Arcana Caelestia Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772)

In Genesis, "And they sat down to eat bread; and they lifted up their eyes and saw, and behold, a caravan of Ishmaelites came from Gilead, and their camels bearing spices, and resin, and stacte, taking them down to Egypt." xxxvii. 25.

4745. 'And they sat down to eat bread' means making evil that was a product of falsity their own. This is clear from the meaning of 'eating' as making one's own, dealt with in 3168, 3513 (end), 3596; 3832; and from the meaning of 'bread' as the good of love, dealt with in 276, 680, 2165, 2177, 3464, 3478, 3735, 3813, 4211, 4217, 4735, as well as all food in general, 2165. Here however 'bread' means the opposite of that good, namely evil, for it is well known that those who eat bread in the Holy Supper in an unworthy manner do not make good but evil their own. From this it is evident that in the contrary sense 'eating bread' means making evil their own. It was a practice among the ancients to eat together when they reached an important decision that was endorsed by everyone else. By eating together they were indicating that they approved the decision and so had made it their own, as in Ezekiel,

Behold, the princes of Israel, each according to his power,* have been among you and have shed blood. Men of intrigue have been among you, [ready] to shed blood, and have eaten on the mountains. Ezek. 22:6, 9.

What is more, it should be recognized that generally evil has two sources, the first being life and the second doctrine. That which has its origin in false doctrine is called evil that is a product of falsity; and it is this kind of evil that is meant here. * lit. arm

4746. 'And they lifted up their eyes and saw' means further thought. This is clear from the meaning of 'lifting up the eyes and seeing' as directing one's attention and giving thought to something, that is, thinking attentively, dealt with in 2789, 2829, 3198, 3202, 4339. In this case further thought is meant, as is evident from the sequence of ideas.

4747. 'And behold, a caravan of Ishmaelites came from Gilead' means those in whom simple good is present like that present in gentiles. This is clear from the representation of 'Ishmaelites' as those in whom simple good is present so far as life is concerned, and who consequently rely on natural truth so far as doctrine is concerned, dealt with in 3263, and from the meaning of 'Gilead' as exterior good into which, when a person is being regenerated, he is introduced first, dealt with in 4117, 4124. From this it is evident that 'a caravan of Ishmaelites from Gilead' means the kind of good that exists with gentiles, that is, those in whom that kind of simple good is present.

[2] The implications of this may be seen from what has been stated up to now and from what follows below, in advance of which only this needs to be mentioned: If people within the Church who have set themselves firmly against Divine truths - in particular against the truths that the Lord's Human is Divine and that the works of charity do contribute something towards salvation - have so set themselves against them not only from doctrine but also in life, they have driven themselves interiorly into the kind of state in which they cannot possibly be brought after that to accept those truths. For once such opposition has become firmly established in life as well as from doctrine it remains for ever. People who have no knowledge of man's interior state may suppose that no matter how much he has set himself firmly against those truths he can still accept them without difficulty after that, provided he is convinced they are truths. But this is impossible, as I have been allowed to know from a great deal of experience of such persons in the next life. For that which is firmly accepted from doctrine is absorbed into the understanding, and that which is firmly accepted in life is absorbed into the will. That which is deeply implanted in both areas of life in man - that is to say, in the life of his understanding and in the life of his will - cannot be rooted out. A person's essential soul which lives after death is shaped by these and it is such that it never withdraws from them. This also is the reason why the lot of those within the Church in whom such attitudes of mind have developed is worse than the lot of those outside the Church. Those outside the Church, called the gentiles, have not set themselves firmly against those truths because they have no knowledge of them. For this reason those among them who have led charitable lives with one another accept Divine truths with ease, if not in the world then in the next life. See what has been presented from experience regarding the state and lot of gentile nations and peoples in the next life, in 2589-2604.

[3] Consequently when a new Church is established by the Lord it is not established among those within the Church but among those outside it, that is, among gentiles. These are referred to many times in the Word. These preliminary remarks have been made so that what is implied by Joseph's being thrown into the pit by his brothers may be known and what by his being drawn out of it by the Midianites and sold to the Ishmaelites. For by 'Joseph's brothers' are represented those people within the Church who have set themselves firmly against Divine Truth, in particular against the two truths that the Lord's Human is Divine and that the works of charity do contribute something towards salvation, being opposed to them not only from doctrine but also in life. By 'the Ishmaelites' however those in whom simple good is present are represented, and by 'the Midianites' those who rely on the truth partnering that good. The latter are recorded as having drawn Joseph out of the pit, the former as having bought him. But what is meant by their bringing him down into Egypt where they sold him to Potiphar, Pharaoh's bedchamber-servant, will be stated further on.

4748. 'And their camels carrying spices, and resin' and stacte' means interior natural truths. This is clear from the general meaning of 'camels' as things belonging to the natural man which serve the spiritual, and from their specific meaning as general facts within the natural man, dealt with in 3048, 3071, 3114, 3143, 3145, 4156; and from the meaning of 'spices, resin, and stacte' as interior natural truths joined to the good there, which are dealt with below. Among the ancients, sweet smelling and fragrant substances were used in their sacred worship; from these substances they obtained their frankincense and incense, similar substances being mixed with oil for their anointings. But no one today knows why those fragrances were used, for the reason that no knowledge at all exists of the fact that all aspects of the worship of the ancients had their origin in the spiritual and celestial things existing in heaven, or that those aspects of it corresponded to these. Mankind has been removing itself so far from spiritual and celestial things, immersing itself in natural, worldly, and bodily ones, that it lives in obscurity, many people having a negative attitude of mind to the existence of anything spiritual or celestial.

