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Saul, part 12

Jonathan Vindicates David From The Unjust Suspicion, And Michal Saves Him From The Wrath, Of Saul.

1 Samuel 19

Foiled in his attempts to slay David with his own hand, and in his device to make him fall by the hand of the Philistines, "Saul spoke to Jonathan his son, and to all his servants, that they should kill David." Singular request to make of so large a number, and one that, with other circumstances, bespeaks a mind that has lost its balance. Indeed, as Saul represented the natural man, he represented him as he was at the time of the Lord's advent, when the state of man was such that many were possessed with evil spirits, some of whom were lunatic and sore vexed. Saul shows evident symptoms in his future conduct of an unsound mind. One of the signs of mental aberration, in the earlier stages of the malady, is the capacity of being for the moment convinced by reasons, but almost immediately after relapsing into the former delusion. Several instances of this occur in Saul's future history, one in the present chapter. But, considering Saul and Jonathan as representing the natural man in his two different states, one in which he judges outwardly according to the appearance, and the other in which he judges inwardly according to the reality, we see something besides the signs and operations of an unsound mind.

Judged according to the appearance, the spiritual seems opposed to the natural. Even worldly men think that religion is opposed to their best interests, although the very opposite is the truth. Jonathan's judgement respecting David was righteous judgement, because it was the judgement of real truth. "Jonathan spoke good of David to Saul his father, and said to him, Let not the king sin against his servant, against David; because he has not sinned against you, and because his works have been to you-ward very good: for he did put his life in his hand, and slew the Philistine, and the Lord worked a great salvation for all Israel: you sawest it, and did rejoice: wherefore then will you sin against innocent blood, to slay David without a cause?" This eloquent appeal, founded upon a truth eloquently powerful, could hardly fail to reach the king's understanding as well as his heart. "Saul hearkened to the voice of Jonathan: and Saul swore, As the Lord lives, he shall not be slain." Jonathan had told David that his father sought to kill him, and had counselled him to hide himself in a secret place until the morning, when he would tell him the result of his communing with the king. So in times of danger the spiritual principle hides itself in a secret place, by retiring into the interior of the mind, beyond the scope of external observation. When the morning of a new state came, Jonathan was able to tell David of the favourable result of his mediation, and to bring David to Saul; and he was in his presence as in times past. Thus by the influence of the middle principle are the spiritual and the natural reconciled, or rather, the natural is reconciled to the spiritual. In the present instance this reconciliation was but of short duration. "There was war again: and David went out, and fought with the Philistines, and slew them with a great slaughter; and they fled from him." What, to our seeming, should have confirmed Saul in his good resolution, served but to revive all his former animosity. Again "the evil spirit from the Lord was upon Saul, as he sat in his house with his javelin in his hand: and David played with his hand. And Saul sought to smite David even to the wall with the javelin; but he slipped away out of Saul's presence, and he smote the javelin into the wall: and David fled, and escaped that night." Saul had attempted twice before to smite David to the wall, and twice had David avoided out of his presence. This seems a more determined effort, for the javelin, though it misses David, goes into the wall; and David flees and escapes that night never again to sweep the chords of his lyre in Saul's presence. To smite to the wall was not only to kill but to degrade. Spiritually it has a corresponding meaning; for a wall is the external of that which the house itself signifies. As this was the house of Saul, who himself represented the natural man, it signifies the natural mind; and to smite David to the wall would be to transfix the spiritual to the external of the natural, which would be not only to deprive the spiritual of life, but to deprive the natural itself of the power of being reformed and regenerated. It would have represented the sin of profanation, which consists in so immersing the spiritual in the unpurified natural, and so connecting the holy with the unholy, that the very capacity of restoration is destroyed. The representation of this was not permitted. David, when he had, for the third time, evaded the deadly attempt of Saul upon his life, fled and escaped. But although David escaped, his safety was not secured. When David escaped the javelin of Saul, and fled in that night, Saul sent messengers to David's house, to watch him, and to slay him in the morning. In this emergency Michal does for him by her womanly stratagem what Jonathan had done for him by his manly wisdom; she saves her husband's life, although she does not conciliate her father. Strange condition this in the regal household! Is it not a fit type of that of which our Lord speaks? "Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a man's foes shall be they of his own household" (Matt 10:34-36). The Lord was the innocent cause of this division, as David was of the division in Saul's household. And in the Lord's case, as in that of David, it was the old man that hated and opposed Him, and the new man that loved and befriended Him. In David's case there was also an anticipated exemplification of the Lord's concluding words, "He that loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me" (Matt 10:37). Jonathan and Michal did not love Saul less, but they loved David more; and their greater love was founded in justice. It was Saul's own conduct that made his children his seeming foes.

