OLIVE >> Celestial Love

OLIVE TREE >> Celestial Church

olives1_500_334 The trees and plants mentioned in the Bible are not all familiar to us who live in another climate; as the olive, the fig, the palm, the cedar of Lebanon. But they have marked  characteristics which are easily learned and which show the kind of knowledge to which each corresponds.

The olive is easily cultivated in Palestine, as on all the Mediterranean shores. It is today perhaps the most plentiful tree in the land, and was in the old time so abundant that the country was called "a land of oil-olive.." (Deut. viii. 8) The trees have to our eyes a homelike look. In size and shape they are not unlike apple-trees. The trunk is gnarly and twisted, and in old age often splits up into several stems. The roots live on indefinitely, for hundreds, perhaps thousands of years. The wood is of a golden brown color, beautifully grained. The leaves are shaped like willow leaves; they are evergreen, dark olive above but when turned by the winds showing a silvery under side. The flowers are small and white, and are very abundant. And most important of all, the fruit. The olives are berry - like fruits which are sometimes picked green and pickled - so we,, usually see them - but when ripe they are full of oil. The ripe olives are shaken or beaten from the branches and pressed; a tree yielding each year from ten to fifteen gallons of oil. The oil is an important article of food in the countries where it grows, being used in cooking and being eaten as we eat butter. It is also used to burn for light; to soften and heal wounds and bruises; to prevent friction of machinery. Olive oil was the oil appointed for the anointing of kings and priests, and for other sacred uses.

"Ye shall know them by their fruits." If we can see what spiritual thing is represented by the olive oil, we shall know that the olivetree corresponds to the knowledge of this thing, and of how to bring it forth in useful works. First, to what does oil in general correspond"

We know what it is to have "friction " between people who live or work together. What is needed to remove this friction and to make things go easily and smoothly? Is not kindness the oil which must be dropped between, wherever people come in contact? Is this same kindness useful to soften callous hearts, and to heal wounded feelings? Oil also burns with warm, bright light. Does kindly sympathy warm the heart? and does it open our eyes to see how we may be helpful?

There are many sorts of oil which do these things, and are therefore like kindness. But the olive oil, besides serving in these humbler ways, was appointed for use in sacred ceremonies. It was burned in the sacred lamp (Exod. xxvii. 20) ; it was a part of many offerings (Numb. Vii. 13-79) ; mixed with fragrant spices it formed the ointment used in consecrating the tabernacle and its implements to the service of the Lord (Exod. xxx. 22-30) , and in anointing men to be kings and priests, representing the Lord and filled with His spirit. (Lev. Viii. 10-12; I Sam. xvi. 13) This sacred oil represents more than human kindness; it represents the loving-kindness of the Lord. The tree which bears it is our knowledge of the Lord's infinite kindness and of how to receive of that kindness and bring it forth in works of neighborly love. (AC 10261; AE 375, 638; AR 779)

 The Lord Himself was the Anointed, the Messiah in Hebrew, and the Christ in Greek, because He was perfect love and revealed that love to men in His works and words of infinite kindness. Remember the day in the synagogue in Nazareth when the Lord read, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the broken hearted. . . . And all bear him witness, and wondered, at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth." (Luke iv. 18 22) How plain it is that the Divine loving-kindness was the oil with which He was anointed! (AC 9954; AE 375)

"Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron's beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments." (Ps. cxxxiii. 1, 2) Unity among brethren is like precious oil, for it depends so much on the presence of kindness among them. It is like the anointing oil, for the Lord's loving-kindness must touch the inmost soul, and from Him flow down into the outward things of life, making them kind and good. (AE 375; AC 9806) Notice how another Psalm uses the words kindness and oil as if they were almost the same thing. "Let the righteous smite me; it shall be a kindness: and let him reprove me it shall be an excellent oil, which shall not break my head." (Ps. cxli. 5) If when we read of oil we think of the oil of loving-kindness with its happiness, there is new beauty in many familiar verses. "The oil of joy for mourning." (Isa. lxi. 3) "And oil to make his face to shine." (Ps. civ. 15 ) How kindness shines even through the natural features and makes them radiant! (AE 375; AC 9954)

