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The Divine Allegory
by Hugo Lj. Odhner

The story of the peoples and lands of scripute and their spiritual significance as revealed in the Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg (New York: Swedenborg Foundation, 1954)



Abram’s covenant with God, by which the land of Canaan was promised to his seed forever and all nations should be blessed through him, exalted the simple shepherd-king into a prophetic type and representative of the Lord incarnate through whom the blessing of spiritual Redemption would actually come to all mankind. This representation was to pass from Abram to his descendants. He himself - in all the actions which are recorded in Scripture - was to represent the Lord in His Divine infancy in the world. The land of promise itself was in the supreme sense significative of the Divine heritage which was to be given the Human of the Lord by the process of glorification.

But this heritage could not be entered into by the Lord except by degrees and stages. After His birth at Bethlehem, the Lord's Human had to pass through the general states of an orderly human life, and - like human infants - be instructed before His mind could be built up to receive the Divine presence. This upbuilding of a mind in the Lord's Human could be accomplished only by means of the acquisition of knowledge (TCR 89, 90, 110).

In order to represent the need of such instruction, Abram after his arrival from Syria did not linger long in Canaan. A famine compelled him to move his great herds and flocks down towards the fertile delta of the Egyptian Nile, where pasture was plentiful. By this sojourn in Egypt is represented the Lord's instruction in scientifics - a thing which is also signified by the later migration of the family of Jacob into Egypt; and by the flight of Joseph, Mary, and the infant Lord into Egypt, as related in the Gospel.

The story of Israel is thus tied up with the history of the great empire to the south. In the case of Abram, it was natural that he should drive south into Egypt. For at this time the increasing drought conditions in the interior of Syria and Arabia were destroying the pasture lands, and great hordes of Asiatic tribes - the so-called Hyksos, not fully identified - were filtering into the north of Egypt and, settling there, became a power in the land. From the account of Abram's brief and friendly sojourn with the "Pharaoh", we can discern no racial antipathy of the Egyptians to the Hebrews. But a few generations later, the Syrian influx took on dangerous proportions. The weak Egyptian kings were no match against the Hyksos, or "Upland Sheiks", who surpassed them in the arts of war and were better acquainted with the use of metals and with fortifications, and also made fine pottery and used the horse, which had not yet become employed in Egypt. The 'Shepherd-Kings' thus gained the control of Lower Egypt for at least two hundred years, which falls into the general period when Israel lived, by Joseph's invitation, in the land of Goshen.


A word must be said here concerning the controversies which have raged for the last century around the question whether the Biblical history of those times is accurate enough to be fitted into the dates supplied by Egyptologists. The chronology of Bishop Usher was adopted into the Authorized Version in the 1701 edition, and was given wide credence by all literalistic readers. By adding up the ages of the patriarchs given in the Hebrew accounts, he arrived at the date 4004 B.C. for creation, 2348 B.C. for the deluge, 1996 B.C. for the birth of Abraham, and 1491 B.C. for the exodus of Israel from Egypt. When geology demonstrated that the earth's history required immense spaces of time for the creation, and that there was no evidence of an actual world-wide flood, the thinking public lost faith in the accuracy the whole Bible, and learned critics began to treat even stories of Abraham, the exodus, and the Jewish monarchy as mere folktales, claiming that the books of Moses were mostly written after the Babylonish Captivity from legend and questionable records, to inspire a nationalistic tradition within the new Jewish settlement in Palestine. It was asserted that in the time of Moses (if there was such a man the people of Palestine were utterly illiterate, and that n such laws as that of the Levites could possibly have existed.

This challenge was met by archeologists by the simple method of the spade. The last seventy years of research have established beyond dispute not only that there was a people, called Israel, but that the life described in each period o its history is in general true to the times. (Certain tablets, dated between 1400 and 1360 B.C., found in Ras Shamra, Syria, recorded, in a Hebrew written by cuneiform characters, a ritual and laws strongly suggestive of Leviticus.) But while this, general confirmation is now conceded, there is among scholars no disposition to give more credit to the historicity of the Hebrew record than the findings compel. And on the other hand, what has been established of the history of contemporary nations such as Egypt and Syria must cause us to alter our picture somewhat of many of the simple tales which are given in the Bible, and see the story of Israel as a not less important, but yet much less dominant theme in the great pageant of the Near East, and, by reason of this, gain a clearer understanding of the miracle which preserved this persistent little people in the midst of a turmoil of forces materially far stronger.

