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)
The Conquest of Canaan
THE CORRESPONDENCE OF CANAAN
The abject slave-people of Israel, during their forty years of wandering, were transformed by necessity into a fighting clan. And when they finally approached their promised land, they came from the southeast, having already fought their way against the small nations on the east side of Jordan. Sihon, the king of the Amorites, and Og the giant, king of Bashan, were destroyed. The tribe of Reuben was settled south of Mount Gilead, Gad was given the northern part of Gilead, and Bashan was assigned to half the tribe of Manasseh. Before he died, to leave the leadership to Joshua, Moses ascended Mount Nebo, to the east of the northern part of the Dead Sea, and was shown by the Lord the extent of Canaan; from wooded Gilead northward to mountainous Dan below distant Mount Hermon, and all Naphtali (among the Galilean hills), and the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, and Judah unto the utmost sea, and the south country, and then, again, the plain near Jericho even to the little town of Zoar near the Dead Sea. In this his survey, Moses represented the omniscience of the Lord, scanning all the possible states of His kingdom in heaven and the church.
For the land of Canaan has this wide significance. In the supreme sense, it signifies the Divine Human, the inheritance into which the Lord entered by the glorification of His Human and thus after the conquest of the hells which at first infested it (AC 4108, 3038, 3705, 4112, 4240). In this sense the land shows forth the Divine pattern of the kingdom of eternal uses and eternal love and wisdom - that Divine, infinite, ideal order in which finite human spirits may find their place, but which to all eternity can never be completely filled. In a derived sense, however, Canaan stands for the angelic heaven, or for the Church in its whole complex, which includes everything of religious life (AC 5757, AR 194). It also represents the man of the church, that is, the spiritual mind and the natural mind (AC 4447). And when evil nations lived within its borders, Canaan represented the human mind infested with hereditary and actual evils which, with their falsities, must be overcome and utterly driven out during the struggles of regenerate life; and, in the wider sense, it pictured all the states of the other life (AC 6306), with its heavens and with its fictitious heavens which are the strongholds of evil spirits who had usurped the lower parts of heaven while interiorly communicating with the hells.
That the sons of Israel "seized and inhabited the land of those nations who represented the hells, was a representation that the infernals, about the time of the Lord's coming, would have occupied a large part of heaven, and that the Lord, by coming into the world and making the Human in Himself Divine, would expel them and cast them down into the hells, and thus deliver heaven from them and give it for an inheritance to those who would be of His spiritual kingdom" (AC 6306). The conquest of Canaan thus signified the Lord's redemptive work in both worlds, and also the redemption of the interiors and the externals of the mind that is effected by the Lord in the reformation and regeneration of each man.
Among the pagan tribes which were to be dispossessed - Hittites, Hivites, Amorites, Jebusites, Perizzites, Girgashites, and Canaanites - there were also some original inhabitants variously named; such as the gigantic "sons of Anak" before whom the awe-stricken spies of Moses felt like grasshoppers (Numbers 13:33). Whether or not these and other giants or "Nephilim" might have been isolated remnants of some paleolithic race, they were used in the Word to signify evil spirits from the time of the Flood who still roamed about in the world of spirits exercising a deadly persuasive power which could take away all faculty of thinking from others. These uniquely wicked "genii" the Lord overcame in His childhood through the force of His Divine innocence (AC 1673, 581).
The land of Canaan, in its narrowest extent, embraces only the strip of country between the Jordan valley and the Mediterranean Sea. This strip consists of three parts: (1) a northern portion - near Syria, between Mount Hermon and the coastal region of Tyre and Sidon and down through the forests and dark ravines of the Lebanon and past Lake Galilee down to the plain of Esdraelon; (2) a central section, including Mount Carmel by the sea and the mountains of Samaria and Ephraim; and (3) the district of the Judean highlands between the Dead Sea and the Philistine seashore. The correspondences of Canaan were not assigned by artificial divisions of the map. But still it holds true, that these three portions, in their order, correspond in general to the three degrees of the human mind, the Natural, the Spiritual, and the Celestial, thus to the planes of the three heavens. And the central and southern of the three parts therefore represent the Spiritual and Celestial minds of man. In general, Galilee represents the Natural degree, the region later centering about Ephraim signifies the Spiritual, and the Judean hills the Celestial.
