19. The spiritual significance of mountains. Being the loftiest things on the earth, mountains correspond to the most sublime states of love and faith in Heaven, in the Church, and in the human mind. When we ascend a lofty mountain there comes a sense of rising above the earthly things of this world, above the obscuring clouds of sensual appearances, above the grosser atmosphere of worldly cares and loves. As we climb higher and higher, there seems to be a nearer approach to Heaven, to the beginning of all things, and as we stand upon the summit with the world at our feet, there is a feeling of the tranquillity of peace and of aloneness with God, which comes from those who dwell alone with God upon the mountain-tops of the supreme or celestial Heaven.
A mountain, therefore, in the highest sense signifies the Lord who is supreme above all things of Creation; and hence a mountain signifies those who are in love to the Lord, the highest of all human and angelic loves. And since the Lord is the Word, by a mountain is also signified the Word and the love of the Word: the top signifies the inmost or celestial sense; the sides of the mountain, the internal or spiritual sense; and the foot of the mountain, the external or literal sense. (AC 9422).
In the Most Ancient Church it was customary to worship the Lord upon the mountains, and thus mountains came to be associated with the idea of holy worship, adoration, and love of the Lord. When the Church afterwards became perverted and fell into idolatry, the worship on the mountains still continued, but it was now the worship of man-made gods. And thus mountains came to have also an evil significance, the very opposite to the celestial love of God,—namely, the love of self, and especially the pride of self-exaltation, and the love of domineering over others.
20. Canaan as a whole is a mountainous country; mountains and hills are seen from every part of the land. And on this account Canaan could fitly represent the Lord's internal Church, in which the love of the Lord and the love of the neighbor are universal, everywhere producing interior perceptions of wisdom and lofty views of all things of life. In striking contrast with this elevated land were its neighboring countries, Egypt and Assyria. Egypt was one continuous low and narrow valley, the true type of the merely scientific mind; while Assyria was a far-reaching plain, representative of the plane of the natural rational mind, upon which the thoughts and reasonings dart to and fro, like the Assyrian horsemen with their bows and arrows. A great wilderness separated Canaan from Assyria on the one hand and from Egypt on the other. A wilderness represents vastation, and vastation always precedes regeneration. The conceit of learning, the pride of self-intelligence, the self-sufficient confidence in one's own natural powers of reasoning, these must be broken by various afflictions, by self-humiliation, by the confession that of himself he knows nothing and understands nothing, before the natural man can become a spiritual man. From the sensual and merely natural rational states there is no road to the heavenly Canaan, except through temptation and vastation.
21. Mt. Ararat. In studying the mountains of Canaan (together with those of the districts which were included within its most ancient boundaries), the first mountain to be noted is also the one first mentioned in the Word, viz., Mt. Ararat, in Armenia. It was here that the ark of Noah is said to have rested after the fountains of the deep had been stopped at the end of the universal Deluge of evil and falsity which had overtaken the degenerate descendants of the Church of Adam. Noah represents the new Church which then commenced,—the Church of the Silver Age; the journey of the ark upon the raging waters represented the first temptations of that Church; and the mountains of Ararat represented the first steady light that was given to this infant Church, after its long night of fluctuation, vastation, and temptation, the new light of the regenerate life. (AC 854.) It is a significant fact that the name of the mountain is connected with the root 'or, which means light.
22. The Lebanon mountains. The mountains of Armenia are continued into Syria through the Taurus and Anti-Taurus ranges, and near the sea-coast from the famous mountains of the Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon. The Lebanon runs for a hundred miles closely parallel to the sea, in an unbroken ridge of the average height of 7,000 feet, though some of the peaks rise more than 10000 feet above the sea. The name means the White Mountains, and they are so called either from their snowy summits, or from their white limestone formation.
