Spiritual Meaning of GENESIS 2:15-17
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AC 122. Verse 15. And Jehovah God took the man, and put him in the garden of Eden, to till it and take care of it. By the "garden of Eden" are signified all things of the celestial man, as described; by to "till it and take care of it," is signified that it is permitted him to enjoy all these things, but not to possess them as his own, because they are the Lord’s.

AC 123. The celestial man acknowledges, because he perceives, that all things both in general and in particular are the Lord‘s. The spiritual man does indeed acknowledge the same, but with the mouth, because he has learned it from the Word. The worldly and corporeal man neither acknowledges nor admits it; but whatever he has he calls his own, and imagines that were be to lose it, he would altogether perish.

AC 124. That wisdom, intelligence, reason, and knowledge (scientia), are not of man, but of the Lord, is very evident from all that the Lord taught; as in Matthew, where the Lord compares Himself to a householder, who planted a vineyard, and hedged it round, and let it out to husbandmen (Matthew 21:33); and in John:--

The Spirit of truth shall guide you into all truth; for He shall not speak of Himself, but what things soever He shall hear, He shall speak; He shall glorify Me, for He shall receive of Mine, and shall declare it unto you (John 16:13, 14).

And in another place:--

A man can receive nothing except it be given him from heaven (John 3:27).

That this is really so is known to every one who is acquainted with even a few of the arcana of heaven.

AC 125. Verse 16. And Jehovah God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden, eating thou mayest eat. To "eat of every tree," is to know from perception what is good and true; for, as before observed, a "tree" signifies perception. The men of the Most Ancient Church had the knowledges of true faith by means of revelations, for they conversed with the Lord and with angels, and were also instructed by visions and dreams, which were most delightful and paradisal to them. They had from the Lord continual perception, so that when they reflected on what was treasured up in the memory they instantly perceived whether it was true and good, insomuch that when anything false presented itself, they not only avoided it but even regarded it with horror: such also is the state of the angels. In place of this perception of the Most Ancient Church, however, there afterwards succeeded the knowledge (cognitio) of what is true and good from what had been previously revealed, and afterwards from what was revealed in the Word.

AC 126. Verse 17. But of the tree of the knowledge (scientia) of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it; for in the day that thou eatest thereof, dying thou shalt die. These words, taken together with those just explained, signify that it is allowable to become acquainted with what is true and good by means of every perception derived from the Lord, but not from self and the world; that is, we are not to inquire into the mysteries of faith by means of the things of sense and of the memory (per sensualia et scientifica), for in this case the celestial of faith is destroyed.

AC 127. A desire to investigate the mysteries of faith by means of the things of sense and of the memory, was not only the cause of the fall of the posterity of the Most Ancient Church, as treated of in the following chapter, but it is also the cause of the fall of every church; for hence come not only falsities, but also evils of life.

AC 128. The worldly and corporeal man says in his heart, If I am not instructed concerning the faith, and everything relating to it, by means of the things of sense, so that I may see, or by means of those of the memory (scientifica), so that I may understand, I will not believe; and he confirms himself in this by the consideration that natural things cannot he contrary to spiritual. Thus he is desirous of being instructed from things of sense in what is celestial and Divine, which is as impossible as it is for a camel to go through the eye of a needle; for the more he desires to grow wise by such means, the more he blinds himself, till at length he believes nothing, not even that there is anything spiritual, or that there is eternal life. This comes from the principle which he assumes. And this is to "eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil," of which the more any one eats, the more dead he becomes. But he who would be wise from the Lord, and not from the world, says in his heart that the Lord must be believed, that is, the things which the Lord has spoken in the Word, because they are truths; and according to this principle he regulates his thoughts. He confirms himself by things of reason, of knowledge, of the senses, and of nature (per rationalia, scientifica, sensualia et naturalia), and those which are not confirmatory he casts aside.

AC 129. Every one may know that man is governed by the principles he assumes, be they ever so false, and that all his knowledge and reasoning favor his principles; for innumerable considerations tending to support them present themselves to his mind, and thus he is confirmed in what is false. He therefore who assumes as a principle that nothing is to be believed until it is seen and understood, can never believe, because spiritual and celestial things cannot be seen with the eyes, or conceived by the imagination. But the true order is for man to be wise from the Lord, that is, from His Word, and then all things follow, and he is enlightened even in matters of reason and of memory-knowledge (in rationalibus et scientificis). For it is by no means forbidden to learn the sciences, since they are useful to his life and delightful; nor is he who is in faith prohibited from thinking and speaking as do the learned of the world; but it must be from this principle-to believe the Word of the Lord, and, so far as possible, confirm spiritual and celestial truths by natural truths, in terms familiar to the learned world. Thus his starting-point must be the Lord, and not himself; for the former is life, but the latter is death.

AC 130. He who desires to be wise from the world, has for his "garden" the things of sense and of memory-knowledge (sensualia et scientifica); the love of self and the love of the world are his "Eden; his " east" is the west, or himself; his "river Euphrates" is all his memory-knowledge (scientificum), which is condemned; his "second river," where is "Assyria," is infatuated reasoning productive of falsities; his "third river," where is "Ethiopia," is the principles of evil and falsity thence derived, which are the knowledges of his faith; his "fourth river" is the wisdom thence derived, which in the Word is called "magic." And therefore "Egypt"-which signifies memory-knowledge (scientia)--after the knowledge became magical, signifies such a man, because, as may be seen from the Word, he desires to be wise from self. Of such it is written in Ezekiel:--

Thus hath said the Lord Jehovah, Behold, I am against thee, Pharaoh king of Egypt, the great whale that lieth in the midst of his rivers, who hath said, My river is mine own, and I have made myself. And the land of Egypt shall be for a solitude, and a waste, and they shall know that I am Jehovah, because he hath said, The river is mine, and I have made (Ezekiel 29:3, 9).

Such men are also called "trees of Eden in hell," in the same Prophet, where also Pharaoh, or the Egyptian, is treated of in these words:--

When I shall have made him descend into hell with them that descend into the pit; to whom art thou thus made like in glory and in greatness among the trees of Eden? yet shalt thou be made to descend with the trees of Eden into the lower earth, in the midst of the uncircumcised, with them that be slain by the sword. This is Pharaoh and all his crew (Ezekiel 31:16, 18),

where the "trees of Eden" denote knowledges (scientifica et cognitiones) from the Word, which they thus profane by reasonings.

AC 137. The first three chapters of Genesis treat in general of the Most Ancient Church which is called "Man" (homo), from its first period to its last, when it perished: the preceding part of this chapter treats of its most flourishing state, when it was a celestial man; here it now treats of those who inclined to their Own, and of their posterity.

GENESIS 2:15-17    previous  -  next  -  text  -  summary  -  Genesis  -  Full Page

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