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Saul, part 1

Saul Sent In Search Of His Father's Asses.

1 Samuel 9:1-14.

The Divine Being having consented to the request of the people to have a king, His Providence led to the selection of one who, His wisdom saw, was best suited to the people and the times, and, in a higher sense, to the representative character he was to sustain.

Saul, the son of Kish, a Benjamite, was sent by his father in quest of his asses, which were lost. When, after a long and diligent but unsuccessful search, Saul proposed to return, his servant advised him to consult the prophet. Meanwhile Samuel was divinely informed of Saul's coming, and was instructed what to do. The result was that Samuel anointed Saul to be captain over the Lord's inheritance.

The narrative is singularly interesting, as showing the manner and means, direct and indirect, natural and supernatural, by which Providence effects its purposes. But it is instructive as well as interesting, as teaching us the ways of God, in so ordering the outward events of Bible history as to be typical of divine and spiritual things. In this light we propose to consider the narrative before us.

The first particular we notice is that the first king of Israel was taken from the tribe of Benjamin, as the second was from the tribe of Judah, the descendants of the last and the first of the sons of Israel, not in the order of birth but of rank, as expressed, for example, in the sealing of the twelve tribes in the Book of Revelation 7:3-8, these representing the last and the first of the principles that constitute the kingdom of God, and, in the highest sense, that were assumed and glorified in the humanity of the Lord. The first and the last include in their representation all that come between. Judah and Benjamin thus include the whole of the twelve tribes of Israel, which represented all the principles of goodness and truth that constitute the Church. These the Lord assumed and glorified in the world; for the principles of goodness and truth constitute humanity. Man is not human from his shape, but from those qualities that make him a moral image of his Maker. When the Lord became incarnate human nature had lost the moral image of God. But the principles that constituted humanity, though perverted, were not utterly destroyed; and the Lord assumed the perverted forms of humanity, and by glorification restored them to their true order, and ultimately made them Divine. By incarnation the Lord became man in ultimates, but the ultimate humanity which He assumed and glorified includes all that was represented by David and Solomon as well as by Saul, and by Judah as well as by Benjamin. It was from the tribe of Benjamin that the first king of Israel was chosen, to teach us that the foundation of the Lord's kingdom is to be laid in the lowest degree of goodness and truth, and is to ascend gradually and successively till it reaches the highest.

But the Divine history does not at once introduce Saul to our notice, but first makes us acquainted with Kish, his father, as it afterwards does with David, of whom we first hear through his father Jesse. There was in ancient times a natural reason for knowing the son through the father; but there is a spiritual reason also. Father and son in Scripture signify goodness and truth. Other related pairs have the same meaning, but in a different connection. A father means good from which truth is derived, and a son means truth derived from good. This is the meaning of Father and Son in relation to the Lord Himself. The Father is the Divine goodness, the Son is the Divine truth; for truth comes from goodness as a son from a father. In no other sense than this are a Divine Father and a Divine Son possible. The father of Saul is first introduced to us for the purpose of instructing us respecting the nature of the good from which the truth represented by Saul was derived. It is not always easy to see in the natural meaning of a name the spiritual meaning of him who bears it; but the description of the typical man is always a sufficient guide. Kish was a mighty man of power. The word rendered power sometimes means wealth, which seems suitable here. But even when two words signifying power come together, one means the power of good, and the other the power of truth. Neither of them has any power by itself, but in union with the other; for good has no power but by truth, and truth has no power but from good. Yet the distinction is not lost. There are two kinds of power, power of will and power of intellect; but the will can do nothing without the intellect, and the intellect can do nothing without the will. There is this possibility however: the will may be stronger than the intellect, and the intellect may be stronger than the will; and in either case the result is imperfection of character. When the will is stronger than the intellect, there is defect of judgement; when the intellect is stronger than the will, there is defect of conscientiousness. The balance of the two and their united action make the perfect man. This balance and union seem to be expressed in Kish being a mighty man of power.

But not only is Kish himself introduced into the narrative, but his progenitors to the fourth generation are brought before us. And these four prior generations point to the same balance and union which are expressed in the description of Kish himself; because four, like two, signifies conjunction. The names of these men might afford a basis for their spiritual meaning if we had time and space to devote to the inquiry. There is one at least so evidently significative that we cannot pass it over. The father of Kish was named Abiel. This name is compounded of two words, Abi, father, and El, God. The principle of good, we have seen, is meant by father, and the principle of truth is meant by the Divine name El. There are two general names by which the Divine Being is spoken of in the Old Testament—Jehovah and Elohim. Jehovah is the name so familiar to us in our English Bible as LORD, and Elohim is that which is still more familiar to us as God; and these two sacred names are expressive of the two essentials of the Divine nature, love and wisdom, or goodness and truth. El is a contraction of the name Elohim, and when it forms a part, as it frequently does, of the proper names of men or angels, it is understood to mean power, so that Abiel signifies a powerful father; but as it literally is made up of the two words father and God, in the spiritual sense it is expressive, as we have seen, of good and truth combined, and of the power of good by truth. Such, then, was the "root" of Saul, the first king of Israel. And the son of Kish, all unconscious as yet of the dignity that awaits him, is now placed before us.

