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Previous: Chapter IX. The Canaanites. Up: Canaan Next: Chapter XI. The Moabites and the Ammonites.

Chapter X. The Hebrews.

104. The Semitic Race. A third race of people now makes its appearance on the soil of Canaan, different alike from the Aborigines and from the Hamitic Canaanites, a race which in seven branches completely encircled the land, with Israel enthroned in their midst. These seven branches, the Amalekites, the Ishmaelites, the Midianites, the Edomites, the Moabites, the Ammonites, and the Aramceans, were all of the race of Shem, the eldest son of Noah, known as "eldest" because representing the most genuine part of the Ancient Church. By Shem is signified Charity, and he was called Shem (or "name"), because "name" stands for "quality," and Charity was the very essential quality of the Ancient or Spiritual Church. The Semites, also, longer than the rest of the Ancient Church, remained in the worship of the one true God, whom they knew under the name of Jehovah; and though this race also in the course of time fell into idolatry, yet there lingered with some of the an hereditary disposition towards Monotheism, which sprang into life again and again. This tendency re-appeared first in Eber and his descendants of the Hebrew Church and then in Israel and his posterity, culminating, finally, in Jesus Christ our Lord, who, through His Semitic mother, was "an Hebrew of the Hebrews." And when the Christian Church fell into the worship of three gods instead of the One, the Lord in His Mercy permitted the Arabs,—a Semitic and Hebrew nation—to establish far and wide on the ruins of the Ancient and the Christian Churches in the Orient, the worship of One, albeit invisible, God.

Ages ago, perhaps four thousand years B. C., the race of Shem made its first appearance in History. Whence they came is not perfectly known, but it seems to us that they must have come from over the mountains of Elam, since Elam is mentioned in the tenth chapter of Genesis as the "first born" son of Shem. From hence they descended upon the corrupt civilization of Ham in Chaldea, subduing or driving away the original inhabitants who, in successive streams of emigration, settled in various parts of the world. These are known as the "sons of Ham," of whom Mizraim took possession of Egypt, Cush of Ethiopia and eastern Asia, Phut of Libya, and Canaan of the Holy Land. The Semitic conquerors having firmly established their dominion in Babylonia, now sent forth colonizing expeditions which, as "sons of Shem," gave the name of Asshur to Assyria, Arphaxad to Mesopotamia, Lud to Lydia, and Aram to Syria. But, together with great worldly dominion, an internal decline now set in amongst the Semites. The corrupt priesthood of the ancient Chaldeans, having submitted to the conquerors, managed to seduce the latter into an acceptance of the magical and idolatrous practices of the older religion, even as the Roman Catholic priesthood converted the conquering Goths and Franks and Northmen in the beginning of the Dark Ages. Idolatry became universal in the Ancient Church, but the knowledge of the purer doctrines remained with Arphaxad in Mesopotamia, (AC 1329), and from this stock there arose in time a great reformer,—the first actual person mentioned in Genesis,—by the name of Eber.

105. Eber and the Hebrew Church. The name Eber literally means "passing over," and he was so named because he was to be the means by which the doctrines and worship of the Ancient Church passed over to the Israelitish Church. When the knowledge of Jehovah had been forgotten everywhere else, Eber revived His worship and at the same time established a new and reformed cultus or Church, the chief ritual of which was the sacrifice of animals. This rite did not exist in the Ancient Church itself, but it was now permitted in order to divert the fallen Church from the horrible practice of human sacrifice. This new Church is known to us as the Hebrew or Second Ancient Church.

The rite of animal sacrifice was quickly adopted by all the nations descended from the Ancient Church; it spread all over the world even though the worship of Jehovah and the doctrines of the Hebrew Church were not generally accepted. The reformatory movement of Eber proved to be but a temporary check upon the downward rush of the Silver Age to its final consummation and judgment. In this it was similar to the reformatory movement of Enoch before the Flood, of Ezra and Nehemiah before the dispersion of the Jews, and of Luther and Calvin before the Last Judgment.

The historical and spiritual significance of Eber, as revealed in the Writings of the New Church, finds interesting confirmation from the traditions of the Jews. It is known to them that it is from him they are called "Hebrews," (Ebrim), and that he was so great a man as to reflect glory upon his ancestor, Shem, who is designated "the father of all the children of Eber," (Gen. 10:21). They know also that while there were many other Hebrew nations in ancient times, the Jews are Hebrews par excellence, "because they they regard themselves as the only ones of the descendants of Eber who have retained his faith (see Ibn Ezra's Comment ad Jon. I:9).

