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"Now after the death of Joshua it came to pass, that the children of Israel asked the Lord, saying, Who shall go up for us against the Canaanites first, to fight against them? And the Lord said, Judah shall go up: behold, I have delivered the land into his hand. And Judah said unto Simeon his brother, Come up with me into my lot, that we may fight against the Canaanites: and I likewise will go with thee into thy lot. So Simeon went with him. And Judah went up; and the Lord delivered the Canaanites and the Periz-zites into their hand; and they slew of them in Bezek ten thousand men. And they found Adoni-bezek in Bezek: and they fought against him, and they slew the Canaanites and the Perizzites. But Adoni-bezek fled; and they pursued after him, and caught him, and cut off his thumbs and his great toes. And Adoni-bezek said, Threescore and ten kings, having their thumbs and their great toes cut off, gathered their meat under my table: as I have done, so hath God requited me. And they brought him to Jerusalem, and there he died.
it is abundantly demonstrated in the doctrines of the New Church, that the whole Word of God contains a spiritual sense under the veil of the literal expression, and that this is true in regard to the historical narratives, as well as. in regard to the prophecies, psalms, and the rest. At the same time it is largely shewn in those doctrines, and is a truth never to be laid out of sight, that the existence of a spiritual sense universally, in the Word of God, by no means interferes with the reality of the facts literally recorded. This I mention because our sentiments in this respect have been often misrepresented. We do not, as Paul declares of the Christian dispensation in general, make void the law of God by the faith we possess in its interior contents, but we establish the law; maintaining the literal sense as we found it, and believing the facts narrated to have really taken place; while we conceive that by believing them all to be at the same time representative of spiritual things, we behold them in a light which renders them worthy of possessing a place in the very Word of God, and we embrace a view of them which does not abolish the sacred Record, but fulfils it, by shewing it to involve contents which fill it indeed, and without which it would be but an empty shell, exhibiting little that could establish its divine original.
In the brief history before us, is contained in general, in the spiritual sense, an account of some of the operations which take place in the human mind in the course of its regeneration; whilst regeneration itself consists in the extirpation from the heart, of those evil inclinations to which we are all naturally prone, and the establishment in their place of heavenly graces, of pure affections, and enlightened perceptions, prompting to, and producing, a life of goodness.
As to the nature and order of regeneration, there cannot be a greater mistake than to imagine, that it is a sudden, instantaneous operation; whether it be supposed to be something of an inexplicable nature which takes place, without any consciousness in the subject of it, at the moment of baptism, or to be the result of an impression on the hearts of persons of riper years, by which, in consequence of their being enabled to lay hold with faith on the redemption by the bloodshedding of the Lord Jesus Christ, they experience full remission of their sins, and become sensible that they are the children of grace. What can properly be meant by the forgiveness or remission of sins by the Lord, but the removal of the attachment to them from the human heart? So long as any sin reigns with us, it cannot be forgiven. All sin is the love and practice of evil in contrariety to the Divine laws, and it can only be really remitted to man as he ceases from such love and practice. If then all the evils which lurk in his heart can be desisted from as to all inclination as well as commission, in a moment, then can their remission take place in a moment, and the man be regenerated at once. But how different is this from what any one ever really experienced,—even they who fancy the whole to be an instantaneous work! It is true that states are sometimes enjoyed, in which a peculiar elevation towards the Lord and heavenly things is felt, and it may seem for a time as if nothing could ever more disturb the soul: but although such states may be experienced, not once only, but many times, yet they are always but seasons, as it were, for recruiting the mind, to enable it to support further conflicts; and no one on this side the grave was ever permitted to abide in them without intermission, and without feeling afterwards that more remained to be done to complete his purification. In short, as it is evident to every one who ever reflects on what passes daily in himself, that the human mind consists of an innumerable variety of faculties, tendencies, and affections, and that new inclinations, such as had not before come to light, from time to time are developed in it; so must it be evident to every one who thinks consistently on the subject, that the renewal of the mind, by the extirpation or removal of whatever it contains which is of an evil nature, and the insemination and confirmation of what is good in its place, which is what is called regeneration, must be a gradual work, and that to expect it to be performed in a moment is just as reasonable as it would be to expect a child at the moment of its birth to spring up a full-grown man, furnished with all the intellectual acquisitions which can adorn the most perfect of the species in its highest state of improvement,—or to suppose that the acorn which drops from the oak to-day, will immediately on its touching the ground, spring up into a tree equal in magnitude to the most magnificent ornaments of the forest.
