Spiritual Meaning of GENESIS 15:12
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AC 1836. Verse 12. And it came to pass when the sun was going down, that a deep sleep fell upon Abram, and behold a terror of great darkness falling upon him. "The sun was going down," signifies the time and the state before the consummation; "that a deep sleep fell upon Abram," signifies that the church was then in darkness "and behold a terror of great darkness falling upon him," signifies that the darkness was terrible; "darkness" means falsities.

AC 1837. The sun was going down. That this signifies the time and the state before the consummation, is evident from the signification of "the sun." In the internal sense "the sun" signifies the Lord, and thence it signifies the celestial things which are of love and charity, consequently love itself and charity (n. 30-38, 1053). From this it is evident that the "going down of the sun" denotes the last time of the church, which is called the consummation, when there is no longer any charity. The Lord‘s church is also compared to the times of the day; its first period to the rising of the sun, or to the dawn and the morning; its last to the setting of the sun, or to the evening and the shades then prevailing, for the two things are similarly circumstanced. The church is also compared to the times of the year; its first period to the spring, when all things are in bloom that which is before the last to the autumn, when they begin to become inactive. It is even compared to the metals; its first period is called golden; its last, iron and clay (Daniel 2:31-33). From all this it is evident what is signified by "the going down of the sun," namely, that it signifies the time and the state before the consummation, seeing that the sun had not yet set. In what follows, the state of the church when the sun has set is treated of, in that there was then thick darkness and the smoke of a furnace, and that a torch of fire passed between the pieces.

AC 1838. A deep sleep fell upon Abram. That this signifies that the church was then in darkness, is evident from the signification of " a deep sleep." A "deep sleep," relatively to one of wakefulness, denotes a dark state and this state is here attributed to the Lord, who is represented by Abram; not that there was ever with Him a deep sleep or a state of darkness, but that there was with the church. The case herein is the same as it is in the other life, where the Lord is always the Sun, and Light itself; but where before the evil He appears as darkness; for the Lord appears according to the state of each person. So here this is said of the church when it is in a state of darkness.

[2] Also take as an example, vastation, punishment, and condemnation, which are attributed to the Lord in many passages of the Word; when nevertheless they belong to the man of the church, who vastates, punishes, and condemns himself. It appears before man as if the Lord vastated, punished, and condemned; and because it appears so, it is so expressed according to the appearances for if man were not instructed by appearances, he would not suffer himself to be instructed at all. What is contrary to the appearance he does not believe or comprehend, except at a later period, when he possesses judgment and has been gifted with the faith of charity.

[3] So with the church when it is in a state of darkness, the Lord is then obscured before its people, so that He does not appear, that is, is not acknowledged; although the Lord is not at all obscured, but man, in whom and with whom the Lord should be; but still the obscuration is predicated of the Lord. So is it here with the "deep sleep," by which there is signified a dark state of the church.

AC 1839. Behold a terror of great darkness falling upon him. That this signifies that the darkness was terrible, and that "darkness" means falsities, is evident from the signification of "darkness," as being falsities, to be explained presently. The state of the church before its consummation, when the sun was " going down," is described by the "terror of great darkness;" but its state when the sun had gone down is described by the "thick darkness" and the other things mentioned in (verse 17).

[2] The same is thus described by the Lord in Matthew:--

The sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken (Matthew 24:29).

This does not mean that the sun of the world will be darkened, but the celestial which is of love and charity; nor the moon, but the spiritual which is of faith; nor that the stars will fall from heaven, but that the knowledges of good and truth with the man of the church will do so, for these are "the powers of the heavens;" nor will these things take place in heaven, but on earth; for heaven is never darkened.

[3] That "a terror of great darkness fell upon him," means that the Lord was horrified at so great a vastation. So far as any one is in the celestial things of love, so far does he feel horror when he perceives a consummation. So it was with the Lord, above all others; for He was in love itself, both celestial and Divine.

[4] That "darkness" signifies falsities is evident from very many passages in the Word; as in Isaiah:--

Woe unto them that put darkness for light, and light for darkness (Isaiah 5:20);

"darkness" denotes falsities, and "light" truths. In the same:--

He shall look onto the land, and behold darkness, distress, and the light is darkened (Isaiah 5:30);

"darkness" denoting falsities, and "the light darkened" the truth not appearing.

[5] In the same:--

Behold, darkness covereth the earth, and thick darkness the peoples (Isaiah 60:2).

In Amos:--

The day of Jehovah, it is darkness, and not light. Shall not the day of Jehovah be darkness, and not light? and thick darkness and no brightness in it? (Amos 5:18, 20).

In Zephaniah:--

The great day of Jehovah is near; that day is a day of wrath, a day of straitness and distress, a day of wasteness and desolation, a day of darkness and thick darkness, a day of cloud and shade (Zephaniah 1:14, 15).

In these passages, the "day of Jehovah" denotes the last time and state of the church; "darkness and thick darkness" falsities and evils.

[6] The Lord likewise calls falsities "darkness" in Matthew:--

If thine eye be evil, thy whole body is darkened. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness (Matthew 6:33).

"Darkness" here denotes the falsities which take possession of those who are in knowledges; and the meaning is, how great is this darkness above that of others, or of the Gentiles, who have not knowledges.

[7] Again in Matthew:--

The sons of the kingdom shall be cast out into the outer darkness (Matthew 8:12; 22:13).

"The outer darkness" denotes the more direful falsities of those who are in the church; for they darken the light, and bring up falsities against truths, which Gentiles cannot do. In John:--

In Him was life, and the life was the light of men and the light appeareth in the darkness, but the darkness comprehended it not (John 1:4, 5).

"The darkness" here denotes falsities within the church.

[8] Falsities outside of the church are also called "darkness," but such as can be illuminated. Such are spoken of in Matthew:--

The people that sat in darkness saw a great light, and to them that sat in the region and shadow of death, did light spring up (Matthew 4:16)

"darkness" here denoting the falsities of ignorance, such as are those of the Gentiles.

[9] In John:--

And this is the judgment, that the Light is come into the world, but men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their works were evil (John 3:19)

"the Light" denotes truths, and "the darkness" falsities; and "the Light" denotes the Lord, because all truth is from Him; and "the darkness" the hells, because all falsity is from them.

[10] Again:--

Jesus said, I am the Light of the world; he that followeth Me shall not walk in the darkness (John 8:12).

And again:--

Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness seize upon you, for he that walketh in the darkness knoweth not whither he goeth. I am come a light into the world, that whosever believeth in Me may not abide in the darkness (John 12:35, 46).

"The light" denotes the Lord, from whom are all good and truth; "the darkness" falsities, which are dispersed by the Lord alone.

[11] The falsities of the last times, which are called "darkness" in the verse before us, or of which the "terror of great darkness" is predicated, were represented and signified by the darkness that came upon the whole earth, from the sixth hour to the ninth (at the crucifixion), and also by the sun being then darkened, by which was represented and signified that there was then no longer either love or faith (Matt. 27:45; Mark 15:33; Luke 23:44, 45).

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