1066. That 'from them the whole earth was overspread' means that from these three all doctrines have been derived, both true and false, is clear from the meaning of 'the earth'. In the Word 'the earth' has various meanings. In the universal sense it stands for the place or region where the Church is or once was, for example, the land of Canaan, the land of Judah, the land of Israel. It thus stands in that universal sense for every member of the Church, for a land takes its name from the people who inhabit it, as is also well known from everyday speech. In ancient times therefore when people spoke of 'the whole earth' they did not mean every land throughout the world but only that part of the earth where the Church existed, and so the Church itself, as becomes clear from the following places in the Word: In Isaiah,
Jehovah is emptying the earth, the earth will be utterly emptied. The earth will mourn and be turned upside down. And the earth will be polluted under its inhabitants. Therefore a curse will devour the earth, therefore the inhabitants of the earth will be scorched and few men left. The floodgates from on high have been opened, and the foundations of the earth have been shaken. The earth has been utterly broken. The earth has been utterly rent asunder. The earth is violently shaken. The earth staggers altogether like a drunken man, and sways to and fro like a hut. Its transgression will lie heavily upon it, and it will fall, and it will not rise again. Isaiah 24:1, 3-6, 18-21.
'Earth' stands for the people inhabiting it, in particular the people of the Church, and so stands for the Church itself, and the things that are the Church's that have been vastated. These when being vastated are spoken of as 'being emptied', 'being shaken', 'staggering like a drunken man', 'swaying', 'falling and not rising'.
Isaiah 24:1-6, Isaiah 24:18-20)
 That 'earth' or 'land' means man, and consequently the Church which is made up of men, is seen in Malachi,
All the nations will declare you blessed, for you will be a land of delight. Malachi 3:12.
That 'the earth' stands for the Church is seen in Isaiah,
Do you not understand the foundations of the earth? Isaiah 40:21.
Here 'foundations of the earth' stands for the foundations of the Church. In the same prophet,
Behold I am creating new heavens and a new earth. Isaiah 65:17; 66:22; Revelation 21:1.
'New heavens and a new earth' stands for the Lord's kingdom and the Church. In Zechariah,
Jehovah is He who stretches out the heavens and founds the earth, and forms the spirit of man within him. Zechariah 12:1.
'Earth' stands for the Church, as in earlier chapters,
In the beginning God created heaven and earth. Genesis 1:1.
The heavens and the earth were finished. Genesis 2:1.
These are the generations of heaven and earth. Genesis 2:4.
In each instance 'earth' stands for the Church being 'created', 'formed', and 'made'. In Joel,
The earth quaked before Him, the heavens trembled. The sun and the moon were darkened. Joel 2:10.
'Earth' stands for the Church, and for the things that are the Church's. When these things are being vastated, 'heaven and earth' are said to quake, 'the sun and moon' to grow dark, that is, love and faith.
 In Jeremiah,
I looked to the earth, when behold, that which is void and empty; and to the heavens, and they had no light. Jeremiah 4:23.
Here 'the earth' plainly stands for the person who does not have anything of the Church within him. In the same prophet,
The whole earth will be desolate, yet I will not bring it to a close. For this the earth will mourn and the heavens be black. Jeremiah 4:27, 18.
Here likewise the Church is meant, whose exterior things are 'the earth' and interior 'the heavens'. These are referred to as 'being black and having no light' when there is no longer any wisdom arising from good or intelligence from truth. In that case the earth is also 'void and empty', as is the member of the Church who ought to be an embodiment of the Church. That 'the whole earth' is also used in other places to mean the Church alone is seen in Daniel,
The fourth beast will be a fourth kingdom on the earth, which will be different from all the kingdoms and will devour the whole earth, and trample it down, and break it in pieces. Daniel 7:23.
'The whole earth' stands for the Church and for the things that are the Church's; for the Word does not deal, as secular authors do, with the powers of monarchs, but with sacred matters, and with states of the Church, which are meant by 'kingdoms of the earth'.
 In Jeremiah,
A great tempest will be raised up from the sides of the earth, and the slain 1
of Jehovah on that day will be from one end of the earth to the other end of the earth. Jeremiah 15:32, Jeremiah 15:33.
Here 'from one end of the earth to the other end of the earth' stands for the Church and for everything that is the Church's. In Isaiah,
The whole earth is at rest and is quiet; they burst into cries of joy. Isaiah 14:7.
Here 'the whole earth' stands for the Church. In Ezekiel,
As the whole earth rejoices. Ezekiel 35:14.
Here too 'the whole earth' stands for the Church. In Isaiah,
I swore that the waters of Noah should go no more over the earth. Isaiah 54:9.
Here 'the earth' stands for the Church since the Church is the subject here. Because in the Word the earth means the Church it also means what is not the Church, for every such expression has a contrary or opposite sense. This applies, for example, to the various lands of the gentiles, in general to all lands outside the land of Canaan. 'Land' also stands therefore for the people and for the individual outside of the Church, and from this for the external man - for his will, for his proprium, and so on.
 In the Word 'earth' rarely stands for the whole world except when it is used to mean the state of the whole human race, whether of the Church or not of the Church. And because the earth includes the ground, which also means the Church, and the ground includes the field, the expression 'earth', entailing many things, has many meanings. But what it means is evident from the subject under discussion to which it refers. From this it now becomes clear that here 'the whole earth was overspread by the sons of Noah' does not mean the whole world, that is, the whole human race, but all doctrines, both true and false, which Churches possessed.
1. literally, the pierced
Genesis 9:19; Isaiah 24:1-6)