Spiritual Meaning of GENESIS 9:2
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AC 985. Verse 2. And let the fear of you and the terror of you be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every bird of heaven, even to everything which the ground causeth to creep forth, and to all the fishes of the sea; into your hands let them be given. "The fear of you and the terror of you," signifies the dominion of the internal man; "fear" having reference to evils; and "terror" to falsities; "upon every beast of the earth," signifies upon the cupidities which are of the mind (animus); "and upon every bird of heaven," signifies upon the falsities which belong to reasoning; "to everything which the ground causeth to creep forth," signifies affections of good; "to all the fishes of the sea," signifies memory-knowledges (scientfica); "let them be given into your hands," signifies the possession of the internal man in the external.

AC 986. The fear of you and the terror of you. That this signifies the dominion of the internal man, "fear" having reference to evils, and "terror" to falsities, is evident from the state of the regenerate man. The state of man before regeneration is such that cupidities and falsities, which are of the external man, continually predominate, and hence arises a combat; but after regeneration the internal man has dominion over the external, that is, over its cupidities and falsities, and then the man is in fear of evils and in terror of falsities, both of which are contrary to conscience, and to act in opposition to this affects him with horror. Howbeit, it is not the internal but the external man that fears evils and dreads falsities, wherefore it is here said "let the fear of you and the terror of you be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every bird of the heaven," that is, upon all cupidities, here signified by "beasts," and upon all falsities, here meant by the "bird of heaven." This "fear" and this "terror" appear as if they were the man‘s own, but they arise from the following cause. As has been previously stated, there are with every man at least two angels, through whom he has communication with heaven, and two evil spirits, through whom he has communication with hell. When the angels rule - as is the case with the regenerate man - then the attendant evil spirits dare not attempt to do anything contrary to what is good and true, because they are in bonds; for, on their attempting to do anything evil, or to speak what is false - that is, to excite it - they are instantly seized with a kind of infernal fear and terror. This fear and terror are what are perceived in the man as a fear and terror for what is contrary to conscience; and therefore as soon as he does or speaks anything contrary to conscience, he comes into temptation, and into the pangs of conscience, that is, into a kind of infernal torment. As to "fear" being predicated of evils, and "terror" of falsities, the case is this: the spirits with a man do not so much fear to do evils as they do to speak falsities, because man is born again and receives conscience through the truths of faith, and therefore the spirits are not allowed to excite false things. With every one of them there is nothing but evil, so that they are in evil; their very nature, and all their effort therefrom is evil; and since they are in evil, and their proper life consists in evil, they are pardoned for doing evil when they are serving any use. But it is not permitted them to speak anything false, and this in order that they may learn what is true, and thus so far as possible be amended, so that they may serve some low use; but concerning this subject, of the Lord’s Divine mercy, more hereafter. Similar is the case with the regenerate man, for his conscience is formed of the truths of faith, and therefore his conscience is a conscience of what is right, what is false being to him the very evil of life, because it is contrary to the truth of faith. It was otherwise with the man of the Most Ancient Church, who had perception. He perceived evil of life as evil, and falsity of faith as falsity.

AC 987. Upon every beast of the earth. That this signifies over the cupidities of the lower mind, is evident from the signification of "beasts" in the Word, where they signify either affections or cupidities, affections of good being signified by gentle, useful, and clean beasts; and affections of evil, or cupidities, by those that are fierce, useless, and unclean (concerning which see above, (n. 45, 46, 142, 143, 246, 776). Here, as cupidities are signified, they are called "beasts of the earth," not beasts of the field. With regard to the rule of the regenerate man over cupidities, it is to be known that those are in the greatest error, and are by no means the regenerate, who believe that they can of themselves rule over evils. For man is nothing but evil; he is a mass of evils; all his will being merely evil; which is what is said in the preceding chapter (Genesis 8:21): that "the imagination of man‘s heart is evil from his youth." It has been shown me by living experience that a man and a spirit, even an angel, in himself regarded, that is, as to all that is his own, is but vilest excrement; and that left to himself he breathes nothing but hatred, revenge, cruelty, and most foul adultery.

[2] These things are his own; these are his will; as must also be evident to every one if be reflects, merely from this, that man when born is, among all wild animals and beasts, the vilest creature living. And when he grows up and becomes his own master, if not hindered by outward bonds of the law, and bonds which he imposes on himself for the purpose of gaining great honor and wealth, he would rush into every crime, and not rest until he had subjugated all in the universe, and raked together the wealth of all in the universe; nor would he spare any but those who submitted to be his humble servants. Such is the nature of every man, although those are unaware of it who are powerless and to whom such attempts are impossible, and also those who are in the bonds above mentioned. But let the possibility and power be given, and the bonds be relaxed, and they would rush on to the extent of their ability. Wild animals never show such a nature. They are born into a certain order of their nature. Those which are fierce and rapacious inflict injury on other creatures, but only in self-defense; and their devouring other animals is to allay their hunger, and when this is allayed they do harm to none. But it is altogether different with man. From all this it is evident what is the nature of man’s Own and will.

[3] Since man is such mere evil and excrement, it is evident that he can never of himself rule over evil. It is an utter contradiction for evil to be able to rule over evil, and not only over evil, but also over hell; for every man is in communication through evil spirits with hell, and thereby the evil in him is excited. From all this every one may know, and he who has a sound mind may conclude, that the Lord alone rules over evil in man and over hell with him. In order that the evil in man may be subjugated, that is, hell, which strives every moment to rush in upon him and destroy him forever, man is regenerated by the Lord and endowed with a new will, which is conscience, through which the Lord alone performs all good. These are points of faith: that man is nothing but evil; and that all good is from the Lord. They are therefore not only known by man, but also acknowledged and believed; and if he does not so acknowledge and believe in the life of the body, it is shown him to the life in the life to come.