The appearance of these mountains, especially from the sea, is beautiful in the extreme. "Along their base eternal summer smiles; and along their summits rest eternal snows. Between the two flourish the vegetation, fruit and flowers of all climes." (Stewart, The Land of Israel, p. 107.) "The glory of Lebanon" is frequently mentioned in the Word, and is always associated with the mighty forests of cedars which in ancient times covered the sides of the mountain. From their geographical position, (as leading from Assyria to Canaan), from the appearance of their shining rocks, and especially from the character of the cedar trees, the Lebanon mountains always represent the loves and perceptions of the natural-rational mind. Having gained the "new light" represented by Mt. Ararat, the regenerating man must find his way into Canaan, or the internal Church, by passing through the Lebanon valley,—by using the gift of natural reason which the Creator has bestowed upon him. And he must then at the same time pass through Syria; he must acquire the cognitions or knowledges of the truths and goods of the Church, and store these in his rational understanding, thus breaking away from the false dogma of the Old Church that knowledge and rea- son have no part in faith, and that the understanding must be kept captive in obedience to blind faith. There is thus no room in the New Church for the maxim of St. Augustine: "Credo quia absurdum." The motto of the New Church is on the contrary: "Nunc licet intrare intellectualiter in mysteria fidei," (Now it is allowed to enter intellectually into the mysteries of faith), and this entrance is through the valley of Syria between the lofty ranges of the Lebanon and the anti-Lebanon,—through the road.of learning the truths of faith, all along guided by the perceptions of the rational mind. (AE 650, 730.)
The Cedar of Lebanon is the very image of perception founded on solid reason. Its fragrant wood is the most enduring of all trees. The majestic pillar of its stem, serving as support of the Temple, is the type of the rational truths upon which the genuine Church must be founded. Its upright stature, its straight, far-reaching branches, its needle-like leaves,—all bear the natural semblance of the rational mind, with its straight thoughts and pointed arguments.
On the other hand, the pride of the merely natural man, who would subordinate even Divine Revelation to the conceit of his own intelligence, is also typified by the Cedar of Lebanon, as in the words of the Psalmist: "The voice of the Lord breaketh the cedars; yea, the Lord breaketh the cedars of Lebanon," (Is. 25:5), which signifies the omnipotence of Divine Truth breaking down the false reasonings of the perverted understanding. This, however, does not alter the excellence of true reason when kept in subordinate service to revealed Truth. When in such service, "Asshur is a cedar in Lebanon, with fair branches, and with a shadowing shroud, and of a high stature, and his top is among the thick boughs." (Ezech. 31:3.) And of the Church of the New Jerusalem it was prophesied that "the glory of Lebanon shall come unto thee, the fir tree, the pine tree, and the box together, to beautify the place of My sanctuary." (Is. 60:13.) For in the Writings of the New Church there is a divinely revealed highway between Egypt and Assyria. True Science and true Philosophy arc there united with true Religion.
Among the hills and peaks of Galilee few can properly be termed mountains, but there are some interesting eminences of historical importance. Among these are
23. Mount Napthali, the highest peak of the Galilean range, now known as "Jebel Jermuk," which rises about 4,000 feet above the sea. "Naphtali" means wrestlings, the struggles of temptation. Having actually entered into the land of the Church from the natural-rational state, (= Lebanon), through the gate of acknowledgment, (= Dan), the pilgrim at once finds himself in states of temptation, (= the dark gorges of the Naphtali mountains). The life of regeneration has begun.
24. Mt. Tabor, a few miles east of Nazareth, in lower Galilee, is a shapely, symmetrical mountain, rising like a dome from the surrounding plain, and is thickly studded with trees. It is supposed by some that this was the scene of the "Sermon on the Mount;" by others it is supposed to be the mountain of the Transfiguration.