Whilst, however, we observe, that new stages in the regenerate life will continually open as long as we live here, even with those, (and more with such than with others,) who are most intent on advancing in that necessary work, and of course that new recesses in the human heart will from time to time be opened, and evils not before suspected to exist be brought to light in order that they may be removed,—it is necessary to be understood, that some of the stages of this work arc so completely distinct, that part of them may be undergone without the others being ever commenced; which is the reason that there are three distinct heavens, the inhabitants of which have no direct communication with each other. No one can enter into heaven at all, unless the evils of his nature are removed by repentance and regeneration; but with those who enter the first heaven, this takes place only as to the more general and external manifestations of the evil propensities which lurk within us all, whilst the more particular concupiscences of evil which lie further within, are never opened, and having thus never been brought into exercise, do not prevent the person from receiving heavenly graces to such an extent, as to occupy all that part of his mental frame which is actually opened in him, whilst all that lies beyond is completely separated from his perception and observation, and nothing thence is ever permitted to flow to disturb the peace and happiness of which he is made a partaker. So again with those who rise to the second heaven, whilst the evils of their nature have been manifested, overcome, and removed, in a deeper ground than those of the former, still they have a reserve, as it were, behind, in a quiescent state, of which they know nothing. With those of the third heaven, this again has been brought to light, overcome, and removed; and thus the evils of their nature being extirpated, as it were, from a deeper ground still, their reception of heavenly graces and beatitudes is proportionally more deep and full: though after all, as whatever has once formed part of the mind can never be so extirpated as no longer to exist at all, being in reality only removed from the seat of the person's affections, thoughts, and actual observation, the highest angel can never be so purified but that, as to himself, or his own selfhood viewed by itself, unconnected with what he has received from the Lord, he is still nothing but evil. This he knows, but does not actually experience, because, as just intimated, this is kept for ever withheld from his actual affections; and in this state it is made to him a means of exalting his heavenly attainments by furnishing him with a basis of profound humility, according to the depth of which is his capacity of more fully receiving divine gifts. And what is remarkable, it is in proportion as every thing of man's selfish nature is more completely removed, and as he is thus more free from its influence, that he is more fully sensible of its real quality, and is in consequence more deeply conscious of his own unworthiness; which however becomes in this case not a painful sensation, but the contrary, as it imparts a keener feeling of the Lord's divine mercy, by which such unworthiness is made receptive of such graces and felicities.
Now the passage before us treats of that manifestation of the deep-seated evils of the human heart which takes place after the first general stage of regeneration has been gone through, and the necessity which is then seen, in order to our obtaining possession of our allotted inheritance in the promised land, or being established in a state which will qualify us for the heaven which is now, |as it were, opened before us, that these evils themselves should be encountered and subdued. It is hardly necessary to state, that in no part of our religious career is the practice of evil to be indulged in; but it is not till some considerable progress is made, that the nature of the internal concupiscences from which all outward evils have birth, is clearly seen, and that, by divine aid, they are subdued and cast out, so as not to infest us with their influence any more. This perception is expressed in the first verse of our text by its being said, that the children of Israel asked the Lord, saying, "Who shall go up for us against the Canaanites first, to fight against them?" And the reason why Judah was pitched upon, is because Judah represents the chief heavenly grace which can have a place in the human mind, and this is declared by the Lord Himself to be the grace of love to him. But as love in the will, unattended by a corresponding perception of truth in the understanding, would not have power to accomplish its own objects, therefore Judah took Simeon his brother to accompany him in the expedition: because Simeon represents that kind of faith which immediately tends to come into action.
