Spiritual Meaning of GENESIS 9:3
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AC 993. Verse 3. Every creeping thing that liveth shall be food for you; as the esculent herb have I given it all to you. "Every creeping thing that liveth," signifies all pleasures in which there is good which is living; "shall be food for you," signifies their delight, which they enjoy; "as the esculent herb," signifies what is vile of delights; "have I given it all to you," signifies enjoyment on account of use.

AC 994. Every creeping thing that liveth. That this signifies all pleasures in which there is good which is living, is evident from the signification of a "creeping thing," as shown before. That creeping things here mean all clean beasts and birds, is evident to every one, for it is said that they are given for food. Creeping things in their proper sense are such as are vilest of all (Lev. 11:23, 29, 30), and were unclean. But in a broad sense, as here, animals are meant which are given for food; yet here they are called "creeping things," because they signify pleasures. Man‘s affections are signified in the Word by clean beasts, as already said; but since his affections are perceived only in his pleasures, so that he calls them pleasures, they are here called "creeping things."

[2] Pleasures are of two kinds: those of the will, and those of the understanding. In general there are the pleasures of possession of land and wealth, the pleasures of honor and office in the state, the pleasures of conjugial love and of love for infants and children, the pleasures of friendship and of converse with companions, the pleasures of reading, of writing, of knowing, of being wise; and many others. There are also the pleasures of the senses: as the pleasure of hearing, which is in general that from the sweetness of music and song; and that of seeing, which is in general that of various and manifold beauties; and of smelling, which is from the sweetness of odors; and of tasting, which is from the agreeableness and wholesomeness of foods and drinks; and of touch, from many pleasing sensations. These kinds of pleasures, being felt in the body, are called pleasures of the body. But no pleasure ever exists in the body unless it exists and subsists from an interior affection, and no interior affection exists except from one more interior, in which is the use and the end.

[3] These things which, in regular order, are interior, commencing from those which are inmost, are not perceived by man while he lives in the body, and most men hardly know that they exist, still less that they are the source of pleasures; when yet nothing can ever exist in externals except from things interior in order. Pleasures are only ultimate effects. The interior things do not lie open to view so long as men live in the body, except to those who reflect upon them. In the other life they for the first time come forth to view, and indeed in the order in which they are elevated by the Lord toward heaven. Interior affections with their delights manifest themselves in the world of spirits, the more interior with their delights in the heaven of angelic spirits, and the still more interior with their happiness in the heaven of angels; for there are three heavens, one more interior, more perfect, and more happy than another (n. 459, 684). These interiors unfold and present themselves to perception in the other life; but so long as man lives in the body, since he is all the time in the idea and thought of corporeal things, these interior things are as it were asleep, being immersed in the corporeal things. But yet it may be evident to any one who reflects, that all pleasures are such as are the affections that are more and more interior in order, and that they receive from these all their essence and quality.

[4] Since the affections that are more and more interior in order are felt in the extremes or outermost things, that is, in the body, as pleasures, they are called "creeping things," but they are only corporeal things affected by internal ones, as must be evident to every one merely from sight and its pleasures. Except there be interior sight, no eye can ever see. The sight of the eye exists from interior sight, and for this reason after the death of the body man sees equally as well and even better than when he lived in the body- not indeed worldly and corporeal things, but those of the other life. Those who were blind in the life of the body, see in the other life as well as those who had keen vision. So too when man sleeps, he sees in his dreams as clearly as when awake. It has been given me to see by internal sight the things in the other life more clearly than I see the things in the world. From all this it is evident that external sight comes forth from interior sight, and this from sight still more interior, and so on. It is similar with every other sense and with every pleasure.

[5] Pleasures are likewise in other parts of the Word called "creeping things," with a distinction between the clean and the unclean, that is, between pleasures the delights of which are living, or heavenly, and pleasures the delights of which are dead or infernal. As in Hosea:--

In that day will I make a covenant for them with the wild animal of the field, and with the fowl of the heavens, and with the creeping thing of the ground (Hosea 2:18).

That here the wild animal of the field, the fowl of the heavens, and the creeping thing, signify such things in man as have been said, is evident from the subject being a new church. In David:--

Let the heavens and the earth praise Jehovah, the seas, and everything that creepeth therein (Ps. 69:34).

The seas and the things that creep therein cannot praise Jehovah, but the things in man that are signified by them and are living, thus from what is living within them. Again:--

Praise Jehovah ye wild animal and every beast, creeping thing and winged fowl (Ps. 148:10),

with a similar meaning.

