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NUMBERS >> To set in Order and Dispose
>> To know the Nature and Quality of any Thing


Do we ever speak of "weighing " or "measuring "anything spiritual? We "weigh " one's reasons or arguments. We "take a man's measure " when we form our estimate of his character and abilities. The thought of spiritual weighing and measuring is always involved where the words are used in the Bible. So also "to number" in the Bible involves the spiritual idea of perceiving the quality of a thing, and arranging it in order. The psalmist prays, "So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom." (Ps. xc. 12) The prayer is not merely that the Lord will help us to realize the shortness of earthly life in comparison with the eternal life, but that He will help us to see the nature and the purpose of the states through which we are passing, that we may use them wisely. (AE 453; AC 10217) Remember the words written by the hand on the wall of Belshazzar's palace. "This is the writing that was written, Mene, mene, tekel, upharsin. This is the interpretation of the thing: Mene; God hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it. Tekel; thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting. Peres; thy kingdom is divided, and given to the Medes and Persians." (Dan. v. 25-28) It meant that the Lord knew the wickedness of their ways, and that judgment was at hand. (AE 373; AC 3104, 10217) For another example, read the Lord's words in Luke: "Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God? But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows." (Luke xii. 6, 7) These words declare the Lord's knowledge of even the least things of our life, and His Providence over them. (AE 453)

Remember the words of the Psalm: "He telleth the number of the stars; he calleth them all by their names. Great is our Lord, and of great power: his understanding is infinite [or without number]." (Ps. cxlvii. 4, 5) We have already quoted the explanation: "Here, by telling the number of the stars, and calling them all by their names, is signified to know all goods and truths, and, according to their quality, to dispose them in heaven and the church." (AE 453; AC 10217; P. P) "The LORD spake unto Moses saying, When thou takest the sum of the children of Israel after their number, then shall they give every man a ransom for his soul unto the LORD, when thou numberest them; that there be no plague among them when thou numberest them." (Exod. xxx. 11,12) The ransom represents the acknowledgment that all things of heavenly life in us are the Lord's, and that He alone can know and order them. We number the people and pay no ransom to the Lord, when we self-confidently regard as our own the beginnings of heavenly life which we enjoy, and think that we can know them and Provide for their development ourselves. This self-confidence was represented by David's numbering of the people, which was accounted a sin and was punished by the death of seventy thousand men. (2 Sam. xxiv; A. E- 453; AC 10217, 10218; AR 364)

Num1bers_200_216To number spiritually is to know the quality of a thing. We can go farther. We are taught that every number involves the idea of some special quality. (AC 648, 493, 10217; AR 348; AE 1253) We are taught that angels so clearly perceive the relation of numbers to human qualities that they can express thoughts in numbers, and that they have a kind of writing which consists of numbers alone. (HH 263; AE 429; AC 4495, 5265) The wise ancients also knew the spiritual ideas involved in numbers, and expressed by numbers the changing states of the church. (AC 487, 6175)

 In the Bible, numbers are used in accordance with this ancient and heavenly wisdom, every number involving some idea of human quality. This fact explains the importance  given to numbers in the Word; it explains also many numbers which can hardly be understood in a merely literal way - for example, the great age of Methuselah, nine hundred and sixty-nine years, and other ages recorded in the fifth chapter of Genesis. The names here refer not to individual men, but to successive developments of the church; and the numbers are used in the ancient way to express the spiritual quality of these developments. (AC 482) And again in the Revelation the dimensions of the holy city (Rev. xxi. 16) express not the physical extent, but spiritual qualities of the church which is symbolized by the city. (AR 909; AE 1318) And so throughout the Word, even where numbers are literally and historically true, as they for the most part are, they still always involve the idea of spiritual quality.

We must think of a few numbers, to learn in a simple and most general way what qualities they correspond to, and to see, if we can, that the correspondence is not arbitrary, but that the numbers are by ancient association and even by their very nature related to the qualities for which they stand as symbols in the Bible.

Take the number two. Does it convey any idea besides mere number? Does it not suggest that the two objects form a pair, related to each other as right and left, or as good and truth, or as husband and wife?

There is a doubleness throughout the universe, originating in the two elements, love and wisdom, which exist infinitely in the Lord, and from Him in all that He has made. In heaven there are the two kingdoms, celestial and spiritual, the one more open to the Lord's love, the other to His wisdom. (HH 20-27) In every mind there are the faculties of will and understanding, formed to receive love and wisdom from the Lord. (NJHD 28-33) The same two-fold character extends into natural things, causing the members of the body to exist in pairs (DLW 127, 409) , and producing a certain image of marriage throughout nature. (CL 84-87; NJHD I I-I3) The number two suggests the celestial and spiritual kingdoms of heaven; the union of affection and thought in our own minds, of charity and faith in religion; and it suggests the union of the Divine love on the Lord's part, with His truth as it is lived by men, which is the marriage of the Lord with His church. (AC 5194)