When David fled from the presence of Saul, he went to his own home, and no doubt told Michal of this new outburst of the king's fury, and of the narrow escape he had made with his life. Seeing the messengers who had been sent to watch the fugitive, and divining their purpose, "Michal, David's wife, told him, saying, If you save not your life to-night, to-morrow you shall be slain." Thus it is, when, in the night of trial and temptation, which is the hour of the world and the power of darkness, the principle of spiritual truth is assaulted, it retires into its own habitation in the interior of the mind, where it dwells with the principle of good with which it was first united in the heavenly marriage. From that good, or that affection, which is derived from the natural mind, the spiritual mind is able to look into the natural, and not only see the danger arising from its enmity, but the way of escape from its machinations. "So Michal let David down through a window: and he went, and fled, and escaped." A window is to a house what the eye is to the body and the understanding to the mind, it admits light, which makes objects both within and without visible. "The light of the body is the eye: if your eye be single, your whole body shall be full of light; but if your eye be evil, your whole body shall be full of darkness." Thus our Lord by correspondence describes the understanding, which is the eye of the mind. But the Scriptures afford instances of the window itself having this meaning. When Jeremiah 9:21 says, "Death is come up into our windows, and is entered into our palaces, to cut off the children from without, and the young men from the streets," he describes, by analogy, the entrance of evil through the understanding into the will, and the destruction of all innocence and intelligence. When the spies went to view the land of Canaan, and the king of Jericho sent to Rahab, in whose house they lodged, to deliver them up to him, Rahab let them down by a cord through the window; and in the window she bound a scarlet thread, which was a sign by which, when the Israelites took Jericho, they recognised the house, and were able to save her and her household. In this instance, too, the window was a symbol of understanding and intelligence, by which the designs of the wicked are frustrated, and good escapes the power of evil; while the scarlet thread placed in the window, when Israel entered and took Jericho, was a symbolic sign that when there is charity in the understanding, or goodness in truth, or love in faith, there is protection and deliverance in times of judgement.

But there was something more to be done to provide for David's safety. His wife saw that if Saul's messengers knew that David had escaped they would pursue him. Therefore "Michal took an image, and laid it in the bed, and put a pillow of goats' hair for his bolster, and covered it with a cloth. And when Saul sent messengers to take David, she said, He is sick." The image which Michal employed as a means of deceiving the messengers of Saul seems to have been a sort of household god, possibly in the human shape. The teraphim, the untranslated word by which they are sometimes called, are the "images" which Rachel stole from Laban, when Jacob quitted the house of his father-in-law, who called them his "gods" (Gen 31:19, 30); and they were in the house of Micah's gods, which the Levite stole away (Judges 17:5, 18:20). In these instances, as in the case of Michal's image, nothing is said to indicate the kind of homage that was rendered them, but in some other parts of the Word they are spoken of as objects of superstitious reverence. Ezekiel says, "The king of Babylon stood at the parting of the way, at the head of the two ways, to use divination: he made his arrows bright, he consulted with teraphim, he looked in the liver" (Ez 21:21); and Zechariah says, "The teraphim have spoken vanity, and diviners have seen a lie, and have told false dreams "(Zech 10:2). In a corrupt state of the Jewish Church they are mentioned as forming part of the abominations which existed under the wicked reign of Manasseh—the workers with familiar spirits, and the wizards, and the teraphim, and the idols, which Josiah put away (2 Kings 23:24). According to Swedenborg, "teraphim were idols, which were applied to or consulted when they inquired of God; and because the answers which they received were to them truths Divine, therefore truths are signified by them, as in Hosea, The children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice, and without an image, and without an ephod, and without a teraphim' (Hosea 3:4). An ephod and a teraphim denote truths Divine, which they received by answers, for when they inquired of God they put on an ephod." As the teraphim, when mentioned without reproach, were used chiefly by those in a simple state, as Laban and Micah were, it would appear that they represented apparent truths, such as are contained in the letter of the Word, which is Divine truth adapted to the apprehension of the simple, but which is liable to become perverted, as we find the use of the teraphim came to be, in a more advanced state of intelligence. Indeed, when our author uses the phrase "truth Divine," he means, as we have seen, apparent truth, as distinguished from real and absolute truth, which he calls Divine truth.

