The Bible

Genesis 12:1-8 : To a land that I will show you

Study the Inner Meaning

1 Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee:

2 And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing:

3 And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.

4 So Abram departed, as the LORD had spoken unto him; and Lot went with him: and Abram was seventy and five years old when he departed out of Haran.

5 And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother's son, and all their substance that they had gathered, and the souls that they had gotten in Haran; and they went forth to go into the land of Canaan; and into the land of Canaan they came.

6 And Abram passed through the land unto the place of Sichem, unto the plain of Moreh. And the Canaanite was then in the land.

7 And the LORD appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land: and there builded he an altar unto the LORD, who appeared unto him.

8 And he removed from thence unto a mountain on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, having Bethel on the west, and Hai on the east: and there he builded an altar unto the LORD, and called upon the name of the LORD.

   Study the Inner Meaning
From Swedenborg's Works

Main explanations:

Arcana Coelestia 1407, 1408, 1409, 1410, 1411, 1412, 1413, ...

The Inner Meaning of the Prophets and Psalms 413


Other references to this chapter:

Arcana Coelestia 440, 482, 796, 921, 1025, 1401, 1403, ...


References from Swedenborg's unpublished works:

Apocalypse Explained 340, 750

Coronis (An Appendix to True Christian Religion) 49

Other New Christian Commentary

  Stories and their meanings:


  Spiritual Topics:



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Word/Phrase Explanations

the Lord
The Bible refers to the Lord in many different ways, which from the text seem indistinguishable and interchangeable. Understood in the internal sense, though, there...

said
As with many common verbs, the meaning of “to say” in the Bible is highly dependent on context. Who is speaking? Who is hearing? What...

Abram
Abram and Nahor taking to themselves wives, Sarah and Milcah (Gen 11:29), signifies marriages of evil with falsity in idolatrous worship. Abram, Nahor, and Haran,...

Country
Generally in the Bible a "country" means a political subdivision ruled by a king, or sometimes a tribe with a territory ruled by a king...

father
Father in the Word means what is most interior, and in those things that are following the Lord's order, it means what is good. In...

house
A "house" is essentially a container - for a person, for a family, for several families or even for a large group with shared interests...

Land
Land' in the Word, denotes the church, for the things which signify the church also signify the things relating to the church, for these constitute...

Shew
'Shew' signifies instruction to the life.

Make
'To make,' as in Hosea 8:11, refers to good. In the opposite sense it refers to evil. To make heaven, and earth, and the sea,...

nation
The Bible generally uses two different terms for large groups: “people” and “nation.” When it uses the term “nation,” it is talking about a group...

name
It's easy to see that names are important in the Bible. Jehovah changed Abram and Sarai to Abraham and Sarah, changed Jacob to Israel and...

Blessing
Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving (Rev. 7.) signify divine spiritual things of the Lord.

curse
The Lord is love itself, and his love for us never wavers and never changes. What does waver and change is the degree to which...

Families
Families (Gen 8:19) signify goodnesses and truths arranged in man by the Lord, according to order. Families have respect to truths. (Nahum 3:4)

Earth
"Earth" in the Bible can mean a person or a group of like-minded people as in a church. But it refers specifically to the external...

blessed
The Lord is perfect love expressed as perfect wisdom. He created us so that He could love us, could give us love and wisdom of...

spoken
Like "say," the word "speak" refers to thoughts and feelings moving from our more internal spiritual levels to our more external ones – and ultimately...

lot
On the most internal level, the stories of Abraham tell us about the Lord's development in his own childhood, with Abraham representing the Lord's spiritual...

Five
Five also signifies all things of one part.

old
'Old waste places' signify the celestial aspects of faith.

Haran
'Haran,' as mentioned in Genesis 11:28, signifies inward idolatrous worship. 'Haran,' as mentioned in Genesis 12:5, signifies an obscure state. 'Haran,' as mentioned in Genesis...

wife
It is because of a celestial and angelic proprium, or selfhood, that the church is called 'a woman,' 'a wife,' 'a bride,' 'a virgin,' and...