There are two Great Commandments and two tables of the Ten Commandments. The second table contains the truth which men must live, and as they do so the Lord gives the love required by the first table. The two tables are therefore an expression and token of the union between the Lord and men. (TCR 456, 285; AC 9416) Remember how the Lord sent forth the apostles "by two and two." (Mark vi. 7) Does it not mean that love must be joined with wisdom in errands of service for the Lord? The Lord said, "Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven." (Matt. xviii. 19) It means that if we do not rest content with knowing what is true and right, but by faithful life join with the knowledge love for good, the heavenly character is confirmed in us by the Lord. (AE 411, 696) The Lord said, "It is also written in your law, that the testimony of two men is true. I am one that bear witness of myself, and the Father that sent me beareth witness of me." (John viii. 17, 18) Both the intellect and the affections must be touched to bring conviction. The Lord by His words and acts appealed to men's intellects in an outward way, but they were not convinced unless their hearts were at the same time open to feel the Divine Father-love in all He said and did. (AC 4197; John vi. 44)

Keep this thought in mind, that two means the union of love with understanding, when you read of the widow's two mites (Luke xxi. 2); of the good Samaritan's two pence (Luke x. 35; AE 444); of the two little fishes with which the Lord fed the people (John vi. 9; AC 5 291; AE 430); of the two talents which increased for heaven while the one did not. (Matt. xxv. 14-25; AC 7770; DP 16, 17)

The number three carries with it a quite different thought. It reminds us of the three heavens - the inmost, the middle, and the lowest. (HH 29-39) There are three planes of affection and thought in every mind, more interior and more external. (DLW 236-241; AC 3691) There are also three degrees of structure in all things of the natural creation. For example, there are three atmospheres - the aura, the ether, and the air (DLW 184); the small fibers of muscle or nerve are gathered into bundles, and these again are gathered into the common protecting sheath. (DLW 190) The number, three suggests those degrees of structure, and therefore carries the idea of perfection or of completeness. (TCR 211; AE 532; AC 2788, 9825; SS 29) The tabernacle and temple were built with three parts - the most holy chamber, the holy chamber, and the court - to represent the three heavens and the three degrees of heavenly life in a man. (AC 9457 9 741; Chapter xli) It was commanded the Israelites, "Three times thou shalt keep a feast unto me in the year." (Exod. xxiii. 14) The three feasts represent the remembrance of the Lord at all times. (AC 2788) So Daniel "kneeled upon his knees three times a day." (Dan. Vi. 10) It represents complete and continual dependence upon the Lord. (AC 2788) "As Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth." (Matt. xii. 40) These words, and also the fact that the Lord was laid in the sepulcher until the third day, tell of the completeness with which the Lord endured all possible states of temptation, that He might bring new life into every human experience. (AC 2788, 4495; SS 29; AR 505; TCR 211; AE 532) Remember that three represents all, when you read that the Lord chose three disciples to be with Him in the house of Jairus, on the mountain of transfiguration, and in Gethsemane; and that He prayed three times in the garden. (Mark v. 37, ix. 2, xiv. 33-41; AE 820; TCR 211) Peter three times denied the Lord, and afterwards three times declared his love, expressing the complete failure of his faith and his thorough repentance. (Matt. xxvi. 74, 75; John xxi. 17; TCR 211; SS 29)

Four is two times two, and it contains the same idea of the union of truth and goodness, but in greater fullness; for all composite numbers retain the quality of the numbers which compose them. (AC 9103, 1856, 6175; AE 384) Four expresses the full working out of truth into goodness of life, till the character is four square, the length as large as the breadth; "the measure of a man, that is, of an angel." (AE 1314-1317; AR 905-908; AC 9717)

This symmetry of character is gained, this full union of good and truth in life, only through temptations; and so it comes about that four, or more usually forty, is in the Bible associated with temptations, as means to the full development of heavenly character. Thus forty means a state of temptation where we read of the flood, that "the rain was upon the earth forty days and forty nights " (Gen. vii. 12); where we read of the forty years wandering of the Israelites in the wilderness (Deut. Viii. 2-4); and where we read in the Gospel: "Then was Jesus led up of the spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungered." (Matt. iv. 1, 2; AC 730, 8098; AE 633)

The number seven brings a quite different thought. It suggests the Sabbath, the day of rest after the labors of the week. Six is associated with states of labor and effort in living a heavenly life, and seven with the state of peace, when to do right is easy and delightful. Seven, from its meaning of finished labor, conveys an idea of completeness similar to that expressed by three, but it has also as its most characteristic quality a sense of the holiness of the Sabbath and heaven. (AC 716, 2044, 1036o; AE 20, 257; AR 505 end) The six days of creation are a grand picture of the steps by which the Lord forms a heavenly spirit in men, and the seventh day represents the attainment of the holy heavenly state. (AC 85, 87) The command to remember the Sabbath day shows our duty to keep sacred not only the seventh day, but all things which lead onward to the Lord and heaven. (AC 8495; TCR 302) The message in the Revelation is sent to the seven churches (Rev. i. 11 ) because it is for all who are advancing towards the heavenly life, and who are therefore of the Lord's church. (AR 10; AE 2o) Peter asked the Lord: "Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven." (Matt. xviii. 21, 22) Forgive always; forgive till the desire to be unforgiving is gone, and the heavenly spirit of perfect forgiveness is gained. (AE 257; AC 433) "The days of our years are seventy years; and if by reason of strength they be eighty years, yet is their strength labor and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away." (Ps. xc. 10, compare ver. 12) Life on earth, whether long or short, if faithfully lived, is seventy years, for it leads to the peace of heaven. The eighty years to which it may extend, suggests the greater opportunities with their accompanying temptations, which come to some men but not to all. Many other beautiful examples will come to mind, and some, perhaps, where seven means the completeness of an evil state.

