Spiritual Meaning of GENESIS 4:15
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AC 392. Verse 15. And Jehovah said unto him, Therefore whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold. And Jehovah set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should smite him. By "vengeance being taken sevenfold on any one who slays Cain" is signified that to do violence to faith even when thus separated would be a sacrilege; "Jehovah set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should smite him," signifies that the Lord distinguished faith in a particular manner, in order that it might he preserved.

AC 393. Before we proceed to elucidate the internal sense of the words before us, it is necessary to know how the case is with faith. The Most Ancient Church was of such a character as to acknowledge no faith except that which is of love, insomuch that they were unwilling even to mention faith, for through love from the Lord they perceived all things that belong to faith. Such also are the celestial angels of whom we have spoken above. But as it was foreseen that the human race could not be of this character, but would separate faith from love to the Lord, and would make of faith a doctrine by itself, it was provided that they should indeed be separated, but in such a way that through faith, that is, through the knowledges of faith, men might receive from the Lord charity, so that knowledge (cognitio) or hearing should come first, and then through knowledge or hearing, charity, that is, love toward the neighbor, and mercy, might be given by the Lord, which charity should not only be inseparable from faith, but should also constitute the principal of faith. And then instead of the perception they had in the Most Ancient Church, there succeeded conscience, acquired through faith joined to charity, which dictated not what is true, but that it is true, and this because the Lord has so said in the Word. The churches after the flood were for the most part of this character, as also was the primitive or first church after the Lord‘s advent, and by this the spiritual angels are distinguished from the celestial.

AC 394. Now as this was foreseen, and was provided, lest the human race should perish in eternal death, it is here declared that none should do violence to Cain, by whom is signified faith separated from charity; and further that a mark was set upon him, which means that the Lord distinguished faith in a particular manner, in order to secure its preservation. These are arcana hitherto undiscovered, and are referred to by the Lord in what He said respecting marriage, and eunuchs, in Matthew:--

There are eunuchs who were so born from their mother’s womb; and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs of men; and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of God‘s sake; he that is able to receive it let him receive it (Matthew 19:12).

Those in the heavenly marriage are called "eunuchs;" those so "born from the womb," are such as resemble the celestial angels; those "made of men," are such as are like the spiritual angels; and those "made so by themselves," are like angelic spirits, who act not so much from charity as from obedience.

AC 395. That the words "whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold," signify that to do violence to faith even when thus separated would be sacrilege, is evident from the signification of "Cain," which is faith separated from charity, and from the signification of "seven," which is what is sacred. The number "seven" was esteemed holy, as is well known, by reason of the six days of creation, and of the seventh, which is the celestial man, in whom is peace, rest, and the sabbath. Hence this number occurs so frequently in the rites of the Jewish Church, and is everywhere held sacred, and hence also both greater and less periods of time were distinguished into sevens, and were called "weeks," such as the great intervals of time to the coming of the Messiah (Dan. 9:24, 25); and the time of seven years called a "week" by Laban and Jacob (Gen. 29:27, 28). For the same reason, wherever it occurs, the number seven is accounted holy or inviolable. Thus we read in David:--

Seven times a day do I praise Thee (Ps. 119:164).

In Isaiah:--

The light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun shall be sevenfold, as the light of seven days (Isaiah 30:26),

where the "sun" denotes love, and the "moon" faith from love, which should be as love. As the periods of man’s regeneration are distinguished into six, before the seventh arrives, that is, the celestial man, so also are the periods of his vastation, up to the time when nothing celestial remains. This was represented by the several captivities of the Jews, and by the last or Babylonish captivity, which lasted seven decades, or seventy years. It is also said several times that the earth should rest on its sabbaths. The same is represented by Nebuchadnezzar, in Daniel:--

His heart shall be changed from man, and a beast‘s heart shall he given unto him, and seven times shall pass over him (Daniel 4:16, 23, 32).

And in John, concerning the vastation of the last times:--

I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvelous, seven angels, having the seven last plagues (Rev. 15:1, 6, 7, 8);

and that

The Gentiles should tread the holy city under foot forty and two months, or six times seven (Rev. 11:2).

And again:--

I saw a book written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals (Rev. 5:1).

For the same reason the severities and augmentations of punishment were expressed by the number seven; as in Moses:--

If ye will not yet for all this obey Me, then I will chastise you sevenfold for your sins (Lev. 26:18, 21, 24, 28).

And in David:--

Render unto our neighbors sevenfold into their bosom (Ps. 79:12).

Now as it was a sacrilege to do violence to faith-since as has been said it was to be of service-it is said that "whosoever should slay Cain, vengeance should be taken on him sevenfold."

AC 396. That "Jehovah set a mark on Cain, lest any should smite him," signifies that the Lord distinguished faith in a particular manner in order that it might he preserved, is evident from the signification of a "mark," and of "setting a mark" on any one, as being a means of distinction. Thus in Ezekiel:--

Jehovah said, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark (that is, "mark out") upon the foreheads of the men groaning and sighing for all the abominations (Ezekiel 9:4),

where by "marking out the foreheads," is not meant a mark or line upon the front part of their heads, but to distinguish them from others. So in John, it is said that

The locusts should hurt only those men who had not the mark of God on their foreheads (Rev. 9:4),

where also to have the mark means to be distinguished.

[2] And in the same book we read of a "mark on the hand and on the forehead" (Rev. 13:16). The same thing was represented in the Jewish Church by binding the first and great commandment on the hand and on the forehead, concerning which we read in Moses:--

Hear, O Israel, Jehovah our God is one Jehovah; and thou shalt love Jehovah thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and thou shalt bind these words for a sign upon thy hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes (Deut. 6:4, 8; 11:13, 18).

By this was represented that they should distinguish the commandment respecting love above every other, and hence the signification of "marking the hand and the forehead" becomes manifest.

[3] So in Isaiah:--

I come to gather all nations and tongues; and they shall come and shall see My glory; and I will set a mark upon them (Isaiah 66:18, 19).

And in David:--

O turn unto me, and have mercy upon me, give Thy strength unto Thy servant, and save the son of Thy handmaid. Set upon me a mark for good, and they that hate me shall see and be ashamed (Ps. 86:16, 17).

From these passages the meaning of a mark is now evident. Let no one therefore imagine that any mark was set upon a particular person called Cain, for the internal sense of the Word contains things quite different from those contained in the sense of the letter.

GENESIS 4:15    previous  -  next  -  text  -  summary  -  Genesis  -  Full Page

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