The life of a political refugee has always been difficult. This is well illustrated in the history of David while he was evading his persecutor, King Saul.
When Jonathan had at last convinced David that Saul would not relent, it was not possible for David to seek refuge with Samuel. Instead, alone and without plans, he looked for sanctuary at Nob, where the tabernacle of Israel stood at this time. It seems to have been a small village situated on the Mount of Olives. Some eighty-five priests "wearing the linen ephod" lived there, under the charge of Ahimelech. David had neither food nor weapons and was faint and famished. He pretended to be on a secret errand for the king; but Ahimelech was surprised that he had arrived without a retinue, although David made out that his young men were stationed at some distance.
David asked for five loaves of bread as many as the Lord later had to bless and feed a multitude of five thousand. But Ahimelech the priest had only hallowed bread, which had just been taken from the altar of shewbreads to be replaced by fresh. David persuaded the priest to give this to him, arguing that his young men had clean and as it were holy vessels to keep it in.* He also asked if the priest could furnish him with a spear or sword, for he had left in such a hurry. Ahimelech had none, except the sword of Goliath of Gath, which was kept there as a holy relic. David exclaimed, "There is none like that! Give it to me!"
He then set out over the mountains, and sought service with Achish, the king of the Philistine city of Gath. But when recognized as the slayer of Goliath, the Philistines distrusted him, even though they knew that his own land had disowned him. David was afraid, and to save his life he began to act as if insane, scratching on the doors with his fingers and drooling into his beard; until Achish sent him away as a madman. David's stratagem was successful, because primitive peoples usually feel that a madman, like a prophet, was under the special protection of the gods.
Already, David's family at Bethlehem were feeling insecure because of Saul's anger against David. David therefore decided to use a cavern not far from Bethlehem the cave of Adullam as a refuge for his clan. Not only his brothers, but probably also his nephews, Amasa, and the sons of Zeruiah (Abishai and Joab), joined him, but gradually there were gathered into his band about four hundred men men out of favor with Saul, debtors and distressed or discontented men whose only recourse was to live outside the law. At least one Hittite, and probably other foreign exiles, joined the band. For the time being he sent his parents to be under the protection of the king of Moab. And after a time a prophet named Gad, later called "David's seer," warned him to depart further into the land of Judah.
For Doeg, an Edomite servant of Saul, had reported David's visit to the tabernacle at Nob, and Saul in his despotic rage called the innocent priests to his court and, listening to no reason, massacred them all for having assisted David. The town of Nob was raided and all, women and children and even cattle and sheep, were put to the sword. Only one young priest, Abiathar, escaped to David with the terrible news.
Abiathar arrived with an ephod in his hand. This was a special blessing; for through the priestly ephod it was customary to "enquire of God." How this inquiry was conducted is uncertain. But in the case of the ephod of the high priest, the method is given. For this ephod had a golden breastplate, set with precious stones engraved with the names or initials of the twelve tribes. And the high priest received answers from God by watching how the lights flashed in the various stones. The Writings show that the truths of the Word in its ultimates similarly give answers to the inquiring soul who consults them from an affection of the heart. (AC 3862, 9905).
By means of the ephod, David was encouraged to go to the rescue of the small town of Keilah which the Philistines had raided; and when he had restored the stolen cattle he abode there for a time. But the ephod also revealed that Saul was on the way to take him and that he must not trust the people of Keilah to help him. And so David and his band of six hundred roamed from one mountain stronghold to another. Once, in a wood in the Judean wilderness, Jonathan came to meet him, renewing their covenant and saying enthusiastically. "Thou shalt be king over Israel and I shall be next unto thee."
At another time, Saul took three thousand men intending to catch David's band "upon the rocks of the wild goats." There Saul laid down to sleep in a cavern, not knowing that David and his men were in a side-shaft of the cave. The outlaws urged David to do away with his enemy, thus delivered into his hands. But David stayed his men and was content to steal in and cut off the hem of Saul's robe. Even this act smote his conscience. And as Saul was leaving, David called to him, "My lord the king!" and bowed his face to the earth. He proclaimed his innocence and displayed the piece of robe to prove that his hand would never be lifted against his king.
Saul was overcome with remorse. "Is this thy voice, my son David?" Weeping, he continued, "Thou art more just than I. For thou hast rewarded me good, where I have rewarded thee evil. .. And now behold, I know well that thou shalt surely be king . . . Swear now therefore unto me that thou wilt not cut off my seed after me. .."
David swore, and thus they parted, David returning to his stronghold at Engedi. There is no other instance in the Old Testament, except that of Joseph's forgiving his brethren, of the celestial law which the Lord announced in the sermon on the Mount: "Resist not the evil." "Love your enemies ... do good to them that hate you." The reason is that David represents the truths of charity which build a spiritual conscience; build it during states of spiritual temptation when the natural man, fortified by misunderstandings and prejudices from the sense of the letter of the Word, alienates itself and hardens its heart against the truth of charity.