Brother
There are two ways "brother" is used in the Bible, ways that are still reflected in modern language. One denotes an actual blood relationship; the...

son
Marriages in the Bible represent the union we all can have between the desire for good and the understanding of truth (or an understanding of...

substance
Substance' and 'treasures,' as in Jeremiah 17:3, signify the spiritual riches of faith, or the aspects of the doctrine of faith.

souls
The nature of the soul is a deep and complicated topic, but it can be summarized as "spiritual life," who we are in terms of...

go
In the physical world, the places we inhabit and the distances between them are physical realities, and we have to get our physical bodies through...

land of
'The land of Rameses,' as in Genesis 47:11, signifies the inmost of the spiritual principle in the natural mind.

Land of Canaan
The land of Canaan' in the Word, means love, and consequently, the will of the celestial self.

of Canaan
'Sons of Canaan,' as in Genesis 10, are people who kept external worship separate from internal.

Canaan
Canaan signifies a worship in things external without internals, which arose out of the internal church corrupted, called Ham. Thus it is that Ham is...

came
As with common verbs in general, the meaning of “come” in the Bible is highly dependent on context – its meaning is determined largely by...

Passed
'Passed' or 'expired' denotes the conclusion of whatever state is being discussed.

place
'A room' or 'place' denotes state.

Sichem
'Sichem' or 'Shechem' means the celestial aspects of love.

Plain
'A plain' signifies good and truth in the natural self, because 'the people who dwell in plains,' or 'beneath mountains and hills' are in the...

Moreh
'Moreh' signifies the earliest moment of the Lord's perception.

Seed
'A seed' signifies love, and everyone who has love, as in Genesis 12:7. 8:15, 16. 'A seed' signifies faith grounded in charity. 'A seed' signifies...

give
Like other common verbs, the meaning of "give" in the Bible is affected by context: who is giving what to whom? In general, though, giving...

altar
The first altar mentioned in the Word was built by Noah after he came out of the ark. On that altar, he sacrificed clean animals...

removed
As with many verbs, the meaning of "remove" in the Bible varies a good bit depending on context. It generally involves a separation of spiritual...

mountain
The Writings tell us that the Lord's love is the sun of heaven, and it is natural for us to look above ourselves to the...

bethel
When Jacob had his famous dream, of a staircase leading to heaven, he named the place "Bethel," which is Hebrew for "the house of God."...

Tent
'Tent' is used in the Word to signify the celestial and holy aspects of love, because in ancient time they performed holy worship in their...

West
'The west' signifies people in obscured good, and in an opposite sense, people in evil. 'The west' signifies the affection of truth.

Hai
Hai, or Ai, signifies light derived from worldly things.

called
To call someone or summon someone in the Bible represents a desire for conjunction between higher and lower states of life. For instance, imagine someone...

upon
'Upon' or 'over' signifies being within.

Resources for parents and teachers

The items listed here are provided courtesy of our friends at the General Church of the New Jerusalem. You can search/browse their whole library at the New Church Vineyard website.


 Abraham and Lot
Activity | Ages 7 - 14

 Abraham and Sarah's Family
The Lord promises Abraham many descendants.
Story | Ages 2 - 8

 Abraham Leaves for the Promised Land
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 God’s Covenant with Abram
A lesson for younger children with discussion ideas and a project.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 4 - 6

 The Call of Abram
A New Church Bible story explanation for teaching Sunday school. Includes lesson materials for Primary (3-8 years), Junior (9-11 years), Intermediate (12-14 years), Senior (15-17 years) and Adults.
Teaching Support | Ages over 3

 The Call of Abram
Family lessons provide a worship talk and a variety of activities for children and teens..
Religion Lesson | Ages 4 - 17

 The Call of Abram
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 The Call of Abram
Lesson outline provides teaching ideas with questions for discussion, projects, and activities.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 7 - 10

 The Lord’s State at Birth
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 The Tower of Babel
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 You Shall Be a Blessing
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

Commentary

Finding Jesus in the Life of Abraham, Part 1: Beginnings

By Rev. Joel C. Glenn

Flight of a Honeybee, a 2010 photo by Jennifer Stein. See her work at familiarlight.com. All rights are reserved by the author.

