Spiritual Meaning of GENESIS 9:23
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AC 1082. Verse 23. And Shem and Japheth took a garment, and laid it upon the shoulder, both of them, and went backward, and covered the nakedness of their father; and their faces were backward, and they saw not their fathers nakedness. By "Shem," as before said, is signified the internal church; by "Japheth," the external church corresponding thereto; "took a garment," signifies that they interpreted for good; "and laid it upon the shoulder, both of them," signifies that they did this with all their might; "and went backward," signifies that they did not attend to the errors and perversions; "and covered the nakedness of their father," signifies that they thus excused them; "and their faces were backward, and they saw not their fatherís nakedness," signifies that so it ought to be done, and that such things as errors and mistakes from reasonings should not be attended to.

AC 1083. That by "Shem" is signified the internal church and by "Japheth" the external church corresponding thereto, has been stated before. Where there is a church, there must needs be what is internal and what is external for man, who is the church, is internal and external. Before he becomes a church, that is, before he has been regenerated, man is in externals and when he is being regenerated he is led from externals, nay, by means of externals, to internals; and afterwards, when he has been regenerated, all things of the internal man are terminated in the externals. The of necessity every church must be both internal and external, as was the Ancient Church, and as at this day is the Christian Church.

[2] The internals of the Ancient Church were all the things of charity and of the derivative faith--all humiliation, all adoration of the Lord from charity, all good affection toward the neighbor, and other such things. The externals of the Ancient Church were sacrifices, libations, and many other things, all of which by representation had reference to the Lord and regarded Him. Hence there were internals in the externals, and they made one church. The internals of the Christian Church are exactly like the internals of the Ancient Church, but other externals have succeeded in their place, namely, in place of sacrifices and the like, the sacraments (symbolica), from which in like manner the Lord is regarded; and thus, again, internals and externals make a one.

[3] The Ancient Church did not differ one whit from the Christian Church as to internals, but only as to externals. Worship of the Lord from charity can never differ, howsoever externals are varied. And since, as has been said, there cannot be a church unless there are both what is internal and what is external, the internal without an external would be something interminate, unless it were terminated in some external. For man for the most part is such that he does not know what the internal man is, and what belongs to the internal man; and therefore unless there were external worship, he would know nothing whatever of what is holy. When such men have charity and the derivative conscience, they have internal worship within themselves in the external worship; for in them the Lord works, in charity and in conscience, and causes all their worship to partake of what is internal. It is otherwise with those who have no charity and no derivative conscience. They may have worship in externals, but separated from internal worship, as they have faith separated from charity. Such worship is called "Canaan," and such faith is called "Ham." And because this worship comes forth from faith separated, Ham is called the "father of Canaan."

AC 1084. Took a garment. That this signifies that they interpreted for good, is evident from what has been already said To "take a garment and cover the nakedness" of any one, can have no other signification, seeing that "being uncovered" and "nakedness" signify errors and perversions.

AC 1085. And laid it upon the shoulder. That this signifies that they did this--that is, interpreted for good and excused-- with all their might, is evident from the signification of "shoulder," as being all power. "Hand" in the Word signifies power, as shown before; "arm" signifies still greater power; and "shoulder" signifies all power, as is evident from the following passages in the Word in Ezekiel:--

Ye thrust with side and with shoulder, and push all the diseased sheep with your horns, till ye have scattered them abroad (Ezekiel 34:21).

"With side and with shoulder," means with all the soul and all the might, and "pushing with their horns," means with all the strength.

[2] Again:--

That all the inhabitants of Egypt may know that I am Jehovah, because they have been a staff of reed to the house of Israel; in their taking hold of thee in the hand thou shalt be broken, and shalt rend for them every shoulder (Ezekiel 29:6, 7).

This is said of those who desire to explore spiritual truths by means of memory-knowledges (scientifica). The "staff of reed" denotes such power "taking in the hand" means trusting therein; "rending every shoulder" means being deprived of all power so as to know nothing.

[3] In Zephaniah:--

That they may all call upon the name of Jehovah, to serve Him with one shoulder (Zephaniah 3:9)

meaning with one soul, thus with one might. In Zechariah:--

But they refused to hearken, and turned a stubborn shoulder (Zechariah 7:11)

meaning that they resisted with all their might. In Isaiah:--

They hire a goldsmith, who maketh gold and silver into a god they adore, yea, they bow down they bear it upon the shoulder, they carry it (Isaiah 46:6, 7);

meaning that they adore their idol with all their might, which is "bearing it on the shoulder."

[4] Again:--

For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, God, Hero, Father of Eternity, Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6).

This is said of the Lord, and of His power and might; and therefore it is said, "upon His shoulder." Again:--

The key of the house of David will I lay upon His shoulder; and He shall open, and none shall shut; and He shall shut and none shall open (Isaiah 22:22).

This likewise is said of the Lord, and "to lay upon His shoulder the key of the house of David," means His power and authority.

AC 1086. And went backward. That this signifies that they did not attend to the errors and perversions, is evident from the signification of "going backward," as being to avert the eyes and not see; which is plain from what follows, where it is said that they did not see the nakedness of their father. "Not to see," in the internal sense is not to attend to.

AC 1087. And covered the nakedness of their father. That this signifies that they excused them, is evident both from the connection, and from the signification of "nakedness," that is, perversions.

AC 1088. And their faces were backward, and they saw not the nakedness of their father. That this signifies that so it ought to be done, and that such things as errors and mistakes from reasonings should not be attended to, is evident from the repetition; for nearly the same things are said here as just before, and therefore these words make at the same time a conclusion. For such was the character of this parent church, or of the man of this church, that he did not act in this way from malice, but from simplicity, as is evident from what presently follows, where it is said that "Noah awoke from his wine," that is, was better instructed. As regards the matter here treated of, we may say that those who are in no charity think nothing but evil of the neighbor, and say nothing but evil; if they say anything good, it is for their own sake, or for the sake of him whom they flatter under the appearance of friendship; whereas those who are in charity think nothing but good of their neighbor and speak only well of him, and this not for their own sake or the favor of another whom they flatter, but from the Lord thus working in charity. The former are like the evil spirits, the latter are like the angels, who are with a man. The evil spirits excite nothing but what is evil and false in the man, and condemn him; but the angels excite nothing but what is good and true, and excuse what is evil and false. From this it is evident that with those who are in no charity the evil spirits rule, through whom the man communicates with hell; and that with those who are in charity the angels rule, through whom he communicates with heaven.

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