Topical and Doctrinal Notes
Leading Thought: Israel Taken Captive
Read the chapter carefully, for it tells you of the end of the kingdom of Israel, and of the people's being carried captive to Assyria never to return to their own country. Remember that the kingdom of Israel consisted of the ten tribes who, under the leadership of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, rebelled against the rule of Rehoboam the son of Solomon, whose kingdom henceforth is called the kingdom of Judah. The Jews were also taken captive, later, but they returned after seventy years—the ten tribes never returned. The country which had been inhabited by the ten tribes was peopled by emigrants sent there from various districts of the Assyrian empire, as told in the chapter.
The reason why the ten tribes were permitted by the Lord to be carried away is also told in this chapter, namely that they had become wholly idolatrous. Away back at the time when the Lord brought them out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage, while Moses was staying on Mount Sinai, all Israel set up a golden calf at the foot of the mount and worshiped it. (Exod. 32) Later, when passing through the land of Moab, they worshiped the idol of the Moabites. (Num. 25:2-3) In the times of the judges, they worshiped Baalim or Asherah. (Judges 3; 6) When Jeroboam separated the ten tribes from the tribe of Judah, he set up the golden calves in Bethel and Dan. (1 Kings 12:28-29) Ahab instituted the elaborate worship of Baal and Asherah (or the grove) (1 Kings 16:30, 33) and so throughout their history, which you will find rehearsed in the chapter.
In spite of their continued idolatry, so long as they still kept some of the statutes which had been commanded them by Moses, they were suffered to remain in the land of Canaan. But when they departed altogether from these statutes, no longer keeping any of them, then they were carried away out of the land.
And now for the reason of this.
You can see that the Israelites and Jewish people were not a truly religious people, or, as we say in the New Church, they were not spiritual. Indeed, they did not constitute a Church. They merely represented the Church. Their worship was not true or genuine worship. It merely represented worship. You have probably seen representations on the stage. You may have seen a man represent a king. He had on a crown perhaps made of pasteboard and gilt paper. It was not a real crown, but it represented a crown. He was not a real king, he only represented a king. But while he was on the stage, he acted as though he were a king, and you thought of a king, and of what is regal while looking at him and hearing him. It is generally so with representations. While they are not the things they represent, they serve the purpose of having people think of the things they represent, and so they are of great use. Think of the many pictures there are. They represent things. The choicest are of such a nature as to help us to think of sublime and holy things and to love these. Indeed, we cannot do so without representatives.
The best representatives are those which fully correspond with the good and true things. To illustrate what I mean, let us go back to the king's crown. The crown represents wisdom, for it dresses the head. A king wears it to show that he needs to be wise to be a true king, and that he must love wisdom, and must use his wisdom to rule his people properly whom he loves. For this reason the crown is gold, for gold corresponds to love. A real crown therefore corresponds to and represents wisdom from love. The pasteboard crown merely represents, it does not correspond to wisdom from love because it is not of real gold but of make-believe gold.
So there are many things in worship that are truly representative because they also correspond. Others merely represent. For instance. If, when you feel humble, because you know that the Lord alone is good and that you cannot be true and good from yourself, but only from Him, then you naturally kneel before the Lord, and bow your head. This corresponds to the state of your heart, and represents it. But if you kneel down simply from habit, and do not feel or think that you need the Lord, then your kneeling represents a state of humility, but it does not correspond to it.
Although the children of Israel were not spiritual, they could be of use to heaven and to humanity by observing the representative worship that was instituted among them. There are a great many “laws, statutes and judgments” in the Old Testament, especially in the five books of Moses, which, if they would observe them, even though they were not spiritually-minded, would, at that time, bring them into communication with heaven.
For instance: when they sacrificed a lamb every morning and every evening, if they had a holy feeling at the time, good spirits could be with them. The good spirits would not think about the personal goodness of the worshipers, but they would be attracted by their feeling of holiness, even though it was only a feeling, and not the real thing. And then while the worshipers were thinking of the lamb that they were sacrificing, the good spirits who were with them would think of innocence because a lamb corresponds to innocence. In this way, at that time, representative worship conjoined with heaven.
But when the Israelites paid no attention to the statutes in the books of Moses, but served idols which were forbidden, then there was nothing in such idol-worship to suggest heavenly things, and good spirits and angels could not be near.Besides, the most Ancient Church had been in the land of Canaan, and as the people of that church knew that everything in nature corresponded to something heavenly, that everything had some heavenly association, so the whole land represented heaven. This was the reason why the children of Israel, whose worship was to represent the life of heaven, were told to go to the land of Canaan. But when their worship was no longer representative of heaven but rather of hell, then they were no longer permitted to be in the land of Canaan which represented heaven, but were carried away captive to Assyria.