Spiritual Meaning of GENESIS 1:20-23
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AC 39. Verse 20. And God said, Let the waters cause to creep forth the creeping thing, the living soul; and let fowl fly above the earth upon the faces of the expanse of the heavens. After the great luminaries have been kindled and placed in the internal man, and the external receives light from them, then the man first begins to live. Heretofore he can scarcely be said to have lived, inasmuch as the good which he did he supposed that he did of himself, and the truth which he spoke that he spoke of himself; and since man of himself is dead, and there is in him nothing but what is evil and false, therefore whatsoever he produces from himself is not alive, insomuch that he cannot, from himself, do good that in itself is good. That man cannot even think what is good, nor will what is good, consequently cannot do what is good, except from the Lord, must be plain to every one from the doctrine of faith, for the Lord says in Matthew:--

He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man (Matthew 13:37).

Nor can any good come except from the real Fountain of good, which is one only, as He says in another place:--

None is good save one, God (Luke 18:19).

[2] Nevertheless when the Lord is resuscitating man, that is, regenerating him, to life, He permits him at first to suppose that he does what is good and speaks what is true from himself, for at that time he is incapable of conceiving otherwise, nor can he in any other way be led to believe, and afterwards to perceive, that all good and truth are from the Lord alone. While man is thinking in such a way his truths and goods are compared to the "tender grass," and also to the "herb yielding seed," and lastly to the "tree bearing fruit," all of which are inanimate; but now that he is vivified by love and faith, and believes that the Lord works all the good that he does and all the truth that he speaks, he is compared first to the "creeping things of the water," and to the "fowls which fly above the earth," and also to "beasts," which are all animate things, and are called "living souls."

AC 40. By the "creeping things which the waters bring forth," are signified the memory-knowledges (scientifica) which belong to the external man; by "birds" in general, rational and intellectual things, of which the latter belong to the internal man. That the "creeping things of the waters," or "fishes," signify memory-knowledges, is plain from Isaiah:--

I came and there was no man; at My rebuke I dry up the sea, I make the rivers a wilderness; their fish shall stink because there is no water and shall die for thirst; I clothe the heavens with blackness (Isaiah 50:2, 3).

[2] But it is still plainer from Ezekiel, where the Lord describes the new temple, or a new church in general, and the man of the church, or a regenerate person; for every one who is regenerate is a temple of the Lord:--

The Lord Jehovah said unto me, These waters that shall issue to the boundary toward the east, and shall come toward the sea, being led into the sea, and the waters shall be healed; and it shall come to pass that every living soul that shall creep forth, whithersoever the water of the rivers shall come, shall live, and there shall be exceeding much fish, because those waters shall come thither, and they shall heal, and everything shall live whither the river cometh; and it shall come to pass that fishers shall stand upon it from En-gedi to En-eglaim, with the spreading of nets shall they be; their fish shall be according to its kind, as the fish of the great sea, exceeding many (Ezekiel 47:8-10).

"Fishers from En-gedi unto En-eglaim," with the "spreading of nets," signify those who shall instruct the natural man in the truths of faith.

[3] That "birds" signify things rational and intellectual, is evident from the Prophets; as in Isaiah:--

Calling a bird from the east, the man of My counsel from a distant land (Isaiah 46:11).

And in Jeremiah:--

I beheld and lo there was no man, and all the birds of the heavens were fled (Jeremiah 4:25).

In Ezekiel:--

I will plant a shoot of a lofty cedar, and it shall lift up a branch, and shall bear fruit, and be a magnificent cedar; and under it shall dwell every fowl of every wing, in the shadow of the branches thereof shall they dwell (Ezekiel 17:22, 23).

And in Hosea, speaking of a new church, or of a regenerate man:--

And in that day will I make a covenant for them with the wild beast of the field, and with the fowls of heaven, and with the moving thing of the ground (Hosea 2:18).

That "wild beast" does not signify wild beast, nor "bird" bird, must be evident to every one, for the Lord is said to "make a new covenant" with them.

AC 41. Whatever is proper to man has no life in itself, and whenever it is made manifest to the sight it appears hard, like a bony and black substance; but whatever is from the Lord has life, containing within it that which is spiritual and celestial, which when presented to view appears human and living. It may seem incredible but is nevertheless most true, that every single expression, every single idea, and every least of thought in an angelic spirit, is alive, containing in its minutest particulars an affection that proceeds from the Lord, who is life itself. And therefore whatsoever things are from the Lord, have life in them, because they contain faith toward Him, and are here signified by the "living soul:" they have also a species of body, here signified by "what moves itself," or "creeps." These truths however are as yet deep secrets to man, and are now mentioned only because the "living soul," and the "thing moving itself," are treated of.

AC 42. Verse 21. And God created great whales, and every living soul that creepeth, which the waters made to creep forth, after their kinds, and every winged fowl after its kind; and God saw that it was good. "Fishes," as before said, signify memory-knowledges, now animated by faith from the Lord, and thus alive. " Whales" signify their general principles, in subordination to which, and from which, are the particulars; for there is nothing in the universe that is not under some general principle, as a means that it may exist and subsist. "Whales," or "great fishes," are sometimes mentioned by the Prophets, and they there signify the generals of memory-knowledges. Pharaoh the king of Egypt (by whom is represented human wisdom or intelligence, that is, knowledge (scientia) in general), is called a "great whale." As in Ezekiel:--

Behold, I am against thee, Pharaoh king of Egypt, the great whale that lieth in the midst of his rivers, that hath said, My river is mine own, and I have made myself (Ezekiel 29:3).

[2] And in another place:--

Take up a lamentation for Pharaoh king of Egypt, and say unto him, Thou art as a whale in the seas, and hast gone forth in thy rivers, and hast troubled the waters with thy feet (Ezekiel 32:2),

by which words are signified those who desire to enter into the mysteries of faith by means of memory-knowledges, and thus from themselves. In Isaiah:--

In that day Jehovah, with His hard and great and strong sword, shall visit upon leviathan the longish (oblongum) serpent, even leviathan the crooked serpent, and He shall slay the whales that are in the sea (Isaiah 27:1).

By "slaying the whales that are in the sea," is signified that such persons are ignorant of even the general principles of truth. So in Jeremiah:--

Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon hath devoured me, he hath troubled me, he hath made me an empty vessel, he hath swallowed me as a whale, he hath filled his belly with my delicacies, he hath cast me out (Jeremiah 51:34),

denoting that he had swallowed the knowledges of faith, here called "delicacies," as the whale did Jonah; a "whale" denoting those who possess the general principles of the knowledges of faith as mere memory-knowledges, and act in this manner.

AC 43. Verse 22. And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and the fowl shall be multiplied in the earth. Everything that has in itself life from the Lord fructifies and multiplies itself immensely; not so much while the man lives in the body, but to an amazing degree in the other life. To "be fruitful," in the Word, is predicated of the things that are of love, and to "multiply," of the things that are of faith; the "fruit" which is of love contains "seed," by which it so greatly multiplies itself. The Lords "blessing" also in the Word signifies fructification and multiplication, because they proceed from it. (Verse 23). And the evening and the morning were the fifth day.

GENESIS 1:20-23    previous  -  next  -  text  -  summary  -  Genesis  -  Full Page

Author:  E. Swedenborg (1688-1772). Design:  I.J. Thompson, Feb 2002. www.BibleMeanings.info