Spiritual Meaning of GENESIS 49:3-4
AC 6341. Verses 3, 4. Reuben, my firstborn, thou art my strength, and the beginning of my forces, excellent in eminence, and excellent in power (valore). Light as water, thou shalt not excel, because thou wentest up on thy fathers bed, then profanedst thou it; he went up on my couch. "Reuben, my firstborn," signifies faith which is apparently in the prior place; "thou art my strength," signifies power in good by means of faith; "and the beginning of my forces," signifies that through it is the first power in truth; "excellent in eminence, and excellent in power," signifies the glory and sovereignty thence derived; "light as water," signifies that faith alone has not such things; "thou shalt not excel," signifies that it has no glory or sovereignty; "because thou wentest up on thy father‘s bed," signifies because when separated from the good of charity it has a foul conjunction "then profanedst thou it," signifies that if conjoined with evil it is profane; "he went up on my couch," signifies because it has contaminated spiritual good in the natural.
AC 6342. Reuben, my firstborn. That this signifies faith which is apparently in the prior place, is evident from the representation of Reuben, as being faith in the understanding (n. 3861, 3866), and confession of the faith of the church in general (n. 4731, 4734, 4761); and from the signification of "firstborn," as being to be in the prior place (n. 3325); but that faith is in the prior place only apparently, may be seen above, (n. 3539, 3548, 3556, 3563, 3570, 3576, 3603, 3701, 4925, 4926, 4928, 4930, 4977, 6256, 6269, 6272, 6273).
AC 6343. Thou art my strength. That this signifies power in good by means of faith, is evident from the representation of Reuben, who here is "thou," as being faith in the understanding (n. 6342); and from the signification of "strength," as being the power that is in good. As regards power, namely, the power of thinking and willing, of perceiving, of doing what is good, of believing, and of dissipating falsities and evils, it is all from good through truth; good is the principal, and truth is only the instrumental (n. 3563, 4931, 5623). That there is signified the power that is in good, is because "strength" signifies this power, whereas "forces" signify the power of truth; hence it is that by "the beginning of my forces," as presently follows, is signified the first power in truth; for the word by which "forces" are expressed in the original, is in the Word predicated of truth; but the word by which "strength" is expressed, is predicated of good.
 That the Word is holy, and in its interiors most holy, is very evident from the fact that in every detail of the Word there is the heavenly marriage, that is, the marriage of good and truth, thus heaven; and that in every detail of the inmost sense there is the marriage of the Lord’s Divine Human with His kingdom and church; nay, in the supreme sense there is the union of the Divine Itself and the Divine Human in the Lord. These most holy things are in every detail of the Word - a manifest proof that the Word has descended from the Divine. That this is so may be seen from the fact that where mention is made of good, mention is made of truth also; and where the internal is spoken of, the external also is spoken of. There are also words which constantly signify good, and words which constantly signify truth, and words which signify both good and truth; and if they do not signify them, still they are predicated of them, or involve them. From the predication and signification of these words it is plain that, as before said, in every detail there is the marriage of good and truth, that is, the heavenly marriage, and in the inmost and supreme sense the Divine marriage which is in the Lord, thus the Lord Himself.
 This appears everywhere, but not evidently except in passages where there are repetitions of the same thing, with only a change of words, as in this chapter, where it is said of Reuben, "Thou art my strength, and the beginning of my forces;" also, "excellent in eminence, and excellent in power." Here "strength" relates to good, and "forces" to truth; and "excellent in eminence" to truth, and "excellent in power" to good. So in the following verse, of Reuben: "Thou wentest up on thy father‘s bed; then thou profanedst it; he went up on my couch." So in what follows with respect to Simeon and Levi: "Cursed be their anger, for it was vehement, and their wrath, for it was hard; I will divide them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel" (verse 7); where "anger" signifies a turning away from good, and "wrath" a turning away from truth; and Jacob" is the external of the church, and "Israel" is its internal. Also with respect to Judah "Thy brethren shall celebrate thee; thy father’s sons shall bow down to thee" (verse 8). Again: "He binds his young ass unto the vine, and his ass‘s colt unto the choice vine; he washes his clothing in wine, and his covering in the blood of grapes" (verse 11). With respect to Zebulun: "He shall dwell at the haven of the seas, and he shall be at the haven of ships" (verse 13). With respect to Dan: "He shall be a serpent upon the way, an arrow-snake upon the path" (verse 17).
