Spiritual Meaning of

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 Brother, Brethren

In the Word brother signifies the same as neighbor, for the reason that every one ought to love his neighbor as himself; thus brethren were so called from love; or what is the same, from good. This manner of naming and addressing the neighbor comes from the fact that in heaven the Lord is the Father of all and loves all as His children; and thus that love is spiritual conjunction. From this the universal heaven resembles as it were one family derived from love and charity (AC 685, 917).

[2] Therefore as all the sons of Israel represented the Lord's heavenly kingdom, that is, the kingdom of love and charity; among each other they were called brethren, and also companions; but the latter, that is, companions, not from the good of love, but from the truth of faith; as in Isaiah:--

They help every man his companion, and he saith to his brother, Be of good courage (Isaiah 41:6).

In Jeremiah:--

Thus shall ye say every man to his companion, and every man to his brother, What hath Jehovah answered? and what hath Jehovah spoken? (Jeremiah 23:35).

In David:--

For my brethren and companions' sakes I will say, Peace be within thee (Ps. 122:8).

In Moses:--

He shall not press upon his companion or his brother, because the release of Jehovah hath been proclaimed (Deut. 15:2, 3).

In Isaiah:--

I will confound Egypt with Egypt, and they shall fight every man against his brother, and every man against his companion (Isaiah 19:2).

In Jeremiah:--

Beware every man of his companion, and trust ye not in any brother; for every brother will utterly supplant, and every companion will slander (Jeremiah 9:4).

[3] That all who were of that church were called by the one name brethren, see in Isaiah:--

They shall bring all your brethren out of all the nations for an offering unto Jehovah, upon horses, and in chariots, and in litters, and upon mules, and upon dromedaries, to the mountain of My holiness, Jerusalem (Isaiah 66:20).

They who know nothing beyond the sense of the letter, as was the case with the Jews, believe that no others are signified than the posterity of Jacob; thus that they will be brought back to Jerusalem upon horses, and in chariots, and in litters, and upon mules, by those whom they call the Gentiles. But by the brethren are meant all who are in good; and by the horses, chariots, and litters, the things which are of truth and good; and by Jerusalem the Lord's kingdom.

[4] In Moses:--

When there shall be among thee a needy one of one of thy brethren, in one of thy gates, thou shalt not harden thy heart, and shalt not shut thy hand from thy needy brother (Deut. 15:7, 11).


From among thy brethren thou shalt set a King over thee; thou mayest not put over thee a foreigner, who is not thy brother, and his heart shall not be lifted up above his brethren (Deut. 17:15, 20).


A prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me, Jehovah thy God will raise up unto thee; him shall ye obey (Deut. 18:15, 18).

[5] From all this it is evident that the Jews and Israelites all called one another brethren; but those united by covenant they called companions. Yet as they understood nothing beyond the historical and worldly things of the Word, they believed that they called one another brethren because they were all sons of one father, or of Abraham; yet they were not called brethren in the Word from this circumstance, but from the good which they represented. Abraham also, in the internal sense, denotes nothing else than love itself, that is, the Lord (AC 1893, 1965, 1989, 2011), whose sons, consequently those who are brethren, are those who are in good, in fact all those who are called the neighbor; as the Lord teaches in Matthew:--

One is your Master, Christ; all ye are brethren (Matthew 23:8).

[6] Again:--

Whosoever is angry with his brother without cause shall be in danger of the judgment whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council. If thou offer a gift upon the altar, and there remember that thy brother hath aught against thee, leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way, first be reconciled to thy brother (Matthew 5:22-24).


Why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye? how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me cast out the mote out of thine eye (Matthew 7:2-4).


If thy brother sin against thee, go and show him his fault between thee and him alone if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother (Matthew 18:15).


Peter coming to Him said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him I (Matthew 18:21).


So also will My heavenly Father do unto you, if ye from the heart forgive not every one his brother their trespasses (Matthew 18:35).

[7] It is clear from these teachings that all in the universe who are the neighbor are called brethren, and this because every one ought to love his neighbor as himself, thus they are so called from love or good. And as the Lord is good itself, and regards all from good, and is Himself the Neighbor in the highest sense, He also calls them brethren, as in John:--

Jesus said to Mary, Go to My brethren (John 20:17).

And in Matthew:--

The King answering shall say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me (Matthew 25:40).

Thus it is evident that brother is a term of love.

from AC 2360

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