Spiritual Meaning of GENESIS 35:21-22
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AC 4597. Verses 21, 22. And Israel journeyed, and spread his tent beyond the tower of Eder. And it came to pass while Israel abode in this land that Reuben went and lay with Bilhah his father‘s concubine, and Israel heard. "And Israel journeyed," signifies the celestial spiritual of the natural at this time; "and spread his tend beyond the tower of Eder," signifies the interior things thereof; "and it came to pass while Israel abode in this land," signifies when in this state; "that Reuben went and lay with Bilhah his father’s concubine," signifies the profanation of good by faith separate; "and Israel heard," signifies that this faith was rejected.

AC 4598. And Israel journeyed. That this means the celestial spiritual of the natural at this time, is evident from the signification of "journeying," as being what is successive or continuous (n. 4375, 4554), here more toward interior things; and from the representation of "Israel" here, as being the celestial spiritual of the natural (n. 4286). What the celestial spiritual of the natural is, has been explained before, namely, that it is the good of truth, or the good of charity procured by means of the truth of faith. What advancement toward interior things is, is little known in the world. It is not an advancement into memory-knowledges, for this frequently exists without any advancement toward interior things, and very frequently with a departure from them. Neither is it an advancement into the judgment of manhood, for this also sometimes exists together with a departure from interior things. Nor is it an advancement into knowledges of interior truth, for these knowledges avail nothing unless the man is affected with them. An advancement toward interior things is an advancement toward heaven and the Lord by means of the knowledges of truth implanted in the affection of them, thus by means of affections.

[2] What is the nature of an advancement toward interior things is not apparent to anyone in this world; but in the other life it is plainly apparent, for there it is an advancement from a kind of mist into light, because they who are in exterior things alone are relatively in a mist, and by the angels are seen to be in one; whereas they who are in interior things are in light, and consequently are in wisdom, for the light there is wisdom; and wonderful to say, they who are in a mist cannot see those who are in light as in light, but they who are in light can see those who are in a mist as in a mist. As the subject here treated of is the advancement of the Lord‘s Divine toward interior things, Jacob is here called "Israel," but at other times he is called "Jacob," as in the preceding verse of this chapter, and in the last verse.

AC 4599. And spread his tent beyond the tower of Eder. That this signifies the interior things thereof, is evident from the signification of "spreading a tent," as being the advancement of what is holy, here toward interior things. A "tent" denotes what is holy, (n. 414, 1102, 2145, 2152, 3312, 4391); from the signification of "beyond the tower," as being into interior things; and from the signification of "Eder," as being the quality of the state, namely, of the advancement of what is holy toward interior things. From ancient times this tower had this signification, but as it is mentioned nowhere else in the Word, except in (Joshua 15:21), this cannot be confirmed from parallel passages, as is the case with other names. The reason why "beyond the tower" denotes toward interior things, is that the things which are interior are expressed by things lofty and high, thus by mountains, hills, towers, the roofs of houses, and the like. The reason is, that to minds which derive their ideas from the natural things of the world through the external senses, interior things appear as higher (n. 2148).

[2] That "towers" signify interior things may be seen also from other passages in the Word, as in Isaiah:--

My well beloved had a vineyard in a horn of the son of oil, which he fenced round and cleared of stones, and planted it with a noble vine, and built a tower in the midst of it (Isa. 5:1, 2);

the "vineyard" denotes the spiritual church; the "noble vine," spiritual good; the "tower built in the midst of it," the interior things of truth. In like manner also in the Lord’s parable in Matthew:--

A man a householder planted a vineyard, and set a hedge about it, and digged a winepress in it, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen. (Matthew 21:33; Mark 12:1).

[3] In Ezekiel:

The sons of Arvad and thine army were upon thy walls round about, and the Gammadim were in thy towers, they hung their shields upon thy walls round about; these have perfected thy beauty (Ezek. 27:11);

treating of Tyre, by which are signified the knowledges of good and truth, or those who are in these knowledges; the "Gammadim in its towers" denote the knowledges of interior truth.

[4] In Micah:--

Jehovah shall reign over them in Mount Zion from now and to eternity; and thou tower of the flock, the hill of the daughter of Zion, unto thee shall it come, and the former kingdom shall return, the kingdom of the daughter of Jerusalem (Micah 4:7, 8);

where is described the Lord‘s celestial kingdom; its inmost which is love to the Lord, by "Mount Zion;" its derivative which is mutual love, by the "hill of the daughter of Zion," which love in the spiritual sense is called charity toward the neighbor; its interior truths of good by the "tower of the flock;" that from this comes the spiritual of the celestial kingdom is signified by the "kingdom of the daughter of Jerusalem." In David:--

Let Mount Zion be glad, let the daughters of Judah exult because of Thy judgments encompass ye Zion, and gird it around, count the towers thereof (Ps. 48:11, 12);

where the "towers" denote the interior truths which defend what is of love and charity.

[5] In Luke:--

Whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after Me, cannot be My disciple for which of you, desiring to build a tower, sitteth not down first and counteth the cost, whether he have wherewith to complete it? Or what king, going to make war with another king, doth not first sit down and consult whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand (Luke 14:27, 28, 31, 33);

he who does not know the internal sense of the Word must suppose that the Lord here spoke by comparisons, and that by building a tower and making war nothing further is meant, not knowing that all the comparisons in the Word are significative and representative, and that "to build a tower" is to procure for one’s self interior truths, and that "to make war" is to combat from these; for the subject here treated of is the temptations undergone by those who are of the church, and who are here called the Lord‘s "disciples." These temptations are signified by the "cross" which they must carry; and that they by no means conquer from themselves or from what is their own, but from the Lord, is signified by "whosoever renounceth not all that he hath, he cannot be My disciple." Thus do all these things cohere; whereas if the things that are related of the tower and the war are understood only comparatively, without an interior sense, they do not cohere. From this it is manifest what light there is from the internal sense.