Now that it may not appear as if these explanations were offered arbitrarily, or at random, it may be useful to support them with a few explanatory observations.
It must have struck every one who ever read the Scriptures with any attention, as a remarkable coincidence, that the number of persons whom the Lord selected to be his more immediate followers, and whom He named apostles, should be precisely the same as that of the sons of Jacob; and there are many things which lead us to conclude that this was not the result of any thing like chance, but of peculiar and important reasons. Thus it is no less remarkable that the number in both cases should be twelve, this being a number which is mentioned in the Word on so many occasions, as to make it quite clear that some distinct meaning must be attached to it. Thus Ishmael the son of Abraham, had twelve sons as well as Jacob. When the Israelites came to Elim, soon after their deliverance from Egypt, they found there twelve wells of water. In the high priest's breast-plate were set twelve precious stones. Twelve spies were sent to explore the land. The battle for the succession to the throne between the followers of Ishbosheth the son of Saul, and the followers of David, was commenced by twelve combatants on the side of Ishbosheth, and twelve on the side of David. Solomon's brazen sea stood upon twelve oxen, and twelve lions were sculptured to stand by the steps of his throne. Elijah took twelve stones to build an altar; and when he went in quest of Elisha he found him ploughing with twelve yoke of oxen. The altar seen by Ezekel in his vision Avas twelve cubits long and twelve broad. A woman healed by the Lord had been diseased twelve years. After the miracle of the five loaves and two fishes, they took up of the fragments that remained twelve baskets full. A damsel whom the Lord raised from the dead was of the age of twelve years. When Jesus Himself was twelve years old he entered into conversation with the doctors in the temple. When the multitude came to apprehend Him, He said that if Ho were to desire it the Father would presently send Him more than twelve legions of angels. The woman seen by John in the Revelation had upon her head a crown of twelve stars. The New Jerusalem had twelve gates and at the gates twelve angels; and the wall had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. The twelve gates also were twelve pearls. The tree of life seen in the street bore twelve manner of fruits. The length, breadth, and height of the city was twelve thousand furlongs; and that of the wall was one hundred and forty-four cubits, which is twelve times twelve. So when those of the twelve tribes of Israel were sealed, the number sealed was twelve thousand of each tribe.
These are but a portion of the passages in which the number twelve is mentioned in the Holy Word, but they are amply sufficient to shew, that that number cannot have been selected on so many occasions without a peculiar meaning. What that meaning is could be illustrated from all the instances where it is mentioned, but in none does it appear more evident than in the case of the tree of life. What can be supposed to be meant by the fruits of the tree of life? What but the graces which adorn the minds of those who are the subjects of life eternal? If so, the fruits of the tree of life must include all these graces: this then is signified by the number twelve. In reference to spiritual things, which are not properly the subjects of the natural qualities denoted by dimension and number, numbers must be interpreted in a manner that can properly apply to them; and the number twelve is always used to denote all heavenly graces in one aggregate collection, or all the goods and truths of the church brought into one general form. There is however always a variety according to the subject treated of. Thus as fruits always signify such things as have relation to goodness, the twelve fruits of the tree of life signify in particular, all the kinds of heavenly good, in one complex, with which man, as to his spiritual part, is nourished by the Lord: but as gates signify what introduces to the church, and this is the knowledge of goodness and truth, therefore the twelve gates of the holy city signify all the species of the knowledge of goodness and truth in one complex, that serve for introduction, into the church.
