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Saul, part 6

Saul Usurping The Prophet's Office Forfeits The Kingdom.

1 Samuel 13

Saul had delivered the men of Jabesh from the Ammonites, and he has now to encounter another and still more formidable enemy. The children of Ammon warred against one of the tribes of Israel, but the Philistines held the whole of the tribes in subjection. Saul's hand is now to be turned against their powerful foes with the view of freeing his people from their oppression. Before we enter on the particulars of the history it is necessary to know the representative character of the enemies with whom Saul has now to contend.

" The Philistines represented faith separate from love. Hence they are called the uncircumcised; for this signifies to be without spiritual love, and to be solely in natural love, with which nothing of religion, much less of the Church, can be conjoined. For everything of religion and of the Church has respect to the Divine Being, to heaven, and to spiritual life; and these cannot be conjoined with any other than spiritual love; for natural love separated from spiritual love is the selfhood of man, which, viewed in itself, is nothing but evil. All the wars which the sons of Israel waged against the Philistines represented combats of the spiritual man with the natural, and thence also combats of truth conjoined with good with truth separated from good, which in itself is not truth but falsity. For truth separated from good is falsified in the idea of thought concerning it, because there is not anything spiritual in the thought to give it illustration. This is the reason why those who are in faith separated from charity have not any truth, except as to mere speech or preaching from the Word; for the idea of the truth perishes immediately, as soon as they exercise their thoughts concerning it. Inasmuch as this kind of religion in the churches pertains to all who love to live a natural life, therefore the Philistines were not subjugated like the other nations of Canaan, and hence so many battles took place with them. For all the historical circumstances of the Word are representative of such things as belong to the Church; and all the nations of Canaan represented things heretical confirming falsities of the faith or evils of the love; and the sons of Israel represented the truths of faith and goods of love, consequently the Church. Hence it was that as often as the sons of Israel departed from the worship of Jehovah to the worship of other gods, they were delivered up to their enemies, or were conquered by them. Thus they were delivered up to the Philistines, and served them eighteen, and afterwards forty years (Judges 10, 13), which represented their receding from worship from the good of love and the truth of faith to that which is from evil of the love and falsities of faith. In like manner it is related in 1 Samuel 4, 13, 28, 29, 31  that they were conquered and straightened by the Philistines. But when the sons of Israel returned to the worship of Jehovah, which was worship from the goods of love and truths of faith, then they conquered the Philistines, as recorded in many places in the Books of Samuel, and in Kings."

"Saul reigned one year; and when he had reigned two years over Israel, Saul chose him three thousand men of Israel; whereof two thousand were with Saul in Michmash and in mount Beth-el, and a thousand were with Jonathan in Gibeah of Benjamin: and the rest of the people he sent every man to his tent." Saul, the son of a year in his reigning, is the truth of good, and his two years' reign over Israel is the union of good and truth. This refers of course to the particular state which is now treated of, as that which follows the conquest of the Ammonitish principle; for progress in the spiritual life consists in passing through a succession of particular states; and no state is complete, or can be a point of departure for another and better, unless there is a conjunction of the good and the true. The connection of this particular state is further indicated by Saul's choosing three thousand men, and sending the rest of the people every man to his tent, which is expressive of the arrangement of all the common principles of the mind in their true order, those of a more interior nature in immediate subordination to the governing principle, and the more exterior entering into the ordinary uses and duties of life. But there is a new agent introduced here, and a distinction connected with him. We now first become acquainted with Jonathan, the heroic son of Saul, and the devoted friend of David. Two of the three thousand chosen men were with Saul in Michmash and in Mount Beth-el, and one thousand were with Jonathan in Gibeah of Benjamin. Although this is not the place where Jonathan's character as the mediator between Saul and David comes before us, yet, as it is of importance to understand the representative character of one who is so interesting a figure, and plays so important a part, in the singular drama of Saul's future reign, we may here inquire what principle he represents.