What, then, are we to understand by Michal putting the teraphim in the bed where David had been, and covering it with a cloth, and putting under its head a pillow of goats' hair? When Divine truth itself, which David represented, is providentially removed from the sight of those who seek to destroy it, apparent truth is made to take its place. And this is effected by the agency of the Church herself, which, in the inmost sense, Michal represented. When men can no longer receive the real truths of the Word, these are wisely and mercifully hid from their eyes, and its apparent, truths are all that they are permitted to see, because these are all that they are able to receive. If men in their natural state were permitted to see spiritual truths, they would profane and destroy them, as Saul by his messengers sought to kill David; therefore the Lord hides those things from the wise and prudent, and reveals them to babes. When the men of the Church are in evil, His permissive providence even allows them to fall into false persuasions; for it is less hurtful to believe a lie than it is to hold the truth in unrighteousness. To represent this, Michal told the messengers whom Saul sent to kill David that he was sick; and when Saul himself accused her of having deceived him, and sent away his enemy, she answered, "He said to me, Let me go; why should I kill you?" It must not be understood that Michal's untruths were divinely ordered, or we might say inspired, so as that they might convey a spiritual idea. They were her own voluntary utterances; but as written by the inspired penman, and woven into the sacred history, which Divine Wisdom made the continent of heavenly and Divine truths, they acquired a new and different character. It is also to be remarked that statements of this kind, which occur in many parts of the Old Testament, were not considered as violations of truth or of conscience in that age and under that dispensation. There is, besides, in all times, a wide distinction to be made between a malicious lie and a benevolent untruth—between a lie that is told to cause mischief, and one that is told to prevent it. It is contended, indeed, by some that no deviation from the truth is allowable under any circumstances; but this is a position which the cause of truth does not require us absolutely to maintain. When all mischievous lying and interested deception, which is practical falsehood, are banished from the earth, Truth will utter no complaint and pronounce no condemnatory judgement.

To return from this digression; there are some particulars respecting Michal's teraphim that require to be noticed.

When in the minds of men apparent truths take the place of genuine truths, those apparent truths of the Word, which are but the images of its genuine truths, and in themselves have no more life, find their way into the doctrine of the Church. This is representatively described by Michal laying the teraphim in the bed in the place of David; for in the Word a bed is the symbol of doctrine. As the body reposes on a bed, so does the mind on its doctrine. David himself in the Psalms speaks of the wicked devising mischief on his bed (Ps 36:4), which he does when he devises false principles of doctrine; and he exhorts the righteous to commune with their own heart upon their bed, and be still (Ps 4:4), which they do when they examine their own heart by the standard of true doctrine, and still it by its teachings. Our Lord, sometimes, when He cured the sick, commanded them to take up their bed and walk; which teaches us, though it might not be so understood by them, that the doctrine which has supported us in sickness should be lived up to in health, whether that sickness has been of the body or the mind. It is not what we feel and think in sickness, but what we will and do in health that determines our state. Therefore our Lord said that at His second coming, which is a coming to judgement, two should be in one bed, one of whom should be taken and the other left—one saved and the other lost; for those who are in doctrine without being in the life of doctrine are lost, while those who live according to doctrine are saved. And although at the end of the Church there may be no pure doctrine, if that which the Church teaches is sincerely believed and accompanied by a good life, it is sufficient for salvation. When the doctrine of the Church contains apparent instead of genuine truths, the teraphim are in the bed where David once had been; and this is a necessity and a mercy, to prevent the destruction of genuine truth, and thus to save men from the condemnation which results from sinning against the light.

