Spiritual Meaning of GENESIS 11:8-9
AC 1323. Verse 8. And Jehovah scattered them from thence upon the faces of all the earth; and they left off to build the city. "And Jehovah scattered them from thence upon the faces of all the earth," signifies here, as before, that they were not acknowledged; "and they left off to build the city," signifies that such doctrine was not received.
AC 1324. And Jehovah scattered them upon the faces of all the earth. That this signifies that they were not acknowledged, is evident from what was said before (verse 4), where the same words occur. "And they left off to build the city."--that this signifies that such doctrine was not received, is evident from the signification of a "city," as being doctrine (n. 402); and from what was said at (verses 4 and 5) concerning the building of a city and a tower. From all this it is evident that such doctrine, or such worship, wherein interiorly there is the love of self, or the worship of self, was not permitted to this Ancient Church, and this for the reason explained in the verse that next follows.
AC 1325. Verse 9. Therefore He called the name of it Babel, because there did Jehovah confound the lip of all the earth; and from thence did Jehovah scatter them upon the faces of all the earth. "Therefore He called the name of it Babel," signifies such worship; "because there did Jehovah confound the lip of all the earth," signifies the state of this Ancient Church, that internal worship began to perish; "the earth" is the church; "and from thence did Jehovah scatter them upon the faces of all the earth," signifies that internal worship was annihilated.
AC 1326. Therefore He called the name of it Babel. That this signifies such worship, that is, the kind of worship signified by "Babel," is evident from what has been said hitherto; that is to say, worship in which interiorly there is the love of self, and therefore all that is filthy and profane. The love of self is nothing else than man‘s Own; and how filthy and profane this is may be seen from what has been shown before concerning man’s Own (n. 210, 215). From self-love (philautia), that is, the love of self, or man‘s Own, all evils flow, such as hatreds, revenges, cruelties, adulteries, deceits, hypocrisies, impiety; and therefore when the love of self, or man’s Own, is in the worship, such evils are in it, according to the difference and degree of quantity and quality that are from that love. Hence comes all the profanation of worship. In point of fact, in proportion as anything from the love of self, or from man‘s Own, is introduced into worship, in the same proportion internal worship departs, that is, it comes to pass that there is no internal worship. Internal worship consists in the affection of good and the acknowledgment of truth, and in proportion as the love of self, that is, in proportion as man’s Own, makes its approach, or enters in, the affection of good and the acknowledgment of truth depart, or go out. The holy can never be with the profane, just as heaven cannot be with hell, but the one must take its departure from the other. Such is the state and order in the Lord‘s kingdom. This is the reason why there is no internal worship among such men as those whose worship is called "Babel," but only a kind of dead thing, and in fact one inwardly cadaverous, that is worshiped. From this it is evident what must be the quality of the external worship that contains such an internal within it.
 That such worship is "Babel," is evident from the Word in various places where Babel is described, as in Daniel, where the image that Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon saw in a dream--the head of which was of gold, the breast and arms of silver, the belly and thighs of brass, the legs of iron, and the feet part of iron and part of clay-- signifies that from true worship there finally comes such worship as is called "Babel;" and therefore a stone cut out of the rock brake in pieces the iron, the brass, the clay, the silver, and the gold (Dan. 2:31-33, 44, 45). The image of gold that Nebuchadnezzar King of Babylon set up, and which they worshiped, was nothing else (Dan. 3:1-30). The like is signified by the king of Babylon with his lords drinking wine out of the vessels of gold that had been brought from the temple at Jerusalem, and praising the gods of gold, of silver, of brass, of iron, and of stone, on which account there appeared the writing upon the wall (Dan. 5:1-31). The like is signified also by Darius the Mede commanding that he should be adored as a god (Dan. 6:7-28); and likewise by the beasts seen by Daniel in a dream (Dan. 7:1-28) and the beasts and the Babylon described by John in the Revelation.
