Isaiah 31

1 WOE unto them that go down to Egypt for help, who stay on horses; who trust in Chariots, because they are many; and in horsemen, because they are very strong: but look not unto the Holy One of Israel, and seek not Jehovah!
2 But He also is wise, and will bring in evil [upon them], and He will not recall His words: but will arise against the house of the evil-doers, and against the help of those that work iniquity.

VERSE 1. For the signification of “Egypt,” both in a good and in a bad sense, see Chap. xix. 1; and for what is meant by “going down,” see Chap. xxx. 2, Exposition.
In the prophetical parts of the Word mention is very often made of the “horse,” but heretofore no one has known that a “horse” signifies the understanding, and his “rider” an intelligent person; and this, possibly, because it seems strange and wonderful that by a “horse” such a thing should be signified in the spiritual sense, and hence in the Word. But, nevertheless, that it is really so, may evidently appear from many passages therein; Some of which only I will here adduce. In the prophecy of Israel, it is said of Dan-“Dan shall be a serpent on the way, an arrow-snake on the path, biting the heels of the horse, and his rider shall fall backwards.” (Gen. xlix. 17.) No one can understand what this prophecy concerning one of the tribes of Israel signifies, unless he knows what is signified by a “serpent,” and what by a “horse” and his “rider;” everyone, however, knows that something spiritual is involved therein. What, therefore, each particular expression signifies, may be seen in the Arcana Coelestia, n. 6398-6401, where this prophecy is explained. So in Habakkuk:- “Was the Lord displeased with the rivers? was Thine anger against the rivers? ‘was Thy wrath against the sea, that Thou didst ride upon Thine horses and Thy chariots of salvation? Thou didst walk through the sea with Thine horses.” (iii. 8, 15.) That “horses” here have a spiritual signification, is evident, for the passage treats concerning God; in any other sense, what could be meant by saying that “the Lord rides upon His horses,” and that” He walked through the sea with His horses”? So in Zechariah :-“In that day there shall be on the bells of the horses, HOLINESS TO JEHovAH;” (xiv. 20.) where a like spiritual signification is implied. So in the same Prophet:-“In that day, saith Jehovah, I will smite every horse with astonishment, and his rider with madness; and upon the house of Judah will I open Mine eyes, and I will smite every horse of the people with blindness.” (xii. 4.) The subject there treated of is the ruin of the church, which takes place when there no longer remains the understanding of any Truth; and which is described thus by “the horse and his rider;” what else could be the meaning of “smiting every horse with astonishment,” and of “smiting the horse of the people with blindness”? What has this to do with the church? So in Job:-“God hath deprived her of wisdom, and hath not imparted to her understanding; what time she lifteth up herself on high, she scorneth the horse and his rider.” (xxxix, 17, 18.) That by the “horse” is here signified understanding is manifestly evident. In like manner in David, where God is said to “ride all on the Word of Truth;” (Psalm xlv. 4.)- and in nlany other places.
Moreover, who can know the reason why Elijah and Elisha were called “the chariot of Israel and the horsemen thereof ;” and why the lad of Elisha “saw the mountain full of horses and chariots of fire;” except it be known what is signified by “chariots” and ” horsemen,” and what was represented by “Elijah” and “Elisha”? Elisha said to Elijah-“My father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof;” (2 Kings ii. 11, 12.) and Joash the king said to Elisha-“My father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof;” (2 Kings xiii. 14.) and, speaking of the lad of Elisha, it is said-“Jehovah opened the eyes of the lad; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.” (2 Kings vi. 17.) The reason why Elijah and Elisha were called “the chariot of Israel and the horsemen. thereof” is, because they both represented the Lord as to the Word, and by a “chariot ” is signified doctrine drawn from the Word, and by “horsemen” intelligence. That “Elijah” and “Elisha” represented the Lord as to the Word, maybe seen, A.C. 5247, 7643, 9327; and that “chariots” signify doctrine drawn from the Word, n. 5321, 8215.