106. The Hebrews. The reformatory movement instituted by Eber was not only of relatively small influence but also of short duration, lasting but four or five generations. Of his two sons the elder was named Peleg ("division"), "because in his days was the earth divided," i.e., the true worshippers in the Church were separated from the idolaters. (AC 1240.) By him, also, is represented "the internal worship" of the Hebrew Church, while by his younger brother, Joktan, ("little one"), is signified its external worship. The latter had thirteen sons, who became ancestors or chieftains of so many Syrian and Arabic tribes, and it is possible that some of these are identical with the mysterious Hyksos or "Shepherd Kings," who conquered and retained possession of Egypt for five hundred years, and who forced upon the Egyptians the rite of animal sacrifices. This fact seems to indicate that the Hyksos were Hebrews; they also introduced into Egypt the worship of the gods Set and Aten, which are the same as the Hebrew divinities Shaddai and Adonai.

Even in the time of Peleg a decline seems to have commenced in the Hebrew Church, for while in the tenth chapter of Genesis Peleg signifies "internal worship," in the next chapter, after the account of the Tower of Babel, he is again mentioned and now he stands for external worship. (AC 1345.) His son, Reu, represents "worship still more external;" Reu's son, Serug, signifies "worship in externals;" Serug's son, Nahor, "worship verging towards idolatry;" and Nahor's son, Terah., signifies actual "idolatrous worship." (AC 1346-1353.) This steady decline is consummated in the next generation: Terah dwelt in "Ur of the Chaldees," which stands for idolatry in general, and here he had three sons, of whom Abram signifies "idolatry from the love of self," Nahor, "idolatry from the love of the world," and Haran, "idolatry from the love of pleasures." (AC 1 357) The beginning of a new and better state, in preparation for a new Church, is indicated by the return of Terah with his family to the ancestral seats in Mesopotamia,—i. e., a return to the worship of their fathers and "the instruction of these idolaters in the celestial and spiritual things of faith, in order that a Representative Church might thence come into existence." (AC 1373.)

We need not dwell at length upon the well-known story of Abraham. Having been previously reduced to a complete state of gentilism, he and his family were "better fitted to receive the seeds of truth than others in Syria, with whom the knowledge of Jehovah still remained," (even until the time of Balaam, the prophet, AC 1366). But though they were no longer in clanger of profaning the new revelation about to be given to them, yet even to Abraham the name of Jehovah was concealed, for the Lord God introduced Himself to Abraham under the name of Shaddai, who was the special family God of Terah. The new Covenant as a matter of fact had but little influence upon the faith and life of Abraham and his immediate descendants. The "father of a multitude" had small regard for truthfulness and decency: and it is evident that he still inclined to infant sacrifices, as is shown by his attempt to offer up the child Isaac upon the altar of his god. Shaddai, and all the nations which descended from him remained in idolatory, with the sole exception of the Israelites who several hundred years afterwards for the first time heard the name Jehovah as revealed to Moses. The other Hebrew nations not only accepted the false persuasions and evil practices of the neighboring Canaanites, but were in general bitterly hostile to Jehovah and those who worshipped Him. As blood-relations of the Israelites these nations sometimes represent collateral goods and truths, the states of the "simple good" among the Gentiles, but as enemies of Jehovah and His chosen people they more generally stand for evils and falses of a more interior and deadly character than those represented by the Hamitic Canaanites. These Hebrew nations figure very largely in the sacred history, and it is therefore of great importance to gain a well defined idea of the character and significance of each and all.

107. The Amalekites, (so named from amalak, to "snatch away"), were an ancient and at one time powerful people of nomads, dwelling in the wilderness of Shur and the peninsula of Sinai. As to their purely Hebrew origin there is some doubt, yet they must be classed among the Hebrew nations not only because of the identity of their name with that of Amalek, the grandson of Esau, but also because of their Hebraic language and tribal characteristics.

