Spiritual Meaning of

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 Father, Mother

Good is like a father, and truth is like a mother; and that therefore in the internal sense of the Word by father is signified good, and by mother, truth, and indeed the good and truth from which the lower or derived goods and truths have their birth, which are relatively as daughters and sons, and therefore in the Word are also called daughters and sons (AC 489-491, 2362). They are also relatively as brothers and sisters, as grandchildren and great-grandchildren, as sons-in-law, mothers-in-law, and daughters-in-law in a word, as kinships and connections in every degree, and this from the marriage of good, which is the father, with truth which is the mother. In the heavens all things in general and particular are circumstanced according to the relationships of love and faith in the Lord, or what is the same, of good and truth, (AC 685, 917, 2739, 3612); and on this account the most ancient people compared each and all things to marriage, (AC 54, 55, 718, 747, 1432, 2508, 2516, 2524, 2556).

[3] That in the internal sense of the Word father signifies good, may be seen from many passages, as from the following. In Isaiah:--

Hearken to Me ye that regard righteousness, ye that seek Jehovah look unto the rock whence ye were hewn, and to the hole of the pit whence ye were digged; look unto Abraham your father, and unto Sarah that bare you for when he was but one I called him, and I blessed him, and I will multiply him. For Jehovah will comfort Zion; He will comfort all her waste places, and will make her wilderness like Eden, and her solitude like the garden of Jehovah (Isa. 51:1-3)

where the subject is the Lord and His advent, as is evident from each particular; and who as to Divine truth is called a rock and a pit; and as to Divine good, Abraham the father. And as the Divine marriage of good and truth is represented by Abraham and Sarah (AC 1468, 1901, 1965, 1989, 2011, 2063, 2065, 2172, 2173, 2198, 2507, 2833, 2836, 2904, 3245, 3251, 3305), it is said, Abraham your father and Sarah who bare you. For this reason also it is said that they should look unto the rock and unto the pit, and also to Abraham their father and unto Sarah; and this is why there at once follow the words, Jehovah will comfort Zion, whereby is meant the celestial church (AC 2362), and He will comfort her waste places, and make her wilderness like Eden, and her solitude like the garden of Jehovah.

[4] The same is signified by Abraham in other passages of the Word where he is called father, as in John:--

Jesus said, I speak that which I have seen with My Father; and ye do the things which ye have seen with your father. They answered and said unto Him, Abraham is our father. Jesus saith unto them, If ye were Abraham's sons ye would do the works of Abraham; Ye do the works of your father (John 8:38, 30, 41).

And in Matthew:--

Think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father; for I say unto you that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. And lo the axe is laid unto the root of the trees therefore every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit shall be hewn down, and cast into the fire (Matthew 3:9, 10).

And in Luke:--

When the poor man Lazarus died, he was carried up by the angels into Abraham's bosom; and the rich man also died, and was buried; and when he was in hell he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom and he cried and said, Father Abraham have mercy on me I pray thee therefore father that thou wouldest send him to my father's house (Luke 16:22-24, 27).

In these passages it is evident that Abraham is not meant, but the Lord as to Divine good. Abraham is unknown in heaven, and when mention is made of him from the Word, the Lord is understood, (AC 1834, 1876, 1989, 3305).

[5] That in the internal sense father signifies good, may be seen from the following passages. In Moses:--

Honor thy father and thy mother; that thy days may be long upon the land which Jehovah thy God giveth thee (Exod. 20:12; Deut. 5:16).

That this precept, like the other precepts of the decalogue, is true in both senses; and that in the internal sense honoring father and mother is to love good and truth, and in good and truth the Lord, may be seen above (AC 2609, 3690). That days upon the land are the consequent states of good in the Lord's kingdom, is evident from the signification of days, as being states (AC 23, 487, 488, 493, 893, 2788); and from the signification of Canaan, which is here the land, as being the Lord's kingdom (AC 1607, 3038, 3481); and that to be long is predicated of good (AC 1613).

[6] Because of this signification of father and mother, in the representative Jewish Church many laws were enacted concerning parents and sons, in all of which in the internal sense is signified good and truth, and in the supreme sense the Lord as to Divine good and Divine truth. As in Moses:--

And he that smiteth his father, or his mother, dying he shall die. And he that curseth his father or his mother, dying he shall die (Exod. 21:15, 17).


Every man that hath cursed his father, or his mother, killing he shall be killed he that hath cursed his father or his mother, his bloods shall be upon him (Lev. 20:9).

And again:--

Cursed be he that setteth light by his father or his mother: and all the people shall say Amen (Deut. 27:16).