The signification of the “horse,” as denoting the understanding, is derived from no other source than from the representatives which exist in the spiritual world. In that world are frequently seen horses, and persons sitting upon horses, aud also chariots: and there every one knows that they signify things intellectual and doctrinal. I myself have often observed, when any were thinking from their understanding, that at such times they appeared as if riding on horses; their meditation represented itself in this manner before others, although they themselves were ignorant of it. There is also a place in the spiritual world where many assemble who think and speak from understanding concerning the truths of doctrine; and when others approach, they see the whole plain covered with chariots and horses. Novitiate spirits who are astonished at the sight, and wonder whence it proceeds, are Instructed that it is an appearance resulting Irorn their intellectual thought. That place is called the assembly of the intelligent and the wise. I have likewise seen bright horses and chariots of fire when certain spirits were taken up into heaven, which was a sign that they were then Instructed in the truths of heavenly doctrine; and become intelligent, and thus were taken up. On seeing which, it occurred to mymind what is signified by the “chariots of fire” and the “horses of fire” which carried Elijah up into heaven, and what is signified by the “horses and chariots of fire” that were seen by the lad of Elisha when his eyes were opened.
That such is the signification of “chariots” and “horses” was perfectly well known in the ancient churches; for those churches were representative churches, and tbe science of correspondences and representations was esteemed, among the members of those churches the chief of all sciences. From those churcbes the signification of the “horse” as expressive of understanding, was derived to the wise men round about, even into Greece. Hence it was, when they would describe the sun, in which they placed their God of wisdom and intelligence, that they attributed to it a chariot and four horses of fire; and when they would describe the God of the sea, since by the “sea” were signified sciences derived from understanding; that they also attributed horses to him; and when they would describe the rise of the sciences from understanding, that they also feigned a winged horse, which, with its hoof, broke open a fountain, at which sat nine virgins called the sciences. For from the ancient churches they received this knowledge, that by tbe “horse” is signified understanding, by “wings” spiritual truth, by the “hoof” what is scientific derived from understanding, and by a “fountain” doctrine from which sciences are derived. Nor is anything else signified by the “Trojan horse” than an artificial contrivance devised by their understanding for the purpose of destroying the walls, Even at this day, when the understanding is described after the manner received from those ancients, it is usual to figure it by a “flying horse” or Pegasus; so, likewise, doctrine is described by a “fountain,” and the sciences by “virgins;” but scarcely anyone knows that by the “horse,” in the mystic sense, is signified understanding, still less that those signiflcatives were derived to the Gentiles from the ancient representative churches. Wliite Horse, 2-4.
Verses 1-3. Man’s own intelligence is thus described. “Egypt” denotes science; a “horse,” understanding thence derived; a “chariot” denotes doctrine thence derived; a “horseman,” intelligence from the same origin; of all which it is said-” Woe unto them who do not look to the Holy One of Israel, and do not seek Jehovah.” Their destruction by evils is meant by “His arising against the house of the wicked, and against the help of those that work iniquity.” That the above things originate in man’s proprium, and consequently have no life in thern, is meant by “Egypt being man, and not God,” and’ by “the horses thereof being flesh, and not spirit;” “man” and “flesh” denote man’s proprium ; “God” and “spirit” are life from the Lord; the “horses of Egypt” are man’s own intelligence. There are several other passages in the Word, which thus describe intelligence derived from rnan’s self, and derived from tho Lord, which passages are to be understood only by menus of the spiritual sense. Doct. of Life, 30.
By “Egypt,” in the Word, is signified the scientific [principle] which is in the natural man, and hence it also signifies the natural man; And because the natural man, with the scientific [principle] which is therein, has not any understanding, but only thought from the memory, which is a species of imagination from the objects of the sight and of hearing, and inasmuch as it is below the spiritual man, in which reside all the Good and the Truths of heaven and the church, hence by “Egypt” in most passages is signified the false scientific [principle]; for when the spiritual man does not flow in, the scientifics of the natural man are turned into mere falses, and the thoughts of the natural man into confirmations of the false, and into ratiocinations from them against Truths. Hence it may appear what is signified by “the horses of Egypt, and by the chariots thereof,” namely, by the “horses” false scientifics, and by the “chariots” doctrinals from which are ratiocinations against Truths. They, therefore, who are of such a quality do not seek Truth from any other source than from themselves, for the proprium of everyone resides in the natural man, and not in the spiritual man: wherefore instead of truths they seize falses, and instead of goods, evils; and the latter they call Goods, and the former Truths, and trust in themselvee, because in their own proprium. These things are signified by these words-” Woe unto them that go down to Egypt for help, who stay on horses; who trust in chariots, because they are many; and in horsemen, because they are very strong.” The “horses” here denote false scientifics, the “chariots” doctrinals thence derived, and the” horsemen” ratiocinations thence against Truths; wherefore also it is said-“The Egyptians are man, and not God; and their horses are flesh, and not spirit;” whereby is signified that only what is merely natural is in them, and not anything spiritual, nor consequently anything of life,-“man” signifying the natural man, and “flesh” the proprium thereof, and “God” and “spirit” signifying the divine-spiritual man, and life thence derived; and inasmuch as they confide in themselves, and not in the Lord, it is said-“They look not unto the Holy One of Israel, and seek not Jehovah! ” A. E. 355.

3 For the Egyptians are man, and not God; and their horses are flesh, and not spirit: and Jehovah shall stretch forth His hand, and the helper shall stumble, and the helped shall fall; and together shall all of them be consumed.

