Spiritual Meaning of GENESIS 5:3-5
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AC 481. Verse 3. And Man lived a hundred and thirty years, and begat into his likeness, after his image, and called his name Seth. By a "hundred and thirty years" there is signified the time before the rise of a new church, which, being not very unlike the Most Ancient, is said to be born "into its likeness, and after its image;" but the term "likeness" has relation to faith, and "image" to love. This church was called "Seth."

AC 482. What the "years," and the "numbers of years," which occur in this chapter, signify in the internal sense, has hitherto been unknown. Those who abide in the literal sense suppose them to be secular years, whereas from this to the twelfth chapter there is nothing historical according to its appearance in the literal sense, but all things in general and every single thing in particular contain other matters. And this is the case not only with the names, but also with the numbers. In the Word frequent mention is made of the number three, and also of the number seven, and wheresoever they occur they signify something holy or most sacred in regard to the states which the times or other things involve or represent; and they have the same signification in the least intervals of time as in the greatest, for as the parts belong to the whole, so the least things belong to the greatest, for there must be a likeness in order that the whole may properly come forth from the parts, or the greatest from its leasts. Thus in Isaiah:--

Now hath Jehovah spoken, saying, within three years, as the years of a hireling, and the glory of Moab shall be rendered worthless (Isaiah 16:14).


Thus hath the Lord said unto me, Within a year, according to the years of a hireling, and all the glory of Kedar shall be consumed (Isaiah 21:16),

where both the least and the greatest intervals are signified. in Habakkuk:--

Jehovah, I have heard Thy renown, and was afraid; O Jehovah, revive Thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make known (Habakkuk 3:2),

where the "midst of the years" signifies the Lord‘s advent. In lesser intervals it signifies every coming of the Lord, as when man is being regenerated; in greater, when the church of the Lord is arising anew. It is likewise called the "year of the redeemed," in Isaiah:--

The day of vengeance is in My heart, and the year of My redeemed is come (Isaiah 63:4).

So also the thousand years in which Satan was to be bound (Rev. 20:2, 7), and the thousand years of the first resurrection (Rev. 20:4, 5, 6), by no means signify a thousand years, but their states; for as "days" are used to express states, as shown above, so also are "years," and the states are described by the number of the years. Hence it is evident that the ties in this chapter also involve states; for every church was in a different state of perception from the rest, according to the differences of genius, hereditary and acquired.

AC 483. By the names which follow: "Seth," "Enosh," "Kenan," "Mahalalel," "Jared," "Enoch," " Methuselah," "Lamech," "Noah," are signified so many churches, of which the first and principal was called "Man." The chief characteristic of these churches was perception, wherefore the differences of the churches of that time were chiefly differences of perception. I may here mention concerning perception, that in the universal heaven there reigns nothing but a perception of good and truth, which is such as cannot be described, with innumerable differences, so that no two societies enjoy similar perception; the perceptions there existing are distinguished into genera and species, and the genera are innumerable, and the species of each genus are likewise innumerable; but concerning these, of the Lord’s Divine mercy hereafter. Since then there are innumerable genera, and innumerable species in each genus, and still more innumerable varieties in the species, it is evident how little-so little that it is almost nothing the world at this day knows concerning things celestial and spiritual, since they do not know even what perception is, and if they are told, they do not believe that any such thing exists; and so with other things also. The Most Ancient Church represented the celestial kingdom of the Lord, even as to the generic and specific differences of perception; but whereas the nature of perception, even in its most general aspect, is at this day utterly unknown, any account of the genera and species of the perceptions of these churches would necessarily appear dark and strange. They were at that time distinguished into houses, families, and nations, and contracted marriage within their houses and families, in order that genera and species of perceptions might exist, and be derived from the parents precisely as are the propagations of native character; wherefore those who were of the Most Ancient Church dwell together in heaven.

