Spiritual Meaning of

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 Sword, Violence

A sword in the internal sense signifies the truth of faith combating, and also the vastation of truth; and in the opposite sense falsity combating, and the punishment of falsity.

[2] I. That a sword signifies the truth of faith combating, may be seen from the following passages. In David:--

Gird Thy sword upon Thy thigh, O mighty One, prosper in Thy glow and Thy majesty, ride upon the word of truth, and Thy right hand shall teach Thee wonderful things (Ps. 45:3, 4);

where the Lord is treated of, the sword denoting truth combating. In the same:--

Let the merciful exult In glory, let them sing upon their beds let the high praises of God be in their throat, and a two-edged sword in their hand (Ps. 149:5, 6).

In Isaiah:--

Jehovah hath called Me from the womb from the bowels of My mother hath He made mention of My name, and He hath made My mouth like a sharp sword, and hath made Me a polished arrow (Isaiah 49:1, 2);

a sharp sword denotes truth combating; and a polished arrow, the truth of doctrine (AC 2686, 2709). In the same:--

Asshur shall fall by the sword not of a man; and the sword not of man shall devour him and he shall flee before the sword, and his young men shall become tributary (Isaiah 31:8);

Asshur denotes reasoning in Divine things (AC 119, 1186); the sword not of a man, and not of man, falsity; the sword before which he shall flee, truth combating.

[3] In Zechariah:--

Turn you to the stronghold ye prisoners of hope even today do I declare that I will render double unto thee I who have bent Judah for Me as a bow, I have filled Ephraim, and have stirred up thy sons, O Zion. against thy sons, O Javan, and I will make thee as the sword of a mighty man, and Jehovah shall be seen over them, and His arrows shall go forth as the lightning (Zechariah 9:12-14);

the sword of a mighty man denotes truth combating. In John:--

In the midst of the seven candlesticks was one like unto the Son of man; He had in His right band seven stars; out of His mouth proceeded a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was as the sun shining in his strength (Rev. 1:13, 16).


These things saith He that hath the sharp two-edged sword; I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth (Rev. 2:12, 16);

the sharp two-edged sword manifestly denotes truth combating, which was therefore represented as a sword going out of the mouth.

[4] In the same:--

Out of the mouth of Him that sat upon the white horse proceeded a sharp sword, that with it He should smite the nations; and they were slain by the sword of Him that sat upon the horse, which came forth out of His mouth (Rev. 19:15, 21);

where it is manifest that the sword out of His mouth is truth combating. That He who sat upon the white horse is the Word, and thus the Lord who is the Word, see (AC 2760-2763). Hence it is that the Lord says in Matthew:--

Think not that I came to send peace on the earth; I came not to send peace, but a sword (Matthew 10:34).

Also in Luke:--

Now he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise a wallet; and he that hath none, let him sell his garment, and buy a sword; they said, Lord, behold here are two swords; and Jesus said, It is enough (Luke 22:36-38);

where nothing else is meant by a sword than the truth from which and for which they would combat.

[5] In Hosea:--

In that day will I make a covenant for them with the wild beast of the field, and with the fowl of the heavens, and with the creeping thing of the ground and I will break the bow, and the sword, and the war out of the land and will make them to lie down securely (Hosea 2:18);

where the Lord's kingdom is treated of; by breaking the how, the sword, and the war, is signified that there is no combat there respecting doctrine and truth. In Joshua:--

Joshua lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold there stood a man over against him, and his sword drawn in his hand; and he said to Joshua, I am prince of the army of Jehovah; and Joshua fell on his face to the earth (Joshua 5:13, 14).

This was when Joshua entered with the sons of Israel into the land of Canaan, by which is meant the entrance of the faithful into the Lord's kingdom. Truth combating, which is of the church, is the drawn sword in the hand of the prince of the army of Jehovah.

