Spiritual Meaning of GENESIS 15:17
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AC 1858. Verse 17. And it came to pass that the sun went down, and there was thick darkness; and behold a furnace of smoke, and a torch of fire, which passed between those pieces. "And it came to pass that the sun went down," signifies the last time, when the consummation came; "and there was thick darkness," signifies when hatred was in the place of charity; "and behold a furnace of smoke," signifies the densest falsity; "and a torch of fire," signifies the burning heat of cupidities; "which passed between those pieces," signifies that it separated those who were of the church from the Lord.

AC 1859. And it came to pass that the sun went down. That this signifies the last time, when the consummation came, is evident from what was said above (verse 12) concerning the setting of the sun and its signification, namely, that it is the last time of the church.

AC 1860. And there was thick darkness. That this signifies when hatred was in the place of charity, is evident from the signification of "thick darkness." In the Word "darkness" signifies falsities, and "thick darkness" evils. There is "darkness" when falsity is in the place of truth; and there is "thick darkness" when evil is in the place of good, or what is precisely the same, when hatred is in the place of charity. When hatred is in the place of charity, the thick darkness is so great that the man is quite unaware that it is evil, still less that it is so great an evil as in the other life to thrust him down to hell, for they who are in hatred perceive a kind of delight and as it are a kind of life in it, and this delight and life themselves cause him scarcely to know but that it is good, for whatever favors a man’s pleasure and cupidity, because it favors his love, he feels as good, and this to such a degree that when he is told that it is infernal he can scarcely believe it, still less when he is told that such delight and life are in the other life turned into an excrementitious and cadaverous stench. And still less does he believe that he is becoming a devil and a horrible image of hell; for hell consists of nothing but hatreds and such diabolical forms.

[2] Yet any one might know this who possesses any faculty for thinking, for if he should describe or represent, or if he could in any manner picture, hatred, he would do it no otherwise than by diabolical forms, such as those who are in hatred also become after death, and, wonderful to say, such men are capable of declaring that in the other life they shall come into heaven; some merely for saying that they have faith, when yet there are in heaven none but forms of charity, and what these are may be seen from experience (n. 553). Let all such therefore consider how these two forms, of hatred and of charity, can agree together in one place.

[3] That "darkness" signifies falsity, and "thick darkness" evil, may be seen from the following passages in the Word. In Isaiah:--

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

In Joel:--

Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, for the day of Jehovah cometh, a day of darkness and thick darkness (Joel 2:1, 2).

In Zephaniah:--

That day is a day of wrath, a day of wasteness and desolation, a day of darkness and thick darkness (Zephaniah 1:15).

In Amos:--

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

In these passages "the day of Jehovah" denotes the last time of the church, which is here treated of; "darkness" denotes falsities, " thick darkness" evils both therefore are mentioned; otherwise it would be a repetition of the same thing, or an unmeaning amplification. But the word in the original language that in this verse is rendered "thick darkness" involves falsity as well as evil, that is, dense falsity from which is evil, and also dense evil from which is falsity.

AC 1861. And behold a furnace of smoke and a torch of fire. That "a furnace of smoke" signifies the densest falsity, and " a torch of fire" the burning heat of cupidities, is evident from the signification of "a furnace of smoke" as being dense falsity, and from the signification of "a torch of fire" as being the burning heat of cupidities. It is said "a furnace of smoke," because a man, especially a man of the church, who has a knowledge of the truth and still does not acknowledge, but in heart denies it, and indeed passes his life in things contrary to the truth, appears no otherwise than as a furnace of smoke-- himself as the furnace, and the falsity from his hatreds as the smoke. The cupidities from which are the falsities appear as torches of fire from such a furnace, as is evident also from the representatives in the other life, described from experience, (n. 814, 1528). It is cupidities of hatred, revenge, cruelties, adulteries--and still more when these are mingled with deceits-- that appear and become such things.

[2] That by a "furnace," "smoke," and "fire" such things are signified in the Word may be seen from the following passages. In Isaiah:--

Every one is a hypocrite and a wicked one, and every mouth speaketh folly. For wickedness burneth as the fire, it devoureth the briars and thorns, and kindleth in the thickets of the forest, and they mount up as the rising of smoke. In the wrath of Jehovah Zebaoth is the land darkened, and the people is become like food for fire; a man shall not spare his brother (Isaiah 9:17-19).

Here "fire" denotes hatreds and "the rising of smoke" from it such falsities; hatred is described by "no man sparing his brother;" for when such men are looked upon by the angels they appear no otherwise than as here described.