It is well that the New Church reader of the Word, as he reads, in the books of Samuel and in many of the Psalms, of David's life as a fugitive, should at the same time think of the inner meaning, with the general acknowledgment that it is his own temptations and struggles of spirit, his own problems of spiritual life, that are here spoken of. When a man's natural feelings, his unruly moods of envy or retaliation, lust or covetousness, love of worldly mastery or wounded vanity, are upon him, the things of spiritual charity and perception are banished and starved. The ordinary consolations of an orderly pious life are denied him. He feels homeless and alone. His spiritual perceptions hunger for hallowed bread even if he is not in an orderly state to receive it. Like David, a staggering fugitive, pleading for the shewbread, man's spirit prays for an inner sustenance of good intentions which his natural man in its present state would not allow.
And knowing not where to turn, the "David" within man seeks refuge in simple states not of the church only to be dismissed as a madman, like David at Gath. For, as the epistle reads, "the natural man receiveth not the things of the spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, for they are spiritually discerned." (I Cor. 2:14).
It is significant that one of David's strongholds was the cave of Adullam a name which means "the justice of the people." It was here that those in distress gathered about him, in a refuge of a higher justice which human laws would not recognize. What is this justice, but that which judges not of acts but of intentions, judges not from the letter of the law but from the spirit of charity; and which is capable of forgiveness, watching for opportunities to show mercy and compassion ?
And David found opportunity to show Saul his real intentions. The spiritual mind strives to overcome the resistance of the natural man not by compulsion but by kindness by the power of sincerity and love. And the natural mind, kept in turmoil by its conflicting emotions and the contradictory appearances which confront it, can be reduced into correspondence with the spiritual only when it has become wearied with the hardships imposed by its own illusive ambitions. At times, the things of this world lose their importance, and the natural mind falls as it were "asleep," like Saul in the cave at Engedi, in the wilderness of Judah near the Dead Sea the same wilderness where the Lord was tempted forty days and nights.
When the natural man becomes less assertive, the spiritual mind can inflow and cut off for its own use certain ultimate truths, truths from the Word prophetic of the fact that eventually all truths of man's natural understanding shall be at the disposal of spiritual faith! David cuts off a hem of Saul's royal robe. Yet the spiritual leaves the natural free, free to fight on against the external foes which it also can recognize.
And is this not what the doctrine states? "The spiritual mind acts into the natural mind from above or within, and removes the things which there react, and adapts to itself those things which act in harmony with itself; so that the excessive reaction (or opposition) is successively removed." (DLW 263).
But although David, by his gestures of generosity, seemed to have moved Saul to tears of contrition, he knew Saul too well to rely on his fickle promises. Samuel had died. David and his outlaws moved into the south, still within the district of his own clan Judah. It would be a mistake to think that outlaws, in those days, were criminals or robbers. Rather may we think of David's band as similar to Robin Hood's forest fighters who controlled a district as benevolent guardians against the marauders or robbers which were a constant menace in such desperate times; or as frontier police who in exchange for their services received and sometimes demanded a tribute from the farmers whom they protected.
So we find David sending word to Nabal, a wealthy rancher in nearby Carmel, politely suggesting that Nabal could spare something of his produce for services rendered. It was just at sheep-shearing time, and as they put it they "came in a good day." But Nabal whose name literally means "fool" was a churlish, greedy man with such a temper that even his own people could scarcely talk to him. He not only refused to give anything to David's messenger but broke out into vilest abuse, calling David a runaway slave. Hearing this, David said nothing, but armed four hundred men.
But Nabal's servants became offended and anxious and told what had happened to Abigail, Nabal's intelligent and beautiful wife. The servants testified that David's men had been a wall unto them night and day and that they had never lost a sheep or anything else while David's men were in the district. So Abigail hurriedly loaded large supplies upon asses bread and wine, meat and corn, raisins and figs and was just in time to meet David and his men as they approached. She fell on her face before David and took the blame upon herself, intimating that her husband was always acting foolishly, anyhow, and that she herself had not known of David's messengers. She spoke so eloquently that David's wrath was turned utterly away and he received her offerings, blessing her for withholding him from shedding blood.
So she returned to her home. Nabal was holding a feast in his house, like the feast of a king. He was drunken. But in the morning she told him how she had averted David's wrath. And his heart turned to stone with fright and he died of the stroke ten days later. Soon thereafter David paid a visit to her, and with an extraordinary humility she consented to be his wife. He also married another woman. But Saul had given Michal, David's first wife, to another man.
