Arcana Coelestia (Elliott) n. 1327

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1327. 'Jehovah confounded the lip of the whole earth' means the state of this Ancient Church, that internal worship started to perish. This is clear from the fact that the phrase used is 'the lip of the whole earth' and not, as previously in verse 7, the lip of those who started to build a city and a tower. 'The face of the whole earth' means the state of the Church since 'the earth' is the Church, as shown already in 662, 1066. The story of the Churches after the Flood is as follows: There were three Churches which receive specific mention in the Word - the first Ancient Church which took its name from Noah, the second Ancient Church which took its name from Eber, and the third Ancient Church which took its name from Jacob, and subsequently from Judah and Israel.

[2] As regards the first Ancient Church, that called Noah, this was the parent so to speak of those that followed, and as is usually the case with Churches in their earliest phases, it was more untarnished and innocent, as is also clear from verse 1 of this chapter which says that it had one lip, that is, one doctrine. That is to say, everyone regarded charity as the essential. But in the course of time, as usually happens to Churches, that Church also started to decline, chiefly because many people started to divert worship to themselves so as to set themselves above others, as is clear from verse 4 above - 'they said, Let us build ourselves a city and a tower, and its head in heaven, and let us make a name for ourselves'. In the Church such people were inevitably like some fermenting agent, or like firebrands that start a fire. When the danger of profaning what is holy was consequently near at hand, referred to in 571, 582, the state of this Church was, in the Lord's Providence, altered. That is to say, its internal worship perished but its external worship remained, which here is meant by the statement that 'Jehovah confounded the lip of the whole earth'. From this it is also clear that the kind of worship called Babel was not prevalent in the first Ancient Church but in those that followed when people started to be worshipped in place of gods, especially after they had died. This was the origin of so many pagan deities.

[3] The reason internal worship was allowed to perish and external remain was to prevent what is holy being profaned. The profanation of what is holy carries eternal condemnation with it. Nobody is able to profane what is holy unless he possesses cognitions of faith and also acknowledges them. Anyone who does not possess them cannot acknowledge them, still less profane them. It is internal things which may be profaned, for it is in internal things, not external, that holiness resides. The situation is similar with someone who does evil but does not have evil in mind. The evil he does cannot be attributed to him any more than to someone who does not deliberately intend evil, or to anyone devoid of rationality. Thus anyone who does not believe in the existence of a life after death, but who nevertheless has external worship, cannot profane the things that belong to eternal life because he does not believe that they exist. The situation is different with those who do know and acknowledge them.

[4] This too is why a person is allowed rather to live engrossed in lusts and pleasures, and so to isolate himself from internal things, than to enter into a knowledge and acknowledgement of internal things and so profane them. The Jews of today therefore are allowed to immerse themselves in avarice so that in this way they may be removed from an acknowledgement of internal things, for they are the kind of people who, if they acknowledged them, would inevitably profane them. Nothing does more to isolate a person from internal things than avarice, for this is the lowest of all earthly desires. The same applies to many inside the Church, and to gentiles outside, though gentiles, least of all people, are able to profane anything. This then is the reason for the statement here that 'Jehovah confounded the lip of the whole earth', and the reason why these words mean that the state of the Church was altered, that is to say, its worship became external, having no internal worship within it.

[5] The same situation was represented and meant by the Babylonish captivity into which the Israelites, and later on the Jews, were carried away This is spoken of in Jeremiah as follows,

And there will be a nation and a kingdom that will not serve the king of Babel, and who will not put its neck in the yoke of the king of Babel. With the sword and famine and pestilence I will visit this people, until I have consumed it by his hand. Jer 27:8
and following verses.

'Serving the king of Babel and putting its neck in his yoke' is being utterly deprived of the knowledge and acknowledgement of the good and the truth of faith, and so of internal worship.

[6] The point is clearer still in the same prophet,

Thus said Jehovah to all the people in this city, your brethren who did not go out with you into captivity, thus said Jehovah Zebaoth, Behold, I am sending on them the sword, famine, and pestilence, and I will make them like rotten figs. Jer 29:16, 17.

'Remaining in the city and not going out to the king of Babel' represented and meant people who possessed the cognitions of internal things, that is, of the truths of faith, and who profaned them - people on whom, it is said, He was sending 'the sword, famine, and pestilence', which are forms of punishment for profanation, and whom He was making 'like rotten figs'.

[7] That 'Babel' means people who deprive others of all knowledge and acknowledgement of truth was also represented and meant by the following words in the same prophet,

I will give all Judah into the hand of the king of Babel, and he will carry them off to Babel, and will smite them with the sword. And I will give over all the wealth of this city, and all its lab our, and all its precious things; and I will give all the treasures of the kings of Judah into the hand of their enemies, and they will plunder them and seize them. Jer 20:4, 5.

Here 'all its wealth, all its lab our, all its precious things, all the treasures of the kings of Judah' means in the internal sense cognitions of faith.

[8] In the same prophet,

With the families of the north I will bring the king of Babel against this land and against its inhabitants, and against all those nations round about, and I will utterly destroy them and make them into a ruin, a hissing, and everlasting wastes. And this whole land will be a waste. Jer 25:9, 11.

Here 'Babel' is used to describe the vastation of the interior things of faith, that is, of internal worship. Indeed, as shown already, anyone whose worship is worship of self possesses no truth of faith. He destroys and lays waste, and leads off into captivity, everything that is true. This is why Babel is also called 'a destroying mountain' in Jer 51:25.

For more concerning Babel, see what has been stated already in 1182.

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