We have already remarked that, in the highest typical sense, Saul represented truth Divine, and David represented Divine truth, and Solomon Divine good; and that Saul's reign represented the Lord's life in the world while He was making His humanity truth Divine, that David's reign represented the Lord's life while He was making His humanity Divine truth, and that Solomon's reign represented the Lord's life while He was making His humanity Divine good. Thus the Lord made His humanity, successively, Divine natural, Divine spiritual, and Divine celestial. Regarding the Lord as the Word, these answer to the natural, the spiritual, and celestial senses of the Word. Truth Divine, then, with reference to us, is truth such as it is in the natural or literal sense of the Word. But the letter of the Word consists of truths of two kinds; it consists of apparent truths and of real truths, that is, the literal sense of the Word in some parts describes and represents divine and spiritual things as they appear to men in external states to be, and in other parts it describes and speaks of them as they really are. Now when the Lord made His humanity truth Divine He first made it apparent truth, and then made it real truth. He, like every human being, was first introduced into the apparent truths of the letter of the Word, and then passed through its apparent into its real truths. Not until He had acquired and appropriated the real truths of the letter of the Word, and thus made His humanity Divine natural truth, could He enter into the spiritual sense of the Word and make His humanity Divine spiritual truth. We are instructed in the writings of the Church that none can be introduced into the spiritual sense of the Word but those who are in genuine truth; neither could the Lord, who glorified His humanity by a process similar to that by which He regenerates man.

While Saul represented truth Divine, or truth such as it is in the letter of the Word, he represented its apparent truths rather than its real truths. The real or genuine truths of the letter of the Word were represented by Jonathan. When we see this distinction in the representative character of Saul and his son, how spiritually characteristic do the lives of these two men appear, especially in relation to David! Consider David as representing the spiritual principle in man and the spiritual sense of the Word. Saul's enmity to David shows the enmity of the natural to the spiritual in man, and the seeming contrariety of the letter of the Word to its spirit, a contrariety which is only in the apparent truths of the letter, for these constitute the letter which kills, as opposed to the spirit which gives life. Consider Jonathan, on the contrary, as representing the natural mind of man in its orderly state, and the letter of the Word as to its real or genuine truths, and how characteristic of this is his life in relation to his father and David! From the first his soul is knit to that David. He never swerves in his friendship. Saul's wrath is kindled against David as a rival to him in his throne. Jonathan becomes aware that David is destined to be king of Israel, but this strikes no jarring cord in his soul, and makes no diminution of his affectionate attachment to him. At the same time he acts as a wise and devoted son to his unreasonable and capricious father. He especially labours to turn away his jealousy of David, and his deadly wrath against one whom he was bound by the law of gratitude and affinity to love. As the constant peacemaker between Saul and David, he is the true representative of the genuine truth of the Word, which stands between the apparent truths of its literal sense and the pure truths of its spiritual sense, and which it strives to reconcile, not by bringing the spirit into conformity with the letter, but by bringing the letter into conformity and harmony with the spirit.