Now the twelve tribes of Israel, and the twelve apostles, signify, in like manner, in a sense abstracted from persons, all the heavenly graces, or affections of goodness and perceptions of truth, in one aggregate collection, that compose and constitute the church among mankind and in man individually; they also signify all the members of the church themselves, or all those in whom the graces constituent of the church have a residence. This is very evident from the Apostle's vision of the New Jerusalem. Whether this vision represented, as we conceive, a new "church on earth, or whether, according to the common notion, it represented the state of saints in heaven, it is impossible to suppose that it had any thing to do with the Jews in particular; yet on the twelve gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel. Can this be supposed to mean that none but the children of Israel according to the flesh, are to enter this city? This is impossible. How plain then is it, that the children of Israel are here mentioned as types of the true members of the church, and that by their names being written on the gates is meant, that all who possess the heavenly graces represented by the children of Israel, will have full means and opportunity afforded of entering into this happy state.
There really does seem nothing more evident to the mind that is willing to see in the Holy Word things worthy of God to reveal, than that such, must be the true signification of the children of Israel: All the tribes of Israel represent the various graces constituent of the church, and the persons in whom they dwell; whence it follows that each tribe individually must represent some eminent heavenly grace in particular, and a class of persons in whom that grace is most conspicuously displayed. As then Judah was always the first of the tribes in power and dignity, it is natural to infer that he must represent the first of the graces which distinguish a spiritual mind; and this, as just noticed, is declared by the Lord Himself to be, the love of Him; not a barren love which loses itself in unprofitable contemplations upon His person, but the love of every thing that constitutes His essence or nature; as intimated by the Lord when He says, "If ye love Me, keep my commandments." It is equally evident that Adoni-bezek, against whom the tribe of Judah were obliged to go to war, and whom it was necessary that they should subdue before they could take possession of their allotted portion, must denote that principle of evil in the human heart which is diametrically opposite to this active love of the Lord; and this is the love of self. What then is therefore meant by the victory of Judah and Simeon over him, and the singular manner in which he was treated, being punished with the amputation of Ms thumbs and great toes?
The cutting off of these members of the body, being those on which all the power of the body greatly depends, represents the depriving of the principle of self-love, represented by Adoni-bezek, of its power. So greatly is a person crippled by the loss of the thumbs and great toes, that it is a maxim in surgery never to amputate them when hurt by any accidents, unless there arc no other means of saving the person's life. The loss of a thumb or great toe is an injury to the power of the human frame next to that which would result from the loss of a hand or a foot. The reason is, because all power is exercised by, and resides in, whatever is last in order, both in living and other subjects; hence the hand, as being the extremity of the arm, and the thumb, as being the chief extremity of the hand, both exercise and form the instruments of the power which the human frame exerts by means of those organs. The case is the same, in a lower sphere still, with the foot and great toe. Thus the hand and thumb are emblems of the power which man exerts from his intellectual and spiritual faculties, whilst the foot and great toe express that which belongs to his mere animal nature. It was in consequence of this representation of the thumbs and great toes, that when the high priest was consecrated it was directed that some of the blood of the sacrifices should be put upon the tip of his right ear, the thumb of his right hand, and the great toe of his right foot; to denote that the divine life or divine truth proceeding from the Lord should not only influence his inward perceptions, and determine them to obedience, signified by putting it on the ear, but should flow thence to the lower principles of his mind and life, to all his outward words and works, signified by putting it upon such extreme parts as the thumb and great toe.
How clear then (surely may we be permitted to say) is the evidence which such circumstances as these afford to the spiritual nature of the Word of God! And how important is the instruction which results from seeing what their spiritual signification is! From the example now considered we see clearly how we are to proceed, to obtain emancipation from any of our evils, and particularly from the love of self. We are to cut off its thumbs and great toes; we are to suppress it in every attempt which it makes to exert its power by coming into act. Thus shall we at length deprive it of all influence over us; and as we do this, the Lord will cause it to die from within us, and will qualify us to take possession of that heavenly Canaan, in which nothing shall resist His influence in our hearts, but He and His love shall be our all in all.
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