Spiritual Meaning of GENESIS 6:8
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AC 596. Verse 8. And Noah found grace in the eyes of Jehovah. By "Noah" is signified a new church. That he "found grace in the eyes of Jehovah," signifies that the Lord foresaw that the human race might thus be saved.

AC 597. By "Noah" is signified a new church, which is to be called the Ancient Church, for the sake of distinction between the Most Ancient Church, which was before the flood, and that which was after the flood. The states of these two churches were entirely different. The state of the Most Ancient Church was such that they had from the Lord a perception of good and the derivative truth. The state of the Ancient Church, or "Noah," became such that they had a conscience of good and truth. Such as is the difference between having perception and having conscience, such was the difference of state of the Most Ancient and the Ancient Churches. Perception is not conscience: the celestial have perception; the spiritual have conscience. The Most Ancient Church was celestial, the Ancient was spiritual.

[2] The Most Ancient Church had immediate revelation from the Lord by consort with spirits and angels, as also by visions and dreams; whereby it was given them to have a general knowledge of what was good and true; and after they had acquired a general knowledge, these general leading principles, as we may call them, were confirmed by things innumerable, by means of perceptions; and these innumerable things were the particulars or individual things of the general principles to which they related. Thus were the general leading principles corroborated day by day; whatever was not in agreement with the general principles they perceived not to be so; and whatever was in agreement with them they perceived to be so. Such also is the state of the celestial angels.

[3] The general principles of the Most Ancient Church were heavenly and eternal truths,-as that the Lord governs the universe, that all good and truth is from the Lord, that all life is from the Lord, that man’s Own is nothing but evil, and in itself is dead; with many others of similar character. And they received from the Lord a perception of countless things that confirmed and supported these truths. With them love was the principal of faith. By love it was given them of the Lord to perceive whatever was of faith, and hence with them faith was love, as was said before. But the Ancient Church became entirely different, concerning which of the Lord‘s Divine mercy hereafter.

AC 598. He found grace in the eyes of Jehovah, signifies that the Lord foresaw that the human race might thus be saved. The Lord’s mercy involves and looks to the salvation of the whole human race; and it is the same with His "grace," and therefore the salvation of the human race is signified. By "Noah" is signified not only a new church, but also the faith of that church, which was the faith of charity. Thus the Lord foresaw that through the faith of charity the human race might be saved (concerning which faith hereafter).

[2] But there is a distinction in the Word between "mercy" and "grace," and this in accordance with the difference that exists in those who receive them; "mercy" being applied to those who are celestial, and "grace" to those who are spiritual; for the celestial acknowledge nothing but mercy, and the spiritual scarcely anything but grace. The celestial do not know what grace is; the spiritual scarcely know what mercy is, which they make one and the same with grace. This comes from the ground of the humiliation of the two being so different; they who are in humiliation of heart implore the Lord‘s mercy; but they who are in humiliation of thought beseech His grace; and if these implore mercy, it is either in a state of temptation, or is done with the mouth only and not from the heart. Because the new church called "Noah" was not celestial but spiritual, it is not said to have found "mercy," but "grace," in the eyes of Jehovah.

[3] That there is a distinction in the Word between "mercy’, and "grace," is evident from many passages where Jehovah is called "merciful and gracious" (Ps. 103:8; 111:4; 145:8; Joel 2:13). The distinction is likewise made in other places, as in Jeremiah:--

Thus saith Jehovah, The people which were left of the sword found grace in the wilderness, when I went to give rest to him, to Israel. Jehovah appeared unto me from afar; and I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore in mercy have I drawn thee (Jeremiah 31:2, 3),

where "grace" is predicated of the spiritual, and "mercy" of the celestial. In Isaiah:--

Therefore will Jehovah wait that He may give grace unto you, and therefore will He exalt Himself that He may have mercy upon you (Isaiah30:18).

Here likewise "grace" regards the spiritual, and "mercy" the celestial. So in the chapter presently following, where Lot says to the angel:--

Behold I pray thy servant hath found grace in thine eyes, and thou hast made great thy mercy which thou hast wrought with me, to make alive my soul (Gen. 19:19).

That "grace" relates to spiritual things, which are of faith, or of the understanding, is evident here also in that it is said, he "hath found grace in thine eyes;" and that "mercy" relates to celestial things which are of love, or of the will, is evident from the fact that the angel is said to have "wrought mercy," and to have "made alive the soul."