[6] But that by little swords or knives is signified the truth of faith, may be seen from the fact that they were used not only in the sacrifices, but also in circumcision. For use in circumcision they were of stone, and were called little swords of flint, as is manifest in Joshua:--

Jehovah said unto Joshua, Make thee little swords of flint, and circumcise again the sons of Israel the second time. And Joshua made him little swords of flint, and circumcised the sons of Israel at the hill of the foreskins (Joshua 5:2, 3).

That circumcision was a representative of purification from the love of self and the world, may be seen above (AC 2039, 2632); and as this purification is effected by the truths of faith, therefore little swords of flint were used (AC 2039, 2046).

[7] II. That a sword signifies the vastation of truth, is evident from the following passages. In Isaiah:--

These two things are befallen thee who shall bemoan thee? desolation and destruction, and the famine and the sword; who will comfort thee? Thy sons have fainted, they lie at the head of all the streets (Isaiah 51:19, 20);

famine denotes the vastation of good; and the sword the vastation of truth; to lie at the head of all the streets, is to be deprived of all truth. A street is truth (AC 2336); and vastation is explained at (AC 301-304, 407, 408, 410, 411). In the same:--

I will number you to the sword, and ye shall all bow down to the slaughter because I called, and ye did not answer I spake, and ye did not hear (Isaiah 65:12).

[8] In the same:--

By fire and by the sword will Jehovah judge all flesh, and the slain of Jehovah shall be many (Isa. 66:16);

the slain of Jehovah denote those who are vastated. In Jeremiah:--

Spoilers are come upon all the hillsides in the wilderness, for the sword of Jehovah devoureth from the one end of the land even to the other end of the land no flesh hath peace; they have sown wheat, and have reaped thorns (Jeremiah 12:12, 13);

the sword of Jehovah plainly denotes the vastation of truth. In the same:--

They have lied against Jehovah, and said, It is not He, neither shall evil come upon us neither shall we see sword nor famine; and the prophets shall become wind, and the word is not in them (Jeremiah 5:12, 13).

[9] In the same:--

I will visit upon them; the young men shall die by the sword, their sons and their daughters shall die by famine (Jer. 11:22).

In the same:--

When they offer burnt-offering and meat-offering I will not accept them; for I will consume them by the sword, and by the famine, and by the pestilence. And I said, Ah, Lord Jehovih, behold the prophets say unto them, Ye shall not see the sword, and ye shall not have famine (Jer. 14:12, 13).

In the same:--

The city is given into the hand of the Chaldeans that fight against it, because of the sword, and of the famine, and of the pestilence (Jer. 32:24, 36).

In the same:--

I will send the sword, the famine, and the pestilence among them, until they be consumed from off the land that I gave unto them and to their fathers (Jer. 24:10).

[10] In these passages by the sword, the famine, and the pestilence vastation is described; by the sword the vastation of truth, by the famine the vastation of good, and by the pestilence a wasting away even to consumption. In Ezekiel:--

Son of man, take thee a sharp sword, a barber's razor shalt thou take it unto thee, and shalt cause it to pass upon thy head, and upon thy beard and take thee balances to weigh, and divide them. A third part shalt thou burn with fire in the midst of the city a third part thou shalt smite with the sword round about it; and a third part thou shalt scatter to the wind; and I will draw out a sword after them. A third part shall die with the pestilence, and with famine shall they be consumed in the midst of thee and a third part shall fall by the sword round about thee; and a third part I will scatter to every wind, and I will draw out a sword after them (Ezekiel 5:1, 2, 12, 17).

Here the vastation of natural truth is treated of, which is thus described. In the same:--

The sword is without, and the pestilence and the famine within he that is in the field shall die by the sword, and he that is in the city, famine and pestilence shall devour him (Ezek. 7:15).