In the Scriptures the Amalekites are first mentioned in Genesis 14 where it is stated that Chedorlaomer, the king of Elam, "smote all the country of the Amalekites,"—and this at least two centuries before the birth of the Hebrew Amalek. These original Amalekites, according to Arabian historians, were descendants of Aram and Lud, thus of Semitic origin, but they seem to have been mixed also with aboriginal and Canaanitish elements. By them are signified falsities which give birth to evils, not falsities arising from evil, but

false or heretical doctrines which begin from an origin outside of the will, and such as man has imbibed from infancy and then confirmed in adult age. But because they are false they cannot but produce evils of life; as, for instance, a man who believes that he merits salvation by means of works and confirms himself in this belief, with him the merit, the self-justification and the self-confidence, are the evils which result thence. Or, on the other hand, a man who believes there can be no piety of life unless merit be placed in works, with him the evil thence resulting is that he extinguishes with himself all life of piety and gives himself up to lusts and pleasures. (AC 1679.)

Such, then, were the falsities represented by the earlier Amalekites. When they next appear in the sacred history they still represent falsities, but now of a much more direful kind, i. e., "falsities from interior evils." The first false persuasions and heresies have now not only resulted in the inevitable evils of life, but these evils themselves have given birth to a new generation of falsities, falsities from evil, excusing and confirming evils, malignant falsities of the very worst kind, persistently and cunningly striving to destroy the truths and goods of the Church.

In perfect correspondence with this their representation, the Amalekites themselves henceforth stand forth in the Word as a horde of fierce marauders, treacherous and murderous like the modern Tuaregs of Sahara, lying in wait for the travellers in the wilderness, or suddenly descending like devastating locusts upon the country districts of Canaan.

These were the enemies against whom the weak and doubting children of Israel had to contend in the very first battle after their flight from Egypt. They had been murmuring against Jehovah because they could find no water to drink, but Moses had struck the rock in Horeb with his staff, and water had issued forth. Then Amalek came and fought with Israel in Rephidim, and "they smote the hindmost, all' the infirm in thee, when thou wast tired and weary, nor feared he God." (Deut. 25:17.) The battle waged to and fro; as long as Moses could hold his hands lifted up to God, Israel prevailed, but when from weariness he let his hands fall, Amalek prevailed. Finally Aaron and Hur came to support the hands of their brother, even until the setting of the sun, and then Joshua "weakened Amalek and his people at the mouth of the sword." And Moses "wrote this memorial in a book: that blotting out I will blot out the memory of Amalek from under the heavens, and Jehovah shall have war against Amalek from generation to generation." (Exodus 17.)

This memorable battle typically describes the temptation combats of the nascent Church against those infernal genii who are represented by the Amalekites. "These never attack man openly, nor when he is in the vigor of resistance; but when it appears that the man is inclining to yield, then they are suddenly at hand and impel him to fall altogether." (AC 8593.) That Israel "now prevailed, and now Amalek, represented that those who are of the Spiritual Church cannot be in the faith that continually looks to the Lord, but are alternately in a faith that regards self and the world, for they who are of that Church are in obscurity, and thence in weakness as to faith." (8607.) The enemies are of such cunning that "it would be all over with the man of the Church, for they would act most secretly upon the conscience, and would pervert it, and this by the exciting of depraved cupidities." (8593.) Victory over them can be gained only by a supreme combined effort of all that is best in the man in supporting his wavering faith; it is done with difficulty, but it can be done.

As for the Amalekites, those who are in falsity from interior evil, they are doomed to utter destruction in time to come.

Who, and of what quality, are those who are in falsity from interior evil, shall now be told: Interior evil is that which lies hidden interiorly with man concealed in his will and thence in his thoughts, nor does any trace of it appear in externals, as in the actions, in the speech, or in the face. Those who are in such evil are studying by every method and art to conceal and hide it under the appearance of honesty and justice, and under the appearance of love of the neighbor. And yet within themselves they think nothing else but how they may inflict evil, and how they may do it through others, taking care lest it appear that they themselves are the cause. They also color over the evil itself, so that it may not appear as evil. The most delightful thing of their life is to meditate such things and to attempt them in secret. This is called interior evil, and those who are in this evil are called evil genii, and in the other life these are altogether separated from those who are in exterior evil and are called spirits. (AC 8593.)

Henceforth there was implacable hatred between the Israelites and the Amalekites. Not only did the latter prevent the chosen people from entering Canaan directly from the south; but even after the Conquest, and during the entire period of the Judges, they allied themselves with the enemies of Israel, joining variously the Ammonites and the Midianites in their descents upon the Holy Land.

