Spiritual Meaning of GENESIS 17:1
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AC 1987. Verse 1. And Abram was a son of ninety years and nine years; and Jehovah appeared unto Abram, and said unto him, I am God Shaddai; walk thou before Me and be thou perfect (integer). "Abram was a son of ninety years and nine years," signifies the time before the Lord had fully conjoined the internal man with the rational; "Abram" signifies the Lord in that state and in that age; "and Jehovah appeared to Abram," signifies manifestation; "and said unto him," signifies perception; "I am God Shaddai," in the sense of the letter signifies the name of Abram’s God, by which name the Lord was first represented before them; "walk thou before Me," signifies the truth of faith; "and be thou perfect," signifies good.

AC 1988. Abram was a son of ninety years and nine years. That this signifies the time before the Lord had fully conjoined the internal man with the rational, is evident from the signification of "nine" when regarded as coming before ten; or what is the same, of "ninety-nine" before a hundred, for Abram was a hundred years old when Isaac was born to him. The nature of the internal sense of the Word may be seen in an especial manner from the numbers, as well as from the names, that occur in the Word; for the numbers therein, whatever they may be, signify actual things, as do the names also; for there is absolutely nothing in the Word that has not what is Divine within it, or that does not possess an internal sense; and how remote this is from the sense of the letter is especially manifest from the numbers and the names for in heaven no attention is given to these, but to the things that are signified by them. For example, whenever the number "seven" occurs, instead of seven there at once comes to the angels what is holy, for "seven" signifies what is holy, and this from the fact that the celestial man is the "seventh day," or " Sabbath," and thus the Lord‘s "rest" (n. 84-87, 395, 433, 716, 881). The case is similar with the other numbers, as for example with twelve. Whenever "twelve" occurs, there comes to the angels the idea of all things that belong to faith, for the reason that these were signified by the "twelve tribes" (n. 577). That in the Word numbers signify actual things, see (n. 482, 487, 488, 493, 575, 647, 648, 755, 813, 893).

[2] The case is the same with the number "ninety-nine;" and that this number signifies the time before the Lord had fully conjoined the internal man with the rational, is evident from the signification of a "hundred years," which was Abram’s age when Isaac was born to him; for by Isaac is represented and signified the Lord‘s rational man that is conjoined with His internal man, that is, with the Divine. In the Word, a "hundred" signifies the same as "ten," for it is formed by the multiplication of ten into ten and "ten" signifies remains (n. 576). What the remains in man are, may be seen above (n. 468, 530, 561, 660, 1050) also what the remains in the Lord were (n. 1906). These arcana cannot be set forth further, but every one may form a conclusion on the subject after he has first made himself acquainted with what remains are (for what they are is at this day unknown), provided it be known that in the Lord’s case remains mean the Divine goods that He procured for Himself by His own power, and by means of which He united the Human Essence to the Divine Essence.

[3] From all this we may see what is signified by "ninety-nine," for this number, because it precedes a hundred, signifies the time before the Lord had fully conjoined the internal man with the rational. In the Lord‘s case, the first rational was represented by Ishmael; and the nature of this rational has been sufficiently shown above (in the preceding chapter 16). But by Isaac is represented the Lord’s Divine rational, as will appear in what follows. From Abram‘s staying so long in the land of Canaan (now twenty-four years, that is, ten years before Ishmael was born, and thirteen years after that) without his as yet having a son by his wife Sarai, and from the promise of a son being first given when he was ninety-nine years old, every one can see that some arcanum is involved. The arcanum was, that he might thereby represent the union of the Lord’s Divine Essence with His Human Essence; and in fact the union of His internal man, which is Jehovah, with His rational.

AC 1989. That "Abram" signifies the Lord in that state and at that age, is evident from what has already been said concerning Abram. In the internal sense Abram represents the Lord, for when he is mentioned in the Word no other Abram is understood in heaven. Those who have been born within the church, and have heard about Abram from the Word, on their entrance into the other life do indeed have some knowledge of him; but as he is like any other man, and cannot render them any aid, they no longer care about him; and they are informed that by "Abram" in the Word there is meant no other than the Lord. But the angels, who are in heavenly ideas and do not fix them on any man, know nothing about Abram; and therefore when the Word is being read by man and Abram is mentioned they perceive no other than the Lord and when the words now before us are read, they perceive the Lord in that state and at that age; for Jehovah here speaks with Abram, that is, with the Lord.

AC 1990. Jehovah appeared unto Abram. That this signifies manifestation, is evident without explication, for as before said the Lord is represented by Abram. No man in the whole world has seen Jehovah, the Father of the Lord; but the Lord alone saw Him, as He Himself has said in John:--

No one hath seen God at any time; the Only-Begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He hath set Him forth (John 1:18).


Ye have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His shape (John 5:37).

And again:--

Not that any one hath seen the Father save He that is with the Father; He hath seen the Father (John 6:46).

