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Previous: Chapter V. The Seas and Lakes of Canaan. Up: Canaan Next: Chapter VII. The Aborigines of the Land.

Chapter VI. The Rivers of Canaan.

50. The Rivers of the Garden of Eden were not only representative of the state of wisdom enjoyed by the men of the Golden Age, but were also, in the literal sense of the Word, the actual boundaries of the land of Canaan, regarded in its widest extent.  (AC 567.) As a whole, the four rivers proceeding out of Eden, signify the leading principles of the most ancient faith, and thus the Doctrines of the celestial Church, (Cor. 27), and since it is doctrine that distinguishes the Church from that which is not the Church, doctrine, therefore, is the ultimate intellectual boundary of the Church.

A river went out of Eden, to water the garden, and from thence it was parted, and was parted into four heads. (Gen. 2:10.) A "river out of Eden" signifies wisdom from love, for "Eden" is love; "to water the garden," is to bestow intelligence; to be "thence parted into four heads" is a description of intelligence by means of the four rivers. ( AC 107.)

51. Pishon, said to "encompass the whole land of Havilah," signifies "the intelligence of the faith which is from love." (AC 110.) It is not known, either from Revelation or from science, what natural river is meant by Pishon. Josephus supposed that it is identical with the Ganges, but it seems to us more likely to be either the Orontes or the Leontes, in Syria, since we know that it was one of the boundaries of Canaan, and since there is no doubt as to the identity of the other three rivers.

52. Gihon, said to "encompass the whole land of Cush," signifies "the cognition of all things of good and truth, or of love and faith."(AC 116.) By "Cush" everywhere is meant Ethiopia, and Ethiopia signifies cognition, even as Egypt, lower down in the Nile valley, signifies the science of the natural man. (AC 117.) There can be no doubt, therefore, that Gihon was the most ancient name of the Nile, which "encompasses" or runs through Ethiopia as well as Egypt.

The river of Egypt, or the Nile, signifies a boundary, for the great rivers, viz., the Euphrates, the Jordan, and the Nile, were the ultimate boundaries of the land of Canaan. (AC 5196.) The river of Egypt, or the Nile, as one of the boundaries of Canaan, and as being outside of Canaan, signified such things as are of the natural man. It signifies a determination of the Church, and also introduction into the Church. Moreover the cognitions and scientifics which are signified by the river of Egypt, serve to introduce. (AE 569)

53. Hiddekel, (= swift), said to "go eastward toward Asshur," is clearly idential with the Tigris. The name of this river, in the Assyrian language, is Idiklat or Diktat, Arabic Diglat, Zend Tegel and Teger, whence the modern name Tigris. In Assyrian the name means "an arrow," and, in the spiritual sense, it signifies "the clearsightedness of reason."(AC 118.) The Tigris, at the present, as in ancient times, is an exceedingly clear stream, flowing swiftly from the mountains of Armenia, between steep and narrow banks, until it joins its larger sister-stream, the Euphrates.

54. Phrath, (= the fruitful one), is the regular Hebrew name for the Euphrates; (the Greek Eu-phrates means simply "the well-abounding" river). This is the largest, longest, and most important river in western Asia, and is usually referred to in the Word as Hannahar, the River, as in Exodus 23 131, where "from the desert to the river" means from the desert to the Euphrates.  (AC 9341.) Rising near the source of the Tigris in the Armenian mountains, it carries down with it a rich burden of alluvial deposits which, in its annual inundations, it spreads over Mesopotamia and Chaldea, thus bestowing not only moisture but actual fruitfulness, as the Nile does for Egypt. It is, in all, 1,780 miles long, and navigable for 1,200 miles. After uniting with the Tigris at Koorma, it is known as Shat-el-Arab, and forms at its mouth an ever-increasing delta in the Persian Gulf. Like the Nile it is a sluggish and very muddy stream, and, on this account, as also on account of its situation, it represents the science or scientifics of the natural-sensual man.(AC 120.) "For the Euphrates was the boundary towards Assyria, up to which was the dominion of Israel, as the scientific of the memory is the boundary of the intelligence and wisdom of the spiritual and celestial man." (ibid.) When, however, the Euphrates is regarded as the boundary of Assyria, or as an Assyrian river, it signifies the good and truth of the rational.

But something else is signified by the Euphrates, when it is regarded from the middle of the land of Canaan as its extremity on the one side, or as that which closes it on the one part; then by this river is signified that which is the ultimate of the Lord's Kingdom, i. e., that which is the ultimate of Heaven and the Church as to rational good and truth. Therefore the Euphrates signifies such truths and such goods as are of the sensual, and which correspond to the truths and goods of the rational. But as the sensual acknowledges nothing as good but that which delights the body, and nothing as truth but that which favors this delight, by the river Euphrates in this sense is signified pleasures originating from the loves of self and of the world, and the falsity which confirms it through reasonings from the fallacies of the senses." (AC 9341.)