We may, for instance, from first impressions, picture Abraham as a pacific shepherd in a land of friendly tribes. But this was so only as long as he pastured his flocks in the Palestinian hill country. On either side of these mountain lands the tides of empire were in full flood! Along the plains of the Mediterranean shore the aggressive Hyksos were pressing down - in restless waves following the courses of trade and culture. And on the east - through the Jordan valley route - came Chedorlaomer and his Mesopotamian allies for a punitive raid on the rebellious cities of Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities of "the plain of salt". When "Abram the Hebrew" heard that Lot and his people were among the captives, he armed his trained servants (three hundred and eighteen men) and, with his Amorite neighbors, pursued the raiders and, by a night attack, recovered both slaves and goods.

Among the allies of Chedorlaomer was Amraphel, king of Shinar (Sumer). Many scholars have sought to identify the name with that of Hammurabi, the great king of Babylonia who by astronomical reckoning ruled from 2123 B.C., and who not only united many Mesopotamian kingdoms in a firm empire, but also sent out expeditions to pacify more distant districts. The Hebrew record naturally magnifies the brave feat of Abram by associating all the eastern kings themselves with their ill-fated raid. Yet the essential historic truth is not marred thereby; for in the tribal mind, an affront to a servant was always an affront to the master. And how elastically "astronomical" evidence can be applied is shown by a recent placing of Hammurabi's reign as late as 1728 to 1676 B.C. The identity of Amraphel remains unknown.

The date of Abraham is of course also debatable. But Professor W. F. Albright has recently pointed out that with the editing of a rich store of newly found tablets from Mari in Syria, "Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob no longer seem isolated figures, much less reflections of later Israelite history", but "they now appear as true children of their age . . ." (The Archaeology of Palestine, 1949, page 236.)


Scholars have not been able to agree as to what time the Hyksos dynasty began to rule in Egypt; some placing this event at 1700 B.C., definitely after the coming of Abram, while others place it as early as 2371 B.C. Similar difficulties are encountered in determining what Pharaoh reigned at the time of the Exodus. Many historians still seem wedded to the theory that it was the forceful despot Rameses II who was the oppressor of Israel; partly because he built the town of Raamses mentioned by Moses (Exodus 1:11) . The Exodus would then have taken place in the second year of Merneptah, in 1233 or 1232 B.C. This would of course sacrifice the Biblical dating. But later findings seem to have made so late a date questionable if not untenable. For in the recent excavations on the site of Jericho the general catastrophe which was accompanied by the outward fall of the walls of the Bronze Age city and the abrupt end of tomb deposits, is dated about the year 1400 B.C. by the painted pottery, the lamps, and the actual seals of officials up to those of Thotmes III's reign. Nor is any later influence traceable - such as Mycenaean wares or the peculiar art products of the Khun-Aten or Tel-el-Amarna period. (Garstang and Rowe, Quarterly Statement of the Palestine Exploration Fund, July 1936.) Joshua's burning of Jericho was exceedingly thorough. Yet it left - in the buried storechambers - the scorched remains of foodstuffs, which after three thousand three hundred years testify that the town was 'devoted', not plundered! And only one building was unaffected by the earthquake - and this, like that of Rahab the harlot's - was enclosed in the city wall! (Joshua vi. 22, 25; ii. 15, 18, 19)

According to this evidence, fortified by a great number of other contemporary conditions now revealed, Moses would have lived in Egypt during the XVIIIth dynasty. The first Pharaoh of that line - for "there arose a new king over Egypt, who knew not Joseph" and who therefore treated Israel as a potential ally of the Hyksos - succeeded in driving the Hyksos back into Palestine, and his descendants with a well-trained mobile army of horses and chariots continued their conquests far into Syria. Moses may well have been raised at the royal court of Hat-shepsut, who was the step-mother of Thotmes III and for a long period the real ruler of Egypt. But at her death in 1480 B.C. Thotmes III took over the rule and deposed all her favorites. Moses may then have found Egypt too dangerous, and have fled to Midian. "And it came to pass after many days" - and Thotmes III ruled until 1447 - "that the king of Egypt died", and Moses felt it safe to return, to champion his oppressed brethren. Contemporary inscriptions show Semitic laborers making brick. (Ancient Records of Egypt, II, par. 758 f.)

According to these inferences, the new Pharaoh, Amen-Hotep II, was the Pharaoh of the Exodus. His successor, it seems, was not his "firstborn", but another son, Thotmes IV. Egypt continued to be the overlord over its vassal states in Palestine and Syria, but it was a loose political hegemony, maintained by isolated military outposts and occasionally reinforced by punitive raids-in-force which weakened the spirit of the tribes of Canaan. Indeed it has been suggested that when Moses was promised that the Lord would send "hornets" before Israel to drive out the Hivite, the Canaanite, and the Hittite, this referred to the hornet-badge on the arms of Thotmes and his successors.