[2] The reason frankincense and incense were used among the ancients in sacred acts of worship is that 'odour' corresponds to perception, and 'a fragrant odour' - like that of the aromas which various kinds of spices have - to a pleasing and acceptable perception, as is the perception of truth derived from good, or of faith from charity. Indeed the correspondence of one to the other is such that, as often as it pleases the Lord, actual perceptions in the next life are converted into odours. Regarding these, see what has already been told from experience in 925, 1514, 1517-1519, 3577, 4624-4634. What specifically is meant here by 'spices, resin, and stacte' may be seen from other places where these three are mentioned. In general they mean interior truths within the natural, but those truths which are derived from the good there; for truths do not on their own constitute the natural, but good does by means of truths. Consequently variations exist, conditioned by what the truth joined to the good is like and therefore by what the good is like, since the particular nature of the good depends on what the truths are like.

[3] 'Gilead' means exterior good like that belonging to the senses, called pleasure, 4117, 4124, while 'Egypt' in the good sense means facts, which are the external truths of the natural man that correspond to, that is, are in accord with, that good, 1462. Therefore the reference to Ishmaelites from Gilead bringing down those aromatic commodities on camels to Egypt means bringing their own interior truths, based on their own facts, to the facts meant by 'Egypt', which matters are dealt with below. Interior truths are conclusions based on exterior truths, that is, on facts; for the facts belonging to the natural man are the means that enable conclusions to be drawn about interior truths and thereby to identify them, just as a person identifies another's state of mind in his facial expressions and in the twinkling of light in his eyes, as well as in his tone of voice and his gestures.

[4] Because such truths are the means by which a person's natural is made more perfect and also receives correction, healing is therefore associated with spices of this kind - with resin, for example, in Jeremiah,

Is there no balsamic resin in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why has not the healing of the daughter of my people arisen? Jer. 8:22.

In the same prophet,

Go up to Gilead to take resin, O virgin daughter of Egypt! In vain you have multiplied medicaments; there is no healing for you. Jer. 46:11.

In the same prophet,

Suddenly Babel has fallen and been broken; wail over her! Take resin for her pain; perhaps she will be healed. Jer. 51:8.

[5] Wares similar to this mean spiritual things, as is quite evident in John,

The merchants of the earth will weep and will mourn over Babel, that nobody buys their wares any longer, wares of gold and silver, and precious stones, and pearls, and fine linen, and purple, and silk, and scarlet, and all thyine wood, and every vessel of ivory, and every vessel made of most precious wood, and bronze, and iron, and marble, and cinnamon, and incense, and ointment, and frankincense, and wine, and oil, and fine flour, and wheat, and draught-cattle, and sheep, and horses, and chariots, and the bodies and souls of people. Rev. 18:11-13.

These wares would never have been listed in this specific manner if each and all had not meant the kinds of things that exist in the Lord's kingdom and in His Church. Otherwise they would have been words that had no real meaning. It is well known that 'Babel' means those who turn all worship of the Lord into worship of themselves, so that profanity exists inwardly while outwardly they are doing what is holy. This being so, 'their wares' means the things which, for the sake of worship of themselves, they themselves have invented enthusiastically and skillfully, as well as doctrinal teachings and ideas of good and truth from the Word which they have twisted to suit themselves. Thus the individual wares mentioned in these verses mean specific features of their invention, 'cinnamon, incense, ointment, and frankincense' meaning truths that are derived from good, but with those people perverted truths and falsities that are the products of evil.

[6] Something similar may be seen in what is recorded in Ezekiel regarding the wares of Tyre,

Judah and the land of Israel, they were your traders. Wheat of minnith and pannag, and honey, and oil, and resin, they exchanged for your trading. Ezek. 27:17.

Here also 'resin' means truth derived from good. To one who has no belief in the internal sense of the Word all these expressions will be mere words and so vessels with nothing in them, when in fact they hold Divine, celestial, and spiritual things within them.

4749. 'Taking them down to Egypt' means teaching based on factual knowledge. This is clear from the meaning of 'Egypt' as facts, dealt with in 1164, 1165, 1462; and because 'spices, resin, and stacte' means interior truths based on the facts possessed by those in whom simple good is present, like that present in gentiles, therefore 'taking them down to that place' means receipt of teaching. The position is this: The facts meant by 'Egypt' are facts which contribute to spiritual life and correspond to spiritual truths, for in former times the Ancient Church had existed there also. But once the Church there had been turned into magic, facts which pervert spiritual things were meant after that by 'Egypt'. This explains why facts are meant in the Word, both in the good sense and in the contrary sense, by 'Egypt', see 1164, 1165, 1462; in this case in the good sense.

[2] The factual knowledge on which the interior truths meant by the spices, resin, and stacte which the Ishmaelites were carrying on their camels are based are not the kind of facts which the Church possesses but the kind found among gentiles. The truths obtained from these facts found among gentiles cannot receive correction and be made sound except by means of the facts which the genuine Church possesses, and so by instruction in those facts. These are the matters meant at this point.

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