The number ten we regard as a full, round number. Probably it has been so regarded from the days when people counted their fingers till one and then both hands were full. Ten has in the Bible the idea of all and an abundance. It has also special reference to the store of heavenly states laid up in every heart especially in childhood. Possibly. the fact that these heavenly states belong chiefly to the first ten years of life has helped to give the number ten this beautiful meaning. (AC 5 75, 576; AE 6 75; AR 101) There are ten commandments and ten blessings, meaning that they contain all truth relating to that innocence which the Lord stores up in the soul. (AE 675, 1024; TCR 286; AC 576) Read Abraham's entreaty for Sodom. (Gen. xviii. 23-33) It expresses the Lord's solicitude that every one in whom is anything of heaven shall be saved. After naming larger numbers which represent fuller developments of heavenly character, Abraham asked, "Peradventure ten shall be found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for ten's sake." While something of childhood's innocence remains in the soul, it is the means of 'salvation. (AC 2284) "Thus saith the LORD of hosts; In those days it shall come to pass, that ten men shall take hold out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you: for we have heard that God is with you." (Zech. viii. 23) How plainly it tells of the drawing to the Lord's kingdom of all that remains of innocence which can be saved! (AE 433, 675; AC 3881) Remember the parables of the hundred sheep and the ten pieces of silver. (Luke xv. 4-10) Both tell of the store of innocence entrusted to each one of us in childhood by the Lord, and of the duty of guarding it and of restoring what has been lost. What form of innocence do the sheep especially represent? and what the silver? (AE 675) Five is half of ten, the fingers of one hand. It conveys the idea of fewness, but also, like ten, the idea of completeness and enough. (AE 548; AC 5291) Typical examples of the use of five are David's "five smooth stones out of the brook," with which he met Goliath (1 Sam. xvii. 40) , like the Divine unchanging truths which we take from the letter of the Word, which though few are enough for our defense; the five sparrows, so trifling compared with man, and yet objects of the Lord's care (Luke xii. 6, 7; AE 548); the five barley loaves with which the Lord fed the multitude, so little, yet enough and to spare, representing the little and simple spiritual nourishment which the people were able to receive, and yet with the Lord's blessing enough to strengthen them for heaven. (John vi. 9-11; AE 548, 430)

Let us give a thought to one other number, twelve. It is the product of four and three. Four suggested a full development of both good and truth; three adds the thought that the development is of every degree; upon every plane of life. Twelve therefore means goodness and truth of every kind and degree. (AE 430; AR 348; AC 7973) First of all we remember the twelve tribes of Israel, which represent all forms of goodness and truth which compose the Lord's church. (AC 3858) The Lord also chose twelve apostles, to represent all elements of His church. (AC 3858; AE 430) The twelve foundations of the holy city represent all particulars of doctrine from the Word, on which the church rests. (AE 1324; AR 915) The twelve gates of the city show that the Lord's church and heaven are open to people in every degree of love of good, and in every degree of wisdom. (AE 1310; AR 901) "And I heard the number of them that were sealed: and there were sealed an hundred and forty-four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel." (Rev. vii. 4) It means all in whom are heavenly love and faith. (AE 430; AR 348) The Lord said in that night in the garden of Gethsemane, "Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?" (Matt. xxvi. 53) "By the twelve legions of angels here mentioned, is understood the universal heaven, and by more than twelve, is signified the Divine omnipotence." (AE 430)


 I have also seen writings from heaven made up of mere numbers set down in order and in a series, just as in writings made up of letters and words; and I have been taught that this writing is from the inmost heaven, and that their heavenly writing (spoken of above, n. 260, 261), when the thought from it flows down, is set forth before the angels of the lower heavens in numbers, and that this numerical writing likewise involves arcana, some of which can neither be comprehended by thought nor expressed by words. For all numbers correspond, and have a meaning, the same as words do, in accordance with the correspondence;# yet with the difference that in numbers generals are involved, and in words particulars; and as one general involves innumerable particulars, so more arcana are involved in numerical writing than in literal writing. From this I could see that in the Word numbers as well as words signify things. What the simple numbers signify, as 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 12, and what the compound numbers, as 20, 30, 50, 70, 100, 144, 1000, 10,000, 12,000, and others, may be seen in the Arcana Celestia, where they are treated of. In this writing in heaven, a number is always prefixed on which those following in a series depend as on their subject; for that number is as it were an index to the matter treated of, and from it is the determination of the numbers that follow to the particular point.

# All numbers in the Word signify things (n. 482, 487, 647, 648, 755, 813, 1963, 1988, 2075, 2252, 3252, 4264, 6470, 6175, 9488, 9659, 10217, 10253). Shown from heaven (n. 4495, 5265).