 That such worship was signified and represented is very evident, not only in Daniel and John, but also in the Prophets. As in Isaiah:--Their faces are faces of flames. The stars of the heavens and the constellations thereof shine not with their light; the sun is darkened in his going forth, and the moon doth not cause her light to shine. There do the Ziim couch, and their houses are filled with the Ochim; and the daughters of the night-owl dwell there, and satyrs dance there, and Iim answer in her palaces, and dragons in the buildings of pleasure (Isaiah 13:8, 10, 21, 22). This is said of Babylon, and the internal of such worship is described by "faces of flames," which are cupidities by "the stars," which are truths of faith, "not giving their light;" by "the sun," which is holy love, being "darkened;" by "the moon," which is the truth of faith, "not shining;" by "the Ziim," " Ochim," "daughters of the owl," " satyrs," "Iim," and "dragons," as being the interiors of their worship; for such things are of the love of self, that is, of man’s Own. And therefore also Babylon is called in John "the mother of whoredoms and abominations" (Rev. 17:5); and also "a habitation of dragons, and a hold of every unclean spirit, and a hold of every unclean and hateful bird" (Rev. 18:2); from all which it is evident that with such things within, there cannot be anything of good, or of the truth of faith; and that in so far as the goods of affection and the truths of faith depart, such things enter in. The same are called also "the graven images of the gods of Babylon" (Isa. 21:9).
 That it is the love of self, or the Own of man, that is in such worship, or that it is the worship of self, is very evident in Isaiah:--
Prophesy this parable upon the king of Babylon: Thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into the heavens, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; and I will sit on the mount of assembly, in the sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the cloud, I will become like the Most High. Yet thou shalt be cast down to hell (Isaiah 14:4, 13-15).
Here it is manifest that "Babylon" denotes one who desires to be worshiped as a god; that is, that it is the worship of self.
Come down, and sit on the dust, O virgin daughter of Babylon; sit in the earth, without a throne, O daughter of the Chaldeans; thou hath trusted in thy wickedness; thou hast said, None seeth me; thy wisdom and thy knowledge, it hath averted thee; thou hast said in thine heart, I, and there is none else besides like me (Isaiah 47:1, 10).
Behold, I am against thee, O destroying mountain, that destroyeth all the earth; and I will stretch out My hand upon thee, and will roll thee down from the rocks, and will make thee into a mountain of burning. Though Babylon should mount up to the heavens, and though she should fortify the height of her strength, yet from Me shall they that lay waste come to her (Jeremiah 51:25, 53).
From this passage also it is evident that "Babylon" is the worship of self.
 That such persons have no light of truth, but total darkness; that is, that they have no truth of faith, is described in Jeremiah:--
The word that Jehovah spake against Babylon, against the land of the Chaldeans. Out of the north there shall ascend upon her a nation that shall make her land a desolation, and none shall dwell therein; from man even to beast they shall move asunder, they shall be gone (Jeremiah 50:1, 3)
"the north" denotes thick darkness, or no truth; "no man and no beast," no good. See further concerning Babel below, (verse 28), where Chaldea is treated of.
AC 1327. There did Jehovah confound the lip of all the earth. That this signifies the state of this Ancient Church, that internal worship began to perish, is evident from its being said, "the lip of all the earth," and not, as before, at (verse 7), "the lip of those who began to build a city and a tower." By "the face of all the earth," is signified the state of the church, for "the earth" is the church (n. 662, 1066). As regards the churches after the flood, the case stood thus There were three of these churches that are specifically mentioned in the Word; namely, the First Ancient Church, which was named from Noah; the Second Ancient Church, named from Eber; and the Third Ancient Church, named from Jacob, and afterwards from Judah and Israel.
 As regards the first of these churches, which was named from Noah, that church was as the parent of those which succeeded it; and, as is wont to be the case with churches in their beginnings, it was more unimpaired and guiltless than its successors, as is evident also from the first verse of this chapter, in that it had "one lip," that is, one doctrine, in consequence of all its members holding charity to be the essential thing. But in process of time, like other churches, this First Ancient Church began to fall, and this chiefly from the fact that many of them began to aspire after the worship of self, so that they might take precedence of others as is evident from (verse 4), for they said "Let us build us a city and a tower, and its head in heaven; and let us make us a name." Such men in the church could not but be as a kind of ferment, or as a fire-brand causing a conflagration. As the peril of the profanation of what is holy thence impended (n. 571, 582), of the Lord‘s Providence the state of this church was changed, so that its internal worship perished, while its external worship remained, which is here signified by the statement that Jehovah confounded the lip of all the earth. It is also evident from this that such worship as is called "Babel" did not prevail in the First Ancient Church, but in those which followed, when men began to be worshiped as gods, especially after their death, whence arose the many gods of the Gentiles.
