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Previous: Chapter II. The Names of the Land. Up: Canaan Next: Chapter IV. The Mountains and Plains of Canaan.

Chapter III. The Spiritual Geography of Canaan. A General View.

13. The central location of the land. In a most literal sense the land of Canaan is truly "set in the midst of the nations and countries round about her." (Ezech. 5:5.) Such is the statement in the letter of the Word, and in the Writings of the New Church we are told that "the land of Canaan represented and thence signified the Church; for that land is in the central part of the whole of our world, having Europe in front, Africa on the left hand, and Asia behind it, and on the right hand." (Cor. 52.) This unique situation has also been observed by geographers, as by Dr. George Adam Smith, who describes it as "a land lying between two continents,—Asia and Africa.; between two primeval homes of men,—the valleys of the Euphrates and the Nile; between two great centres of empire,—Western Asia and Egypt; between all these, representing the eastern and ancient world, and the Mediterranean which is the gateway to the western and modern world." (Hist. Geog. p. 6.) We may add to all this the fact, that the land lies exactly midway between the Equator and the Polar Circle. Thus in every way it is most centrally located,— in fitting correspondence to the spiritual situation of the Lord's specific or spiritual Church as the life-giving centre, the heart and lungs, of the Church Universal.

14. Its isolation. Very significant, also, is the peculiar isolation of this land, which is surrounded on the east and south by enormous and terrible deserts,—the Arabian desert and the wilderness of Sinai,—while the Mediterranean Sea separates it from the whole western world, and the rugged Lebanon mountains from the regions of the north. This isolation represents the distinctiveness of the Church from the world, from all that is not of the Church. For the Lord's Spiritual Church must by all means be distinct in order to be protected from the influence of worldly and selfish loves and ideas. When a Church loses its distinctiveness, it loses its reason for being, its purity of doctrine and life, its means of serving the Lord in the work of salvation. As an illustration we may point to the early Christian Church after Constantine had made it the state religion. The Church was then supposed to have conquered the world, but in reality it was the world that had conquered the Church. The primitive Christian brotherhood was dissolved; the love of the Savior as the only God of the Church had vanished; the love of worldly power and gain took possession of the ruined temple; and intolerance and the persecution of brethren followed, and the introduction of tritheism and other pagan doctrines.

15. Its means of communication. Though thus isolated, the land of Canaan nevertheless possesses means of communicating with the entire world. The only natural approaches, however, are from the west and the north: from the west by the broad highway of the sea; and from the north by the narrow valley between the two Lebanon ranges. This, also, is profoundly significant. The west is Faith, and the Sea is the Word. The entrance into the Church is by means of Faith in the Word of the Lord. Again, the north is ignorance, and the Lebanon valley, like all Syria, is knowledge. No one can from a state of ignorance enter into the Church except through the acquisition of knowledge respecting the Doctrines of the Church. Thus, in Nature itself, the Creator has inscribed the lesson that no one can enter into the Church and become a regenerating man by any immediate influx from Heaven, but only by the narrow and laborious road of learning the Divine Truth from the Word and its Doctrine.

This lesson, also, is inscribed upon the very body of man in the remarkable isolation of the heart and the lungs: beneath these central organs there is the broad expanse of the diaphragm, and around them are the ribs and the various plexuses. The only approach to the heart is by the Vena Cava, and to the lungs through the wind-pipe.

At the same time, while the Church is not of the World, it must necessarily be in the world, in order to serve the world with the means of salvation. And for this purpose it must possess means of communicating with the world. There must be means of trading, spiritually, with the Science and Philosophy of the world, even as the land of Canaan was in communication with Egypt and Assyria by means of well-beaten highways and caravan routes across the deserts, or as the heart and lungs communicate, more indirectly, with the rest of the body through arteries and veins and all sorts of membranes.

16. The size and extent of the land. In view of the enormous importance of the land of Canaan, historically as well as spiritually, its very limited extent cannot but excite astonishment. From Dan in the north to Beersheba in the south there is a distance of only 170 English miles,—a little further than from Philadelphia to Washington. Again, from the Mediterranean to the Dead Sea there are but seventy miles, while from the Sea of Galilee to the Phoenician seaboard there are only forty miles. The whole country includes 7150 square miles, and in size and outlines greatly resembles the state of New Hampshire.

