rock of Oreb; and his staff shall be over the sea, and he shall lift it up in the way of Egypt (Isa. 10:24, 26);

where staff denotes power from reasoning and memory-knowledge, such as is the power of those who reason from memory-knowledges against the truths of faith, and either pervert them or make them of no account. This is signified by the rod with which Asshur shall smite, and by the staff which he shall lift up in the way of Egypt. That by Asshur is meant reasoning may be seen above (AC 1186); and that by Egypt is meant memory-knowledge (AC 1164, 1165, 1186, 1462).

[6] In like manner in Zechariah:

The pride of Assyria shall be brought down, and the staff of Egypt shall depart away (Zech. 10:11).

In Isaiah:

Thou hast trusted on the staff of a bruised reed, even upon Egypt; whereon if a man lean it will go into his hand and pierce it (Isa. 36:6);

Egypt denotes memory-knowledges, as above; power from them in spiritual things is the staff of a bruised reed; the hand which it goes into and pierces, is power from the Word. Again:

Jehovah hath broken the staff of the wicked, the rod of the rulers (Isa. 14:5);

where staff and rod manifestly denote power.

[7] In Jeremiah:

Grieve, all ye circuits of Moab, and say, How is the staff of strength broken, the staff of beauty (Jer. 48:17);

the staff of strength denotes power from good, and the staff of beauty power from truth.

[8] In Hosea:

My people interrogate their wood, and their staff will answer them; for the spirit of whoredom hath led them astray (Hosea 4:12);

interrogating wood means consulting evils; the staff answering means that falsity is thence, which has power from the evil which they confirm; the spirit of whoredom denotes a life of falsity from evil. In David:

Yea, when I walk in the valley of shadow, I will fear not evil to me; for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff comfort me (Ps. 23:4);

Thy rod and Thy staff denote the Divine truth and good, which have power. Again:

The staff of wickedness shall not rest upon the lot of the just (Ps. 125:3).

[9] Again:

Thou shalt crush them with a rod of iron thou shalt scatter them like a potter's vessels (Ps. 2:9);

a rod of iron denotes the power of spiritual truth in natural, for all natural truth in which there is spiritual truth has power; iron is natural truth (AC 425, 426). So also in the Revelation:

He that overcometh, and keepeth My works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations; that he may pasture them with a rod of iron as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers (Rev. 2:26, 27; 12:5; 19:15).

[10] Because a staff represented the power of truth, that is, the power of good through truth, therefore kings had scepters, which were made like short staffs; for by kings the Lord is represented as to truth, the Divine truth being the royalty itself (AC 1672, 1728, 2015, 2069, 3670, 4581). The scepter signifies the power belonging to them, not by dignity, but by the truth which should rule, and no other truth than that which is from good; thus principally the Divine truth, and with Christians the Lord, from whom is all Divine truth.

from AC 4876

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