The Jordan is the nearest boundary of Canaan proper. The country west of Jordan therefore represents the Internal Man, or the Internal Church, while the lands to the east of the river signify the Natural Man or the External Church (AE 434:11, 440:7, 569:4). The most extended domain, over which Israel loosely ruled in the age of Solomon, had as its farthest limits the Nile and the Euphrates as well as the gulf of Akabah (AE 518:17, AC 5196, AR 444). But the Jordan was the boundary between the Internal and the External of the Church, and it therefore signifies the means by which a man is introduced into spiritual things. This introduction is effected in the natural mind through the religious instruction and repentance that are symbolized in the sacrament of Baptism. John therefore preached repentance an baptized by the Jordan, even as Joshua, after crossing t river, followed the Mosaic custom and caused the new generation of Israelites to be circumcised.
THE INHERITANCE OF REUBEN
The tribes of Israel took their names from the twelve sons of Jacob, although that of Joseph was divided into two tribes, Ephraim and Manasseh, and Manasseh was further distinguished into two half-tribes. The inheritances of these tribes were assigned gradually, but not in the order of the birth of their fathers. Reuben was indeed given his lot among the first, but the lots of the rest were determined by needs and circumstances, and seven of the tribes cast lots for their portions. The tribes sometimes joined each other in subduing the former inhabitants, which proved a task not of years but of centuries, and indeed was never fully accomplished. It should also be observed that the territories of the tribes were usually not exactly defined, and often merged into each other - as populations grew or decreased.
In their representation as the universals or "the cardinal things of the church", the sons of Israel fall naturally into certain groups. The first four, Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah, were all sons of Leah. These represent the successive steps of the ladder by which the regenerating man progresses from a state of truth to a state of good. Only so far as man thus ascends to a state of good, in order that he may afterwards view all things (and thus all truths) from good, can he become regenerated, or be made new as to spirit, mind, and life (AC 3882).
The name Reuben means ‘seeing’, and he signifies faith in truth, or belief in the truths of faith. The tribe was given as an inheritance the first district which the Israelites under Moses encountered and which lies on the east side of the Dead Sea. The kind of faith which Reuben signified is external and general. It rests itself on the authority of others and yet accepts the authority of the Lord in His Word. It may be compared to the faith which Israel had, a faith propped up by a series of miracles and traditions which could not be gainsaid. Yet as Israel now - after her forty years of wanderings - actually came upon the sight of her inheritance, her faith was renewed and confirmed.. From the summit of Mount Nebo - within the lot of Reuben - Moses was shown the whole promised land - a vision which he could not share with his people, because he died there and was buried by the Lord in an unknown place lest Israel might come to worship his relics.
The people under Joshua were however anxious to enter their promised land, the borders of which they had now reached. Only the weaker souls were satisfied to remain where they were. And these, like Reuben, came to represent the external church. The quality of Reuben's faith is significantly emphasized by the nearness of his settlements to the Dead Sea; for the Dead Sea represents the sensual man - the lowest part of the mind, which depends on its life upon the senses and appetites of the body.
That the Dead Sea should have such a representation is not remarkable. The valley of the Jordan, about 150 miles long, and mostly lower than sea-level, terminates in this lake, the surface of which lies about 1300 feet below the Mediterranean. The peculiar three-hundred-mile cleft in which it is located was formed in the Tertiary Age and was later submerged and connected with the Mediterranean. The lake is at least 1278 feet deep. It lies in a trough between, precipitous, barren mountains. It has no outlet except by evaporation. It often steams with rising mists. It is not without its desolate, delusive, weird beauty. Its water is clear and slightly tinted, but no fish can live in it; no tree grows on its banks, and its air is like the blast of a furnace. It has within it five times as much salt as ocean water, and is bitter from chlorides of magnesium, calcium and potassium, and other mineral salts. Bitumen and asphaltic matter occur on the bottom and in pits throughout the district; along the shores are deposits of sulfur and petroleum springs; and at the southern end there is a solid mountain of rock salt. The region is subject to earthquakes. (George Adam Smith, Historical Geography of the Holy Land: R. L. Stewart, The Land of Israel)
The Dead Sea has no outlet; it takes but does not give forth. Similarly the influx of life into the sensual man when governed by the love of self is perverted into evils, into fantasies and pleasures which destroy all spiritual charity, all faith, all natural usefulness.
That such a lake and its shores should signify the unclean things of falsities derived from cupidities, and thus represent the hells, may be confirmed also from the fact that it is a final depository - as if it were a sink for all the iniquities that were ever washed off in the Jordan. It was in this valley that Sodom and Gomorrah perished in the days of Abraham, and that Lot's wife - looking back - was turned into a "pillar of salt". Possibly the catastrophe described in Genesis was an explosion of great reservoirs of oil and gas, such as has happened in similar geological formations in North America. (George Adam Smith, "Historical Geography of the Holy Land:' R. L. Stewart, "The Land of Israel.") Lot represented the Sensual, (and his incestuous offspring, Moab and Ammon, are given as the ancestors of the two nations which Israel found established on the east of Jordan.