This limited area stands as an eternal lesson that the importance and influence of a country or a Church are not to be measured by its natural size or its multitude of inhabitants and members. Canaan was one of the smallest of the countries in the ancient world,—and yet, what a part it has played in the history of mankind! So, also, the Lord's New Church is at the present time numerically one of the most insignificant among all religions bodies, and yet it is the only Church in the wide world that worships the Lord Jesus Christ as the only God,—the only true Christian Religion,—the only medium of influx from Heaven,— the only Church that is spiritually alive and life-giving. We mean, of course, especially the new Divine Revelation which has been given to the New Church, but we mean also the members of the Church in so far as they receive this Revelation ar;d live according to it. Their numerical smallness signifies nothing. "Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the Kingdom." (Luke 12:32.) It is the duty of the New Church to take possession of that Canaan which has descended from Heaven in the Doctrine of the New Jerusalem,—to conquer the foes which oppose the entrance,—to live in the land and cultivate its glorious fields and gardens. If the Church is faithful in this work, the Lord will gift it with such increase and such riches that the whole world will need to live on its heavenly meat and drink.

17. The Boundaries of Canaan. In considering this subject, it is necessary to remember that the boundaries changed at various times, but that, in general, two distinct sets of boundaries must be described.

In a most extended sense the land of Canaan included all the region between the Nile and the Red Sea, on the south, and the river Orontes and the Taurus mountains on the north; and between the Euphrates and Tigris on the east and the Mediterranean Sea on the west. These are the boundaries of the Garden of Eden as described in the second chapter of Genesis, and we are taught in the Writings that the Garden of Eden was situated in Canaan, nay, included all that land. These boundaries, in the reign of David and of Solomon, again became the limits of the larger Canaan, but remained as such only for a few years. (AC 444; AE 654.)

In a more limited sense, the southern boundary of Canaan, strictly so called, was an imaginary line drawn from the southeastern corner of the Mediterranean to Beersheba and the southern end of the Dead Sea, and thence across to and along the river Arnon. The eastern boundary line ran in the Arabian desert along the thirty-sixth longitude, from the river Arnon to Mt. Hermon. The northern line ran from Mt. Hermon and Dan along the southern spurs of Mt. Lebanon to the Sea, just south of Tyre; and the western boundary was the Mediterranean shore. These were the boundaries throughout the greater part of Israelitish and Jewish history.

As to the general signification of these boundaries we are taught that

All things outside the land of Canaan signified such things as are of the natural man.—AE 569.

What was beyond the boundaries of the land of Canaan represented those things which are outside of the Lord's kingdom, which things are falsity and evil.— (AC 4815.

The land of Canaan signifies the Church; the region beyond the Jordan signifies the External Church, and the region on this side of Jordan, the Internal Church.—AE 434, 440.

By the last boundaries of the land of Canaan are signified the ultimates of the Church which are knowledges containing the cognitions of truth and good.—AE 514.

The ultimates of Heaven were represented by the two seas and the two rivers which were the boundaries of the land of Canaan. The two seas were the Sea of Egypt, and the Sea of the Philistines where Tyre and Sidon were, and the two rivers were the Euphrates and the Jordan, but the Jordan was the boundary between the internal and the external of the Church.—AE 518.

And, in reference to the Human of the Lord, "all things which were in the land of Canaan were representative; the things in the midst of the land represented the Lord's Internal man, as Mt. Zion and Jerusalem; those places which were somewhat remote therefrom, represented those things which are somewhat remote from interior things; and those which are ultimate or at the boundaries, represented the external man." (AC 2973.)


Previous: Chapter II. The Names of the Land. Up: Canaan Next: Chapter IV. The Mountains and Plains of Canaan.
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Correspondency
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Psychology of Marriage
Precious Stones
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Tabernacle of Israel
Canaan
A Brief View of the Heavenly Doctrines
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Odhner: Creation
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Language of Parable
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