38. Representative Countries
When we hear the names of countries, France, Brazil, China, Africa, do we think of anything besides the mountains and plains and rivers and other geographical features of the countries? A botanist thinks of the flowers, an entomologist thinks of the insects which are found there; most of us think rather of the people and of the kind of domestic and social life which exists in each country. Suppose countries should be named to angels, on what would their thought rest? On the kind of belief in the Lord which is found there, and the kind of good life which the people live. (AC 10568) So when we read the Bible to learn its spiritual Chapters, the names of countries will suggest the spiritual qualities which have been characteristic of the inhabitants of those countries. (AC 7278; AE 21; AR 11) Further than this, we shall in some cases see that the natural features of Bible lands were so formed as to be representative of the states of their inhabitants. (AC 1585)
Suppose we should select a country, among those of Bible-times, to stand as a type of a genuine spiritual, heavenly life; what country would it be? It could only be the Holy Land, where innocent people lived in the Golden and Silver Ages, where the Word of the Lord was spoken by prophets, and where the Lord Himself lived. Every one accepts that land as a type of a heavenly state of life, and speaks of journeying to the heavenly Canaan. (AC 1413, 3686, 4447) There is so much of interest to learn about the Holy Land and its representative character, that we shall reserve it for our next Chapter. Other countries near to Palestine, we should expect to learn, represent states of life and faculties not in themselves heavenly; sometimes hostile to heavenly life, sometimes its useful servants. Let us think especially of Egypt, Assyria, and Babylon.
Do you know something of the character of the ancient Egyptians? Their country was the great storehouse of knowledge, especially of knowledge of correspondences, which formed the basis of their hieroglyphics. The Egyptians were not people of spiritual perception, but, like a great memory for the world, they stored up the knowledge handed down from wiser days. Egypt, in the Bible, means especially this knowledge of spiritual things, not intelligently perceived, but laid away as matters of memory. (AC 4964, 10437; AE 650, 654; AR 503) A familiar verse in Deuteronomy points to this quality of Egypt, and also shows how even the natural features of the country are representative. "For the land, whither thou goest in to possess it, is not as the land of Egypt, from whence ye came out, where thou sowest thy seed, and wateredst it with thy foot as a garden of herbs: but the land, whither ye go to possess it, is a land of hills and valleys, and drinketh water of the rain of heaven." (Deut. xi. 10, 11; Chapter 28) These words contrast a natural state of mind which draws its truth of life from the reservoirs of memory and the streams of tradition, with a spiritual state which is open to heaven and has perception of truth from the Lord. The Egyptians were without perception, but drew their learning from tradition; in one of their oldest books which is preserved to us, they refer to "the wisdom of the ancients." So their country was without the rain of heaven, and depended for its water upon a stream of remote and unknown sources. (AC 2702, 5196; AE 644)
You remember that Egypt was the storehouse for grain to which Palestine looked in times of famine. Abraham went down into Egypt when the famine was grievous in Pales tine. (Gen. xii. 10) And later, "All countries came into Egypt to Joseph for to buy corn; because that the famine was so sore in all lands." (Gen. xli. 57) So in times of spiritual drought and famine, when there is little perception of truth and little satisfaction in good life, we must depend on what we have learned and have laid away in memory. There is a stage in life, before more spiritual perception is developed, when we eagerly learn and remember all kinds of natural knowledge. Children are in this stage of development when they ask so many eager questions about everything they see, and when they easily learn the literal Chapters of the Word. It is this stage of life which is described in the story of Abraham; and childhood's hunger for natural knowledge is especially meant by the grievous famine which brought him into Egypt. In the deepest sense this famine and this going into Egypt represent our Lord's need of instruction as a child, especially from the letter of the Word. (AC 1460-1462, 5376) This stage in the life of everyone, and especially in our Lord's life, is referred to in the words: "When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt." (Hosea xi. 1; PP; AC 1462, 4964; AE 654) And the same state is represented by our Lord's sojourn as a little child in Egypt, which came to pass, the Gospel tells us, "that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son." (Matt. ii. 15; AC 1462; AE 654; AR 503)
In many places in the Bible we know that Egypt has a less good meaning. The learning of Egypt became in time perverted into idolatry and magic, and ministered to all kinds of natural evil indulgence. Egypt therefore often stands for a merely natural state and natural evils of all kinds. (AC 6692, 10407, 10437; AE 654; AR 503) This is the Egypt where we all come into bondage, and from which we need the Lord's deliverance. This is the Egypt of which we think when we hear the words: "I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage." (Exod. xx. 2; AC 8866, 6666) "Woe unto them that go down to Egypt for help; and stay on horses, and trust in chariots, because they are many; and in horsemen because they are very strong; but they look not unto the Holy One of Israel, neither seek the LORD. . . . Now the Egyptians are men, and not God." (Isa. xxxi. 1, 3, xxxvi. 6) How feeble a stay in temptation are learning and one's own natural intelligence! (D. Life 30; AC 9818; AE 355, 654; AR 298)
"Thou hast brought a vine out of Egypt thou hast cast out the heathen and planted it." (Ps. lxxx. 8) This Psalm recalls the story of the Exodus, and it tells also of our deliverance. It reminds us too that we, and even the Lord in His human life, must advance from natural knowledge into spiritual intelligence. (AR 503; AC 1462, 3142, 5 113; AE 405, 654)
Another country often named with Egypt and Israel is Assyria, whose capital was Nineveh on the Tigris, and which in the height of its power conquered and ruled a large part of south-western Asia. Assyria, we are taught, represents the rational understanding. (AC 1186; AE 654; AR 444)
We know from history hardly enough of the character of the Assyrians to see their fitness to represent this faculty, but we find a hint of it in the careful system of satraps and officers of special departments of government, by which they ruled their large and widely scattered dominions. Assyria is said to have been the first nation to consolidate its Provinces into one empire. This is one manifestation of the rational faculty which delights to see the true relation of things and their logical connection. No doubt as we learn more of the Assyrians we shall find other evidences of rational development.