Saul is described as "a choice young man, and a goodly; and there was not among the children of Israel a goodlier person than he: from the shoulders and upward he was higher than any of the people." Choice and goodly would have been better fair and good; in which predications we see again the true and the good combined. Among the sons of Israel there was none so goodly as he. Of all the truths of heaven and the Church, there was none equal in goodness to that which was to become by assumption and glorification the regal principle of the Lord. But Saul was not only fair and good: he was tall: from his shoulders upward he was higher than any of the people. The same Scripture term that means of great stature means also high-minded, and this is frequently its spiritual meaning also; but this cannot be included in its meaning here. Saul afterwards, indeed, became high-minded; but he is credited with having been, at the time he was appointed king, little in his own sight (1 Sam 15:17). His great stature must therefore represent that which in the true sense is spiritually expressed by height, a high degree of goodness and truth according to the degrees which, in the Writings, are called degrees of altitude, those which do not increase or diminish by imperceptible gradations, but which pass into and are distinguished from each other by distinct lines of demarcation, as thought passes into speech, and will into action. Such are the degrees by which the whole heaven is distinguished into three particular heavens. These three heavens are not separate, but they are distinct. They have each a character distinct from, but in harmony with, the whole; yet each within itself consists of degrees that pass into each other by imperceptible gradations. We see something like this in the rainbow, where there are several distinct colours, and yet the celestial are consists of an infinite number and variety of hues, which shade off by continuous, and pass into distinct degrees; so that we have there every different colour and every different shade of each. If we consider Saul as representing the Divine truth in heaven, which constituted the Lord's humanity before He came into the world, we may, I think, see an exalted meaning in this circumstance respecting Saul's stature. The Lord's Divine truth as it flowed into the intellect of the angels assumed a human form. In their minds it was finited, and there existed according to their finite and imperfect conception of its meaning. This was the truth Divine in heaven which the Lord in descending through heaven assumed, and which He made Divine truth, and finally Divine good, by glorification in the world. But before the Lord came into the world there were not three distinct heavens as there are now. Then only one heaven, which is now the highest, existed actually. This was formed from those who constituted the Adamic Church. The other heavens, indeed, although they did not exist actually, existed potentially. Those who could be raised into heaven after the fall of the Most Ancient Church, of whom the highest or celestial heaven, then the only one, consisted, formed the external of that heaven. These formed the nucleus of the second or spiritual heaven. But those of whom this heaven, as well as the first or lowest heaven, were subsequently to consist, existed and were accumulating in the world of spirits; but not until the Lord had assumed and glorified humanity in the world could the spiritual who formed the external of the celestial heaven, and the spiritual in the world of spirits, be formed into a distinct kingdom. I am here anticipating a subject that will engage our attention when we come to the division of the Israelitish kingdom into the two kingdoms of Judah and Israel, by the revolt of the ten tribes under Jeroboam, which I think it interesting and useful to include in our explanation. Something on the subject is necessary to be premised as an introduction to the study of Saul's stature. Saul, it seems to me, represented truth Divine, or the Lord's humanity as existing in the heaven actually formed, while the "sons of Israel" or "the people" represented those in the spiritual world, who as yet formed no part of the heaven then actually existing; for the Lord came to save the spiritual, as well those in the spiritual as in the natural world.

Heaven, regarded as a whole, forms the Grand Man, the most perfect image of the Divine Man. Of this man the highest heaven forms the head, the second the body, and the lowest the extremities. Before the formation and actual existence of the lower heavens this Grand Man did exist in the same fullness as after that great event. Yet heaven is not to be thought of as being then as a head without a body. The lower heavens existed, as I have said, potentially though not actually. Besides, every particular heaven is in the human form, as is indeed every particular society as well as every particular angel: for heaven is an image of the Lord in the whole and in every part; the difference being that the image is the more perfect the more numerous and diversified the parts that constitute it. As the formation and growth of heaven have been necessarily similar to, and contemporaneous with, the beginning and progress of the human race, and both have been like those of the individual man, some idea of the general subject may be acquired by studying the particular. In the formation of the human being, as an embryo and a foetus, the central and higher parts are formed first, and the surrounding and lower parts are gradually formed later. Yet all the parts are there from the beginning, but lie undeveloped till the formative power brings them from potential into actual existence. Saul, from the shoulders upward higher than any of the people, presents an image of heaven, which formed the Lord's humanity before He came into the world, as it stood above all those who were yet in the middle state, and who waited for deliverance by the incarnate God. as the people looked for deliverance by the king whom they desired. The shoulders, too, are the emblems of power, and the head of wisdom; so that the terms in which Saul's extraordinary and unequalled height is expressed are designed to instruct us that although the Lord assumed our common nature, He transcended all men in power and wisdom, even when His humanity was as yet but truth Divine, such as it was among the angels, for among men even such truth had ceased to exist.