Finding Jesus in the Life of Abraham, Part 1: Beginnings

A Sermon by Pastor Joel Christian Glenn
30 April 2017

We all know that the Word, or the Bible, is about God. That’s not hard to believe. But shortly after His resurrection Jesus pushed this idea to another level. When He appeared to two disciples on the way to Emmaus, it says, “Beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself” (Luke 24:27). From this we can gather that all of the Scriptures are not just about God, but are about Jesus Himself. That’s a concept that is harder to grasp. Yes, there are the prophecies that are clearly about Jesus. But what about, say the story of Creation? Or the Exodus from slavery in Egypt? The many kings of Israel, both good and evil? Or all the many lists of laws and genealogies, are even those about Jesus?

The truth of the matter is that the whole of the Word is not just about Jesus, it is Jesus. Listen to these verses from the opening of the Gospel of John:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men…. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:1-4, 14)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God, and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. That is a clear reference to Jesus Christ. Jesus is the eternal Word, the Word that is also embodied in the Word of God, our Old and New Testaments.

If you feel that it is hard to grasp how Jesus and the Word are one and the same, you are not alone. It is difficult to comprehend how a living, breathing, person and an apparently lifeless slab of paper can be one and the same. The Writings for the New Church acknowledge this difficulty and offer a way around it. This is from the Doctrine of the Sacred Scripture:

Few understand how the Lord is the Word, for it is generally supposed that the Lord, by means of the Word, can enlighten and teach people, and yet He cannot, on this account, be called the Word.

So as we’ve said, it makes sense that the Word is about the Lord, and it is the Lord’s way of teaching us, but that doesn’t mean He is the Word. The passage however continues:

It should be known, however, that every person is his own love, and consequently his own good and his own truth. A person is a person for no other reason than this, and there is nothing else in him that is a person. For the same reason that a person is his own good and his own truth, angels and spirits also are people; and for all good and truth proceeding from the Lord, is in its own form, a person. But the Lord is Divine Good itself and Divine Truth itself; thus He is Personhood Itself, from whom every person is a person. (Doctrine of the Sacred Scripture 100)

There is a lot going on in that passage. What it all boils down to is a definition of humanity that transcends having a physical body, a definition that helps us see how a book and a person can be one and the same. As the passage said, a person is a person because of his loves, and therefore because of all his good and truth that stem from that love. In short, you are what you love, and what you love makes you human. Think of it this way: if we were to transplant your brain from your body into someone else’s, and this new person loved the same things you love and in the exact same way, and so behaved as you would behave, wouldn’t we say that it is still you, even though the body is completely different? Take that a step further and think of death. Even your brain will die, but your spirit, your spirit in which resides everything of your love, will carry on. Even though there will no longer be a shred of “you” left on this earth, you will still live on. So that’s what makes a person a person: the mind, especially the love within the mind.

If a person is a person because of what he or she loves and so thinks from that love, then anything that reveals our love or our thought reveals us. We know this instinctively from other books we encounter. Have you ever read a book that you loved immensely, and felt that in some way you were connected to the author, as if you understood each other even though you’d never met? I’m not just talking about biographies either. You can read a book that never once refers directly to its author and yet still feel connected. That can happen because the book is a kind of extension of the author, since it reveals the authors loves and ideas.