In general we conclude that as the Tigris represents the rational faculty of the natural man, and as the Nile represents the sensual or lowest degree of the natural, so the Euphrates, which is between the two, represents the interior sensual, the intermediate between the sensual and the rational,—that is, the imaginative plane and faculty,—in complete harmony with the correspondence of Chaldea and Babylonia, as will be shown more fully later on.

The Rivers of Syria.

55. The Rivers of Syria. While these rivers, or most of them, are not directly mentioned in the Word, our knowledge of the rivers of Canaan would be incomplete without a brief account of the system of rivers which rise from the Lebanon mountains, to the north of Canaan. They are:

56. The Orontes, (Nahr-el-Asi), the largest, longest, and most northern river in Syria, which rises near Baalbec, in Coeli-Syria, runs northward for a long distance, and then turns sharply westward, flowing into the Mediterranean, not far from the site of ancient Seleukia. On its banks were the ancient and populous cities of Hamath and Antioch.

57. The Adonis, (Nahr Ibrahim), a small mountain stream, flowing westward from the Lebanon to the sea, which it joins just south of Byblos. This stream is famous in mythology as the scene of the death of Adonis and the mourning of Aphrodite, which here was celebrated by annual festivals and orgies. In this stream, it is said, some Phoenician king planted stolen roots of the Egyptian papyrus, which thrived so well that Byblos rivalled Egypt in the manufacture of paper. Hence "a book" came to be known as "byblion," whence we have our own word "Bible."

58. The Lycus, (Nahr-el-Kelb, or "Dog River"), another small mountain stream running from the Lebanon to the sea, and famous for the tablets, near its mouth, on which successive Egyptian and Assyrian conquerors inscribed their records, as they marched by.

59. The Leontes, (the Litani or Kasimiyeh), a river second only to the Orontes in size and importance. Rising only a few hundred yards from the source of the Orontes, it flows southward through Coeli-Syria, until it bends sharply westward and terminates in the Mediterranean, five miles north of Tyre. All these rivers would seem to represent things of doctrine and intelligence, originating in the love of acquiring cognitions, that is, doctrinal knowledges of good and truth,—Syria in general signifying such cognitions.

60. The Amana, (Abana or Barada), the ancient Chrysorrhoas or "Golden Stream" of Damascus, rises in the Anti-Lebanon, and flows eastward through the beautiful plain of Damascus, which it makes into one of the richest and most favored spots on the earth. Its waters are afterwards swallowed up in the marshes, and sands of the desert.

The Rivers of Canaan Proper.

61. The Belus, (Nahr Naman), a small stream rising near the hills of Nazareth and flowing into the Mediterranean through the rich plain of Acre. This stream in ancient times abounded in the murex or shell-fish from which the Phoenicians' manufactured the famous Tyrian dye, and it was from the vitrous sand of this river that Phoenician sailors are said to have made the first kind of glass,—an unlikely story, as the Egyptians manufactured glass, ages before Tyre and Sidon had come into existence.

62. The Kishon, "that ancient river, the river Kishofl," (Judges- 5:21), which swept away the Syrian hosts of Sisera in the great battle of Megiddo, celebrated in the song of Deborah and Bafak.. This river, which in the dry season is but a small brook, but in winter a raging torrent, rises on Mount Tabor, drains the plain of Esdraelon, and flows northwestward along the northern slope of Mount Carmel, terminating in the Mediterranean Sea, south of Acre. The modern Arabic name of the river is Nahr Mukutta, or "river of slaughter," in commemoration of Elijah's slaughter of the discomfitted priests of Baal. "And Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon, and slew them there." (1 Kings 18:40.)

63. The Yarmuk, (the ancient Hieromax), is the chief tributary of the river Jordan. It is a rapid, perennial torrent, rising among the hills of Bashan, and flowing westward to the Jordan, which it joins four miles south of the Sea of Galilee. It is not mentioned by name in the Word.