[6] That here by "creeping thing" nothing else is meant than good affections from which are pleasures, is evident also from creeping things being with this people unclean, as will be plain from what follows. Again:--

O Jehovah the earth is full of Thy riches; this sea, great and wide, wherein are things creeping without number; these wait all upon Thee, that Thou mayest give them their food in due season; Thou givest them, they gather; Thou openest Thy hand, they are satiated with good (Ps. 104:24-28).

Here in the internal sense by "seas" are signified spiritual things, by "things creeping," all things that live therefrom; the enjoyment is signified by giving them food in due season, and by their being satiated with good. In Ezekiel:--

And it shall come to pass that every living soul that creepeth, in every place whither the rivers come, shall live; and there shall be a very great multitude of fish, because these waters are come thither, and they shall be healed, and everything shall live whithersoever the river cometh (Ezekiel 47:9).

Here are meant the waters of the New Jerusalem; these waters denote spiritual things from a celestial origin; "the living soul that creepeth," the affections of good, and the pleasures therefrom, both of the body and of the senses; that these live from the "waters," or from spiritual things from a celestial origin, is very evident.

[7] That filthy pleasures too, which have their origin in what is man’s own, thus in the foul cupidities thereof, are also called "creeping things," is evident in Ezekiel:--

So I went in and saw; and behold every form of creeping thing and of beast, the abomination, and all the idols of the house of Israel, portrayed upon the wall round about (Ezekiel 8:10).

Here the "form of creeping thing" signifies unclean pleasures whose interiors are cupidities, and the interiors of these, hatreds, revenges, cruelties, and adulteries; such are the "creeping things," or delights of pleasures from the love of self and of the world, or from man‘s Own, which are their "idols" because they regard them as delightful, love them, have them for gods, and thus adore them. In the representative church, these creeping things, because they had such a vile signification, were likewise so unclean that it was not permitted even to touch them; and he who but touched them was unclean (Lev. 5:2; 11:31-33; 22:5, 6).

AC 995. Shall be food for you. That this signifies its delight which they should enjoy, is evident from this, that any pleasure not only affects man, but also sustains him, like food. Pleasure without delight is not pleasure, but is something without life, and only from delight is and is called pleasure. Such also as is the delight, such is the pleasure. Corporeal and sensuous things are in themselves only material, lifeless, and dead; but from delights which come in order from the interiors, they have life. From this it is evident that such as is the life of the interiors, such is the delight in the pleasures, for in the delight there is life. The delight in which there is good from the Lord is alone living, for it is then from the very life of good; for which reason it is here said, "every creeping thing that liveth shall be food for you," that is, for enjoyment.

[2] Some think that no one ought ever to live in the pleasures of the body and its senses who wishes to be happy in the other life, but that all these should be renounced on the ground that they are corporeal and worldly, withdrawing man and keeping him away from spiritual and heavenly life. But those who think so and therefore reduce themselves to voluntary misery while they live in the world, are not well-informed as to what the real case is. No one is forbidden to enjoy the pleasures of the body and its senses, that is, the pleasures of possession of lands and wealth; the pleasures of honor and office in the state; the pleasures of conjugial love and of love for infants and children; the pleasures of friendship and of intercourse with companions; the pleasures of hearing, or of the sweetness of singing and music; the pleasures of sight, or of beauties, which are manifold, as those of becoming dress, of elegant dwellings with their furniture, beautiful gardens, and the like, which are delightful from harmony of form and color; the pleasures of smell, or of fragrant odors; the pleasures of taste, or of the flavors and benefits of food and drink; the pleasures of touch. For these are most external or bodily affections arising from interior affections, as already said.

[3] Interior affections, which are living, all derive their delight from good and truth; and good and truth derive their delight from charity and faith, and in this case do so from the Lord, thus from life itself; wherefore the affections and pleasures therefrom are living. And since genuine pleasures have this origin, they are denied to no one. Indeed, when they are from this origin their delight indefinitely surpasses delight not from this source, which is in comparison unclean. For example, the pleasure of conjugial love, when it has its origin from true conjugial love, surpasses immeasurably pleasure that has not this origin, so much so that those who are in true conjugial love are in heavenly delight and happiness, since it comes down from heaven. This was acknowledged by the men of the Most Ancient Church. The delight from adulteries felt by adulterers was to those men so abominable that when they thought of it they shuddered. From all this it is evident what is the nature of the delight that does not flow from the true fountain of life, or from the Lord.

