Spiritual Meaning of GENESIS 41:8
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AC 5220. Verse 8. And it came to pass in the morning that his spirit was troubled; and he sent and called all the magicians of Egypt, and all the wise men thereof; and Pharaoh told them his dream; and no one interpreted these things to Pharaoh. "And it came to pass in the morning," signifies in this new state; "that his spirit was troubled," signifies disturbance; "and he sent and called all the magicians of Egypt, and all the wise men thereof," signifies in consulting the interior as well as the exterior memory-knowledges; "and Pharaoh told them his dream," signifies about things to come; "and no one interpreted these things to Pharaoh," signifies that it was not known what would happen.

AC 5221. And it came to pass in the morning. That this signifies in this new state, is evident from the signification of "it came to pass," or "it was," as involving what is new (n. 4979, 4987); and from the signification of the "morning," as being a state of enlightenment (n. 3458, 3723). This is that new state which is meant, in regard to which see just above (n. 5218). This state and its quality are treated of here, showing that there was disturbance therein by reason of obscurity regarding the things that were happening. But as regards the quality of this state scarcely anyone is able to know anything unless he is in a spiritual sphere and at the same time pays attention to the things that are taking place within him. Otherwise he cannot even know what it is to be generally enlightened, and particularly enlightened, nor even what it is to be enlightened at all, still less that there is a disturbance at first in a general state of enlightenment, and that there is no quiet until the time when truths from good are replaced in their order. How the case herein is, is clearly perceived by the angels, and also by good spirits, because they are in a spiritual sphere. To be wise in such subjects, and to think about them, is delightful to them; but to the man who is in a natural sphere, and still more to one who is in a sensuous sphere, and yet more to one who is in a more grossly sensuous sphere from bodily and earthly things, such subjects are wearisome.

AC 5222. His spirit was troubled. That this signifies disturbance, is evident from the signification of "being troubled in spirit," as being to be disturbed. By "spirit" here, as occasionally elsewhere in the Word, is meant interior affection and thought, which also are the spirit of man. The ancients called these the spirit; but by the spirit they meant specifically the interior man that would live after the death of the body; while at this day "the spirit," used in this sense, means mere thought, and this without any subject other than the body in which it may be. This is because it is no longer believed that the interior man is the man himself, but that the interior man who is commonly called the soul or spirit is mere thought without a subject adapted thereto; and that consequently, being thought without a subject, it will be dissipated after the death of the body like something ethereal or flamy. This is what at the present day is understood by spirit," as when it is said "troubled in spirit," "sad in spirit," "glad in spirit," or "rejoice in spirit;" when yet it is the interior man himself that is called the spirit, and that is troubled, is sad, is glad, and rejoices, and that is a man in a form wholly human (though invisible to bodily sight) in which thought resides.

AC 5223. And he sent and called all the magicians of Egypt, and all the wise men thereof. That this signifies in consulting the interior as well as the exterior memory-knowledges, is evident from the signification of "magicians," as being in a good sense interior memory-knowledges; and from the signification of "wise men," as being exterior knowledges. The reason why the magicians and wise men of Egypt signified memory-knowledges, is that Egypt was one of the kingdoms in which the representative Ancient Church existed (n. 1238, 2385). But in Egypt attention was paid chiefly to the memory-knowledges of that church, which related to correspondences, representatives, and significatives; and by these knowledges were unfolded the things written in the books of the church, and that had place in their holy worship (n. 4749, 4964, 4966). Hence it came about that by "Egypt" were signified memory-knowledges in general (n. 1164, 1165, 1186, 1462), and also by "Pharaoh" its king. The chief among those who were skilled in and taught these knowledges were called "magi," or "magicians," and "wise men;" those who were skilled in mystical memory-knowledges were called "magicians," and those skilled in memory-knowledges not mystical were called "wise men; consequently those who taught interior memory-knowledges were called "magicians," and those who taught exterior memory-knowledges were called "wise men." For this reason it is that these knowledges are signified in the Word by "magicians" and "wise men." But after they began to misuse the interior memory-knowledges of the church, and to turn them into magic, then by "Egypt" began to be signified the memory-knowledge which perverts, and likewise by the "magicians" of Egypt and her "wise men."

[2] The magicians of that time knew such things as belong to the spiritual world, which they learned from the correspondences and representatives of the church; and therefore many of them were in communication with spirits, and in this way learned deceptive arts, by which they performed magic miracles. But those called "wise men" did not care for such things, but solved difficult problems and taught the causes of natural things. In such things as these the wisdom of that time chiefly consisted, and skill in them was called "wisdom," as is evident from what is related of Solomon in the first book of Kings:--

Solomons wisdom was multiplied above the wisdom of all the sons of the East, and above all the wisdom of the Egyptians, insomuch that he was wiser than all men, than Ethan the Ezrahite, and Heman and Calcol and Darda, the sons of Mahol. He spake three thousand proverbs; and his songs were a thousand and five. Moreover he spake of trees, from the cedars that are in Lebanon even unto the hyssop that springeth out of the wall; he spake also of beast and of fowl, and of creeping thing, and of fishes. Therefore there came of all peoples to hear the wisdom of Solomon from all kings of the earth who had heard of his wisdom (1 Kings 4:30).

And what is related of the queen of Sheba in the same Book:--

She came to try him with hard questions. And Solomon told her all her words, there was not a word hid from the king that he told her not (1 Kings 10:1, 3).