In Ezekiel:--

Behold the princes of Israel, every man according to his arm, have been in thee to shed blood; in thee have they set light by father and mother (Ezek. 22:6, 7).

In Moses:--

If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, who will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and though they chasten him, will not obey them then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of the city, and unto the gate of his place and all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die (Deut. 21:18, 19, 21).

[7] In all these passages, in the sense of the letter, by father and mother are meant father and mother; but in the internal sense good and truth; and in the supreme sense the Lord as to Divine good and Divine truth; as also the Lord Himself teaches in Matthew:--

Jesus stretched forth His hand upon His disciples, and said, Behold My mother and My brethren; for whosoever shall do the will of My Father who is in the heavens, the same is My brother, and sister, and mother (Matthew 12:49).

And again:--

Be not ye called Master; for one is your Master, Christ; but all ye are brethren. And call ye not your father on earth; for one is your Father, who is in the heavens (Matthew 23:8, 9)

it is not here forbidden to be called master, and to be called father on earth; but what is forbidden is to acknowledge at heart any other father than the Lord; that is, when mention is made of master and father, the Lord is to be understood, who in the supreme sense is represented by them; according to what was said above (AC 3702) concerning the most ancient people who were celestial men, that whatever they perceived on earth was to them a means of thinking concerning the Lord.

[8] The like is implied in what the Lord spake to one of His disciples, who said:--

Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father; but Jesus said unto him, Follow Me, and let the dead bury their dead (Matt. 8:21, 22);

for relatively to the Father in heaven, or to the Lord, a father on earth is as the dead to the living. Thus the very law concerning honoring parents is as it were dead, unless in it there are honor, worship, and love to the Lord; for that law descends from this Divine law; and hence comes that which is really living in that law; wherefore the Lord said, Follow Me, and let the dead bury their dead. The same is also signified by what Elijah said to Elisha:--

Elijah passed by Elisha, and cast his mantle upon him. And he left the oxen, and ran after Elijah, and said, Let me I pray thee kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow thee. And he said unto him, Go back again; for what have I done to thee? (1 Kings 19:19, 20).

That by Elijah was represented the Lord, (AC 2135A, 2762).

[9] In Malachi:--

Behold I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and terrible day of Jehovah come and he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the sons, and the heart of the sons to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse (Mal. 4:5, 6).

In Luke, the angel said to Zacharias concerning his son John:--

And he shall go before His face, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the sons (Luke 1:17);

Here it is manifest that by fathers and sons are not meant fathers and sons, but the goods and truths of the church, which the Lord was about to restore.

[10] In Malachi:--

Jehovah will be magnified from over the border of Israel. A son shall honor his father, and a servant his master. If then I be a father, where is Mine honor? If I be a master, where is My fear? (Mal. 1:5, 6)

where father denotes those who are in the good of the church; and master, those who are in the truth of the church; father manifestly denoting the Lord as to Divine good; and master, or lord, as to Divine truth.

[11] In David:--

My father and my mother have forsaken me, but Jehovah taketh me up (Ps. 27:10)

where father and mother denote good and truth, which are said to have forsaken man when he takes note that of himself he is not able to do anything good, or to know anything true: that it is not to be understood as if David was forsaken by his father and mother is manifest.

[12] Again:--

Thou art far fairer than the sons of men; the king's daughter Is all glorious within; her clothing is inwrought with gold. Instead of thy fathers shall be thy sons, whom thou shalt make princes in all the earth (Ps. 45:2, 13, 16)

where the Lord is treated of; instead of thy fathers shall be thy sons, denotes that Divine truths shall be as Divine goods; the king's daughter signifies the love of truth; the clothing inwrought with gold signifies the quality of this truth derived from good. Inasmuch as the subject here is the Lord and His Divine Human, as is evident from the whole Psalm and the particulars in it, it is evident that each and all things therein have a like predication; thus that by the king's daughter is not meant a king's daughter, nor that her clothing was inwrought with gold, nor that instead of fathers should be her sons, nor that these should be princes in all the earth; but that Divine celestial and spiritual things are what are signified by each expression. Daughter" is affection or love, (AC 490, 491, 2362); king is Divine truth, (AC 1672, 1728, 2015, 2069, 3009); gold is good, (AC 113, 1551, 1552); inwrought is predicated of natural memory-knowledge, (AC 2831); here therefore of Divine natural truth; clothing is such truths as invest good, (AC 297, 2576); sons who are instead of fathers signify truths of good, in this case Divine truths as Divine goods, (AC 264, 489, 491, 533, 1147, 1729, 1733, 2159, 2623, 2803, 2813); princes in the whole earth are the primary things of the Lord's kingdom and church; princes are primary things, (AC 1482, 2089); earth is the Lord's kingdom and church, (AC 1413, 1607, 1733, 1850, 2117, 2118, 3355).

from AC 3703a.