25. The Plain of Esdraelon. This is the modern name, derived from the ancient Jezreel, a great triangular plain extending between the Jordan and Mt. Carmel, and separating Galilee from the mountains of Samaria. It is drained by the river Kishon and its tributaries, and is remarkable not only on account of its extent and fertility, but also and especially on account of its strategical and historical importance as "the battle-field of the Ages." Here the Egyptians under Thothmes III. vanquished the Hittites some 1,600 years before Christ. Here, in the time of the Judges, Barak overwhelmed the Syrians in that memorable battle when "the stars in their courses fought against Sisera," (Judg. 5:20). Here, at Mt. Gilboa, Saul and Jonathan were slain in battle against the Philistines, and here King Josiah was mortally wounded by the Egyptians under Pharaoh Necho. On this vast battle-field Canaanites, Midianites, Amalekites, Philistines, Israelites, Syrians, Egyptians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Crusaders and Saracens have met and bled, and, as late as 1799, Napoleon here defeated a Turkish army. "Here dynasties have risen and fallen. Here kingdoms have been lost and won."
This district is also known as the "plain of Megiddo," so named from an ancient Canaanitish fortress which guarded the approach from the south, and it is usually identified with the "Armageddon" of the Apocalypse. Thus Dr. R. L. Stewart observes: "It is not strange that this 'valley of Megiddo,' with its long record of conflicts, from Thothmes III. to Napoleon, should have been selected as the typical representative of the last great field of conflict between truth and error, right and wrong." (The Land of Israel, p. 133.)
The commentators generally interpret the name "Megiddo" as meaning "a place of God," but the Writings of the New Church give a different, and, as we shall see, a far more scientific interpretation.
" 'And he gathered them together into a place called in Hebrew Armageddon,' (Rev. 16:16), signifies a state of combat from falsities against truths, and a disposition to destroy the New Church arising from the love of rule and of pre-eminence.... By Armageddon is signified, in heaven, the love of honor, of dominion, and of super-eminence; and in the Hebrew language, also, loftiness is signified by Aram or Arom, and love from loftiness is signified by Megiddo in the old Hebrew tongue, as is manifest from its signification in the Arabic language." (AR 707; A. E. 1010.) And on looking into an Arabic lexicon we find that the word magada means "to swell up, lift oneself up, to be proud, arrogant, super-eminent." (Compare Heb. Meged.)
The plain of Megiddo, or Esdraelon, as the most southern part of Galilee, and the northern part of Samaria, represents the inmost of the natural, i. e., the rational field with the man of the Church, and this is the plane on which all his spiritual battles take place.
The Mountains of Samaria, taken together, are usually known as Mount Ephraim, though these are not only in the old territory of Ephraim but also in that of Manasseh, and include a whole system of peaks and ridges, more rugged, rocky and irregular than the mountains of Galilee. The intervening valleys are not so large and frequent as in Galilee, yet abounding in fine pastures and rich crops. The special mountains of Samaria are:
26. Mt. Gilboa, a ridge some ten miles long, to the southeast of, the plain of Esdraelon. It was here that Saul and Jonathan were slain.
27. Mt. Carmel, ("the vineyard of God"), a ridge eighteen miles in length, bordering the plain of Esdraelon on the southwest, and terminating in a bold headland on the coast, 1,730 feet above the sea. In the Old Testament we read constantly of the "excellence of Carmel," "the honor of Carmel," "the glory of Carmel," "like gladness and joy from Carmel," etc., and it must have been a place of exceeding beauty in ancient times, before its forests had been cut down and its terraced vineyards devastated. Even now, for one brief month in the year, Mt. Carmel is clothed in the beauty of a wonderful profusion of flowers,— orchids, cyclamens, lilies, tulips, etc., but on the whole, the mountain now presents a desolate aspect. This mountain was the scene of Elijah's contest with the prophets of Baal, who with mad and bloody rites called in vain upon their idol, while heavenly fire fell upon Elijah's altar. And from here was seen "a little cloud arising out of the sea, like a man's hand," which grew until it overspread the heavens and refreshed the land with an abundance of rain after a three years' drought. (1 Kings 18:1-46.) Mt. Carmel represents in general "the Lord's Spiritual Church, because there were vineyards there." (AC 1971; AR 316; AE 730), and this fits in well with the representation of Samaria and of Ephraim, both of which refer to what is spiritual and intellectual, while Galilee refers to what is natural, and Judaea to what is celestial.
