The Widow’s Flour and Oil


A Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

Olivet Church – March 29, 2009

Then the word of the LORD came to him, saying, “Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and dwell there. See, I have commanded a widow there to provide for you.” (1 Ki 17:8-9)

  1. Historical Setting
    1. Solomon was the last king of a united kingdom of Israel. His son Rehoboam’s intention to raise taxes caused the northern tribes to break away and select Jeroboam as their king.
    2. Jeroboam was faced with a serious problem: The Lord had commanded that all the sacrifices and feasts were to be held in Jerusalem, so all good Jews had to travel there to fulfil the obligations of their covenant
      1. But Jerusalem was within the kingdom of Judah. Jeroboam was afraid that if his people regularly journeyed to Jerusalem they would get used to Rehoboam, and perhaps even desire to reunited the kingdoms. This would leave Jeroboam or his descendants out in the cold, perhaps even dead.
    3. To prevent the people from going to Jerusalem, Jeroboam had two golden calves made, and told the people that these were their gods,
      1. Thus establishing a tradition in Israel where the king himself deliberately lead the people away from the worship of Jehovah, and into the worship of idols.
    4. Jehovah’s response was to warn him that if he did not repent, his dynasty would be destroyed.
      1. He did not, and when his son Nadab became king, he was murdered and replaced by Baasha. The prophecy was fulfilled.
      2. Baasha also encouraged the worship of idols, and was also warned by the prophets. He ignored the warnings, and when his son Elah became king, he was murdered by Zimri, one of the two commanders of the army of Israel. Again, the prophecy was fulfilled.
      3. The other half of the army of Israel didn’t like Zimri, so they made their commander Omri the king. The civil war lasted 7 days, edning when Zimri was killed and Omri declared king of Israel.
      4. Omri’s son was Ahab, a king of Israel who did not love or serve the Lord, but instead deliberately, with his wife Jezebel, led the people to worship Baal.
    5. Because of this terrible state of affairs, the Lord sent word through Elijah that there would be a drought in the land to punish them for worshipping idols.
      1. Because Elijah was the one who announced the drought, as the Lord had commanded him to, Elijah was blamed for the drought, and Ahab wanted to kill him for causing the drought.
        1. I know. It makes no sense. But it does tell us something about the insanity that comes from thinking from falsities of evil.
      2. The drought was severe. There are almost no “artesian” well or springs in Israel. Except for those few living on the shore of the Sea of Galilee or the banks of the Jordan River, all the drinking water is captured and stored rainwater.
        1. Because it didn’t rain, the crops died. Soon there was neither water to drink nor food to eat, and the people were dying.
  2. The Drought
    1. Rain represents the way the Lord flows into the world from heaven with the truth that we need to do what is good. The drought represents that this inflowing truth has stopped – but what stops it?
    2. Whenever the Lord sends a prophet to announce a drought in the land, it is always in response to some horrible evil being committed by the people, or by a king who is leading his people into evil.
    3. Although it seems that it is the Lord who is withholding the good rain, the fact is that it is the evil that the people are doing is causing the drought.
      1. For it is well known that every good of love and every truth of faith flows in out of heaven, that is, from the Lord through heaven, with man, and that it flows in continually; … These both flow in so far as evil and falsity do not obstruct; it is these that shut heaven so that there is no influx; AE 644:2
      2. This can be seen from its being said:- That the rain was withheld, and consequently there was a famine in the land of Israel for three years and a half, under Ahab, because they served other gods and killed the prophets (1 Kings xvii. and xviii. Luke iv. 25). This was a representative, and thus a significative, that no Divine truth flowing in out of heaven could be received because of the falsities of evil, which were signified by “other gods” and by “Baal,” whom they worshiped. “Killing the prophets” signified also the destruction of the Divine, for a “prophet” signifies in the Word the doctrine of truth from the Word. AE 644:8
  3. The Widow
    1. The drought in the land of Canaan represents the spiritual state of people who are being disobedient.
      1. The results of turning away from the Lord, of being in a state where there is a spiritual drought is pictured by the widow gathering sticks with which to prepare the last meal for herself and her son.
        1. And yet it is this woman, at the end of a deadly crisis, who is to be the one to save the life of the prophet Elijah!