The Amalekites, indeed, represent "those falsities of evil which continually infest the truths and goods of the Church," (AE 734), and "hence it was that Amalek was not exterminated either by Joshua, or afterwards by the Judges and the Kings." (AC 8607.) Saul was commanded to blot out the hateful marauders, but in spite of a most decisive victory he disobeyed the commands of Samuel and spared Agag, their king. The Amalekites gradually recovered something of their former power, and though David afterwards put the whole nation to the sword, yet four hundred of them "rode upon camels and fled." (1 Sam. 30:17.) It was not until the reign of Hezekiah, near the end of the kingdom of Judah, that a body of warriors from the tribe of Simeon went up to Mt. Seir, and "smote the rest of the Amalekites that had escaped." (1 Chron. 4:43)

108. The Ishmaelites. Of all the Hebrew kinsmen of Israel, none have played so important a role in the history of the world as the Ishmaelites, or, rather, their direct descendants, the Arabs. In Scriptural times, however, they were not yet a great nation, and they are but seldom mentioned in the Word.

As there were Amalekites before Amalek, the grandson of Esau, so it seems there were Ishmaelites before the time of Ishmael, the son of Abraham by Hagar, for we read of Joseph being sold by his brethren to "a company of Ishmaelites coming from Gideon." (Gen. 37:25.) Now while Ishmael had many sons, they would scarcely in the very next generation have been a distinct people and mentioned as if they were utter strangers. The explanation, as in the case of Amalek, seems to be that Ishmael had attained the position of chieftain with some desert tribe which henceforth became known by his name. The Arabs, who all claim Ishmael as their common ancestor, have a legend that Hagar, having been expelled by Sarah, ran about in the desert, vainly seeking for water. Little Ishmael, being left alone, began to kick and cry; thus he struck the ground with his foot, and immediately a spring of water appeared. Soon afterwards a wandering tribe found Hagar with the child by a fountain which had never before been known in the desert; being told of the miracle which had been wrought, the tribe adopted Ishmael who afterwards married the daughter of the chief and founded a royal line from which sprang the tribe of Koreish in Mecca, the tribe to which Mohammed belonged. Ishmael himself lived as a prophet as well as a patriarch amongst them, died at the age of 130 years, and was buried with his mother in the Kaaba in Mecca.

There may be some elements of historic truth in this legend, though it may be doubted if Ishmael ever went as far south as Mecca. From the story in Genesis we learn that he was circumcised by his father at the age of thirteen years, that he was caught "mocking" at the festivities when Isaac was weaned; on this account he and his mother were sent forth into the wilderness where, after the well of water had been discovered, "God was with the lad, and he grew, and dwelt in the wilderness of Paran, and became an archer, and his mother took him a wife out of the land of Egypt." (Gen. 21:20.) His relations with Abraham and Isaac seem to have been friendly, and he assisted in the burial of his father.

It was prophecied of Ishmael that he should be "a wild-ass man; his hand shall be against all, and the hand of all against him; and he shall dwell over against the face of all his brethren." (Gen. 16:12.) The wild-ass of the Arabian desert is a peculiarly shy, fleet, pugnacious and untamable beast, and because of these qualities it has become the Biblical symbol for the first youthful degree of the rational with the regenerating man, a state when as yet he thinks from truth only, and not at the same time from good. This state is also signified by Ishmael, and therefore the spiritual Ishmaelite is described as

A morose man, impatient of everything, he is against all, regarding everybody as in falsity, rebuking at once, punishing, has no pity, does not try to bend minds. (AC 1949.) Isaac, on the other hand, or rational good, never fights, howsoever it is assaulted, because it is meek and gentle, patient and pliable, its qualities being those of love and mercy; and although it does not fight, yet it conquers all, never thinking of combatting or of boasting of victory. ... But truth separate from good thinks and breathes scarcely anything but combat, its general delight or reigning affection being to conquer, and when it conquers it boasts of the victory. (AC 1950.) Like the wild-ass, it is morose, pugnacious, and possessed of a parched and dry life, from a certain love of the truth, which is defiled by the love of self. (AC 1964.) Such truth, in the other life, is represented by what is strong and hard, insomuch that it cannot possibly be resisted. When spirits merely think of such truth, there arises something of terror, because its nature is such that it does not yield, thus neither does it recede. (AC 1951)

Such is the first state of every man who from natural is becoming spiritual. It is an inevitable temporary state, and also a most necessary state, because the spiritual can be born only in the rational. If the man persistently remains in this state of truth alone, he becomes a spiritual Bedouin, a fierce and unmerciful marauder of the desert, but if gradually he permits charity to temper his harsh judgment, he becomes a man of the Lord's Spiritual Church, and an Ishmaelite in the good sense. For Ishmael stands also for the Spiritual Church, and the Spiritual Kingdom in the Heavens, and this is what is meant by the prophecy that "I will put him for a great nation." (Gen. 21:18; AC 2699.) In a literal sense, also, this prophecy has been most remarkably fulfilled in the history of Arabia and of Islam.