28. Mt. Ebal and Mt. Gerizim are two short parallel ridges with rounded summits, in the very heart of the mountain district of Ephraim, with the narrow valley of Shechem between them, each about 3,000 feet in height. These mountains were the scenes of some most notable events in Biblical history. Here Jotham, the son of Gideon, spoke the fable of the talking trees, (Judges 9:6-21.) Here the Law, which had been given to Moses, was rehearsed and ratified by the people, according to the prophetic command of the law-giver: six of the tribes should stand upon Mt. Gerizim to bless the people, after they had come into the land; and six tribes should stand upon Mt. Ebal to curse those who disobeyed the Law. (Deut. 27:12, 13.)
Here, also, the Lord spoke with the woman of Samaria, who said: "Our fathers worshipped in this mountain, and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet in Jerusalem, worship the Father." (John 4:20, 21.) As a matter of fact, this prophecy has not yet come true in the letter, as far as Mt. Gerizim is concerned, for an ever diminishing remnant of the ancient Samaritans still observe the Passover here as an annual festival. But the spiritual lesson of these words of the Lord is that in the coming genuine Church there would be worship "in spirit and in truth," and not from the love of dominion, as in Jerusalem and Rome, nor yet from the love of the world, as in Samaria and in the Reformed Churches.
The Mountains of Judaea are more wild and barren than those of Samaria, though in ancient times the now bare cliffs were carefully terraced and covered with soil. The mountains reach their highest elevation, (3,546 feet above the sea), to the north of Hebron, and slope thence gradually northward to the mountains of Ephraim; westward to the "Shephelah" or hill-country bordering on Philistea; southward to the deserts around Beersheba; while, on the east, they descend abruptly into the Dead Sea. The following peaks are the most noteworthy:
29. Mizpeh, (a watch-tower, from tsaphah, to look forth), five miles to the north-west of Jerusalem. This is a peak nearly 3,000 feet in height, and affords a magnificent panorama over the whole of southern Canaan. By the Crusaders, it was called "Mountjoye," as they here caught the first glimpse of the Holy City. Here the people of Israel often assembled, in the time of the Judges, to take counsel together, and to offer sacrifice for deliverance from their enemies. Here Samuel judged and was buried, and here the people ratified the selection of Saul as their first king. (For the spiritual significance of Mizpeh, see AC 4198.)
30. Mount Moriah, (Jehovah seeth, i. e., provideth). This was the mountain where Abraham was about to sacrifice his son, Isaac, when a ram was providentially substituted, on which account Abraham called the place "Jehovah Jireh,"—the Lord will provide. Concerning this, we read:
Here, on an area or platform of thirty-five acres, was situated the only temple ever dedicated to the worship of Jehovah in the Israelitish Church,—the temple which was first built by Solomon, restored by Ezra, rebuilt by Herod, and destroyed by Titus. Here, for nearly two thousand years, was the center of the only monotheistic worship then remaining in the world; and here, in the beautiful Mosque of Omar, one God is still worshipped.
31. Mt. Zion, (a fortress, citadel, from tsazvah, to place, establish). A ravine 120 feet deep formerly separated Mt. Moriah from its twin mountain, Mt. Zion, but is now largely filled up by the debris of ages. Mt. Zion is much broader and 120 feet higher than Mt. Moriah, and was the "acropolis" of Jerusalem, the "city of David," "the Holy City,"—which has been defiled with blood perhaps more than any other city in the world. Of these two mountains we read that Mt. Moriah, where the worship was conducted, signifies the Divine Truth, and thus also the Lord's Spiritual Church and Kingdom; while Mt. Zion, where the people lived, signifies the Divine Good, and thus also the Lord's Celestial Church and Kingdom. And since the celestial heaven is higher than the spiritual, the city of David was built on the higher eminence. "For Zion and Jerusalem were built as much as possible according to the form of Heaven." (AE 40528.)
