Spiritual Meaning of GENESIS 6:3
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AC 572. Verse 3. And Jehovah said, My spirit shall not reprove man forever, for that he is flesh; and his days shall be a hundred and twenty years. By "Jehovah‘s saying My spirit shall not always reprove man," is signified that man would not be so led any longer; "for that he is flesh," signifies because he had become corporeal; "and his days shall be a hundred and twenty years," signifies that he ought to have remains of faith. It is also a prediction concerning a future church.

AC 573. That by Jehovah’s saying My spirit shall not forever reprove man is signified that man would not be so led any longer, is evident from what has gone before and from what follows; from what has gone before in that men had become such, through the immersion of the doctrinal things or truths of faith in cupidities, that they could no longer be reproved, that is, know what evil is; all capacity to perceive truth and good having been extinguished through their persuasions; so that they believed that only to be true that was in conformity with their persuasions; and in regard to what follows, that after the flood the man of the church became different, in that with him conscience succeeded in place of perception, through which he could be reproved. "Reproof by the spirit of Jehovah" therefore signifies an inward dictate, a perception, or a conscience; and the "spirit of Jehovah" signifies the influx of what is true and good; as also in Isaiah:--

I will not contend to eternity, neither will I be forever wroth, for the spirit would overwhelm before me, and the souls I have made (Isaiah 57:16).

AC 574. That "flesh" signifies that man had become corporeal, appears from the signification of "flesh" in the Word, where it is used to signify both every man in general, and also, specifically, the corporeal man. It is used to signify every man, in Joel:--

I will pour out My spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy (Joel 2:28),

where "flesh" signifies man, and "spirit" the influx of truth and good from the Lord. In David:--

Thou that hearest prayers, unto Thee shall all flesh come (Ps. 65:2),

where "flesh" denotes every man. In Jeremiah:--

Cursed is the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm (Jeremiah 17:5),

where "flesh" signifies man, and "arm" power. In Ezekiel:--

That all flesh may know (Ezekiel 21:4, 5).

In Zechariah:--

Be silent, all flesh, before Jehovah (Zechariah 2:13),

where "flesh" denotes every man.

[2] That it signifies specifically the corporeal man, is evident from Isaiah:--

The Egyptian is man and not God, and his horses are flesh and not spirit (Isaiah 31:3),

signifying that their memory-knowledge (scientificum) is corporeal; "horses" here and elsewhere in the Word denoting the rational. Again:--

He shall withdraw to the right hand, and shall be hungry; and he shall devour on the left hand, and they shall not be satisfied; they shall eat every one the flesh of his own arm (Isaiah 9:20),

signifying such things as are man‘s own, which are all corporeal. In the same:--

He shall consume from the soul, and even the flesh (Isaiah 10:18),

where "flesh" signifies corporeal things. Again:--

The glory of Jehovah shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together; the voice said, Cry; and he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass (Isaiah 40:5, 6),

"flesh" here signifies every man who is corporeal.

[3] In the same:--

In fire will Jehovah dispute, and with His sword with all flesh, and the slain of Jehovah shall be multiplied (Isaiah 66:16),

where "fire’ signifies the punishment of cupidities; the "sword," the punishment of falsities and "flesh" the corporeal things of man. In David:--

God remembered that they were flesh, a breath that passeth away, and cometh not again (Ps. 78:39),

speaking of the people in the wilderness desiring flesh, because they were corporeal; their desiring flesh represented that they desired only things corporeal (Num. 11:32, 33, 34).

AC 575. That by the days of man being a hundred and twenty years is signified that he ought to have remains of faith, appears from what has been said in (Genesis 5:3, 4), concerning "days" and "years" signifying times and states; and also from the circumstance of the most ancient people from numbers variously compounded signifying states and changes of states in the church; but the nature of their ecclesiastical computation is now totally lost. Here in like manner numbers of years are mentioned, whose signification it is impossible for any one to understand, unless he be first acquainted with the hidden meaning of each particular number from "one" to "twelve," and so on. It plainly appears that they contain within them something else that is secret, for that men were to live a "hundred and twenty years" has no connection with the preceding part of the verse, nor did they live one hundred and twenty years, as is evident from the people after the flood (chapter 11),where it is said of Shem that "he lived after he begat Arphaxad five hundred years;" and that Arphaxad lived after be begat Selah "four hundred and three years;" and that Selah lived after he begat Eber "four hundred and three years;" and that Eber lived after he begat Peleg "four hundred and thirty years;" and that Noah lived after the flood "three hundred and fifty years" (Genesis 9:28), and so on. But what is involved in the number "one hundred and twenty," appears only from the meaning of "ten" and "twelve," which being multiplied together make one hundred and twenty, and from the signification of these component numbers it may be seen that "one hundred and twenty" signifies the remains of faith. The number "ten" in the Word, as also "tenths," signify and represent remains, which are preserved by the Lord in the internal man, and which are holy, because they are of the Lord alone; and the number "twelve" signifies faith, or all things relating to faith in one complex; the number therefore that is compounded of these, signifies the remains of faith