As a tribe, the Ishmaelites were idolaters; like the other Hebrew nations they adopted the gods of the neighboring Canaanites, but there is evidence in the Arabic traditions that remains of monotheism and true worship lingered amongst them even to the time of Mohammed who so quickly gained a great following. Prophets are said to have been raised up from time to time who rebuked the Arabs for their idolatry and reminded them of the purer worship of their fathers, Ibrahim and Ishmael. The Ancient Word also existed at one time in Arabia, and the science of correspondences was cultivated there. (SS 21, 102.) And that "wisdom flourished in Arabia appears from the coming of the Queen of Sheba to Solomon, and from the three wise men of the East." (Coronis 41.) Hence we may not be surprised that the twelve sons of Ishmael signify "all things which are of the Spiritual Church, especially with the Gentiles," (AC 3268), and that the Ishmaelites as a tribe represent "those who as to life are in simple good, and therefore as to doctrine in natural truth." (3263.)

The sons of Ishmael also stand for so many "lands or nations which are all named from the sons or grandsons of Abraham." (3268.) The eldest son was named Nebaioth, (from a root meaning "to well" or "spring forth," evidently in commemoration of the miraculous springing forth of the well in the story of Ishmael and Hagar). His descendants were the Nabataei, a tribe in the north of Arabia which became an important nation in the time of Alexander the Great, forming the independent kingdom of Nabatene to the south of the land of Edom which they afterward conquered. In the course of time they spread their dominion throughout the whole of Arabia.

The second son, Kedar, ("powerful"), gave his name to Arabia as a whole, in the Hebrew tongue. "Arabia was named from a son of Ishmael," (AC 3268), and Kedar was both powerful and wealthy, for we read frequently in the Word of "the tents of Kedar," "the villages and flocks of Kedar," and "the glory of Kedar." They long controlled the trans-Arabian trade between India and Phoenicia, but in time merged with the Nabatoeans.

The Ishmaelites seem to have been closely connected with the Midianites, and sometimes the names of the two tribes appear to be used synonymously in the Word. Thus the Midianites who were slain by Gideon "had ear-rings of gold, because they were Ishmaelites," Judges 8:24), the ear-rings of gold signifying "the things of simple good," (i. e., obedience, AC 3263). Again, in the story of the betrayal of Joseph by his brethren, the Ishmaelites are curiously associated with the Midianites, for it is first stated that the brethren "beheld a company of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead with their camels bearing spicery and balm and myrrh, going to carry it down to Egypt." (Gen. 37:25.) Judah then proposed to sell Joseph to these Ishmaelites, but in the meantime "there passed by Midianite merchantmen, and they drew and lifted up Joseph out of the pit; and sold Joseph to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver, and they brought Joseph into Egypt." The chapter concludes with the statement that "the Midianites sold him into Egypt unto Potiphar," (v. 36), but in the next verse, (the first of Chap. 38), it is stated that Potiphar "bought him of the hands of the Ishmaelites, which had brought him down thither."

The apparent contradictions in this intricate story disappear in the internal sense. Joseph here represents the Divine Truth, especially this supreme or inmost truth that the Human of the Lord is Divine, (AC 4731), a truth which was especially betrayed by the Christian Church. The Ishmaelites represent those who are in simple good, and the Midianites those who are in the truth of that good, (AC 4747); thus the former stand for the celestial and internal, and the latter for the spiritual and external man. Now, "those who are internal men cannot sell, that is, alienate the Divine Truth represented by Joseph, because they perceive truth from good; hence they are not led away by the fallacies of the senses, consequently neither by scientifics. But they who are external men can sell or alienate, because they do not perceive truth from good, but acquire the knowledge of it only from doctrines and teachers, and if they consult scientifics, they suffer themselves to be easily led away by fallacies, for they have no dictate within. It is for this reason that Joseph was not sold by the Ishmaelites, but by the Midianites." (AC 4788.) "Hence it is evident that it is so said for the sake of the internal sense. Nor are the historicals contradictory to one another; for it is said of the Midianites that they drew Joseph out of the pit; consequently he was by them delivered to the Ishmaelites, by whom he was brought down into Egypt. Thus the Midianites, as they delivered him to the Ishmaelites who were going to Egypt, did sell him to Egypt." (AC 4968.)

