Spiritual Meaning of GENESIS 4:8
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AC 366. Verse 8. And Cain spake to Abel his brother; and it came to pass when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him. "Cain spake to Abel" signifies an interval of time. "Cain," as before stated, signifies faith separated from love; and "Abel" charity, the brother of faith, on which account he is here twice called his "brother." A "field" signifies whatever is of doctrine. "Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him," signifies that separated faith extinguished charity.

AC 367. It is unnecessary to confirm these things by similar passages from the Word, except so far as to prove that charity is the "brother" of faith, and that a "field" signifies whatever is of doctrine. That charity is the "brother" of faith is evident to every one from the nature or essence of faith. This brotherhood was represented by Esau and Jacob, and was the ground of their dispute about the birthright and the consequent dominion. It was also represented by Pharez and Zarah, the sons of Tamar by Judah (Gen. 38:28, 29, 30); and by Ephraim and Manasseh (Gen. 48:13, 14); and in both of these, as well as in other similar cases, there is a dispute about the primogeniture and the consequent dominion. For both faith and charity are the offspring of the church. Faith is called a "man," as was Cain, in (verse 1) of this chapter, and charity is called a "brother," as in (Isa. 19:2; Jer. 13:14). The union of faith and charity is called "the covenant of brethren" (Amos 1:9). Similar to the signification of Cain and Abel, was that of Jacob and Esau, as just said; in that Jacob also was desirous of supplanting his brother Esau, as is evident also in Hosea:--

To visit upon Jacob his ways, according to his doings will He recompense him; he supplanted his brother in the womb (Hosea 12:2, 3).

But that Esau, or the charity represented by Esau, should nevertheless at length have the dominion, appears from the prophetic prediction of their father Isaac:--

By thy sword shalt thou live, and shalt serve thy brother; and it shall come to pass, when thou hast the dominion, that thou shalt break his yoke from off thy neck (Gen. 27:40).

Or what is the same, the Church of the Gentiles, or new church, is represented by Esau, and the Jewish Church is represented by Jacob; and this is the reason for its being so often said that the Jews should acknowledge the Gentiles as brethren; and in the Church of the Gentiles, or primitive church, all were called brethren, from charity. Such as hear the Word and do it are likewise called brethren by the Lord (Luke 8:21); those who hear are such as have faith; those who do are such as have charity; but those who hear, or say that they have faith, and do not, or have not charity, are not brethren, for the Lord likens them unto fools (Matt. 7:24, 26).

AC 368. That a "field" signifies doctrine, and consequently whatever belongs to the doctrine of faith and charity, is evident from the Word, as in Jeremiah:--

O My mountain in the field, I will give thy possessions (facultates) and all thy treasures for a spoil (Jeremiah 17:3).

In this passage "field" signifies doctrine; "possessions" and "treasures" denote the spiritual riches of faith, or the things that belong to the doctrine of faith. In the same:--

Shall the snow of Lebanon fail from the rock of My field? (Jeremiah 18:14).

It is declared concerning Zion, when destitute of the doctrine of faith, that she shall be "plowed like a field" (Jer. 26:18; Micah 3:12). In Ezekiel:--

He took of the seed of the land, and set it in a field of sowing (Ezekiel 17:5),

treating of the church and of its faith; for doctrine is called a "field" from the seed in it. In the same:--

And let all the trees of the field know that I Jehovah bring down the high tree (Ezekiel 17:24).

In Joel:--

The field is laid waste, the ground mourneth, for the corn is wasted, the new wine is dried up, the oil languisheth, the husbandmen are ashamed, the harvest of the field is perished, all the trees of the field are withered (Joel 1:10, 11, 12),

where the "field" signifies doctrine, "trees" knowledges, and "husbandmen" worshipers. In David:--

The field shall exult and all that is therein; then shall all the trees of the forest sing (Ps. 96:12),

where it is perfectly evident that the field cannot exult, nor the trees of the forest sing; but things that are in man, which are the knowledges of faith. In Jeremiah:--

How long shall the land mourn, and the herb of every field wither? (Jeremiah 12:4),

where it is also evident that neither the land nor the herbs of the field can mourn; but that the expressions relate to some thing in man while in a state of vastation. A similar passage occurs in Isaiah:--

The mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands (Isaiah 55:12).

The Lord also in His prediction concerning the consummation of the age calls the doctrine of faith a "field:"--

Then shall two be in the field, the one shall be taken and the other left (Matt. 24:40; Luke 17:36),

where by a "field" is meant the doctrine of faith, both true and false. As a "field" signifies doctrine, whoever receives any seed of faith, whether a man, the church, or the world, is also called a "field."

AC 369. From this then it follows that the words "Cain rose up against his brother Abel, and slew him, when they were in the field together," denote that while both faith and charity were from the doctrine of faith, yet faith separate from love could not but disregard and thereby extinguish charity; as is the case at the present day with those who maintain that faith alone saves, without any work of charity, for in this very supposition they extinguish charity, although they know and confess with their lips that faith is not saving unless there is love.

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