Meanwhile, Israel wandered like a lost horde south of Canaan shifting from one pasture land to another. Cuneiform tablets accidentally found at Tel-el-Amarna in Egypt reveal that when the Canaanitish, Amorite, and Jebusite chiefs begged for help against the invading Habiru (whom many take to mean the Hebrews under Joshua), the Pharaohs turned a deaf ear. One of these Pharaohs was the well known religious reformer, Khun-Aten, who dreamed of philosophy and art rather than of war, and who let the empire of his fathers slowly fall to pieces. Possibly he had some sympathy for the Israelitish monotheists. Egypt thus leaves the Israelites alone, for over a hundred years, to carry on their partial, gradual settlement of the more easily defended mountain regions of Palestine; even while the backwash of the tides of empire swirl along the seashore and along the trade routes to the east; until, in the days of Rameses II, Egypt makes peace with the Hittite king of Syria - both countries exhausted by the long struggle. But in the next generation, Pharaoh Merneptah (1225-1215 B.C.) carried on a raid in Palestine, which - perhaps because only tribal mercenaries were employed - is not mentioned in the Bible as an Egyptian undertaking. On his stele of victory, Merneptah inscribed these words: "Wasted is Libya, the Hittite land is at peace, plundered is the Canaan with every evil, carried off is Ashkelon, seized is Gezer, Yanoam is made as a thing not existing, Israel is desolated, her seed is not, Kharu is become a widow". This is the first known reference to Israel in an Egyptian document. And it refers to Israel alone as in nomadic state, giving it the determinative of tribe.

It is thus becoming apparent how true was the promise of God, "I will not drive out these nations in one year .. . Little by little I will drive them out from before thee, till thou be increased and inherit the land" (Exodus 23:29, 30). Not until the time of David can we picture Israel as more than a loose confederacy of tribes precariously maintaining themselves amidst a hostile population of settled peoples.

Our interest in attempts to fix the chronology of the Exodus from Egypt is partly due to the fact that Swedenborg does not always accept the statements in the Hebrew version uncritically. Thus he accepts the Septuagint reading of Exodus xii. 40, 41, which specifies 430 years as the period which elapsed between Abram's sojourn in Egypt and the Exodus (AC 1502); giving a spiritual reason for using the number 430 for the years "of the dwelling of the sons of Israel in Egypt", since four-hundred signifies temptation, like the forty years in the wilderness (AC 1847). Thus the Arcana gives about 215 years for the period between the coming of Jacob into Egypt and the crossing of the Red Sea (AC 2959). This is confirmed by citations of the ages of the various men of the seven generations involved (AC 7985). But while this by itself does not enable us to fix a definite date either for Abram's birth or for the Exodus, it is a general confirmation of the accuracy of the Biblical chronologies from Abram on, when these are interpreted with a liberal allowance for the spiritual reasons why certain numbers are employed in Scripture. The Writings do not cite any actual dates for Scriptural events prior to 605 B.C., the year of the beginning of the Babylonish captivity.


The spiritual reasons why Egypt exerts so powerful an influence upon the destinies of Israel are only vaguely hinted at in the Word, such as when the Apocalypse speaks of the two witnesses being killed "in the street of the great city which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified". It there stands for the church in the days of its corruption. The prophets of Israel also made the liberation from Egypt an object-lesson, a type of moral redemption. But the Writings assign a precise spiritual meaning to the land of Egypt. It stands always for "the scientific which is of the natural man"; and this whether used in a good or a bad sense.

A 'scientific', as the term is constantly employed in the Writings, means a thing of knowledge, such as results from sensual experience or from instruction which enters the memory and remains there. All the truth and all the falsity which man learns, is stored up in the memory in the form of scientifics. And our mental life, so far as we can translate it into conscious ideas, is carried on entirely within the limits of our knowledge; and by means of this field of scientifics, or of mental objects within the memory, we connect up chains of conscious thoughts which we can afterwards use as units for new combinations of ideas, and can reconstruct and recollect as a whole.

The memory thus becomes the ultimate foundation of our mind. It becomes the repository of past states. It stands at the outer gate of the mind, close to the senses of the body. It is the feeding-ground for all our interior states. No new states can come into conscious existence unless they clothe themselves with knowledges.