Composite numbers have the same signification as the simple numbers from which they result by multiplication (n. 5291, 5335, 5708, 7973).
The most ancient people possessed heavenly arcana expressed in numbers forming a kind of computation of states of the church (n. 575).[HH263]

As to those who are numbered of them. That this signifies a setting in order and disposing, is evident from the signification of "numbering," when said of all things of the church, which are the truths and goods of faith and love, as being the setting in order and the disposing of them, consequently "those who were numbered" signify what has been set in order and disposed. "Numbering" has this signification because numbering involves survey, and that which is surveyed by the Lord is also set in order and disposed. Moreover, the word by which numbering is here expressed, in the original tongue means to survey, to estimate, to observe, and also to visit, to command, to preside, thus to set in order and dispose. That these significations belong to this word is because in the spiritual sense the one thing involves the other, and the spiritual sense is the interior sense of the words, which sense is often contained in the words of languages, especially of the oriental languages.

[2] That in the spiritual sense, in which sense the truths and goods of faith and love are treated of, "to number" denotes to set in order and dispose, is evident also from the passages in the Word where "numbering" is spoken of, and also "number," as in the following:

The voice of a tumult of the kingdoms of the nations gathered together; Jehovah Zebaoth numbers (setteth in order) the army of war (Isa. 13:4).
Lift up your eyes on high, and see who hath created these; He that hath brought forth by number their army; He calleth them all by name; of the multitude of the powerful and of the mighty in strength, not a man is lacking (Isa. 40:26).
Jehovah who numbers the army of the stars; He calleth all by names (Ps. 147:4).

That by "numbering" in these passages is signified to set in order and dispose, is plain, for it is said of Jehovah, that is, the Lord, who does not number any army, or stars, but sets in order and disposes those things which are signified by an "army" and by "stars," which are the truths and goods of faith and love; for the subject treated of is not wars in the natural world, but wars in the spiritual world, which are wars or combats of truths from good against falsities from evil. (That "wars" in the spiritual sense denote such combats, see n. 1664, 2686, 8273, 8295; that an "army" denotes the truths and goods of the church and of heaven, n. 7988, 8019; and that "stars" denote the knowledges of truth and good, n. 2495, 2849, 4697.)

[3] When it is known what is signified by "numbering," and by " the sons of Israel," it can be seen why it was not allowable for David to number the people, and why after he numbered them, Gad the prophet was sent to him, who declared the penalty (2 Sam. 24:1-15); and why it is here said that "everyone should give an expiation of his soul, that there be no plague in them in numbering them." For by "the sons of Israel" are signified the truths and goods of the church, and by "numbering" is signified to set in order and dispose; and because it is of the Lord alone to set in order and dispose the truths and goods of faith and of love with everyone in the church and in heaven, therefore when this is done by a man, as it was done by David through Joab, it then signifies the setting in order and disposing of such things by man, and not by the Lord, which is not to set in order and dispose, but to destroy. If the numbering of the sons of Israel had not involved such things, there would not have been any sin or guilt in numbering them.

[4] (That by "the sons of Israel" are signified spiritual truths and goods, which are the truths and goods of the church and of heaven, see n. 5414, 5801, 5803, 5812, 5817, 5819, 5826, 5833, 5879, 5951, 7957, 8234, 8805; in like manner by the tribes into which the sons of Israel were divided, n. 3858, 3926, 4060, 6335, 6397.) As by "the sons of Israel" and by the "tribes" such things are signified, and these are innumerable, therefore in the Word it is said of them that:

Their number should be as the sand of the sea, which shall not be measured, nor numbered (Hosea 1:10).
Who will number the dust of Jacob, and the number of Israel? (Num. 23:10).
Jehovah said to Abraham, I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth; so that if one can number the dust of the earth, it shall be that thy seed will be numbered (Gen. 13:16; 16:10).
Look up toward heaven, and number the stars, if thou be able to number them. So shall thy seed be (Gen. 15:5).

That by "the sons of Israel," and by "the seed of Abraham," was not meant their posterity; but spiritual truths and goods, which are innumerable, and also for the most part unutterable, can be seen from the fact that there was not a greater multitude of them than of other nations, which also Moses testifies:
Not because of your multitude above all peoples hath Jehovah desired you, that He should choose you, for indeed ye are fewer than all peoples (Deut. 7:7).

[5] Moreover, by "numbering" is signified to set in order and dispose, in Jeremiah:

In the cities of Jerusalem and of Judah shall the flocks yet pass over according to the hands of him that numbers them (Jer. 33:13);

"flocks" also denote the goods and truths of the church (n. 6048, 8937, 9135); "according to the hands of him that numbers" denotes according to the disposing of the Lord. In David:

Who knoweth the vehemence of Thine anger? For numbering our days, make known what is right, that we may put on a heart of wisdom (Ps. 90:12);
"to number days" denotes to set in order and dispose the states of life; and days are said to be "numbered" when they are set in order and disposed, thus when they are finished, as in these passages:

By the letting out of my days I shall go away unto the gates of hell; I have been numbered as to the residue of my years (Isa. 38:10);
A writing appeared before King Belshazzar: Numbered, Weighed, and Divided (Dan. 5:25);

for when "to number" signifies to set in order and dispose, then what is "numbered" signifies what is finished, as when a line is drawn under numbers on completing the calculation.