32. The Mount of Olives, or Olivet. To the east of Mt. Moriah, separated from it by the Valley of Jehoshaphat, is a mountain, 2,682 feet high, which of all the mountains of Canaan has the holiest associations and the highest signification.
33. The Wilderness of Judaea is a long and narrow district along the western bank of the Dead Sea, a dreary, barren region of jagged cliffs and savage gorges, uninhabited except during the rainy season when, for a brief space, "the desert rejoices and blossoms as the rose." affording herbage for the flocks of wandering shepherds. Into this forbidding wilderness the "scapegoat" was driven with blows and curses, vicariously laden with the iniquities of the people, and here, probably, the Lord tarried during the forty days of temptation in the wilderness.
By the "South Country" we mean here the whole district south of Canaan, including the region around Beersheba, the Sinaitic peninsula, and the lands of Midian and of Edom,—a desert table land, arid, wild, desolate, and silent. Among the special districts and eminences we note the following:
34. The Wilderness of Zin, west of the southern end of the Dead Sea, and just south of Beersheba. Here was Kadesh Barnea, where Miriam died, and where Moses struck the rock from which water came forth in abundance.
It is to be observed that the term "wilderness," as used in the Word, is very inclusive, both as to its natural and its spiritual meaning.
I. A "wilderness" may mean a district entirely desolate, void of all water and vegetation, and inhabited only by wild beasts and lurking robbers. In this sense it represents the state of a church thoroughly devastated of all spiritual life, averse to all good and truth and open only to the influx of devils and satans. Such is the state of every Old Church at the time of the final Judgment upon it, and such is the permanent state of Hell. "In the Hells, also, there are deserts where there is nothing but what is barren and sandy; in some places rugged rocks in which are caverns, and in others, huts. Into these deserts are cast out those who have suffered the extreme things; their ultimate state is such a life." (HH 586.)
II. On the other hand, a wilderness may mean any region which as yet is but little cultivated and inhabited, being either a desert possessing here and there a redeeming oasis, or else a land that can be reclaimed by irrigation and cultivation. An oasis represents a remnant of spiritual life, and a reclaimable wilderness denotes the state of the gentiles who possess but little spiritual life, yet long for more.
III. In either case a wilderness signifies a state of spiritual want, obscurity, danger and suffering, to those who have to pass through it on their way to a better land, and thus in general it corresponds to a state of temptation in the life of the regenerating man. It was to represent this that the Israelites had to pass forty years wandering in the great Arabian desert, in "a land of solitude and the pit, a land of drought, and of thick shadow." (Jer. 2:6.) And it was to represent a whole life of supreme temptation-combats, that the Lord was tempted of the devil in the wilderness for forty days and forty nights.
35. The Wilderness of Shur. This is the northwestern portion of the Sinaitic peninsula, adjoining the Mediterranean Sea, and reaching from the border of Egypt to the land of the Amalekites. Being close to Egypt it represents "the scientifics of the Church which have not yet acquired life, thus such things as would acquire life by means of temptations," (AC 8346), in other words, a state of temptations brought on by the infesting doubts which arise from the merely worldly knowledges of the sensual man. It was here that the angel of the Lord revealed the hidden well to famishing Hagar, and it was here that the Israelites, after departing from Egypt, went three days without water, until the murmuring host reached the bitter waters of Marah, which by a miracle were made sweet.
36. The Wilderness of Sin was to the south of Shur, along the coast of the western gulf of the Red Sea, not far from Mt. Horeb. Here the Israelites at Elim found sweet water and an oasis of palm trees, and here manna and quails were first sent to them from Heaven. In a good sense this wilderness, on account of these blessings, "signifies the good which is from truth. But in the opposite sense, Sin, which was a city of Egypt from which the wilderness took its name, signifies the evil which is from falsity." (AE 8398.) "'Egypt, Sin, and No,' (Ezek. 30:15), signify scientifics and fallacies which are of the natural man, which are obstacles to the reformation of man by means of truths from the Word." (AE 72118.)
