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Previous: Chapter X. The Hebrews. Up: Canaan Next: Chapter XII. The Israelites.

Chapter XI. The Moabites and the Ammonites.

111. The Moabites. Of all the Hebrew kinsmen of Israel, none figure more prominently in the Word than the descendants of Moab and Amnion, the children of Lot. In order to understand the character and representation of these two nations, it is necessary to review briefly the story of Lot, the son of Haran, and nephew of Abraham. Haran, the father of Lot, signifies "idolatry from the love of pleasures," and his son, Lot, signifies an "idolatrous cult thence derived." (AC 1359.) Lot, however, attached himself to Abraham and followed him into the land of Canaan, by which is represented a departure from idolatry and an approach to the true worship of the one God. As long as Lot remained in the company of Abraham he retained a good representation, though even then he always stands for what is most external, derived from the delights and pleasures of the senses. Abraham, as a representative of the coming Lord, signifies the Divine of the assumed human, during its period of childhood: and Lot then represents "the Lord's sensuous and corporeal man, such as it was in His state of childhood, and not as it was when united to the Divine." (AC 1428.) Lot, therefore, signifies "sensuous truth, thus the first which was insinuated into the Lord when a child," (AC 1434); and by this is meant "the external man and his pleasures, which are of sensuous things, thus which are most external, and which are apt to captivate a man in his childhood and draw him away from goods." (AC 1547.) On this account it was necessary that Lot should be separated from Abraham, soon after their arrival in the land of Canaan, in order to represent "the separation of those pleasures and delights imbibed in childhood, which cannot agree with celestial goods." (AC 1563.) And then, having been separated from Abraham, Lot puts on another representation; he no longer represents some thing of the Lord Himself, but "those who are with the Lord, viz., the external man of the Church, that is, those who are in the good of charity, but in external worship," (2324), thus good in obscurity. (AC 2422.) In the Hebrew the name Lot signifies what is veiled, concealed, obscure.

The story of Lot is the story of the decline and fall of such an external church. The beginning of the decline is described in the statement that Lot "journeyed from the East," (Gen. 13:11), by which is signified that he receded from celestial love; and he "pitched his tent towards Sodom," that is, "he looked towards the lusts of external things." (AC 1593.)

This external Church, however, in the beginning of the decline was still to some degree in the good of love, and in acknowledgment of the Lord, as is evident from the hospitable manner hi which Lot received the two angels who had come to save him from the destruction of Sodom. They urged him to hasten his departure from the doomed city, but Lot nevertheless "lingered;" and though the angels finally took him and his family by the hand and led them out of the city, yet Lot was not willing to "escape to the mountains," but demurred, saying, "Oh. not so, my lord," and persisted in his determination to tarry in the "little city" of Zoar. This decline of the external Church may be illustrated by what may take place even with men of the New Church. As long as the Newchurchman remains close to Abraham,—the Lord in His Divine Revelation,—he is safe, but the decline sets in when, influenced by the fear and love of the world, he begins to "journey from the East" in order to pitch his tent in the shadow of the Old Church. Still the Lord does not forsake him, but sends to him two angels, two fundamental truths, which may save him from the judgment that must inevitably come upon the consummated Church; these two fundamental truths are the teaching concerning the Lord in His New Revelation, and the teaching concerning the judgment upon the Dead Church. (AC 2317.) These teachings are received at first with pleasure, but after a while they are looked upon with a certain degree of doubt. Though the man may be persuaded to leave the Old Church, he leaves with regret, and is not willing to "flee to the mountains," to look to the Heavenly Doctrines for instruction and salvation, but takes refuge at some half-way station, some man-made doctrine of compromise, some dogmas and declarations made by conventions of men. In the meantime, Lot's wife "looks back from behind him" and—is turned into a pillar of salt. The affection, which had been a certain affection of truth, looks back upon the beloved Old Church in order to see if it is not after all being permeated by an influx from the New Heaven. And surely enough, there is an influx, but, coming within the atmosphere of Sodom, it is turned into a rain of sulphur and fire, a desolating descent of falsity and evil. The doubting affection, however, can no longer recognize the nature of the spiritual cataclysm, for in turning back it has become blind and dead,—a pillar of salt,—an affection of falsity. Lot himself now makes his home in a cavern where, drunk with wine, he commits incest with his own two daughters in the night. The faith of the Church, drunk with the wine of the permeation insanity, commits incest with its own derivative affections,—the love of its own spurious goo i and spurious truth, and from this profane conjunction there is conceived and born a new "kind of a Church," (AC 2313), consisting of apparent but adulterated good, (Moab), and of apparent but adulterated truth, (Ammon).