[6] That by "numbering" is signified to set in order and dispose, is because by "number" is signified the quality of a thing and of a state, and the quality is determined by the adjoined number; hence "to number" denotes to qualify, and in spiritual things qualification is effected by a setting in order and a disposing by the Lord. This is signified by "number" in John:

He causeth that he give to all a mark upon their right hand or upon their foreheads, and that no one can buy or sell save he that hath the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. Here is wisdom. Let him that hath intelligence count the number of the beast; for it is the number of a man; namely, the number six hundred and sixty-six (Rev. 13:16-18).

[7] The subject treated of in this chapter is the beast out of the sea and the beast out of the earth; by the "beast out of the sea" is meant the truth of the church falsified by means of memory-knowledges which are from the world; and by the "beast out of the earth" is meant the truth of the church falsified by means of the literal sense of the Word applied to favor the evils of the loves of self and of the world; for the "earth" denotes the church as to good and truth (see the places cited in n. 9325; and the "sea" denotes memory-knowledge in general, n. 28, 2850, 2120). "To have his mark upon the hand and upon the forehead" denotes to acknowledge all things no matter what they may be; for the "forehead" signifies love (n. 9936); and a "name" signifies all the quality of that which is being treated of (n. 3006, 3421, 6674, 8274, 1930).

[8] "To count the number of the beast" denotes to explore and know these falsified truths of the church; "the number of a man" signifies the subject and the state of the church; "six hundred and sixty-six" signifies its quality as to all truths falsified from evil, and also the profanation of what is holy, and likewise the end. To know these things, and to explore them, is the part of a wise and intelligent man, and therefore it is said, "this is wisdom, let him that hath intelligence count its number;" for the number "six" signifies the same as the number "twelve," because it is the half of it (n. 3960, 7973, 8148); and "twelve" signifies all the truths and goods of the church in the complex (n. 2129, 2130, 3272, 3858, 3913, 7973), hence also in the opposite sense it signifies all falsities and evils in the complex. The trebling of the number six also involves the end, and the end is when truth is completely profaned.

[9] From all this it is very evident that numbers in the Word involve things and states, and signify quality according to the numbers fixed upon, as also in the following words in John:

The angel measured the wall of the holy Jerusalem a hundred and forty-four cubits, which is the measure of a man, that is, of an angel (Rev. 21:17);
by the number fixed upon in this passage are also signified all truths and goods in the complex, for "a hundred and forty-four" signifies the same as "twelve" (n. 7973), for it arises from twelve multiplied into itself; and therefore it is here said that its "measure is the measure of a man," as above that this number is "the number of a man;" but as truths from good are here signified, it is added that this measure is also "the measure of an angel," for "an angel" in the Word signifies truths from good, because he is a recipient of Divine truth from the Lord (see n. 8192). [AC10217]

And it came to pass on the third day. That this signifies what is continuous even to the end, is evident from the signification of the "third day," as being what is complete from beginning to end (see n. 2788), thus also what is continuous. That this is the signification of the "third day," can scarcely be believed by those who regard the historicals of the Word as mere worldly histories, holy merely because they are in the sacred volume. But that not only the historicals of the Word themselves enfold within them spiritual and heavenly things which are not apparent in the letter, but that so also do all the words, and even all the numbers, has been shown in the preceding explications; that such is really the case will of the Lord's Divine mercy become still more evident in the prophetic parts, which do not keep the mind so closely engaged with the succession of statements in the sense of the letter as do the historical parts. But that the number "three," also the number "seven," and the number "twelve," enfold deep secrets within them, must be evident to everyone who examines the Word in regard to its interiors; and if these numbers are so full of significance, it follows that there must be something deeply hidden in all the other numbers that occur in the Word, for the Word is holy throughout.

[2] Sometimes when speaking with angels, as it were written numbers appeared before my eyes like those seen on paper in bright day, and I perceived that the very things they were speaking of fell into such numbers; and from this experience I learned that every number mentioned in the Word holds within it some mystery, as is very evident from the following passages:

He measured the wall of the Holy Jerusalem a hundred and forty-four cubits, which is the measure of a man, that is, of an angel (Rev. 21:17).
He that hath intelligence let him compute the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man, and his number is six hundred and sixty six (Rev. 13:18).
That the number first mentioned-"144"-results from the multiplication of twelve into itself, and that the number "666" is a product of three and six, is manifest, but what holy thing they enfold within them may appear from the holiness of the number "twelve" (see n. 577, 2089, 2129, 2130, 3272, 3858, 3913), and of the number "three" (n. 720, 901, 1825, 2788, 4010).