[2] The Infinite Itself, which is above all the heavens, and is over the inmost things that appertain to man, cannot be made manifest, except through the Divine Human which appertains to the Lord alone. No communication of the Infinite with those who are finite is possible from any other source, and this is also the reason that when Jehovah appeared to the men of the Most Ancient Church, and afterwards to the Ancient Church that was after the flood, and then again to Abraham and the prophets, He was manifested to them as a man. That this was the Lord, He teaches openly in John:--

Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it, and was glad verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am (John 8:56, 58).

Also in the Prophets--as in Daniel, by whom He was seen as the Son of man (Daniel 7:13).

[3] From these passages it may be seen that the Infinite Esse, which is Jehovah, could not possibly be manifested to man except through the Human Essence, thus except through the Lord; and therefore that it has been manifested to no one save the Lord alone. That He might also be present and be conjoined with man, after man had completely removed himself from the Divine, and had immersed himself in foul cupidities, and thereby in mere bodily and earthly things, He assumed in actuality the Human Essence itself by birth, that so He might still adjoin the Infinite Divine to man now so far removed; otherwise men would have perished to eternity with the death of the damned. The other arcana concerning the manifestation of Jehovah in the Lord‘s Human, when He was in a state of humiliation, before He had fully united the Human Essence to the Divine Essence, and had glorified it, will of the Lord’s Divine mercy be set forth in what follows, so far as they can be comprehended.

AC 1991. And said unto him. That this signifies perception, is evident from the Lord‘s perception, which was from Jehovah, spoken of before (n. 1919) also because in the internal sense "Jehovah’s saying," or "God‘s saying," signifies to perceive (n. 1602, 1791, 1815, 1819, 1822).

AC 1992. I am God Shaddai. That in the sense of the letter this signifies the name of Abram’s God, by which name the Lord was first represented before them, is evident from the things contained in the Word concerning Abram, and concerning the house of his father, in that they adored other gods. In Syria, whence Abram came, there still existed remains of the Ancient Church, and many families there retained its worship--as is evident from Eber who was of that country, from whom came the Hebrew nation-- and they in like manner retained the name "Jehovah," (n. 1343), and also from the case of Balaam, who was from Syria and offered sacrifices and called Jehovah his God. That Balaam was from Syria may be seen in (Numbers 23:7); that he offered sacrifices (Num. 22:39, 40; 23:1-3, 14, 29); that he called Jehovah his God (Num. 22:8, 13, 18, 31; 23:8, 12, 16).

[2] But this was not the case with the house of Terah, the father of Abram and Nahor, for this was one of the families of the nations there that had not only lost the name "Jehovah" but had also served other gods, and instead of Jehovah had worshiped Shaddai, whom they called their god. That they had lost the name "Jehovah," is evident from (n. 1343). And that they served other gods is openly stated in Joshua:--

Joshua said unto all the people, Thus hath said Jehovah, the God of Israel, Your fathers dwelt of old time beyond the River, Terah the father of Abraham and the father of Nahor, and they served other gods; now fear Jehovah, and serve Him in entirety and in truth and put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River, and in Egypt, and serve ye Jehovah. And if it be evil in your eyes to serve Jehovah, choose ye this day whom ye will serve, whether the gods that your fathers served that were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites (Joshua 24:2, 14, 15).

That Nahor also, the brother of Abram, and the nation descended from him, served other gods, is evident from Laban the Syrian, who was in the city of Nahor and worshiped images or teraphim, which Rachel carried away (Gen. 24:10; 31:19, 26, 32, 34), (n. 1356). That instead of Jehovah they worshiped Shaddai, whom they called their god, is distinctly stated in Moses:--

I (Jehovah) appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, as God Shaddai and by My name Jehovah was I not known to them (Exod. 6:3).

[3] From all this we may see that in his early manhood, Abram, like other Gentiles, was an idolater, and that up to this time, while living in the land of Canaan, he had not rejected from his mind the god Shaddai by which is meant in the sense of the letter the name of Abram‘s god and that by this name the Lord was first represented before them (that is, before Abram, Isaac, and Jacob), as is evident from the passage just quoted.

[4] The reason why the Lord was willing to be first represented before them by the name " Shaddai" is that the Lord by no means desires to destroy suddenly (still less in a single moment) the worship that has been inseminated in any one from his infancy; for this would be to tear up the root, and thereby destroy the holy state of adoration and of worship that has been deeply implanted, and which the Lord never breaks, but bends. The holy state of worship, that has been rooted in from infancy is of such a nature that it cannot endure violence, but only a gentle and kindly bending. The case is the same with those Gentiles who in their bodily life had worshiped idols, and yet had lived in mutual charity. As the holy state of their worship has been inrooted from their infancy, in the other life it is not taken away in a moment, but successively; for in those who have lived in mutual charity, the goods and truths of faith can be easily implanted, and they receive them afterwards with joy; for charity is the very soil. And such also was the case with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, in that the Lord suffered them to retain the name "God Shaddai," insomuch that He said He was God Shaddai; and this from the meaning of the name.

