Spiritual Meaning of GENESIS 16:12
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AC 1948. Verse 12. And he shall be a wild-ass man; his hand against all, and the hand of all against him and he shall dwell against the faces of all his brethren. "He shall be a wild-ass man," signifies rational truth, which is described; "his hand against all," signifies that it will wage war upon whatever is not true; "and the hand of all against him," signifies that falsities will fight back; "and he shall dwell against the faces of all his brethren," signifies that there will be continual contentions about matters of faith; but that nevertheless it will be a conqueror.

AC 1949. He shall be a wild-ass (onager) man. That this signifies rational truth, which is described, is evident from the signification of "a wild-ass," as being rational truth. In the Word there is frequent mention of horses, horsemen, mules, and asses; and as yet no one has known that these signify things of the intellect, of the reason, and of memory-knowledge. That these animals and their riders have such a signification will of the Lords Divine mercy be fully confirmed in the proper places. Of the same class is the "onager," for this is the mule of the wilderness or wild-ass, and it signifies man’s rational; not however the rational in its whole complex, but only rational truth. The rational consists of good and truth, that is, of things belonging to charity and of things belonging to faith, and it is rational truth that is signified by the "wild-ass." This then is what is represented by Ishmael, and is what is described in this verse.

[2] It seems incredible that rational truth when separated from good should be of such a character, neither should I have known this to be the case unless I had been instructed by living experience. Whether you say rational truth; or the man whose rational is of this kind, amounts to the same. The man whose rational is of such a character that he is solely in truth - even though it be the truth of faith-and who is not at the same time in the good of charity, is altogether of such a character. He is a morose man, will bear nothing, is against all, regards everybody as being in falsity, is ready to rebuke, to chastise, and to punish; has no pity, and does not apply or adapt himself to others and study to bend their minds; for he looks at everything from truth, and at nothing from good. Hence it is that Ishmael was driven out, and afterwards dwelt in the wilderness, and his mother took him a wife out of the land of Egypt (Gen. 21:9-21) all of which things are representative of one who is endowed with such a rational.

[3] Mention is made of "wild-asses" in the prophetical parts of the Word, as in Isaiah:--

The, palace shall be forsaken, the multitude of the city shall be deserted; the high place and the watch-tower shall be for dens, even forever a joy of wild-asses, a pasture of flocks (Isaiah 32:14)

where the devastation of intellectual things is treated of, which, when laid waste as regards truths, are called "a joy of wild asses;" and when as regards goods, "a pasture of flocks;" so that there is no rational. In Jeremiah:--

The wild-asses stood upon the hills, they snuffed up the wind like whales, their eyes perished because there was no herbage (Jeremiah 14:6)

where the subject treated of is drought, that is, the absence of what is good and true. It is said of the wild-asses that they "snuff up the wind," when empty things are seized on instead of real things, which are truths " their eyes perished" means that there is no apprehension of what truth is.

[4] In Hosea:--

For they have gone up to Assyria, a wild-ass alone by himself Ephraim hath sought loves with a harlot‘s hire (Hosea 8:9).

Here "Israel," or the spiritual church, is treated of; "Ephraim" denotes its intellectual; "going up into Assyria," reasoning about truth, as to whether it is truth; the "solitary wild-ass," the rational thus destitute of truths. In the same:--

For he shall be among his brethren as a wild-ass; an east wind shall come, the wind of Jehovah coming up from the wilderness; and his spring shall become dry, and his fountain shall be dried up; he shall make a spoil of the treasure of all vessels of desire (Hosea 13:15),

speaking of Ephraim, by whom is signified the intellectual of the spiritual church, whose rational is "as a wild-ass;" and the destruction of which is here treated of. In David:--

Jehovah God shall send forth springs into rivers, they shall run among the mountains they shall supply drink to every beast of the fields; the wild-asses shall quench their thirst (Ps. 104:10, 11).

"Springs" denote knowledges; the "beasts of the fields,’ goods; the "wild-asses," the truths of reason.