The Ammonites represent those who are in merely natural good and thence falsify the truths of the church (AE 637:10). They eventually became worshippers of Milchom or Molech - the terrible Phoenician idol who, like the Moabite god Chemosh, demanded human sacrifices. The Moabites settled in the pasture country on the mountainous plateau to the east of the southern end of the lake, and thus south of the Arnon river, displacing the remnants of the Emim, an ancient and mysterious race which represented direful persuasions of evil (AC 2468).
Apparently a comparatively peaceful race, the Moabites - at first - represent those who are in natural good and who easily suffer themselves to be seduced. Israel journeyed around their land, unwilling to force their way through. But Balak, the king of Moab, seeing Israel's strength, invoked the aid of the Syrian seer, Balaam, to cast a spell over Israel. Jehovah instead caused Balaam to bless the chosen people.
Yet Israel, which had already defeated Sihon the king of the Amorites and Og the king of Bashan, and also fought various wandering Midianites which infested the district, avoided any direct provocation of Moab. Even when the Israelites were seduced into the sacrificial worship of Baal-Peor or Chemosh through "the daughters of Moab", Moses apparently blamed the Midianites living in Moab.
The inheritance of Reuben was directly north of Moab, in a territory which the Moabites still coveted and indeed at a later period regained. Here we see the weakness of Reuben which, as a tribal territory, soon disappeared. The external, persuasive faith which is the first state of the Church with man, has little protection from the temptations which 'natural good' spreads in its way. Those who are content to remain in a merely persuasive faith lack any discrimination between spurious natural good and genuine good. They judge superficially, and are often carried away by the call of the world, by its sensual pleasures, and by the self-satisfaction and eventual self-worship of the love of self.
The land of Moab, which thus also absorbed the tribe of Reuben, was a pleasant place, with plentiful fields, with summer fruits and wine presses. And when Eglon, a later king of Moab, had gathered hordes of Ammonites and Amalekites to help him and had made Israel a tributary, he truly displayed the representation of Moab as natural good. He built a summer pavilion among the palm groves of Jericho. He loved ease and comfort, being a very fat man. But while his attendants thought he was taking his siesta, Ehud, the left-handed Benjamite, ripped him open with the sword. The confused Moabites - "all fat men", the account notes with the grimness of primitive humor - fled, but were cut off and slaughtered at the fords of Jordan (Judges iii).
Only the brutal truth can reveal the evils that hide within the disguise of natural good. Always these evils and their falsities wear the mask of politeness and gracious condescension. They oppose spiritual uses. But, like prudent parasites, they seek not to give offence or show how they despise others in comparison to themselves (AC 2468). They are cultivated and smooth of tongue, full of persuasive reasons and of many bland promises. They put many little obstacles in the way of important undertakings, and divert attention from essentials to details. They piously use even the things of the letter of the Word to turn man against the things of internal worship. "There is a general good with them which appears not unbeautiful, but the particulars which enter are filthy. In the beginning, indeed, not so: but successively". For those who are called ‘Moab’ are easily imbued with any or all falsities, so long as these favor and flatter; and confirm them until they suppose them to be true; and then their natural good is more and more defiled (AC 2468).
And the only remedy for such states - the only thing which can overcome and purify natural good - is the truth of faith. But this faith can win no lasting victory if it remains a mere matter of persuasion, or remains a ‘historical faith’, a faith not yet made one's own by individual study from the Word of revelation, by individual sight of truth in the light of truth.
Only by spiritual progress can the mind be purified from such subtle enemies. Reuben cannot be certain of his lot unless he follows his brethren and lends of his strength in the conquest of Canaan, and in this warfare seeks to realize that by himself he cannot prevail. Because Reuben signifies faith in the understanding, which is not yet reliable; therefore his birthright as the oldest of Jacob's sons was transferred to the sons of Joseph (1 Chronicles v. 1). And his father's dying prophecy was fulfilled in him: "Reuben thou art my firstborn, my power and the beginning of my strength: surpassing in pride and in force. Unstable as water, thou shalt not excel . . ." (Genesis 49:3, 4).
For such faith like water boils up quickly with momentary emotion, but settles again into flat apathy. We hear of no judge, no prophet, no hero, from the tribe of Reuben. After his first few efforts, he lingers among his sheepfolds even when the trumpet sounds in Israel. And while the Moabites resettle the towns of his inheritance, the hope of Israel had to be vested in the other tribes.