For this reason, the Lord insinuates into man a delight in knowledges, or scientifics, which is particularly evident in childhood and youth when it serves as a goad to progress. The love of knowing, with a child, procures for itself very many knowledges; so many that a child learns in his first few years tremendously more rapidly than at later times. He learns to judge of the objects around him, to perceive relations of space and time, learns to talk and think and use his body; learns, later, how to read and write. Such knowledges as these become embodied into habits and skills and pass out of notice. They have a temporary use, in preparing him for usefulness and making him rational; and having served their purpose, they are forgotten - or as it were destroyed, beyond recall, like some of the rules of grammar or spelling. And unless they are thus removed, there could be no spontaneity, no grace, no smoothness of action or speech or thought; thus no use, nothing "celestial".

This first imbibing of knowledges in infancy and early childhood is signified by Abram's brief visit to Egypt. It would have been fatal for Abram to remain there. Scientifics not smoothly translated into action and use, but delighted in for their own sakes, tend to clog the mind and to become material, pleased with themselves, and closed to the celestial affections which they should serve. But if turned into service, into a means of love for others and love to the Lord, then they become open and receptive of the influx of heaven and the Lord (AC 1487, 1489, 1472).

Abram - in the supreme sense - represents the Lord in His tender childhood. He also learnt, storing His memory with such things as could become the basis and correspondential ultimate for celestial things, that is, for His Divine celestial which was His inmost. And with the Lord there was received no other knowledge than what came from the Word of Divine revelation, or from the Word in its ultimate form in nature, knowledges which are open from the Divine itself (AC 1461). With man, however, the fact that he absorbs empty, closed scientifics in childhood and youth is one of the chief causes why he cannot become celestial, or enter fully into a confirmation of his celestial remains of infancy (AC 1542). And later, man in his adolescence - like Ishmael's mother, Hagar, a rebel against her mistress - stands vacillating between Egypt and Canaan, between the natural call of the flesh and the angelic voice of a developing conscience. And still later, man - like the sons of Jacob - becomes a prey to spiritual famine, and seeking food for his mind, turns so avidly to the Egypt of knowledge that he well-nigh forgets his spiritual land of promise.


But even Egypt could suffer from famine. One such famine came after Joseph had been sold into slavery by his brethren, only to rise to become the real power behind the throne of Pharaoh. As in the days of Abram, the Egypt of Joseph's time did not represent anything wholly corrupt. It stands rather as the type of man's natural memory, his field of knowledge, which is destined to serve his rational and spiritual life, and to assist him to apprehend the things of the Lord's kingdom (AC 4539:2). Thus Joseph's first master, Potiphar, the chamberlain of Pharaoh, represented the interior things of knowledge - especially the interpretative science of the correspondence of natural things to spiritual things and to the heavenly uses which the internal man sees (AC 4965). It was Potiphar's wife - from the cupidities of the natural man - that caused Joseph's imprisonment. And the Pharaoh who elevated Joseph as the real power behind his throne, represented the interior natural, and Egypt, the memory in a state of reformation.

Thus we may surmise that the Egypt of Joseph's time was not fully vastated. The ruling dynasty - undoubtedly Hyksos - perhaps brought with them out of Syria some remains of the Ancient Church which served to delay the judgment upon Egypt and enabled them to serve their destined purpose in the Divine drama of the Word, and to modify - by their characteristics and new culture - the nature of Egyptian civilization, that it might more livingly represent the scientific part of the mind in its manifold aspects.

The whole history of Egypt had been molded to this effect. It was an ancient land, and its early story is shrouded in uncertainties. To judge from what scholars claim, it was once blessed by plentiful rainfall and was then the home of a Paleolithic race - still surviving as late as 13,000 B.C. But by 5,000 B.C., the narrow valley, flooded by the fertile Nile, served a neolithic people, a race, short, and long-headed like the so-called Hamitic Mediterraneans; who developed a distinctive civilization, living in huts of reed, mud, or wood, and using domesticated animals, boats, varied utensils of pottery, weapons and tools of flint; and by degrees replacing garments of skin with woven fabrics. They buried their dead mostly in the embryonic position along with funerary offerings. They were not fetishists, nor were they savage or war-like. By about 3800 B.C. they had mastered the art of spinning and modeled crude clay statuettes, made beads and ivory carvings, and ground cosmetics. A few centuries later there came an infiltration of a new race of uncertain origin. Some call them "Armenoids". Some describe them as broad-headed Asiatics who brought with them tools of metal, introduced the worship of the god Horus, and affected the Hamitic language with a proto-semitic influence. And after some centuries had passed and the two stocks had merged, we find hieroglyphic, pictorial writing developed and the Nile valley and the Delta united by war into one nation, reputedly under Menes of the First Dynasty, who now is conservatively assigned the date of ca. 3000 B.C.

