“And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good.
“And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth.” – Genesis 1:21-22
The natural world exists from the spiritual world and everything in it corresponds to something in the spiritual as its source; so throughout the Word the mind is described in terms of nature.
Water, as we all know, is the natural representative of truth, and the sea is the general memory in which are stored all the knowledges of the mind, whether true or false. Fishes are those knowledges vivified and made alive by the purified affections. We recall Ezekiel’s vision of the healing waters issuing from the sanctuary. “And it shall come to pass, that everything that liveth, which moveth, whithersoever the rivers shall come, shall live: and there shall be a very great multitude of fish, because these waters shall come thither: for they shall be healed; and everything shall live whither the river cometh.” This river, which could not be crossed over, is the Divine wisdom, which can never be fully fathomed by finite minds. The sanctuary from under whose threshold the waters issued is the Lord’s Word and the waters issuing forth are its truths.
And it is added, “These waters issue out toward the east country, and go down into the desert, and go into the sea: which being brought forth into the sea, the waters shall be healed.” The truths of the Word, when seen, loved, and obeyed, will correct our errors and misunderstandings, and will sanctify all our knowledges, even those of natural truth, signified by the sea. The river mentioned first in the Garden of Eden story, then by Ezekiel, and finally in Revelation is the same river, giving life wherever it flows.
Fishes represent our affections for natural truths. We acquire knowledge little by little, and when a sufficient body of knowledge is stored in the mind, the great cardinal doctrines of the church can be taught, rationally received, and confirmed. This cannot be done in the beginning. That is why the “whales” are mentioned separately. The formation and confirmation of the cardinal doctrines of the Lord, the Word, and Life is meant by the creation of the whales. The word translated whales in our text means merely the largest class of fishes, which are also the largest of all living creatures. They represent the affection for the great general principles in the mind, as the smaller fishes on which they feed represent affections for particular truths therein.
It is said that God created, though the waters brought forth, for, although the mind, from further truths or facts in the memory, forms the general principles of its life, yet as the power to do so comes from God alone, He is said to create them. As long as men looked to the Lord for the truth and depended on Him for guidance, He could give them an understanding of the true general principles. This was the state of the first church on earth, pictured by the Garden of Eden with the tree of life in the center.
But as time went on and men began to look to self instead of to the Lord, they gradually falsified and perverted the great principles which the Lord had given them. So in the Word whales, like everything else, have two meanings, a good and an evil one. Ezekiel writes of Pharaoh, king of Egypt: “Thou art as a whale in the seas: and thou camest forth with thy rivers, and troubledst the waters with thy feet, and fouledst their rivers.” Egypt represents the natural plane of the mind, and when the ruling principle in the mind is evil, it is a monster that makes the mind obscure and perverts the affections.
This is further illustrated in the story of Jonah. A prophet is one who teaches the Divine truth, and by a prophet in the Word is meant the Divine truth. The whale in the story of Jonah represents a great general principle in the mind, formed from the particular things therein, as all general principles are made up of particulars, and control them. But the controlling principle may be either true or false. When it is false, it swallows up for the time being all the particular things in the mind, even the truth that is there; then the whale swallows the prophet. But Divine truth cannot be used by a false principle so as to become a part of its organic structure; neither can the truth perish. And so the whale, though it swallowed up the prophet, could not digest him, nor could the prophet perish, but the whale vomited him up, just as a false principle gives up eventually whatever of Divine truth it may have seized upon and lets it go, like the prophet, on its appointed mission.
This story is applicable throughout the world today. It treats of the internal states of the minds of men in all ages and countries. If we look at our world with this story in mind, we shall see whales swallowing prophets today.
In the allegory in Genesis from which our text is taken the whale is used in a good sense because the process of regeneration is being described. And our text continues, “And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth.” Often we find in the Word terms joined together that seem to have the same meaning. Many hundreds of such instances occur. It would seem that to be fruitful and to multiply is tautology, but it is not so. Man has two faculties, the will and the understanding, and where two words such as the above are used, one refers to the will and the other to the understanding. So we find the phrases poor and needy, joy and gladness, mourning and weeping, justice and judgment, image and likeness, devil and satan. So in our text to be fruitful means to develop more and more into the love of what is good, and to multiply is to increase in knowledge of what is true, and to fill the waters and the earth is to have both the will and the understanding imbued with the principles of goodness and truth. Such a mind the Lord will always bless, not by pronouncing words of blessing but by influx of His Divine life.
The work of redemption is not the effort to reconcile an angry God, but the restoration of disordered man to a state in which he can receive and enjoy the blessings which the Lord is ever willing to bestow, and regeneration is the only process by which man can be restored.
For this process of regeneration we need true knowledge from the Word, and our knowledges from the Word have to culminate in an understanding and acceptance of the great general principles which the Lord has given us. When the great truths concerning the Lord, the Word, and life are clearly fixed and confirmed in the mind, then the external man – the daily life – is imbued with new qualities, and he can be gifted with more and more of genuine goodness from the Lord.
“O Lord, how manifold are thy works! in wisdom hast thou made them all: the earth is full of thy riches.”
“That thou givest them they gather: thou openest thine hand, they are filled with good.”