[13] In Moses:--

Jehovah had a delight in thy fathers to love them, and He chose their seed after them, even you out of all peoples, as at this day. Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and no longer harden your neck (Deut. 10:15, 16)

where in the internal sense fathers denote the Ancient and Most Ancient Churches, which were so called from the love of good and truth in which they were; from the love of good the most ancient people who were celestial men, and from the love of truth the ancient, who were spiritual men. Their goods and truths in the church are what are called the seed which God chose. That Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and his twelve sons are not the fathers here meant, and that the Israelitish and Jewish people are not the seed, is very evident; but this is said of them and to them in order that the internal sense may have some outward form intelligible to man.

[14] In Isaiah:--

The child shall behave himself proudly against the old man, and the base against the honorable. When a man shall take hold of his brother in the house of his father, saying, Thou hast raiment, thou shalt he a prince unto us, he shall say, In my house is neither bread nor raiment, ye shall not make me a prince of the people (Isa. 3:5-7)

where in the internal sense the perverted state of the church is treated of, when truth is no longer acknowledged as truth, and it is not known what good is. A man taking hold of his brother in the house of his father denotes the acknowledging of everything to be good; raiment denotes truth (AC 1073, 2576); prince, the primary of doctrine therefrom (AC 1482, 2089); there is no bread nor raiment in my house denotes that there was neither good nor truth. Bread signifies good, (AC 276, 680, 3478); raiment signifies truth, (AC 297, 2576).

[15] From the representation of good and truth by father and mother, and also by daughters and sons, there were in the representative churches numerous laws which had from this what was Divine in them; as these which follow:--

And the daughter of a priest, if she profane herself by committing whoredom, she profaneth her father, she shall be burned with fire (Lev. 21:9);

where the daughter of a priest denotes the affection of good; father, the good from which this affection is; committing whoredom denotes to profane good. What is meant by committing whoredom" may be seen above, (AC 2466, 2729, 3399); and what by profaning, (AC 1008, 1010, 1059, 2051, 3398, 3399). Also, that if the daughter of a priest be a widow, or be divorced, and she has no seed, she shall return to the house of her father, as in her youth, and shall eat of the bread of her father; there shall no stranger eat thereof (Lev. 22:13).

[16] Likewise this law:--

When thou shalt see among the captives a wife of beautiful form, and thou hast a desire unto her, to take her to thee for a woman, then thou shalt bring her into the midst of thine house, and she shall shave her head, and pare her nails, and she shall put the raiment of her captivity from off her, and shall sit in thine house, and bewail her father and her mother a month of days and after that thou shalt go in unto her, and shalt know her, and she shall be to thee for a woman (Deut. 21:11-13).

All things in this law in both general and particular are representative of natural truth, in that after it has been purified from falsities it is adopted by good; such truth is signified by a wife in captivity, beautiful in form; purification from falsities is signified by bringing her into the midst of the house, shaving her head, paring her nails, putting off the raiment of her captivity, and bewailing her father and mother; adoption is signified by afterwards going in unto her, knowing her, and taking her for a woman

[17] The laws we read of in the Word relating to marriages, that these were to be contracted within the tribe and the family; and also the laws of inheritances, that these were not to pass from tribe to tribe, also had their origin from the same source, namely, from the celestial and spiritual marriage in the Lord's kingdom, or from the marriage of good and truth, which two are signified by father and mother; and in like manner the laws enacted concerning the degrees of consanguinity allowed and forbidden: each law in the Word that bears on these matters has reference inwardly to the law of consociation and conjunction of good and truth in heaven, and to the consociations of evil and falsity in hell, which are separate from the former. Concerning the degrees allowed and forbidden see Leviticus 20; concerning inheritances, that they should not pass from tribe to tribe, and concerning marriages that they should be contracted within the tribe, see (Numbers 27:7-9); and in other places. In the heavens all things in general and particular are disposed according to the consanguinities and affinities of good and truth, (AC 685, 917, 2739, 3612).

[18] Because the Israelitish people represented the Lord's kingdom in the heavens, and thus the heavenly order there, it was also commanded that they should be distinguished according to tribes, and according to families, and according to the houses of their fathers (Num. 26); and also that according to this order they should measure out the camp around the tent of the congregation, and likewise that they should journey according to the same order, as is written in Moses:--

Every man by his own standard, with the ensigns of their fathers' houses, over against the tent of the congregation shall the sons of Israel measure out the camp and so also were they to go forward (Num. 2:2, 34).