THE BALM OF GILEAD
A church in its beginning is external. It carries with it out of the consummated old church an evil inheritance, and it struggles with difficulty to establish a place for itself amidst a civilization which is blind to its own corruptions. The first victories of the Church are indeed easy and obvious, and very satisfying. The power of the new faith is so observable in its workings that it seems that nothing could stand before it. There comes the vision of an entirely new life - the pattern of a new worship and a new civilization. It seems as if faith would by itself, and automatically, sweep all before it and, apart from human endeavors or the slow ripening of time, create its new ideal order. The Church can clearly see - in its intellectual vision - the whole category o uses and states which will mean for it a sure salvation, a security against its spiritual enemies. But it is as yet blissfully unaware how persistent these enemies are, and how deeply they are entrenched.
It was so with Israel. Avoiding any conflict with Moab and Ammon - the descendants of Lot - they were met by Sihon, king of the Ammonites, and defeated him near the fords of the Arnon. Flushed by their victory, they swept up northward through the mountainous plateau of Gilead and up into Bashan, which was known as the land of the giants, and smote Og its king, whose "bedstead of iron" (or whose basalt sarcophagus) was thirteen and a half feet long. And they claimed for Israel the whole region on the east of, Jordan up to Mount Hermon. Reuben settled straightway north of Moab. Southern Gilead was given to the tribe of Gad. Both these tribes were shepherd clans, and the upland country skirted by the desert was suitable for them. But northern Gilead and Bashan were frontier districts of a different type. Bashan was crossed by two traveled highways, linking Damascus with the Red Sea and Phoenicia with Babylonia. The mountains, if properly held, were nearly impregnable, with impassable ravines and rugged heights, and especially the region of congealed lava which is called ‘the refuge’. It has been called ‘a tempest in stone’ and has ever been a stronghold against invaders. It took a warlike clan to take and hold such an outpost which flanks a country of incredible fertility. And therefore it was given to the descendants of Machir, of the tribe of Manasseh.
The tribe of Gad settled in Gilead. Northern Gilead, just south of the Yarmuk river, is a rugged fertile undulating ridge, sometimes densely wooded, sometimes giving room for open glades and grass-covered knolls and rolling pasture lands and cornfields. But to the south, there is an expanse of table-land, good for pasture and tillage and cut around by the river Jabbok and its tributaries. There is charming rural scenery. There are forests of pine and evergreen oak and terebinth with low, gnarled branches, such as caused disaster to Absalom in his flight. And in the Jordan valley the vegetation is tropical.
It is a land of rest and delight, in which it is easy to forget dangers from without and from within. The prophets made mention of 'the balm of Gilead' - from which ointments and aromatic oils were made. And all this answers to what the tribe represented, namely, "good works from truth", or "the works of faith" - the first attainments of faith, by which good is first insinuated into man (AC 3935). This is the state of first enthusiasm, when man, having entered the church and confirmed his faith, decides now to apply it to his life and, if possible, to the lives of others. He is apt to think that now he knows all the truth that is necessary, and he is liable to stress, not the shunning of his own evils and falsities, but the doing of good. And indeed, he does good; he finds many obvious uses to support, and takes delight in the strength and growth of the external church, in its social sphere and the beauty of its worship. In this state he enjoys the good of pleasure, the sensual and bodily delights which the life of the church brings with it. He contributes to such delights.
But in such states men are likely to be misled. They may mistake their friendship for charity, their piety for internal humiliation, their knowledge for wisdom. They may indulge in unwise zeal - and so do harm instead of good. They may be generous without much discrimination, they may hurt tender states of faith or charity by premature instruction or by lack of restraint and reflection and wise adaptation. They are so sure of themselves, and can prove it by Scripture and by the letter of the Doctrine, that they cannot in time convince themselves that perhaps what they do is - wrong.
An example of this was provided by Jephthah the Gileadite. In his days the tribe of Gad had driven out the evil Amorites. But they had not been forgiven by the Ammonites who formerly had lived in southern Gilead. The Ammonites, originally, signified those who are in simple good and in the externals of worship and doctrine. But because they had adopted the horrible rites of Moloch, with its human sacrifices, they came to signify those who - for the sake of natural good falsify and adulterate the truths of the church. The Ammonites, in the time of the Judges, began to seduce their neighbors, the Israelites, to their worship, and - by the usual mode of intermarriage and infiltration - came to become dominant in Gilead. And when Israel, in their repentance, decided to free themselves, they found no chieftain except a despised but courageous outlaw to lead them - Jephthah, the son of a harlot. This man swore an oath to sacrifice unto Jehovah the first thing which met him at his victorious home-coming. And when his own only daughter met him, he kept his ill-considered vow. His was a well-intentioned act from a spurious conscience - such as is possible in the state which is called Gad. Of such the Writings say:
"They are those who are mistaken about truth, and yet from that do works, thus works not of truth, still less works of good. By works from this source they are thrust down from truth: for the moment a man who is in truth and not yet in good, from a religious principle carries anything into act, he afterwards defends it as if it were the veriest truth, and abides in it; nor does he admit any amendment of it except in proportion as he comes into good; for by act he imbues it, and loves it . . ." (AC 6405).