AC 484. That the church called "Seth" was very nearly like the Most Ancient Church, is evident from its being said that the man begat in his likeness, according to his image, and called his name Seth; the term "likeness" having relation to faith, and "image" to love; for that this church was not like the Most Ancient Church with regard to love and its derivative faith, is plain from its being said just before, "Male and female created He them, and blessed them, and called their name Man," by which is signified the spiritual man of the sixth day, as was said above, so that the likeness of this man was to the spiritual man of the sixth day, that is, love was not so much the principal, but still faith was conjoined with love.

AC 485. That a different church is here meant by "Seth" from that which was described above (Genesis 4:25), may be seen at (n. 435). That churches of different doctrine were called by the same name, is evident from those which in the foregoing chapter (Genesis 4:17, 18) were called "Enoch" and "Lamech," while here other churches are in like manner called "Enoch" and "Lamech" (Genesis 5:21, 30).

AC 486. Verse 4. And the days of Man after he begat Seth were eight hundred years, and he begat sons and daughters. By "days" are signified times and states in general; by "years," times and states in special; by "sons and daughters" are signified the truths and goods which they perceived.

AC 487. That by "days" are signified times and states in general, was shown in the first chapter, where the "days" of creation have no other signification. In the Word it is very usual to call all time "days," as is manifestly the case in the present verse, and in those which follow (verses 5, 8, 11, 14, 17, 20, 23, 27, 31); and therefore the states of the times in general are likewise signified by "days;" and when "years" are added, then by the seasons of the years are signified the qualities of the states, thus states in special. The most ancient people had their numbers, by which they signified various things relating to the church, as the numbers " three," " seven," "ten," "twelve," and many that were compounded of these and others, whereby they described the states of the church; wherefore these numbers contain arcana which would require much time to explain. It was an account or reckoning of the states of the church. The same thing occurs in many parts of the Word, especially the prophetical. In the rites of the Jewish Church also there were numbers, both of times and measures, as for instance in regard to the sacrifices, meat-offerings, oblations, and other things, which everywhere signify holy things, according to their application. The things here involved, therefore, in the number "eight hundred," and in the next verse, in the number "nine hundred and thirty," and in the numbers of years in the verses following-namely, the changes of state of their church as applied to their own general state-are too many to be recounted. In a future part of this work, of the Lord‘s Divine mercy we shall take occasion to show what the simple numbers up to " twelve" signify, for until the signification of these is known, it would he impossible to apprehend the signification of the compound numbers.

AC 488. That "days" signify states in general, and "years" states in special, appears from the Word, as in Ezekiel:--

Thou hast caused thy days to draw near, and art come even unto thy years (Ezekiel 22:4),

speaking of those who commit abominations, and fill up the measure of their sins, of whose state in general are predicated "days," and in special "years." So in David:--

Thou shalt add days to the days of the king, and his years as of generation and generation (Ps. 61:6),

speaking of the Lord and of His kingdom, where also "days" and "years" signify the state of His kingdom. Again:--

I have considered the days of old, the years of the ages (Ps. 77:5),

where "days of old" signify states of the Most Ancient Church, and "years of the ages," states of the Ancient Church. In Isaiah:--

The day of vengeance is in My heart, and the year of My redeemed is come (Isaiah 63:4),

speaking of the last times, where the "day of vengeance" signifies a state of damnation, and the "year of the redeemed" a state of blessedness. Again:--

To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn (Isaiah 61:2),

where both "days" and "years" signify states. In Jeremiah:--

Renew our days as of old (Lam. 5:21),

where state is plainly meant.

[2] In Joel:--

The day of Jehovah cometh, for it is nigh at hand, a day of darkness and of thick darkness, a day of cloud and of obscurity; there hath not been ever the like, neither shall be after it, even to the years of generation and generation (Joel 2:1, 2),

where "day" signifies a state of darkness and of thick darkness, of cloud and of obscurity, with each one in particular, and with all in general. In Zechariah:--

I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day; in that day shall ye cry a man to his companion under the vine, and under the fig-tree (Zechariah 3:9, 10).