The spiritual meaning of this story may seem obscure. Yet it seems to describe the activities of man's spiritual conscience in the field of the natural man. The spiritual man protects those things in the mind which, like true spiritual shepherds, teach truths and lead to the good of life. The season of shearing the sheep means the time when these states should yield their true use and pay their tribute to the spiritual ends in life. For unless the good in the natural man acknowledges its indebtedness to spiritual truth it becomes inspired by the love of self becomes, like Nabal, churlish and greedy and self-indulgent, and insolent to the interior truths signified by David. Indeed, the thought that springs from such merely natural good is spiritually dead paralyzed with its own fears. It is falsity that denies everything spiritual.
But the prudent Abigail represents an affection which cannot be conjoined with the falsity of self love, but which longs to offer the best that natural life can produce for the service of spiritual ends of charity and love. And such affection can be uplifted by spiritual truth into a marriage.
Let us note that there are many such natural affections which are conjoined with the truths of a spiritual conscience. The polygamic habits of the Israelites are often used in the Word as symbols of these continual conjunctions of thoughts and affections which in their combined effect make a marriage of will and understanding in the spiritual mind.
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As David had anticipated, Saul again took an army of chosen men to corner David's band. And again, David crept up into the midst of the camp of Saul and stole Saul's spear and water cruse, while a deep sleep from the Lord had fallen on the whole camp. David restrained Abishai, his sole companion, from harming the king, saying that his time would come when the Lord decided. Then David called down from a high hill nearby, chiding Abner, the king's captain, for not better protecting his master. To Saul he cried out, "What have I done ? . . . For the king of Israel is come but to seek out a flea, as when one hunts a partridge in the mountains."
Then said Saul, "I have sinned. Return, my son David: for I will no more do thee harm, because my soul was precious in thine eyes this day: behold, I have played the fool, and have erred exceedingly." Thus Saul was finally disarmed by David's charity; after which David returned the king's spear to be used for more profitable battles.
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But in a troubled mind, dominated by natural thoughts, there is as yet no real welcome, no inheritance or home, for spiritual perceptions of truth. This, in an eminent sense, was true of the Lord who said, "Foxes have holes and the birds of the heavens have nests, but the Son of Man hath not where to lay His head." And note how many of David's psalms breathe this nostalgic longing for safety and rest, for a safe lodging.
Yet it is the Lord's own provision that the spiritual mind shall be formed as an unconscious plane deeply within the mind; so that it rests only lightly on natural ideas and comes into the range of our consciousness only through the interior natural which is our memory of abstractions and of rational or doctrinal ideas. (AC 5094, SD 3258, 3265, AC 6226) And we are even told that spirits who correspond to this inner realm of the memory "wander about in bands" even as did the followers of David. (AC 2491)
It is also revealed in a remarkable passage that it is in the interiors of this interior natural that those things are held which are called spiritual. "And the spiritual things in it are those which are from the light of heaven, from which light are illuminated the things that are from the light of the world and are properly called natural. In the spiritual things there are stored up truths adjoined to good." These are indeed the things that are signified by "David" in our story. But the passage continues: "The spiritual things there are what corresponds to the angelic societies that are of the Second Heaven, with which man communicates by remains." Should we be surprised then that David was allowed to eat the hallowed shewbread from the Holy Place of the tabernacle, a part which corresponds to the Second Heaven? (I Sam. 21) And the teaching goes on: "This is the heaven which is opened when man is regenerated, but is closed when he does not suffer himself to be regenerated: for remains, or truths and goods stored up in the interiors, are nothing else than correspondences with the societies of that heaven." (AC 5344) The spiritual mind is opened primarily by man's abstaining from doing evils because they are contrary to the Divine commandments. But the formation of the spiritual mind, or of the conscience of spiritual truth, is said to take place when genuine truths from the Word are drawn from the memory and purified by the Lord, thus separated from falsities. These genuine truths are then elevated by the Lord in a wonderful manner and in the process they become spiritual, and are not any more in a natural form but in a spiritual form, such as those in the spiritual sense of the Word, and are disposed into a heavenly order. (AE 790)
Usually people have the belief that there is no "thought" except conscious thought that is, that the only thought possible to man is that succession of ideas of which a man is aware in his imagination. Some indeed admit that there can be "imageless" or abstruse thinking. And there are many psychologists who maintain that there is a "subconscious intellection" by which men can solve difficult problems in their dreams or in hypnotic sleep. But the Writings are far more definite. They teach repeatedly that there is thinking going on in man of which he knows nothing! And with the regenerating man, this thinking goes on in the spiritual degree of his mind. "So long as man is living in the world, he is wholly ignorant of what he thinks in the spiritual mind ; he knows only what he thinks in the natural from that mind." (AE 790:8, 625)
For when a truth is elevated into the spiritual mind, it as it were "vanishes from his external memory" that is, from his consciousness "and passes into the internal one," and then it becomes spontaneous and as if innate. (AC 3108, 9918) While "the truths of faith in the natural come to manifest perception ... it is not so with those which are thought in the internal man." For "spiritual ideas cannot be comprehended in the natural, since they are intellectual ideas which are without such objects as are in the material world; nevertheless, those spiritual ideas (which are proper to the internal man) do flow into natural ideas . . . and produce and make them; which is effected by correspondences . . ." (AC 10237, cf 4104:2) And this communication by correspondences "is perceived in the understanding only by this, that truths are seen in light, and ... in the will only by this, that uses are performed from affection." (DLW 252)
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It is this manifestation of the evasive and inexpressible perceptions of spiritual truth by an influx into the natural mind, that is signified by David occasionally emerging from his hiding places and meeting with Jonathan, Saul, and others. So also, the strange fact that David and his men now settled in the city of Gath. among the Philistines, and his pretense of warring against Israel when he actually went on a raid against the Amalekites whom he utterly destroyed so that no human being was left to tell the tale. The spiritual sense here describes how spiritual truth in certain states seems to take the side of falsity when its real purpose and effect are to eradicate certain evils which spring from falsities.