[5] Some translators render Shaddai "the Almighty;" others, "the Thunderer;" but it properly signifies "the Tempter" or "Tester," and "the Benefactor after the temptations" or "trials," as is evident from the book of Job, which mentions "Shaddai" so frequently because Job was in trials or temptations; as may be seen from the following passages:--

Behold, happy is the man whom God chastiseth; and reject not thou the chastening of Shaddai (Job 5:17).

The arrows of Shaddai are with me, the terrors of God do set themselves in array against me (Job 6:14).

He shall forsake the fear of Shaddai (Job 6:14).

I will speak to Shaddai, and I desire to contend with God (Job 13:3).

He hath stretched out his hand against God, and strengtheneth himself against Shaddai (Job 15:25).

His eyes shall see his destruction, and he shall drink of the fury of Shaddai (Job 21:20).

Shaddai, thou shalt not find Him out He is great in power, and in judgment, and in the greatness of righteousness. He will not afflict (Job 37:23).

Also in Joel:--

Alas for the day for the day of Jehovah is near, and as devastation from Shaddai shall it come (Joel 1:15).

The same may also be seen from the word shaddai itself, which signifies vastation, and thus temptation, for temptation is a kind of vastation. But as this name took its rise from nations in Syria, He is not called "Elohim Shaddai," but "El Shaddai;" and in Job simply "Shaddai," and "El" or "God" is named separately.

[6] As after temptations there is consolation, those people also attributed the good resulting from them to the same Shaddai (Job 22:17, 23, 25, 26); as well as the understanding of truth, which also results from temptations (Job 32:8; 33:4). And as Shaddai was thus esteemed as the god of truth--for vastation, temptation, chastening, and rebuking, are not of good, but of truth--and because the Lord was represented by him before Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the name was retained even in the Prophets; but in them by "Shaddai" is meant truth. As in Ezekiel:--

I heard the voice of the wings of the cherubim, like the voice of many waters, like the voice of many waters, when they went; the voice of tumult, like the voice of a camp (Ezekiel 1:24).

And again:--

The court was filled with the brightness of the glory of Jehovah and the voice of the wings of the cherubim was heard even to the outer court, as the voice of God Shaddai when He speaketh (Ezekiel 10:4, 5);

where "Jehovah" denotes good, and "Shaddai" truth. In the internal sense of the Word "wings" in like manner signify things that belong to truth.

[7] Moreover Isaac and Jacob also make mention of the God Shaddai in a similar sense, that is, as of one who tempts, and delivers from temptation, and afterwards confers benefits. When Jacob was fleeing because of Esau, Isaac said to him,

God Shaddai bless thee, and make thee fruitful and multiply thee (Gen. 28:3).

And when the sons of Jacob were about to go into Egypt to buy corn, and when they feared Joseph so greatly, Jacob said to them,

God Shaddai give you mercies before the man, that he may release unto you your other brother, and Benjamin (Gen. 43:14).

Jacob, then called Israel, blessing Joseph, who had been in the evils of temptations, or trials, more than his brethren, and had been delivered from them, said,

By the God of thy father, and He shall help thee, and with Shaddai, and he shall bless thee (Gen. 49:25).

All this shows why the Lord was at first willing to be represented by the god Shaddai whom Abram worshiped, and why He said "I am God Shaddai;" as in like manner He afterwards said to Jacob, "I am God Shaddai; be fruitful and multiply" (Gen. 35:11); and a further reason was that in what goes before, temptations were treated of in the internal sense.

[8] The worship of Shaddai among those people originated from the fact that, as was the case with a certain nation that of the Lord’s Divine mercy will be spoken of in what follows, so with those who were of the Ancient Church, there were often heard spirits who reproved them and who also afterwards comforted them. The spirits who reproved them were perceived at the left side, beneath the arm. Angels were present at such times, at the head, who governed the spirits and moderated the reproof. And as there was nothing that was said to them by the spirits which they did not regard as Divine, they named the reproving spirit "Shaddai;" and because he afterwards administered consolation, they called him "the god Shaddai." The men at that time, as also the Jews, because they did not understand the internal sense of the Word, were in the religious belief that all evil and thus all temptation, like all good and thus all consolation, come from God; but that it is not so, may be seen in (n. 245, 592, 696, 1093, 1874, 1875).

AC 1993. Walk thou before Me. That this signifies the truth of faith, is evident from the signification of "walking," as being to live according to the truth of faith (n. 519); and also from the signification of a "way" in relation to which walking is predicated, as being truth (n. 627).

AC 1994. And be thou perfect. That this signifies the good of charity, is evident from the signification of "being perfect" (integer), which is from truth to do what is good, that is, to do what is good from a conscience of truth, and thus from charity, for charity makes conscience, concerning which signification (n. 612). But as the Lord is here treated of in the internal sense, by "perfect" is signified the good of charity, for good proceeds from charity, insomuch that the truth which is derived from charity is itself good.

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