AC 576. That the number "ten," and also "tenths," signify remains, is evident from the following passages of the Word:--

Many houses shall be a desolation, great and fair, without an inhabitant; for ten acres of vineyard shall yield one bath, and the seed of a homer shall yield an ephah (Isa. 5:9, 10),

speaking of the vastation of things spiritual and celestial: "ten acres of vineyard making a bath," signifies that the remains of things spiritual were so few; and "the seed of a homer yielding an ephah," signifies that there were so few remains of things celestial. In the same:--

And many things are forsaken in the midst of the land, yet in it shall be a tenth part, and it shall return, and nevertheless it shall be consumed (Isaiah 6:12, 13);

where the "midst of the land" signifies the internal man; a "tenth part" signifies the smallness of the remains. In Ezekiel:--

Ye shall have balances of justice, and an ephah of justice, and a bath of justice: the ephah and the bath shall be of one measure, the bath to contain the tenth of a homer, and an ephah the tenth of a homer; the measure thereof shall be after the homer; and the ordinance of oil, a bath of oil, the tenth of a bath out of a kor, ten baths to the homer, for ten baths are a homer (Ezekiel 14:10, 11, 14);

in this passage the holy things of Jehovah are treated of by measures, whereby are signified the kinds of the holy things; by "ten" are here signified the remains of celestial and of the derivative spiritual things; for unless such holy arcana were contained herein, what could be the use or intent of describing so many measures determined by numbers, as is done in this and the former chapters in the same Prophet, where the subject is the heavenly Jerusalem and the New Temple?

[2] In Amos:--

The virgin Israel is fallen, she shall no more rise. Thus saith the Lord Jehovih, The city that went out a thousand shall have a hundred remaining, and that which went out a hundred, shall have ten remaining to the house of Israel (Amos 5:2, 3),

where, speaking of remains it is said that very little would be left, being only a "tenth part," or remains of remains. Again:-

I abhor the pride of Jacob and his palaces, and will shut up the city, and its fullness, and it shall come to pass if there shall be left ten men in one house they shall even die (Amos 6:8, 9),

speaking of remains which should scarcely remain. In Moses:--

An Ammonite or Moabite shall not come into the congregation of Jehovah, even the tenth generation of them shall not come into the congregation of Jehovah to eternity (Deut. 23:3);

"an Ammonite and a Moabite," signify the profanation of the celestial and spiritual things of faith, the "remains" of which are spoken of in what precedes.

[3] Hence it appears also that "tenths" represent remains. And so in Malachi:--

Bring ye all the tithes (tenths) into the treasure-house, that there may be booty in My house, and let them prove Me, bestir ye in this, if I will not open for you the cataracts of heaven, and pour you out a blessing (Malachi 3:10);

"that there may be booty in My house," signifies remains in the internal man, which are compared to "booty," because they are insinuated as by stealth among so many evils and falsities; and it is by these remains that all blessing comes. That all man‘s charity comes by the remains which are in the internal man, was also represented in the Jewish Church by this statute:

that when they had made an end of tithing all the tithes, they should give to the Levite, to the stranger, to the fatherless, and to the widow (Deut. 26:12).

[4] Inasmuch as remains are of the Lord alone, therefore the tenths are called "holiness to Jehovah"; as in Moses:--

All the tenths of the land, of the seed of the land, of the fruit of the tree, they are Jehovah’s, holiness to Jehovah: all the tenths of the herd and of the flock, whatsoever passeth under the (pastoral) rod, the tenth shall be holiness to Jehovah (Lev. 27:30, 31).

That the Decalogue consisted of "ten" precepts, or "ten" words, and that Jehovah wrote them on tables (Deut. 10:4), signifies remains, and their being written by the hand of Jehovah signifies that remains are of the Lord alone; their being in the internal man was represented by the tables.

AC 577. That the number "twelve" signifies faith, or the things of love and the derivative faith in one complex, might also be confirmed by many passages from the Word, as from the "twelve" sons of Jacob and their names, the "twelve" tribes of Israel, and the Lord‘s "twelve" apostles; but concerning these of the Lord’s Divine mercy hereafter, especially in Genesis 29 and 30.

AC 578. From these numbers alone it is evident what the Word of the Lord contains in its bosom and interior recesses, and how many arcana are concealed therein which do not at all appear to the naked eye. And so it is everywhere: there are like things in every word.

AC 579. That with the antediluvians here treated of there were few and almost no remains, will be manifest from what, of the Lord‘s Divine mercy, will be said of them hereafter; and as no remains could be preserved among them, it is here foretold of the new church called "Noah" that it should have remains; concerning which also, of the Lord’s Divine mercy hereafter.

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