Spiritual Meaning of

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In the Word a wilderness signifies what is little inhabited and cultivated, and also signifies what is not at all inhabited and cultivated, and is thus used in a twofold sense. Where it signifies what is little inhabited and cultivated, or where there are few habitations, folds of flocks, pastures, and waters, it signifies what has relatively little life and light--as what is spiritual, or those who are spiritual, in comparison with what is celestial, or those who are celestial. but where it signifies what is not inhabited or cultivated at all, or where there are no habitations, folds of flocks, pastures, or waters, it signifies those who are in vastation as to good and in desolation as to truth.

[3] That a wilderness signifies what is comparatively little inhabited and cultivated, or where there are few habitations, folds of flocks, pastures, and waters, is evident from the following passages. In Isaiah:--

Sing unto Jehovah a new song and His praise from the end of the earth; ye that go down to the sea, and the fullness thereof, the Isles and the inhabitants thereof; let the wilderness and the cities thereof lift up, the villages that Kedar doth inhabit; let the inhabitants of the rock sing, let them shout from the top of the mountains (Isaiah 42:10, 11).

In Ezekiel:--

I will make with them a covenant of peace, and will cause the evil wild beast to cease out of the land, and they shall dwell securely in the wilderness, and sleep in the woods and I will make them and the places round about My hill a blessing the tree of the field shall yield its fruit, and the earth shall yield her fruit (Ezekiel 34:25-27);

here the spiritual are treated of. In Hosea:--

I will bring her into the wilderness, and will speak to her heart; and I will give her her vineyards from thence (Hosea 2:14, 15)

where the desolation of truth, and consolation afterwards, are treated of. In David:--

The folds of the wilderness do drop, and the hills are girded with rejoicing; the pastures are clothed with flocks, the valleys also are covered over with corn (Ps. 65:12, 13).

[4] In Isaiah:--

I will make the wilderness a pool of waters, and the dry land springs of waters. I will plant in the wilderness the cedar of Shittim, and the myrtle, and the oil-tree; I will set in the desert the fir-tree; that they may see, and know, and consider, and understand together, that the hand of Jehovah hath done this, and the Holy One of Israel hath created it (Isaiah 41:18-20);

where the regeneration of those who are in ignorance of truth, or the Gentiles, and the enlightenment and instruction of those who are in desolation, are treated of; the wilderness is predicated of these; the cedar, myrtle, and oil-tree denote the truths and goods of the interior man; the fir-tree denotes those of the exterior. In David:--

Jehovah maketh rivers into a wilderness, and water-rings into dry ground; He maketh a wilderness into a pool of waters, and a dry land into water-springs (Ps. 107:33, 35);

where the meaning is the same. In Isaiah:--

The wilderness and the parched land shall be glad for them, and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose; budding it shall bud; in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert (Isaiah 35:1, 2, 6).

In the same:--

Thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water whose waters do not fail; and they that be of thee shall build the deserts of old (Isaiah 58:11, 12).

In the same:--

Until the spirit be poured upon as from on high, and the wilderness become Carmel, and Carmel be counted for a forest; and judgment shall dwell in the wilderness, and righteousness in Carmel (Isaiah 32:15, 16);

where the spiritual church is treated of, which though inhabited and cultivated is called relatively a wilderness; for it is said, judgment shall dwell in the wilderness and righteousness in Carmel. That a wilderness denotes a comparatively obscure state, is plain from these passages by its being called a wilderness and also a forest; and very evidently so in Jeremiah:--

O generation, see ye the Word of Jehovah. Have I been a wilderness unto Israel? or a land of darkness? (Jeremiah 2:31).

[5] That a wilderness signifies what is not at all inhabited or cultivated, or where there are no habitations, folds of flocks, pastures, and waters, and thus those who are in vastation as to good and in desolation as to truth, is also evident from the Word. This kind of wilderness is predicated in a double sense, namely, of those who are afterwards reformed, and of those who cannot be reformed. Concerning those who are afterwards reformed (as here in regard to Hagar and her son) we read in Jeremiah:--

Thus saith Jehovah, I remember for thee the mercy of thy youth, thy going after Me in the wilderness, in a land that was not sown (Jeremiah 2:2);

where Jerusalem is treated of, which here is the Ancient Church that was spiritual. In Moses:--

Jehovah's portion is His people, Jacob is the line of His inheritance; He found him in a desert land, and in a waste howling wilderness; He led him about, He made him understand, He kept him as the pupil of His eye (Deut. 32:9, 10).