And therefore:--

When Balaam saw Israel dwelling according to their tribes, the spirit of God came upon him, and he uttered an enunciation, saying, How goodly are thy tabernacles, O Jacob, thy habitation, O Israel as the valleys are they planted as gardens by the river's side (Num. 24:5, 6).

In this prophecy neither Jacob nor Israel is meant, but the Lord's kingdom in the heavens, and His church in the lands, which were represented by that order in which Balaam then saw them, as is manifest from the words therein.

[19] From what has been said it may also be known what is signified in the internal sense of the Word by orphans, that is by those who are without a father; namely, those who are in a state of innocence and charity, and desire to know and to do what is good, and are not able. In such a state especially are those out of the church, of whom the Lord takes care, and in the other life adopts as sons; and because these are signified by orphans, therefore when these are mentioned in the Word, in many passages there are also mentioned sojourners and widows; for by sojourners are signified those who are being instructed in goods and truths (AC 1463); and by widows those who are in a state of good and not so much in truth, and those who are in a state of truth and not so much in good, and yet desire to be therein. Inasmuch as by these three terms orphans, sojourners, and widows, somewhat similar is signified in a series, therefore as before said, in many passages they are mentioned together (Deut. 14:29; 16:14; 24:17, 19; Jer. 7:6; 22:3; Ezek. 22:7; Zech. 7:10; Ps. 94:6; 146:9). From what has been said it may now be seen what is signified in the genuine sense by father, namely, good; and that in the supreme sense it signifies the Lord.

[20] But as most expressions in the Word have also an opposite sense, so also has father; and in this sense it signifies evil; and in like manner mother, which in the genuine sense signifies truth, but in the opposite sense falsity. That this is so, may be seen from the following passages. In David:--

The iniquity of his fathers shall be remembered with Jehovah and the sin of his mother shall not be blotted out (Ps. 109:14).


They turned back and dealt treacherously, like their fathers; they were turned aside like a deceitful bow (Ps. 78:57).

In Moses:--

And they that are left of you shall pine away in their iniquity, in your enemies' lands and also in the iniquities of their fathers shall they pine away with them (Lev. 26:39).

In Isaiah:--

Prepare ye slaughter for his sons, for the iniquity of their fathers, that they rise not up and possess the earth, and fill the face of the earth with cities (Isa. 14:21).


I will recompense your own iniquities, and the iniquities of your fathers together (Isa. 65:6, 7).

[21] In Jeremiah:--

The houses of Israel are ashamed; they, their kings, their princes, and their priests, and their prophets who say to wood, Thou art my father and to stone, Thou hast begotten me for they have turned their neck unto Me, and not the face (Jer. 2:26, 27).


I will lay stumbling blocks before this people and the fathers and the sons together shall stumble against them; the neighbor and his companion and they shall perish (Jer. 6:21).


The sons gather wood, and the fathers kindle a fire, and the women knead the dough, to make cakes to the queen of heaven (Jer. 7:18).

And in Ezekiel:--

I will do in thee that which I have not done, and whereunto I will not do any more the like, because of all thine abominations. Therefore the fathers shall eat their sons, and the sons shall eat their fathers; and I will execute judgments in thee, and the whole remnant of thee will I scatter unto all the winds (Ezek. 5:9, 10);

speaking of the profanation of what is holy. Again:--

Thus saith the Lord Jehovah unto Jerusalem, Thy tradings and thy nativity are of the land of the Canaanite thy father was an Amorite, and thy mother a Hittite (Ezek. 16:3).

[22] In Matthew:--

The brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father his son and the children shall rise up against parents, and shall put them to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for My name's sake. I came to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law and a man's foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me and he that loveth son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me (Matthew 10:21, 22, 35-37; Luke 12:49, 52, 53).


Everyone that hath left houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or fields, for My name's sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and shall inherit eternal life (Matt. 19:29; Luke 18:29, 30; Mark 10:29, 30).

In Luke:--

If any man cometh unto Me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own soul also, he cannot be My disciple (Luke 14:26).

[23] In Mark:--

And the brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father his children; and the children shall rise up against their parents, and shall put them to death for ye shall be hated of all men for My name's sake (Mark 13:12, 13; Luke 21:18, 17)

where the consummation of the age, and the state of the church, perverted as to good and truth, is described; in that evil will rise up against truth, and falsity against good. That in the opposite sense by father is signified evil, is manifest from the passages already adduced, and also from this in John:--

Jesus said unto them, If God were your father, ye would love Me for I went forth and am come from God. Ye are of your father the devil, and the desire of your father it is your will to do he was a murderer from the beginning, and stood not in the truth, because the truth is not in him when he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own for he is a liar, and the father thereof. (John 8:42, 44).

from AC 3703

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