To remain in the early mistakes of an initiatory state is fatal to man. Most men of the church indeed never advance across the Jordan, to possess a lot in the interior of Canaan; but they come to belong to the External Church, which is not capable of profound self-examination and thus must frequently find that they have acted from non-truths. Yet all may redeem their mistakes if they only humble their pride of opinion, and seek a closer understanding of what the internal things of the Church are, that these may at least not be denied or opposed. For by itself the external church is doomed. Only by its association and fraternity with the internal church can it retain its fruitfulness.
THE MARCH INTO CANAAN
The crossing of the Jordan - an irrevocable step which represented the beginning of interior repentance and thus the introduction into the internals of the church - was preceded by the sending of spies into the interior, especially to Jericho. This spying out of the land signifies self-examination and the exploration of one's inward motivations. Without this preparation the capture of Jericho and the miraculous fall of its walls would not have represented such a signal victory; but as it was, it meant the destruction of the falsities by which interior evils are concealed (AE 700:15).
Such were the reasons why Moses, in giving Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh their portions to the east of Jordan, bade them not to linger there, but, having settled their families, to join their brethren in the march into Canaan itself. Still upborne by their first enthusiasm they responded to the call. The Jordan was crossed - its waters parting by a miracle as the ark of God was carried across. The walls of Jericho fell before the sacred trumpet blasts of the priests. Ai, reached by steep mountain trails from the valley, was later taken by a stratagem.
Soon after the fall of Jericho, the Gibeonites (friendly Hivites) drew their league of cities into alliance with Israel by a prudent ruse, and became hewers of wood and carriers of water for the Tabernacle. Joshua, now master of the central mountain district, read the law, with its blessings and its curses, from Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim to the assembly of Israel. When the kings of five Ammonite city-states near Philistia sought to punish Gibeon for their stampede to Joshua's side, Joshua swept down the valley of Ajalon - where the sun stood still to give him light - and down into the foothills, wasting their cities one after another and making Israel the terror even of the south country and the coastal plain. Indeed, it may be his name that is meant by one Iashuia mentioned in the letters which the frightened chiefs of the coast cities sent to an indifferent Egypt, asking assistance and telling that the land of Shechem had seceded to the Habiru (Hebrews). (Tel-el-Amarna letters, tablet 289, etc.) And Joshua was too wise to try to conquer the coast, where Egyptian "chariots of iron" kept the trade routes open between a chain of Philistine cities and all the way to Tyre and Sidon and Damascus. Again and again the book of Judges states how the tribes "drove out the inhabitants of the mountains, but could not drive them out of the valleys", nor out of the larger cities. In the north, a league of Canaanite kings made ready for war. By forced marches, Joshua met them near the waters of Merom - nearly a hundred miles away from Israel's permanent camp in the Jordan valley - and defeated them utterly. Complete pacification, however, was to prove a feat, not of years but of centuries.
The land was temporarily subdued, and Israel set up the Tabernacle at Shiloh. Shiloh was to be the sanctuary of Jehovah and the rallying place of the tribes - the only place authorized for the performance of sacrifices, and thus the symbol of Israel's unity. Here the land was apportioned by lot among the tribes, and thence each was sent out - with Joshua's blessing - to possess its inheritance.
But when the warriors of Reuben, Gad, and the half of Manasseh, with their share of the plunder of conquest, came across the Jordan, they built a great altar on the bluffs of the river. Perturbed at this sign of disaffection, Israel began to gather for a punitive war. But priestly council prevailed, and an embassy was first sent to remonstrate. And the explanation was received with great relief. For the eastern tribes had erected the altar not for sacrifice but for remembrance, and for a witness that they, too - though separated - had a part in the worship of Jehovah. It was to be a seal of their unity with the rest of Israel.
The essential of worship pertains to the internal church, represented by the tribes west of Jordan. This internal is with those who feel a genuine delight in learning spiritual truths from the internal sense of the Word. These are the kernel of the Church. Yet others - in more external states - are carried in the sphere of worship and thought which belongs to those who are internal. Those of the external church who cannot think truths from their own understanding can yet see truth in the reflected light of others.
