Spiritual Meaning of GENESIS 12:1
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AC 1403. From the first chapter of Genesis up to this point, or rather to the mention of Eber, the historicals have not been true but made-up historicals, which in the internal sense signify celestial and spiritual actualities. But in this chapter and in those which follow, the historicals are not made-up but true historicals; and in the internal sense these in like manner signify celestial and spiritual actualities, as any one may see from the single consideration that it is the Word of the Lord

AC 1404. In these things now before us, which are true historicals, all the statements and words both in general and in particular have in the internal sense an entirely different signification from that which they bear in the sense of the letter; but the historicals themselves are representative. Abram, who is first treated of, represents in general the Lord, and specifically the celestial man; Isaac, who is afterwards treated of, in like manner represents in general the Lord, and specifically the spiritual man; Jacob also in general represents the Lord, and specifically the natural man. Thus they represent the things which are of the Lord, of His kingdom, and of the church.

AC 1405. But the internal sense, as has already been clearly shown, is of such a nature that all things in general and in particular are to be understood abstractedly from the letter, just as if the letter did not exist; for in the internal sense is the Word‘s soul and life, which does not become manifest unless the sense of the letter as it were vanishes. Thus, from the Lord, do the angels perceive the Word when it is being read by man.

AC 1406. What the historicals in this chapter represent, is evident from the Contents that have been premised; what is signified by the statements and the words, may be seen from what follows, where they are explained.

AC 1407. Verse 1. And Jehovah said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy land, and from thy birth, and from thy fathers house, to the land that I will cause thee to see. These and the things which follow occurred historically, as they are written; but the historicals are representative, and each word is significative. By "Abram" in the internal sense is meant the Lord, as has been said before. By "Jehovah said unto Abram," is signified the first mental advertence of all; "get thee out of thy land," signifies the corporeal and worldly things from which He was to recede; "and from thy birth," signifies the more exterior corporeal and worldly things; "and from thy father’s house," signifies the more interior of such things; "to the land that I will cause thee to see," signifies the spiritual and celestial things that were to be presented to view.

AC 1408. These and the things which follow occurred historically as they are written but the historicals are representatives and all the words are significative. The case is the same with all the historicals of the Word, not only with those in the books of Moses, but also with those in the books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings. In all these, nothing is apparent but mere history; but although it is history in the sense of the letter, still in the internal sense there are arcana of heaven, which lie stored up and hidden there, and which can never be seen so long as the mind, together with the eye, is kept in the historicals nor are they revealed until the mind is removed from the sense of the letter. The Word of the Lord is like a body that contains within it a living soul; the things belonging to the soul do not appear while the mind is so fixed in corporeal things that it scarcely believes that there is a soul, still less that it will live after death; but as soon as the mind withdraws from corporeal things, those which are of the soul and life become manifest. And this also is the reason, not only why corporeal things must die before man can be born anew, or he regenerated, but also why the body itself must die so that he may come into heaven and see heavenly things.

[2] Such also is the case with the Word of the Lord: its corporeal things are those which are of the sense of the letter; and when the mind is kept in these, the internal things are not seen at all; but when the former are as it were dead, then for the first time are the latter presented to view. But still the things of the sense of the letter are similar to those which are with man while in the body, to wit, to the knowledges of the memory that come from the things of sense, and which are general vessels that contain interior or internal things within them. It may be known from this that the vessels are one thing, and the essentials contained in the vessels another. The vessels are natural; the essentials contained in the vessels are spiritual and celestial. So likewise the historicals of the Word, and all the expressions in the Word, are general, natural, and indeed material vessels, in which are things spiritual and celestial; and these in no wise come into view except by the internal sense.

[3] This will be evident to every one from the mere fact that many things in the Word are said according to appearances, and indeed according to the fallacies of the senses, as that the Lord is angry, that He punished curses, kills, and many other such things; when yet in the internal sense they mean quite the contrary, namely, that the Lord is in no wise angry and punishes, still less does He curse and kill. And yet to those who from simplicity of heart believe the Word as they apprehend it in the letter, no harm is done while they live in charity. The reason is that the Word teaches nothing else than that every one should live in charity with his neighbor, and love the Lord above all things. They who do this have in themselves the internal things; and therefore with them the fallacies taken from the sense of the letter are easily dispelled.

AC 1409. That the historicals are representative, but all the words significative, is evident from what has already been said and shown concerning representatives and significatives (n. 665, 920, 1361); nevertheless, since representatives begin here, it is well to give briefly a further explanation of the subject. The Most Ancient Church, which was celestial, looked upon all earthly and worldly, and also bodily things, which were in any wise objects of the senses, as being dead things; but as each and all things in the world present some idea of the Lord‘s kingdom, consequently of things celestial and spiritual, when they saw them or apprehended them by any sense, they thought not of them, but of the celestial and spiritual things; indeed they thought not from the worldly things, but by means of them; and thus with them things that were dead became living.

[2] The things thus signified were collected from their lips by their posterity and were formed by them into doctrinals, which were the Word of the Ancient Church, after the flood. With the Ancient Church these were significative; for through them they learned internal things, and from them they thought of spiritual and celestial things. But when this knowledge began to perish, so that they did not know that such things were signified, and began to regard the terrestrial and worldly things as holy, and to worship them, with no thought of their signification, the same things were then made representative. Thus arose the Representative Church, which had its beginning in Abram and was afterwards instituted with the posterity of Jacob. From this it may be known that representatives had their rise from the significatives of the Ancient Church, and these from the celestial ideas of the Most Ancient Church.