[11] In the same:--

Say to the land of Israel, Thus said Jehovah, Behold I am against thee, and will draw forth My sword out of its sheath, and will cut off from thee the just and the wicked. Because I will cut off from thee the just and the wicked, therefore shall My sword go forth out of its sheath, it shall not return any more. The word of Jehovah came unto me, saying, Son of man, prophesy and say, Thus said Jehovah, Say a sword, a sword, it is sharpened and also furbished it is sharpened to slaughter a slaughter; it Is furbished that it may be as lightning. Son of man, prophesy and say, Thus said the Lord Jehovih to the sons of Ammon, and to their reproach and say thou, A sword, a sword is drawn for the slaughter, it is furbished to devour because of the lightning, whiles they see vanity unto thee, whiles they divine a lie unto thee (Ezek. 21:3-5, 8-10, 28, 29).

Nothing else is here signified by the sword than vastation, as is manifest from the particulars in the internal sense.

[12] In the same:--

The king of Babel shall break down thy towers with his swords; by reason of the abundance of his horses their dust shall cover thee by reason of the noise of the rider, and of the wheel, and of the chariot, thy walls shall shake with the hoofs of his horses shall he tread down all thy streets (Ezekiel 26:9-11).

What Babel is, may be seen above (AC 1326); and that it vastates (AC 1327). In David:--

If he turn not, God will whet His sword, He will bend His bow, and make it ready (Ps. 7:12).

In Jeremiah:--

I said, Ah Lord Jehovih surely deceiving Thou hath deceived this people and Jerusalem, saying, Ye shall have peace; and the sword hath reached even to the soul (Jeremiah 4:10).

[13] In the same:--

Declare ye in Egypt, and make it to be heard in Migdol, Stand forth and prepare thee, for the sword shall devour round about thee (Jeremiah 46:14).

In the same:--

A sword is upon the Chaldeans, and upon the inhabitants of Babel, and upon her princes, and upon her wise men; a sword is upon her boasters, and they shall be foolish a sword is upon her mighty men, and they shall be dismayed a sword is upon her horses, and upon her chariots, and upon all the mixed multitude that is in the midst of her, and they shall become as women a sword is upon her treasures, and they shall be robbed; a drought is upon her waters, and they shall be dried up (Jeremiah 50:35-38);

a sword manifestly denotes the vastation of truth, for it is said, a sword is upon the wise men, upon the boasters, upon the mighty men, upon the horses and the chariot, and upon the treasures, and that drought is upon the waters, and they shall be dried up.

[14] In the same:--

We have given the hand to Egypt, to Asshur, to be satisfied with bread. Servants have ruled over us, there is none to deliver us out of their hand we gat our bread with our lives, because of the sword of the wilderness (Lam. 5:6, 8, 9).

In Hosea:--

He shall not return into the land of Egypt, and Asshur he shall be his King, because they refused to return to Me, and the sword shall hang over his cities, and shall consume his bars, and shall devour them, because of their counsels (Hosea 11:5, 6).

In Amos:--

I have sent among you the pestilence in the way of Egypt, I have slain your young men with the sword, with the captivity of your horses (Amos 4:10);

in the way of Egypt denotes the memory-knowledges which vastate, when they reason from them on Divine things; the captivity of the horses denotes the intellectual faculty deprived of its endowment.

[15] III. That a sword in the opposite sense signifies falsity combating, may be seen in David:--

My soul lieth in the midst of lions, the sons of men are set on fire; their teeth are spears and arrows, and their tongue a sharp sword (Ps. 57:4).

In the same:--

Behold they belch out with their mouth, swords are in their lips, for who doth hear? (Psalms 59:7).

In Isaiah:--

Thou art cast forth out of thy sepulchre as an abominable branch, as the raiment of the slain, that are thrust through with the sword, that go down to the stones of the pit, as a carcass trodden under foot (Isaiah 14:19);

where Lucifer is treated of. In Jeremiah:--

In vain have I smitten your sons, they received no correction your own sword hath devoured your prophets, like a destroying lion. O generation, see ye the word of Jehovah: have I been a wilderness unto Israel? (Jeremiah 2:30, 31).

[16] In the same:--

Go not forth into the field, and walk not in the way, for there is the sword of the enemy, terror is on every side (Jeremiah 6:25, 26).

