Spiritual Meaning of GENESIS 11:4
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AC 1302. Verse 4. And they said, Come, let us build us a city and a tower, and its head in heaven; and let us make us a name, lest peradventure we be scattered upon the faces of the whole earth. "And they said," signifies that it came to pass; "let us build us a city and a tower," signifies that they framed a doctrine and a worship; "a city" is a doctrine, "a tower" is the worship of self; "and its head in heaven," signifies even to their having dominion over the things that are in heaven; "and let us make us a name," signifies that thereby they might have a reputation for power; "lest peradventure we be scattered upon the faces of the whole earth," signifies that otherwise they would not be acknowledged.

AC 1303. And they said. That this signifies that it came to pass, follows from the connection, just as the preceding words, "they said a man to his fellow," signified that it was begun; for Babel is here described, and what its quality is, by the "tower."

AC 1304. Let us build us a city and a tower. That this signifies that they framed a doctrine and a worship, may be seen from the signification of "a city," and from that of "a tower," concerning which presently. The church is of such a nature that when charity toward the neighbor departs, and the love of self succeeds in its place, the doctrine of faith is of no account except in so far as it can be turned into the worship of self; and nothing whatever is accounted holy in worship unless it is for the sake of self, and thus unless it is self-worship. All love of self is attended with this; for he who loves himself more than others, not only hates all who are not subservient to him, and shows them no favor except when they have become subservient, but also, in so far as he is not under restraint, he rushes on even until he exalts himself above God. That this is the nature of the love of self when the reins are given to it, has been shown me to the life. This is what is signified by "a city and a tower." The love of self and every derivative cupidity is of all things the most filthy and the most profane, and is the veriest infernalism; and from this any one may conclude what the quality of that worship must be which contains within it an infernalism so absolute.

AC 1305. That "a city" signifies doctrine, or that which is doctrinal, whether genuine or heretical, has been shown before (n. 402).

AC 1306. That "a tower" is the worship of self, is evident from the signification of "a tower." The worship of self exists when a man exalts himself above others even to the point of being worshiped. And therefore the love of self, which is arrogance and pride, is called "height," "loftiness," and "being lifted up;" and is described by all things that are high. As in Isaiah:--

The eyes of manís pride shall be humbled, and the loftiness of men shall be brought low, and Jehovah Himself alone shall be exalted in that day. For the day of Jehovah of Armies is upon every one proud and high and upon every one that is lifted up, and he shall be humbled; and upon all the cedars of Lebanon that are high and lifted up, and upon all the oaks of Bashan; and upon all the high mountains, and upon all the hills that are lifted up, and upon every lofty tower, and upon every fenced wall (Isaiah 2:11-18);

concerning the love of self, which is described by the "cedars," "oaks," "mountains," "hills," and "tower" that are "high" and "lifted up."

[2] Again:--

There shall be rivers, streams of waters, in the day of the great slaughter, when the towers shall fall (Isa. 30:25)

in like manner denoting the love of self, and the exalting of self in worship. And again:--

Behold the land of the Chaldeans; this people was not; Asshur hath founded it in tziim; they will set up their watch-towers, they will raise up their palaces, he will make it a ruin (Isa. 23:13);

said of Tyre and its vastation; "watch-towers," expressed by another word, denote the phantasies therefrom. In Ezekiel:--

I will cause many nations to come up against thee, O Tyre, and they shall ruin the walls of Tyre, and destroy her towers; I will also scrape her dust from her, and will make her the dryness of a rock (Ezekiel 26:3, 4);

the signification being similar.

[3] The love of self in worship, or the worship of self, is called a "tower," for the reason that a "city" signifies a doctrine (n. 402) and cities were formerly fortified with towers, in which there were watchmen; and there were also towers on the borders, which for this reason were called "towers of watchmen" (2 Kings 9:17; 17:9; 18:8), and "watch-towers" (Isa. 23:13). And besides, when the church of the Lord is compared to a "vineyard," those things which belong to worship and to its conservation are compared to a "winepress" and to "a tower in the vineyard," as is evident in (Isaiah 5:1, 2; Matt. 21:33; Mark 12:1).

AC 1307. And its head in heaven. That this signifies even to their having dominion over the things that are in heaven, follows from what has been said. For "to have the head in heaven" is to exalt self even that far, as is evident from the description of Babel in other places in the Word; and from what has already been said about "lifting up the head" (n. 257). The love of self is that which is least of all in accord with the heavenly life; for all evils come from it, not only hatreds, but also revenges, cruelties, and adulteries; and still less does it accord when it enters into worship, and profanes it. And therefore the hells consist of such persons, who the more they would lift up their heads into heaven, the deeper they press themselves down, and the more frightful are the penalties into which they precipitate themselves.

AC 1308. And let us make us a name. That this signifies that thereby they might have a reputation for power, may be seen from the signification of "making ones self a name." For they knew that every one desires to be in some worship; for this is common to all, and exists among all nations. For every one who beholds the universe, and still more who considers the order of the universe, acknowledges some supreme being or entity (summum ens), and as he desires his own prosperity, he pays adoration to that entity. Moreover there is something within, which dictates this, for such a dictate flows in from the Lord through the angels who are with every man. The man who is not like this, and who does not acknowledge a God, is under the dominion of infernal spirits. Knowing this, they who build Babylonish towers make themselves a name by means of doctrinal and holy things, for otherwise they could not be worshiped, which is signified in what next follows by their otherwise being scattered over the faces of the whole earth, that is, they would not be acknowledged. And from this it follows that the higher such men can lift up the head to heaven, the more they make themselves a name. Their dominion is greatest over those who have some conscience; for these they lead whithersoever they will; but as to those who have not conscience, they rule all such by means of various external bonds.

AC 1309. Lest we be scattered upon the faces of the whole earth. That this signifies that otherwise they would not be acknowledged, follows from what has just been said; for to be "scattered abroad upon the faces of the whole earth," is to be lost to their view, and thus not to be received and acknowledged.

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