[6] The interiors of those who are in the love of self and the world, thus the falsities from which they combat, and by which they confirm their religiosity, are also expressed in the opposite sense by "towers," as in Isaiah:--

The loftiness of men shall be brought low, and Jehovah Zebaoth shall be exalted above everyone proud and high, and upon everyone that is lifted up, and he shall be humbled; and upon all the cedars of Lebanon that are high and lifted up, and upon all the oaks of Bashan, and upon all the high mountains, and upon all the hills that are lifted up, and upon every lofty tower, and upon every fortified wall (Isa 2:11-15);

where the interiors and the exteriors of these loves are described by the "cedars," "oaks," "mountains," "hills," "tower," and "wall" (interior falsities by the "tower"), thus also interior things by those which are high, with the difference that they who are in evils and falsities believe themselves high and above others, but they who are in goods and truths believe themselves less and below others (Matt. 20:26, 27; Mark 10:44). Nevertheless goods and truths are described by high things, because in heaven they are nearer the Highest, that is, the Lord. Moreover "towers" in the word are predicated of truths, but "mountains" of goods.

AC 4600. And it came to pass, while Israel abode in this land. That this signifies when in this state, namely, of good from truth, is evident from the signification of "to abide," as being to live, for "to abide" signifies the like as "to dwell," but with the difference that "to abide" is predicated of truth, and "to dwell" of good (that "to dwell" denotes to be and to live, thus state, may be seen above, n. 3384); from the signification of "land," as being the church as to good (n. 566, 662, 1066, 1067, 1262, 1413, 1607, 1733, 1850, 2117, 2118, 2571, 2928, 3355, 4447, 4535), here as to the good of truth, the state of which (in which Israel now was) is what is signified.

AC 4601. That Reuben went and lay with Bilhah his fathers concubine. That this signifies the profanation of good by means of faith separate, and that and Israel heard signifies that this faith was rejected, is evident from the representation of Reuben as being faith in doctrine and in understanding, which is the first thing of the church (n. 3861, 3866), here this faith separate from charity; and from the signification of "lying with Bilhah his father’s concubine," as being the profanation of good, for "to commit adultery" signifies to pervert or adulterate goods (n. 2466, 2729, 3399), but "to lie with a father‘s concubine" is to profane them; and from the signification of "Israel heard," as being that this faith was rejected. In the proper sense by Israel’s hearing is signified that the spiritual church knew this and assented to it; for by "hearing" is signified hearkening to, and by "Israel" the spiritual church; but that the true church does not assent, will appear from what will be said about Reuben. But in the internal sense is signified that this faith was rejected, for it is not said what Jacob felt and thought about this nefarious deed; nevertheless that he utterly abominated and abhorred it, is manifest from his prophecy respecting Reuben:--

Reuben, thou art my firstborn, my strength, and the beginning of my might; excellent in honor, and excellent in power. Unstable as water, thou shalt not excel, who wentest up thy father‘s bed, then profanedst thou it, he went up my couch (Gen. 49:3, 4);

and from Reuben’s being on this account deprived of his birthright (1 Chron. 5:1). Hence it is evident that by "Israel heard" is signified that this faith was rejected. "Birthright" is the faith of the church, (n. 352, 2435, 3325).

[2] The profanation of good is effected by faith separate when the truth of the church and its good are acknowledged and believed, and yet the man lives contrary to them. For with those who separate the things of faith from those of charity in the understanding and thence in life, evil is conjoined with truth and falsity with good; and this conjunction itself is what is called profanation. It is otherwise with those, who, although they know what the truth and good of faith are, still do not at heart believe. On profanation, (n. 301-303, 571, 582, 593, 1001, 1003, 1008, 1010, 1059, 1327, 1328, 2051, 2426, 3398, 3399, 3402, 3489, 3898, 4050, 4289); also that the profanation of good by faith separate was represented by Cain‘s killing Abel; by Ham’s being cursed by his father; and by the Egyptians being swallowed up by the Red Sea, (n. 3325); and here also by Reuben, (n. 3325, 3870)

[3] In order that those who are of the spiritual church could be saved, the Lord miraculously separated their intellectual part from their will part, and bestowed upon the intellectual the power of receiving a new will (n. 863, 875, 895, 927, 928, 1023, 1043, 1044, 2256, 4328, 4493). When therefore the intellectual apprehends and perceives the good which is of faith, and appropriates it to itself, and yet man‘s will (that is, his willing evil) still reigns and commands, there is effected the conjunction of truth and evil, and of good and falsity. This conjunction is profanation, and is meant by eating and drinking unworthily in the Holy Supper, said of those from whom the good which is there signified by the "body," and the truth which is there signified by the "blood," cannot he separated, because things which have been conjoined in this manner can never be separated to all eternity, and therefore the deepest hell awaits them. But they who know what the truth and good of faith are, and yet do not at heart believe them (as is the case with most people at the present day), cannot profane them, because the intellectual does not receive them and imbue itself with them.

[4] It is the rejection of this separated faith that is here treated of, because in what presently follows truths and goods are treated of in their genuine order, and directly afterwards their conjunction with the rational or intellectual. The sons of Jacob presently named are truths and goods in genuine order, and Isaac is the rational or intellectual. The coming of Jacob and his sons to Isaac, is in the internal sense this conjunction with the intellectual.

GENESIS 35:21-22    previous  -  next  -  text  -  summary  -  Genesis  -  Full Page

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