 Like things frequently occur in the Psalms and in the prophets, as in Isaiah: "Babel shall not be inhabited to eternity, neither shall it be inhabited even to generation and generation. Her time is near, and it shall come, and her days shall not be prolonged" (Isa 13:20, 22). Again:
"Seek ye from above in the book of Jehovah, and read ye; no one of these shall be missing, the one shall not long for the other; for with the mouth He hath commanded, and His spirit it hath gathered them. And the Same hath cast the lot for them, and the hand hath distributed to them by rule. They shall possess it even eternally, to generation and generation shall they dwell therein" (Isa. 34:16, 17);
and so in a thousand other passages. He who does not know that the expressions in the Word are significative of spiritual and celestial things, and that some are said of good, and some of truth, cannot but believe that such expressions are mere repetitions, said merely to fill up, and therefore in themselves useless; and from this it is that they who think wrongly about the Word, regard such expressions as ground for contempt; when yet the veriest Divine things are stored therein, namely, the heavenly marriage, which is heaven itself; and the Divine marriage, which is the Lord Himself. This sense is the "glory" in which the Lord is, and the literal sense is the "cloud" in which is this glory (Matt. 24:30; Luke 21:27) and (n. 2135a, 5922).
AC 6344. And the beginning of my forces. That this signifies that through it is the first power in truth, is evident from the signification of the "beginning of forces," as being the first power; and as "forces" are predicated of truth, it is the first power in truth that is signified, in like manner as in Isaiah:--
Jehovah giveth strength to the wearied one, and to him that hath no forces He multiplieth power (Isa. 40:29);
where "strength" is predicated of good, and "forces" of truth, and "power" of both. How it is to be understood that through faith there is power in good, and the first power in truth, which is signified by "Reuben, my firstborn, thou art my strength, and the beginning of my forces," shall be briefly told. All the power in the spiritual world is from good through truth. Without good, truth has no power whatever, for truth is like a body, and good is like the soul of this body, and in order that the soul may do anything, it must be by means of the body. Hence it is plain that truth without good has no power whatever, just as the body without the soul has no power; for the body is then a carcass, and so also is truth without good.
 then the faith of truth through good is first born, the power appears to be in truth. This power is what is called the "first power in truth through faith," and is signified by the "beginning of forces," as also elsewhere in the Word where "birthright" is treated of; as in David:--
He smote all the firstborn in Egypt, the beginning of forces in the tents of Ham (Ps. 78:51).
And in another place:--
He smote all the firstborn in their land, the beginning of all their forces (Ps. 105:36).
Also in Deuteronomy:--
He shall acknowledge the firstborn son of the hated one, to give him two parts of all that shall be found for him; in that he is the beginning of his forces, the right of the birthright is his (Deut. 21:17).
 As by the "firstborn" is signified in the genuine sense the good that is of charity, but in the sense according to the appearance the truth that is of faith (n. 3325, 4925, 4926, 4928, 4930), and as these two are the foundations of the church, therefore by the ancients the firstborn was called the "strength of the father, and the beginning of his forces." That such was the signification is plainly evident from the fact that every firstborn belonged to Jehovah or the Lord, and that in the stead of all the firstborn the tribe of Levi was accepted and the priesthood given to it.
 Scarcely anyone in this world can know what is the nature of the power that is in truth from good; but it is known to those who are in the other life; thus by revelation thence. They who are in truth from good, that is, in faith from charity, are in power through truth from good. In this power are all the angels, and from this the angels are called in the Word "powers;" for they are in the power of restraining evil spirits, one angel being able to restrain a thousand all at once. They exercise their power chiefly when with man, in defending him at times against many hells, and this in a thousand and a thousand ways.
 They have this power by means of the truth that is of faith from the good that is of charity; but as they have their faith from the Lord, it is the Lord alone who is the power in them. This power which is through faith from the Lord is meant by the Lord’s words to Peter:--
Upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give thee the keys of the kingdom of the heavens, and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in the heavens, and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in the heavens (Matt. 16:18, 19)
this was said to Peter, because by him was represented faith (n. 2760, 3750, 4738, 6000, 6073); and by "Peter," wherever in the Word he is called "Peter," as here, is signified in the internal sense, faith, and in the supreme sense the Lord as to faith.