AC 1950. His hand against all. That this signifies that it will wage war upon whatever is not true, and that "the hand of all against him" signifies that falsities will fight back, is evident from the fact that by "Ishmael," as before said, is signified rational truth separated from good; and when it is said of this truth that "its hand is against all, and the hand of all against it," it is evident that such is the signification of these words. It was stated above that by Abram is represented the Lord‘s internal man, or what is the same, His Divine celestial and spiritual by Isaac the Lord’s interior man, or His Divine rational; and by Jacob the Lords exterior man, or His Divine natural. The words before us treat of the rational as it would be if not united to the internal, that is, to the Divine celestial and spiritual. Because this rational had its nature from the life of affection of memory-knowledges, that is, from Hagar the Egyptian, Sarai‘s handmaid, and because this life pertained to the external man, which had an hereditary nature from the Lord’s mother that was to be fought against and expelled, therefore the rational is here described such as it would be if devoid of rational good. But after the Lord had humbled, that is, had afflicted and subjugated that hereditary nature by means of the combats of temptations and by victories, and had vivified His rational itself with Divine good, it then became "Isaac," that is, it is represented by Isaac; Ishmael, together with Hagar his mother, being cast out of the house.

[2] All the genuine rational consists of good and truth, that is, of the celestial and the spiritual. Good, or the celestial, is its very soul or life; truth, or the spiritual, is what receives its life from this. Without life from celestial good, the rational is such as is here described, that is, it fights against all, and all fight against it. Rational good never fights, however it is assailed‘ because it is mild and gentle, patient and yielding; for its character is that of love and mercy. Yet although it does not fight, it conquers all, nor does it ever think about combat, or glory on account of victory; and this because it is Divine, and is safe of itself. For no evil can attack good it cannot even continue to exist in the sphere where good is, for when this merely approaches, evil withdraws and falls back of itself; for evil is infernal, and good is heavenly. Very similar is the case with the celestial spiritual, that is, with truth from a celestial origin, or with truth which is from good, for this truth is truth that is formed by good, so that it may be called the form of good.

[3] But truth separated from good,- which is here represented by Ishmael and is described in this verse, is altogether different, being like a wild-ass, and fighting against all, and all against it; in fact it thinks of and breathes scarcely anything but combats; its general delectation, or reigning affection, is to conquer, and when it conquers it glories in the victory on which account it is described as an " onager," or mule of the wilderness, that is, the wild-ass, which cannot be with others. Such a life is a life of truth without good, yea, a life of faith without charity, and therefore when a man is being regenerated, this is indeed effected by means of the truth of faith, but still at the same time by means of a life of charity, which the Lord insinuates in accordance with the increments of the truth of faith.

AC 1951. He shall dwell against the faces of all his brethren. That this signifies that there will be continual contentions about matters of faith, but that nevertheless it will be a conqueror, is evident from what has just been said; which is yet more fully described where the Word tells of the posterity of Ishmael, in these words:--

They dwelt from Havilah unto Shur, that is toward the faces of Egypt, as one comes to Asshur, (his lot) fell toward the faces of all his brethren (Gen. 25:18),

of which words the internal sense is evident from the signification of Havilah, Shur, Egypt, and Assyria. "Havilah" signifies that which is of intelligence (n. 115); "Shur" signifies truth proceeding from memory-knowledges (n. 1928); "Egypt," all that is of memory-knowledge (n. 1164, 1165, 1186, 1462); and "Assyria," that which belongs to reason (n. 119, 1186) from the significations of all which, when reduced into one general meaning, it is evident that by Ishmael is represented such a rational. This very kind of truth is represented in the other life in various ways, and always as what is strong, powerful, and hard; insomuch that it cannot be resisted at all. When spirits merely think of such truth, something of terror comes over them, because it is its nature not to yield, and thus not to recede; from which also we may see what is meant by "dwelling against the faces of all his brethren." Any one may know that an arcanum lies hidden in this description, but of what nature has hitherto been unknown.

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