Spiritual Meaning of GENESIS 11:1
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AC 1283. The Ancient Church in general is now treated of, and it is shown that in course of time its internal worship was falsified and adulterated; and consequently its external worship also, for the quality of the external worship is determined by that of the internal worship. The falsification and adulteration of internal worship here is "Babel." That thus far--except what is said about Eber--the historical incidents were not true, but were made up, may be further seen from what is here said about the Babylonish tower--that men undertook to build a tower whose top should be in heaven, that their lips were confounded so that one should not hear the lip of another, and that Jehovah thus confounded them; and also from its being said that this was the origin of Babel, whereas in the preceding chapter (verse 10) it is said that Babel was built by Nimrod. It is also evident from all this that Babel does not signify a city, but a certain actual thing; and here a worship whose interiors are profane, while its externals appear holy.

AC 1284. Verse 1. And the whole earth was of one lip, and their words were one. "And the whole earth was of one lip," signifies that everywhere there was one doctrine in general; a "lip" is doctrine; "the earth" is the church; "and their words were one," signifies that there was one doctrine in particular.

AC 1285. The whole earth was of one lip. That this signifies that everywhere there was one doctrine in general, is evident from the signification of "lip," in the Word, concerning which presently. In this verse, and these few words, is described the state of the Ancient Church as it had been, that it had one doctrine in general; but in the following verse it is described how it began to be falsified and adulterated; and from that to the ninth verse, how it became altogether perverted, so that it no longer had any internal worship. Then, a little further on, the subject treated of is the second Ancient Church, that was begun by Eber; and, finally, the third Ancient Church, which was the beginning of the Jewish Church. For after the flood there were three churches in succession.

[2] As regards the first Ancient Church, in that although it was so widely spread over the earth it was still one in lip and one in words, that is, one in doctrine in general and in particular, when yet its worship both internal and external was everywhere different--as shown in the preceding chapter, where by each nation there named a different doctrinal and ritual were signified--the case is this. In heaven there are innumerable societies, and different, and yet they are a one, for they are all led as a one by the Lord, concerning which see what has been said before (n. 457, 551, 684, 685, 690). In this respect the case is the same as it is with man, in whom, although there are so many viscera, and so many little viscera within the viscera, organs, and members, each one of which acts in a different way, yet all and each are governed as a one, by the one soul; or as it is with the body, wherein the activities of the powers and motions are different, yet all are governed by one motion of the heart and one motion of the lungs, and make a one. That these can thus act as a one, comes from the fact that in heaven there is one single influx, which is received by every individual in accordance with his own genius; and which influx is an influx of affections from the Lord, from His mercy, and from His life; and notwithstanding that there is only one single influx, yet all things obey and follow as a one. This is the result of the mutual love in which are they who are in heaven.

[3] The case was the same in the first Ancient Church; for although there were as many kinds of worship--some being internal and some external--as in general there were nations, and as many specifically as there were families in the nations, and as many in particular as there were men of the church, yet they all had one lip and were one in words; that is, they all had one doctrine, both in general and in particular. The doctrine is one when all are in mutual love, or in charity. Mutual love and charity cause them all to be a one, although they are diverse, for they make a one out of the varieties. All men how many soever they may be, even myriads of myriads, if they are in charity or mutual love, have one end, namely, the common good, the Lord‘s kingdom, and the Lord Himself. Varieties in matters of doctrine and of worship are like the varieties of the senses and of the viscera in man, as has been said, which contribute to the perfection of the whole. For then, through charity, the Lord inflows and works in diverse ways, in accordance with the genius of each one; and thus, both in general and in particular, disposes all into order, on earth as in heaven. And then the will of the Lord is done, as He Himself teaches, as in the heavens, so also upon the earth.

AC 1286. That a "lip" signifies doctrine, is evident from the following passages in the Word. In Isaiah:--

The seraphim cried and said, Holy, holy, holy, Jehovah of Armies. And the prophet said, Woe is me! for I am cut off, because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for mine eyes have seen the King, Jehovah of Armies. Then flew one of the seraphim unto me, and be touched my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin is expiated (Isaiah 6:3, 5-7).

"Lips" here denote the interior things of man, thus internal worship, from which is adoration, as is here represented with the prophet. That his lips were touched, and that thus his iniquity was taken away and his sin expiated, any one may see was a representative of interior things that are signified by the "lips," which are things of charity and its doctrine.

[2] Again:--

Jehovah shall smite the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips shall He slay the wicked (Isa. 11:4).

In the internal sense this does not mean that Jehovah smites with the rod of His mouth, and slays the wicked with the breath of His lips, but that a wicked man does this to himself; "the breath of the lips" is doctrine, which with the wicked is false. Again:--

I create the increase of the lips, peace, peace, to him that is far off, and to him that is near, saith Jehovah; and I heal him (Isa. 57:19).