That Palestine and the Semites early brought a significant influence to bear upon Egypt is clear from Semitic traces in the language of the Nile country. It is also the opinion of many scholars that, shortly before the dynastic period opens, the use of copper spread to Egypt through Semitic neighbors; and that the cultivation of corn and wheat and wine came both to Babylonia and to Egypt from Palestine - the tiny land which inconspicuously stood as the hub and spiritual center of the ancient world. (See H. R. Hall, Ancient History of the Near East, 1920, pages 89 and 90.)

It is difficult to find any one era in Egypt's history which bears the mark of all those traits which the Writings ascribe to the Ancient Church. The spiritual state of a people can never be universal, and cannot be segregated from the turmoil of those external events which leave their more obvious marks upon history. But out of these elements - and from later intrusions of negroes and Asiatics - there arose a people which retained its pristine characteristics amid a cultural development of astounding dimensions. It was a practical, cheerful, hard-working people, which had no capacity for great invention or abstract thought but who were very devout and were wonderful organizers and good economists. They possessed an innate grace and charm which pervaded all their art and life. Despite their being ruled by powerful despots, their way of living was democratic and surprisingly free of castes or race-feeling. And many renowned scholars believe that in the intricate religious system of thousands of deities which developed in Egypt there are shown the signs of an original monotheism, as well as a persistent faith in the survival of man's whole spirit and character in a spiritual world.

The belief in the afterlife caused the Egyptians to attach a peculiar importance to burial rites and graves. A great collection of funerary texts cut or painted on walls of tombs or pyramids, and copied on coffins and sarcophagi and on rolls of papyri, has been gathered under the name of "The Book of the Dead". This consists of miscellaneous hymns and litanies, magical formulas, prayers, and words of power, by which the deceased would be aided to ward off the demons which infested his way through the underworld to the kingdom of Osiris.

Osiris was the Redeemer-God who had lived and suffered on earth, and been elevated to judge the dead and to rule over the afterworld. Though covered over by grotesque details and perversions, there is obviously present here the basic concept of a Messianic prophecy. The texts prescribed how, by denying guilt and assuming the names of the gods and especially of Osiris, the spiritual body and soul would become transformed into images or likenesses of God. The gods are mystically identified with each other, yet distinguished with considerable care. Thus in an early papyrus the god Neb-er-tcher says: "I evolved myself under the form of the evolutions of the god Khepera, which were evolved at the beginning of all time. . . . My name is Osiris the germ of first substance. . . . I was alone, for nothing had been brought forth; I had not then emitted from myself either Shu or Tefnut. . . . I emitted from myself the gods Shu and Tefnut, and from being One I became three . . ." (E. A. W. Budge, Books on Egypt and Chaldea, I, pages 23 ff.)

The most usual name of this One God who became manifested in many forms, was Ra, the Sun-god, worshipped since pre-dynastic times. He was the king of the gods. "Thou art Horus", the Egyptians sang to him, "Thou only One .. . Homage to thee in thy characters of Horus Tem and Khepera! . . . Thou art unknowable, and no tongue can describe thy similitude; thou existest alone", "self-begotten and self-born, One, Might, of myriad forms and aspects" .. .

It is no doubt true that this theoretical acknowledgment of the essential and original unity of God may have existed for long ages side by side with gross popular polytheism and an increasing idolatry, even as the Christian dogma of three Persons in Deity has been accompanied by the assurance that somehow these three are one.

But another sign of the religious decadence of Egypt is the growing elaboration of the externals of their worship. Their love for mystical rites which they had long since ceased to understand in any spiritual sense, turned their worship into magic and superstition. The increasing power of their rival priesthoods is observable. The priests of Amen in Thebes - with eventual success - began to force Egypt to accept that god as the Sun-god, claiming him as the "unknown god", the hidden invisible and innermost form of Deity, of which the rest were symbolic and partial aspects.


When it is taught in the Writings that Egypt signifies 'scientifics', this does not refer principally to the fact that the Egyptians early began to study medicine and astronomy and mensuration. But the reference is to the scientifics of the Ancient Church, which treated of the correspondences of the natural world with the spiritual world, and of representations of spiritual and celestial things in earthly and natural forms. The Egyptians had "primitively" been among those who constituted the Ancient Representative Church (AC 5702). In Egypt especially, external scientifics had been handed down - correspondences and significatives which originally had been of use in interpreting the things said in the Ancient Word, and later in other sacred books and rituals (AC 4964, 5223). Such knowledge led them into spiritual thinking, and was thus of quite a different nature from the science of the present age, which like the philosophy of Aristotle and others - tend to focus the mind's search for reality upon natural things (AC 4966). Egyptian literature is almost devoid of any of the abstract terms of philosophy.