AC 6345. Excellent in eminence, and excellent in power (valore). That this signifies that glory and sovereignty are thence derived, is evident from the signification of "excelling in eminence," is being glory, for he who is in eminence is in glory; and from the signification of "excelling in power," as being sovereignty, for he who is in power is in sovereignty. "Glory" in this passage has reference to the truth that is of faith (n. 5922), and "sovereignty" to the good that is of charity therefore it is said that hence is glory and sovereignty, namely, from the truth of faith and the good of charity.
AC 6346. Light as water. That this signifies that faith alone has not such things, namely, glory and sovereignty, is evident from the signification of "being light as water," as being to be of no weight or power. That faith alone is meant, that is, faith separated from charity, is plain from what follows about Reuben and Simeon and Levi; here also under these names faith separated or alone is treated of.
AC 6347. Thou shalt not excel. That this signifies that it has no glory or sovereignty, is evident from the signification of "not excelling," namely, in eminence and power, in that such faith has neither glory nor sovereignty.
AC 6348. Because thou wentest up on thy father‘s bed. That this signifies, because when separated from the good of charity it has a foul conjunction, is evident from the signification of "going up on a father’s bed," as being to have a foul conjunction, namely, that faith separated from the good of charity has this. For if faith in doctrine or in the understanding, here represented by Reuben, is not initiated into good and conjoined therewith, it is either dissipated and made null, or is initiated into and conjoined with what is evil and false, which is the foul conjunction that is signified, for it then becomes profane. That this is so may be seen from the fact that faith can have a dwelling-place nowhere else than in good, and if it has no dwelling-place there, it must either become null, or be conjoined with evil. This is very evident from those in the other life who have been in faith alone and in no charity, in that their faith is there dissipated; but if it has been conjoined with evil, their lot is with the profane.
 In the Word, "adulteries" in the internal sense signify adulterations of good, and "whoredoms" signify falsifications of truth (n. 2466, 3399); but the foul conjunctions called the forbidden degrees (Lev. 18:6-24), signify various kinds of profanation. That here also profanation is signified, is plain, for it is said "thou wentest up on thy father‘s bed, then profanedst thou it; he went upon my couch." That this means the profanation of good by faith separated, may be seen above (n. 4601), where this wicked deed of Reuben is treated of.
 With faith alone, or separated from charity, the case is this. If it is conjoined with evil (which takes place when anyone first believes the truth that is of faith, and especially when he first lives according to it, and afterward denies it and lives contrary to it), it then becomes profane; for thus the truth that is of faith and the good that is of charity are first inrooted in the interiors by means of doctrine and life, and afterward are called forth thence and conjoined with evil. In the other life the worst lot of all awaits the man with whom this takes place; for with such a man good cannot be separated from evil, and yet in the other life they are kept separate; neither has such a man any remains of good stored up in his interiors, because they have utterly perished in evil. The hell of such is to the left in front at a great distance, and those who are there appear to the angelic sight like skeletons, with scarcely any life. In order therefore to prevent the profanation of good and truth, a man who is such that he does not suffer himself to be regenerated (which is foreseen by the Lord) is withheld from faith and charity, and is permitted to be in evil and from this in falsity, for then he cannot profane. See what has been said and shown before about profanation, (n. 301-303, 571, 582, 593, 1001, 1008, 1010, 1059, 1327, 1328, 2051, 2426, 3398, 3399, 3402, 3489, 3898, 4289, 4601).
AC 6349. Then profanedst thou it. That this signifies that if conjoined with evil faith is profane, is evident from what has been said just above (n. 6348).
AC 6350. He went no on my couch. That this signifies that it contaminated spiritual good in the natural, is evident from the signification of "going up on a couch," as being to contaminate by profaning (n. 6348); and from the representation of Israel, on whose couch he went up, as being spiritual good in the natural (n. 6340). GENESIS 49:3-4 previous - next - text - summary - Genesis - Full Page
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