In David:--

They wandered in the wilderness in a solitary way, they found no city of habitation (Ps. 107:4);

where those who have been in desolation of truth and are being reformed are treated of. In Ezekiel:--

I will bring you to the wilderness of the peoples, and I will judge with you there, as I judged with your fathers in the wilderness of the land of Egypt (Ezekiel 20:35, 36);

where in like manner the vastation and desolation of those who are being reformed are treated of.

[6] The journeyings and wanderings of the people of Israel in the wilderness represented nothing but the vastation and desolation of believers before reformation; consequently their temptation, if indeed they are in vastation and desolation when they are in spiritual temptations; as may also be seen from the following passages in Moses:--

Jehovah bare them in the wilderness as a man beareth his son, in the way, even unto this place (Deut. 1:31).

And in another place:--

Thou shalt remember all the way which Jehovah thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to afflict thee, to tempt thee, and to know what is in thy heart; whether thou wouldest keep His commandments or no. He afflicted thee, He suffered thee to hunger, He made thee to eat manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that thou mightest know that man doth not live by bread only, but by everything that proceedeth out of the mouth of Jehovah doth man live (Deut. 8:2, 3).

And again in the same chapter:--

Lest thou forget that Jehovah led thee in the great and terrible wilderness, where were serpents, fiery serpents, and scorpions; a thirsty land where was no water; who brought thee forth water out of the rock of flint; He fed thee in the wilderness with manna, which thy fathers knew not, that He might afflict thee, and might tempt thee, to do thee good at thy latter end (Deuteronomy 8:15, 16).

Here the wilderness denotes vastation and desolation, such as those are in who are in temptations. By their journeyings and wanderings in the wilderness forty years, all the state of the combating church is described-how of itself it yields, but conquers from the Lord.

[7] By the woman who fled into the wilderness, in John, nothing else is signified than the temptation of the church, thus described:--

The woman who brought forth a son, a man child, fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God; there were given unto the woman two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place; and the serpent cast out of his mouth after the woman water as a flood, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood. But the earth helped the woman; for the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth (Rev. 12:6, 14-16).

[8] That wilderness is predicated of a church altogether vastated, and of those who are altogether vastated as to good and truth, who cannot be reformed, is thus shown in Isaiah:--

I make the rivers a wilderness; their fish stink because there is no water, and die for thirst; I clothe the heavens with thick darkness (Isaiah 50:2, 3).

In the same:--

Thy holy cities were become a wilderness, Zion was become a wilderness, Jerusalem a desolation (Isaiah 64:10).

In Jeremiah:--

I beheld and lo Carmel was a wilderness, and all her cities were broken down at the presence of Jehovah (Jeremiah 4:26).

In the same:--

Many shepherds have destroyed My vineyard, they have trodden My portion under foot; they have made My pleasant portion a wilderness of desolation, they have made it a desolation, it hath mourned unto Me, being desolate the whole land is made desolate, because no man layeth it to heart. Spoilers are come upon all the hillsides in the wilderness (Jeremiah 12:10-12).

In Joel:--

The fire hath devoured the folds of the wilderness, and the flame hath burned all the trees of the field, the water brooks are dried up, the fire hath devoured the folds of the wilderness (Joel 1:19, 20).

In Isaiah:--

He made the world as a wilderness, and overthrew the cities thereof (Isaiah 14:17);

where Lucifer is spoken of. In the same:--

The prophecy of the wilderness of the sea. As whirlwinds in the south, it cometh from the wilderness, from a terrible land (Isaiah 21:1).

The wilderness of the sea denotes truth vastated by memory-knowledges and the reasonings from them.

[9] From all this it may be seen what is signified by the following concerning John the Baptist:--

It was said by Isaiah, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way for the Lord, make His paths straight (Matt. 3:3; Mark 1:3; Luke 3:4; John 1:23; Isa. 40:3);

which means that the church was then altogether vastated, so that there was no longer any good, nor any truth; which is plainly manifest from the fact, that then no one knew that man had any internal, nor that there was any internal in the Word, and thus that no one knew that the Messiah or Christ was to come to eternally save them. Hence it is also manifest what is signified by John being in the wilderness until the days of his appearing to Israel (Luke 1:80); and by his preaching in the wilderness of Judea (Matt. 3:1-17); and by his baptizing in the wilderness (Mark 1:4); for by that he also represented the state of the church. From the signification of a wilderness it may also be seen why the Lord so often withdrew into the wilderness. See for examples (Matt. 4:1; 15:32-39; Mark 1:12, 13, 35-40, 45; 6:31-36; Luke 4:1; 5:16; 9:10; John 11:54). From the signification of a mountain also it is manifest why the Lord withdrew into the mountains, as in (Matt. 14:23; 15:29-31; 17:1; 28:16, 17; Mark 3:13, 14; 6:46; 9:2-9; Luke 6:12, 13; 9:28; John 6:15).

from AC 2708

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