In general, Egypt, in its good sense, signifies all scientifics, or matters of knowledge through which the things of charity and faith can be applied: all true knowledge "concerning correspondences, representatives, significatives, influx, order, intelligence and wisdom, affections; nay, all truths of interior and exterior nature both visible and invisible, because these correspond to spiritual truths" (AC 5213e, 6004).

In the days of their integrity, the Egyptians knew Jehovah and were acquainted with correspondences. Their symbolism and hieroglyphic writings were indeed constructed from something of this knowledge, for the Egyptians, in this, and in their acquaintance with representative rituals, excelled all others in the Ancient Church (AC 7779:4). But later they came to make everything of the Church to consist in knowing such things, rather than in a life of charity. They sought to find a ritual way of salvation, until they turned their church into a routine of magical practices, which evaded the need of real repentance. This was indeed the idea behind their magnificent tombs and pyramids, and their elaborate funeral rites and embalmings. Egypt came thenceforth to signify false scientifics, dead literalistic knowledge, closed to heavenly life, averse to spiritual truths.

The decadence - the onward march of this externalization of Egyptian religion - seems to have been halted for a while by the coming to power of the Hyksos dynasties, even though these Asiatics did adopt the forms of Egyptian worship with but slight modifications.

Israel's sons represented the truths of the spiritual church, which seek for confirmations in the Egypt of knowledge, and seek to reduce the Natural into order and into subserviency to spiritual ends. They were indeed given a pasture in the fat of the land, protected by Pharaoh himself, who in this connection represents that interior realm of the external memory wherein rational things of doctrine are gathered. But when a new dynasty came into power "which knew not Joseph" - the role of Egypt changed. It came to represent false scientifics, knowledges inflamed by selfish loves, by lusts of fame and power and gain which reduce spiritual truths to the status of slaves to be exploited.

Thus we see the people of Israel subjected to oppression and captivity and serving as a type of the mental struggles of faith to maintain itself against the infesting spheres of a falsity which finds its power in scientifics that are divorced from the service of God.

For that knowledge which is signified by Egypt is a power both for good and for ill. Knowledge, in itself, is neither truth nor falsity, but may serve either. It is fickle like a reed upon which we dare not lean. It may be a friend or a foe to our spiritual life. It can yield the riches of Solomon, it can supply the gold for the tabernacle of God. But its precious wealth can also be used to mould the golden calf of sensual self-worship.


The signification of Egypt as "the scientific of the natural man" was based primarily on the character of its people, their religious history, their mental development and civilization. We cannot here discuss the question of how far a people chooses an environment which represents their native bent and how far a given environment moulds a population into correspondence with itself. Yet here we find a country which perfectly serves as a symbolic picture of what it represents - that ultimate degree of the mind which is the repository of knowledges.

Egypt presents a parable of man's memory. For the memory, like Egypt, is built out of the silting sands of Time, by the great river of Experience. That river, like the Nile, overwhelms us at its flood, but when it sinks into a calmer state, it leaves behind the fertile riches whereby our mind can be nourished for growth. 'Egypt', Herodotus wrote, 'is the gift of the Nile'. It is "a land without rain" (Zechariah 14:17, 18). Moses, telling his people of Canaan, draws the contrast: "The land, whither thou goest in to possess it, is not as the land of Egypt . . . where thou sowedst thy seed and waterest it with thy foot" - by digging and irrigation - "as a garden of herbs: but the land, whither ye go . . . is a land of hills and valleys, and drinketh water of the rain of heaven; a land which the Lord thy God careth for ..." (Deuteronomy 11:10-12).

The spiritual mind is refreshed by the influx of Divine Revelation, by truth fresh out of heaven, by the doctrine that "drops as the dew". But the natural mind seeks its truth from laborious experience, by artificial devices and continual exercise of prudence. Its waters are either muddy, never quite clear, or stagnant, never quite pure. The Nile sweeps on majestically, imperiously, ruthlessly, as a turbid tide which nothing can stem. It must be caught in manmade dikes and handled with economy. It used to abound with fish; and in the northern swamp lands - where water birds nested amidst the rushes - there grew palms, lotus flowers, and the precious papyrus from which the first paper was made to record the written words of men.

The desert sands continually encroach upon the narrow valley which the Nile creates and man watches over. It is said that 'a little knowledge is a dangerous thing'. But it is still more true that sensual experience in the mass, knowledges undigested by the mind, facts of science, facts of necessity, facts, facts, beating upon a tottering soul, moving masses of confusing facts raised like advancing waves of sand dunes, blown up by the hot winds of human ambition, - makes existence a trackless waste, blinds the eyes and suffocates the thought, and buries everything of spiritual life in a living grave.

