Spiritual Meaning of

Bible Meanings Back to Words index Back to Body words index
 Hear, Ear

That to hear is of the sense of hearing, it is needless to explain; but that in the interior sense to hear is obedience, and in the internal sense faith in the will, is evident from many passages in the Word; and also from the nature of hearing in respect to that of sight. That in the interior sense sight is understanding, and in the internal sense, faith in the understanding, may be seen above (AC 3863); and this because the quality of things becomes apparent by the internal sight, and thereby they are apprehended by a kind of faith, but an intellectual kind. In like manner when the things which are heard penetrate to the interiors, they are also changed into something like sight, for what is heard is seen interiorly; and therefore by hearing there is also signified that which is signified by sight, namely, that which is of the understanding, and also that which is of faith; but the hearing at the same time persuades that the case is so, and affects not only the intellectual part of man, but also his will part, and causes him to will that which he sees. Hence it is that hearing signifies the understanding of a thing, and at the same time obedience; and in the spiritual sense, faith in the will.

[2] As all this is latent in hearing, namely, obedience and faith in the will, therefore these likewise are signified in common speech by hearing, hearkening, and attending; for to hear is to be obedient; and to hearken to anyone is also to obey. For the interior things of a matter are sometimes thus contained within the expressions of man's speech, for the reason that it is the spirit of man which thinks and perceives the meaning of the expressions of speech, and this is in a certain communion with spirits and angels, who are in the first principles of the expressions. Moreover such is the circle of things in man, that whatever enters by the ear and eye, or by the hearing and sight, passes into his understanding, and through the understanding into the will, and from the will into act. And in like manner the truth of faith first becomes the truth of faith in memory-knowledge; afterwards the truth of faith in the will; and lastly the truth of faith in act, thus charity. Faith in memory-knowledge, or in the understanding, is Reuben, as already shown; faith in the will is Simeon; and when faith in the will becomes charity it is Levi.

[3] That in the supreme sense to hear signifies providence, may be seen from what has been said above (AC 3863) concerning seeing, as being in the supreme sense foresight; for the Lord's foreseeing is the seeing from eternity to eternity that the case is so; but the Lord's providing is the directing that it be so; and is the bending of man's freedom to good, in so far as He foresees that man will suffer himself to be bent in freedom (AC 3854).

[4] That by Jehovah hearing, from which Simeon was named, in the interior sense is signified obedience, and in the internal sense faith in the will from the Lord alone, is manifest from very many passages in the Word; as from the following. In Matthew:--

Behold a voice out of the cloud, saying, This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye Him (Matthew 17:5);

to hear Him denotes to have faith in Him, and to obey His commandments; thus to have faith in the will. In John:--

Verily, verily, I say unto you, that the hour cometh when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God; and they that hear shall live. Marvel not at this; for the hour cometh in which all that are in the graves shall hear His voice (John 5:25, 28);

to hear the voice of the Son of God denotes to have faith in the words of the Lord, and to will them. They who have faith of the will, receive life; wherefore it is said, they that hear shall live.

[5] Again:--

He who entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep to him the porter openeth and the sheep hear his voice. And other sheep I have which are not of this fold them also I must bring, and they shall hear My voice, and there shall be one flock, and one shepherd. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me (John 10:2, 3, 16, 27);

to hear the voice manifestly denotes to obey from faith of the will. Again:--

Everyone that is of the truth heareth My voice (John 18:37);

where the same thing is meant. In Luke:--

Abraham said unto him, They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them. If they hear not Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be persuaded if one rose from the dead (Luke 16:29, 31);

to hear Moses and the Prophets denotes to know the things contained in the Word, and to have faith therein; thus also to will them; for to have faith and not to will, is to see and not to hear, but to have faith and to will is both to see and to hear; wherefore both seeing and hearing are mentioned together in the Word throughout; and by seeing is signified the same as by Reuben; and by hearing the same as by Simeon; for they are joined together as brother to brother.

[6] That seeing and hearing are mentioned together, is evident from the following passages. In Matthew:--

Therefore speak I to them by parables because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand, and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive for this people's heart is waxed gross, and with ears they have heard dully, and their eyes they have closed lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart. But blessed are your eyes, for they see; and your ears, for they hear. Verily I say unto you, that many prophets and righteous men have desired to see the things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear the things which ye hear, and have not heard them (Matthew 13:13-17; John 12:40; Isa. 6:9).

In Mark:--

Jesus said to the disciples, Why reason ye because ye have no bread? Do ye not yet comprehend, neither understand? Have ye your heart yet hardened? Having eyes, see ye not? and having ears, hear ye not? (Mark 8:17, 18).

[7] In Luke:--

Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God; but to others in parables that seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not hear (Luke 8:10).

In Isaiah:--

The eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be opened (Isa. 35:5).


And in that day shall the deaf hear the words of the book, and the eyes of the blind shall see out of thick darkness, and out of darkness (Isa. 29:18).


Hear, ye deaf; and look, ye blind, that ye may see (Isa. 42:18).


Bring forth the blind people that have eyes, and the deaf that have ears (Isa. 43:8).


The eyes of them that see shall not be closed, and the ears of them that hear shall hearken (Isa. 32:3).


Thine eyes shall see thy teachers, and thine ears shall hear a word (Isa. 30:20, 21).


He that stoppeth his ear from hearing of blood, and shutteth his eyes from seeing evil, shall dwell on high (Isa. 33:15, 16).

In Ezekiel:--

Son of man, thou dwellest in the midst of the house of rebellion, that have eyes to see, and see not; that have ears to hear, and hear not (Ezek. 12:2).

In these passages mention is made of both seeing and hearing because the one follows the other; that is, faith in the understanding which is seeing, and faith in the will which is hearing; otherwise it would have been sufficient to mention one only; and from this it is also evident why one son of Jacob was named from seeing and another from hearing.