37. Mt. Horeb is the collective name for a group of three mountains near the southern point of the peninsula, comprising Mt. Serbal, (6,712 feet), Jebel Musa, (or the Mount of Moses), which is the central peak; and Mount St. Catherine, where there is a famous monastery founded by the Emperor Justinian in the year 527. It was here that Tischendorf, in 1844, discovered the celebrated "Codex Sinaiticus,"—a manuscript of the Old and New Testament in Greek, dating from the fourth century. Modern geographers and antiquarians usually consider Mt. Horeb as but another name for Mt. Sinai, but in the Writings of the New Church we are informed that "the whole extent of the mountain was called 'Horeb,' while the more lofty mountain in the middle of it was called 'Mt. Sinai.' Hence by Horeb is signified Heaven, or, what is the same, Divine Truth in the whole complex; the internal of it by Mt. Sinai; and the external by the mountainous parts round about it." (AC 10608, 10543.)
38. Mt. Sinai, (probably so called from the wilderness of Sin), is 7,363 feet high. On the north side, close under its precipitous cliffs, is a great plain, over a mile in extent, where it is supposed that Israel was encamped while the Law was being delivered.
Since by Horeb is signified what is external of the Word, of worship, and of the Church, we can understand why it was that the Divine Revelation which was given to the Israelitish Church, commenced by Jehovah revealing His holy name to Moses upon Mt. Horeb, where He appeared in the flame of fire out of the midst of a bramble bush. The bramble represents the rough, almost uncouth appearances of Divine Truth in the letter of the Word, in the midst of which, nevertheless, the Divine Love—the flame of fire—descends out of Heaven to man. (AC 6830). On Mt. Horeb, also, the people had to remain, while the Law was promulgated on Sinai; by which is signified that the people were in external appearances, and could not approach the Divine Truth in its internal form. (AC 10543.) And on Horeb they made the golden calf for their worship, by which is signified that the worship of the Word among the Jews was merely external and idolatrous, as, indeed, it is among all who are not willing to acknowledge the presence of an internal sense within the Word. (AC 9391.)
Sinai itself, on the other hand, signifies the Divine Truth itself, such as it is in Heaven, and hence, while the Law was delivered, the whole mountain was enveloped in smoke, which signified that the internal of the Divine Revelation appeared in obscurity to the externally-minded people. (AC 8819.) As a whole, "'Mount Sinai signifies the Law, or the Divine Truth proceeding from the Lord, thus the Word. The summit of the mountain, where was Jehovah, signifies the inmost of the Law or of the Word; the rest of the mountain below the summit, signifies the internal of the Law or of the Word, such as it is in Heaven; and the parts below the mountain, where were the elders and the people, signify the external of the Law or of the Word, which is its external sense." (AC 9422.)
39. The Wilderness of Paran. Ascending from the southern point of the Sinaitic peninsula, we come first to the wilderness of Paran, which reaches from the central portion towards the east, where it terminates in Mt. Hor and Mt. Seir.
40. Mount Hor. Some 25 miles north-east of Kadesh-Barnea, on the north-western border of Edom, this isolated mountain rises from a barren plain to the height of 4,800 feet. It was inhabited, in ancient times, by the "Horites," an idolatrous tribe of the Nephilim who were driven out thence and from the neighboring Mount Seir, by the descendants of Esau. (Gen. 14:6; 36:8, 20; Deut. 2:22). On this mountain Aaron died and was buried.