    2. The famine that was in the land because there was no rain, represented the vastation of truth in the church (see n. 1460, 3364); the widow in Zarephath represented those outside of the church who desire truth; the cake which she was to make for him first, represented the good of love to the Lord, whom, out of the little she had, she was to love above herself and her son; the barrel of meal signifies truth from good, and the cruse of oil charity and love; Elijah represents the Word, by means of which such things are done. AC 4844:12
    3. That “a woman a widow” denotes one who is in good, and longs for truth, is evident from what has just been said, and especially from what is related of her in the first book of the Kings, where are these words:– “Elijah came to Sarepta of Sidon to a widow woman, that she might sustain him; and he said to her, Fetch me a little water that I may drink, and bring me a morsel of bread in thine hand; and she said that she had only a little meal in the barrel, and a little oil in the cruse, sufficient only for a cake for herself and her son.” And Elijah said:– Make me thereof a little cake first, and bring it out to me, and afterward make for thee and for thy son. She did so; and the barrel of meal was not consumed; and the cruse of oil did not fail (xvii. 9-16). [7] Obedience, and the longing of good for truth, are described by her giving water to the prophet at his bidding, and afterward by her first making a cake for him out of her own little supply, and then for herself and her son; and that thereby she was enriched with the good of truth is signified by “the barrel of meal not being consumed, and the cruse of oil failing not;” for in the internal sense “water” denotes truth; “meal,” truth from good; “oil,” the good of love; and “a cake” made of these, truth conjoined with its good. From all this it is clear that “a widow” denotes one who is in good and longs for truth. Good and its longing for truth is described by the charity toward the prophet, which was greater than toward herself and her son. “The prophet,” as before shown, denotes the doctrine of truth. AC 9198:6,7
      1. A wife generally represents good, and her husband represents truth. A widow is a woman whose husband has died. A widow then represents someone who would like to do what is good and right but cannot because she doesn’t know how.
    4. Where is her salvation?
      1. She longs for truth – the knowledge to put her loves into action, but there is no truth for her, symbolized by the lack of rain – no truth from natural sources.
      2. So the Lord provides the truth that she longs for through another way – the prophet Elijah. And, is sometimes the case when we go to the Word for help, the answer is not what we expected or wanted.
    5. Remember when Naaman, the Syrian commander, came to Elisha looking for a cure for his leprosy (2KI 5:1-19)?
      1. Elisha told him to wash in the Jordan and he was terribly insulted. He was a big, important man, and he was expecting a big, important cure!
      2. Fortunately for him, one of his servants convinced him that since he would have done the big thing, he should at least try the little thing – and he was cured.
    6. As the Lord notes in our 2nd lesson, Naaman was the only leper cured, even though there were thousands of them, because he was the only one who trusted Elisha and obeyed his word even though from his own self-intelligence Elisha seemed wrong.
    7. Rather than giving the widow the food which she believes she needs, Elijah demands that she give him what little food she has – with the promise that if she does, she will have all the food she needs – a symbol for eternal life. This is the real test of faith, the ultimate temptation.
      1. Elijah represents the Word
      2. He tells her to do things that sound strange
      3. She’s starving, and he asks her for her food
      4. But when she obeys anyhow, she is saved.
    8. We note that a similar thing happens just a few chapters later, where Elisha causes a widows oil and flour to continue without ceasing so that she could sell it and prevent her sons from being sold into slavery (2KI 4:1-7
      1. On several different occasions, I have spoken with people who told me of personal experiences that have a similar feel, people who, in spite of deep financial problems, were moved to take the Lord’s words to heart, and to give freely of what little they had, and in each case their lives were blessed in some subtle way.
      2. (The legend of the abandoned pump in the desert with the jar of water and instructions on how to prime the pump.)
  4. These incidents are similar in that they all revolve around our trust in the Lord.
    1. We must have confidence that the Lord wants only what is good for us, we need to trust that He knows what is best, what will lead us to heaven.
    2. We can’t always understand why the Lord asks us to do something. Sometimes the things He asks of us seem strange or unreasonable.
    3. We need to remember that without the Lord, without the truth of the Word to lead us, our eternal spiritual life is at risk.
    4. If we obey the Lord in simple faith, He will literally save our lives.
    5. If we reach out to others by compelling ourselves to do what is good, even when it seems to us to be contrary to our own personal needs, we will find that our good will be multiplied like the widow’s flour and oil, and our spirits will be nourished until the drought is over.

