Spiritual Meaning of GENESIS 6:6
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AC 586a. Verse 6. And it repented Jehovah that He made man on the earth, and it grieved Him at His heart. That He "repented," signifies mercy; that He "grieved at the heart," has a like signification; to "repent" has reference to wisdom; to "grieve at the heart" to love.

AC 587. That it repented Jehovah that He made man on the earth signifies mercy, and that " He grieved at the heart" has a like signification, is evident from this, that Jehovah never repents, because He foresees all things from eternity both in general and in particular; and when He made man, that is, created him anew, and perfected him till he became celestial, He also foresaw that in process of time he would become such as is here described, and because He foresaw this He could not repent. This appears plainly from what Samuel said:--

The invincible one of Israel doth not lie, nor repent, for He is not a man that He should repent (1 Sam. 15:29).

And in Moses:--

God is not a man that He should lie, or the son of man that He should repent; hath He said, and shall He not do? or hath He spoken, and shall He not make it good? (Num. 23:19).

But to " repent" signifies to be merciful. The mercy of Jehovah, or of the Lord, includes everything that is done by the Lord toward mankind, who are in such a state that the Lord pities them, each one according to his state; thus He pities the state of him whom He permits to be punished, and pities him also to whom He grants the enjoyment of good; it is of mercy to be punished, because mercy turns all the evil of punishment into good; and it is of mercy to grant the enjoyment of good, because no one merits anything that is good; for all mankind are evil, and of himself every one would rush into hell, wherefore it is of mercy that he is delivered thence; nor is it anything but mercy, inasmuch as He has need of no man. Mercy has its name from the fact that it delivers man from miseries and from hell; thus it is called mercy in respect to mankind, because they are in such a state of misery, and it is the effect of love toward them all, because all are so.

AC 588. But it is predicated of the Lord that He "repents," and " is grieved at heart," because there appears to be such a feeling in all human mercy, so that what is said here of the Lord’s " repenting" and "grieving," is spoken according to the appearance, as in many other passages in the Word. What the mercy of the Lord is none can know, because it infinitely transcends the understanding of man; but what the mercy of man is we all know to be to repent and grieve;and unless a man were to form his idea of mercy according to his own apprehension, he could not have any conception of it, and thus he could not be instructed; and this is the reason why human properties are often predicated of the attributes of Jehovah or the Lord, as that Jehovah or the Lord punishes, leads into temptation, destroys, and is angry; when yet He never punishes any one, never leads any into temptation, never destroys any, and is never angry. But as even such things as these are predicated of the Lord, it follows that repentance also and grief may be predicated of Him; for the predication of the one follows from that of the other, as plainly appears from the following passages in the Word.

[2] In Ezekiel:--

Mine anger shall be consummated, I will make my wrath to rest, and it shall repent Me (Ezekiel 5:13).

Here, because "anger" and "wrath" are predicated, " repentance" is predicated also. In Zechariah:--

As I thought to do evil when your fathers provoked Me to anger, saith Jehovah Zebaoth, and it repented Me not, so again I will think in those days to do good unto Jerusalem and to the house of Judah (Zechariah 8:14, 15).

Here it is said that Jehovah "thought to do evil," and yet He never thinks to do evil to any, but good to all and to every one. In Moses, when he prayed forbearance of the face of Jehovah:--

Turn from the wrath of Thine anger and repent Thee of this evil against Thy people; and Jehovah repented of the evil which He said He would do unto His people (Exod. 32:12, 14).

Here also the "wrath of anger" is attributed to Jehovah, and consequently "repentance." In Jonah, the king of Nineveh said:--

Who knoweth whether God will not turn and repent, and turn from the heat of His anger, that we perish not? (Jonah 3:9).

In like manner here "repentance" is predicated because "anger" is.

[3] In Hosea:--

My heart is turned within me My repentings are kindled together; I will not execute the wrath of Mine anger (Hosea 11:8, 9);

where likewise it is said of the heart that" repentings were kindled," just as in the passage we are considering it is said that He "grieved at heart" "Repentings" plainly denote great mercy. So in Joel:--

Turn unto Jehovah your God; for He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and plenteous in mercy, and repenteth of the evil (Joel 2:13)

where also to "repent" manifestly denotes mercy. In Jeremiah:--

If so be they will hearken, and turn every man from his evil way, and it repent Me of the evil (Jeremiah 26:3);

signifying to have mercy. Again:--

If that nation turn from their evil, it shall repent Me of the evil (Jeremiah 18:8);

where also to "repent" denotes to have mercy provided they would turn. For it is man who turns the Lord‘s mercy away from himself: the Lord never turns it away from man.

AC 589. From these and many other passages it is evident that the Word was spoken according to the appearances with man. Whoever therefore desires to confirm false principles by the appearances according to which the Word was spoken, can do so by passages without number. But it is one thing to confirm false principles by the Word, and another to believe in simplicity what is in the Word. He who confirms false principles, first assumes a principle which he will not at all recede from, nor in the least yield, but scrapes together and accumulates confirmations wherever he can, thus also from the Word, until he so strongly persuades himself that he can no longer see the truth. But he who simply or with simple heart believes, does not first assume principles, but thinks that because the Lord has thus said it is true; and if instructed from other sayings of the Word how it is to be understood, he acquiesces and rejoices in his heart. Even the man who in simplicity believes that the Lord is angry, punishes, repents, and grieves, and so believing is afraid of evil and does good, takes no harm; for this belief causes him to believe also that the Lord sees everything; and being in such a belief he is afterwards enlightened in other matters of faith, if not before, then in the other life. Very different is the case with those who in agreement with a foul love of self or of the world persuade themselves to believe certain things that are deduced from the principles they have already adopted.

AC 590. That "repenting" has reference to wisdom, and "grieving at heart," to love, cannot be explained to human apprehension, save in accordance with the things that are with man, that is, by means of appearances. In every idea of thought in man there is something from the understanding and from the will, or from his thought and his love. Whatever idea does not derive anything from his will or love is not an idea, for otherwise than from his will he cannot think at all. There is a kind of marriage, perpetual and indissoluble, between the thought and the will, so that in the ideas of man’s thought there inhere or adhere the things that are of his will or his love. From this state of things in man it may as it were be known, or rather it seems possible to form some idea of what is contained in the Lord‘s mercy, namely, wisdom and love. Thus in the Prophets, especially in Isaiah, there are almost everywhere double expressions concerning everything; one involving what is spiritual, the other what is celestial. The spiritual of the Lord’s mercy is wisdom; the celestial is love.

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