It is a remarkable fact that the children of Lot should have commemorated their infamous origin in their very names. Moab means literally "water of a father," while Ammon or Ben-ammi means "son of my mother." These names, so horribly suggestive, were proudly retained by two whole nations throughout their history. The Old Testament is silent as to the personal story of the two sons of Lot, but they evidently repeated the story of the founders of the other Hebrew nations, becoming chieftains among disorganized remnants of an earlier population and founding royal dynasties who imposed their family names upon the subject tribes. The descendants of Moab within a few generations took possession of the country formerly inhabited by the Emim, ("terrible ones"), a branch of the aboriginal Nephilim, even as their cousins, the descendants of Ammon, took possession of the country formerly occupied by the Zuzim and Zamzummim. The slaughter of these ancient giant races by Chedorlaomer and his allies no doubt cleared the way for the children of Lot.

The Moabites found homes in the rich and well protected plateau to the east of the Dead Sea, extending from the land of Edom in the south to the land of Gilead in the north, while the Ammonites established themselves in the land of Gilead. Both became great and powerful clans or nations, but the Ammonites always preferred the roving life of Bedouin marauders, while Moab retained a more peaceful disposition, developing into a settled, well organized and prosperous nation, the chief characteristics of which were wealth and moral corruption.

The prosperity and riches of Moab are vividly portrayed in the Word. In the cities of this land there was "a great multitude of people," living on the "glory" and "fat of the land," possessing "great treasure," and crowding the temples of Chemosh and Baal Peor, where infants were sacrificed, and virgins prostituted in the name of religion. Outside of the towns were the "plentiful fields," the vineyards and gardens of "summer fruit," the meadows where hundreds of thousands of sheep and cattle were browsing. Peace and prosperity reign everywhere; the people are fat and self-satisfied, but of the worship of the true God there is not a trace.

Small wonder that such a nation should view with alarm the approach of a great horde of desert wanderers, asking permission to pass through the land on their way to Canaan. They came as Hebrew kinsmen, worshipping an ancient but generally forsaken deity named Jehovah. Balak, the king of the Moabites, now bethought himself of a Syrian wizard, Balaam, who was know: to prophecy in the name of Jehovah and who was wont to dispense his blessings or cursings for filthy lucre. If a prophet of Jehovah were to curse the children of Israel, the latter would surely be put to confusion. He, therefore, sent for the complaisant prophet, but great was his disgust when the magician was forced by his God to turn the intended curse into a blessing, the power and beauty of which are almost without equal in Hebrew literature. Dismayed, Balak now allied himself with the Midianites in an effort to destroy Israel by the seductions of harlots in the lascivious rites of Baal Peor, but again his scheme was frustrated, and he was glad to escape the frightful punishment meted out to the Midianites, who had been the most active in the plot.

The subsequent relations of Moab with Israel were of a somewhat mixed character, sometimes friendly, as is evident from the story of Ruth, the Moabitish ancestress of David, but more generally hostile. Not long after the Israelitish conquest, Eglon, king of Moab, by the assistance of Ammon and Amalek, "smote Israel and possessed himself of the city of palm trees," (Jericho), The children of Israel now "served Eglon for eighteen years" (Judges 3:13), until they were delivered by Ehud. The Moabites, however, continued to harass the chosen people on various occasions, and were not subdued until David put to the sword two- thirds of the population, the remainder becoming bondsmen and subjected to a regular tribute, (2 Sam. 8:2; 23:20), thus literally fulfilling Balaam's prophecy: "Out of Jacob shall come he that shall have dominion and shall destroy him that remaineth of Ar," (i. e., Moab). After the division of Solomon's kingdom, Moab seems to have remained tributary to the kingdom of Israel, and in the time of Ahab paid an annual tribute of 100000 rams,—an indication of the almost fabulous wealth of so small a nation.

After the death of Ahab the Moabites revolted and joined the Ammonites in an attack upon the kingdom of Judah. The allies, however, fell to fighting one another; and Judah, Israel and Edom now joined in a war against Moab; the latter fell into an ambush and were slaughtered; the land of Moab was swept clean by the besom of destruction; the cities were beaten down and their stones scattered over the fields where at this very day they may be seen lying about in wild confusion; the wells of water were filled up, and all the trees of the land were cut down. The king of Moab, with his family and a small remnant of the army, took refuge in Kir-haraseth where, in the extremity of despair, and in full sight of the besiegers, "he took his eldest son, that should have reigned in his stead, and offered him for a burnt offering upon the wall." (2 Kings 3:27.) The besieging army, struck with horror at this sight, now withdrew to their own lands. After this awful event, nothing further is known of the history of Moab for a long period, but it appears that Moab gradually recovered all of its former prosperity, and in addition took possession of the territory of Reuben, after this tribe had been carried away by the Assyrians. At the time of the Babylonian invasion, Moab submitted to Nebuchadnezzar, and after the return of the Jews from the captivity the Moabites took the lead in annoying those who were rebuilding Jerusalem. Even at the time of the last Jewish war the Moabites, according to Josephus, was still "a very great nation," but two hundred years afterwards they were exterminated or absorbed by a great invasion of "the children of the East."