[8] That seeing.signifies faith in memory-knowledge or in the understanding; and hearing, faith in obedience or in the will, is from the correspondences in the other life, and the derivative significatives for those who are intellectual and are thence in faith belong to the province of the eye; and those who are obedient and thence in faith belong to the province of the ear. That this is the case will be seen at the close of the chapters, where of the Lord's Divine mercy the Grand Man, and the correspondence of all things in the human body therewith, will be described.

[9] Hence then it is that in the internal sense the eye is the understanding (AC 2701); and that the ear is obedience, and in the spiritual sense the derivative faith, or faith in the will; as is evident also from the following passages. In Isaiah:--

Yea, thou heardest not yea, thou knewest not; yea, from that time thine ear opened not itself (Isa. 48:8).


The Lord Jehovih will waken mine ear to hear, as they that are taught the Lord Jehovih hath opened mine ear, and I was not rebellious (Isa. 50:4, 5).


In attending attend to Me, and eat ye that which is good, that your soul may delight itself in fatness Incline your ear, and come unto Me; hear that your soul may live (Isa. 55:2, 3).

In Jeremiah:--

To whom shall I speak and testify, that they may hear behold their ear is uncircumcised, and they cannot hearken (Jer. 6:10).


This thing I commanded them, saying, Hear ye My voice and I will be your God, and ye shall be My people and they heard not, nor inclined their ear (Jer. 7:23, 24, 26).


Hear the word of Jehovah, O ye women and let your ear receive the word of His mouth (Jer. 9:20).


Ye have not inclined your ear, and have not obeyed Me (Jer. 35:15).

In Ezekiel:--

Son of man, all My words that I have spoken unto thee, receive in thy heart, and hear with thine ears (Ezek. 3:10).


I will set my zeal against thee, and they shall deal with thee In fury they shall take away thy nose and thine ears (Ezek. 23:25);

to take away the nose and the ears denotes the perception of truth and good, and the obedience of faith. In Zechariah:--

They refused to hearken, and turned a stubborn shoulder, and made their ears heavy, that they should not hear; and their heart have they set as adamant, that they might not hear the law (Zech. 7:11, 12).

[10] In Amos:--

Thus saith Jehovah, As the shepherd snatcheth out of the mouth of the lion two legs, or a piece of an ear, so shall the sons of Israel be snatched away in Samaria, in the corner of a bed, and on the end of a couch (Amos 3:12);

to snatch the two legs denotes the will of good; and the piece of an ear, the will of truth. That a piece of an ear denotes this can as before said be seen solely from the correspondences in the other life, and the derivative significatives, according to which is the internal sense of the Word, and also the rituals in the Israelitish and Jewish Church. Hence it was that when Aaron and his sons were inaugurated into the ministry, it was commanded, among other things, that Moses should take of the blood of a ram, and should put it on the tip of Aaron's ear, and upon the tip of the ear of his sons, and upon the thumb of their right hand, and upon the great toe of their right foot (Exod. 29:20). By this ritual was represented the will of faith, into which also as priest he was to be initiated. That this ritual was holy, everyone may know, because it was enjoined upon Moses by Jehovah; and so also putting blood on the tip of the ear was holy. But what particular holy thing this signified can be known only from the internal sense of things in the Word, which sense here is that the holy of faith from the will must be preserved.

[11] That by the ear is signified obedience, and in the internal sense the consequent faith, is still more plainly evident from the ritual respecting a servant who was not willing to depart from service; concerning whom we read in Moses:--

If a manservant or maidservant shall not be willing to depart from service, his master shall bring him unto God, and shall bring him to the door, or unto the doorpost, and his master shall bore his ear through with an awl, and he shall serve him forever (Exod. 21:5, 6; Deut. 15:17);

boring the ear through with an awl at the doorpost signifies serving or obeying perpetually; in the spiritual sense it signifies not to will to understand truth, but to will truth from obedience, which relatively is not freedom.

[12] As in the internal sense the obedience of faith is understood by ears, and obeying by hearing, it is evident what is signified by these words of the Lord, so often uttered by Him:--

He that hath an ear to hear, let him hear (Matt. 13:9, 43; Mark 4:9, 23; 7:16; Luke 8:8; 14:35; Rev. 2:7, 11, 29; 3:13, 22).

[13] That in the supreme sense to hear signifies providence; and to see foresight, is evident from the passages in the Word where eyes and ears are predicated of Jehovah or the Lord; as in Isaiah:--

Incline Thine ear O Jehovah and hear; open Thine eyes O Jehovah and see (Isa. 37:17).

In Daniel:--

O my God incline Thine ear and hear; open O Jehovah Thine eyes and see our wastes (Daniel 9:18).

In David:--

O God incline Thine ear unto me, and hear my speech (Ps. 17:6).


Incline Thine ear unto me, and save me (Ps. 71:2).


Turn Thine ear to my prayers because of Thy truth, answer me because of Thy righteousness (Ps. 143:1).

In Jeremiah:--

O Jehovah Thou heardest my voice; hide not Thine ear at my sighing, at my cry (Lam. 3:55, 56).

In David:--

O Jehovah hide not Thy faces from me in the day of my distress; incline Thine ear to me in the day when I cry, answer me (Ps. 102:1, 2).

It is known that Jehovah has not ears nor eyes like a man, but that it is some attribute predicable of the Divine that is signified by the ear and by the eye, namely, infinite will and infinite understanding. Infinite will is providence, and infinite understanding is foresight; these are what are understood by ear and eye in the supreme sense, when they are attributed to Jehovah. From all this it is now manifest what in every sense is signified by Jehovah hath heard, from which Simeon was named.

from AC 3868

Back to Words index, Back to Body words index

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