[3] In Joel:--

I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and terrible day of Jehovah come (Joel 2:30, 31).

Here "fire" denotes hatred; "pillars of smoke" falsities; "the sun" charity; and "the moon" faith.

[4] In Isaiah:--

The land shall become burning pitch; it shall not be quenched night nor day; the smoke thereof shall go up to eternity (Isaiah 34:9, 10).

"Burning pitch" denotes direful cupidities; and "smoke" falsities.

[5] In Malachi:--

Behold the day cometh burning as a furnace, and all the proud and every one that worketh wickedness shall be stubble, and the day that cometh shall set them on fire, it shall leave them neither root nor branch (Malachi 4:1).

A "burning furnace" here denotes the same as before; the "root" denotes charity; the " branch" truth, which shall not be left.

[6] In Hosea:--

Ephraim became guilty in Baal, he shall be as the chaff that is driven with the whirlwind out of the threshing-floor, and as the smoke out of the chimney (Hosea 13:1, 3).

"Ephraim" denotes an intelligent man who becomes such.

[7] In Isaiah:--

The strong shall be as tow, and his work as a spark; and they shall both burn together, and none shall quench them (Isaiah 1:31)

meaning those who are in the love of self, or what is the same, in hatred against the neighbor, in that they shall be thus kindled by their own cupidities. In John:--

Babylon is become a habitation of demons. They cried out when they saw the smoke of her burning. Her smoke goeth up for ever and ever (Rev. 18:2, 18; 19:3).

[8] In the same:--

He opened the pit of the abyss, and there went up a smoke out of the pit, as the smoke of a great furnace and the sun was darkened, and the air, from the smoke of the pit (Rev. 9:2).

In the same:--

Out of the mouths of the horses went forth fire and smoke and brimstone. By these was the third part of men killed, by the fire and the smoke and the brimstone, that went forth out of their mouth (Rev. 9:17, 18).

In the same:--

He that worshipeth the beast shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God poured out unmixed in the cup of His anger, and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone (Rev. 14:9, 10).

In the same:--

The fourth angel poured out his vial upon the sun, and it was given to him to scorch men with fire; and men were scorched with great heat, and blasphemed the name of God (Rev. 16:8, 9).

In like manner it is said that

They were cast into the lake of fire burning with brimstone (Rev. 19:20; 20:14, 15; 21:8).

[9] In these passages "fire" denotes the cupidities, and " smoke" the falsities that will reign in the last times. These things were seen by John when his interior sight was opened, just as they appear in the other life. Similar things are also seen by spirits, and by souls after death. Hence it may be seen what hell fire is, that it is nothing but hatred, revenge, and cruelty, or what is the same, the love of self; for such do these become. During his life in the body, any man of such a quality, however he might appear outwardly, if inspected closely by the angels would appear no otherwise in their eyes, that is, his hatreds would appear as torches of fire, and the falsities derived from them as furnaces of smoke.

[10] Concerning this fire the Lord thus speaks in Matthew:--

Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down and cast into the fire (Matthew 3:10; Luke 3:9);

by "good fruit" is meant charity: he who deprives himself of this cuts himself down, and casts himself into such fire. Again:--

The Son of man shall send forth His angels, and they shall gather out of His kingdom all things that cause stumbling, and them that do iniquity, and shall cast them into the furnace of fire (Matthew 13:41, 42, 50),

with a like meaning. And again:--

The king saith unto those on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into the eternal fire, prepared for the devil and his angels (Matthew 25:41).

[11] That they should be "sent into the eternal fire," "the Gehenna of fire," and that "their worm should not die, and their fire should not be quenched" (Matt. 18:8, 9; Mark 9:43-49), have a like meaning. In Luke:--

Send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame (Luke 16:24),

with a like meaning.

[12] They who are not acquainted with the arcana of the Lord‘s kingdom suppose that the Lord casts the wicked into hell, or into such fire, which, as before said, is that of hatreds but the case is very different, for it is the man himself, or the diabolical spirit himself, who casts himself down. But because it so appears it has been expressed in the word according to the appearance, and indeed according to the fallacies of the senses; and especially was this necessary in the case of the Jews, who were unwilling to accept anything at all unless it were in accordance with the senses, whatever might be the fallacies thus involved. On this account the sense of the letter, especially in the prophecies, is full of such things.

[13] As in Jeremiah:--

Thus said Jehovah, Judge judgment in the morning, and deliver the spoiled out of the had of the oppressor, lest My fury go forth like fire, and burn, and there be none to quench it, because of the wickedness of their Works (Jeremiah 21:12).