41. Mount Seir, (rough, hairy, shaggy). This is the name of the whole mountainous region stretching from the south of the Dead Sea to the eastern gulf of the Red Sea, (the gulf of Akaba). Here was the home of the Edomites, the descendants of Esau, whose name, also, means "hairy" or "shaggy." By Esau is signified good in the natural, as by Jacob, (whose name means "a heel"), is signified truth in the natural. By Esau, as also by Mt. Seir, in the highest sense, is signified "the celestial-natural good of the Lord's Divine Human," (AC 3527, 4240, 4384), while in the relative sense it signifies the Lord's Kingdom with those who are in simple natural good outside the Church,—thus, with the gentiles. (AC 4240.) Hence the illumination of the gentiles who are in darkness, but who in the fulness of time will receive the light of the New Church, is signified by the words: "He calleth to me out of Seir, Watchman, what of the night? Watchman, what of the night? The watchman said, The morning cometh, and also the night: if ye will inquire, inquire ye: return, come." (Isaiah 21:11, 12.) For as the "morning" will come with ever increasing light to the simple good who receive the New Church, so the night will increase in the same proportion with those who remain in the falsities and evils of the Old. (AC 10134.)
Proceeding from the south to the north on the eastern side of the Dead Sea and the Jordan, we meet an unbroken chain of mountains, highlands, and plateaux, which is nothing but a continuation of the Anti-Lebanon range. Following the route of the Israelites in their forty years' wandering, we come, after crossing Mt. Seir, to the plateau of the land of Moab, a district at one time fertile and well cultivated, but now little better than a wilderness. As we approach the neighboring country of the Ammonites, to the north, the land becomes more and more mountainous, until we reach the culminating eminence, Mt. Nebo.
42. Mt. Nebo, with its central peak, known as Mt. Pisgah. The former is the name of the whole mountain, which towers some four thousand feet above the northern end of the Dead Sea, just opposite Jericho. The name, Nebo, is probably derived from the Chaldean god, Nebo, who, like Pthah of the Egyptians, was the scribe of the gods, the god of prophecy and revelation, and who also, like Pthah, is figured as a person lightly clothed, except as to his face and hands. Both represent the Word, which is clothed in literal appearances except as to its essential truths, which here and there appear through the clothing of its literal sense. It is significant that from this "mountain of prophesy,"—Nabi in Hebrew means simply "a prophet"—the Lord permitted His most eminent prophet, Moses, to gain a complete view of the promised land, toward which, during the forty years of wandering, he had faithfully led the murmuring people; nevertheless, on account of a moment of doubt, he was not allowed to enter the land, and here the wonderful mission of the prophet ended.
43. Mt. Gilead, (strong, rocky, hard, or rough). The district known as "the land of Gilead" was one of the most favored regions of Canaan. It included a long stretch of beautiful highland, reaching from the Dead Sea to the Sea of Galilee, along the eastern bank of the Jordan. Though mountainous, it was exceedingly fertile, well cultivated, and abounding in forests, with trees of many kind, from the resinous gum of which were made the celebrated balsam and myrrh of Gilead. The highest peak of the land, "Jebel Osha," (3,597 feet), was probably the "Mount Gilead," from which a view could be gained "from Gilead even.to Dan." This magnificent region was divided between Reuben, Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh. Here was the home of Jephthah, the warrior judge, and of Elijah, the prophet.
Situated beyond the Jordan, Gilead represents a natural and external state,—but, being still within the borders of Canaan, in a broad sense, it represents what is of the Church, a first and introductory state of the regenerate life. Being a fertile and beautiful region, it represents the good of such a state,—a good, or a delight, which can be appreciated when we think of the joy of the Israelites in arriving at the land of Gilead after their many years of privation in the wilderness, and with the Promised Land in full view across the Jordan. Spiritually, it represents the "honeymoon" state, as it were, of the regenerating man,—the first holy joy and love such as is first experienced by the man who, coming out of the shadows of the Old Church, gains a first general view of the Heavenly Doctrine of the New Jerusalem, together with a thorough conviction that this is, indeed, the Divine Truth itself! This delight is what is meant by "the balm of Gilead," and the recollection of this holy joy and early enthusiasm, will often act as a "balm" in subsequent states of internal temptations, just as the recollection of the honey-moon love, in states of conjugial temptations, will kindle anew the love of husband and wife, with the promise of an eternal honey-moon in Heaven. "Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why, then, is not the health of the daughter of my people recovered?" (Jer. 8:22.) "The daughter of my people" is the affection of truth.
