Ni 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.