Spiritual Meaning of GENESIS 3:15
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AC 250. Verse 15. And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; He shall trample upon thy head, and thou shalt bruise His heel. Every one is aware that this is the first prophecy of the Lord’s advent into the world; it appears indeed clearly from the words themselves, and therefore from them and from the prophets even the Jews knew that a Messiah was to come. Hitherto however no one has understood what is specifically meant by the "serpent," the "woman," the "serpent‘s seed," the " woman’s seed," the "head of the serpent which was to be trodden upon," and the "heel which the serpent should bruise." They must therefore be explained. By the "serpent" is here meant all evil in general, and specifically the love of self; by the "woman" is meant the church; by the "seed of the serpent," all infidelity; by the "seed of the woman," faith in the Lord; by "He," the Lord Himself; by the "head of the serpent," the dominion of evil in general, and specifically that of the love of self; by to "trample upon," depression, so that it should "go upon the belly and eat dust;" and by the "heel," the lowest natural (as the corporeal), which the serpent should "bruise."

AC 251. The reason why the "serpent" means all evil in general, and specifically the love of self, is that all evil has had its rise from that sensuous part of the mind, and also from that memory-knowledge (scientifico), which at first were signified by the "serpent;" and therefore it here denotes evil of every kind, and specifically the love of self, or hatred against the neighbor and the Lord, which is the same thing. As this evil or hatred was various, consisting of numerous genera and still more numerous species, it is described in the Word by various kinds of serpents, as "snakes," " cockatrices," "asps," "adders," "fiery serpents," "serpents that fly"‘ and "that creep," and "vipers," according to the differences of the poison, which is hatred. Thus we read in Isaiah:--

Rejoice not thou, whole Philistia, because the rod which smiteth thee is broken, for out of the serpent’s root shall go forth a cockatrice, and his fruit shall be a flying fire-serpent (Isaiah 14:29).

The "serpent‘s root" denotes that part of the mind, or that principle, which is connected with the senses and with memory-knowledge (est sensuale et scientificum); the "cockatrice" denotes evil originating in the falsity thence derived; and the "flying fire-serpent," the cupidity that comes from the love of self. By the same Prophet also similar things are elsewhere thus described:--

They hatch cockatrice’s eggs, and weave the spider‘s web; he that eateth of their eggs dieth, and when it is crushed there cometh out a viper (Isaiah 59:5).

The serpent described here in Genesis is called in the Revelation the "great and red dragon," and the "old serpent," and also the "devil and satan," that "deceives the whole world" (Revelation 12:3, 9; 20:2), where, and also in other places, by the "devil" is not meant any particular devil who is prince over the others, but the whole crew of evil spirits, and evil itself.

AC 252. That by the "woman" is meant the church, is evident from what was said above (n. 155) concerning the heavenly marriage. Such is the nature of the heavenly marriage, that heaven, and consequently the church, is united to the Lord by its Own, insomuch that these are in their Own, for without their Own there can be no union. When the Lord in mercy insinuates innocence, peace, and good into this Own, it still retains its identity, but becomes heavenly and most happy (n. 164). The quality of a heavenly and angelic Own from the Lord, and the quality of an Own, which, because from self, is infernal and diabolical, cannot be told. The difference is like that between heaven and hell.

AC 253. It is by virtue of a heavenly and angelic Own that the church is called a "woman," and also a "wife," a "bride," a "virgin," and a "daughter." She is called a "woman" in the Revelation:--

A woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars. And the dragon persecuted the woman who brought forth the man child (Revelation 12:1, 4-13).

In this passage by a "woman" is meant the church by the "sun," love; by the "moon," faith; by "stars," as before, the truths of faith, all of which evil spirits hate, and persecute to the utmost. The church is called a "woman," and also a "wife," in Isaiah:--

Thy Maker is thy Husband, Jehovah of Armies is His name, and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel, the God of the whole earth is He called; for as a woman forsaken and afflicted in spirit hath Jehovah called thee, and as a wife of youth (adolescentiarum) (Isaiah 54:5, 6),

where the "Maker" is called also the "husband," because united to the Own; and a "woman afflicted," and a "wife of youth," signify specifically the Ancient and Most Ancient Churches. Likewise in Malachi:--

Jehovah hath borne witness between thee and the wife of thy youth (adolescentiarum) (Malachi 2:14).

She is called a "wife" and a "bride" in the Revelation:--

I saw the holy city New Jerusalem coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband: come hither, I will show thee the bride, the Lamb’s wife (Revelation 21:2, 9).

The church is called a "virgin" and a "daughter" throughout the Prophets.

AC 254. That by the "seed of the serpent" is meant all infidelity, is evident from the signification of a "serpent," as being all evil; "seed" is that which produces and is produced, or that which begets and is begotten; and as the church is here spoken of, this is infidelity. In Isaiah, in reference to the Jewish Church in its perverted state, it is called a "seed of evil doers," a "seed of adultery," a "seed of falsehood":--

Woe to the sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evil doers, sons that are destroyers; they have forsaken Jehovah, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel, they have estranged themselves backward (Isaiah 1:4).


Draw near hither, ye sons of the sorceress, the seed of the adulterer. Are ye not children of transgression, a seed of falsehood? (Isaiah 57:3, 4).

And again, speaking of the "serpent" or "dragon," who is there called Lucifer:--

Thou art cast out of thy sepulchre like an abominable shoot, because thou hast corrupted thy land, thou hast slain thy people; the seed of evil doers shall not be called to eternity (Isaiah 14:19, 20).