Remember the women who came with precious ointment and, as a sign of grateful love, poured it upon the Lord's feet. (Luke vii. 36-47; John xii. 1-8) Remember especially how it is said of the anointing by Mary in Bethany, "the house was filled with the odor of the ointment." (John xii. 3) How suggestive of the sweet sphere which fills the house where love to the Lord and one another is poured out in kindly deeds! Remember too the good Samaritan who "showed mercy " on the man who had fallen among thieves, and how he "bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine." (Luke x. 34) The oil is plainly an emblem of the kindness which should enter into all works of neighborliness; the wine we shall presently see is the wisdom which should accompany the kindness. (TCR 410; AE 375, 444; AR 316)

ol1ive1 The Lord in a parable likens the kingdom of heaven to ten virgins with their lamps, waiting to join the bridal procession and to go in to the marriage. "And five of them were wise, and five were foolish. They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them: but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps." (Matt. xxv. 1-12) Plainly it is the oil of good, kind love which is needed if we would be able to share the life of heaven. The forms of faith and worship - the empty lamps - are not heavenly, nor do they give any light of heavenly intelligence, unless they are filled with this oil of goodness and kindness. If we do not gain this in our life here, we shall not be able to receive it from others hereafter. (TCR 199; SS 17; AC 4638; DP 328; AE 212) Long ago the goodness and happiness of heavenly life were declared, when Canaan was called a land of oil olive and honey. (Deut. viii. 8) For angels delight to perceive the goodness of the Lord, and to bring forth His love in pleasant uses of kindness. (AC 5620; AE 374, 619) You remember what the dove brought in to Noah as a sign that the waters of the flood were abating. "And the dove came in to him in the evening; and, lo, in her mouth was an olive-leaf pluckt off: so Noah knew that the waters were abated from off the earth." (Gen. Viii. 11) The olive-leaf is an emblem of some element of the life of the first innocent days which was handed down to the church which followed. It is a knowledge of the goodness of the Lord, which had been so fully perceived by the innocent people of the Golden Age. (AC 879, 886; AE 638) The olive-leaf suggests also the first perception of the Lord's loving kindness which gives new hope after a season of temptation.

Finally, let us remember the Mount of Olives which stood guard over Jerusalem; both in its position and in its name an emblem of the Lord's loving care for His people. "As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the LORD is round about his people from henceforth even forever." (Ps. cxxv. 2) "And in the day time he was teaching in the temple; and at night he went out, and abode in the mount that is called the mount of Olives." (Luke xxi. 37) "And he came out, and went, as he was wont, to the mount of Olives." (Luke xxii. 39) It suggests how the Lord found peace in the Divine love, and how He brought forth of that love all that men could receive, in works and words of kindness. (AC 10261, 9780; AR 336, 493) After the supper, on that last night, "they went out into the mount of Olives," and came "unto a place called Gethsemane [the oil-presses]." (Matt. xxvi. 30, 36) Does not the place suggest the intensity of the Divine love for men which on that night resisted the powers of evil for their sake? (AR 493; Compare "winepresses," AE 359)

"I am like a green olive-tree in the house of God: I trust in the mercy of God for ever and ever." (Ps. lii. 8; AE 638; TCR 468)


olivetrees1And oil of olive.  That this signifies the Lord's Divine celestial good, is evident from the signification of "oil" as being good both celestial and spiritual (n. 886, 4582, 9780); and from the signification of "olive," as being celestial love; hence by "oil of olive" is signified the good of celestial love, or what is the same, celestial good.  It is called the Lord's Divine celestial good, because all good which is essentially good in the heavens, is from the Divine of the Lord. [AC 10261]

[2] But be it known that in itself the Lord's Divine good is one and indivisible, for it is infinite, and contains infinite things within it.  That which is infinite is one and indivisible, because the infinite things which it contains make a one. But that it is distinguished into celestial and spiritual is owing to its reception by angels in the heavens and by men on earth. As received by the angels and men who belong to the Lord's celestial kingdom, it is called Divine celestial good; but as received by the angels and men who belong to the Lord's spiritual kingdom, it is called Divine spiritual good; for all angels and men receive variously or dissimilarly the one only good of the Lord.  Comparatively speaking this is like the heat and light of the sun of the world, which although considered in themselves they are one and indivisible, yet vary according to the times of the year and of the day, and also in a dissimilar manner in every region of the earth; and this variation of heat and light is not effected by the sun, but by the varied turning of the earth, according to the varieties of its orbit and of its rotation, thus also by the reception.  Moreover the same light varies in every object according to the reception, whence come colors. From all this it can be seen whence it is that the Lord's Divine good, which is one and indivisible, because infinite, is called celestial and spiritual.