We now come to the Word. The Word, more than any other book on earth, reveals the mind of its Author. This is so deeply the case that we say that the Word is one and the same with its author, the Lord. Yet unlike with some books that engross us, the Word can feel like a tangled mess that reveals little about the true character of God, much less the inner workings of the mind of Jesus. I have here two images that can help us understand this. On one side there is a brain scan. On the other, an open copy of the Word. At first glance these pictures have little to do with each other. But think about what this brain scan really is. To you and I and most other people it reveals little. But to a trained doctor it would reveal a great deal about what is going on in a person’s mind at a given time. It is a snapshot into someone’s inner life, but one that we can only read if we have the proper training to understand it.

On the other hand we have a copy of the Word. As with the brain scan it reveals what is going on in someone’s mind at a given point. In this case it is the mind of the Lord that is being revealed. And like the brain scan, even though any particular story we might open up to reveals the Lord’s mind, we need the proper training to understand it. If we read this document correctly than we will discover the loving mind of the Lord, Jesus Christ. Every page, every sentence, contains insight into how He thinks and what it is that He loves and cares about. The purpose then of exploring the stories of the Word in light of how they reflect the life and mind of Jesus Christ is that we will then be better equipped to follow His example, not only following the path He set with His words and actions, but going deeper to follow the path He set in His mind.

With this in mind, over the next three weeks we will be looking to the story of Abraham. Even though Abraham lived thousands of years before Jesus was even born, his life perfectly reflects the inner life that Jesus experienced. When we can see this connection we will be better able to not only understand the Lord, but to understand how to model our lives on His. This week we will spend a short time getting a glimpse of how this works. Over the next two weeks we will go deeper into the story of Abraham and into the mind of Jesus. We begin with the first inkling that Abraham had that God had chosen him for a special purpose. As a side note, early on Abraham was known as Abram:

Now the LORD had said to Abram:
“Get out of your country,
From your family
And from your father’s house,
To a land that I will show you.
I will make you a great nation;
I will bless you
And make your name great;
And you shall be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
And I will curse him who curses you;
And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
So Abram departed as the LORD had spoken to him, and Lot went with him. And Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran….

Then the LORD appeared to Abram and said, “To your descendants I will give this land.” And there he built an altar to the LORD, who had appeared to him. And he moved from there to the mountain east of Bethel, and he pitched his tent with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east; there he built an altar to the LORD and called on the name of the LORD. So Abram journeyed, going on still toward the South. (Genesis 12:1-4, 7-9)

Prior to the moment described here Abraham did not know of Jehovah in the slightest. He was in fact an idol-worshipper like most people of His day. Yet when he heard the call from the Lord he responded and moved with his family and everything he owned into a new land. This moment may not seem significant but it is the beginning of the epic saga of the Children of Israel, and the land to which the Lord sent Abraham would one day become the Kingdom of Israel. What began as the simple travels of one man from a faraway country into the heart of the Holy Land would lead to momentous things in the future. What we see here is simply the seed being planted, but a seed that would grow to become a great nation, a nation of which the Lord said it would become a blessing for all the nations of the earth. That is the reason that God called Abraham in the first place.

What can this simple beginning tell us about the mind of Jesus? Like the Kingdom of Israel, the great works that Jesus would do needed a beginning: a seed had to be planted that would grow into something greater. That seed was planted in Jesus early childhood. Just as Abraham was called to enter into the heart of what would become the earthly Kingdom of Israel, Jesus from the very beginning was brought to the heart of His own heavenly Kingdom. That heart, the heart and soul of heaven, is childlike innocence and love. Now as with Abraham, the journey does not end there: for Abraham, many centuries would pass before his people were a great nation. And for the Lord it would take years of temptation and struggle before He could fulfill His mission. But all of it, every last bit, stemmed from that first seed planted in childhood.