Verse 3. And in John :-“It is the spirit which vivifieth; the flesh profiteth nothing.” (vi. 03.) Again-“that which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is generated of the Spirit is spirit.” (iii. 6.) And in David:-“God remembered that they were flesh; a breath that passeth away, and returneth not again.” (Psalm lxxviii. 39.) The evil of man’s will, which is his proprium from nativity, is signified in these passages by “flesh;” likewise by “the flesh which the sons of Israel lusted after in the wilderness,” and on account of which “they were smitten with a great plague,” and from which the place was called “a sepulchre of coucupiscences.” (Numb, xi. 4-34.)A.E. 1082.

4 For thus hath Jehovah said unto me, Like as the lion roareth, even the young lion, over his prey, though a multitude of shepherds be called together against him, at their voice he will not be terrified, nor at their tumult will he be humbled so shall Jehovah of Hosts descend to fight for the mountain of Zion, and for the hill thereof.

Verse 4: In this passage Jehovah is compared to a “roaring lion,” because by a “lion” is signified the power of leading out from hell or from evils, and by “roaring” is signified the defending against evils and falses; wherefore it is said-“So shall Jehovah of Hosts descend to fight for the mountain of Zion, and for the hill thereof.” The “mountain of Zion” and the “hill” thereof denoting the celestial church and the spiritual church. The “prey” upon which the lion and the young lion roar, signifies deliverance from evils which are from hell. A. E. 278.

5 As birds hovering [over their young], so shall Jehovah of Hosts protect Jerusalem; protecting, He will deliver; and passing over, He will rescue her.
6 Return unto Him, from whom ye have deeply revolted, O ye sons of Israel!

Verse 5. Jehovah is said to “protect Jerusalem, as birds flying [or hovering],” for by “protecting” is signified the Divine Providence as to defence; by “Jerusalem” is signified the church; and by “birds hovering,” with which the comparison is made, is signified circumspection and presence,-in this case as being predicated of the Lord’s Omnipresence. A. E. 282.
Verse 6. Return unto Him, &c.-See Chap. xxx. 15, note.

7 For in that day shall they reject every man the idols of his silver, and the idols of his gold, which their own hands have made for sin.

Verses 7, 8. By “the idols of silver and the idols of gold which they shall on that day reject,” are signified the falses and evils of religion and of worship, which they call Truths and Goods; and inasmuch as the falses and evils of religion and of worship are from self-derived intelligence, therefore it is said-“Which their own hands have made for sin.” That there shall then be no reasonings from such things, is signified by “The Assyrian shall fall,” &c. A. E. 582.
Verses 7-9. For in that day shall they reject every man the idols of his silver, &c.-Treating concerning judgment upon those who, from self-derived intelligence, fancy themselves wise in things divine, such as are those who are in the love of self and of the world, and seek after the fame of erudition for the sake of themselves; such persons, inasmuch as they cannot see truths, seize upon falses, and vaunt them for truths. The falses favouring their principles and loves are signified by the ” idols of silver” and the “idols of gold.” That they are from self-derived intelligence, is signified by “Their own hands have made them for sin.” That they should perish by their own falses, is signified by “The Assyrian shall fall by a sword, not of man [vir]; yea, a sword, not of man [hominis], shall devour him;” the “Assyrian” denoting the rational principle perverted, and, consequently, those who are in falses from self-derived intelligence; and to “fall” and to be “devoured by the sword” denoting to perish. This was also represented by “the king of Assyria being slain by his sons;” (Isa. xxxvii, 38.) his” sons” there signify his own falses by which he perished. “His rock shall pass away for fear,” signifies all the false, in general, in which such persons confide; and “his princes shall be terrified at the standard,” signifies primary falses. It is said, “at the standard,” because it is not by any combat with Truths that they are dissipated, but solely by the sign of combat, which is a “standard.” Such also have been seen by mle cast down from the rocks [in the world of spirits], upon which they were, by the waving of a standard. A.E.411.

8 And the Assyrian shall fall by a sword, not of man; yea, a sword, not of man, shall devour him: and he shall betake himself to flight from the face of the sword; and his young men shall be tributary.

Verse 8. His young men shall be tributary.- ” Young men,” in a good sense, denote those who are intelligent; thus intelligence, and thence Truth confirmed; but by the “young men of Assyria,” in a bad sense, as in this verse, is signified false intelligence, confirmed by fallacious and negative reasonings, which, at the time of judgment, are made tributary, or entirely subjugated. See A. C. 7668.

9 His rock shall pass away for fear; and his princes shall be terrified at the standard, saith Jehovah, whose fire is in Zion, and whose furnace is in Jerusalem.

Verse 9. Thus saith Jehovah, whose fire is in Zion, and whose furnace is in Jerusalem.-Where by “fire” is signified the Good of Love; and by “furnace,” Truth from that Good, thus the Truth of Doctrine. Similar things are also signified by “Zion” and “Jerusalem;” by “Zion” the church as to the Good of Love, and by “Jerusalem” the church as to the Truth of Doctrine. A. E. 540.

Author: Emanuel Swedenborg [Compiled by J. H. Smithson 1860]