Do you remember the correspondence of the cedar of Lebanon? (Chapter 27) If so, you will see the meaning of this comparison: "Behold, the Assyrian was a cedar in Lebanon with fair branches, and with a shadowing shroud, and of an high stature I have made him fair by the multitude of his branches: so that all the trees of Eden, that were in the garden of God, envied him." (Ezek. xxxi. 3-9; AC 119, 9489)
But we are not surprised to find Assyria sometimes an enemy to the Lord's people; and it was the nation which finally led into captivity the northern kingdom, Israel; for the rational faculty may become self-confident and may use its reason to make the false appear true. It is then the special enemy of spiritual intelligence which is represented by Israel. (2 Kings xvii. 6; AC 1189) "I will punish the fruit of the stout heart of the king of Assyria, and the glory of his high looks. For he saith, By the strength of my hand I have done it, and by my wisdom; for I am prudent." (Isa. x. 12, 13; AC 1186, 5044, 10227)
We find both Egypt and Assyria restored to their orderly place, in the prophecy: "In that day shall there be a highway out of Egypt to Assyria, and the Assyrian shall come into Egypt, and the Egyptian into Assyria, and the Egyptians shall serve with the Assyrians. In that day shall Israel be the third with Egypt and Assyria, even a blessing in the midst of the land: whole the LORD of hosts shall bless, saying, Blessed be Egypt my people and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel mine inheritance." (Isa. xix. 23-25) Knowledge and reason shall serve spiritual intelligence which shall fill them both with blessing. (AC 119, 1186, 2588, 6047; HH 307; TCR 200; PP; AE 313, 340, 585)
Babylon, or Babel, is mentioned early in Genesis (x) where also the names Nineveh and Asshur (Assyria) are found, and Mizraim, which is the ancient name of Egypt. Still earlier, in the description of Eden, we read of Ethiopia and Assyria. (Gen. ii. 13, 14) Babylon is also named in the Revelation (xviii) , and Egypt too. (xi. 8) The occurrence of the names in chapters which are not literal history but Divine allegory, suggests that wherever in the Bible they are used, they stand, as they evidently do here, for elements of human character. (AC i 18, 1185; AR 503; AE 654; LJ 54) What element of character is represented by Babylon? We may form an idea from the glimpse of Babylon given by the prophet Daniel. King Nebuchadnezzar "walked in the palace of the kingdom of Babylon. The king spake and said, Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honor of my majesty?" (Dan. iv. 29, 30) And later, king Darius issued a decree that whosoever should ask a petition of any God or man for thirty days, save of the king, he should be cast into the den of lions. (Dan. vi. 7) These passages show supreme and haughty self-love, a desire to rule over others, body and soul. Chapter v., describing Belshazzar's feast, adds to this the abuse of sacred things to minister to selfish gratification. In a "proverb against the king of Babylon," it is written: "Thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God. . . . I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High." (Isa, xiv. 13, 14) All these things prepare us to find Babylon used in the Word as a type of supreme self-love, and the desire to rule over others especially by means of the holy things of the church. (AC 1326; LJ 54; AE 1029; AR 717)
We read in Genesis: "And they said one to another, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name." And the city was called Babel. (Gen. xi. 4,9) In these words we are told of the beginning of self-love with its ambition to be great in earth and heaven. And it was self-love which made men's interests clash and their views conflict, which is meant by the confusion of tongues. (AC 1307, 1326; AR 717)
Babylon was the enemy which carried Judah captive, as Assyria had taken Israel. (2 Kings xxv. 1-7) Do we see the meaning of this fact when we know that Israel represents the spiritual intelligence and Judah the celestial affection of the heavenly life? (Chapter xxxix) Just as the perverted reason is the enemy of intelligence, so is self-love with its desires for rule and indulgence the enemy which, if it can, overpowers the heavenly affections. (AE 811, 1029) Think of this spiritual bondage in a state of life far away from that which the Lord would have us enjoy, when you read the sad Psalm of the exiles: "By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept when we remembered Zion." (Ps. cxxxvii.; AE 518, 411; AC 3024)
Finally, turn to the Revelation and read of the overthrow of Babylon. "Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen." (Rev. xviii) Babylon here is the same self-love and passion for dominion, especially that love grown strong in the Roman Catholic Church. Its power has been overthrown in the spiritual world, and it will never again have the same power in the church nor in men's hearts. (LJ 53-64; AR 753-802; AE 1090-1194)