And in another place:--

It shall be one day which is known to Jehovah, not day nor night, and it shall come to pass that at evening time it shall be light (Zechariah 14:7),

where it is plain that state is meant, for it is said that there shall be a day that is "neither day nor night, at evening time it shall be light." The same appears from expressions in the Decalogue:--

Honor thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be prolonged, and that it may be well with thee upon the ground (Deut. 5:16 25:15),

where to have the "days prolonged" does not signify length of life, but a happy state.

[3] In the literal sense it must needs appear as if "day" signifies time, but in the internal sense it signifies state. The angels, who are in the internal sense, do not know what time is, for they have no sun and moon that distinguish times; consequently they do not know what days and years are, but only what states are and the changes thereof; and therefore before the angels, who are in the internal sense, everything relating to matter, space, and time disappears, as in the literal sense of this passage in Ezekiel:--

The day is near, even the day of Jehovah is near, a day of cloud; it shall be the time of the nations (Ezekiel 30:3),

and of this in Joel:--

Alas for the day for the day of Jehovah is at hand, and as vastation shall it come (Joel 1:15),

where a "day of cloud" signifies a cloud, or falsity; the "day of the nations" signifies the nations, or wickedness; the "day of Jehovah" signifies vastation. When the notion of time is removed, there remains the notion of the state of the things which existed at that time. The case is the same with regard to the "days" and "years" that are so often mentioned in this chapter.

AC 489. That by "sons and daughters" are signified the truths and goods which they had a perception of, and indeed by "sons" truths, and by "daughters" goods, is evident from many passages in the Prophets; for in the Word, as also in olden time, the conceptions and births of the church are called " sons and daughters," as in Isaiah:--

The Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising; lift up thine eyes round about and see; all they gather themselves together and come to thee; thy sons shall come from far, and thy daughters shall be nursed at thy side; then thou shalt see and flow together, and thy heart shall be amazed, and shall be enlarged (Isaiah 60:3, 4, 5),

in which passage "sons" signify truths, and of "daughters" goods.

[2] In David:--

Deliver me and rescue me from the hand of the sons of the stranger, whose mouth speaketh vanity; that our sons may be as plants grown up in their youth, that our daughters may be as corner-stones hewn in the form of a temple (Ps. 44:11, 12),

where the "sons of the stranger" signify spurious truths, or falsities; "our sons" signify doctrinals of truth; "our daughters," doctrinals of good.

[3] In Isaiah:--

I will say to the north, Give up, and to the south, Keep not back; bring My sons from far, and My daughters from the ends of the earth; bring forth the blind people, and they shall have eyes; the deaf, and they shall have ears (Isaiah 43:6, 8),

in which passage "sons" signify truths; "daughters," goods; the "blind," those who would see truths; and the "deaf," those who would obey them.

[4] In Jeremiah:--

Shame hath devoured the labor of our fathers from our youth; their flocks, their herds, their sons, and their daughters (Jeremiah 3:24),

where "sons" and "daughters" signify truths and goods. That "children" and "sons" signify truths, is plain from Isaiah:--

Jacob shall not now be ashamed, neither shall his face now wax pale; for when he shall see his children the work of My hands in the midst of him, they shall sanctify My name, and shall sanctify the Holy One of Jacob, and shall fear the God of Israel; they also that erred in spirit shall know understanding (Isaiah 29:22, 23, 24),

where the "Holy One of Jacob, the God of Israel," signifies the Lord; "children" signify the regenerate, who have the understanding of good and truth, as is indeed explained.

[5] Again:--

Sing, O barren, thou that didst not bear, for more are the sons of the desolate than the sons of the married wife (Isaiah 54:1),

where the "sons of the desolate" signify the truths of the primitive Church, or that of the Gentiles; the "sons of the married wife," the truths of the Jewish Church.

[6] In, Jeremiah:--

My tent is laid waste and all My cords are plucked out; My sons are gone forth of Me, and are not (Jeremiah 10:20),

where "sons" signify truths. Again:--

His sons shall be as aforetime, and their congregation shall be established before Me (Jeremiah 30:20),

where "sons" signify the truths of the Ancient Church. In Zechariah:--

I will stir up thy sons, O Zion, with thy sons, O Javan, and make thee as the sword of a mighty man (Zechariah 9:13),

signifying the truths of the faith of love.