In the same:--

Take the cup of the wine of fury, and cause all the nations to whom I send thee to drink it; and they shall drink, and reel, and be mad because of the sword that I will send among you. Drink ye and be drunken, and spue and fall, and rise no more because of the sword (Jeremiah 25:15, 16, 27).

In the same:--

Go up, ye horses; and rage, ye chariots; let the mighty men go forth: Cush and Put that handle the shield, and the Ludim that handle and bend the bow. For that is a day of the Lord Jehovih of Armies, a day of vengeance; and the sword shall devour, and be satisfied, and shall be drunken with their blood (Jeremiah 46:9, 10).

[17] In Ezekiel:--

They shall strip thee of thy garments, and take the jewels of thy glory, and shall leave thee naked and bare and they shall bring up an assembly against thee and they shall stone thee with stones, and thrust thee through with their swords (Ezekiel 16:39, 40);

where the abominations of Jerusalem are treated of. In Zechariah:--

Woe to the worthless shepherd that leaveth the flock; the sword shall be upon his arm, and upon his right eye; his arm shall be clean dried up, and his right eye shall be utterly darkened (Zechariah 11:17).

In Hosea:--

Against me have they thought evil; their princes shall fall by the sword, because of the rage of their tongue this shall be their derision in the land of Egypt (Hosea 7:15, 16).

[18] In Luke:--

There shall be great distress upon the land, and wrath unto this people for they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and be led captive among all the nations; and at length Jerusalem shall be trodden down by the nations (Luke 21:23, 24);

where the Lord is speaking of the consummation of the age; and in the sense of the letter, of the dispersion of the Jews and the destruction of Jerusalem; but in the internal sense, of the let state of the church. By falling by the edge of the sword, is signified that there is no longer any truth, but mere falsity; by all nations are signified evils of every kind, among which they should be led captive; that nations are evils may be seen above (AC 1259, 1260, 1849, 1868); also that Jerusalem is the church (AC 2117), which is thus trodden down.

[19] IV. That a sword also signifies the punishment of falsity, is evident in Isaiah:--

In that day Jehovah with His hard, and great, and strong sword, will visit upon leviathan the long serpent, and upon leviathan the crooked serpent, and will slay the whales that are in the sea (Isaiah 27:1);

where those are treated of who by reasonings from sensuous things and from memory-knowledges enter into the mysteries of faith; the hard and great and strong sword denotes the punishments of the falsity therefrom.

[20] Where we read that they were given over to the edge of the sword and slain by it, sometimes both man and woman, boy and old man, ox and herd, and ass, in the internal sense the punishment of the condemnation of falsity is signified (Josh. 6:21; 8:24, 25; 10:28, 30, 37, 39; 11:10-12, 14; 13:22; 19:47; Judges 1:8, 25; 4:15, 16; 18:27; 20:37; 1 Sam. 15:8, 11; 2 Kings 10:25). Hence it was commanded that a city which should worship other gods should be smitten with the sword, be utterly destroyed, and be burnt up with fire, and be a heap forever (Deut. 13:13, 15-17) the sword denoting the punishment of falsity; and fire the punishment of evil. The angel of Jehovah standing in the way against Balaam with a draw" sword (Numbers. 22:31) signified the truth which resisted the falsity in which Balaam was; and for that reason also he was killed with a sword (Num. 31:8).

[21] That a sword in the genuine sense signifies truth combating, and in the opposite sense falsity combating, also the vastation of truth, and the punishment of falsity, has its origin from the representatives in the other life; for when anyone there speaks what he knows to be false, there then immediately come down over his head as it were little swords, and strike terror; and besides, truth combating is represented by things that have a point, like swords; for indeed truth without good is of this nature, but when together with good it has a rounded form and is gentle. From this origin it comes to pass that whenever a knife, or spear, or little sword, or sword is mentioned in the Word, to the angels there is suggested truth combating.