109. The Midianites. After the death of Sarah, "Abraham added and took a woman, and her name was Keturah. And she bare him Zimran, and Jokshan, and Medan, and Midian, and Ishbak, and Shuah." (Gen. 25:1, 2.) Abraham and Sarah signify in general the Lord as to the Divine Celestial, but Abraham with his second wife, Keturah, signify the Lord as to the Divine Spiritual. The offspring of this second marriage consequently signify "common lots of the Lord's Spiritual Kingdom in the heavens and on the earths, with their derivations." (AC 3234, 3238.) Of this generation springing from Keturah only the descendants of Midian reached any historical prominence: the latter, however, are mentioned frequently in the Word, and by them are signified, in a good sense, those of the Spiritual Kingdom who are in the truth of simple good, just as their cousins, the Ishmaelites, signify those who are in simple good itself. (AC 4747) Those who are in such truth have no internal perception, and therefore are easily persuaded by fallacies from the senses, and when they are thus persuaded, they no longer represent the truth of simple good, but the falsity of evil, and it is in this latter sense that the Midianites most generally figure in the Word. Whether in a good or evil sense, people of this purely intellectual and spiritual character are argumentative and contentious, and this is expressed in a word by the name Midian, which means "strife" or "contention."

We are told that Abraham "gave all that he had to Isaac," but unto the sons that he had by his concubines he "gave gifts, and sent them away from Isaac, his son, while he yet lived, eastward, unto the east country." (Gen. 25:5, 6.) In the case of Midian this "east country" included the district to the south and east of Edom, Moab, and Ammon,—now a complete wilderness but in ancient times a fertile region, studded with villages and towns, the ruins of which may still be seen. One branch of the Midianites, known as "Kenites," dwelt in Sinai, near Mt. Horeb; it was among them Moses found refuge during his years of exile, and here he married Zipporah, the daughter of Jethro, the priest of Midian. As a distinct tribe the Midianites first appear, together with the Ishmaelites, in the story of the betrayal of Joseph, and they are here introduced as "merchantmen" engaged in trade with Egypt, bringing thither from Gilead the balm, frankincense and myrrh, which the Egyptians required for the embalming of their dead. From this trade, and also from their teeming herds of cattle, together with some agriculture, the Midianites became a rich and powerful people, but, like the rest of the Hebrews round about Canaan, they were idolaters and steeped in the vices of the neighboring Canaanites.

For their Israelitish kinsmen they always entertained a whole-souled hatred. When Moses and the ten tribes wished to pass through the country of the Midianites, the latter opposed them by every means. At first they united with the Moabites in sending for Balaam, the Syrian prophet, to put the curse upon the dangerous invaders, but when the intended curse was turned into a blessing, the Midianites, on the advice of Balaam, (Numbers 31:16), tried to accomplish the destruction of Israel through a most foul method: the women of the Midianites enticed the men of Israel to the lascivious worship of Baal Peor, the lord of the phallus. This infamous fornication, practiced in the name of religion, resulted in a "plague" which would have ruined the chosen people, had it not been checked by the drastic measures of Moses. Terrible was the vengeance visited upon Midian. Phineas, the grandson of Aaron, with a force of 12000 men, penetrated into the heart of the land of Midian, burning their cities and castles, putting to death all the married men, women, and male children within reach, and making slaves of all the young women. The booty taken was enormous, but the figures given are probably fictitious, that is to say, representative.

After this crushing defeat nothing further is heard of the Midianites for some two or three hundred years; a remnant of the people must have escaped into the outlying districts and they gradually recovered something of their former power. In the sixth chapter of the Judges they reappear, now as the head of a great confederation of "all the children of the East." For seven years they oppressed the children of Israel, the latter taking refuge in "the dens which are in the mountains, and caves arid strongholds." At last, in the spring of the seventh year, the Midianites and their Bedouin confederates came up with an enormous army to give the death-blow to Israel. "They came up with their cattle and their tents, and they came up as grasshoppers for multitude; both they and their camels were without number; and they entered into the land to destroy it." (Judg. 6:5.) And now occurred a most dramatic deliverance. Gideon was raised up by Jehovah, and of all the children of Israel who had assembled for a final stand, he chose only the three hundred who "lapped of the water with their tongues, even as a dog lappeth." To each of these he gave a trumpet, and an empty pitcher, and a lamp within the pitcher. And then in the night, having surrounded the hosts of Midian, at a given signal the three hundred blew their trumpets and break their pitchers, crying: "the sword of the Lord and of Gideon." The "sword" was the light which now flashed forth from the surrounding heights of Esdraelon. Panic took possession of the Midianites and the Amalekites and the rest of the children of the East; the sword of every man was set against his fellow, and "all the host ran, and cried and fled." The main body of the Israelites now pursued and exterminated the retreating horde, and the Midianites "lifted up their heads no more." (Judg. 8:28.)