[3] That "oil" denotes good both celestial and spiritual, is evident from the passages above cited; but that "olive" denotes celestial love, and "oil" the perception and affection of this love, is evident from the passages in the Word where "oil" and "olive" are mentioned; as from the following:--

The prophet saw a lampstand all of gold, its seven lamps were upon it, two olive-trees were near it, one upon the right side of the bowl, and the other upon the left side thereof. He said to the angel, What are these two olive-trees, and what are these two olive berries, which are in the hand of the two pipes of gold" He said, these are the two sons of olives that stand beside the Lord of the whole earth (Zech. 4:2, 3, 11, 12, 14);

[4] what these prophetic words involve cannot be known to anyone unless he knows from the internal sense what is signified by a "lampstand," and what by an "olive-tree;" that a "lampstand" signifies the spiritual heaven, and its "lamps" the holy truths there, see above (n. 9548, 9551, 9555, 9558, 9561, 9684); from which it is evident that an "olive-tree" signifies the celestial kingdom by virtue of its perception and affection of good; and the "olive berries," the holy goods there, the truths of which are signified by the "sons of olives." "Two" signifies the internal and the external of this kingdom, and the conjunction.

[5] Like things are signified by "oil" and "lampstand" in these passages:--

I will give to My two witnesses that they may prophesy a thousand two hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth. These are the two olive-trees, and the two lampstands, that stand before the God of the earth (Rev. 11:3, 4).

I will plant in the wilderness the cedar of shittim, and the myrtle, and the wood of oil (Isa. 41:19);

the "cedar" and the "wood of oil" are mentioned because the "cedar" signifies spiritual good, and the "wood of oil" celestial good.  Spiritual good is charity toward the neighbor, and celestial good is love to the Lord; to "plant these trees in the wilderness" means in lands outside the church, thus among the Gentiles.

[6] In Hosea:--

His branches shall advance, and his honor shall be as the olive, and his smell as Lebanon (Hosea 14:6);

by "the olive" is here also signified celestial good, and by "Lebanon" spiritual good, thus by "Lebanon" the like as by the "cedar," because Lebanon was a forest of cedars.

[7] In Isaiah:--

Thus shall it be in the midst of the earth, in the midst of the peoples, as the beating of an olive-tree, as the grape gleanings when the vintage is completed (Isa. 24:13; 17:6);

it is said "the beating of an olive-tree, and the gleanings of the completed vintage," because the "olive-tree" signifies the church which is in celestial good, and the "vine" the church which is in spiritual good; for in the Word where good is treated of, truth also is treated of, by reason of their marriage; and in like manner where the celestial is treated of, the spiritual also is treated of. Moreover the celestial is predicated of good, and the spiritual of truth (n. 9263, 9314); and therefore it is so concerning the vine and the olive. That a "vine" denotes the spiritual church and its good and truth, (n. 1069, 5113, 6376, 9277).

[8] For this reason the "vine" and the "olive" are mentioned together elsewhere, as in these passages:--

Thy wife shall be as a fruitful vine in the sides of thy house, thy sons like olive-plants round about thy table (Ps.  128:3).

The fig-tree shall not blossom, neither shall produce be in the vines: the word of the olive shall deceive (Hab. 3:17).

The most of your gardens and your vineyards and your fig-trees and your olive-trees hath the worm devoured (Amos 4:9);

the "fig-tree" also is here mentioned because the "fig-tree" signifies the good of the external church (n. 5113), but the "vine" the good of the internal spiritual church, and the "olive" the good of the internal celestial church.

[9] As the "wood of oil" signified the good of celestial love, therefore the two cherubs which were in the adytum of the temple were made of wood of oil, as were the doors, threshold, and posts (1 Kings 6:23, 31, 32); for by the adytum of the temple was represented the inmost heaven, where celestial good is, and therefore all things therein signified celestial things. That the ark which was there, and for which the adytum was made, signified the inmost heaven where the Lord is, (n. 9485).

[10] Moreover the like was signified by the "Mount of Olives" - which was over against the temple--as by the "olive," just as the like was signified by "Lebanon" as by the "cedar;" and therefore in order that there might be represented in the heavens all things which the Lord performed when He was in the world, and especially Divine celestial things, the Lord was very often on the Mount of Olives when He was at Jerusalem, as is evident in Luke:--

Jesus was for days teaching in the temple, but in the nights He went out and passed them in the Mount that is called of Olives (Luke 21:37).