 The reason why it was permitted that internal worship should perish and external remain, was that what is holy might not be profaned; for the profanation of what is holy is attended with eternal damnation. No one can profane what is holy except one who is in possession of the knowledges of faith, and who acknowledges the truth of them. A person who does not possess them cannot acknowledge, and still less profane them. It is the internal things that can be profaned; for what is holy abides in internal, and not in external, things. The case in this respect is the same as it is with a man who does what is evil, but does not purpose what is evil. To him the evil that he does cannot be imputed, just as it cannot be imputed to one who does not do it of deliberate intention, or to one who is destitute of reason. Thus a man who does not believe that there is a life after death, and yet performs external worship, cannot profane the things that belong to eternal life, because he does not believe that there is any such life; but the case is quite different with those who know and who acknowledge these things.
 And this is the reason why it is permitted a man rather to live in pleasures and in cupidities, and by them to remove himself from internal things, than to come into the knowledge and acknowledgment of internal things, and profane them. For this reason the Jews are at this day permitted to immerse themselves in avarice, that in this way they may be further removed from the acknowledgment of internal things; for they are of such a character that if they were to acknowledge them, they could not but profane them. Nothing removes men further from internal things than avarice, because it is the lowest earthly cupidity. And the case is the same with many within the church; and it is the same with the Gentiles outside the church. These latter, to wit, the Gentiles, are least of all capable of profanation. This then is the reason why it is here said that Jehovah confounded the lip of all the earth, and why these words signify that the state of the church was changed, so that its worship became external, and devoid of all internal worship.
 The like was represented and signified by the Babylonish captivity into which the Israelites, and afterwards the Jews, were carried away, concerning which it is thus written in Jeremiah:--
And it shall come to pass, that the nation and the kingdom which will not serve the king of Babylon, and whoso will not put his neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon, upon that nation will I visit with the sword, with the famine, and with the pestilence, until I have consumed them by his hand (Jeremiah 27:8).
"To serve the king of Babylon and to put the neck under his yoke," is to be utterly deprived of the knowledge and acknowledgment of the good and of the truth of faith, and thereby of internal worship.
 This is still more plainly evident in the same Prophet:--
Thus hath said Jehovah to all the people in this city, Your brethren who have not gone forth with you into captivity, thus hath said Jehovah Zebaoth, Behold, I send upon them the sword, the famine, and the pestilence, and I will make them like horrible figs (Jeremiah 29:16, 17).
"To abide in the city and not go forth to the king of Babylon," represented and signified those who were in the knowledges of internal things, or of the truths of faith, and who profaned them, upon whom it is said there would be sent the sword, the famine, and the pestilence, which are the penalties of profanation; and that they should become like horrible figs.
 That by "Babel" are signified those who deprive others of all the knowledge and acknowledgment of truth, was also represented and signified by these things in the same Prophet:--
I will give all Judah into the hand of the King of Babylon, and he shall carry them into Babylon, and shall smite them with the sword. Moreover I will give all the riches of this city, and all the toil thereof, and all the precious thing thereof, and all the treasures of the kings of Judah, will I give into the hand of their enemies, and they shall spoil them, and take them (Jer. 20:4, 5).
Here by "all the riches, all the toil, all the precious thing, and all the treasures of the kings of Judah," are signified the knowledges of faith.
With the families of the north I will bring up the king of Babylon upon this land, and upon the inhabitants thereof, and upon all these nations round about, and I will give them to the curse, and will make them a desolation, and a hissing, and everlasting wastes; and this whole land shall be a waste (Jer. 25:9, 11).
Here the devastation of the interior things of faith, or of internal worship, is described by "Babylon." For the man who worships self possesses no truth of faith, as has been shown before. Everything that is true he destroys and lays waste, and carries away into captivity. And therefore Babylon is called "a destroying mountain" (Jer. 51:25). (n. 1182).
AC 1328. And from thence did Jehovah scatter them upon the faces of all the earth. That this signifies that internal worship was annihilated, may be seen from the signification of "scattering," as being to dissipate. In the proximate sense, the scattering over the faces of all the earth, means the dispersion of those who desire to build the city of Babel; but as these are they who deprive others of all the knowledge of truth, as before said, the words signify, at the same time, the deprivation of internal worship; for the one is a consequence of the other; and here we have the consequence, for it is stated for the third time. That the First Ancient Church was deprived of the knowledges of truth and good, is evident from the fact that the nations which constituted that Ancient Church became for the most part idolaters, and yet had a certain external worship. The lot of those idolaters who are outside the church is much better than that of those idolaters who are within the church; for the former are external idolaters, whereas the latter are internal idolaters. That the lot of the former is better, is evident from the words the Lord spake in (Luke 13:23, 28-30; Matthew 8:11, 12). This therefore is the reason why the state of this Ancient Church was changed. GENESIS 11:8-9 previous - next - text - summary - Genesis - Full Page
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