[3] This latter number-"three"-being significative of what is complete even to the end, thus of one period, great or small, was received in the representative church, and was employed whenever such a thing was signified; and also in the Word (in which all things have a signification both in general and in particular) as may be seen from the following instances:

That they should go three days' journey and should sacrifice (Exod. 3:18; 5:3).
That they should be ready against the third day, because on the third day Jehovah would come down upon Mount Sinai (Exod. 19:11, 15-16, 18).
That nothing should be left of the flesh of the sacrifice until the third day (Lev. 7:16-18; 19:6-7).
That the water of separation should be sprinkled upon the unclean on the third day and on the seventh day (Num. 19:11-22).
That they who touched one slain in war should be purified on the third day and on the seventh day (Num. 31:19-25).
That Joshua commanded the people to pass over Jordan within three days (Josh. 1:11; 3:2).
That Jehovah called Samuel three times, and Samuel ran to Eli three times, and Eli understood the third time that Jehovah had called Samuel (1 Sam. 3:1-8).

That Jonathan said to David that he should hide himself in the field unto the third day at even, and that Jonathan sent to him on the third morrow, and revealed the disposition of his father; and that Jonathan then shot three arrows at the side of the stone; and that after this David bowed himself three times to the earth before Jonathan (1 Sam. 20:5, 12, 19,20, 35,36, 41).

That three things were offered to David to chose from: that there should come seven years of famine, that he should flee three months before his enemies, or that there should be three days' pestilence in the land (2 Sam. 24:11-13).

That Rehoboam said to the congregation of Israel who sought to be relieved from the yoke of his father, that they should go away three days, and come again; and that they came to Rehoboam the third day, as the King bade, saying, Come to me again the third day (1 Kings 12:5, 12).
That Elijah stretched himself upon the widow's son three times (1 Kings 17:21).
That Elijah told the people to pour water upon the burnt-offering and the wood the third time, and they did it the third time (1 Kings 18:34).
That Jonah was in the belly of the whale three days and three nights (Jonah 1:17; Matt. 12:40).
That the Lord spoke of a man who planted a vineyard and sent his servants three times, and afterwards his son (Mark 12:2, 4-6; Luke 20:12-13).
That He said of Peter that he should deny Him thrice (Matt. 26:34; John 13:38).
That He said to Peter three times, Lovest thou Me? (John 21:15-17).

From these and many other places in the Word it may be seen that there was some mystery in the number "three," and that therefore this number was received among the significatives in the ancient churches. That it signifies an entire period of the church and of the things in the church, whether great or small, is manifest; and that it consequently signifies what is complete and also continuous to the end, is very plain in Hosea:
Jehovah will vivify us after two days; on the third day He will raise us up, and we shall live before Him (Hos. 6:2). [AC4495]

That by "days" are signified times and states in general, was shown in the first chapter, where the "days" of creation have no other signification. In the Word it is very usual to call all time "days" as is manifestly the case in the present verse, and in those which follow (5, 8, 11, 14, 17, 20, 23, 27, 31); and therefore the states of the times in general are likewise signified by "days;" and when "years" are added, then by the seasons of the years are signified the qualities of the states, thus states in special. The most ancient people had their numbers, by which they signified various things relating to the church, as the numbers "three" "seven" "ten" "twelve" and many that were compounded of these and others, whereby they described the states of the church; wherefore these numbers contain arcana which would require much time to explain. It was an account or reckoning of the states of the church. The same thing occurs in many parts of the Word, especially the prophetical. In the rites of the Jewish Church also there were numbers, both of times and measures, as for instance in regard to the sacrifices, meat-offerings, oblations, and other things, which everywhere signify holy things, according to their application. The things here involved, therefore, in the number "eight hundred" and in the next verse, in the number "nine hundred and thirty" and in the numbers of years in the verses following-namely, the changes of state of their church as applied to their own general state-are too many to be recounted. In a future part of this work, of the Lord's Divine mercy we shall take occasion to show what the simple numbers up to "twelve" signify, for until the signification of these is known, it would be impossible to apprehend the signification of the compound numbers. [AC487]

That these particulars have such a signification, as that the numbers "three hundred" "fifty" and "thirty" signify remains, and that they are few; and that "length" "breadth" and "height" signify holiness, truth, and good, cannot but appear strange to everyone, and very remote from the letter. But in addition to what was said and shown above concerning numbers (at verse 3 of this chapter, that a "hundred and twenty" there signify remains of faith), it may be evident to everyone also from the fact that they who are in the internal sense, as are good spirits and angels, are beyond all such things as are earthly, corporeal, and merely of the world, and thus are beyond all matters of number and measure, and yet it is given them by the Lord to perceive the Word fully, and this entirely apart from such things. And this being true, it may therefore be very evident that these particulars involve things celestial and spiritual which are so remote from the sense of the letter that it cannot even appear that there are such things. Such are celestial and spiritual things both in general and in particular. And from this a man may know how insane it is to desire to search into those things which are matters of faith, by means of the things of sense and knowledge [sensualia et scientifica]; and to be unwilling to believe unless he apprehends them in this way. [AC647]

That by "the six hundredth year, the second month, and seventeenth day" is signified the second state of temptation, follows from what has hitherto been said; for from the sixth verse to this eleventh verse the first state of temptation is treated of, which was temptation as to things of his understanding. And that now the second state is treated of, namely, as to things of the will, is the reason why his age is told again. It was said before that he was "a son of six hundred years" and here that the flood came "in the six-hundredth year of his life, in the second month, and in the seventeenth day." No one could suppose that by the years of Noah's age, of which the years, months, and days are specified, a state of temptation as to things of the will is meant. But as has been said, such was the manner of speech and of writing among the most ancient people; and especially were they delighted in being able to specify times and names, and thereby construct a narrative similar to actual history; and in this consisted their wisdom.