Having considered the lineage and character of Saul, so far at least as respects his personal appearance, which had then much to do with a man's fitness for the office of a king, we now turn our attention to the circumstances by which he was led to the goal which Providence designed he should reach.

" The asses of Kish, Saul's father, were lost: and Kish said to Saul his son, Take now one of the servants with you, and arise, go seek the asses." Saul when seeking the asses found a kingdom. Another particular we may here remark in again comparing Saul with David. Saul was called to the throne of Israel when in search of his father's asses; David was called to the throne when keeping his father's sheep. This marks an important difference between the representative character of the two men, as called to the same regal function. According to Scripture analogy, the ass is an emblem of that which belongs to natural thought, while the sheep is an emblem of that which belongs to spiritual affection. The ass, which with us is degraded and condemned, was with Orientals in ancient times honoured and esteemed. Among the Israelites the sons of judges rode upon asses, and the sons of kings upon mules; and the Lord Jesus made His last triumphal entry into Jerusalem riding upon an ass, and upon a colt, the foal of an ass. In that act, which had even been the subject of prophecy, He represented that in His humanity things natural were now brought into entire subordination and obedience to things rational, spiritual, celestial, and divine. In the case of Saul the asses were lost; and that which was spiritually represented by them was lost, till it was found by our Lord when He came into the world to save that which was lost, and the recovery of which was represented by the finding of the ass and its colt on which He rode. For He sent two of His disciples to a village where they were to find the ass and its colt tied, and which they were to obtain by merely telling the owner that the Lord had need of them. Generally, the lost are represented by the sheep, for which the shepherd seeks till he finds it. But when we know that the lost mean not only lost persons but lost principles, we can see a propriety in these being spoken under the symbols of different animals, as the emblems of different principles or qualities. For persons are lost by their losing the graces and virtues which can save them. The Lord saves His people by restoring to them that which they have lost. When He brings back to them the knowledge and faith represented by the ass and her colt, and the charity represented by the sheep, He saves them, by restoring to them the graces and virtues in which is salvation. "That which was lost," which the Son of Man came to save (Matt 18:11), is neuter, so that literally it refers not to persons, but to things. The saving of persons is indeed the end, but the restoring of saving qualities is the means, and the indispensable means, of their salvation.

In his search for his father's asses Saul passed through Mount Ephraim, and through the land of Shalisha, and through the land of Shalim, and through the land of the Benjamites, and found them not. The search was made in the three contiguous provinces of Ephraim, Dan, and Benjamin. The tribes of Israel represented all the principles of goodness and truth that constitute the Church. The three tribes, over whose land Saul's search extended, all belong to the intellectual class, having relation to truth rather than to good. Judah, which represented the highest principle of good, though contiguous to Benjamin, was not visited. The three particular places, two of which Saul passed through, are, rather singularly, not mentioned in any other part of the Bible. The first and last were in the land of Ephraim, the other was in the land of Dan. Shalim means a place of foxes, Shalisha expresses its triangular shape, and Zuph signifies sweet, honey as dropping from the comb. Shalim is the natural will, Shalisha the natural understanding, and Zuph natural delight, or what the natural man would call good, and truth, and the pleasantness resulting from them. But the asses are not found there. There is nothing of a saving quality in anything merely natural.

It is not said that Saul passed through Zuph, but that when he came to it he said to his servant, "Come, and let us return; lest my father leave caring for the asses, and take thought for us." He had now, however, been led providentially to the city of the prophet; and the servant proposed they should go and inquire of him as to the way they should go. Where natural delight terminates spiritual delight begins. When our best natural efforts to recover that which is lost prove unsuccessful, we are in a state of mind to turn our thoughts and direct our efforts into a new and higher channel. When the natural fails we are better prepared to turn to the supernatural. When our own intelligence and prudence are found to leave our desires unsatisfied and our object unattained, we are more ready to place our reliance on the wisdom and providence of God; and only need some friendly voice, either from within or from without, to direct us to the true Source of our help and happiness.