Jesus came out, and went, as His custom was, into the Mount of Olives (Luke 22:39).

That this mountain was over against the temple, (Mark 13:3; Matthew 24:3).

[11] That the "Mount of Olives" signified Divine celestial good, is evident in Zechariah, where it is said:--

The feet of Jehovah shall stand upon the Mount of Olives which is before the faces of Jerusalem, and He shall there fight against the nations; and this mountain shall cleave asunder, part toward the east, and toward the sea, with a great valley; and part of the mountain shall withdraw toward the north, and part toward the south (Zech. 14:4);

there is here described the state of heaven and the church when the Lord was in the world, and fought against the hells and overcame them, and at the same time brought back the heavens into order; the "nations" there against which He fought denote evils from the hells; the "Mount of Olives" upon which His feet stood, denotes the Divine good of the Divine love, for from this He fought and conquered; the "cleaving asunder of the mountain toward the east and toward the sea, with a great valley," signifies the separation of heaven and hell; as also does its "withdrawal toward the north and the south;" for those are said to be "in the south" who are in the light of truth; "in the east," those who are in the love of good; but "toward the sea," those who are in evils; and "to the north," those who are in falsities.

That the "olive" signifies the good of charity, is evident from the signification in the Word not only of an "olive," but also of "oil." It was with olive oil, together with spices, that the priests and kings were anointed, and it was with olive oil that the lamps were trimmed (Exod. 30:24; 27:20). The reason olive oil was used for anointing and for lamps was that it represented all that is celestial, and therefore all the good of love and of charity; for the oil is the very essence of the tree, and is as it were its soul, just as the celestial, or the good of love and of charity, is the very essence or the very soul of faith; and hence oil has this representation. That "oil" signifies what is celestial, or the good of love and of charity, may be confirmed from many passages of the Word; but as it is the olive-tree that is mentioned here, we will merely present some passages that confirm its signification. As in Jeremiah:--

Jehovah called thy name a green olive-tree, fair with goodly fruit (Jeremiah 11:16),

where the Most Ancient or Celestial Church is so called, which was the foundation church of the Jewish Church; and therefore all the representatives of the Jewish Church had regard to celestial things, and through these to the Lord.

[2] In Hosea:--

His branches shall spread, and his honor shall be as the olive-tree, and his smell as of Lebanon (Hosea 14:6),

which is said of the church that is to be planted, whose honor is the "olive-tree," that is, the good of love and of charity; the smell as of Lebanon," being the affection of the truth of faith therefrom. "Lebanon" stands for its cedars, which signified spiritual things, or the truths of faith. In Zechariah, speaking of the lampstand:--

Two olive-trees by it, one upon the right side of the bowl, and the other upon the left side thereof; these are the two sons of the pure oil that stand by the Lord of the whole earth (Zechariah 4:3, 11, 14).

Here the "two olive-trees" denote the celestial and the spiritual, thus love, which is of the celestial church, and charity, which is of the spiritual church. These are on the "right hand" and on the "left hand" of the Lord. The "lampstand" here signifies, as in the Jewish Church it represented, the Lord; its "lamps" signify celestial things from which are spiritual, as from a flame proceed rays of light, or light. In David:--

Thy wife shall be as a fruitful vine in the sides of thy house; thy sons like olive-plants (Ps. 128:3);

where "wife as a vine," denotes the spiritual church; "sons" the truths of faith, which are called "olive-plants," because from the goods of charity. In Isaiah:--

Yet there shall be left therein gleanings, as the shaking of an olive-tree, two or three berries in the top of the branch (Isaiah 17:6);

where the subject treated of is the remains in man; "of an olive-tree," denoting celestial remains. In Micah:--

Thou shalt tread the olive, but shalt not anoint thee with oil; and the vintage, but shalt not drink the wine (Micah 6:15).

And in Moses:--

Thou shalt plant vineyards and dress them, but thou shalt not drink of the wine; thou shalt have olive-trees throughout all thy border, but thou shalt not anoint thyself with the oil (Deut. 28:39, 40),

where the subject is the abundance of doctrinal teachings about the goods and truths of faith, which by reason of their character, those people rejected. From these passages it is evident that a "leaf" signifies the truth of faith, and an "olive" the good of charity; and that like things are signified by the "olive-leaf" which the dove brought in her mouth; that is, that there now appeared in the man of the Ancient Church some little of the truth of faith from the good of charity. [AC 886]

Author: EMANUEL SWEDENBORG (1688-1772)

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