Such being the general representative character of Jonathan, we may see more clearly the meaning of his life in its connection with the lives of Saul and David. We may perceive his representative character, especially as compared with that of Saul, in his signal successes against the Philistines. For faith alone, though it may find some countenance in the apparent truths of the Word, is in direct opposition to its genuine truths. Jonathan's first warlike act is to smite the garrison of the Philistines that was in Geba. This is the hill and the garrison mentioned in the tenth chapter, to which Saul came on his return home, after he had been anointed king. Here the Philistines had a military station in a Levitical city, upon a hill, in the centre of the land, no doubt to overawe the people, like the falsity they represented when it finds a place in the higher affections of men, where it taints the purity of their worship, and whence it exerts a controlling influence over the whole mind. The first attack on the Philistines during Saul's reign was directed against this central garrison, and it was made by Jonathan. This must have been an important victory, for it roused and brought into action the whole force of the two hostile kingdoms. "The Philistines heard of it; and Saul blew the trumpet throughout all the land, saying, Let the Hebrews hear." When the people were gathered together to Saul in Gilgal, "the Philistines gathered themselves together to fight with Israel, thirty thousand chariots, and six thousand horsemen, and people as the sand upon the seashore for multitude." The Philistines seem to have greatly outnumbered the Israelites, and to have been immeasurably better prepared for war. But the description of the Philistines tells the quality of the principle they represented as well as the power. Like the great army described in the ninth chapter of Revelation, this army of the Philistines represents the principle of faith alone, their chariots its doctrinals, their horsemen its reasonings, their multitude as the sand on the seashore, its endless array of confirming scientifics. In Gilgal, where the people had been circumcised to roll away the reproach of Egypt, they were now gathered to Saul to roll away the reproach of the uncircumcised Philistines. They had been delivered from the bondage of science alone, but had since come under the yoke of faith alone, a principle not less congenial to the natural man, therefore not less hostile and formidable to the spiritual. The Philistines pitched in Michmash, east from Beth-aven, Michmash meaning treasure, and Beth-aven the house of vanity or of idols. The treasure of the natural man is knowledge, his idols are the love of self and of the world. These are the vanities to which his soul is devoted, and to which all his mental possessions and energies are directed. Where the treasure is, there shall the heart be also.

No wonder that, in their present state and condition, the men of Israel should dread an encounter with this powerful host, and that "when they saw they were in a straight, (for the people were distressed), the people did hide themselves in caves, and in thickets, and in rocks, and in high places, and in pits. And some of the Hebrews went over Jordan to the land of Gad and Gilead: as for Saul, he was yet in Gilgal, and all the people followed him trembling." Their abject fear showed, indeed, how far they had departed from faith in the living God. They had forgotten the promise, that the Lord would fight for them and subdue their enemies under them. But this promise was conditional: "If you walk in My statutes, and keep My commandments to do them, five of you shall chase an hundred, and an hundred of you shall put ten thousand to flight." But in this Israel was an example to us. So far as we forsake the Lord, and keep not His commandments, we lose the power that would defend and uphold us, and quail before the enemies which our unfaithfulness has made so formidable to us. Let us look at this subject as a matter of individual experience.

When false principles, which have acquired some ascendancy over us, show themselves in their power, the truths that are gathered to oppose them shrink from the conflict, and hide themselves in our obscure and confused and false thoughts, and in our selfish and worldly affections, and even seek refuge in the extreme parts of the natural will and understanding. As representative of Christian experience in the progress of the regenerate life, this, like all similar trials and conflicts, is descriptive of a temptation, which is an inward straitness and distress, and ultimately of conflict. In these states of mind the evils and falsities that are excited and made active appear as if they were too many and too powerful to be overcome. This does not of necessity imply an evil state of mind. The best men have the severest temptations, and none can be really good without having passed through them. There is no real good but that which has overcome evil. Our Lord, who passed through all human experience, suffered the direst temptations, and in the bitterness of His soul prayed that the cup might pass from Him. Saul in Gilgal, with his distressed and trembling people, is in this state of trial. In this great emergency what is he to do? The host of the Philistines is before him, but Israel is utterly helpless. In their distress the Israelites had one unfailing resource— to call upon their God. But in matters of national interest and of great importance it was necessary to consult the Lord by Urim and Thummim, or to approach Him by sacrifice, and this required one who was entitled to exercise the function of a priest. Samuel had previously made an appointment to meet Saul in Gilgal, to offer burnt-offerings, and to sacrifice sacrifices of peace-offerings, but he had required him to wait seven days. It must have been an anxious time for Saul, yet he remained faithful to the engagement he had made. But when he had tarried seven days, and Samuel came not to Gilgal, and the people were scattered from him, Saul must have been in deep distress, and his must have represented a severe temptation indeed. But in temptation, as in prayer, there is nothing more needful than trust. If the Divine promise seems to fail, and the answer to our prayer does not immediately come, we must not conclude that the Lord has forgotten to be gracious. We must wait patiently for Him, and fret not ourselves in any way to do evil. Saul forgot to act upon this principle-He called to his attendants to bring him a burnt-offering and a peace-offering, and he at once assumed the office of the priest. No sooner had he offered the burnt-offering than Samuel came. Saul went out to meet him and salute him, but Samuel, aware of the sin he had committed, asked him what he had done. The reasons he assigned, that the people were scattered from him, that he feared the Philistines would come down upon him, and not having made supplication to the Lord, that he therefore forced himself, and offered a burnt-offering, did not satisfy Samuel. He said to him, "You have done foolishly: you have not kept the commandment of the Lord your God, which He commanded you; for now would the Lord have established your kingdom upon Israel for ever. But now your kingdom shall not continue: the Lord has sought Him a man after His own heart, and the Lord has commanded him to be captain over His people, because you have not kept that which the Lord commanded you."

