Greediness and uncleanness are characteristic of swine. They eat far more than they need, not refusing even the vilest food. What they do not eat they trample in the mud and filth in which they love to wallow. If a person is called a "pig " or a "hog," or is said to be "swinish," we understand that he is unclean and that he wants to get and keep everything for himself. Have we ever seen this disposition in children who have something good to eat? What shall we think of a child who picks all the flowers his hands will hold and tramples on the rest so that no one else shall get them? Are there older people who scrape together money and hoard it up for no useful purpose, enjoying the sense of power it gives them? Swine correspond to this greed for getting and possessing, and to a delight in defiling good things. (AC 4751 939; AE 659, 1044)
We are not surprised to find swine among the animals forbidden to the Jews. "And the swine . . . he is unclean to you. Of their flesh shall ye not eat, and their carcase shall ye not touch; they are unclean to you." (Lev. xi. 7, 8; Deut. xiv. 8) The character will not grow strong by indulging unclean and greedy affections and making them its own. They are not heavenly food. Greedy and unclean affections, more than all else, close the heart to heaven. Therefore the Jewish law, which represented the principles of true heavenly life, commanded not to eat the swine's flesh nor to touch their carcass. (AE 617)
The greed of possessing, especially of possessing money, was by nature strong with the Jews; and because of the correspondence of this love with swine, the people often fell into the sin of keeping swine and eating their flesh. They are called "a people that provoketh me to anger; . . . which remain among the graves, and lodge in the monuments, which eat swine's flesh, and broth of abominable things is in their vessels." (Isa. lxv. 3, 4, lxvi. 17) Remaining among the graves points to their fondness for unclean ways, in which was no spiritual life. Eating swine's flesh suggests the spiritual wrong of cherishing unclean affections, and the greedy love of possessing for no good use. (AE 659)
In the Gospels we read how the Lord, once casting out devils in the country of the Gadarenes, suffered them to go into a herd of swine. "And they arrived at the country of the Gadarenes, which is over against Galilee. And when he went forth to land, there met him out of the city a certain man which had devils a long time, and wore no clothes, neither abode in any house, but in the tombs. . . . And there was there a herd of many swine feeding on the mountain: and they besought him that he would suffer them to enter into them. And he suffered them. Then went the devils out of the man, and entered into the swine: and the herd ran violently down a steep place into the lake, and were choked." (Luke viii. 26-37; Mark v. 1-17) Here again the dwelling in the tombs pictures a fondness for unclean ways in which is nothing of heavenly life. The fierce and unclean spirits prayed that they might go into the swine, because they were themselves swinish in nature; and the Lord suffered them to go, because they thus showed their true character, which every evil must do before it can be condemned and removed. The miracle was done to teach us of the Lord's power to cast out from us swinish affections which no man can bind or tame, that we too may sit at His feet, clothed and in our right mind. Do we gratefully accept the Lord's deliverance? or are we troubled at the loss of the swine, and do we beseech the Lord to depart? (AC 1742; AE 659)
Remember the parable of the prodigal son. The younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living. And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land, and he began to be in want. And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him." (Luke xv. 11-32) It is the story of all who wander from their Heavenly Father and the happy life He provides, in the effort to find greater happiness in ways of their own choosing. The mighty famine in that land, suggests the lack of real heavenly satisfaction. Sent into the fields to feed swine, the prodigal represents the last effort to find happiness in the indulgence of gross appetites. Even in this extremity our Father remembers us, tenderly waiting for us to arise and come to Him, that He may meet us with His loving kiss.
"Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you." (Matt. vii. 6) Dogs and swine are here named together, representing appetites and filthy loves. In other places nobler qualities of dogs are recognized, and they represent humble, faithful affections. The verse before us describes the contemptuous rejection of the holy affections and the precious truths of heaven, by those who are in filthy loves. They not merely reject them, but do so with abusive contempt. (AE 1044) A further meaning of this verse will be seen when we study the pearl. (Chapter 35)