Reuben, Gad, and half Manasseh were also of the Church. They did not so often come to Shiloh or (later) Jerusalem to sacrifice and listen to the Law. Their flocks and herds were too many, the road was too long and wearisome. Yet in the ultimates of worship - not idolatrously used, but symbolically - there is found a common ground for all states, simple or advanced. These holy ultimates are loved by those of external type as well as by the more interior. In this there is association, conjunction, and a sharing of strength. In this lies the hope of survival and advance.
MANASSEH IN BASHAN
In the externals of life - in the good works done by man, whether the works of piety or the uses of practical life - there is a common field in which men of all characters can work together. Yet they are inspired by different motives, different loves, different ideas of what is being accomplished. No man has any right to judge as to the inmost purposes of others, so long as they cooperate for the good of society.
The tribe of Gad and the country of Gilead signify the works done from truth, works done often without much perception and usually only from a sense of duty to a doctrinal principle. But the half - tribe of Manasseh signifies works done from love, from a good, a use that is genuine and springs from a new will. It is also ‘natural good’, but genuine and selfless, willing to serve. At times this genuine external good is hard to distinguish from the zeal of faith that begets momentary enthusiasm and must be spoon-fed with external incentives. But a good work that is done from good, from a constant and established love, is persistent and loyal and patient and builds well and for ages to come. Its fruitfulness is greater, its results will endure (AE 440:7).
This impression of endurance pervades the region of Bashan. Its mountains are capped with basalt. Its ancient cities and rough - hewn palaces - dating probably from the time of the Rephaim and since inhabited by many later races - are built of cyclopean rock, with gates of stone which still turn in their sockets and basalt slab - roofs not yet dislodged. The legendary ‘oaks of Bashan’ still grow on the rocky heights. Where the "rams and bulls of Bashan" found pasture - in the rolling prairies - there feed now camels by the thousands. The finest wheat in all Syria is cultivated in lands plowed straight in furrows nearly a mile long. Rich, red, inexhaustible volcanic soil makes it a wonderland to harvest. Such was the lot of the hardy warriors of Manasseh, who from their mountain fortresses were chosen to defend the frontiers of Israel.
SIMEON AND JUDAH
The swift conquests of Joshua's warriors proved to be only a prelude in the long process of occupation. Thus, although certain warlike clans had previously settled in the south of the country (Joshua 15:14), it was not until after Joshua's death that Judah and Simeon and their allies the Kenites joined in a determined attempt to drive out the Canaanites from the southern mountain and hill districts between the Dead Sea and the Mediterranean.
To understand the spiritual significance of these events, it must be recalled that the first four sons of Jacob - Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah, born in succession to Leah - represented the four general states by which the regenerating man ascends from truth to good.
Reuben signifies external faith, the first beginning of religious life. Simeon, whose name means 'hearing' or ‘hearkening’, stands for the second state - that of obedience to truth, or faith in act and thus in will. Such a willingness is the ground in which charity can be implanted. And he was therefore followed by Levi, who signifies charity in act, or the good of life. It is clear that obedience by itself is only a very general quality which becomes a virtue only when the obedience is rendered to what is known to be a just and proper command. We are therefore told that in heaven little children have to learn to say ‘no’ as well as ‘yes’. Blind loyalty becomes the tool of evil. The state meant by ‘Simeon’ is an obedience of doing the goods and truths taught in the precepts of the Word in its obvious sense and in the doctrine of that church in which man was born; and thus is a following of one’s masters and leaders (AE 443). Such an obedience of faith was also signified by the apostle Peter when he is called only ‘Simon’: "Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you that he might sift you as wheat . . ." (Luke 22:31). For obedience cannot stand alone. It can be strong only by its alliance with the highest ideals of the church. And to lift it up and bind it to aid such ideals, there is needed an affection of truth which - from a love apart from persons - seeks truth for its own sake.
Levi, the next brother, signifies charity in just this sense: a charity not to persons but to what is right. Levi means ‘adherence’, adherence to truth and affection of truth. This is the true charity of spiritual love and it cannot be gained except through intelligence, and through instruction in Divine truths. Levi therefore became the priestly tribe. Its inheritance consisted of forty-eight cities scattered throughout Israel. Since it was the office of the Levites to keep alive in Israel the higher law of mercy and truth, six of these cities were kept open as a refuge for the involuntary slayer who was fleeing from the avenger of blood (Joshua 20, 21).
The fourth son of Jacob was Judah. His tribe, within the representative church, had a role of the highest character - that of celestial love, the will of good. This love, which is love to the Lord, must inflow into the spiritual truths which are represented by the sons of Israel, and must dispose them into order and thus submit them to the Lord (AC 6366, 6367); wherefore Jacob, in his blessing, said of Judah, "The scepter shall not be removed from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come, and unto him shall be the obedience of the peoples".
