Arcana Coelestia (Elliott) n. 2722

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2722. That 'he planted a grove in Beersheba' means doctrine from this with the cognitions composing it and the nature of it is clear from the meaning of 'a grove' and from the meaning of 'Beersheba'. As regards 'groves', holy worship in the Ancient Church was offered on mountains and in groves. It was offered on mountains because 'mountains meant the celestial things of worship, and in groves because 'groves' meant the spiritual things of it. As long as that Church - the Ancient Church - retained its simplicity their worship on mountains and in groves was holy, the reason being that celestial things, which are those of love and charity, were represented by places that were high and lofty, such as mountains and hills, while spiritual things, which derive from celestial, were represented by places with fruits and foliage such as gardens and groves. But after representatives and meaningful signs began to be made idolatrous because people worshipped external things without internal, that holy worship became profane; and they were therefore forbidden to hold worship on mountains and in groves.

[2] The fact that the Ancients held holy worship on mountains becomes clear from what is said about Abram in Chapter 12,

He removed from there to the mountain on the east of Bethel and pitched his tent, Bethel being towards the sea and Ai towards the east.a And there he built an altar and called on the name of Jehovah. Gen 12: 8 (1449-1455).

It is also clear from the meaning of 'a mountain' as the celestial entity of love, 795, 796,1430. The fact that people also held worship in groves is clear from what is said in the present verse, 'Abraham planted a grove in Beersheba, and there he called on the name of [Jehovah,] the God of Eternity', and also from the meaning of 'a garden' as intelligence, 100, 108,1588, and of 'trees' as perceptions, 103, 2163. The fact that worship on mountains and in groves was forbidden is clear from the following: In Moses,

You shall not plant for yourself a grove of any kind of tree beside the altar of Jehovah your God which you shall make for yourself. And you shall not erect for yourself a pillar, which Jehovah your God hates. Deut 16: 21, 22.

In the same author,

The altars of the nations you shall destroy; you shall break down their pillars and cut down their groves. Exod 34: 13.
They were also commanded to burn the groves of the nations with fire, Deut 12: 3.

[3] Now because the Jews and Israelites, among whom the representative ritual observances of the Ancient Church were introduced, were steeped solely in external things and were at heart nothing but idolaters, and because they were people who neither had nor wished to have knowledge of anything internal or of the life after death, and who did not know that the Messiah's kingdom was a heavenly kingdom, therefore whenever they were in freedom they held profane worship on mountains and hills, and also in groves and forests. They also made for themselves high places to serve instead of mountains and hills, and carved images of a grove instead of groves, as becomes clear from many places in the Word, as in the Book of Judges,

The children of Israel served the baals and the groves. Judg 3: 7.

In the Book of Kings,

Israel made groves, provoking Jehovah to anger. 1 Kings 14: 15.

And elsewhere in the same book,

Judah built for themselves high places and pillars and groves on every high hill, and under every leafy tree. 1 Kings 14: 23.

Elsewhere in the Books of Kings,

Israel built for themselves high places in every city. And they set up pillars and groves on every high hill and under every leafy tree. 2 Kings 17: 9,10.

And elsewhere in the same book,

Manasseh king of Judah erected altars to Baal and made a grove, as Ahab king of Israel had done. And the carved image of a grove that he had made he placed in the house of God. 2 Kings 21: 3, 7,

From this it is evident that they also made for themselves carved images of a grove. The fact that king Josiah destroyed these images is mentioned in the same book,

Josiah made them bring out of the temple of Jehovah all the vessels made for Baal and for the grove, and for the sun and moon, and for all the host of heaven; and he burned them outside Jerusalem, and the booths which the women had woven [in the house of Jehovah] for the grove. He also cut down the groves which Solomon had made, as well as the grove in Bethel which Jeroboam had made. 2 Kings 23: 4, 5, 7, 14, 15.

The fact that King Hezekiah as well demolished such things is also stated in the same book,

Hezekiah king of Judah removed the high places, and broke the pillars, and cut down the grove, and broke to pieces the bronze serpent which Moses had made. 2 Kings 18: 4.