"The increase of the lips" denotes doctrine.

[3] In Ezekiel:--

Son of man, go, get thee unto the house of Israel, and speak My words unto them. For thou art not sent to a people deep of lip, and heavy of tongue, but to the house of Israel; not to many peoples deep of lip and heavy of tongue, whose words thou canst not understand. If I had sent thee to them, would they not have hearkened unto thee? But the house of Israel will not hearken unto thee, for they will not hearken unto Me, for all the house of Israel are of a hardened forehead, and hard of heart (Ezekiel 3:4-7).

"Deep of lip" is predicated of the nations which although in falsity of doctrine were yet in charity, and are therefore said to "hearken;" but they who are not in charity are said to be of "a hardened forehead, and a hard heart."

[4] In Zephaniah:--

Then will I turn to the people with a clear lip, that they may all call upon the name of Jehovah, to serve Him with one shoulder (Zephaniah 3:9).

"A clear lip" manifestly denotes doctrine. In Malachi:--

The law of truth was in his mouth, and perversity was not found in his lips. For the priest’s lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the law at his mouth; for he is the angel of Jehovah of Armies (Malachi 2:6, 7).

This is said of Levi, by whom the Lord is represented; "lips" denote doctrine from charity. In David:--

Who say, With our tongue will we prevail; our lips are with us (Ps. 12:4).

Here "lips" denote falsities. Again:--

My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness; and my mouth shall praise Thee with lips of songs (Ps. 63:5).

In Isaiah:--

In that day there shall be five cities in the land of Egypt speaking with the lip of Caanan, and swearing to Jehovah of Armies (Isaiah 19:18)

"lip" denotes doctrine.

AC 1287. That "the earth" signifies the church, has been shown before (n. 662, 1066).

AC 1288. Their words were one. That this signifies that there was one doctrine in particular, is evident from what has been said before for "a lip" signifies doctrine in general, as was shown; and "words" signify doctrine in particular, or the particulars of doctrine. For the particulars cause no disagreement, provided they look to one end, which is to love the Lord above all things and the neighbor as one‘s self; for then they are particulars of these generals.

[2] That a "word" signifies all doctrine concerning charity and the derivative faith, and that "words" signify the things which are of doctrine, is evident in David:--

I will confess unto Thee with uprightness of heart, when I shall learn the judgments of Thy righteousness; I will keep Thy statutes. Wherewithal shall a child make pure his path? By taking heed according to Thy word. With my whole heart have I sought Thee; make me not to wander from Thy precepts. Thy word have I hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against Thee. Blessed art Thou, O Jehovah; teach me Thy statutes. With my lips have I rehearsed all the judgments of Thy mouth. I have rejoiced in the way of Thy testimonies. I meditate in Thy commandments, and look unto Thy ways. I delight in Thy statutes; I do not forget Thy word (Ps. 119:7-16).

"Word" here denotes doctrine in general. It is evident that a distinction is here made between "precepts," "judgments," "testimonies," "commandments," "statutes," "way," and "lips;" and that all these belong to the Word, or to doctrine. And everywhere else in the Word they signify the same distinct things.

[3] Again:--

A song of love. My heart hath willed a good word; my tongue is the pen of a rapid writer. Thou art beauteous above the sons of man; grace is poured upon thy lips. Ride upon the word of truth; and of the gentleness of righteousness; thy right hand shall teach thee wonderful things (Ps. 45:1, 2, 4).

"To ride upon the word of truth and of the gentleness of righteousness," is to teach the doctrine of truth and of good. Here, as elsewhere in the Word, the terms "word," "lip," and "tongue" signify distinct things; that they are things of doctrine concerning charity is evident, because it is called "a song of loves." Of this doctrine is predicated beauty above the sons of man, grace of lips, and a right hand that teacheth wonderful things.

[4] In Isaiah:--

Jehovah sent a word into Jacob, and it hath lighted upon Israel (Isa. 9:8).

"A word" denotes the doctrine of internal and of external worship; "Jacob" here denotes external worship, and "Israel" internal. In Matthew:--

Jesus said, Man doth not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4).


When any one heareth the word of the Kingdom and heedeth it not, then cometh the evil one and snatcheth away that which hath been sown in his heart (Matthew 13:19)

see also concerning "the word" in the same chapter, (Matt. 13:20-23). Again:--

Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My words shall not pass away (Matthew 24:35).

In these passages, "the word" denotes the Lord’s doctrine; and "words" the things that belong to His doctrine.

[5] Because the expression "words" denotes all things of doctrine, the commandments of the decalogue were called "words," in Moses:--

Jehovah wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, the ten words (Exod. 34:28).


He hath declared unto you His covenant, which He commanded you to perform, the ten words; and He wrote them upon two tables of stone (Deut. 4:13; 10:4).


Take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the words that thine eyes have seen (Deut. 4:9)

besides other places.

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