AC 988. And upon every bird of heaven. That this signifies upon falsities of reasoning, is evident from the signification of "bird." In the Word "birds" signify intellectual things: those which are gentle, useful, and beautiful, signifying intellectual truths; and those which are fierce, useless, and ugly, signifying intellectual falsities, or falsities of reasoning. (That they signify intellectual things may be seen above, (n. 40, 776, 870). From this it is also evident that "birds" signify reasonings and their falsities. That there may be no doubt let the following passages, in addition to those cited about the raven, (n. 866) serve for confirmation. In Jeremiah:--

I will visit upon them in four kinds, saith Jehovah; the sword to slay, and the dogs to drag, and the fowl of heaven, and the beasts of the earth, to devour and to destroy (Jeremiah 15:3).

In Ezekiel:--

Upon his ruin all the fowls of the heaven shall dwell, and all the wild animals of the field shall be upon his branches (Ezekiel 31:13).

In Daniel:--

At last upon the bird of abominations shall be desolation (Daniel 9:27).

In John:--

Babylon is become a hold of every unclean and hateful bird (Rev. 18:2).

Many times it is said in the Prophets that carcasses should be given for meat to the fowl of the air and to the beast of the field (Jer. 7:33; 19:7; 34:20; Ezek. 29:5; 39:4; Ps 79:2; Isa. 18:6). By this has signified that they should be destroyed by falsities, which are "birds of heaven," and by evils, or cupidities, which are the "beasts of the earth."

AC 989. As regards dominion over falsities, it is the same as with dominion over evils: man cannot of himself have the least dominion over them. Since the subject is here the dominion of the regenerated man over cupidities, or the "beast of the earth," and over falsities, or the "bird of heaven," it is to be known that no one can ever say that he is regenerate unless he acknowledges and believes that charity is the primary thing of his faith, and unless he is affected with love toward the neighbor, and has mercy on him. Of charity his new will is formed. Through charity the Lord brings about good, and thereby truth, but not through faith without charity. There are some who perform works of charity from obedience alone, that is, because it is so commanded by the Lord, and yet are not regenerate. These if they do not place righteousness in their works are regenerated in the other life.

AC 990. Even to everything that the ground maketh to creep forth. That this signifies affections of good is evident both from what precedes and from the signification of the "ground," from which they are produced or creep forth; from what precedes, since there evils and falsities are treated of, over which the regenerate man rules, and therefore here affections of good, which are given into his hands; and from the signification of the "ground," from which they are produced or creep forth, since the "ground" is in general the man of the church and whatever is of the church, and thus here whatever is produced by the Lord through the internal man in the external. The ground itself is in the external man, in his affections and memory. It appears as if man produced what is good, and therefore it is said "everything that the ground maketh to creep forth;" but this is only the appearance; good is produced through the internal man by the Lord, since, as has been said, there is nothing of good and truth except from the Lord.

AC 991. And to all the fishes of the sea. That this signifies memory-knowledges (scientifica), is evident from the signification of a fish. "Fishes" in the Word signify memory-knowledges, which spring from things of sense. For memory-knowledges (scientifica) are of three kinds: intellectual, rational, and sensuous. All these are planted in the memory, or rather memories, and in the regenerate man are called forth thence by the Lord, through the internal man. These memory-knowledges which are from things of sense come to man‘s sensation or perception when he lives in the body, for he thinks from them. The rest, which are interior, do not come so much to perception until man puts off the body and enters the other life. That "fishes" or the creeping things which the waters produce, signify memory-knowledges, may be seen above (n. 40); and that a " whale" or "sea monster" signifies the generals of these knowledges (n. 42). Moreover the same is evident from the following passages in the Word. In Zephaniah:--

I will make man and beast to fail; I will make the fowls of the heavens and the fishes of the sea to fail (Zephaniah 1:3),

where the "fowls of the heavens" denote things of reason, and the "fishes of the sea" lower rational things, that is, man’s thought from sensuous memory-knowledges.

[2] In Habakkuk:--

Thou makest man as the fishes of the sea, as the creeping thing that has no ruler over them (Habakkuk 1:14),

where "making man as the fishes of the sea" means that he is altogether sensuous. In Hosea:--

Therefore shall the land mourn, and every one that dwelleth therein shall languish, with the wild animal of the field and the fowl of the heavens; yea, the fishes of the sea also shall be gathered (Hosea 4:3),

where the "fishes of the sea" denote memory-knowledges from things of sense. In David:--

Thou hast put all things under his feet; all sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field, the fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas (Ps. 8:6-8),

speaking of the dominion of the Lord in man, the "fish of the sea" denote memory-knowledges. That "seas" signify the gathering together of knowledges (scientificorum seu cognitionum), may be seen above (n. 28). In Isaiah:--

The fishers shall lament, and all they that cast a hook into the river shall mourn, and they that spread a net upon the faces of the waters shall languish (Isaiah 19:8);

"fishers" denoting those who trust only in things of sense, and out of these hatch falsities; the subject being Egypt, or the realm of memory-knowledge.

AC 992. Into your hands let them be given. That this signifies the possession of the internal man in the external, is evident from what has been already said, and from the signification of "hand" (n. 878). It is said "into your hands let them be given," because such is the appearance.

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