[3] From this it is plain what was called "wisdom" at that time, and who, not only in Egypt, but also elsewhere, as in Syria, Arabia, and Babylon, were called "wise;" but in the internal sense by the "wisdom of Egypt" nothing else is signified than the memory-knowledge of natural things; and by "magic" the memory-knowledge of spiritual things; thus by "wise men" are signified exterior memory-knowledges, by "magicians" interior memory-knowledges, and by "Egypt" memory-knowledge in general (n. 1164, 1165, 1186, 1462, 4749, 4964, 4966). By "Egypt" and her "wise men" nothing else was meant in Isaiah:--

The princes of Zoan are foolish, the counsel of the wise counselors of Pharaoh is become brutish; how is it said unto Pharaoh, I am the son of the wise, the son of the kings of antiquity? Where now are thy wise men? (Isa. 19:11, 12).

[4] That those were called "magicians," or "magi," who were in the knowledge of spiritual things, and also in revelations thence, is plain from the Magi who came from the east to Jerusalem, asking where He was that was born King of the Jews, and saying that they had seen His star in the east, and were come to worship Him (Matt. 2:1, 2). The same is also evident from Daniel, who is called the "prince of the magicians" (Dan. 4:9); and again:--

The queen said to king Belshazzar, There is a man in thy kingdom in whom is the spirit of the holy gods; and in the days of thy father light and understanding and wisdom, like the wisdom of the gods, was found in him; therefore the king Nebuchadnezzar, thy father, made him prince of the magicians, diviners, Chaldeans, and soothsayers (Dan. 5:11).


Among them all was none found like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah; for when they stood before the king, in every word of wisdom of understanding concerning which the king enquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and diviners that were in his realm (Dan. 1:19, 20).

[5] That in the opposite sense by "magicians," such as those mentioned in (Exodus 7:11, 22; 8:7, 18, 19; 9:11), are signified those who have perverted spiritual things and thereby have practiced magical arts, is known. For magic was nothing else than a perversion, and a perverted application, of such things as are of order in the spiritual world; from this came down magic. But such magic is at this day called natural, for the reason that anything above or beyond nature, is no longer recognized; and what is spiritual is denied, unless by it is understood an inner natural.

AC 5224. And Pharaoh told them his dream. That this signifies about things to come, is evident from the signification of a "dream," as being foresight, prediction, the event (n. 5091, 5092, 5104), thus things to come. How this stands in the internal sense is evident from the series of things. The subject treated of in this verse is the new state of the natural, when it is in obscurity because of truths having been banished from it, and that there is then disturbance in it in consulting memory-knowledges about things to come; for when such obscurity happens, the thought at once occurs, What will the event be?

[2] As during mans regeneration this is common in every such state, this state is here described in the internal sense; but such states are unknown at this day, both because few are being regenerated, and because those who are being regenerated do not reflect upon such things. At this day man cares not what is taking place within him, because external things possess his whole attention, and internal things have no importance to one who is wholly occupied with external things, that is, in whom they are the ends of life. Regarding this obscurity they would say, What are these matters to me, as there is no money or honor to be gained from them? Why should I think about the state of the soul, or the state of the internal man, whether it is in obscurity when truths have been banished, or in clearness when they have been replaced therein? What would it benefit me to know this? Whether there is any internal man is to me a matter of doubt, and also whether there is any other state of the soul than that which is of the body, nay, whether there is any soul that lives after death. Who has come back from the dead and declared it? So speaks the man of the church with himself at this day, and so he thinks when he hears or reads anything about the state of the internal man. From this it is plain why the things that are going on within man are at this day hidden and wholly unknown.

[3] Such an obscurity of the understanding never existed among the ancients. It was their wisdom to cultivate interior things, and thus to perfect the faculties of both understanding and will, and thereby to provide for the welfare of their soul. That the ancients gave their attention to things like these, is clear from their writings which are even now extant, and also from the desire of all to hear Solomon:--

Therefore there came of all peoples to hear the wisdom of Solomon, from all kings of the earth, who had heard of his wisdom (1 Kings 4:34);

and therefore came the queen of Sheba, who, from the bliss into which she came from hearing the wisdom of Solomon said, Blest are thy men, blest are these thy servants, who stand continually before thee, and hear thy wisdom (1 Kings 10:8). Who at this day would call himself blest for this reason?

AC 5225. And no one interpreted these things to Pharaoh. That this signifies that it was not known what would happen, is evident from the signification of "interpreting," as being to know what would happen (n. 5141). Hence "no one interpreted" denotes not to know; for in the internal sense "no one" is the negative of a thing, and thus what is not; for the idea of a person is turned in the internal sense into the idea of a thing as for instance the idea of a man, a husband, a woman, a wife, a son or daughter, a boy or maiden, is turned into the idea of truth or of good; and as above (n. 5223) the idea of a magician and wise man is turned into that of interior and exterior memory-knowledges. The reason of this is that in the spiritual world, or in heaven, not persons but things come into view, for persons limit the idea, and concentrate it upon something finite; whereas things do not limit and concentrate it, but extend it to the infinite, thus to the Lord. For this reason also, no person named in the Word is perceived in heaven, but in his stead the thing that is represented by that person; so also no people or nation is perceived, but only its quality. Nay, not even is any historic statement of the Word about a person, nation, or people, known in heaven; and consequently it is not known who Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, the Israelitish people, and the Jewish nation were, but it is there perceived what Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, the Israelitish people, and the Jewish nation denote; and the same in all other cases. Thus the angelic speech is without limitation, and is also relatively universal.

GENESIS 41:8    previous  -  next  -  text  -  summary  -  Genesis  -  Full Page

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