AC 255. That the "seed of the "woman" signifies faith in the Lord, is evident from the signification of "woman" as being the church, whose "seed" is nothing but faith, for it is from faith in the Lord that the church is called the church. In Malachi, faith is called the "seed of God":--

Jehovah hath witnessed between thee and the wife of thy youth (adolescentiarum); and not one hath done so who had a residue of the spirit; and wherefore one, seeking the seed of God? but observe ye in your spirit, lest he deal treacherously against the wife of thy youth (Malachi 2:14, 15).

In this passage the "wife of youth" is the Ancient and Most Ancient Churches, of whose "seed" (or faith) the prophet speaks. In Isaiah also, in reference to the church:--

I will pour waters upon the thirsty, and floods upon the dry; I will pour My spirit upon thy seed, and My blessing upon thine offspring (Isaiah 44:3).

In the Revelation:--

The dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, who were keeping the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ (Revelation 12:17).

And in David:--

I have made a covenant with Mine elect, I have sworn unto David My servant, even to eternity will I establish thy seed, and his seed will I make to endure forever, and his throne as the days of the heavens; his seed shall endure to eternity, and his throne as the sun before me (Ps. 89:3, 4, 29, 36),

where by "David" is meant the Lord; by "throne," His kingdom; by the "sun," love; and by "seed," faith.

AC 256. Not only is faith, but also the Lord Himself is called the "seed of the woman," both because He alone gives faith, and thus is faith, and because He was pleased to be born, and that into such a church as had altogether fallen into an infernal and diabolical Own through the love of self and of the world, in order that by His Divine power He might unite the Divine celestial Own with the human Own in His human essence, so that in Him they might be a one; and unless this union had been effected, the whole world must have utterly perished. Because the Lord is thus the seed of the woman, it is not said "it," but "He."

AC 257. That by the "head of the serpent" is meant the dominion of evil in general, and specifically of the love of self, is evident from its nature, which is so direful as not only to seek dominion, but even dominion over all things upon earth; nor does it rest satisfied with this, but aspires even to rule over everything in heaven, and then, not content with this, over the Lord himself, and even then it is not satisfied. This is latent in every spark of the love of self. If it were indulged, and freed from restraint, we should perceive that it would at once burst forth and would grow even to that aspiring height. Hence it is evident how the "serpent," or the evil of the love of self, desires to exercise dominion, and how much it hates all those who refuse its sway. This is that "head of the serpent" which exalts itself, and which the Lord "tramples down," even to the earth, that it may "go upon its belly, and eat dust," as stated in the verse immediately preceding. Thus also is described the "serpent" or "dragon" called "Lucifer" in Isaiah:--

O Lucifer, thou hast said in thy heart, I will ascend the heavens, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God, and I will sit upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north, I will ascend above the heights of the cloud, I will be made equal to the Most High; yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit (Isaiah 14:12-15).

The "serpent" or "dragon" is also described in the Revelation in regard to the way in which he exalts his head:--

A great red dragon, having seven heads, and ten horns, and many diadems upon his heads; but he was cast into the earth (Revelation 12:3, 9).

In David:--

The saying of Jehovah to my Lord, Sit Thou at My right hand, until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool: Jehovah shall send the rod of thy strength out of Zion, He shall judge the nations, He hath filled with dead bodies, He hath bruised the head over much land; He shall drink of the brook in the way, therefore shall He lift up the head (Ps. 110:1, 2, 6, 7).

AC 258. That by "trampling on" or "bruising," is meant depression, so as to compel it to "go on the belly and eat the dust," is now evident from this and the preceding verses. So likewise in Isaiah:--

Jehovah hath cast down them that dwell on high; the exalted city He will humble it; He will humble it even to the earth; He will prostrate it even to the dust; the foot shall tread it down (Isaiah 26:4-6).


He shall cast down to the earth with the hand; they shall be trampled on by feet--a crown of pride (Isaiah 28:2, 3).

AC 259. That by the "heel" is meant the lowest natural or corporeal cannot be known unless the way in which the most ancient people considered the various things in man is known. They referred his celestial and spiritual things to the head and face; what comes forth from these (as charity and mercy), to the chest; natural things, to the feet; lower natural things, to the soles of the feet; and the lowest natural and corporeal things, to the heel; nor did they merely refer them, but also so called them. The lowest things of reason, that is, memory-knowledges (scientifica), were also meant by what Jacob prophesied concerning Dan:--

Dan shall be a serpent upon the way, an adder upon the path, biting the horses heels, and his rider falls backward (Gen. 49:17).

Also in David:--

The iniquity of my heels hath compassed me about (Ps. 49:5).

In like manner by what is related of Jacob, when he came forth from the womb, That his hand laid hold of Esau‘s heel, whence he was called Jacob (Gen. 25:26), for the name "Jacob" comes from the "heel," because the Jewish Church, signified by "Jacob," injured the heel. A serpent can injure only the lowest natural things, but unless it is a species of viper, not the interior natural things in man, still less his spiritual things, and least of all his celestial things, which the Lord preserves and stores up in man without his knowledge. What are thus stored up by the Lord are called in the Word "remains." The mode in which the serpent destroyed those lowest natural things in the people before the flood, by the sensuous principle and the love of self; and among the Jews, by sensuous things, traditions, trifles, and by the love of self and of the world; and how at this day he has destroyed and continues to destroy them by the things of sense, of memory-knowledge, and of philosophy, and at the same time by the same loves, shall of the Lord’s Divine mercy be told hereafter.

AC 260. From what has been said it is evident that it was revealed to the church of that time that the Lord would come into the world to save them.

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