[2] Now it has been shown above, at verse 6, that the "six hundred years" signify nothing else than the first state of temptation, and so do the "six hundred years" here; but in order that the second state of temptation might be signified, "months" and "days" are added; and indeed two months or "in the second month" which signifies combat itself, as is evident from the signification of the number "two" in the second verse of this chapter, where it is shown that it signifies the same as "six" that is, labor and combat, and also dispersion. But the number "seventeen" signifies both the beginning of temptation and the end of temptation, because it is composed of the numbers seven and ten. When this number signifies the beginning of temptation, it involves the days up to seven, or a week of seven days; and that this signifies the beginning of temptation has been shown above, at the fourth verse of this chapter. But when it signifies the end of temptation (as at verse 4 of chapter 8), then "seven" is a holy number; to which "ten" (which signifies remains) is adjoined, for without remains man cannot be regenerated.

[3] That the number "seventeen" signifies the beginning of temptation, is evident in Jeremiah, when that prophet was commanded to buy a field from Hanamel his uncle's son, which was in Anathoth; and he weighed him the money, seventeen shekels of silver (Jer. 32:9). That this number also signifies the Babylonish captivity, which represents the temptation of the faithful and the devastation of the unfaithful, and so the beginning of temptation and at the same time the end of temptation, or liberation, is evident from what follows in the same chapter-the captivity in the thirty-sixth verse, and the liberation in the thirty-seventh and following verses. No such number would have appeared in the prophecy if it had not, like all the other words, involved a hidden meaning.

[4] That "seventeen" signifies the beginning of temptation, is also evident from the age of Joseph, who was a "son of seventeen years" when he was sent to his brothers and sold into Egypt (Gen. 37:2). His being sold into Egypt has a similar signification, as of the Lord's Divine mercy will be shown in the explication of that chapter. There the historical events are representative, which actually took place as described; but here significative historical incidents are composed, which did not take place as described in the sense of the letter. And yet the actual events involve arcana of heaven, in fact every word of them does so, exactly as do these made-up histories. It cannot but appear strange that this is so, because where any historical fact or statement is presented, the mind is held in the letter and cannot release itself from it, and so thinks that nothing else is signified and represented.

[5] But that there is an internal sense in which the life of the Word resides (and not in the letter, which without the internal sense is dead), must be evident to every intelligent man. Without the internal sense how does any historical statement in the Word differ from history as told by any profane writer? And then of what use would it be to know the age of Noah, and the month and day when the flood took place, if it did not involve a heavenly arcanum? And who cannot see that this saying: "all the fountains of the great deep were broken up, and the cataracts of heaven were opened" is a prophetical one? Not to mention other like considerations. [AC755]

 That this signifies the last limit of the Most Ancient Church, and that "a hundred and fifty" is the last limit, and the first, cannot indeed be so well confirmed from the Word as can the more simple numbers, which are frequently occurring. And yet it is evident from the mention of the number "fifteen" (concerning which above at verse 20), which signifies so few as to be scarcely any; and this is still more the case with the number "a hundred and fifty" composed of fifteen multiplied by ten, which last signifies remains. The multiplication of a few (like the multiplication of a half, a fourth, or a tenth), makes it still less, so that at length it becomes almost none, consequently the end or last limit. The same number occurs in the following chapter (Gen. 8:3), where it is said: "the waters receded at the end of a hundred and fifty days" with the same signification.

[2] The numbers mentioned in the Word are to be understood in a sense entirely abstracted from that of the letter. They are introduced (as has been said and shown before) merely to connect together the historic series that is in the sense of the letter. Thus where "seven" occurs, it signifies what is holy, entirely apart from the times and measures with which the number is commonly joined. For the angels, who perceive the internal sense of the Word, know nothing of time and measure, still less of the number designated; and yet they understand the Word fully, when it is being read by man. When therefore a number anywhere occurs, they can have no idea of any number, but of the thing signified by the number. So here by this number they understand that it denotes the last limit of the Mat Ancient Church; and in the following chapter (verse 3), that it denotes the first limit of the Ancient or new Church.813.
 Abram was a son of eighty years and six years. That this signifies the Lord's state in respect to the celestial good acquired by means of the combats of temptations, is evident from the signification of "eighty," in which number is involved much the same as in "forty;" and that these numbers signify temptations has been already shown (n. 730, 862); and from the signification of "six," as being combat, also explained before (n. 720, 737, 900); and further from the signification of "ten," as being remains (treated of, n. 576); which remains in the Lord's case were the possessions of celestial goods by which He united the Human Essence to the Divine Essence (n. 1906, at the end). These three numbers are components of the number eighty-six, in which such things are involved, and which thus signifies the Lord's state in regard to the celestial good acquired by means of the combats of temptations; for all numbers in the Word signify actual things (as before shown, n. 482, 487, 575, 647, 648, 755, 813). As in this case the numbers mentioned are numbers of years, and as they are also mentioned in historical connection with Abram, it appears as if they were not significative of such things. But there is nothing written in the Word which does not pass into a spiritual and a celestial sense when it passes over to the angels; for angels are in none other than spiritual and celestial ideas, and when the Word is being read by a man, the angels neither know nor perceive what "eighty-six" is, nor do they care of what age Abram was when Hagar bare Ishmael to him; but from such a number, when read, the things involved in the numbers immediately come to them; and the same is the case with all the other expressions, as they have been explained in the internal sense. [AC1963]

