Spiritual Meaning of GENESIS 19:17
AC 2414. Verse 17. And it came to pass when they were leading them forth abroad, that he said, Escape for thy life; look not back behind thee, and stay not in all the plain; escape to the mountain, lest thou be consumed. "And it came to pass when they were leading them forth abroad," signifies the state when they were being withheld from falsity and evil; "that he said, Escape for thy life," signifies that he should take thought for his eternal life; "look not back behind thee," signifies that he should not look to doctrinal things; "and stay not in all the plain," signifies that he should not linger in any of these doctrinal matters; "escape to the mountain," signifies to the good of love and of charity; "lest thou be consumed," signifies that if he should do otherwise he would perish.
AC 2415. And it came to pass when they were leading them forth abroad. That this signifies the state when they were being withheld from falsity and evil, is evident from what was said just above (n. 2413, 2388, 2411).
AC 2416. That he said, Escape for thy life. That this signifies that he should take thought for his eternal life, is evident without explication. But in what way he should take thought for his life, now follows.
AC 2417. Look not back behind thee. That this signifies that he should not look to doctrinal things, is evident from the signification of "looking back behind him," when the city was behind him and the mountain before him. For by "city" is signified what is doctrinal (n. 402, 2268, 2392); and by "mountain," love and charity (n. 795, 1430). That this is the signification will be evident in the explication at (verse 26), where it is said that his wife "looked back behind him," and became a pillar of salt. Every one may know that in this expression, "looking back behind him," there is some Divine arcanum, and that it lies too deep to be seen. For in looking back behind him there appears to be nothing criminal, and yet it is a matter of importance so great that it is said he should escape for his life, that is, should take thought for his eternal life by not looking back behind him. But what it is to look to doctrinal things will be seen in what follows; in this place we shall merely state what these doctrinal things are.
 Doctrine is twofold: that of love and charity, and that of faith. At first, while it is still a little maid and a virgin, every church of the Lord has no other doctrine, and loves no other, than that of charity; for this belongs to life. But successively the church turns itself away from this doctrine, until it begins to hold it cheap, and at length to reject it; and then it acknowledges no other doctrine than that which is called the doctrine of faith; and when it separates faith from charity, this doctrine conspires with a life of evil.
 Such was the case with the Primitive Church, or that of the Gentiles, after the Lord‘s coming. In its beginning it had no other doctrine than that of love and charity, for this the Lord Himself taught (n. 2371). But after His time, successively, as love and charity began to grow cold, there arose the doctrine of faith, and with it dissensions and heresies, which increased as men came to lay stress on this doctrine.
 The like was the case with the Ancient Church that was after the flood, and was extended through so many kingdoms (n. 2385): this church also in its beginning knew no other doctrine than that of charity, because this looked to and affected the life, and by so doing they had regard for their eternal welfare. And yet after some time the doctrine of faith too began to be cultivated with some, and at length to be separated from charity; but those who did this they called "Ham," because they were in a life of evil (n. 1062, 1063, 1076).
 The Most Ancient Church which was before the flood and which in pre-eminence to all others was called "Man," was in the very perception of love to the Lord and of charity toward the neighbor; thus it had the doctrine of love and charity inscribed on itself. But even then there were those who cultivated faith, and when they separated it from charity they were called "Cain;" for by "Cain" is signified such faith, and by "Abel," whom he killed, charity (n. 337-442).
 This shows that there are two doctrines, the one of charity, and the other of faith, although in themselves the two are one; for the doctrine of charity involves all things of faith. But when the doctrine comes to be from those things alone which are of faith, it is then called twofold, because faith is separated from charity. That these doctrines are separated at the present day may be seen from the fact that it is altogether unknown what charity is, and what the neighbor is. They who are solely in the doctrine of faith are not aware that charity toward the neighbor consists in anything beyond giving of their own to others, and in feeling pity for anybody who may seem to need it, because they call everybody the neighbor without distinction; and yet charity is all good whatever there is in a man: in his affection, and in his zeal, and from these in his life; and the neighbor is all the good in others by which one is affected, consequently those who are in good; and this with every possible distinction.
 For example: that man is in charity and mercy who exercises justice and judgment by punishing the evil and rewarding the good. There is charity in punishing the evil, for to this are we impelled by our zeal to amend them, and at the same time to protect the good, lest these suffer injury at the hands of the evil. In this way does a man consult the welfare of one who is in evil, or his enemy, and express his good feeling toward him, as well as to others, and to the common weal itself; and this from charity toward the neighbor. The case is the same with all the other goods of life; for the good of life is never possible unless it comes from charity toward the neighbor, because it looks to this, and involves it.
 Seeing then that there is obscurity so great as regards the true nature of charity and of the neighbor, it is clear that the doctrine of charity (the doctrine of faith having assumed the first place) is among the things that are lost; when yet it was this alone that was cultivated in the Ancient Church; and that to such a degree that they reduced into classes all the goods that belonged to charity toward the neighbor, that is, all those who were in good; and this with many distinctions, to which they also gave names, calling them the poor, the miserable, the oppressed, the sick, the naked, the hungry, the thirsty, captives or those in prison, strangers, orphans, and widows; some also they called the lame, the blind, the deaf, the dumb, the maimed; besides many other names. In the Word of the Old Testament the Lord has spoken in accordance with this doctrine, on which account such terms so often occur there; and He himself again spoke in accordance with the same doctrine, as in (Matt. 25:35, 36, 38, 39, 40, 42-45; Luke 14:13, 21). Hence it is that in the internal sense these names have quite a different signification. In order therefore that the doctrine of charity may be restored, it will of the Lord’s Divine mercy be stated in the following pages who those denoted by these names are, and what charity is, and what the neighbor is, both generally and specifically.
AC 2418. Stay not in all the plain. That this signifies that he should not linger in any of these doctrinal matters, is evident from the signification of a "plain," as being everything of a doctrinal nature, concerning which presently. How the case stands with his not lingering in any of these doctrinal matters shall be stated at (verse 26), where Lot‘s wife is treated of in that she looked back behind him. That in the Word a "plain" signifies all things of a doctrinal nature, is evident in Jeremiah:--
He that layeth waste shall come upon every city, and no city shall escape, and the valley shall perish, and the plain shall be destroyed (Jeremiah 48:8);
where "city" denotes false doctrine; and the "plain" all things that belong to that doctrine. In John:--
When the thousand years are finished, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, and shall go forth to seduce the nations, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to war, the number of whom is as the sand of the sea; and they went up upon all the plain of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and fire came down from God out of heaven, and consumed them (Rev. 20:7-9);
where "Gog and Magog" denote those who are in external worship without internal, thus worship become idolatrous (n. 1151); the "plain of the earth," the doctrinal things of the church, which they lay waste; the "camp of the saints," the goods of love and of charity; their being "consumed by fire from God out of heaven" means the same as when this is said of the men of Sodom and Gomorrah, in (verse 24). Again: the doctrinal things of charity are called the "cities of the mountain," and the doctrinal things of faith the "cities of the plain," in (Jeremiah 33:13).
AC 2419. Escape to the mountain. That this signifies to the good of love and of charity, is evident from the signification of a "mountain," as being love and charity (n. 795, 1430).
AC 2420. Lest thou be consumed. That this signifies that if he should do otherwise he would perish, is evident without explication. GENESIS 19:17 previous - next - text - summary - Genesis - Full Page
|Author: E. Swedenborg (1688-1772).||Design: I.J. Thompson, Feb 2002.||www.BibleMeanings.info|