Spiritual Meaning of GENESIS 4:16-17
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AC 397. Verse 16. And Cain went out from the faces of Jehovah, and dwelt in the land of Nod, toward the east of Eden. By the words "Cain went out from the faces of Jehovah" is signified that faith was separated from the good of the faith of love; "he dwelt in the land of Nod," signifies outside of truth and good; "toward the east of Eden," is near the intellectual mind, where love reigned before.

AC 398. That to "go out from the faces of Jehovah" signifies to be separated from the good of the faith of love, may be seen in the explication of (verse 14); that to "dwell in the land of Nod" signifies outside of truth and good, is evident from the signification of the word "Nod," which is to be a wanderer and a fugitive; and that to be "a wanderer and a fugitive" is to be deprived of truth and good, may be seen above. That "toward the east of Eden" signifies near the intellectual mind, where love had previously reigned, and also near the rational mind, where charity had previously reigned, is evident from what has been said of the signification of "the east of Eden," namely, that "the east" is the Lord, and "Eden" love. With the men of the Most Ancient Church, the mind, consisting of the will and the understanding, was one; for the will was the all in all, so that the understanding was of the will. This was because they made no distinction between love, which is of the will, and faith, which is of the understanding, because love was the all in all, and faith was of love. But after faith was separated from love, as was the case with those who were called "Cain," no will reigned any longer, and as in that mind the understanding reigned instead of the will, or faith instead of love, it is said that he "dwelt toward the east of Eden;" for as was just now observed faith was distinguished, or "had a mark set upon it," that it might he preserved for the use of mankind.

AC 399. Verse 17. And Cain knew his wife, and she conceived, and bare Enoch; and he was building a city, and called the name of the city after the name of his son, Enoch. The words "Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bare Enoch," signify that this schism or heresy produced another from itself that was called "Enoch." By "the city which he built" is signified all that was doctrinal and heretical therefrom, and because the schism or heresy was called "Enoch," it is said that "the name of the city was called after the name of his son, Enoch."

AC 400. That "Cain knew his wife, and she conceived, and bare Enoch," signifies that this schism or heresy produced another from itself, is evident from what has been previously said, as well as from what is stated in the first verse, that the Man and Eve his wife produced Cain; so that the things which now follow are similar conceptions and births, whether of the church, or of heresies, whereof they formed a genealogy, for these are similarly related to each other. From one heresy that is conceived there are born a host of them.

AC 401. That it was a heresy with all its doctrinal or heretical teaching that was called "Enoch," is in some measure evident from this name, which means the instruction so begun or initiated.

AC 402. That by the "city that was built" is signified all the doctrinal and heretical teaching that came from that heresy, is evident from every passage of the Word in which the name of any city occurs; for in none of them does it ever mean a city, but always something doctrinal or else heretical. The angels are altogether ignorant of what a city is, and of the name of any city; since they neither have nor can have any idea of a city, in consequence of their ideas being spiritual and celestial, as was shown above. They perceive only what a city and its name signify. Thus by the "holy city," which is also called the "holy Jerusalem," nothing else is meant than the kingdom of the Lord in general, or in each individual in particular in whom is that kingdom. The "city" and "mountain" "of Zion" also are similarly understood; the latter denoting the celestial of faith, and the former its spiritual.

[2] The celestial and spiritual itself is also described by "cities," "palaces," "houses," "walls," "foundations of walls," "ramparts," " gates," "bars," and the "temple" in the midst; as in (Ezekiel 48:30-35); in the (Revelation 21:15-27), where it is also called the Holy Jerusalem, (Revelation. 21:2, 10); and in (Jeremiah 31:38). In David it is called "the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the Most High" (Ps. 46:4); in Ezekiel,"the city, Jehovah there" (Ezekiel 48:35), and of which it is written in Isaiah:--

The sons of the stranger shall build thy walls, all they that despised thee shall bow themselves down at the soles of thy feet, and they shall call thee the city of Jehovah, the Zion of the Holy One of Israel (Isaiah 60:10, 14).

In Zechariah:--

Jerusalem shall be called the city of truth; and the mountain of Zion, the mountain of holiness (Zechariah 8:3),

where the "city of truth," or " Jerusalem," signifies the spiritual things of faith; and the "mountain of holiness," or "of Zion," the celestial things of faith.

[3] As the celestial and spiritual things of faith are represented by a city, so also are all doctrinal things signified by the cities of Judah and of Israel, each of which when named has its own specific signification of something doctrinal, but what that is no one can know except from the internal sense. As doctrinal things are signified by "cities," so also are heresies, and in this case every particular city, according to its name, signifies some particular heretical opinion. At present we shall only show from the following passages of the Word, that in general a "city" signifies something doctrinal, or else heretical.

[4] Thus we read in Isaiah:--

In that day there shall be five cities in the land of Egypt speaking with the lip of Canaan, and swearing to Jehovah Zebaoth; one shall be called the city Heres (Isaiah 19:18),

where the subject treated of is the memory-knowledge (scientia) of spiritual and celestial things at the time of the Lordís advent. So again, when treating of the valley of vision, that is, of phantasy:--

Thou art full of tumults, a tumultuous city, an exulting city (Isaiah 22:2).

In Jeremiah, speaking of those who are "in the south," that is, in the light of truth, and who extinguish it:--

The cities of the south have been shut up, and none shall open them (Jeremiah 13:19).


Jehovah hath purposed to destroy the wall of the daughter of Zion; therefore He maketh the rampart and the wall to lament; they languished together. Her gates are sunk into the ground; He hath destroyed and broken her bars (Lam. 2:8, 9),

where any one may see that by a "wall," a "rampart," "gates," and "bars," doctrinal things only are meant.

[5] In like manner in Isaiah:--

This song shall be sung in the land of Judah, We have a strong city; salvation will set the walls and the bulwark; open ye the gates, that the righteous nation which keepeth fidelities may enter in (Isaiah 26:1, 2).


I will exalt thee, I will confess to Thy name, for Thou hast made of a city a heap, of a defenced city a ruin; a palace of strangers shall not be built of the city forever. Therefore shall the strong people honor Thee, the city of the terrible nations shall fear Thee (Isaiah 25:1, 2, 3),

in which passage there is no reference to any particular city. In the prophecy of Balaam:--

Edom shall be an inheritance, and out of Jacob shall one have dominion, and shall destroy the residue of the city (Num. 24:18, 19),

where it must be plain to every one that "city" here does not mean a city. In Isaiah:--

The city of emptiness is broken; every house is shut, that the cry over wine in the streets cannot enter (Isaiah 24:10, 11),

where the " city of emptiness" denotes emptinesses of doctrine; and "streets" signify here as elsewhere the things which belong to the city, whether falsities or truths. In John:--

When the seventh angel poured out his vial, the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell (Rev. 16:17, 19).

That the "great city" denotes something heretical, and that the "cities of the nations" do so too, must be evident to every one. It is also explained that the great city was the woman that John saw (Rev. 17:18); and that the woman denotes a church of that character has been shown before.

AC 403. We have now seen what a "city" signifies. But as all this part of Genesis is put into an historical form, to those who are in the sense of the letter it must seem that a city was built by Cain, and was called Enoch, although from the sense of the letter they must also suppose that the land was already populous, notwithstanding that Cain was only the firstborn of Adam. But as we observed above, the most ancient people were accustomed to arrange all things in the form of a history, under representative types, and this was to them delightful in the highest degree, for it made all things seem to be alive.

GENESIS 4:16-17    previous  -  next  -  text  -  summary  -  Genesis  -  Full Page

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