AC 605. The subject now treated of is the formation of a new church, which is called "Noah;" and its formation is described by the ark into which living things of every kind were received. But as is wont to be the case, before that new church could arise it was necessary that the man of the church should suffer many temptations, which are described by the lifting up of the ark, its fluctuation, and its delay upon the waters of the flood. And finally, that he became a true spiritual man and was set free, is described by the cessation of the waters, and the many things that follow. No one can see this who adheres to the sense of the letter only, in consequence (and especially is this the case here) of all things being historically connected, and presenting the idea of a history of events. But such was the style of the men of that time, and most pleasing to them it was that all things should be wrapped up in representative figures, and that these should be arranged in the form of history; and the more coherent the historical series, the better suited it was to their genius. For in those ancient times men were not so much inclined to memory-knowledges (scientiis) as at this day, but to profound thoughts, of which the offspring was such as has been described. This was the wisdom of the ancients.

AC 606. That the "flood," the "ark," and therefore the things described in connection with them, signify regeneration, and also the temptations that precede regeneration, is in some degree known among the learned at this day, who also compare regeneration and temptations to the waters of a flood.

AC 607. But the character of this church will be described hereafter. That an idea of it may be presented here, it shall be briefly said that the Most Ancient Church was celestial, as already shown, but this church became spiritual. The Most Ancient Church had a perception of good and truth; this, or the Ancient Church, had not perception, but in its place another kind of dictate, which may be called conscience.

[2] But what is as yet unknown in the world, and is perhaps difficult to believe, is that the men of the Most Ancient Church had internal respiration, and only tacit external respiration. Thus they spoke not so much by words, as afterwards and as at this day, but by ideas, as angels do; and these they could express by innumerable changes of the looks and face, especially of the lips. In the lips there are countless series of muscular fibres which at this day are not set free, but being free with the men of that time, they could so present, signify, and represent ideas by them as to express in a minute’s time what at this day it would require an hour to say by articulate sounds and words, and they could do this more fully and clearly to the apprehension and understanding of those present than is possible by words, or series of words in combination. This may perhaps seem incredible, but yet it is true. And there are many others, not of this earth, who have spoken and at this day speak in a similar manner; concerning whom, of the Lord‘s Divine mercy hereafter.

[3] It has been given me to know the nature of that internal respiration, and how in process of time it was changed. As these most ancient people had a respiration such as the angels have, who breathe in a similar manner, they were in profound ideas of thought, and were able to have such perception as cannot be described; and even if it could be described such as it really was, it would not be believed, because it would not be comprehended. But in their posterity this internal respiration little by little came to an end; and with those who were possessed with dreadful persuasions and phantasies, it became such that they could no longer present any idea of thought except the most debased, the effect of which was that they could not survive, and therefore all became extinct.

AC 608. When internal respiration ceased, external respiration gradually succeeded, almost like that of the present day; and with external respiration a language of words, or of articulate sound into which the ideas of thought were determined. Thus the state of man was entirely changed, and became such that he could no longer have similar perception, but instead of perception another kind of dictate which may be called conscience, for it was like conscience, though a kind of intermediate between perception and the conscience known to some at this day. And when such determination of the ideas of thought took place, that is to say, into spoken words, they could no longer be instructed, like the most ancient man, through the internal man, but through the external. And therefore in place of the revelations of the Most Ancient Church, doctrinal things succeeded, which could first be received by the external senses, and from them material ideas of the memory could be formed, and from these, ideas of thought, by which and according to which they were instructed. Hence it was that this church which followed possessed an entirely different genius from that of the Most Ancient Church, and if the Lord had not brought the human race into this genius, or into this state, no man could have been saved.

AC 609. As the state of the man of this church which is called "Noah" was altogether changed from that of the man of the Most Ancient Church, he could no longer--as said before--be informed and enlightened in the same way as the most ancient man; for his internals were closed, so that he no longer had communication with heaven, except such as was unconscious. Nor, for the same reason, could he be instructed except as before said by the external way of sense or of the senses. On this account, of the Lord’s providence, doctrinal matters of faith, with some of the revelations to the Most Ancient Church, were preserved for the use of this posterity. These doctrinal things were first collected by "Cain," and were stored up that they might not be lost; and therefore it is said of Cain that a "mark was set upon him, lest any one should slay him" (concerning which see what was said at that place, (Genesis 4:15). These doctrinal matters were afterwards reduced into doctrine by "Enoch;" but because this doctrine was of use to no one at that time, but was for posterity, it is said that "God took him." (Genesis 5:24). These doctrinal matters of faith are what were preserved by the Lord for the use of this posterity or church; for it was foreseen by the Lord that perception would be lost, and therefore it was provided that these doctrinal things should remain.

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