So she went away and did according to the word of Elijah; and she and he and her household ate for many days. {16} The bin of flour was not used up, nor did the jar of oil run dry, according to the word of the LORD which He spoke by Elijah. (1 Ki 17:15-16) Amen.

First Lesson: 1KI 17:8-16

Then the word of the LORD came to him, saying, {9} “Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and dwell there. See, I have commanded a widow there to provide for you.” {10} So he arose and went to Zarephath. And when he came to the gate of the city, indeed a widow was there gathering sticks. And he called to her and said, “Please bring me a little water in a cup, that I may drink.” {11} And as she was going to get it, he called to her and said, “Please bring me a morsel of bread in your hand.” {12} So she said, “As the LORD your God lives, I do not have bread, only a handful of flour in a bin, and a little oil in a jar; and see, I am gathering a couple of sticks that I may go in and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it, and die.” {13} And Elijah said to her, “Do not fear; go and do as you have said, but make me a small cake from it first, and bring it to me; and afterward make some for yourself and your son. {14} “For thus says the LORD God of Israel: ‘The bin of flour shall not be used up, nor shall the jar of oil run dry, until the day the LORD sends rain on the earth.’” {15} So she went away and did according to the word of Elijah; and she and he and her household ate for many days. {16} The bin of flour was not used up, nor did the jar of oil run dry, according to the word of the LORD which He spoke by Elijah.

Second Lesson: LUK 4:16-30

So He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read. {17} And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written: {18} “The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the broken-hearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed; {19} To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.” {20} Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him. {21} And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” {22} So all bore witness to Him, and marvelled at the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth. And they said, “Is this not Joseph’s son?” {23} He said to them, “You will surely say this proverb to Me, ‘Physician, heal yourself! Whatever we have heard done in Capernaum, do also here in Your country.’” {24} Then He said, “Assuredly, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own country. {25} “But I tell you truly, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a great famine throughout all the land; {26} “but to none of them was Elijah sent except to Zarephath, in the region of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. {27} “And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.” {28} So all those in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, {29} and rose up and thrust Him out of the city; and they led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw Him down over the cliff. {30} Then passing through the midst of them, He went His way.

Third Lesson: AE 644:1-3, 5

These have power to shut heaven that it rain no rain in the days of their prophecy, signifies that those who reject the goods and truths of heaven and the church that proceed from the Lord, receive no influx out of heaven. This is evident from the signification of “shutting heaven,” as being lest any influx out of heaven be received (of which presently); also from the signification of “rain,” as being truth fertilizing, which is truth from which there is good that flows down out of heaven. [2] “To shut heaven” means to prevent the reception of any influx out of heaven, because it is added, “that it rain no rain,” which signifies influx of Divine truth out of heaven. For it is well known that every good of love and every truth of faith flows in out of heaven, that is, from the Lord through heaven, with man, and that it flows in continually; from which it follows that neither the good of love nor the truth of faith is in any wise man’s, but is the Lord’s with him. These both flow in so far as evil and falsity do not obstruct; it is these that shut heaven so that there is no influx;

[3] Moreover, there are in every man two minds, an interior which is called the spiritual mind, and another, the exterior which is called the natural mind. The spiritual mind is created for the reception of light from heaven, but the natural mind for the reception of light from the world. The spiritual mind, therefore, which is man’s interior mind, is heaven with him, and the natural mind, which is man’s exterior mind, is the world with him. The interior mind, which is heaven with man, is opened so far as man acknowledges the Divine of the Lord, and man so far acknowledges this as he is in the good of love and charity and in the truths of doctrine and faith. But this interior mind, which is heaven with man, is unopened so far as man does not acknowledge the Divine of the Lord, and does not live the life of love and faith; and that mind is shut so far as man is in evils and in falsities therefrom; and when it is shut then the natural mind with man becomes a hell; for in the natural mind are evil and its falsity, consequently when the spiritual mind which is heaven with man is shut, the natural mind which is hell rules. [5]… “Rain” in the Word does not mean rain, but the inflowing Divine, which causes intelligence and wisdom, and also the good of love and the truth of faith in man, to grow and become fruitful…..


Abner and Joab

Abner and Joab

An Extemporaneous Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

So Asahel pursued Abner, and in going he did not turn to the right hand or to the left from following Abner. (2SA 2:19)

Saul and Jonathan died fighting the Philistines.