[22] But the reason that a knife is seldom mentioned in the Word, is that there are evil spirits in the other life who are called knifers, at whose side there appear knives hanging for the reason that they have such a brutal nature that they wish to cut every one's throat with the knife. Hence it is that knives are not mentioned, but little swords or swords; for as these are used in combats, they suggest the idea of war, and thus of truth combating.

[23] As it was known to the ancients that a little sword, a little lance, and a knife signify truth, the nations to whom this came by tradition were accustomed to pierce and lacerate themselves with little swords, little lances, or knives, at the time of their sacrifices, even to blood; as we read of the priests of Baal:--

The priests of Baal cried with a loud voice, and cut themselves after their manner with swords and little lances, even till the blood gushed out (1 Kings 18:28).

That all the weapons of war in the Word signify things which belong to spiritual combat, and each one something specific, may be seen above (AC 2686).

from AC 2799

That a sword signifies falsity combating and slaying, is evident in John:--

There went forth another horse that was red, and to him that sat thereon it was given to take peace from the earth, that they should kill one another, whence there was given unto him a great sword (Rev. 6:4).


If anyone shall kill with the sword, with the sword must he be killed (Rev. 13:10, 14).

[4] That violence is violence inflicted on charity, is clear from many passages in the Word, as in Isaiah:--

The violent one shall cease, and the scorner shall be consumed, all who ripen iniquity shall be cut off, who make a man sin in a word, and ensnare him who reproveth in the gate, and turn aside the just into emptiness (Isa. 29:20, 21);

in this passage the violent one is expressed by another word in the original, but of similar signification; that the violent one is one who inflicts violence on charity, is signified by making a man sin in a word, and turning aside the just.

[5] In the same:--

Their works are works of iniquity, and the deed of violence is in their hands. Their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed innocent blood (Isa. 59:6, 7);

where violence is violence inflicted on charity, which is also signified by shedding blood (AC 374, 1005). Again:--

Violence shall no more be in thy land, wasting and a breach in thy borders (Isa. 60:18);

where violence denotes the destruction of charity, for hence comes wasting and breach in the land, that is, in the church.

[6] In Jeremiah:--

I proclaim violence and vastation; because the word of Jehovah is made a reproach unto me, and a shame all the day (Jer. 20:8);

where violence also denotes violence in spiritual things, thus the destruction of charity and also of faith. In Ezekiel:--

The land is full of judgment of bloods, and the city is full of violence (Ezek. 7:23);

where judgment of bloods denotes the destruction of faith; and violence, the destruction of charity.

[7] Again:--

If he beget a son that is violent, a shedder of blood, that doeth anyone of these things: if he hath eaten upon the mountains, and defiled his companion's wife, hath oppressed the poor and needy, hath seized spoil, hath not restored the pledge, and hath lifted up his eyes to idols, hath committed abomination, hath given upon interest, and hath received usury; shall he live? he shall not live, dying he shall die (Ezek. 18:10-13);

here a son that is violent and a shedder of blood is described, and all the works of charity which it destroys are recounted; thus a son that is violent and a shedder of blood is a destroyer of charity and faith.

[8] In David:--

Deliver me O Jehovah from the evil man, preserve me from the man of violences, who think evils in their heart, the whole day they gather themselves together for war; they sharpen their tongue like a serpent, the poison of the asp is under their lips. Keep me O Jehovah from the hands of the wicked; preserve me from the man of violences. let not the man of tongue subsist in the earth; let evil hunt the man of violence to overthrow him (Ps. 140:1-4, 11);

a man of violences denotes those who destroy the truths of faith and the goods of charity; their fighting against these truths and goods is signified by their gathering themselves together the whole day for war, sharpening the tongue as a serpent, the poison of the asp under their lips, and evil hunting him to overthrow him. And so in other passages, as (Ezek. 12:19; Joel 3:19; Mal. 2:16, 17; Zeph. 3:4; Ps. 18:48; 55:9-11; 58:3-6; Deut. 19:16).

from AC 6253

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