64. The Jabbok, a small brook rising in the hills of Bashan, and draining the land of Gilead. It joins the Jordan midway between the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea. Its modern name is Wady Zerka. It was on the banks of this river that Jacob wrestled with the angel, (Gen. 32:22), and "it was the Jabbok that Jacob first passed over, when he entered into the land of Canaan, [from Aram], by which is signified the first insinuation of the affection of truth." (AC 4301.) "The reason Jabbok signifies this first insinuation, is that it was a boundary of the land of Canaan, [between Israel and the land of Amnion], Thus also the ford or passage of Jabbok, which, relatively to the land of Canaan, was beyond the Jordan, was the boundary of the inheritance of the sons of Reuben and of Gad. The reason it fell to them as an inheritance, was that by 'Reuben' was represented faith in the understanding, or doctrine, which is the first of regeneration, and by Gad were represented the works of faith. These two things are those through which the man who is being regenerated is insinuated or introduced into good. Hence it is that by the passage of Jabbok is signified the first insinuation." (AC 4270.)

65. The Kidron, a small brook which in ancient times flowed in the valley of Jehoshaphat, between Mount Moriah and the Mount of Olives, but is now choked up with debris. In the New Testament it is mentioned as "the brook Cedron," over which Jesus passed when entering Gethsemane. (John 18:1.)

66. The Arnon, the northern boundary of the land of Moab, still known by the Arabs as "Wady Mojib." This is a small but rapid stream, rushing through a dark gorge in the mountains of Moab, at a depth of 2,000 feet, and casting itself headlong into the Dead Sea,— :a striking picture of the course of merely natural good (= Moab) in its progress to Hell. Arnon Is a name of great antiquity, as may be seen from the fact that it is mentioned in the part of the Ancient Word (the "Prophetical Enunciations"), which is quoted by Moses in Numbers 21:28: "There is a fire gone out of Heshbon, a flame from the city of Sihon; it has consumed Ar of Moab, and the lords of the high places of Arnon."

67. The Jordan. (Hayardan = the descending one.) In the geography and history of the Word there is no river which plays so important a part as the river Jordan. It is, by eminence, the river of the land,—forever sacred to the people of Israel as the gate which afforded them the entrance to their land of Promise, and which, after the captivity, separated them from the Gentile world without. Nor has it been less sacred to the people of the Christian Church, as the scene where the Savior first appeared in His public ministry,—the waters by which John the Baptist preached repentance, and into which the Lord Himself descended, as the First of His Church, to receive the Baptism of water.

As a river, the Jordan is neither very long nor deep nor broad and yet it is certainly one of the most remarkable streams in the world, being without a rival as to swiftness, steepness and tortuous windings. The distance from its sources on Mount Hermon to its termination in the Dead Sea is only 120 miles in a straight line, yet the total length of the river, in all its serpentine crookedness, is exactly twice that distance. And during this comparatively brief course it manages to fall not less than 2,300 feet, 01 nearly ten feet per mile,—and this without any waterfall or unusually steep rapids. It may thus be seen why it is called "the Jordan," the descending one.

The channel of the Jordan occupies a very remarkable depression which at one time, in the Tertiary period, connected the Mediterranean with the Red Sea. The river itself is formed by the confluence of three small mountain streams, arising respectively at Caesarea Philippi, at Dan, and at the foot of Mount Hermon. After the juncture of these it flows at first in numerous cascades through a jungle of thickets, canebrakes, and papyrus swamps, until it enters the Waters of Merom,—after a descent of 1,000 feet in 12 miles. Thence, after a further descent of 682 feet in ten miles, it enters the Sea of Galilee, which is twelve miles long. The channel has now reached a depth of 690 feet below the surface of the Mediterranean, and in its subsequent course it falls 660 feet, flowing on with ever-increasing rapidity and force, until its restless waters are finally lost in the all-absorbing abyss of the Dead Sea.

The Jordan valley varies from 4 to 14 miles in width, but the river itself is not much more than 30 to 40 yards broad, and is hemmed in on both sides by steep banks of white marl, some 40 to 50 feet high. It is in no place navigable, except by a small canoe, being everywhere too rapid and full of rocks. The surrounding scenery is wild and lonely, the banks being covered with a dense jungle of willows, canes and tamarisks, with a mass of oleander trees which are native to this region. Once a year,— in the month of February,—the melting snows of Mount Hermon cause the river to overflow. The raging torrent cannot then be forded in any place, though at other seasons there are a number of fords, the most celebrated of which is at Bethabara, (now Hajlah), to the east of Jericho, where the Israelites are supposed to have passed over, and where John is said to have preached and baptized. In the last few miles of its course, just above the Dead Sea, the river becomes sluggish and shallow, running through a muddy and desolate flat.

In all its natural features the river Jordan entirely agrees with the spiritual correspondence and representation which it bears in the Word, and this with the miraculous consistency which is the evidence of Divine Doctrine.