    1. Abner, the commander of his army and personal body guard, put Ishbosheth on the throne.

      1. Ishbosheth was not a power himself. It was the power and authority of Abner that made the whole thing work. Ishbosheth was a puppet king – but he was the legitimate hereditary ruler of the kingdom.

        1. However, there were no “rules of succession.” Saul was the first and only king of Israel. He had been selected by the Lord, not according to his birth. While it may have been true that other nations chose successive rulers from the children of the king, it was just as likely that in a kingdom conceived and protected by the Lord as Israel was, that another system could be used. For example, it could be that they would always ask the Lord to choose the next king by lot!

        2. In fact, we already know that the Lord had already made His choice known when He ordered Samuel to anoint David as the next king while Saul was still king himself.

        3. But Abner probably didn’t know about this, so he took his cue from the nations around him and put Saul’s most capable surviving son on the throne with the intention of holding him there through the force of his own authority.

  1. The men of Hebron anoint David as their king

    1. As usual, having two kings in one nation leads to a civil war.

      1. The two armies meet at the pool of Gibeon

        1. Abner leads the men of Israel

        2. Joab leads the men of Judah

        3. 12 young men from each side are sent out to “play”

        4. They all use the same move and all the champions die

      2. Since single combat failed to determine a winner, a general fight breaks out

    2. Asahel wanted to make a name for himself by killing Abner

      1. Abner tried to get him to turn around but he wouldn’t

      2. Abner turned and tried to push Asahel away with the blunt end of his spear

      3. The force of the collision forced the spear right through Asahel at the fifth rib, killing him instantly

        1. At the fifth [rib] at which Abner smote ASAHEL with the hinder end of his spear (2 Sam. ii. 23); “at the fifth” signifying as much as was sufficient for death (AE 548:8)

      4. Those who came to the place where his body was, “stood still.” (2SA 2:23)

    3. In order to understand this, we need to think about the way it would have appeared to Joab and the other soldiers passing by.

      1. The body was lying on the ground with the spear through it – only because Abner tried to push him away with the blunt end the point was sticking out the front of the body as if he had been attacked from behind — murdered. This is why the soldiers stopped and “stood still” when they came upon the body of Asahel: they could not believe that Abner would have dishonored himself by attacking a weaker, inexperienced opponent from behind, yet this is what the evidence told them happened.

      2. Ironic, because Abner tried to save the boy’s life

      3. Not surprisingly, Joab became enraged because he was convinced that Abner had murdered his younger brother. Joab, already a pretty nasty piece of work, vowed to find a way to kill Abner.

    4. There was a long war between them, North and South, Ishbosheth and David, with David’s forces more and more successful.

      1. When Ishbosheth insulted Abner, he became the agent of unification

  2. Joab murders Abner

    1. The reason given is revenge, but there must have been some sense of anger about loosing his job to Abner

    2. David lets him go – because (he says) he is too weak to deal with the powerful sons of Zeruiah!!

      1. David is at the peak of his power!

        1. David recognizes his need for a ruthless killer

        2. On his deathbed, he commands Solomon to kill Joab

          1. Joab ran to the altar for sanctuary, but sanctuary was denied. He was pulled away from the altar and executed.

  3. Abner is a symbol of the Lord’s conjunctive power

    1. As a warrior he represents truth

      1. He is the “leading” truth of Israel

        1. The kingdom of Israel generally represents the doctrine of faith

        2. The kingdom of Judah generally represents the doctrine of charity

        3. The civil war was the struggle to keep these two together in one kingdom

        4. It is a picture of what happens in our own minds and hearts during temptation

      2. What is the “leading truth” that unifies?

        1. That is various according to the state of life and the nature of the temptation

    2. Joab, on the other hand, represents that which would destroy charity — and the kingdom for the sake of what is it’s own

      1. Asahel, the younger brother, as a son, would be expected to represent truths. But here, in the opposite sense, Asahel represents the falsities that one uses in the attempt to hide one’s own evils.

        1. Little delights from the lusts of self-love. These delights of evil are the kinds of things that cannot exist when the life is governed by charity. Thus, in the literal sense, Asahel is killed by Abner.

        2. Joab, however, represents someone in the grips of evil, and hypocrisy. He sees these delights as the very delights of his soul. He cannot bear to have them taken away.