This happened spiritually as well as naturally to the Egypt of the Ancient Church. It was turned into a valley of the dead - a land of barren deserts, of mighty giant-tombs in which their past glories are imprisoned, carved in indestructible stone; even as man's own forgotten history is

inscribed in his memory to all eternity, so that each trivial thing can be read before the angels. The memory raises its monuments over all the living states of the past, preserves a record of perceptions once entertained, even though these be long-forgotten and covered over by the drifts of new experiences. Even states that man has disowned can be recovered out of the dry facts of scientific dust; but their living essence is gone beyond recapture.

It was in an Egypt such as this that Israel was brought into bondage. The sons of Jacob coming into Egypt represented the need that spiritual truths should be inserted into scientifics in order that natural truths might come into being. For facts are not truths. Facts must be ordered and organized to serve human needs, not only those of the body but those of the soul, before they can be truths in natural form. However unfortunate for the populace, yet Joseph's rule over Egypt - in which the wealth of all the land except that of the priests passed into the hands of Pharaoh - indeed signified such a subordination of knowledge to spiritual uses; an orderly state of the memory, in which spiritual truths could freely feed and multiply, and the ‘remains’ of regenerate life be implanted deeply in the natural mind.

But when the state changed, and a new Pharaoh arose who knew not Joseph, a Pharaoh of a dynasty which was allied with the imperious priesthood of Amen, signifying a dominant falsity that used the sensual appearances of the memory for selfish ends and for the ambitions of grandeur and power, Israel by stages and degrees became a captive in its land of sojourn. In the mind, such a bondage comes about chiefly from falsities of religion, which close the mind up so as to prevent it from perceiving what is good or understanding what is true. But it is the appearances of the senses that are now the means by which truths are infested and made to serve the ends of falsity. Even states which are well-disposed are laid under tribute to strengthen the appearances which build up the power and prestige of human prudence, and make the 'bricks' of fallacy by which falsities are built up and confirmed.

In our own day, the falsities and the denials which infest our religious life carry on their power through the growing prestige of Science, which confounds simple minds beyond the endurance of ordinary faith. Science - departing from its proper field - has begun to dictate over faith, creating unbelief in the laws of salvation and in the very existence of a visible God who can reveal Himself in the Word. Science - in contradistinction to "the sciences" - is becoming dogmatic in its effort to systematize all knowledge, even that of revealed truth, in the light of sensual appearances. Its secret doctrine is the philosophy of material force; it is building its precise canals and meticulously laid out store-cities; it is establishing its outposts far into Canaan and Syria. It has harnessed the horse of understanding to the chariot of theory, even as the new Pharaohs of the XVIIIth dynasty converted the horse and chariot into the irresistible "panzer-divisions" of that age. It threatens the seed of Abraham with extinction.


Those who desire to be in good and in truth, seem to themselves frustrated in spirit when continually infested by falsities which bend them to think only from natural appearances and to feel a futility in maintaining any ideals of spiritual life or in entertaining any higher motives than those of prudence and temporal advantage. And only the Lord can lead those who still resist the forces of the world out of such a captivity. This is the meaning, today, of the Writings of the New Church. This was the meaning, for Israel, of the call of Jehovah to Moses to lead his kinsmen out of Egypt.

Essentially, the question was one of religious liberty, the freedom of the spirit. The animal sacrifices of the Hebrews were "an abomination unto the Egyptians". But in Sinai, similar worship was carried on. Queen Hatshepsut had renewed the workings of the copper and turquoise mines there with Midianitish labor. Moses had already stayed for forty years among the Midianites, who were Hebrews, and had since revived among the Israelites the desire for their ancient worship.

It may have been in the land of Midian, and from Jethro the priest who was also called Reuel ("the friend of God"), that Moses came into contact with the Hebrew books of the Ancient Word. Jethro represents, like his people, 'the truth of simple good', a remnant of the Ancient Church. It is at least more likely that Moses should have learned of these books from a Semitic people than from the Egyptians; and indeed he copied the early chapters of Genesis from a Hebrew text, and later cites parts out of the ‘Wars of Jehovah’ and ‘The Enunciators’ which clearly were written about the very places through which Israel passed in its journeyings. Nor can we imagine any great antiquity for these parts of the Ancient Word, since contemporary tribes and places are named. It is more than likely that they were produced by late prophets of the Hebrew Church - certainly within a few centuries before Moses' time; unless the place-names and the tribes mentioned in the Mosaic citations had been altered in the versions current at the time of the Exodus (SS 102, 103, TCR 279, SD 6107).