Thus, in its most general aspect, this river signifies the boundary between that which is of the Church and that which is not of the Church, or, what is the same, the boundary between the spiritual man and the natural man. What was beyond the Jordan represented the natural, the external, the gentile, the unregenerate, or the only partly regenerate state. What was to the west of the Jordan represented the spiritual, the internal, the regenerate state,—the Church itself. The Israelites, while on the eastern side of the Jordan, while approaching the Promised Land, represented the man who is becoming a Church, but who is still in a preparatory or introductory state; while after their passage over the river, they represented the man who. has become a Church, or the man in whom the true internal Church has become established.(AC 4255.)

Being thus the boundary line, the Jordan represents also the medium, (A. E. 434), between the internal and the external; and being the medium, its representation must partake of the signification of the two things between which it is the intermediate. It has, therefore, a twofold signification; a good and an evil meaning.

Now, in a good sense, what is it that most definitely separates or distinguishes the man of the Church from the man who is not yet of the Church? What but Repentance, the repentance which is the very first step in the regenerating life? Yet repentance is an act in the life of man, and is not, in itself, an influx, or a spiritual stream. The repentance itself was represented by the passing over of the Jordan, and by the baptism in the Jordan. The river itself was that which was passed over, and that in which the baptism took place, and the river must therefore signify, first, that of which a man repents; and secondly, the means of repentance.

When viewed from within Canaan, the Jordan represents that which is outside of the Church, that which is merely external, and which therefore in itself is low and distant from what is heavenly, (AC 1585; AE 514), "and as the external man is continually attacking the internal, and affects dominion, it became a prophetic formula to speak of 'the pride' or 'elation' of the Jordan, (as in Jer. 12:5). The elation of the Jordan [i. e. its swelling up and destructive inundations in the rainy season], signifies those things which are of the external man, which want to rise up and domineer over the internal man." (AC 15854,5)

The waters of the Jordan, therefore, in this connection, signify the falsities and evils of the external man, which inflow from hell, and bring on infestations and temptations, and because the regenerating man must pass through these temptations and overcome these evils and falsities, in order to enter into the spiritual life of the Church, therefore the Jordan represents repentance and introduction.(AC 901.) And since man can repent of his evils and be introduced into spiritual life only by means of instruction in the knowledges of good and truth, the waters of the Jordan, in the good sense, signify these knowledges or cognitions. And these cognitions, being initiatory, must necessarily be such as are accommodated to the comprehension of the external man, and the waters of the Jordan therefore signify most especially the cognitions of good and truth such as are revealed in the letter of the Word. (AE 395, 475, 700.)

The miracle of the Jordan dividing itself to allow the Israelites to pass over, signifies

the introduction of the faithful into the Church and through the Church into Heaven. For by the Jordan is signified the first entrance into the Church; and by the waters of the Jordan are signified the truths which introduce, which truths are such as are those of the literal sense of the Word, But here by Jordan and its waters are signified the falsities of evil which were from Hell, because the land of Canaan was then full of idolatrous nations. And as the waters of the Jordan then signified the falsities of evil, therefore they were divided and removed in order to afford a passage to the sons of Israel. But after the people had passed over, the waters returned, and then those same waters signified the truths which introduces ... and therefore it was also commanded that they should take twelve stones out of the midst of it, etc. (AE 700.)

"As by the waters of Jordan are signified the truths which introduce into the Church, which are the cognitions of truth and good from the Word; and by washing therein was signified purification from falsities, and the consequent reformation and regeneration by the Lord,... therefore Naaman was commanded to wash himself seven times in the water of Jordan, (2 Kings 5:10), and therefore baptizing was instituted, which was first done in the Jordan by John, by which was signified that they were being initiated into cognitions from the Word concerning the Lord, His Advent, and Salvation by Him." (AE 47518, 19.)

Previous: Chapter V. The Seas and Lakes of Canaan. Up: Canaan Next: Chapter VII. The Aborigines of the Land.

Crown of Revelations
Rebirth, Reincarnation
The Holy Center
Salvation in the Gospels
Psychology of Marriage
Precious Stones
The Human Mind
The Moral Life
Saul, David & Solomon
Bible Lost & Found
The Human Soul
Genesis and Exodus
City of God
Swedenborg Cosmology
Ultimate Reality
The Pattern of Time
Means of Salvation
NC: Sex and Marriage
Book with Seven Seals
My Lord and My God
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Inspiration of Genesis
Words In Swedenborg
Book Expo
Missionary Talks
Tabernacle of Israel
A Brief View of the Heavenly Doctrines
Ancient Mythology
Odhner: Creation
Ten Commandments
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Discrete Degrees
Body Correspondences
Language of Parable
The Ten Blessings
Creation in Genesis
The Third Source
Noble's "Appeal"
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Rivers of Canaan.

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