The Tree of Life, by Louis G. Hoeck – A Swedenborgian Commentary on the Bible

I am pleased to bring back into print a classic Swedenborgian Bible commentary by the Rev. Louis G. Hoeck, originally published in four saddle-stitched volumes in 1940. Though the text is freely available online at various websites, this is the first time it has been in print in book form for several decades. It is also available for the first time in Kindle format.

The Tree of Life, Volume 1: The Law of Moses, by Louis G. Hoeck - front cover image

The Tree of Life is the only commentary ever published that covers the entire Swedenborgian canon of the Bible, consisting of every book of the Bible that has a continuous, connected spiritual meaning (see Arcana Coelestia #10325). It provides a chapter-by-chapter overview of the Bible’s spiritual meaning, with many fine, practical-life observations along the way.

Of course, since it was written and published the better part of a century ago, the language and feel of the material is a bit old-fashioned. However, the approach to the text of the Bible as a living account of our own spiritual life and development remains fresh and new today.

Volume 1: The Law of Moses

The first volume covers the books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. It is 163 pages long in the print edition. Here is a sample, commenting on Exodus chapter 1:

Assuming Life’s Responsibilities

Chapter 1. Youth plunges into life with expectation of gaining success in the highest degree. But closer contact with the world opens serious questions in the mind. Conscience calls attention to a few glaring irregularities, excesses, or positive wrongs, that demand restraint, or correction. The children of Israel are a menace to the Egyptians. A king that knew not Joseph is on the throne, and puts Israel in bondage. The world resents correction. Or, it may be youth has discovered that it is a slave to a bad habit which stoutly resists interference. Thereupon the struggle for emancipation begins in earnest. Suppose the habit is dishonesty. It has a long history. It goes back to the days of the nursery when the child took toys of another child, and resented forcibly any other child taking toys from it. The habit led to the adoption of stealthy methods of procuring special privileges or pleasures that may or may not have been definitely forbidden. There was always an excuse at hand. Occasionally when the mind was busy justifying the selfish habits, conscience would take exception. Then followed the effort to destroy these live reasons, the dictate of conscience. The King of Egypt sought to destroy the Israelitish boys as soon as they were born. But the mothers of these babes were lively, and the sons of Israel multiplied rapidly. The appeal of conscience could not be silenced, though not yet strong enough to overcome the opposition to abandon the bad habit. The call is for a Savior, and a Savior is at hand.

To review or purchase The Tree of Life, Volume 1 in paperback on Amazon, click here.

To review or purchase the Kindle edition, click here.

Volume 2: The Former Prophets

The second volume covers the books of Joshua, Judges, 1 & 2 Samuel, and 1 & 2 Kings. It is 163 pages in the print edition. Here is a sample, commenting on Joshua Chapter 1:

Courage Indispensable to Life

Chapter 1. The curtain now rises upon scenes that portray the conquest of the inner part of our lost inheritance—the conquest of the inordinate love of self and the world that has alienated us from God and man, and turned the world into a bedlam. We stand on the threshold of life’s battlefield. Ours is the promise, “Every place that the sole of your feet shall tread upon, that have I given you, as I said unto Moses.” The Lord guarantees the restoration of heaven upon earth wherever we stand firm for the right as He gives us to see it. “The strait and narrow way” lies right ahead. We must not turn from it either to the right or to the left. The enemy will contest our right of way to the bitter end. We may suffer defeat for lack of courage, but live to learn, and to fight better. The prospect is inspiring, and is attainable. Are we equal to it? “With God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26). “Only be strong and of a good courage.”

To review or purchase The Tree of Life, Volume 2 on Amazon, click here.

To review or purchase the Kindle edition, click here.

Volume 3: The Latter Prophets

The third volume covers the books of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. It is 209 pages in the print edition. Here is a sample, commenting on Ezekiel Chapter 1:

The Plan: A Heaven from the Human Race

Chapter 1. The Lord has a plan for our lives. To “see all, nor be afraid,” strengthens our effort to submit our will to the Divine will for the good of all. The name Ezekiel has the double meaning, “God will strengthen” and “God will prevail.” And the vision discloses the plan which is further developed throughout the prophecy. As soon as we have settled down to tackle in ourselves the cause of all trouble in the world—rank individualism—the word of God finds a new and more highly prized place in our lives. We see the meaning of the Word, the spirit of its message, so obscurely understood in relation to our earlier experiences in Christian living. That is the equivalent of “the spirit of the storm out of the north,” a great glowing cloud, out of the midst of which came four living creatures like a man, with great wheels at their sides, which moved forward and upward. Above these was a firmament, and above that a throne with the appearance of a man upon it. And so the feeble effort to follow the gleam in earlier life opens the Scriptures, and reveals the will of the Lord in the light of heaven. We are somehow conscious that heaven is close by, and that we have nothing to fear. The cherubim—the living creatures—are our guardian angels. But the plan of life unfolds as we are to apply the teaching of the Scripture to our inner lives from day to day. The wheels touched the earth, and they moved as directed by the cherubim. The Word as applied to our lives is dynamic. There is power in the doctrine of life drawn from it. There were hands beneath the wings of the cherubim. Above and within all are the heavens (the firmament), and the Lord who directs the plan (the throne and Him who sitteth thereon). The plan is “to create or form a new understanding in which is a new will, which is the very heaven of the spiritual man, wherein the Lord dwells with man” (Arcana Coelestia #9596). “Those who suffer themselves to be regenerated are continually carried upwards, thus always into more and more interior societies. The extension of the sphere into those societies is given to those who are being regenerated especially by temptations” (Arcana Coelestia #6611). It is a marvelous vision. It is prostrating. “And when I saw it, I fell upon my face, and I heard a voice of one that spoke.”

To review or purchase The Tree of Life, Volume 3 on Amazon, click here.

To review or purchase the Kindle edition, click here.

Volume 4: Psalms, Gospels, and Revelation

The third volume covers the books of Psalms, the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, and the book of Revelation. It is 225 pages in the print edition. Here is a sample, commenting on Matthew Chapter 1:

The Fulfillment of Prophecy

Chapter 1. The connecting link of the Old Testament and the New Testament is forged in the threefold “generation of Jesus Christ,” who, “for our salvation did come into the world and take upon Him our nature,” with its latent hereditary tendencies to good and to evil. He was conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. Our first inclination is to deny it. “Joseph was minded to put Mary away privily.” The claim of a supernatural birth has been made for the Buddha, Augustus Caesar, and others. The difference in the Lord’s case, however, places it altogether beyond comparison. “His name shall be called Jesus, for he shall save his people from their sins.” He is “God with us.” The acknowledgment of God in Christ, with an implication unique in all time and for all time, is fundamental to the salvation of the human race. “Joseph took unto him his wife.”

To review or purchase The Tree of Life, Volume 4 on Amazon, click here.

To review or purchase the Kindle edition, click here.

For another fine commentary on the Bible, see: Bible Study Notes, by Anita S. Dole


Lee Woofenden is an ordained minister, writer, editor, translator, and teacher. He enjoys taking spiritual insights from the Bible and the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg and putting them into plain English as guides for everyday life.

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