But we must remember that those only are likely to obey that voice who, while they are pursuing and seeking a worthy object, such as the knowledge of the truth, by the seemingly unaided efforts of their own understanding, have yet been secretly influenced and guided by the Lord. All whose motives are good are acting under Divine influence; and they will sooner or later be brought to the city of the seer, who will reveal to them how they have been divinely led, and led to a higher good than they themselves have been pursuing, or even could have conceived as their portion.

The servant's description of Samuel is that of a true prophet, and applies eminently to the One whom every true prophet represented. "There is in this city a man of God, and he is an honourable man: all that he says comes surely to pass." He is a man of God who is a man of truth, and he is an honourable man who is a man of love. These two united make the true prophet, or the seer, as a prophet was first and at the time called. A seer is one who foresees and provides; a prophet is one who foretells and teaches. Foreseeing and providing come before and are within foretelling and teaching; as the internal comes before and is within the external. Such a one is, above all, the prophet; and he can show us our way that we should go.

When the servant proposed going to the seer, Saul said, "But, behold... what shall we bring the man? for the bread is spent in our vessels, and there is not a present to bring to the man of God: what have we?" The gifts with which prophets were propitiated were symbols of the gifts which God requires of those who come to seek His favour and obtain His blessing. They are their good affections and true thoughts. These are to be devoted and offered to God, for they are the channels through which His gifts descend to them. The first and best of these gifts were represented by bread, and by the meat-offerings which were placed on the altar. Bread was one of the gifts which David presented to Saul when first introduced to him (1 Sam 16:19). But in times of travail this bread of life is often spent in our vessel; and when we would come into the Divine Presence we feel or fear we have nothing to offer. This consciousness of poverty is itself a virtue, for blessed are the poor in spirit. If there is nothing to offer there can be at least no claim of merit. But in the present case there is not absolute destitution. The servant has the fourth part of a shekel of silver. If the good is spent, there are still some remains of truth. A shekel was twenty gerahs (Exod 30 13); half a shekel was given by every Israelite when the people were numbered, as a sign that none but.those who have the ten gerahs of remains can be numbered with the spiritual Israel of the Lord. Five as well as ten is the symbol of remains, but in a less degree. If one have the five gerahs or the quarter shekel, even this will be the means of obtaining admission to the house of the seer.

When Saul and his servant "went to the city where the man of God was, as they went up the hill to the city, they found young maidservants going to draw water, and he said to them, Is the seer here? And they answered them, and said, He is: behold, he is before you: make haste now, for he came today to the city; for there is a sacrifice of the people today in the high place. As soon as you go up to the city you shall straightway find him, before he go up to the high place to eat; for the people will not eat until he come, because he does bless the sacrifice, and afterwards they eat that be bidden. Now therefore get you up, for about this time you shall find him." In this charming picture we get a lifelike view of the simple manners of the time, and of the character of those social sacrificial feasts that we read of, but never see described, in the Levitical law. The spiritual meaning is not less interesting, and is much more instructive. Those young maidservants are the affections of truth going with joy to draw water out of the wells of salvation (Isa 12:3). These wells, or rather fountains, are in the Holy Word, whence those who have a pure and single love of truth draw living water for the uses of spiritual life. In this divinely-ordered history these young maidservants are a part of the provided means for securing the appointed end. To them the inquiry is rightly addressed whether the seer is here; and from them the information rightly comes that he is, with particular directions where and when he may be found. First the inquirers are exhorted to make haste; for haste is an effort, and therefore a sign of eager desire, which lies at the foundation of all true progress and of ultimate success. The reasons for haste are, that the seer is before them, and that he may be found before he goes up to the high place to eat. The occasion of the seer's visit was the celebration of a sacrifice of the people. These social feasts were representative of the conjunction of the people with the Lord and with each other. They thus represented the spiritual feasts of love and charity—love to the Lord and charity to the neighbour. And this was a fitting occasion for the reception and inauguration of the new king, who was to be a representative of the Lord as a ruler of His people, but who was required to rule by truth from love. He therefore ought to have a part in the feast; and as he was to be a guest of the seer, as one of them that be bidden, it was requisite that he should see him before the feast began, that the prophet, and the future king, and the people, might unite in celebrating this great religious symbol of worship and unity. The high place where the sacrifice was to be made, before it had been profaned and had acquired a profane meaning by idolatrous worship, was symbolic of the exalted views and feelings from which the Divine Being, who was also called the Highest, and who dwelt in the high and holy place, was to be worshiped. To this Saul was to go up by the direction of the prophet, whom he was exhorted to meet, and whom he met in the city'; that he might, under the guidance of the seer, ascend from the doctrine to the love of goodness and truth.

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