It might seem odd to think that everything the Lord needed to face the hells, to put them in their place, and to conquer them was established while He was still a little boy, but it is so. It is in fact the case for each of us that something essential to our life is planted within before we are even aware. Listen to this passage from the Teachings of the New Church that speaks to how powerful our childhoods are for our later lives:

The Lord had first of all to be endowed from infancy with the heavenly things of love - the heavenly things of love consisting in love towards Jehovah and love towards the neighbour, and in innocence itself present in those loves. From these, as from the very sources of life, flows every single thing, for all other things are simply derivatives. These heavenly things are implanted in a person primarily in the state of infancy through to childhood. (Secrets of Heaven 1450)

As a child Jesus received deep stores of love and innocence. This took place before He could even talk or conceptualize these things in His mind. They were simply blessings of love that would remain with Him for the rest of His life, and indeed, to eternity.

This stage of the Lord’s life was not trivial. Without these perfectly innocent and heavenly remains sitting at the core of His being He never would have been able to face the onslaught of hell later in life. That which would later give Him strength in temptation, even on the Cross itself, had been received in childhood innocence and stored away, hidden, until such time as it would be needed. Every loving word and parable, every miracle, every demon cast out and every sickness made well, all flowed from the fountain of love, a fountain established in His youth. We all know the power of little children and their heavenly innocence. There was never a moment that that innocence of infancy dissipated. We don’t often think of the fact that while that innocence recedes and is hidden, it never leaves us.

We all have those same heavenly remnants left over from our childhood. Before we were born the Lord was with us in the womb. He has blessed us, as Jesus was blessed, so that now we have all the innocence and power of a child. As does every human being you will meet. The boss who frustrates you to no end, the spouse that drives you crazy, the acquaintance you can’t stand, all were once little children that would have been beautiful to hold and love, that were beautiful and were held and were loved. None of that goes away. It is always there, part of you, making you who you are. And any time you make an effort to show true love, you are only able to do so because love was once the only thing you knew.

So what do we do with this information? Abraham heard the call of God and left his home to dwell in a new land. Jesus felt a call from deep within His soul and left his own desires to accept the heavenly love that was welling like a fountain within Him. Can we follow the example of both Abraham and Jesus? Will you answer the call? Will you remember when times are hard that once in this life all you knew was love? That deep within your heart beats the love and innocence of childhood? That every human you ever meet has that same source of love and innocence within them? And finally will you use that love to become a blessing to those around you? Jesus answered this call. He continues to answer this call. And He calls on us to do the same. Will you answer? Amen.
(Read the next sermon in this 3-part series, about Bargaining)

From Swedenborg's Works

Arcana Coelestia #3382

Arcana Coelestia (Elliott translation)

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3382. 'And practiced My observances, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws' means through revelations constantly coming from Himself; that is to say, as by means of temptations, so also by means of those revelations He united the Divine Essence to the Human Essence. This becomes clear from the fact that 'practicing observances, commandments, statutes, and laws' implies all aspects of the Word - 'observances' being everything in general there, 'commandments' the internal aspects, 'statutes' the external, and 'laws' every specific detail. Because all these are attributed to the Lord who from eternity has been the Word and is the author of them all, the meaning in the internal sense cannot be His practice of them but that He revealed them to Himself when His state was one in which the Human and the Divine had become united.

[2] At first sight these matters do indeed seem to be quite remote from the sense of the letter, or even from the internal sense closest to the letter. All the same, when these words are read by man, this is the meaning those same words have in heaven, for as stated several times already, and as may be seen from the examples in 1873, 1874, the sense of the letter is laid aside as it rises up towards heaven and another heavenly sense takes its place, with the result that this latter sense cannot be recognized as that which arises out of the former. For the idea in the minds of those in heaven is that everything in the internal sense of the Word has to do with the Lord, and also that everything in the Word comes from the Lord. Also in their minds is the idea that even when He was in the world He thought from the Divine, and so from Himself, and acquired all intelligence and wisdom to Himself through revelations constantly coming from the Divine. Consequently they do not perceive anything other than this from the words used here. For the practice of all things of the Word, internal as well as external, meant by 'practicing the observances, commandments, statutes, and laws' is not applicable to the Lord because He Himself was the Word and therefore He Himself was the observance that was to be practiced; He Himself was the commandment, also the statute, and the law. For all these have regard to Him as the First from whom they spring and the Last to whom they lead. In the highest sense therefore these words can mean nothing else than the uniting of the Lord's Divine to His Human by means of revelations constantly coming from Himself. For unlike any others the Lord thought from the Divine, and so from Himself, see 1904, 1914, 1935, and acquired intelligence and wisdom to Himself by means of revelations constantly coming from the Divine, 1616, 2500, 2523, 2632.