"By Midian, here, are meant those who do not care for truth, because they are merely natural and external; and for this reason they were smitten by those who lapped of the water in their hands as a dog lappeth, for by the latter are meant those who have an appetite for truths, i.e., those who from a certain natural affection love to know truths." (AE 455.)

After this defeat the Midianites no longer appear in history.

110. The Edomites. The territory of the Edomites, the descendants of Esau, extended from the southern extremity of the Dead Sea to the eastern arm of the Red Sea, and included the mountain range of Seir together with the northern portion of Arabia Petrsea. To the west of them were the Amalekites, to the south the Ishmaelites, to the east the Midianites, and to the north the Moabites and the districts of Simeon and Judah. Their chief city was the famous city of Sela, (in Greek, Petra), the temples and palaces of which, carved out of the solid rock, are still the wonder of Northern Arabia. Bozrah was another important city. Mt. Seir, so frequently mentioned in the Word, in the supreme sense signifies "the celestial natural good" of the Lord's Divine Human. (AC 4240.) As a mountain it signifies what is celestial, and because of its rough and shaggy appearance, (Seir, "hairy"), it signifies the celestial natural, (3527). This correspondence is also in harmony with the country itself which is called Edom, ("red"), from the red color of the sandstone which forms the greater part of the mountain chain. Though arid and rocky, the soil is by no means unfruitful, but produces rich herbage in the spring, and still supports numerous flocks of sheep. In ancient times there was much wealth in the country, gained from mining, commerce, sheep-raising, and agriculture. Such was the country occupied by Esau, whose name means "hairy," because at his birth he came forth "red all over like a hairy blanket;" and by Esau, as by Mt. Seir and the land of Edom, is signified in general "the Lord as to the Divine Good of the Divine Natural." (AC 3322.)

That such is the correspondence of Edom is self-evident from the sublime words of Isaiah: "Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah? This that is glorious in His apparel, travelling in the greatness of His strength? I that speak in justice, mighty to save. Wherefore art Thou red in Thine apparel, and Thy garments like Him that treadeth in the wine-press? I have trodden the wine-press alone, and of the peoples there was no man with Me.... I looked, but there was none to help, I was amazed that there was none to uphold: therefore Mine own arm brought salvation unto Me." (Is. 63:1-5)

The story of the great Hebrew patriarchs is the story of the Glorification of the Lord in His Human. Abraham signifies the Divine Celestial, Ishmael and Isaac the Divine Spiritual, and Esau and Jacob the Divine Natural. The brotherhood of Esau and Jacob signifies the brotherhood of good and truth in the Divine Natural of the Lord's Human, as in the natural of every regenerating man. Of the two, good is actually prior in the beginning even as it will be at the end, but for a time it is necessary that truth should appear to be prior, in order that the understanding of truth may be led in freedom to the final acknowledgment that good of the will is the greater of the two. Good cares nothing for the show of superiority, and therefore Esau sold his birthright to Jacob for a red pottage, ("therefore was his name called Edom"), but its ultimate victory was foretold in the blessing of Isaac upon Esau: "By thy sword thou shalt live, and shalt serve thy brother; and it shall come to pass when thou shalt have dominion, that thou shalt break his yoke from off thy neck." (Gen. 27:40.)