To "judge judgment" is to speak truth; to "deliver the spoiled out of the hand of the oppressor," is to do the good of charity; "fire" denotes the infernal punishment of those who do not do these things, that is, who pass their lives in the falsity of hatred. In the sense of the letter such "fire" and "fury" are attributed to Jehovah, but in the internal sense it is quite the contrary.

[14] In like manner in Joel:--

The day of Jehovah: a fire devoureth before Him, and behind Him a flame burneth (Joel 2:1, 3).

In David:--

There went up a smoke out of His nostrils, and fire out of His mouth devoured, coals did burn from Him, and thick darkness was under His feet (Ps. 18:8, 9).

In Moses:--

A fire is kindled in Mine anger, and it shall burn unto the lowest hell, and shall devour the earth and her increase, and set on fire the foundations of the mountains (Deut. 32:22),

where "fire" denotes the hatreds, and "smoke" the falsities which are in men, which are attributed to Jehovah or the Lord for the reasons that have been given. In the hells also the appearance is that Jehovah or the Lord does this, but it is quite the contrary; they do it to themselves, because they are in the fires of hatred. Hence it is manifest how easily a man may fall into phantasies if the internal sense of the Word is not known.

[15] It was similar with the "smoke" and "fire" that were seen by the people on Mount Sinai when the law was promulgated. For Jehovah, or the Lord, appears to every one according to his quality--to celestial angels as a Sun, to spiritual angels as a Moon, to all the good as a Light of varied delight and pleasantness but to the evil as a smoke and as a consuming fire. And as when the Law was promulgated, the Jews had nothing of charity, but the love of self and of the world prevailed in them, and thus nothing but evils and falsities, He therefore appeared to them as a smoke and fire, when at the same instant He appeared to the angels as the Sun and Light of heaven.

[16] That He so appeared to the Jews because they were of such a character, is evident in Moses:--

The glory of Jehovah abode upon Mount Sinai, and the appearance of the glory of Jehovah was like devouring fire on the top of the mount, in the eyes of the sons of Israel (Exod. 24:16, 17).


And Mount Sinai was all of it smoking, because Jehovah descended upon it in fire, and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly (Exod. 19:18).

And elsewhere:--

Ye came near and stood under the mountain, and the mountain burned with fire, even to the heart of heaven; darkness, cloud, and thick darkness and Jehovah spake unto you out of the midst of the fire (Deut. 4:11, 12; 5:22).


It came to pass when ye heard the voice out of the midst of the darkness, while the mountain did burn with fire, that ye came near unto me, and ye said, Now therefore why should we die? for this great fire will consume us if we hear the voice of Jehovah our God any more, then we shall die (Deut. 5:23-25).

[17] Just so would it be with any one else who should see the Lord, and who has passed his life in hatred and in the foul things of hatreds, for he could see Him no otherwise than from his hatred and its foulnesses, these being the recipients of the rays of good and truth from the Lord, and they would turn these rays into such fire, smoke, and thick darkness. From the same passages it is also plain what the "smoke of the furnace" is, and what the "torch of fire," namely, the most dense falsity and most filthy evil, that would in the last times take possession of the church.

AC 1862. That passed between those pieces. That this signifies that it separated those who were of the church from the Lord, may be seen at (verse 10) concerning the partition of the animals in the midst, as signifying a parallelism and correspondence in respect to celestial things; and that one part being placed opposite the other signified the church and the Lord; and that the intermediate space or interspace signified that which comes in between the Lord and the church, or between the Lord and the man of the church, which is conscience, in which goods and truths have been implanted by means of charity. When hatreds succeed in place of charity, and evils and falsities in place of goods and truths, there is then no conscience of what is good and true; but this middle space or interspace appears to be filled with a furnace of smoke and with torches of fire, that is, with persuasions of falsity and with hatreds, which are what altogether separate the Lord from the church.

[2] These are the things signified by the passing between the pieces; chiefly that of the torch of fire, for this is the love of self, or what is the same, the evil of hatred. This may also be seen in Jeremiah, where we find nearly the same words:--

I will give the men who have transgressed My covenant, who have not established the words of the covenant which they made before Me, the calf which they cut in twain and passed between the parts thereof; the princes of Judah, and the princes of Jerusalem, the eunuchs, and the priests, and all the people of the land, that passed between the parts of the calf I will even give them into the hand of their enemies, and into the hand of them that seek their souls; and their carcass shall be for food to the fowl of the heavens and to the beast of the earth (Jeremiah 34:14, 18-20).

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