A Spiritual Interpretation of the Old Testament
As taught by:
Unity School for Religious Studies
Unity Village, MO 64065
I. MAJOR POINTS
- Metaphysical meanings of Deborah, Gideon, Jephthah, Samson, and Samuel.
- Delilah (a Philistine woman) as a symbol of the dangers of negative sensuality.
- Ark of the Covenant as symbol of the spark of divinity in man's nature.
- Metaphysical significance of Saul.
- Judges Chapters 4, 6-9, 11-16; I Samuel 1-4, 9-13, 15-16, 18-24, 28, 31
- Let There Be Light Chapter VIII
- Metaphysical Bible Dictionary under headings: Deborah; Gideon; Jephthah; Samson; Samuel; Saul
- What is the metaphysical meaning of the judges in general?
- Metaphysically, why are Philistines designated as "enemy"?
- What is one main danger in sensuality?
- What is meant by "spark of divinity"?
- What is the metaphysical significance of Saul's early successful rulership and his later deterioration?
Some of the historical references in Mrs. Turner's books are not in accord with more modern biblical scholarship. For example, in the quote on page 1 of this lesson she mentions "about a century" as the period of the judges. New information indicates a period more likely of 150-180 years. Some students may have this kind of historical knowledge and feel that there is a discrepancy. A valid response would be that Mrs. Turner's historical information is from an older scholarship and, more to the point, the metaphysical validity is not changed.
We begin with a brief historical introduction to the book of Judges by Elizabeth Sand Turner in Let There Be Light 94: "During this period of about a century the Hebrews were ruled by chieftains called judges. When a tribe was forced to war it selected its ablest soldier as leader and generally retained him as civil ruler afterward. The rule of twelve such judges is recorded in the Book of Judges. . . . Four of the judges deserve special mention (Deborah, Gideon, Jephthah, Samson)"
Metaphysically the judges symbolize usage of the judgment faculty in overcoming errors in consciousness which interfere with the progress of our spiritual unfoldment. The enemies of the Israelites stand for errors in our thinking, feeling, and attitudes. Each judge illustrates a manner of using judgment to subdue and overcome these errors.
Deborah represents intuitive use of judgment. She was the only female judge. She chose Barak as her warrior helper. Barak represents the will. The Canaanites were the enemy. Canaanites stand for very strong and stubborn beliefs in the supremacy of materiality and sensuality.
Gideon represents the use of judgment united with the renunciation faculty. This is the proper use of the technique called denial. The Midianites were the enemy. The name Midian means "strife; contention." Jehovah tells Gideon to "smite the Midianites as one man." (Judges 6:16) This refers to the fact that proper use of denials can do a wonderful work of cleaning the consciousness of attitudes of strife and contention. If irritability is allowed to become a habit, it can lead to a general "souring" of the whole nature, and further spiritual unfoldment is seriously hampered.
Jephthah represents judgment inspired by zeal in the cause of Truth. The Ammonites were the enemy. Ammonites stand for "impure, ignorant, disorderly thoughts" (Metaphysical Bible Dictionary 47) This would place this kind of activity in the mind strongly in relation to thoughts and attitudes about personal gain, sex, and sensuality in general. It is not that these things in themselves are evil or wrong, but that our thinking in regard to them can become negative, selfish, and disorderly.
Samson represents judgment used with great strength. The Philistines were the enemy. Philistines do not have a specific metaphysical meaning, but rather a loose, generalized implication. Our Metaphysical Bible Dictionary says that "Philistines were opposed to all true spiritual discipline; they worshiped strange Gods. . . ." (p. 527)
Philistines would stand for any antagonistic thoughts or attitudes toward Spiritual Truth. They also stand for the tendency to "latch on to" and even worship anything that is strange and bizarre in the way of religion. There is something about the purity of metaphysical Truth which seems to irritate the Philistine nature and brings forth an antagonistic reaction which can be quite unreasonable. It is for this reason that good judgment coupled with much strength is needed in coping with the Philistine tendencies in our human nature.
The main interest in the story of Samson is in regard to his affair with the Philistine woman Delilah. The metaphysical meaning of Delilah is SENSUALITY, pure and simple! However, it is important to remember that Delilah is not so "pure and simple." She was a Philistine; she definitely meant harm for Samson. Therefore she stands for sensuality in its negative aspect. This can be very seductive at times, and if we let it divert our good judgment it can rob our judgment of its strength. We can easily observe any person who is not using good judgment in his indulgence of sensuality. The word most often used to describe a person in this state is that he or she is "weak."
NOTE: Some further words on the idea of sensuality may be well here. Sensuality of itself is not good or evil. It is a fact of life and a normal function of the human nature. But when sensuality assumes a negative or harmful aspect in a person's life, then it becomes a danger. It is this dangerous aspect of sensuality which is meant when a Bible character who symbolizes sensuality is used as an enemy of a good character.