44. The hills of Bashan, (fruitful). To the east of the Sea of Galilee there is a wide plateau, with a net-work of hills and low ridges, which, on account of its extraordinary fertility, was known simply as "the fruitful," and, in later times, "the granary of Syria." Here, in mighty forests, grew "the oaks of Bashan;" here were bred, and are still bred in teeming herds, "the bulls of Bashan," and "the rams of the breed of Bashan."
Like Gilead, Bashan represents external good, or the voluntary good of the external or natural man. (AE 405.) By "the lambs, and the rams, and the he-goats of Bashan," (Deut. 32:14), are signified the "goods of innocence of three degrees," or good works done from a simple, but innocent love. (AE 314.) On the other hand, Bashan may also represent the conceit of the. natural man, the self-flattering pride which such a man takes in his works, which then no longer are good, but evil within. (AE 410, 514.) Such conceits will infest every regenerating man, even as they infested and tempted the Lord Himself, in His human, as is prophetically described by David in the words: "Many bulls have compassed me; strong bulls of Bashan have beset me round. They gaped upon me with their mouths, as a ravening and roaring lion." (Ps. 22:12, 13.)
45. Mount Hermon, (Chermon, = one breaking through, penetrating). Our survey of the mountains of Canaan concludes with this noble mountain, the highest and grandest of them all, at the northern boundary of the land. Rising to the height of 9,383 feet above the surrounding plain, to the south of the Anti-Lebanon range, its snow-covered, glittering dome may be seen, towering above ever-forming clouds, from every point of the Jordan valley. To the ancient Syrians it was, par excellence, a sacred mountain, and its sides and base are covered with ruins of many shrines and temples. To this day it is known as "Jebel esh Sheik," the Chief mountain, or the mountain of the Chief. This, according to the most generally accepted tradition, was the mountain of the Transfiguration, where Peter, James and John beheld the Lord in the ineffable glory of His Divine Human, attended by Moses and Elias,—that is, by the historical and prophetical Word, both of which had been "fulfilled" by the Word made flesh. But it was not with the eyes of the body that the disciples then beheld the Lord, nor upon a mountain in this natural world, but with the eyes of the spirit, and in a prophetic representation in the spiritual world. For on the one hand, it is said that the disciples were "heavy with sleep," (Luke 9:32); and, on the other, Moses and Elias were not then living in the natural world, and a spirit cannot be seen by the natural eye. And, finally, "Jesus was not yet glorified," and therefore could not be seen in His glorified Human, except through a prophetic representation, (TCR 777).
This, however, does not detract from the holy significance of Mount Hermon, which is forever preserved in the lovely, the Divine words of the Psalmist: "Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the dew of Hermon that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there the Lord commanded the blessing, even life forever more." (Ps. 133.) This verse involves remarkable natural facts, as well as still more wonderful spiritual verities. There is a remarkable and unchangeable current of air in the Jordan valley, which conveys the evaporations of the river, and of the Dead Sea, back to the top of Mount Hermon, where the ever-lasting snow converts it into rain and dew which spread over the whole of the land, reaching even to "the mountains of Zion," and every- where bestowing "life forevermore." But, in its spiritual representation, this phenomenon involves the lesson of the continual reciprocation between Heaven and Earth,—the lesson of action and reaction, influx and reflux. For while we, who live on the earth, depend upon the angels of Heaven for our every thought and affection, they, in turn, depend upon us for our every word and deed. These return to them, and react upon them, as the vapor of the land of Canaan returns to Hermon.