Genesis 12

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1 And Jehovah said to Abram, Go from thy land, and from thy birth, and from the house of thy father, to the land that I will cause thee to see.

2 And I will make thee into a great nation; and I will bless thee, and will make· thy name ·great; and be thou a blessing.

3 And I will bless those who bless thee, and will curse him who reviles thee; and in thee shall all the families of the ground be blessed.

4 And Abram went as Jehovah had spoken to him, and Lot went with him. And Abram was a son of five years and seventy years, when he went·​·out from Haran.

5 And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son, and their every acquisition that they had acquired, and the soul that they had made* in Haran; and they went·​·out to go to the land of Canaan; and they came to the land of Canaan.

6 And Abram passed·​·through into the land, even·​·to the place Shechem, even·​·to the oak·​·grove of Moreh; and the Canaanite was then in the land.

7 And Jehovah appeared to Abram, and said, To thy seed will I give this land. And there he built an altar to Jehovah, who appeared to him.

8 And he moved·​·away from there to the mountain on the east of Bethel, and stretched·​·out his tent; with Bethel toward the sea, and Ai on the east. And he built there an altar to Jehovah, and called on the name of Jehovah.

9 And Abram journeyed, going and journeying, toward the south.

10 And there was a famine in the land. And Abram went·​·down toward Egypt to sojourn there; for the famine was heavy in the land.

11 And it was, as he came·​·near to come unto Egypt, that he said to Sarai his wife, Behold, I pray, I know that thou art a woman beautiful in appearance;

12 and it shall be, that the Egyptians shall see thee, and they will say, This is his wife; and they will kill me, and will make· thee ·to·​·live.

13 Say, I pray, thou art my sister; so·​·that it may be·​·well with me on account·​·of thee, and that my soul may live because·​·of thee.

14 And it was, as Abram came to Egypt, that the Egyptians saw the woman, that she was very beautiful.

15 And the princes of Pharaoh saw her, and praised her to Pharaoh; and the woman was taken to Pharaoh’s house.

16 And he did·​·well to Abram on account·​·of her; and he had flock and herd, and donkeys and menservants, and handmaids and she·​·donkeys, and camels.

17 And Jehovah plagued Pharaoh with great plagues, and his house, on·​·account·​·of the matter* of Sarai, the wife of Abram.

18 And Pharaoh called to Abram, and said, What is this that thou hast done to me? why didst thou not tell me that she is thy wife?

19 Why saidst thou, She is my sister? and I might have taken her to me for a woman. And now, behold thy wife; take her, and go.

20 And Pharaoh commanded the men concerning him; and they sent· him ·away, and his wife, and all that he had.


Exploring the Meaning of Genesis 12      

Napsal(a) Joe David

The Inner Meaning of Genesis 12

In the previous chapter, Genesis 11, we met Abram for the first time, as his genealogy was traced down through the generations from Noah. Abram represents the beginning of a new spiritual state of humankind - a new church that would record preserve important external truths. Those external truths contained internal ones - true ideas about God the way people should live.

These external truths were encoded in stories, first preserved in oral traditions then in written scriptures in the time of Moses. In the current , Abram, goes, as commanded by God, the land of Canaan. In doing this, he effectively starts the Hebrew church (from Eber, Abraham's forebear).

All the geographic places in the land of Canaan its environs had been given spiritual significations by the people of the Most Ancient Church. In the new Word that would be written there, these places would be mentioned by name would signify spiritual ideas.

When Abraham is driven by famine in the land seek refuge in Egypt, it symbolizes a state of initial instruction for this new church. That early instruction is of an external type. Egypt, in the Word, represents scientific knowledge - the natural sciences - which teach the natural level in people.

There are two levels of "story" nested in the symbolism of the literal text. One is the spiritual story of humankind. Another, higher one, is the story of the inner spiritual process that would take place in the life of Jesus Christ. Both stories are traced out in Swedenborg's exegesis of the Word.

Here's an excerpt from his capstone work, True Christian Religion:

The Word has two senses hidden in its literal sense; these are called the spiritual the celestial senses. In the spiritual sense the contents of the Word refer chiefly the church in the celestial sense chiefly the Lord. Again in the spiritual sense its contents refer Divine truth in the celestial sense Divine good. (True Christian Religion 248)

A detailed description of the inner meaning of this chapter begins in Arcana Coelestia 1401. Here are some key excerpts:

AC 1401. True historical things begin here, all of which are representative, and each word significative. The things related in this chapter concerning Abram represent the Lord‘s state from earliest childhood up to youth. As the Lord was born in the same way as other men, He also advanced from an obscure state to one more lucid. "Haran" is the first state, which was obscure; " Shechem" is the second; "the oakgrove Moreh" is the third; "the mountain which had Bethel toward the sea and Ai on the east," is the fourth; and the "journey thence toward the south into Egypt," is the fifth.

AC 1402. The things told of Abram’s sojourn in Egypt represent and signify the Lord‘s first instruction. "Abram" is the Lord; " Sarai," as a wife, is truth to be adjoined to the celestial " Sarai," as a sister, is intellectual truth; "Egypt" is memory-knowledge (scientia). The progress from memory-knowledges (a scientificis) even to celestial truths is described; this was according to Divine order, that the Lord’s Human Essence might be conjoined with His Divine Essence, and at the same time become Jehovah.

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Thanks to the Kempton Project for the permission to use this New Church translation of the Word.


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