Spiritual Meaning of GENESIS 4:4
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AC 350. Verse 4. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock, and of the fat thereof; and Jehovah looked to Abel, and to his offering. By "Abel" here as before is signified charity; and by the "firstlings of the flock" is signified that which is holy, which is of the Lord alone; by "fat" is signified the celestial itself, which also is of the Lord; and by "Jehovah looking unto Abel, and to his offering," that the things of charity, and all worship grounded in charity, were well-pleasing to the Lord.

AC 351. That "Abel" signifies charity has been shown before. By charity is meant love toward the neighbor, and mercy; for he who loves his neighbor as himself is also compassionate toward him in his sufferings, as toward himself.

AC 352. That the "firstlings of the flock" signify that which is of the Lord alone, is evident from the firstlings or firstborn in the representative church, which were all holy, because they had relation to the Lord, who alone is the "firstborn." Love and the faith thence derived are the "firstborn." All love is of the Lord, and not one whit of it is of man, therefore the Lord alone is the "firstborn." This was represented in the ancient churches by the firstborn of man and of beast being sacred to Jehovah (Exod. 13:2, 12, 15); and by the tribe of Levi, which in the internal sense signifies love-though Levi was born after Reuben and Simeon who in the internal sense signify faith- being accepted instead of all the firstborn, and constituting the priesthood (Num. 3:40-45; 8:14-20). Of the Lord as the firstborn of all, with respect to His human essence, it is thus written in David:--

He shall call Me, My Father, My God, and the rock of My salvation. I will also make Him My firstborn, high above the kings of the earth (Ps. 89:26, 27).

And in John:--

Jesus Christ the firstborn of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth (Rev. 1:5).

Observe that the firstborn of worship signify the Lord, and the firstborn of the church, faith.

AC 353. By "fat" is signified the celestial itself, which is also of the Lord. The celestial is all that which is of love. Faith also is celestial when it is from love. Charity is the celestial. All the good of charity is the celestial. All these were represented by the various kinds of fat in the sacrifices, and distinctively by that which covered the liver, or the caul; by the fat upon the kidneys; by the fat covering the intestines, and upon the intestines; which were holy, and were offered up as burnt-offerings upon the altar (Exod. 29:13, 22; Lev. 3:3, 4, 14; 4:8, 9, 19, 26, 31, 35; 8:16, 25). They were therefore called the "bread of the offering by fire for a rest unto Jehovah" (Lev. 3:14, 16). For the same reason the Jewish people were forbidden to eat any of the fat of the beasts by what is called "a perpetual statute throughout your generations" (Lev. 3:17; 7:23, 25). This was because that church was such that it did not even acknowledge internal, much less celestial things.

[2] That "fat" signifies celestial things, and the goods of charity, is evident in the Prophets; as in Isaiah:--

Wherefore do ye weigh silver for that which is not bread? and your labor for that which satisfieth not? Attend ye diligently unto Me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness (Isaiah 55:2).

And in Jeremiah:--

I will fill the soul of the priests with fatness, and My people shall be satiated with My good (Jeremiah 31:14),

where it is very evident that fatness is not meant, but celestial spiritual good. So in David:--

They are filled with the fatness of Thy house, and Thou makest them drink of the river of Thy deliciousnesses. For with Thee is the fountain of lives; in Thy light we see light (Ps. 36:8, 9).

Here " fatness" and the "fountain of lives" signify the celestial, which is of love; and the "river of deliciousnesses," and "light," the spiritual, which is of faith from love. Again in David:--

My soul shall be satiated with marrow and fatness, and my mouth shall praise Thee with lips of songs (Ps. 63:5),

where in like manner "fat" denotes the celestial, and "lips of songs" the spiritual. That it is what is celestial is very evident, because it will satiate the soul. For the same reason the first fruits, which were the firstborn of the earth, are called "fat" (Num. 18:12).

[3] As celestial things are of innumerable genera, and still more innumerable species, they are described in general in the song which Moses recited before the people:--

Butter of kine, and milk of the flock, with fat of lambs and of rams, the sons of Bashan, and of goats, with the fat of the kidneys of wheat; and thou shalt drink the blood of the grape, unmixed (Deut. 32:14).

It is impossible for any one to know the signification of these expressions except from the internal sense. Without the internal sense, such expressions as the "butter of kine," the "milk of sheep," the "fat of lambs," the "fat of rams and goats," the "sons of Bashan," the "fat of the kidneys of wheat," and the "blood of the grape," would be words and nothing more, and yet they all and each signify genera and species of celestial things.

AC 354. That "Jehovah looked to Abel, and to his offering," signifies that the things of charity, and all worship grounded therein, are pleasing to the Lord, has been explained before, as regards both "Abel," and his "offering."

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