A hundred years, and seventy years, and five years. That this signifies the things that belong to this state, is evident from the fact that all numbers in the Word signify things (see n. 482, 487, 575, 647, 648, 1963, 1988, 2075, 2252); and therefore so does this number, which signifies the things that are of the state now treated of. While the mind dwells solely on what is historical, it appears as if numbers, such as these of the years of the age of Abraham, do not involve any interior sense; yet that they do involve such a sense is evident from all that has been shown above concerning numbers, and can be seen from the fact that in number simply as number there is nothing holy, and yet the least of all the things in the Word is holy. [AC3252]

Thirty milch camels and their colts, forty heifers and ten bullocks, twenty she-asses and ten foals. That this signifies things of service general and special, is evident from the signification of "camels and their colts," and of "heifers and bullocks," also of "she-asses and their foals" as being the things which are of the natural man (concerning which see above - as to camels, n. 3048, 3071, 3143, 3145; bullocks, n. 1824, 1825, 2180, 2781, 2830; and she-asses, n. 2781). That the things which are of the natural man are relatively things of service, may also be seen above (n. 1486, 3019, 3020, 3167). Hence it is that by these animals are signified things of service general and special. As regards the number, of she-goats two hundred, of he-goats twenty, of ewes two hundred, of rams twenty, of camels and their colts thirty, of heifers forty, of bullocks ten, of she-asses twenty, and of their foals ten, these are arcana which cannot be opened without much explication and ample deduction; for all numbers in the Word signify actual things (n. 482, 487, 575, 647, 648, 755, 813, 1988, 2075, 2252, 3252); and what they signify has been shown in the foregoing pages where they have occurred.

[2] I have sometimes wondered that when the speech of the angels fell down into the world of spirits, it fell also into various numbers; and also that where numbers were read in the Word, real things were understood by the angels. For number never penetrates into heaven, because numbers are measures of both space and of time, these being of the world and of nature, to which in the heavens correspond states and changes of states. The most ancient people, who were celestial men and had communication with angels, knew what was signified by every number, even by the compound ones; and from them their signification was handed down to their posterity, and to the sons of the Ancient Church. These are things which will hardly be credited by the man of the church at this day, who believes nothing to have been stored up in the Word more holy than what appears in the letter. [AC4264]

So the days of Jacob, the years of his life, were seven years and a hundred and forty years. That this signifies the general state and its quality, may be seen if the numbers "seven," "forty," and a "hundred" are unfolded. What "seven" signifies may be seen above (n. 395, 433, 716, 728, 881, 5265, 5268); what "forty" signifies (n. 730, 862, 2272, 2273); and what a "hundred" (n. 1988, 2636, 4400). But the numbers thus compounded cannot be easily unfolded, for they contain more things than can be reduced to a summary statement, and be expressed to the apprehension. These numbers in general contain the whole state of that which is represented by Jacob, and its quality. These things the angels see in one complex from the very number a hundred and forty-seven; for all numbers in the Word fall with them into ideas of things, as has been made plain to me from the fact that sometimes numbers in a long succession have appeared to me, and the angels then said that those numbers enfolded within them in succession likewise the things of which they were conversing. From this also the most ancient people, who were of the celestial church, made a computation consisting of numbers, by which were conveyed heavenly things not easily comprehensible to the ideas of the natural mind. But after their times these computations perished, together with the perception of heavenly things, and there remained only the knowledge of the general signification of the simple numbers, as "three," "six," "seven," "twelve;" and not so much of the signification of compound numbers. But at this day it is not known that the numbers in the Word signify anything except number, and therefore what has been said on the subject will perhaps be thought incredible. [AC6175] 

And a cubit and a half the breadth thereof. That this signifies full in respect to truth, is evident from the signification of "one and a half," as being what is full. The reason why this number signifies what is full, is that "three" has this signification; for the half of a number signifies the like as double the number, because when a number is multiplied it retains the signification the simple number had before it was multiplied (see n. 5291, 5335). (That "three" denotes what is full, see n. 2788, 7718, 9188; and that all numbers in the Word signify real things, n. 482, 487, 575, 647, 648, 755, 813, 1963, 1988, 2075, 2252, 3252, 4264, 4495, 4670, 5265, 5291, 5335, 5708, 6175, 7973.) And from the signification of "breadth," as being truth (of which just above, n. 9487).[AC9488]

Author: EMANUEL SWEDENBORG (1688-1772)

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