Spiritual Meaning of GENESIS 15:13
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AC 1840. Verse 13. And He said unto Abram, Knowing thou shall know that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them, and they shall afflict them four hundred years. "He said unto Abram," signifies a perception; "knowing thou shalt know," signifies that it is certain; "thy seed shall be a stranger," signifies that charity and faith shall be rare; in a land that is not theirs," signifies where there is a church that is as it were not composed of those who are in charity and faith; "and they shall serve them," signifies oppression; "and they shall afflict them," signifies their severe temptations "four hundred years," signifies the duration and state.

AC 1841. He said unto Abram. That this signifies a perception, is evident from what has been already said (verse 9) and elsewhere), where the same words have the same signification.

AC 1842. Knowing thou shalt know. That this signifies that it is certain, is evident without explication.

AC 1843. Thy seed shall be a stranger. That this signifies that charity and faith shall be rare, is evident from the signification of "a stranger," and of "seed." A "stranger" or "sojourner" signifies one that is not born in the land, so that he is not acknowledged as a native, and thus is looked upon as an alien. But "seed" signifies charity and its faith (n. 255, 1025), (verse 3). Because that is called "strange" which is looked upon as alien, and alien is that which is not in the land or of the land, it follows that it is that which is rare; and consequently it here means that charity and the faith of charity, which are the "seed," will be rare. It is the time before the consummation that is here treated of, when there shall be "great darkness," that is, falsities; the seed shall then be a stranger, that is, charity and faith will then be rare.

[2] That faith would be rare in the last times was foretold by the Lord when He spoke of the consummation of the age (Matt. 24:4-51; Mark 13:3-37; Luke 21:7-38), where everything that is said implies that charity and faith will be rare at those times, and that at last there will be none. The like is said by John in the Apocalypse, and also in many passages of the Prophets, besides what is said in the historical parts of the Word.

[3] But by the faith that will perish in the last times there is meant nothing but charity, for there cannot possibly be any faith but the faith of charity. He who has not charity cannot have any faith at all, for charity is the very soil in which faith is implanted; it is its heart, from which it exists and lives. The ancients therefore compared love and charity to the heart, and faith to the lungs, both of which are in the breast. This comparison involves a real likeness, seeing that if a man should pretend to a life of faith without charity, it would be like having life from the lungs alone without the heart, which is manifestly impossible and therefore the ancients called all things that pertain to charity things of the heart, and all things that pertain to faith without charity they said were of the mouth only, or of the lungs by the influx of the breathing into the speech. Thence came the ancient forms of speech concerning good and truth that they must go forth from the heart.

AC 1844. In a land which is not theirs. That this signifies where there is a church that is as it were not composed of those who are in charity and faith, is evident from the signification of "a land," as being the church (n. 566, 662, 1066, 1067). At this day men speak of the church as existing from the mere doctrinals of faith, and thereby distinguish the churches of the Lord, not caring what life men live-whether they cherish inward hatreds, and tear one another like wild beasts, rob one another, and deprive others of reputation, honor, and wealth, and at heart deny whatever is holy. And yet with such there is no church at all; but the church is with those who love the Lord, and who love the neighbor as themselves, who have conscience, and are averse to such hatreds as have been mentioned. But among those previously described these men are like strangers, and are treated with the utmost possible abuse and persecution, or else are regarded as being simple, mean, and of no account. This then is what is meant by "thy seed shall be a stranger in the land."

AC 1845. And they shall serve theirs. That this signifies oppression, may be seen from what has just been said.

AC 1846. And they shall afflict them. That this signifies their severe temptations, may be seen from the signification of "afflicting," or of "affliction," as being persecution, consequently temptation. In the Word of the Lord nothing else is signified by "affliction." As in Isaiah:--

I will purge thee, and not with silver; I will choose thee in the furnace of affliction (Isaiah 48:10),

"affliction" denoting temptation. In Moses:--

Thou shalt remember all the way by which Jehovah thy God hath led thee these forty years in the wilderness, that He might afflict thee, to tempt thee. Jehovah, who fed thee in the wilderness with manna which thy fathers knew not, that He might afflict thee, and that He might tempt thee, to do thee good at thy latter end (Deut. 8:2, 16);

to "afflict" manifestly denotes to tempt.

[2] In the same:--

When the Egyptians did evil unto us, and afflicted us, and laid upon us hard servitude and we cried unto Jehovah, the God of our fathers, and Jehovah heard our voice, and saw our affliction, and our toil, and our oppression (Deut. 26:6, 7).

Here we find the same things as in the present verse: that they "served" and were "afflicted," by which in like manner are signified the temptations of the faithful, as likewise by their afflictions in the wilderness, by which also there were represented the temptations of the Lord.

[3] As in Isaiah:--

He was despised, a man of sorrows, and we hid as it were our faces from Him; He was despised, and we esteemed Him not. But truly He hath borne our diseases, and carried our sorrows; yet we did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted (Isaiah 53:3, 4).

By these words are signified the Lord’s temptations; by His "bearing our sicknesses, and carrying our sorrows," is not meant that the faithful are to undergo no temptations, nor is it meant that He took their sins upon Himself, and so bore them; but it means that by the combats and victories of temptations He overcame the hells, and in this way would alone, even as to His Human Essence, endure the temptations of the faithful.

[4] Temptations are also called by the Lord "afflictions;" as in Mark:--

They that are sown upon stony places, when they have heard the Word have no root in themselves, but endure for a while; afterwards, when affliction and persecution arise because of the Word, straightway they are offended (Mark 4:16, 17).

"Affliction" here manifestly denotes temptation; to "have no root in themselves," is to have no charity, for in this is faith rooted, and they who have not the support of this root yield in temptations. In John:--

In the world ye have affliction; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world (John 16:33).

"Affliction" here denotes temptation.

[5] In Matthew:--

Nation shall be stirred up against nation and kingdom against kingdom all these things are the beginning of sorrows. Then shall they deliver you up unto affliction. Then shall be great affliction, such as hath not been from the beginning of the world. Immediately after the affliction of those days the sun shall be darkened (Matthew 24:7-9, 21, 29).

Here the consummation of the age, or the last times of the church, are treated of; "affliction" denotes temptations, both external and internal, the external being persecutions from the world, and the internal being persecutions from the devil. That there will be no charity, is signified by "nation being stirred against nation, and kingdom against kingdom;" also by "the sun," that is, the Lord and love and charity, being "darkened."

AC 1847. Four hundred years. That this signifies the duration and state, namely, of the temptations, is evident from the signification of "four hundred," which number signifies the same as "forty," namely, the durations and states of temptations (n. 730, 862). The durations of temptations, both the shorter and the more lasting, are described in the Word by "forty." In the literal sense the words before us relate to the stay of the sons of Jacob in Egypt; and that this was four hundred and thirty years is evident from (Exodus 12:40); though the time was not so great as reckoned from Jacob‘s coming into Egypt, but it was reckoned from Abram’s sojourn there, as has been observed before. The number four hundred and thirty is mentioned, from Abram‘s sojourn, for the reason that this number involves the temptations which they represented by their servitude in Egypt, and afterwards also by the forty years’ afflictions in the wilderness.

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