        3. When we try to break a bad habit, the hells rush in with the delights to keep us in our evils.

      2. It is right that such things are destroyed by Abner

  4. Joab becomes a symbol of the person who is a spiritual hypocrite

    1. Presenting a face to the world of protecting the king

    2. When internally, he is totally focused on his own agenda

    3. AC 9014 [5] The damnation of such is described by the prophetic words of David with respect to Joab, when he had slain Abner with deceit: “one that hath an issue” signifies the profanation of the good of love; “one that is a leper” signifies the profanation of the truth of faith; “one that leaneth on a staff,” or that is lame, signifies those in whom all good has been destroyed; “one that falleth by the sword” signifies those who are continually dying through falsities); “one that lacketh bread” signifies those who are destitute of all spiritual life, for “bread” denotes the sustenance of spiritual life by good. As such were signified by “Joab,” therefore by the command of Solomon Joab was slain at the altar whither he had fled (1 Kings ii. 28-32).

    4. AC 9828 [7] As truths and goods are set loose and are dispersed by evil deeds, it is said of JOAB after he had slain Abner with deceit, that “he put the bloods of war in his girdle that was on his loins” (1 Kings ii. 5), by which is signified that he had dispersed and destroyed these things.

    5. When David told Solomon to execute Joab he ran to the altar seeking sanctuary.

      1. This illustrates how a person can live their entire life in evil, acting as if they would live forever and never have to face the consequences of their actions. But, eventually, even such people sense that the end is near, and sense that their spiritual life is in doubt, and they seek the Lord’s mercy. It is too late.

      2. Although it is the Lord’s will that everyone be saved, and although every detail of His Divine Providence is directed towards saving every human being who will respond to His leading, not all can be saved.

      3. Nevertheless they are not thereby forgiven unless the man performs serious repentance, and desists from evils, and afterward lives a life of faith and charity, and this even to the end of his life. When this is done, the man receives from the Lord spiritual life, which is called new life. When from this new life the man views the evils of his former life, and turns away from them, and regards them with horror, then for the first time are the evils forgiven, for then the man is held in truths and goods by the Lord, and is withheld from evils. (AC 9014)

  5. What is the main thing we can learn from Joab’s fate?

    1. The Lord has the power to save, through regeneration, anyone who seeks salvation

    2. But those who deceive themselves through hypocrisy cannot be saved

      1. Not because of any weakness on the Lord’s part

      2. But because they refuse to admit their evils, and if they cannot see them, they cannot repent of them and begin to do good. Therefore, they remain in their evils throughout life and to eternity.

      3. We also remember Abner

        1. Tormented and pursued by the falsities represented by Asahel

        2. He tried to turn them aside with reason and argument

          1. But falsities do not respond to reason, so he took a rod in his hand, representing the power of truth multiplied when applied to life, and the falsities were easily struck down.

          2. When we are tormented and tempted by falsities and self-justifications that would lead us astray, we can draw strength from the image presented here, we can draw strength from knowing the power of truth from the Word can strike down any enemy of our spiritual life.

          3. However, he refused to turn aside. Therefore Abner struck him in the stomach with the blunt end of the spear, so that the spear came out of his back; and he fell down there and died on the spot. So it was that as many as came to the place where Asahel fell down and died, stood still. (2SA 2:23) Amen.

1st Lesson:

[Some time has passed. Abner, commander in chief in Israel under Saul has fought to protect Saul’s line by supporting Ishbosheth, Saul’s son, as king in Israel. When Ishbosheth belittles Abner, he goes to David and offers his help in bringing the tribes of Israel under David’s control.]