That the Ancient Word was not in Israel's possession during the oppression, is clear from their state of religious ignorance (AC 4289:2, 2986). They did not even know the name of Jehovah. The Jewish religion and the tribal laws which crystallized during the emigration from Egypt, were not Egyptian in character, but had certain features which bore a much greater resemblance to the religion and law of Semitic Babylonia and to that of many tribes around Canaan. The Babylonian laws of retaliation and Sabbath-observance, and those governing sorcery, debts, slavery, and social responsibility, show many parallels to the Hebrew codes, although the latter were more elastic and applicable to a simple nomadic life. Yet there was no direct borrowing, on the part of the Israelites, from the Babylonian codes of Hammurabi. The resemblances are rather the result of racial feeling and common outlook. On the other hand we know that Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses, had a direct hand in advising on matters of government (Genesis xviii).

Moses, being educated at court, naturally exerted a sphere of authority amidst his people (AC 10563). Yet the laws of Moses - while indeed including seven commandments recognized as moral laws both in Egypt and in Babylonia - came to Israel as Divine commands, and were prefaced with precepts against the worship of any other gods than Jehovah, against the use of images or idols, and against blasphemy, magic or incantation, besides the law ordaining the Sabbath to be kept holy in remembrance of the Lord. Actually, the influence of Egypt was superficial. The tabernacle indeed resembled the temples of Egypt in its form. The ark, with its guardian cherubim (which must have been kindred to the winged sphinxes of Egypt), followed an Egyptian pattern. The sense of order - an almost military order - in the arrangement of the camp, may have been unconsciously acquired from contact with the conventional Egyptians. Yet essentially, Israel was in revolt against all things Egyptian. When Aaron melted down the people's earrings and made a golden calf after the likeness of the Egyptian idol Apis, this was punished with a fearful massacre.

The fact of course remains that the Israelites did ‘borrow’ from the Egyptians, begging ‘vessels of gold and vessels of silver’ - probably including amulets and charms and talismans, household ‘gods’ or symbolic images to ward off evil in their journey. These symbols represented scientifics, knowledges of good and truth, knowledges which in themselves, and properly regarded, were useful as ultimates of worship and instruction. The letter of the Word is full of such imagery as is here meant - and each successive Church receives the literal of the Word of the old church as its own ultimate of worship and as the ‘vessel’ in which the increasing perceptions of the new truth can be conveyed. This had to be represented, in the case of Israel. For Israel was to represent a true church, even if in reality it carried no real, living remains with it from the Ancient Church. It carried with it, however, the coffin in which the "bones", or the embalmed mummy, of Joseph had been laid - Joseph, who in this sense represented the Ancient Hebrew Church, the dead rituals of which alone remained among the Jews. For if internals had not been first vastated, they would have been profaned by this race (AC 6592-6596). Thus the Jews knew nothing of the spiritual things to which their representative laws and rites corresponded. But still the internal was suggested to the angels who were present so far as there was order and obedience among the Israelites. And therefore there was a use performed - a use essential at that time when the people, benighted though they were, offered their Egyptian spoil of gold and silver to Moses to be made into the sacred objects of their own tabernacle, built and arranged in adaptation to a heavenly pattern shown to Moses on Mount Horeb.


The exodus of the Israelites from Egypt remains as an outstanding example of political liberation and of the birth of a nation. But for the man of the church this event of long ago has a parallel in his own life. As he enters the responsibilities of adult life, he reminds himself at times of the tender faith of childhood and the idealism of youth. He comes to realize that he is in danger of becoming a mere slave to the tyrannical and brutal routines of worldly life, and must make a bold bid for freedom. He hears the voice of Moses - the call of conscience; and against the dictates of his worldly prudence and temporal self-interest he prepares to brave the deserts of temptation, to gain the peace of soul that is the heritage - the Canaan - promised to every man who is willing to face the truth. His first triumph comes when the sea of ridicule and worldly-wise logic part their waves in marvel to let him through - even as when Israel crossed the "Sea Suph". So he ventures on his life-long pilgrimage of faith and learns to find sustenance and delight in the "manna" which descends upon him as he uplifts his mind to meditate on the truths revealed in the pages of the Word. The laws of religious and moral life alike become to him the voice of God speaking directly to his soul, as God spake to Israel at Sinai. And - by shunning his evils as sins against God - he builds his life anew, centered around the Tabernacle of the Covenant where the uses of man's natural life are sanctified as an offering to the Lord.

All this involves a deliverance from a spiritual oppression. And in the spiritual world, the souls of such as had on earth been held captive under false persuasions and spurious doctrines, actually find themselves confined near the hells in a "lower earth", where they suffer much mental anxiety. But at the last judgment these "souls under the altar" (Revelation 6:9-11) are released as by a spiritual Exodus and are led into heaven (AC 7932a, AR 325, 884).

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