(References: Arcana Coelestia 1873-1874)


[3] As regards 'practicing observances' meaning in the genuine sense all aspects of the Word in general, 'commandments' the internal aspects of the Word, 'statutes' the external aspects of the Word, and 'laws' every specific detail in the Word, this becomes clear from many places when seen in the internal sense. Let some of these be brought in here, such as the following in David,

Blessed are the blameless in the way, walking in the law of Jehovah; blessed are those who keep His testimonies. O that my ways were directed to keep Your statutes! I will keep Your statutes; do not forsake me utterly. With my whole heart I have sought You; cause me not to wander from Your commandments. I have laid up Your Word in my heart, that I might not sin against You. Blessed are You, O Jehovah; teach me Your statutes! With my lips I have declared all the judgements of Your mouth. I take delight in the way of Your testimonies. I meditate on Your commands and look to Your ways. I delight in Your statutes, I do not forget Your Word. Recompense Your servant that I may live and keep Your Word. Open my eyes that I may see wondrous things out of Your law. Do not hide Your commandments from me. Quicken me according to Your Word. Teach me Your statutes. Make me understand the way of [Your] commands. Psalms 119:1-27.

The subject in the whole of this psalm is the Word and the things that constitute the Word, which plainly are commandments, statutes, judgements, testimonies, commands, and ways. But the specific meaning of each of these cannot possibly be seen from the sense of the letter. In that sense they are scarcely more than repetitions of the same thing, but it may be seen from the internal sense in which 'commandments' has an altogether different meaning from 'statutes'; and 'judgements', 'testimonies', 'commands', and 'ways' each have a different meaning again. Something similar occurs elsewhere in the same author,

The law of Jehovah is perfect, restoring the soul; the testimony of Jehovah is sure, making wise the simple; the commands of Jehovah are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of Jehovah is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of Jehovah is clean, standing for ever; the judgements of Jehovah are truth. Psalms 19:7-9.

And in the Book of Kings,

David said to Solomon, You shall practise the observance of your God, to walk in His ways, to keep His statutes, and His commandments, and His judgements, and His testimonies, as it is written in the law of Moses. 1 Kings 2:3.

'Practicing an observance' stands for all aspects of the Word in general, for this expression comes first, and those that follow are related to it as less general aspects. Actually 'practicing observances' means the same as 'keeping what has to be kept'. In Moses,

You shall love Jehovah your God, and you shall practice His observance, and His statutes and judgements, and His commandments, all your days. Deuteronomy 11:1.

Here 'practising an observance' or keeping something that is to be kept in a similar way stands for all aspects of the Word in general, 'statutes' for the external aspects of the Word such as forms of ritual, and things that are representatives and meaningful signs of the internal sense, but 'commandments' for the internal aspects of the Word such as matters of life and teaching, especially those that belong to the internal sense. But the meaning of commandments and statutes will in the Lord's Divine mercy be discussed elsewhere.

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From Swedenborg's Works

Inbound References:

Arcana Coelestia 3975, 5354, 6272, 8362, 8363, 8420, 8706, 8881

The New Jerusalem and its Heavenly Doctrine 107, 121


References from Swedenborg's unpublished works:

Apocalypse Explained 130, 204, 277, 329

Other New Christian Commentary

Observe 1

Statutes and judgments 1


Thanks to the Swedenborg Society for the permission to use this translation.


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