Elizabeth Sand Turner calls Samuel "the last and greatest of the judges." (Let There Be Light 97) Samuel's greatness can be detected in little things. For example, when Jehovah calls in the night to Samuel, he thinks it is the priest Eli calling. He responds with, "Here I am." (I Sam. 3:4 and parallels) But Eli tells him he had not called. Samuel shows no irritation at this, but simply obeys by replying, "Here I am" each time he is called.
The second sign occurs when on the fourth occasion Jehovah again calls Samuel's name, and Samuel very simply responds with, "'Speak, for thy servant hears.'" (I Sam. 3:10) This gives us a very pleasant clue as to the nature of that which Samuel symbolizes in us. It would be a combination of judgment, humility, and a willingness to serve.
In I Sam. 4 we learn that the Philistines take the Ark of the Covenant from the Israelites and set it up in the house of Dagon (the God of the Philistines). But the Ark proves to be of no value to them. Since the Ark is such an important part of the history of the Israelites, it would be good for us to gain comprehension or its metaphysical meaning. We read of the meaning in the Metaphysical Bible Dictionary on page 64: "... the ORIGINAL SPARK OF DIVINITY IN MAN'S BEING. It is a covenant, or agreement, of the Father with the son that he shall inherit all that the Father has. . . ."
"This original spiritual spark is a very sacred, holy thing, because UPON ITS DEVELOPMENT DEPENDS MAN'S IMMORTALITY. It is represented as occupying the most holy place in the temple and as being protected and cared for with great devotion. All that man is has been brought forth from this CENTRAL SPARK, yet the sense-conscious man often neglects it and ignores its very existence."
This definition helps us to realize that man has "the spark of divinity in his being," which avoids the absolutist's statement that "man is divine." If "man is divine" then .there is no need for self improvement or evolution. Then the whole purpose of religious thinking is nullified. But just as man has the potential for perfection within him, so he has the spark of divinity within him. This is what the Ark symbolizes, and that is why it is regarded as the "holy of holies."
In I Sam. 9 we are introduced to the character Saul, who becomes the first king of Israel. The word Saul means "asked for; desired; demanded." (Metaphysical Bible Dictionary 575) Metaphysically he represents the will as the leading or dominant faculty in our unfolding nature. The will is a natural selection as our first "king," for it has the ability to express in two important ways: it can express as willingness, or it can express as willfulness. At the beginning of his reign Saul represents willingness. As his reign progresses, he displays symptoms of degenerating into willfulness.
In Let There Be Light 102 Elizabeth Sand Turner gives this interesting commentary on the downhill pattern of Saul's rulership:
"In the early part of his reign Saul lived up to the best expectations of Samuel. Later he became arbitrary and disobedient. Unless the will (Saul) is under divine guidance it becomes a destructive force. . . . Saul is typical of the person who begins a great task with true humility of spirit and accomplishes much, then gradually lets selfishness rule the will and become dictatorial and even cruel. This separates him from the divine or higher impulses and starts a decline that ends in loss and final defeat."
Mrs. Turner has given us Saul's story and metaphysical meaning "in a nutshell." And it is here where it will be good to mention that many Truth students express a dislike for Old Testament metaphysics because so much emphasis is put on the negative aspects of human nature. They say they much prefer the positive idealism of the Gospels. That is understandable. But it is important that we realize that most of the time we are functioning on the Old Testament level of consciousness. We all have a great deal of self-improvement and overcoming of error to achieve. So an awareness of some of the negative factors still active in us can prove very, yery useful if we use such knowledge in the right way. Not for purposes of guilt or self-punishment, but for incentive for further effort to improve consciousness.
Willfulness is easy to fall into. Willfulness is a way of using the will to attain that which we personally desire. This is a dangerous kind of "victory," for it can soon become a habit. The habit of willfulness results in our disconnecting our sense of I Am from God's divine ideas and connecting it with things of personal consciousness and the allures of the outer world. This inevitably leads into deterioration of inner states of consciousness and brings us many disappointments and defeats in our life.
Because of his failure to rule righteously Jehovah decides to have someone succeed Saul as king. Samuel is instructed to go to the house of Jesse the Bethlehemite and choose a successor from among his eight sons Samuel's first impulse is to choose the eldest, Eliab, but Jehovah rejects this choice. After seeing the first seven sons, Samuel asks if they are all here: "And he (Jesse, David's father) said, 'there remains yet the youngest, but behold, he is keeping the sheep.' And Samuel said to Jesse, 'Send and fetch him; for we will not sit down till he comes here'. And he sent, and brought him (David) in. Now he was ruddy, and. . . handsome. And the Lord (Jehovah) said, 'Arise, anoint him; for this is he'." (I Sam. 16:11, 12)