(2 Sam 3:17-39) Now Abner had communicated with the elders of Israel, saying, “In time past you were seeking for David to be king over you. {18} “Now then, do it! For the LORD has spoken of David, saying, ‘By the hand of My servant David, I will save My people Israel from the hand of the Philistines and the hand of all their enemies.’” {19} And Abner also spoke in the hearing of Benjamin. Then Abner also went to speak in the hearing of David in Hebron all that seemed good to Israel and the whole house of Benjamin. {20} So Abner and twenty men with him came to David at Hebron. And David made a feast for Abner and the men who were with him. {21} Then Abner said to David, “I will arise and go, and gather all Israel to my lord the king, that they may make a covenant with you, and that you may reign over all that your heart desires.” So David sent Abner away, and he went in peace. {22} At that moment the servants of David and Joab came from a raid and brought much spoil with them. But Abner was not with David in Hebron, for he had sent him away, and he had gone in peace. {23} When Joab and all the troops that were with him had come, they told Joab, saying, “Abner the son of Ner came to the king, and he sent him away, and he has gone in peace.” {24} Then Joab came to the king and said, “What have you done? Look, Abner came to you; why is it that you sent him away, and he has already gone? {25} “Surely you realize that Abner the son of Ner came to deceive you, to know your going out and your coming in, and to know all that you are doing.” {26} And when Joab had gone from David’s presence, he sent messengers after Abner, who brought him back from the well of Sirah. But David did not know it. {27} Now when Abner had returned to Hebron, Joab took him aside in the gate to speak with him privately, and there stabbed him in the stomach, so that he died for the blood of Asahel his brother. {28} Afterward, when David heard it, he said, “My kingdom and I are guiltless before the LORD forever of the blood of Abner the son of Ner. {29} “Let it rest on the head of Joab and on all his father’s house; and let there never fail to be in the house of Joab one who has a discharge or is a leper, who leans on a staff or falls by the sword, or who lacks bread.” {30} So Joab and Abishai his brother killed Abner, because he had killed their brother Asahel at Gibeon in the battle. {31} Then David said to Joab and to all the people who were with him, “Tear your clothes, gird yourselves with sackcloth, and mourn for Abner.” And King David followed the coffin. {32} So they buried Abner in Hebron; and the king lifted up his voice and wept at the grave of Abner, and all the people wept. {33} And the king sang a lament over Abner and said: “Should Abner die as a fool dies? {34} Your hands were not bound Nor your feet put into fetters; As a man falls before wicked men, so you fell.” Then all the people wept over him again. {35} And when all the people came to persuade David to eat food while it was still day, David took an oath, saying, “God do so to me, and more also, if I taste bread or anything else till the sun goes down!” {36} Now all the people took note of it, and it pleased them, since whatever the king did pleased all the people. {37} For all the people and all Israel understood that day that it had not been the king’s intent to kill Abner the son of Ner. {38} Then the king said to his servants, “Do you not know that a prince and a great man has fallen this day in Israel? {39} “And I am weak today, though anointed king; and these men, the sons of Zeruiah, are too harsh for me. The LORD shall repay the evildoer according to his wickedness.”

2nd Lesson: AC 9014:3 – 5

[3] The majority within the Church think that the forgiveness of sins involves wiping and washing them away, like the removal of dirt by water, and that after forgiveness people go about clean and pure. This idea reigns especially with those who attribute all of salvation to faith alone But let it be known that the situation with the forgiveness of sins is altogether different from that being Mercy itself, the Lord forgives everyone their sins. Nevertheless they do not come to be forgiven unless the person sincerely repents, refrains from evils, and after that leads a life of faith and charity, doing so to the end of his life. When this happens the person receives spiritual life from the Lord, called new life. Then when with this new life he looks at the evils of his former life, turns away from them, and abhors them, his evils have for the first time been forgiven For the person is now maintained in truths and forms of good by the Lord and held back from evils. This shows what the forgiveness of sins is, and that it cannot take place within an hour, nor within a year. The Church knows this to be so, for it says to those who attend the Holy Supper that their sins are forgiven if they begin a new life by refraining from evils and abhorring them.

[4] All this now shows what the situation is with hypocrites who through guile are inwardly eaten up by evils – they are incapable of repenting. For the actual remnants of goodness and truth present with them have been destroyed and lost, and everything of spiritual life with them. And being incapable of repenting they cannot be forgiven. This is meant by the law that those who kill their neighbour with guile must be taken from the altar to die.

[5] Their damnation was described by the following prophetic utterance made by David regarding Joab, who had killed Abner with guile,

There will always be in the house of Joab1 one who suffers from a discharge, or is a leper, or supports himself with a rod, or falls by the sword, or lacks bread. 2 Sam. 3:27, 29.

‘One suffering from a discharge’ means profanation of the good of love; ‘a leper’ means profanation of the truth of faith; ‘one supporting himself with a rod’, or a person who is lame, means those with whom all good has been lost; ‘one falling by the sword’ means those constantly dying through falsities; and ‘one lacking bread’ means those deprived of all spiritual life, for ‘bread’ is the sustainment of spiritual life by means of good. Because such people were meant by ‘Joab’ he was killed by the command of Solomon at the altar to which he had fled.

1lit There will not be cut off from the house of Joab