But Michal not only put an image in the bed, in the place of David, but she put a pillow of goats' hair under its head, and covered it with a cloth. In the Word goats, the hair of which is here to be understood, represent what has relation to faith, as sheep represent what has relation to charity. It is for this reason that the true members of the Church are called sheep, because they have charity as well as faith, while the false members of the Church are called goats, because they have faith without charity. The goat that contended with the ram, in the vision of Daniel (Dan 8), and the goats that are placed on the left hand of the Judge at the great judgement-day, are those who had made a profession of faith, but had not the charity which it requires —who had said, Lord, Lord, but did not the things which He says; and the sheep that are placed on His right are those who had exercised the charity which is the end and life of faith. But goats have also a good meaning, since true faith includes charity, as true charity includes faith. Goats as well as sheep were accepted in sacrifice (Lev 1:10), and goats' hair as well as rams' skins were employed in the furniture of the tabernacle (Exod 25:4, 5). It is when faith comes to be regarded as the only justifying and saving grace that it ceases to be true faith. The pillow of goats' hair is under the head of the teraphim when faith, or salvation by faith, is held to be the principal tenet of Church doctrine. All religious errors, as drawn from the Scriptures, are derived from their apparent truths, and faith is that by which they are supported. But the image was covered with a cloth as well as supported by a pillow under its head. Cloth, when used as a garment for the body or a covering for a bed, is a symbol of the truth by which good is covered and protected. "The bed is shorter than that a man can stretch himself upon it, and the covering narrower than that he can wrap himself in it" (Isa 28:20). Thus does the prophet lament the state of religion, when the creed of the Church is so contracted as to prevent the full stretch of the powers of the mind, and its evidences are so narrow that they cannot satisfy its reasonable demands. In the strictly spiritual sense, length and breadth have reference to goodness and truth; so that the bed is too short and the covering too narrow when the doctrine of the Church neither satisfies the requirements of the will for goodness nor of the understanding for truth, but cramps the power of both. The cloth with which Michal covered her image is the confirming truth from the letter of the Word, which is employed to help to give to apparent truth the appearance of the real.

David, when he fled and escaped, came to Samuel to Ramah, and told him all that Saul had done to him. Samuel was David's spiritual father. He had anointed him to be king of Israel instead of Saul; and what so natural, in the extremity of his distress, as to come to one to whom he could tell all his sorrows, and who was so well able to give him counsel and encouragement? He might expect also, when even his own home afforded him no security, that the sanctity of the prophet's character would throw a shield of protection around him. But Saul had no respect for the sacredness of the sanctuary to which David had fled for safety. When it was told Saul that David was at Naioth, he sent messengers to take him. But the holy place was not to be invaded, nor its sacredness desecrated by tearing an innocent victim of persecution from the horns of the altar. But Saul's purpose was defeated in a way which the king could not have expected, nor even perhaps imagined, but one entirely consistent with the circumstances of the case. The messengers were not resisted as enemies, but were for the moment converted into friends. "When they saw the company of the prophets prophesying, and Samuel standing as appointed over them, the Spirit of God was upon the messengers of Saul, and they also prophesied." When it was told Saul, he sent other messengers; and when these prophesied likewise, he sent messengers the third time, who also became obedient to the same Divine influence. Saul, however, as if nothing either human or Divine should stand between him and the object of his wrath, now went himself "to Ramah, and came to a great well that is in Sechu: and he asked and said, Where are Samuel and David? And one said, Behold, they be at Naioth in Ramah." Sechu and Naioth are never mentioned except in this part of the Word; and nothing is known of them but the names, the meaning of which gives some idea of their symbolic character. Sechu, which means a watch-tower, has relation to truth; and Naioth, which means habitations, has relation to goodness. In such persecutions as this, the soul is more secure in the habitations of goodness than in the watch-tower of truth. The great well, also, to which Saul came, and where he inquired for Samuel and David, is peculiar to this place. There are two words in the Old Testament which generally appear in our Bibles as a well. One means a place where the water is supplied from within; the other a place where the water is collected from without; thus, one means a well, the other a cistern or reservoir. The well to which Saul came, and where he inquired for the objects of his search, was of this kind. The truth that springs up in the mind itself has its receptacle in the understanding; that which is collected from without has its receptacle in the memory. The truth which belongs to those whom Saul now represented, is of the memory only; and however great or capacious that receptacle may be, and however filled with the knowledge of Divine and spiritual things, there may be no real love of truth and goodness, but, on the contrary, hatred of them and opposition to them; and, indeed, the term great, which, in its genuine sense, is expressive of goodness, in its opposite sense is expressive of evil.