The name ‘Judah’ means ‘confession of Jehovah’. Indeed, the time was to come when this tribe alone held out for the confession of the one only God in a world utterly given over to polytheism and idolatry; and this despite the corporeal and cruel nature which marked them throughout their history. Judah was to give to Israel its dynasty of kings. And when at last the Lord had been born in the ‘city of David’, he was to be hailed in the gates of Jerusalem as the Son of David, and be called by seers ‘the lion of the tribe of Judah’.
The conquest of the territory of Judah began when Caleb and his brave family drove out the three "sons of Anak" (or Anakim) from their stronghold at Kirjath-arba (or Hebron), and from Kirjath-sepher (Debir). This region was possibly the ‘valley of Eshcol’ whence the spies of Moses brought a cluster of grapes so huge that it was borne upon a staff between two men, but which was inhabited by men so tall that the Israelites felt like grasshoppers beside them, and all but Caleb and Joshua advised turning back (Numbers 13 and 14).
However this might be, Hebron was to become the capital of Judah, for it represented the Church long before Jerusalem (AC 2909). It was here - on the plains of Mamre, with its sacred oak groves of hoary antiquity, that Abram often camped and where he bought his family burial cave from some generous Hittites, who then possessed the city. Hebron itself lay at the head of a fertile, well-watered valley, where every inch is now filled with vineyards terraced on the slopes of the hills or with vegetable gardens and olive, mulberry, fig, almond, and pomegranate trees. The city which Caleb saw there was built seven years before the Hyksos city of Tanis (Zoan) in Egypt. It was in Hebron that David ruled for seven years and a half, and here also Absalom later set up his rival court.
The tribes of Judah and Simeon in their concerted march, could only increase the conquest by degrees. They fought the Canaanites and the Perizzites - who represented inherited evils and their falsities. Jerusalem - or Jebus, as the Hittite inhabitants called it - had been taken and burned, but was not retained. Gaza, Askelon, and Ekron, close to the sea, were taken from the Philistines, but could not be held. Only in the mountains could Judah prevail.
The lot assigned to Judah included four strips of country. The first was only nominally within its boundaries. It was the maritime plain - a few miles of barren drifting sand along the sea, then a plain which, enormously fertile, was one vast grainfield. The streams from the mountains disappear into the porous soil of this plain, and springs can be found by shallow digging. Upon it were the cities of "the lords of the Philistines", Ekron, Gath, Ashdod, Askelon, and Gaza, around which were luxuriant gardens. This strip was almost always under the control of Egypt or of some other imperial power, and its great highway was well trafficked, not only by caravans and mule trains, but by chariots. A little further inland were other cities of note - Gerar, where Abram had visited Abimelech for pasture and Sarai had posed as his ‘sister’; Lachish and Eglon, "walled up to heaven" by the Amorites; all now yielding interesting archeological finds. On the south Gaza, whose gates Samson carried off, and where he later - as a blind captive - pulled down the pillars of a Philistine temple, marks the frontier of Philistia; the last important town where Egypt-bound caravans or armies could be outfitted and supplied.
The second strip was the hilly country (the "Shephelah") which was the disputed "irredenta" of both Philistia and Judah. Here - in the "wadys" or valleys amid rounded limestone hills, in a land of glens and moors, with frequent barley fields but mostly thirsty country - was the home of such guerilla wars as those of Samson and the location of the valleys of Ajalon, of Sorek and of Elah, which figured in some of the great pitched battles of Israel’s history, as they have in many other wars. In Ajalon the sun "stood still" for Joshua, and there Jonathan and David slew the marauding Philistines. In Elah young David slew the giant of Gath with smooth stones from the brook.
The third strip of Judah's inheritance was the central range of mountains with their fertile valleys and ample sheep pastures. North of Hebron the land rises to a height of 3,546 feet above the sea. It is a pastoral land - barren and desolate as a whole but relieved by wild flowers and shrubby undergrowth. In the breaks of the tableland there is rich vegetation - as at Bethany, the valley of Hinnom, the regions about Bethlehem and Hebron. Its specific fruits were the fig, the grape, and the olive, and these three - to the prophets - became the symbols of the Church with its natural good, its spiritual truth, and its celestial love.