[3] The nature of representatives may be manifest from the historicals of the Word, in which all the acts of the fathers, Abram, Isaac, and Jacob, and afterwards those of Moses, and of the judges and kings of Judah and Israel, were nothing but representatives. Abram in the Word, as has been said, represents the Lord; and because he represents the Lord, he represents also the celestial man; Isaac likewise represents the Lord, and thence the spiritual man; Jacob in like manner represents the Lord, and thence the natural man corresponding to the spiritual.

[4] But with representatives the character of the person is not considered at all, but the thing which he represents for all the kings of Judah and of Israel, of whatever character, represented the Lord’s kingly function; and all the priests, of whatever character, represented His priestly function. Thus the evil as well as the good could represent the Lord and the celestial and spiritual things of His kingdom; for, as has been said and shown above, the representatives were altogether separated from the person. Hence then it is that all the historicals of the Word are representative; and because they are representative, it follows that all the words of the Word are significative, that is, that they have a different signification in the internal sense from that which they bear in the sense of the letter.

AC 1410. Jehovah said unto Abram. That this signifies the first mental advertence of all, depends upon the fact that this historical is representative, and the words themselves significative. Such was the style in the Ancient Church, that when anything was true, they said "Jehovah said," or, "Jehovah spake," which signified that it was so; as has been shown above. But after significatives had been turned into representatives, then Jehovah or the Lord did actually speak with men; and when it is then said that Jehovah said, or, Jehovah spake with any one, it signifies the same as before; for the Lord‘s words in the true historicals involve the same as His words in the made-up ones. There is only this difference, that the latter are composed to be like true history, and the former are not so composed. Wherefore that "Jehovah said unto Abram," signifies nothing else than the first mental advertence; as when in the Ancient Church any one was admonished by conscience, or by some other dictate, or by their Word, that a thing was so, it was then said in like manner that "Jehovah said."

AC 1411. Get thee out of thy land. That this signifies the corporeal and worldly things from which He was to recede, is evident from the signification of "land" or "earth," which is variable, adapting itself to the person or thing of which it is predicated-as in the first chapter of’ Genesis, where likewise "earth" signifies the external man (n. 82, 620, 636, 913). That it here signifies corporeal and worldly things, is because these are of the external man. A "land," in the proper sense, is the land, region, or kingdom itself; it is also the inhabitant thereof; and also the people itself and the nation itself, in the land. Thus the word "land" not only signifies in a broad sense the people or the nation, but also in a limited sense the inhabitant. When the word "land" is used with reference to the inhabitant, its signification is then in accordance with the thing concerning which it is used. It is here used respecting corporeal and worldly things; for the land of his birth, out of which Abram was to go, was idolatrous. In the historical sense, therefore, the meaning here is that Abram should go out from that land; but in the representative sense, that He should recede from the things which are of the external man; that is, that external things should not resist, nor bring in disturbance; and because this is concerning the Lord, it signifies that His externals should agree with His internals.

AC 1412. And from thy birth. That this signifies the more exterior corporeal and worldly things, and that "from thy father‘s house" signifies the more interior of such things, may be seen from the signification of "birth," and from the signification of a "father’s house." There are in man corporeal and worldly things more exterior and more interior the more exterior are those which are proper to the body, such as pleasures and the things of sense the more internal are affections and things of memory-knowledge; and these are what are signified by "birth" and a "father‘s house." That these are their significations may be confirmed by many passages of the Word, but as it is evident from the connection, and from looking at the things in the internal sense, there is no need to dwell on the confirmation.

AC 1413. To the land that I will cause thee to see. That this signifies the spiritual and celestial things that would be presented to view, is evident from the signification of "land" (n. 662, 1066), and here indeed of the land of Canaan, by which the Lord’s kingdom is represented, as may be seen from many other passages in the Word. The land of Canaan is therefore called the Holy Land, and also the heavenly Canaan. And "because it represented the Lord‘s kingdom, it also represented and signified the celestial and spiritual things that belong to His kingdom; here, those which belong to the Lord Himself.

AC 1414. As the Lord is here treated of, more arcana are contained than can ever be thought of and declared. For here, in the internal sense, is meant the Lord’s first state, when born; which state, because most deeply hidden, cannot well be set forth to the comprehension. Suffice it to say that the Lord was like other men, except that He was conceived of Jehovah, but still was born of a virgin mother, and by birth derived infirmities from the virgin mother like those of man in general. These infirmities are corporeal, and it is said of them in this verse that He should recede from them, in order that celestial and spiritual things might be presented for Him to see. There are two hereditary natures connate in man, one from the father, the other from the mother. The Lord‘s hereditary from the Father was the Divine, but His hereditary from the mother was he infirm human. This infirm nature which a man derives hereditarily from his mother, is something corporeal that is dispersed when he is being regenerated, while that which a man derives from his father remains to eternity. But the Lord’s hereditary from Jehovah, as was said, was the Divine. Another arcanum is that the Lord‘s Human also was made Divine. In Him alone there was a correspondence of all the things of the body with the Divine-a most perfect correspondence, infinitely perfect, giving rise to a union of the corporeal things with Divine celestial things, and of sensuous things with Divine spiritual things; and thus He was the Perfect Man, and the Only Man.

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