AC 490. In the Word "daughters" frequently denote goods; as in David:--

Kings’ daughters were among thy precious ones; at thy right hand doth stand the queen in the best gold of Ophir; the daughter of Tyre with a gift; the king‘s daughter is all glorious within of eyelet work of gold is her raiment; instead of thy fathers shall be thy sons (Ps. 45:10-17),

where the good and beauty of love and faith are described by the "daughter." Hence churches are called "daughters" by virtue of goods, as the "daughter of Zion" and the "daughter of Jerusalem" (Isa. 37:22); they are also called "daughters of My people" (Isa. 22:4), the "daughter of Tarshish" (Isa. 23:10), the "daughter of Sidon" (Isaiah 23:12), and "daughters in the field" (Ezek. 26:6, 8).

AC 491. The same things are signified by "sons" and "daughters" in this chapter (verses 4, 7, 10, 13, 16, 19, 26, 30), but such as is the church, such are the "sons and daughters," that is, such are the goods and truths; the truths and goods here spoken of are such as were distinctly perceived, because they are predicated of the Most Ancient Church, the principal and parent of all the other and succeeding churches.

AC 492. Verse 5. And all the days that Man lived were nine hundred and thirty years, and he died. By "days" and "years" are here signified times and states, as above; by "Man’s dying" is signified that such perception no longer existed.

AC 493. That by "days" and "years" are signified times and states needs no further explication, except to say that in the world there must needs be times and measures, to which numbers may be applied because they are in the ultimates of nature; but whenever they are applied in the Word, the numbers of the days and years, and also of the measures, have a signification abstractedly from the times and measures, in accordance with the signification of the number; as where it is said that there are six days of labor, and that the seventh is holy, of which above; that the jubilee should be proclaimed every forty-ninth year, and should be celebrated in the fiftieth; that the tribes of Israel were twelve, and the apostles of the Lord the same; that there were seventy elders, and as many disciples of the Lord; and so in many other instances where the numbers have a special signification abstractedly from the things to which they are applied; and when thus abstracted, then it is states that are signified by the numbers.

AC 494. That he "died," signifies that there was no longer such perception, is evident from the signification of the word "die," which is, that a thing ceases to be such as it has been. This in John:--

Unto the angel of the church in Sardis write, These things saith He that hath the seven spirits, and the seven stars; I know thy works, that thou art said to live, but art dead; be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die; for I have not found thy works perfect before God (Rev. 3:1, 2).

In Jeremiah:--

I will cast out thy mother that bare thee, into another country where ye were not begotten, and there shall ye die (Jeremiah 22:26),

where "mother" signifies the church. For as we have said, the case with the church is that it decreases and degenerates, and loses its pristine integrity, chiefly by reason of the increase of hereditary evil, for every succeeding parent adds new evil to that which he has inherited. All the actual evil in the parents puts on a kind of nature, and when it often recurs, becomes natural to them, and is added to their hereditary evil, and is transmitted into their children, and so to posterity. In this way the hereditary evil is immensely increased in the descendants. That this is so is evident from the fact that the evil dispositions of children are exactly like those of their progenitors. Quite false is the opinion of those who think that there is no hereditary evil except that which they allege to have been implanted in us from Adam (n. 313). The truth is that every one makes hereditary evil by his own actual sins, and adds it to the evils that he has inherited, and in this way it accumulates, and remains in all the descendants, nor is it abated except in those who are being regenerated by the Lord. In every church this is the principal cause of degeneration, and it was so in the Most Ancient Church.

AC 495. How the Most Ancient Church decreased cannot appear unless it be known what perception is, for it was a perceptive church, such as at this day does not exist. The perception of a church consists in this, that its members perceive from the Lord what is good and true, like the angels; not so much what the good and truth of civic society is, but the good and truth of love to the Lord and of faith in Him. From a confession of faith that is confirmed by the life it can be seen what perception is, and whether it has any existence.

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