This prophecy was literally fulfilled in the life-time of Esau, (and also, as we shall see, in the history .of the Edomites in their relations with the Jews). Esau, cheated and supplanted by the cunning deceit of his mother and brother, withdrew to Mt. Seir in the land of Edom, where he grew to be a man of great power and wealth. When Jacob was returning from Laban in Paddan Aram, he heard that Esau was approaching him with a troop of four hundred men. "Greatly afraid and distressed," Jacob now sent tribute and humbly submitted himself to Esau who, on this occasion, proved himself a vastly superior character, forgiving, affectionate, and generous. Running to meet his brother, he "embraced him, and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept." He also showed keen interest in Jacob's wives and children, and graciously declined the "gifts," saying, "I have enough, my brother; keep that thou hast unto thyself." (Gen. 33:9)

Esau was called Edom, and the two names have "almost the same signification," with this difference, however, that "Esau" signifies the good of the natural as at first conceived, before the doctrinal things of truth have been so fully conjoined with that good; while "Edom" signifies the good of the natural, to which are conjoined the doctrinal things of truth, (the latter being represented by the red pottage. AC 3320.) Edom is also frequently mentioned, together with Moab, but in this connection, again, "Edom signifies the good of the natural to which the doctrinal things of truth are adjoined, while Moab signifies natural good, such as there is with those in whom they are not conjoined." In the opposite sense, however, (and this is the most frequent), Edom and the Edomites signify "those who turn aside from good by utterly despising, rejecting and vilifying truth, being unwilling that anything of the truth of faith should be adjoined." (Ibid.)

That Esau did not give his name to the land of Edom is evident from the fact that the Egyptian papyri, five centuries before Esau, speak of Edom and Edomites. Esau, by his prowess as a man of the sword, managed to establish himself in Mt. Seir, married daughters of the land, raised an army of Bedouins by which he exterminated the aboriginal, cave-dwelling Horites, and thus gained supreme control of the land of Edom. Here he raised a" large family, each son becoming an aluph or "duke" of a distinct clan of Edomites, the northern branches of whom long preserved the tribal or patriarchal organization, while a southern branch established a kingdom known in history as the kingdom of Gebalene. Like the rest of their Hebrew cousins, the Edomites always treated the Israelites with persistent hostility and rancor. When the weary wanderers in the wilderness arrived at the borders of Edom, Moses appealed to the memory of their common patriarchal ancestors, courteously asking permission to pass through the land, with promises to do no damage, and offering to pay even for the water they would drink. But the Edomites not only refused permission, but also assumed a threatening attitude, and so the Israelites were forced to take to the wilderness again, making a long detour to the south and then to the north, around the land of Edom. (Num. 20:15-21; 21:4.) Edom here represents the evil of the love of self, refusing to admit the truths of faith. (AC 3322.)

After Israel had established itself in Canaan, the Edomites continued to manifest their hostility, until subdued by David who put garrisons throughout the land. (2 Sam. 8:14.) Solomon successfully maintained his dominion over them, and utilized their harbors on the Red Sea for the first and only merchant fleet of Israel. (1 Kings 9:26.) After the division of the kingdom, Edom continued as a dependency of Judah until the time of Joram, (B. C. 885), when the Edomites again secured their independence. Amaziah undertook a victorious expedition against them, and captured their capital, Sela, and Uzziah again reduced them to subjection; but during the reign of Ahaz the Edomites again broke away, and remained independent until forced to submit to the all-conquering power of Assyria and, subsequently, Babylonia. At the capture of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar, Edom made common cause with all the other enemies of Israel, and is in consequence most severely denounced by the prophets, especially by Obadiah. After the return of the Jews from Babylon, and throughout the rule of the Graeco- Syrian Empire, Edom, or Idumaea, as it was now called, continued to manifest the ancient ill will, until in the reign of the Maccabaean king, John Hyrcanus, (B. C. 129), the Idumaeans were wholly subjugated, and by a compulsory circumcision were merged in the Jewish state.

Thus was fulfilled in the history of the two brother nations the first part of the prophecy of Isaac concerning Esau: "Thou shalt serve thy brother." Soon, however, there was to be fulfilled, in one way at least, the latter part of the prophecy: "And it shall come to pass when thou shalt have dominion, that thou shalt break his yoke from off thy neck." The Edomites, indeed, as a people, never again regained their independent national existence, but an Idumaean general, known by the Greek name Antipater, during the reign of the last Maccabaean kings, managed by ingratiating himself with the Romans to usurp supreme power over the Jews, and prepared the way for his son, Herod, who assumed the royal title. An Edomite, descended from Esau, reigned at last over the descendants of Jacob, and founded the last royal dynasty of the Jewish kingdom. But it was no longer a contest between good and truth; it was a kingdom of falsity ruled by evil.


Previous: Chapter IX. The Canaanites. Up: Canaan Next: Chapter XI. The Moabites and the Ammonites.
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