It is impossible to conceive otherwise than these circumstances were of Divine arrangement; and it is almost as impossible to conceive otherwise than that they have a Divine meaning deeper than the history itself reveals. Samuel's delay was no doubt intentional; he knew what Saul would do; and he was prepared not only to pronounce Saul's forfeiture of the throne of Israel, but to intimate to him that another had already been chosen to take his place. Under the Jewish economy the usurpation of the priest's office was a serious crime; because it represented a great profanation, that of exercising the priestly office without possessing the priestly character; and also that of the natural man usurping the function of the spiritual, and the spiritual of the celestial, which is to appear at the marriage without a wedding garment. The result of this is like that which would follow from an angel of his own will ascending into the heaven next above that to which he belongs, which would for the time quench the flame of his own life without enkindling another.

But this mysterious circumstance must be designed to teach us some still higher lesson, both in relation to the glorification of the Lord and the regeneration of man. We see in it the judgement and operation of truth Divine, which Saul represented, and its rejection as a ruling principle to make way for the government of Divine truth, which was represented by David. But the first cause of its rejection is the unlawful act of Saul offering sacrifice, instead of waiting for Samuel to perform the sacred rite. In that marvellously beautiful exposition of the history of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as descriptive of the Lord's glorification, we find what seems to me the reason of the serious consequences of Saul's act. "In the course of man's instruction there is a progression from scientifics to rational truths, next to intellectual truths, and lastly to celestial truths. If this progression be made from scientifics and rational truths to celestial truths without the mediation of intellectual truths, the celestial principle is violated; for there can be no connection of rational truths, which are derived from scientifics, with celestial truths, except by intellectual truths, which are the mediums of such connection." If the cases are not identical, they are at least parallel. Saul's error was his seeking conjunction with the Lord without the proper medium. The error it represented was that of a lower principle seeking conjunction with a higher without the conjoining medium. This violates the higher and injures or destroys the lower. It is as if faith should seek to pass at once into love without the mediation of charity; for how can one love God, whom he has not seen, if he love not his neighbour, whom he has seen? Looking at the subject in that exalted sense in which it refers to the Lord, we are to understand Saul's error in accordance with the principle formerly stated, that the evil acts of those who were types of the Lord represented not His acts but His temptations. Speaking of the Lord's progression as similar to that of man, our author, treating of the first rational principle, signified by Ishmael, whose birth led Hagar, who represented the affection of science, to despise Sarah her mistress, who represented intellectual truth, says, "With the Lord when His rational principle was first conceived there were appearances of truths which were not truths in themselves. Hence His rational principle at His first conception lightly esteemed intellectual truth; but so far as the rational principle became Divine, the clouds of appearances were successively dispersed, and intellectual truths were displayed to Him in their own light, which was represented by Ishmael being expelled the house when Isaac grew up. The Lord Himself did not despise intellectual truth, but He perceived and saw that His first rational principle would be of such a nature that it would lightly esteem intellectual truth; wherefore He reproved it." Now we are to reflect that both Saul and Samuel represented the Lord, but in regard to two distinct parts and states of His humanity. Samuel's reproof of Saul is therefore to be understood as a higher principle in the Lord's humanity reproving a lower. Samuel in a general sense represented the Lord as the Word. The Lord was the Word, or essential Divine truth. But in His humanity the Lord's essential truth was surrounded by truths of all degrees, angelic and human, even to the lowest appearances of truth. Samuel, as a prophet, represented intellectual truth, which belongs to the inner man, while Saul represented the appearances of truth, that belong to the outer man. "The Lord thought from a principle of intellectual truth, which, being above the rational, was capable of perceiving and seeing