The state here described is one of spiritual confusion. Achish, the king of Gath gathered an army against Saul, who was afraid because, when he enquired of the Lord, "the Lord answered him not, neither by dreams, nor by Urim, nor by prophets."
Saul had himself put away all wizards out of the land. Yet in his desperation on the eve of an unavoidable battle he now hunted up a woman who had a familiar spirit, and went to her in disguise, by night. To her he said, "Divine unto me by the familiar spirit, and bring me up whom I shall name." Finally the woman complied, and was told to bring up Samuel; for he wanted to have the counsel of Samuel, dead, though he had not heeded the voice of the prophet when he was alive.
The woman, when she saw Samuel, cried out, realizing that her visitor was Saul. The king asked her to describe what she saw, and she replied, "I saw gods ascending out of the earth." She saw an old man, covered with a mantle. And as Saul cast himself to the earth, he heard the voice of the prophet: "Why has thou disquieted me, to bring me up?"
As a living prophet, Samuel represented the Word. But the dead letter when approached through unlawful modes can only prophesy death. The letter, apart from the spirit, killeth. (2 Cor. 3:6) Samuel could only predict that Israel would be defeated. "Tomorrow thou and thy sons will be with me.
The Philistines, in the meantime, had wisely objected to David's participation in their war against Saul, although king Achish still trusted David as he would "an angel of God." So David turned back, just in time to find that Ziklag, the city which king Achish had given David for a present, had been sacked and burned by Amalekite raiders who had also carried off the women and children, including both David's wives. By an Egyptian servant who was found nearly famished in the desert, David was directed in his pursuit and caught the raiding party feasting, and so after a bloody battle recovered the abducted families, the stolen cattle, and all the rich loot from many towns of Philistia and Judah. Even those of David's men who had guarded the supplies were given an even share of the spoil. And not only so. But David sent presents of the spoil to all the elders of Judah, and to all places where he and his men had been wont to haunt.
But a more tragic story was enacted on Mount Gilboa. For there the Philistines defeated Israel and slew Jonathan and two other of Saul's sons. And Saul was sorely wounded by the archers and when his armor-bearer refused to give him a death blow he fell on his own sword. The army of Saul was cut to pieces, and the Israelites fled from all the towns round about. On the morrow the Philistines cut off Saul's head and nailed his body to the city wall of Bethshan. But some valiant men took down his body and buried him and his sons in Tabesh of Gilead.
The death of Saul signified the end of man's reliance on the appearances which he finds in the literal sense of the Word to bolster the courage of his fickle proprium, apparent truths turned to flatter or comfort his self-esteem. Such appearances have been seized upon by Christians to excuse the claims of papacy to power over the souls of men, to justify the cruelties of the Inquisition, and to inculcate the fallacy that man is saved by human merits. And in the Reformation, which reacted against this error, other appearances from the literal sense were seized upon. Charity was renounced as a factor in salvation, and the Christian Church became vulnerable and succumbed to the Philistine falsity of "salvation by faith alone."
And as Reformed Christendom degenerated, and the Word became a closed book which no longer yielded the answers to the problems of spiritual life the power and authority of its literal sense perished, in the minds of men, like Saul, by his own hand. And soon the genuine truths shining out from the Scriptures became extinct in the Christian world, even as Jonathan, the sworn friend of David, perished on Mount Gilboa.
The house of Saul was doomed to extinction. But the genuine truth which the Divine Word contains was indeed restored, in a new and spiritual form. It was restored not through human illustration but by a new Divine revelation which disclosed the spiritual sense of the Scriptures. The fall of Saul paved the way for the crowning of David. And in the supreme sense, David therefore represents the Divine Human of the Lord, revealed at His second advent, coming with the authority and power of Divine truth in all its forms, to restore the kingdom of the Lord.