As directed, Saul goes to Naioth, but the fate of his messengers is also his. "The Spirit of God was upon him, and he went on, and prophesied, until he came to Naioth in Ramah. And he stripped off his clothes also, and prophesied before Samuel in like manner, and lay clown naked all that day and all that night. Wherefore they say, Is Saul also among the prophets?" This singular effect upon Saul and his messengers, of coming within the holy sphere of the man of God, is not unlike that which some, with the same hostile intent, felt when they came within the holy sphere of the God-man. When the Pharisees and chief priests sent officers to take Jesus, and these messengers returned, and were asked, "Why have you not brought Him?" they answered, "Never man spoke like this man" (John 7:45, 46). On the occasion, too, when the people themselves were divided in opinion respecting Jesus, some, who accused Him of having a devil and of being a false prophet, would have taken Him, but no man laid hands on Him, for His hour was not yet come (John 7:30, 44). And on the night that Judas went with the officers of the chief priests to take Jesus, a more positive result was produced. When, on being asked if He was Jesus of Nazareth, the Lord answered, I am, they went backward and fell to the ground (John 18:6). Similar effects follow in the other world, when evil spirits, with even the deadliest feelings, come within the sphere of the angels; they are paralyzed and often tormented by the contrariety of the sphere of heaven to that of hell. But there is another and still higher view of the subject than this.

There were two states which our Lord passed through in the world, states of humiliation and states of glorification, and these states alternated with each other. His states of humiliation were states of temptation; His states of glorification were states of victory over the tempter. Every temptation which the Lord endured was followed by victory, for in every temptation He was more than conqueror. These temptations of our Lord, which, like those of men, consisted of three different kinds or distinct degrees of temptation, are described, representatively, by His three temptations in the wilderness, where He was led up of the Spirit to be tempted of the devil. Three times Saul sent messengers to take David, and three times they were overcome, and turned into unwilling subjects and witnesses of the power that conquered them.

Jesus in His sore trials sought shelter from the persecution of His great enemy with the Divine in heaven among the angels, as David sought a refuge from the persecution of Saul with Samuel in Naioth among the company of the prophets. There he was safe; for although the tempting power exalted itself to heaven, as Saul and his emissaries thrust themselves into the presence of Samuel and the company of the prophets, there their power ceased, and they themselves became the involuntary subjects of its influence. They were like Balaam, who went to curse and was compelled altogether to bless. Our author tells us that evil men and evil spirits can be elevated into the light of heaven, so as to be able to see truth like the angels themselves, and even to will in agreement with it; but that they cannot long maintain that state, but relapse into their own natural condition. Saul seems to have been more completely in this state than his emissaries. "He stripped off his clothes, and lay down naked all that day and all that night." The clothing of the mind consists of its intellectual ideas, whether they be true or false; and when these are stripped off, the mind appears in its nakedness; and the natural selfhood, when stripped of its decent coverings, is seen to be also like Saul, in his nakedness, fallen and lying prostrate on the ground, earthly, sensual, devilish.

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