1299. And bitumen had they for mortar. That this signifies that they had the evil of cupidity instead of good, is evident from the signification in the Word of "bitumen" and of "mortar." As the subject here treated of is the building of the Babylonish tower, such things are set forth as are used in building; here, bitumen, because it is sulfurous* and inflammable, and in the Word by such things there are signified cupidities, especially those which belong to the love of self. Here, "bitumen" signifies both the evils of cupidities and the derivative falsities; which also are the evils wherewith the tower was built; concerning which hereafter. That such things are signified, is evident in Isaiah:
The day of vengeance of Jehovah; the torrents shall be turned into pitch, and the dust thereof into sulfur, and the land thereof shall be burning pitch (Isa. 34:8-9).
"Pitch" and "sulfur" denote the falsities and evils of cupidities. And so in other places.
* Swedenborg uses the term "sulfureous" in the sense of combustible, and includes under the term "sulfur" other fiery, inflammable, and combustible products, such as resin. Shakespeare has a similar usage. And to this day the miners in coal-pits use the term in much the same way, speaking of the inflammable gas therein as "sulfur." [Reviser.]