But the fourth strip is a waste and inaccessible wilderness, which by sudden rugged chasms swallows up the sloping pasture lands that rest above it. Here we find the originals for "the valley of the shadow of death" in which the lost sheep of Israel are apt to stray. It is the picture of a state of temptation. It is the wilderness where the hermit John the Baptist fed on locusts and wild honey and brooded on the state of Israel; and where Satan took the Son of Man up on a high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world. There is savage grandeur - travelers say - in the deep gorges that issue from the precipitous mountains along the edge of the Dead Sea. Outlaws found their refuge in its caves and mazes - and it was here, at Engedi, that David crept up and cut off the mantle of Saul who hunted him like a partridge in the mountains (1 Samuel 24:4, 26:20).
Thus it was the central mountains, with their vines and olives and flocks of sheep, that became the chief abode of Judah, in keeping with its correspondence to celestial love. After all the rest of the tribes had mingled with the nations and been obliterated or carried captive, Judah still held out in its strongholds - a vineyard on a hill of olives, fenced, and the stones gathered out of it, and a watchtower in the midst. The tribe represented especially the celestial kingdom of heaven, which before the Lord's advent served to transmit the transflux of the Divine and thus was a medium of the revelation of God-Man, who appeared to the prophets through angels as the ‘Human Divine’ (AC 6371-6373). David and all the other anointed kings thus became the representatives who prefigured the Lord - the Messiah or Christ who was to come.
Simeon found his lot south of Judah. There the plains are few, the torrential winter rains cutting the land into narrow gullies which are dry in the summer. But once it was a well-cultivated land sprinkled with cities the ruins of which still are seen. The chief of these was Beer-sheba, a place of seven ancient wells with abundant pure water. It was in this country that Hagar, in her flight, hesitated between Egypt and Canaan, and later was exiled with her son Ishmael whose descendants became nomads of the desert. In Beer-sheba Abraham and Isaac made their home, and planted a sacred grove. Here Abraham and Abimilech the king of Gerar, swearing by the "God of Eternity", made a covenant, to end a dispute about some water holes.
For Beer-sheba, "the well of the oath", signifies the perception that the doctrine of faith is in its origin Divine, for that doctrine is the literal sense of the Word, and its authority can be acknowledged by all states, simple and wise (AC 2723, 3436). The sense of the letter of the Word is a well from which all may draw. To its authority all must render obedience. Therefore this well was the chief oasis in the lot of Simeon, who signifies Obedience to the Lord.
Such obedience to the authority of the Word is the first beginning of all the states of the advancing church. "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom". Beer-sheba was therefore the southernmost point of Canaan, which was said to stretch "from Dan to Beer-sheba". Dan was at the northern entrance to Canaan, and signifies a state which is remote from the celestial things of the church, although in the affirmation of truth.
Simeon - as a tribe - soon virtually disappeared, partly merging with Judah and partly absorbed by neighboring desert tribes, Edomites and Amalekites. Judah remained strong, leading Israel in the fight against the persistent Philistines. The culture of the Philistines shows influences from the Ancient Church through the Northern Hittites, the Mycenaeans, the Phoenicians, and the Egyptians. Modern students believe that they came by sea from the shores of the northern Mediterranean several generations after the arrival of the twelve tribes. But the Bible, perhaps for spiritual reasons, mentions their presence already in the days of Abram and states that they had "gone forth" from Egypt. For - in a good sense - they represent "the science of cognitions about faith and charity". They signify "those who study life but little, but doctrine much": those who are interested not in the natural sciences, but in religious science - comparing and labeling and systematizing religious knowledge, as do so many critics and scholars of our own sophisticated age, among whom religion is a matter of curiosity and historic interest, not a way of spiritual life, nor a matter of Divine authority.
Let us note that Israel did not gain its holy land by going up from Egypt through the narrow country of Philistia, where the roads were controlled by the patrols of Pharaoh. For it is not by great knowledge or even by philosophical research and debate that man is introduced into the church - but by crossing the Jordan of repentance.
Yet, although the Philistines at times filled up the wells of the patriarchs with dust - the dust of sensual interpretation and the pretense of scientific acumen - Abraham and Isaac abode among the Philistines at times, to signify the need that the Church must enter into systematic studies of the things of doctrine, and that the Lord - whose states on earth are in the supreme sense meant by these patriarchs - adjoined to the doctrine of faith very many things from the science of human cognitions, and utilized human knowledges, with its appearances, in the construction of the Divine Word (AC 2726).
The Philistines, like the Phoenicians, were therefore seafarers and fishermen, and among their gods - taken from various corrupt religions of the East - was the idol Dagon, the fish-god, which fell and broke to pieces when the captured ark of Israel was brought into its temple. In their wars against Israel, the uncircumcised Philistines, like Goliath their champion, always represent Faith Alone, the giant dogma which can be slain only by the smooth stones which genuine love seeks out from the waterbrooks of Divine Revelation - stones of truth, well polished by the uses of life.