Spiritual Meaning of GENESIS 3:22
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AC 298. Verse 22. And Jehovah God said, Behold the man is become as one of us, knowing good and evil; and now lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of lives, and eat, and live to eternity. The reason "Jehovah God" is first mentioned in the singular, and afterwards in the plural number, is that by "Jehovah God" is meant the Lord, and at the same time the angelic heaven. The man‘s "knowing good and evil," signifies that he had become celestial, and thus wise and intelligent; "lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of lives," means that he must not be instructed in the mysteries of faith, for then never to all eternity could he be saved, which is to "live to eternity."

AC 299. Here are two arcana: first, that "Jehovah God" signifies the Lord, and at the same time heaven; secondly, that had they been instructed in the mysteries of faith they would have perished eternally.

AC 300. As regards the first arcanum,--that by "Jehovah God" is meant the Lord and at the same time heaven,--it is to be observed that in the Word, always for a secret reason, the Lord is sometimes called merely "Jehovah," sometimes "Jehovah God," sometimes "Jehovah" and then "God," sometimes the "Lord Jehovih," sometimes the "God of Israel," and sometimes "God" only. Thus in the first chapter of Genesis, where it is also said, in the plural, "Let us make man in our image," He is called "God" only, and He is not called "Jehovah God" until the following chapter, where the celestial man is treated of. He is called "Jehovah" because He alone is or lives, thus from Essence; and "God," because He can do all things, thus from Power; as is evident from the Word, where this distinction is made (Isa. 49:4, 5; 55:7; Ps. 18:2, 28, 29, 31; 31:14). On this account every angel or spirit who spoke with man, and who was supposed to possess any power, was called " God," as appears from David:--

God hath stood in the congregation of God, He will judge in the midst of the gods (Ps. 82:1)

and in another place:--

Who in the sky shall be compared unto Jehovah? who among the sons of the gods shall be likened to Jehovah? (Ps. 89:6).


Confess ye to the God of gods, confess ye to the Lord of lords (Ps. 136:2, 3).

Men also as being possessed of power are called "gods," as in (Ps. 82:6; John 10:34, 35). Moses also is said to be "a god to Pharaoh" (Exod. 7:1). For this reason the word "God" in the Hebrew is in the plural number--"Elohim." But as the angels do not possess the least power of themselves, as indeed they acknowledge, but solely from the Lord, and as there is but one God, therefore by "Jehovah God" in the Word is meant the Lord alone. But where anything is effected by the ministry of angels, as in the first chapter of Genesis, He is spoken of in the plural number. Here also because the celestial man, as man, could not be put in comparison with the Lord, but with the angels only, it is said, the man "is become as one of us, knowing good and evil," that is, is wise and intelligent.

AC 301. The other arcanum is that had they been instructed in the mysteries of faith they would have perished eternally, which is signified by the words, "now lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of lives, and eat, and live to eternity." The case is this: When men have become inverted orders of life, and are unwilling to live, or to become wise, except from themselves and from their Own, they reason about everything they hear respecting faith, as to whether it is so, or not; and as they do this from themselves and from their own things of sense and of memory-knowledge, it must needs lead to denial, and consequently to blasphemy and profanation, so that at length they do not scruple to mix up profane things with holy. When a man becomes like this, he is so condemned in the other life that there remains for him no hope of salvation. For things mixed up by profanation remain so mixed up, so that whenever any idea of something holy presents itself, an idea of something profane that is conjoined with it is also there, the consequence of which is that the person cannot be in any society except one of the damned. Whatever is present in any idea of thought in consequence of being conjoined with it, is most exquisitely perceived in the other life, even by spirits in the world of spirits, and much more so by angelic spirits, so exquisitely indeed that from a single idea they know a person’s character. The separation of profane and holy ideas when thus conjoined cannot be effected except by means of such infernal torment that if a man were aware of it he would as carefully avoid profanation as he would avoid hell itself.

AC 302. This is the reason why the mysteries of faith were never revealed to the Jews. They were not even plainly told that they were to live after death, nor that the Lord would come into the world to save them. So great were the ignorance and stupidity in which they were kept, and still are kept, that they did not and do not know of the existence of the internal man, or of anything internal, for if they had known of it, or if they now knew of it, so as to acknowledge it, such is their character that they would profane it, and there would be no hope of any salvation for them in the other life. This is what is meant by the Lord in John:--

He hath blinded their eyes, and stopped up their heart, that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and convert themselves, and I should heal them (John 12:40).

And by the Lord speaking to them in parables without explaining to them their meaning, lest (as He Himself says),

Seeing they should see, and hearing they should hear, and should understand (Matt. 13:13).

For the same reason all the mysteries of faith were hidden from them, and were concealed under the representatives of their church, and for the same reason the prophetic style is of the same character. It is however one thing to know, and another to acknowledge. He who knows and does not acknowledge, is as if he knew not; but it is he who acknowledges and afterwards blasphemes and profanes, that is meant by these words of the Lord.

AC 303. A man acquires a life by all the things he is persuaded of, that is, which he acknowledges and believes. That of which he is not persuaded, or does not acknowledge and believe, does not affect his mind. And therefore no one can profane holy things unless he has been so persuaded of them that he acknowledges them, and yet denies them. Those who do not acknowledge may know, but are as if they did not know, and are like those who know things that have no existence. Such were the Jews about the time of the Lord‘s advent, and therefore they are said in the Word to be "vastated" or "laid waste," that is, to have no longer any faith. Under these circumstances it does men no injury to have the interior contents of the Word opened to them, for they are as persons seeing, and yet not seeing; hearing, and yet not hearing; and whose hearts are stopped up; of whom the Lord says in Isaiah:--

Go and tell this people, Hearing hear ye, but understand not, and seeing see ye, but know not. Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and smear their eyes, lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and be converted, so that they be healed (Isaiah 6:9, 10).

That the mysteries of faith are not revealed until men are in such a state, that is, are so vastated that they no longer believe (in order, as before said, that they may not be able to profane them), the Lord also plainly declares in the subsequent verses of Isaiah:--

Then said I, Lord, how long? And He said, Even until the cities are desolated, so that there be no inhabitant; and the houses, so that there be no man, and the ground be utterly desolated, and Jehovah have removed man (Isaiah 6:12).

He is called a "man" who is wise, or who acknowledges and believes. The Jews were thus vastated, as already said, at the time of the Lord’s advent; and for the same reason they are still kept in such vastation by their cupidities, and especially by their avarice, that although they hear of the Lord a thousand times, and that the representatives of their church are significative of Him in every particular, yet they acknowledge and believe nothing. This then was the reason why the antediluvians were cast out of the garden of Eden, and vastated even until they were no longer capable of acknowledging any truth.

AC 304. From all this it is evident what is meant by the words, "lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of lives, and eat, and live to eternity." To "take of the tree of lives and eat," is to know even so as to acknowledge whatever is of love and faith; for lives" in the plural denote love and faith, and to "eat" signifies here as before, to know. To "live to eternity," is not to live in the body to eternity, but to live after death in eternal damnation. A man who is "dead" is not so called because he is to die after the life of the body, but because he will live a life of death, for "death" is damnation and hell. The expression to "live," is used with a similar signification by Ezekiel:--

Ye hunt souls for My people, and save souls alive for yourselves, and ye have profaned Me among My people, to slay souls that will not die, and to make souls live that will not live (Ezekiel 13:18, 19).

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