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  • Author: Rev. Henry Maclagan
  • Publisher: Richard Clay & Sons, Limited
  • Publication Date: 1911
  • Total Pages: 584

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The Book of Numbers Explained

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The Book of Numbers Interpreted and Explained According to Its Spiritual or Internal Sense with Copious References to the Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg Explanatory Notes and a Commentary by the Rev. Henry Maclagan



Having now completed the proofs of the internal sense of the book of Leviticus according to the law of correspondences as revealed by the Lord in the Arcana Ccelestia ; and having been greatly helped in the accomplishment of this work by perception from Him, according to the requirement in every case of difficulty, and indeed, in the interpretation of every sentence,-since it is well known that all life is continually from Him, with the power to perform. every useful work, of whatever kind it may be,-it is next proposed to proceed in the same way with the book of Numbers, and as an introduction, to make some general remarks on the order in which the tribes of Israel are variously named in the Word, three distinct examples of which occur in the first two chapters. The twelve tribes signify the universal principles of good and truth from the Lord which make heaven and the church in man; and the various order in which thev are named, indicates differences as to the state of man in the reception and application of those general and universal principles. "When the order commences from love, everything which follows thence, in genuine order, appears flaming: when, however, the order commences from faith, then everything which follows, in genuine order, appears lucid; but with every difference according to the things which follow. But, if not according to genuine order, everything appears obscure, with every difference. ...Hence it is that the Lord gave answers by means of the Urim and Thumrnirn, and that, according to the state of the case, they received answers by means of lights, and by the glittering thereof from the precious and transparent stones on which were inscribed the names of the twelve tribes, for, as has been stated, on the names were inscribed the universals of love and faith which are in the Lord's Kingdom, consequently the universals of flame and light whereby the things that belong to love and faith are represented in heaven," 3862.

Examples are then given of the different order of the tribes in different parts of the Word, showing that it is according to the subject in the internal sense, and among these the order of the encampment of the tribes as described in Num. ii. And this order is particularly sta ted to be heavenly order, and the "camp of God" is said to signify heaven in another place, 4236.

Hence, then, we are sure that the general internal sense of this particular chapter is descriptive of heaven and the heavenly life; and we Iuay be equally certain from this that the two orders in chap. i. describe man's state in preparation for the heavenly life; and, in short, we may conclude that the first has reference to man in his state of instruction, and the second to his experiences when passing through regeneration, and when enduring spiritual temptations. And therefore it is to be observed that the first and second orders commence from faith, represented by Reuben, and the third from love, represented by Judah. Notice, also, that Levi does not appear at all in these three orders, the reason for which will be found in the spiritual teaching of chap. I. 49, 50, and in chap. ii. 33. Again, it appears that the first order is not so perfect as the second, and that the second is not so perfect as the third, and set that there is' a general similarity, there being four triads in each order. If, however, the first order be considered, the triads will appear irregular, thus:

     Reuben,     Issachar,     Manasseh,     Asher,
     Simeon,     Zebulun,      Benjamin,     Gad,
     Judah,      Ephraim,      Dan,          Naphtali.            

But in the second order we have:

     Reuben,     Judah,        Manasseh,     Dan,
     Simeon,     Issachar,     Ephraim,      Asher,
     Gad,        Zebulun,      Benjamin,     Naphtali.

This order, it will be seen, is more harmonious, and agrees altogether with the third, as far as the last six tribes are concerned, thus:

     Judah,      Reuben,       Ephraim,      Dan,
     Issachar,   Simeon,       Manasseh,     Asher,
     Zebulun,    Gad,          Benjamin,     Naphtali.

Now what does this indicate? It is that, during regeneration, the natural degree, internally and externally, is brought into heavenly order, as to the outward appearance, before the spiritual and celestial man. The man who is passing through regeneration is not as yet so perfect internally as he appears externally. His outward life is orderly because, generally speaking, he is compelling himself to do what is orderly, but still his motives are not altogether pure, and faith is still his leading principle, rather than charity or love: hence Reuben and Simeon and Gad, in the second order, precede Judah and Issachar and Zebulun, A man, in fact, must be reformed. before he can be fully regenerated; and, on this account, the quality of his good works, represented particularly by Gtui in these orders, will vary. At first they are merely natural, and so his name appears in the triad which denotes the external of the natural degree; next, they are from a principle of faith, and his name appears, therefore, under that of Reuben in the first triad of the second order; and lastly they are from love as well as faith, and consequently the name appears in the third order as the ultimate degree of the second triad. Thus the internal sense of these orders describes the varying states of the life of man during regeneration, and when it is completed : and we need only further remark that the tribe of Naphtali has its position constant in each order, because it signifies, first of all, simple resistance to evil, as arising from the fear of the consequences under th; state of instruction; secondly, resistance from a principle of faith, and under temptations; and, lastly, as resistance to evil in the full state. of. freedom which properly belongs to the heavenly life. But he who IS In good does not so much resist evil as he contemns it, because temptations have ceased with him,. and he enjoys heavenly freedom, while yet the sphere of good Itself, In which he is from the Lord, is a full protection against the incursion of evil. For evil spirits cannot endure the heavenly atmosphere, but flee away from It, on which account those who are In heaven enjoy an eternal sabbath; nor can they any more fluctuate between good and evil.

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