[4] The bronze serpent, it is clear, was holy in the time of Moses, but when that which was external came to be worshipped, that bronze serpent became profane and was therefore smashed to pieces, for the same reason that worship on mountains and in groves was forbidden. These matters are made clearer still in the Prophets: In Isaiah,

You who inflame yourselves among the gods under every leafy tree, who slay the children in the rivers, under projections of the rocks. Even in the rivers you have poured out a drink offering. you have brought a gift. On a high and lofty mountain you have set your habitation and presented yourself there to offer sacrifice. Isa. 57: 5-7.

In the same prophet,

On that day a man will look to his Maker and his eyes will regard the Holy One of Israel. And he will not look to the altars, the work of his hands, and will not see what his fingers have made, both the groves and the solar pillars. Isa. 17: 7, 8.

In Micah,

I will cut down your carved images and your pillars from the midst of you, and you will bow down no more to the work of your hands. And I will root out your groves from the midst of you and destroy your cities. Micah 5: 13, 14.

In Ezekiel,

That the slain may be in the midst of their idols, around their altars at every lofty hill, on all the mountain tops, and under every leafy tree, and under every entangled oak, the place where they offered an odour of rest to all their idols. Ezek. 6: 13.

[5] From all this it is now evident where idolatrous worship originated, namely in the worship of the objects themselves that were representative and carried a spiritual meaning. The most ancient people, who lived before the Flood, saw in every single thing - in mountains, hills, plains, and valleys, in gardens, groves, forests, rivers, and waters, in fields and crops, in trees of every kind, also in living creatures of every kind, and in the heavenly bodies giving light - something that was a representative and a meaningful sign of the Lord's kingdom. But they never let their eyes, still less their minds, linger over such objects; for them these objects served instead as the means for thinking about the celestial and spiritual things that exist in the Lord's kingdom. Indeed so much was this the case with those objects that there was nothing at all in the whole natural world that failed to serve those people as means. It is indeed true that in itself every single thing in the natural order is representative; but at the present day this is an arcanum and scarcely believed by anyone. But after that which is celestial, which is essentially love to the Lord, had perished with man, the human race existed no longer in that state, that is, in the state of seeing from worldly objects the celestial and spiritual things of the Lord's kingdom.

[6] Nevertheless the Ancients after the Flood knew from traditions, and from collections made by certain people, that worldly objects had such meanings; and because these had such meanings they also regarded them as holy. From this arose the representative worship of the Ancient Church, which Church, being spiritual, did not enjoy any perception, only the knowledge, that a thing was so; for that Church, compared with the Most Ancient Church, dwelt in obscurity, 2715. It did not however worship external things but by means of external things people called to mind those which were internal. Consequently when they turned to those representatives and meaningful signs they entered the holiness of worship. They were able to turn to them because they were moved by spiritual love, that is, by charity, which they made the essential of worship, and as a consequence holiness from the Lord was able to flow into their worship. But when the state of the human race had become so changed and perverted that people departed from the good of charity, and thus did not believe any longer in the existence of a heavenly kingdom or in life after death, but supposed - as is also supposed at the present day - that their condition was no different from that of animals (apart from the fact that they as human beings could think), holy representative worship was turned into idolatrous worship and external things came to be worshipped. This was why worship among many gentiles at that time, and even among Jews and Israelites, was not representative, but a worship of the representatives and meaningful signs, that is, of external things devoid of internal.

[7] As regards 'groves' in particular, these had, among the ancients, varying meanings, such meanings depending in fact on the kinds of trees that the groves had in them. Groves where there were olives meant the celestial things of worship, groves where there were vines the spiritual things of worship, but groves where there were figs, cedars, firs, poplars, oaks, meant various things that were of a celestial and spiritual kind. Here however simply 'a grove' or plantation of trees is mentioned and by it was meant ideas belonging to the rational that were allied to doctrine and its cognitions; for trees in general mean perceptions, 103, 2163, but when they have reference to the spiritual Church they mean cognitions, the reason being that the member of the spiritual Church has no other perceptions than those acquired through cognitions drawn from doctrine or from the Word. For such cognitions become part of his faith, and so of his conscience, from which he has perception.


a lit. Bethel from the sea (an idiom for from the west) and Ai from the east

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