[4] That the pleasures above mentioned are never denied to man, and that so far from being denied they are then first really pleasures when they come from their true origin, may also be seen from the fact that very many who have lived in power, dignity, and opulence in the world, and who had all pleasures in abundance, both of the body and of the senses, are among the blessed and happy in heaven, and with them now the interior delights and happinesses are living, because they have had their origin in the goods of charity and the truths that are of faith in the Lord. And since they had regarded all their pleasures as coming from charity and faith in the Lord, they regarded them from use, which was their end. Use itself was the most delightful thing to them, and from this came the delight of their pleasures. (n. 945.)

AC 996. That the "esculent herb" signifies the vile things of delights is evident from what has been said. They are called the esculent herb because they are only worldly and corporeal, or external. For, as already said, the pleasures that are in the bodily or outermost things of man have their origin in delights that are successively more and more interior. The delights that are perceived in those outermost or bodily things are relatively vile, for it is the nature of all delight to become more vile in proportion as it progresses toward the externals, and more happy in proportion as it advances toward the internals. For this reason, as before said, in proportion as the externals are stripped off, or rolled away, the delights become more pleasant and happy, as may be evident enough from man’s delight in pleasures being vile while he lives in the body, in comparison with his delight after the life of the body, when he comes into the world of spirits; so vile indeed that good spirits utterly spurn the delights of the body, nor would they return to them if all in the whole world should be given them.

[2] The delight of these spirits in like manner becomes vile when they are taken up by the Lord into the heaven of angelic spirits; for they then throw off these interior delights and enter into those that are still more interior. So again to angelic spirits the delight which they have had in their heaven becomes vile when they are taken up by the Lord into the angelic or third heaven, in which heaven, since internal things are there living, and there is nothing but mutual love, the happiness is unspeakable. See what is said of interior delight or happiness above, (n. 545). From these things it is evident what is signified by "as the esculent herb have I given it all to you." Inasmuch as creeping things signify both pleasures of the body and pleasures of the senses, of which the esculent herb is predicated, the word in the original language is one which signifies both "esculent" and "green"--"esculent" in reference to pleasures of the will, or of celestial affections, and "green" in reference to pleasures of the understanding, or of spiritual affections.

[3] That the "esculent herb" and "green herb" signify what is vile, is evident in the Word, as in Isaiah:--

The waters of Nimrim shall be desolate; for the grass is dried up, the herbage is consumed, there is no green thing (Isaiah 15:6).


Their inhabitants were short of hand, they were dismayed, and put to shame; they became the herb of the field, and the green herbage, the grass on the house tops (Isaiah 37:27),

the "green herbage" denoting what is most vile. In Moses:--

The land whither thou goest in to possess it, is not as the land of Egypt, from whence ye came out, where thou sowedst thy seed, and wateredst it with thy foot, as a garden of herbs (Deut. 11:10),

where a "garden of herbs" denotes what is vile. In David:--

The evil are as grass, suddenly are they cut down, and will be consumed as the green herbage (Ps. 37:2),

where "grass" and the "green herbage" denote what is most vile.

AC 997. Have I given it all to you. That this signifies enjoyment on account of use, is because it is "for food;" for whatever is given for food is for use. With regard to use: those who are in charity, that is, in love to the neighbor (from which is the delight in pleasures that is alive), pay no regard to the enjoyment of pleasures except on account of the use. For there is no charity apart from works of charity; it is in its practice or use that charity consists. He who loves the neighbor as himself perceives no delight in charity except in its exercise, or in use; and therefore a life of charity is a life of uses. Such is the life of the whole heaven; for the kingdom of the Lord, because it is a kingdom of mutual love, is a kingdom of uses. Every pleasure therefore which is from charity, has its delight from use. The more noble the use, the greater the delight. Consequently the angels have happiness from the Lord according to the essence and quality of their use.

[2] And so it is with every pleasure-the more noble its use, the greater its delight. For example, the delight of conjugial love: because this love is the seminary of human society, and thereby of the Lord‘s kingdom in the heavens, which is the greatest of all uses, it has in it so much delight that it is the very happiness of heaven. It is the same with all other pleasures, but with a difference according to the excellence of the uses, which are so manifold that they can scarcely be classed in genera and species, some having regard more nearly and directly, and some more remotely and indirectly, to the kingdom of the Lord, or to the Lord. From these things it is further evident that all pleasures are granted to man, but only for the sake of use; and that they thus, with a difference from the use in which they are, partake of heavenly happiness and live from it.

GENESIS 9:3    previous  -  next  -  text  -  summary  -  Genesis  -  Full Page

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