Moab in general represents the natural good which is merely natural and which is quite distinct from "the genuine good of the natural." (AC 3518.) The character of those who are in such merely natural good is described as follows :

They are in general those who are in external worship, which appears to some extent holy, but not in internal worship, and these snatch at those things which are of external worship for goods and truths, but the things of internal worship they reject and despise. Such worship, and such a religion, takes hold of those who are in natural good but despise others in comparison with themselves.

They are not unlike fruits which in external form are fair but within are musty or decayed; and they are not unlike marble vases which contain things impure, at times filthy; or they are not unlike women who as to face and body and gestures are not unbeautiful but within are diseased and full of defilements. For there is a general good with them which appears not unfair, but the particulars which enter in are filthy. In the beginning, indeed it is not so, but gradually it becomes so, for they easily suffer themselves to be imbued with whatsoever things are called good, and thereby with all kinds of falses which, because they confirm them, they regard as truths; and they do this because they despise the interior things of worship and because they are in the love of self. (AC 2468.)

The man of the Spiritual Church, in the earlier stages of regeneration, is often deceived by the hypocritical show of such natural good which is almost the only good left in the Christian world, and thus again and again he falls under the yoke of Moab. The king of Moab appears "a very fat man," full of goodness, helpfulness, altruism and loving kindness. "Charity" abounds in the Christian world in greater wealth than ever before, filling the world with churches, hospitals, libraries, universities, etc. The money of the founders is not seldom "tainted," but what matter when it is ultimately turned into such good uses! Yet all this good contributes nothing to the salvation of man or of the world as a whole, for it is meritorious good, full of self-complacency and conceit, doing good with one hand and evil with the other, and utterly indifferent to that spiritual good which consists chiefly in shunning evils as sins against God. But when those who sigh under the oppression of this spurious good, are willing to turn to the Revelation given to the New Church, and learn what the Lord there teaches concerning the actual internal state of the Christian world, the Divine Truth will deliver them from the bondage, as Israel was delivered by Ehud, the left-handed hero, who girded his sword on his right thigh. Drawing it with his left hand, he thrust it into the belly of Eglon, the fat king of Moab, and—"the dirt came out." (Judges 3:22.) It is not a pretty story in the letter,—a story of treachery and murder,—but nevertheless it represents what the man of the true Church must do spiritually to the false persuasions prevailing in regard to the good which is merely natural. The right side signifies the will of good,.the left the truth of the understanding. The spurious good must be exposed unmercifully by the true understanding of revealed Doctrine, but the sword is drawn from the right thigh,—from the sincere love of the good that is genuine because spiritual. When the "belly," i. e., the interior of merely natural good, is thus probed by the sword of truth, its inward rottenness will be laid bare, and the Church will be delivered from the Moabitish oppression.

112. The Ammonites. The origin of this nation has been described above, in the history of their brother nation, the Moabites, with whom they are almost identical as to spiritual signification. As Moab signifies good merely natural, or spurious and adulterated natural good, so Ammon signifies truth merely natural, or spurious and adulterated natural truth. In harmony with this their correspondence, the Ammonites were of a far more warlike disposition than the settled and wealthy Moabites. Like the latter they were thoroughly corrupt in morals, and given over to the revolting and cruel idolatry of the Canaanites, but in addition they were thieves and robbers like the Amalekites, and implacable in their hatred of Israel. We find them first in the land of Gilead, between the rivers Ammon and Jabbok, in the region formerly occupied by the Zamzummim and the Zuzim, and they dwelt here until they were driven into the eastern desert by the tribes of Gad and Reuben. These tribes henceforth had to bear the brunt of the continued attack of the Ammonites, whose cruelties are horribly depicted in the Word. It was their delight to thrust out the right eye of every man, woman and child in the cities which they captured, (1 Sam. 11:2), and rip up the pregnant women, (Amos 1:3). But the cruelties practiced by them upon the children of Israel, were returned with interest by David who, after taking their chief city, Rabbah, "brought forth the people- that were therein, and put them under saws, and under harrows of iron, and under axes of iron, and made them pass through the brick kiln; and thus did he unto all the cities of the children of Ammon." (2 Sam. 12:31.) A remnant escaped, however, and their descendants recovered the land of Gilead after the Assyrians had carried away the tribe of Gad. Like the Moabites, they continually harassed the Jews after their return from the captivity, and carried on war against them even in the time of the Maccabean kings. They disappeared from history at the same time with Moab, and probably from the same cause.

Previous: Chapter X. The Hebrews. Up: Canaan Next: Chapter XII. The Israelites.

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Moabites and Ammonites.

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