from an interior principle what was the character of the rational. That the Lord had this power may appear from this, that an interior principle can perceive what exists in an exterior, or what is the same, a higher principle can perceive what exists in a lower, but not reversely. Even those who have conscience are capable of this, and frequently practise it; for when anything contrary to conscience flows into the thought or into the tendency of the will, they not only apperceive it, but also reprove it as criminal, nay, they suffer pain at the thought of being su'ch as are capable of feeling such incitement." Thus it was that Samuel not only reproved Saul, but grieved over him. And thus it is that when, through the appearances of truth, we ourselves are led into temptation— for the devil still tempts us through the apparent truths of Scripture— or even into an evil act, we have an interior power which enables us to see and reprove the outward evil, and to grieve over our frailties and failings, and even to see that the government of the mind must be removed and placed on another shoulder. The time, or the state, for the actual transfer of the government has not yet come; and there are many instructive circumstances that are to come under our consideration before this takes place. Some of these are related in the present chapter. "Samuel arose, and gat him up to Gibeah of Benjamin: and Saul numbered the people that were present with him, about six hundred men." Higher always act upon lower principles, but their influence is not always felt or perceived. The fact is, the higher does not act through the lower as a passive subject, but the lower, as a re-agent, acts as of itself from the higher. If the lower always perceived the presence of the higher, and its own dependence upon it for its life and the power of acting, it would cease to be free. Only, then, on occasions is this truth brought home perceptibly to the mind. Samuel came to Saul when his presence was needed, and he now departs. He goes up from the city on the plain to the Levitical city on the hill, and no doubt to pray for him whose conduct he had reproved, and whose condition he lamented. Saul numbers the people that are with him, and of all who had been gathered together after Saul there are now only about six hundred men, a number indicative of the straight into which Israel had come, for six is expressive of labour and sorrow. But Saul, and Jonathan his son, and the people that are with them, abide in Gibeah of Benjamin, while the Philistines encamp in Michmash. They have therefore returned to the place and state in which they were before calling Israel together. While they abide there "the spoilers came out of the camp of the Philistines in three companies." The names of the places to which they turned would seem to indicate that, with one exception, they were places of savage wildness; Shual being a home of foxes, Beth-horon a place of deep caverns, and Zeboim a place of hyaenas; the exception is Ophrah, which means a fawn. Israel, indeed, seems like a fawn, timorous, defenceless, as we shall see, fleeing in terror before her pursuers; these wild places to which the companies of the spoilers now turn being no doubt the caves, and the thickets, and the rocks, and the high places, and the pits, to which the great body of the people had fled from the Philistines, and to whom they would now become an easy prey. So with us when our fear of the enemy is stronger than our love of God; and the very things to which we flee for our preservation become means of our destruction. A remarkable state of things is now revealed, which accounts, humanly speaking, for the defenceless and disquieted state of the Israelites. So completely had their powerful enemy obtained the ascendancy over them, that "there was no smith found throughout all the land of Israel; for the Philistines said, Lest the Hebrews make them swords or spears: but all the Israelites went down to the Philistines, to sharpen every man his share, and his coulter, and his axe, and his mattock. Yet they had a file for the mattocks, and for the coulters, and for the forks, and for the axes, and to sharpen the goads. So it came to pass, in the day of battle, that there was neither sword nor spear found in the hand of any of the people that were with Saul and Jonathan: but with Saul, and with Jonathan his son, was there found." The policy of the Philistines, which was followed by Nebuchadnezzar, when he carried the children of Judah into captivity (2 Kings 24:14; Jer 29:2), was not uncommon among the nations of antiquity under similar circumstances, and is easily accounted for. Nor is it difficult to understand the corresponding policy of the spiritual Philistines and Babylonians under corresponding circumstances. They naturally wish to deprive those whom they have