I once had a strange encounter with a man who lived a scandalous life. As a young fellow going out into the world to seek his fortune he happened to fall in love with his uncle’s younger daughter. I have to admit she had a great body and was quite beautiful to look at.
His uncle, rather than being appalled by this, turned the situation to his own benefit. He convinced his nephew to do chores for him for seven years before he would allow such a marriage. Then, at the end of the seven years this despicable uncle managed to trick his nephew into sleeping with his not-so-beautiful older daughter.
The story gets worse. The uncle then makes a deal for the young man to finally let him have his younger daughter as well. The young man, while having being tricked, makes the most of it and marries both cousins. He also has hanky-panky with both cousins, but only succeeds in impregnating the older of the two sisters, who gives birth to six male children and one girl.
Then the unimaginable happens. Both sisters fight for the young man’s attention. Since these sisters came from a well-to-do family (owning lots of livestock) they each go out of their way to offer their female maidservants as additional sexual partners for him.
What is a young man to do? Well, he had sex with all of them! More babies resulted. In fact, he finally managed to impregnate the more beautiful younger sister and she bore him a son. What a mess!
I looked at this man’s life and began to make a character judgment about him. He knew what I was thinking then made an unexpected defense for all his actions. He communicated to me that if I wanted to become more spiritual and grow closer to God I had better follow his exact same steps in life!
He was so convincing that I am now trying to follow in his footsteps and emulate his lifestyle.
His name was Jacob. I encountered him and his unique life-story in the pages of the Old Testament. However, Jacob’s story was anything but scandalous when I encountered him again and he was able to convince me of his honorable intentions within the pages of Emanuel Swedenborg’s Arcana Coelestia (Secrets of Heaven). This is where I was able to view Jacob’s life and actions on a whole new and more profound level. His story is actually my story and your story!
All the characters of this biblical narrative actually represented different qualities of a person’s heart and mind who begins the process of spiritual salvation. In other words, Jacob’s life is a story of how the human mind and spirit advances through stages of spiritual development. Each of Jacob’s encounters with women represented a new advance of the heart and mind. Each advance gave birth to new children, which signified bringing a new quality of spiritual activity into the world (the offspring of spiritual development).
This is why Jacob was so intimate with his relatives—they all related to qualities and the pedigree of his spiritually evolving heart and mind. They represented the progressive changes (genealogy) taking place within his inner being and all things serviceable to it. So Holy Scripture is relevant and timely, even to modern human life and society—if we know how to distill higher meaning from its stories. And there is much more spiritual detail to be distilled from the biblical narratives.
Emanuel Swedenborg offers us intellectual access to these higher meanings, without which many of the stories of God’s Holy Word offer only wacky scenarios and offer us no real guidance. God is not wasteful or trivial when it comes to the salvation of the human race. God’s message goes deep and challenges us to go beyond our habitual and everyday minds.