Spiritual Meaning of

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Take for instance the following passages in which five is mentioned, as in the Lord's parable about the man who went into another country, and delivered to his servants according to their abilities, to one five talents, to another two, and to a third one:--

And he that had received the five talents traded with them, and gained other five talents; and likewise he that had received two gained other two; but he that had received one hid his lord's silver in the earth (Matt. 25:14);

one who does not think beyond the literal sense cannot know but that the very numbers, five, two, and one, were taken simply for composing the story of the parable, and that they involve nothing further, whereas there is a secret in these numbers themselves; for by the servant who received five talents are signified those who have admitted goods and truths from the Lord, thus who have received remains; by him who received two are signified those who have joined charity to faith when well on in years; and by him who received one, those who have received faith alone without charity. Of the last it is said that he hid his lord's silver in the earth; for by the silver he had is signified in the internal sense the truth that is of faith (AC 1551, 2954) and faith without charity cannot make gain or bear fruit. Such are the things in these numbers.

[5] It is similar with other parables, as with the one about the man who, going into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom, gave to his servants ten pounds, and told them to trade with them till he came. When he returned the first said:--

Lord, thy pound hath gained ten pounds. And he said unto him, Well done thou good servant, because thou hast been faithful in a very little, be thou over ten cities. And the second said, Lord, thy pound hath made five pounds. And he said unto him also, Be thou also over five cities. The third had laid up the pound in a napkin. But the lord said, Take away from him the pound, and give it unto him that hath ten pounds (Luke 19:12);

here in like manner ten and five signify remains ten more, five fewer. He who laid up the pound in a napkin denotes those who procure for themselves the truths of faith but do not conjoin them with the goods of charity, and so have no gain or fruit from them.

[6] It is the same where the Lord mentions these numbers in other places as with him that was called to the supper and said, I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them (Luke 14:19); with the rich man who said to Abraham, I have five brethren; that one might be sent to tell them, lest they also come into this place of torment (Luke 16:28) with the ten virgins, five of whom were prudent, and five foolish (Matt. 25:1-13); and likewise in these words of the Lord: think ye that I am come to give peace upon earth? I tell you, Nay; but division; for from henceforth there shall be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three (Luke 12:51); and also even in the historic facts that the Lord fed five thousand men with five loaves and two fishes, and that He commanded them to sit down by hundreds and by fifties; and after they had eaten they took up twelve baskets of fragments (Matt. 14:15-21; Mark 6:38; Luke 9:12-17; John 6:5-13).

[7] As these passages are historic it can hardly be believed that the numbers in them are significant as the number five thousand of the men, and also the number five of the loaves, and two of the fishes, as also the number one hundred, and the number fifty, of the companies that sat down, and lastly twelve which was the number of the baskets containing the fragments; when yet there is a secret in each number. For every detail happened of Providence, in order that Divine things might be represented

[8] In the following passages also, five signifies in both the genuine and the opposite sense such things in the spiritual world as it corresponds to. In Isaiah:--

There shall be left therein gleanings as in the shaking of an olive-tree, two or three berries in the head of the bough, four or five in the branches of a fruitful tree (Isa. 17:6).

In the same:--

In that day there shall be five cities in the land of Egypt that speak with the lips of Canaan, and swear to Jehovah Zebaoth (Isa. 19:18).


One thousand shall flee before the rebuke of one, before the rebuke of five shall ye flee; till ye be left as a mast upon the head of a mountain, and as an ensign on a hill (Isa. 30:17).

In the Revelation:--

The fifth angel sounded, then I saw a star from heaven fallen into the earth; and there was given to him the key of the pit of the abyss. To the locusts that came out thence it was said that they should not kill the men who had not the seal of God on their foreheads, but that they should be tormented five months (Rev. 9:1, 3-5, 10).

In the same:--

Here is intelligence, if anyone has wisdom: The seven heads are seven mountains, where the woman sitteth upon them; and they are seven kings; five are fallen, and one is, the other is not yet come; and when he cometh, he mast remain a little while (Rev. 17:9, 10).

[9] In like manner the number five was representative in the following instances--that the valuation of a man and of a woman should be according to years, from a month to five years, and from five years to twenty (Lev. 27:1-9) Again, if a field were redeemed, a fifth part should be added (Lev. 27:19). And if tithes were redeemed, a fifth part should be added (Lev. 27:31). That the superfluous firstborn were to be redeemed for five shekels (Num. 3:46-51). That the firstborn of an unclean beast was to be redeemed by adding a fifth part (Lev. 27:27). That as a fine for certain transgressions a fifth part was to be added (Lev. 22:14; 27:13, 15; Num. 5:6-8). And that if a man shall steal an ox or a sheep, and kill it or sell it, he shall pay five oxen for an ox, and four sheep for a sheep (Exod. 22:1).

[10] That the number five holds within it a heavenly secret, and that ten does the same, is evident from the cherubim, of which we read in the first book of Kings:--

Solomon made in the adytum two cherubim of olive wood, each ten cubits high. Five cubits was the wing of the one cherub, and five cubits the wing of the other cherub it was ten cubits from the ends of its wings even unto the ends of its wings so the cherub was ten cubits. Both the cherubim were of one measure and one form (1 Kings 6:23-27).

The same is evident also from the lavers around the temple, and from the lampstands, of which it is written in the same book:--

The bases of the lavers were placed, five by the shoulder of the house to the right, and five by the shoulder of the house to the left. Also that the lampstands were placed, five on the right and five on the left, before the adytum (1 Kings 7:39, 49).

That the brazen sea was ten ells from brim to brim, and five ells in height, and thirty ells in circumference (1 Kings 7:23), was in order that holy things might be signified by the numbers ten and five, and also by thirty, which number of the circumference does not indeed geometrically answer to the diameter, but still it spiritually involves that which is signified by the compass of that vessel.

[11] That in the spiritual world all numbers signify real things is plainly manifest from the numbers in Ezekiel where is described the new earth, the new city, and the new temple, which the angel measured in detail (see chapters 40, 43, 45, 49). The description of nearly all the holy things there is set forth by numbers, and therefore one who does not know what those numbers involve can know scarcely anything about the secrets contained therein. The number ten and the number five occur there (Ezekiel 40:7, 11, 48; 41:2, 9, 11, 12; 42:4; 45:11, 14), besides the multiplied numbers, twenty-five, fifty, five hundred, and five thousand. It is manifest from the details in these chapters that the new earth, the new city, and the new temple signify the Lord's kingdom in the heavens, and hence His church on earth.

[12] These instances of the use of the number five are here brought together because in this and the following verses it is told of the land of Egypt that a fifth part of the produce was to be collected there in the seven years of plenty, and to be preserved for use in the following years of famine. Therefore it has been shown that by a fifth part are signified goods and truths stored up in man by the Lord, and reserved for use when there shall be a famine, that is when there shall be a lack and privation of good and truth; for unless such things were stored up in man by the Lord, there would be nothing to uplift him in a state of temptation and vastation, consequently nothing through which he could be regenerated; and thus he would be without the means of salvation in the other life.

from AC 5291

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