brought under subjection of the means of defence, and in doing so scruple not to deprive them of the power of providing the means of life. Weapons of war and implements of husbandry correspond to doctrines; for these we employ as instruments both of defence and cultivation? But doctrines may be true or false, and are so according as they are formed in agreement with the will and wisdom of God, or with the will and wisdom of man. The smith who makes the implement is, abstractly, the intelligence by which doctrine is formed; and this intelligence may either be derived from self or from the Lord. Self-intelligence is evidently meant by the smith with the tongs, who both works in the coals, and fashions a god with hammers (Isa 44:12), and by him that smites the anvil, who is encouraged by him that smoothes with the hammer, saying, It is ready for the welding (Isa 41:7). The most perfect instance, perhaps, of heaven-derived intelligence presented under this symbolism is one that has only a spiritual meaning. Tubal-cain, who was an instructor of every artificer in brass and iron (Gen 4:22), is the name of those in the primeval Church who, from true intelligence, instructed others in the knowledge of natural good and truth, which brass and iron signify. The spiritual idea, then, contained in the natural fact that there was no smith throughout all the land of Israel, lest the Hebrews should make them swords or spears, and that all the Israelites went down to the Philistines to sharpen every man his share, and his coulter, and his axe, and his mattock, is, that when faith alone prevails, the men of the Church are deprived of all true intelligence, and therefore of all sound doctrine, that they are consequently without the means of combating evil and error, and that the cultivation of what is good and true is controlled and directed by a principle that has no relation to life, which is the end of all true and vital religion. Yet, according to our version, the Israelites were not entirely dependent on the Philistines; they had a file for the mattocks, and for the coulters, and for the forks, and for the axes, and to sharpen the goads. This is a confessedly difficult text. It does not appear to refer to anything that the Israelites possessed or did for themselves independently of the Philistines. The words "yet they had" are no part of the text; and the word "file "is not regarded as a good translation. The root of the Hebrew word rendered "file" seems to mean to blunt, to notch, to found, to hammer. One critic suggests that agricultural implements might be hammered sharp. But whatever the means, the sharpening of the instruments is understood to have been done by the Philistines, or by Hebrew smiths whom they had in their service or under their control. The idea seems to be that the Israelites were not allowed to sharpen any of their tools, that they might not be able to make any swords. They were not therefore allowed to beat their ploughshares into swords, and their pruning-hooks into spears (Joel 3:10), nor to realize the state connected with the Divine purpose, "I came not to send peace on earth, but a sword."

The state which is thus described is such as takes place at the end of the Church, which, indeed, is here represented, since Saul is a type of the Lord at His coming. The end of the Church takes place when love waxes cold and faith is no longer found in the earth, that is, in the Church; but when true love dies out and true faith fails, a false love and a spurious faith take their place, and this was represented by the subjection of Israel to the Philistines and of Judah to Babylon. The first of these states is represented by the state of Israel as related in the passage before us. The people in the day of battle are without sword or spear. They are not able to defend themselves against the chariots and the horsemen, or the doctrines and the reasonings of the enemies of the Church; for those enemies have deprived them of the power of resisting, much more of overcoming, the principles which have come to prevail. But although neither sword nor spear is found in the hand of any of the people, yet with Saul and with Jonathan is there found. We shall see, in the next chapter, what marvelous power is in those single weapons in the hands of these kingly men, the representatives of Him of whom it is said, "Gird Your sword upon Your thigh, O Most Mighty, with Your glory and Your majesty.

And in Your glory ride prosperously, because of truth, and meekness, and righteousness; and Your right hand shall teach You terrible things. Yours arrows are sharp in the heart of the King's enemies, whereby the people fall under You." And by whom it is also said, "I have trodden the winepress alone, and of the people there was none with Me."

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