04. Spies Sent Forth from Shittim (Jos 2:1-6)

Joshua 2:1-6
And Joshua the son of Nun sent two men out of Shittim to spy secretly, saying, Go look over the land, and Jericho. And they went and came into the house of a woman, a harlot; and her name was Rahab. And they lay down there. (2) And it was reported to the king of Jericho saying, Behold, men have come here tonight from the sons of Israel, to search the land. (3) And the king of Jericho sent to Rahab, saying, Bring out the men who have come in to you, who have come into your house. For they have come in to search out all the land. (4) And the woman took the two men and hid them, and said, This way the men came in to me, but I did not know from where they were. (5) And it happened as the gate was to be shut at dark, even the men went out. I do not know where they have gone. You go after them, and hurry, for you may overtake them. (6) But she made them go up on the roof, and hid them with stalks of flax, which she arranged on the roof.

Arcana Coelestia 9528
‘Of shittim wood’ means out of mercy. This is clear from the meaning of ‘shittim wood’ as the good of merit which is the Lord’s alone, dealt with in 9472, 9486; and since the good of merit is mercy, ‘shittim wood’ also means mercy. For out of pure love, thus out of pure mercy, the Lord assumed the Human, and underwent the severest temptations, finally the passion on the Cross, that He might save the human race; and therefore merit and righteousness are His. From all this it is evident that the good of merit consists in mercy, mercy being Divine Love directed towards those trapped in misery.

This morning we come to this wonderful, wonderful story of Rahab found in the second chapter of Joshua. The children of Israel are camped outside the borders of the land of Canaan, making preparations so that they can enter the land. What now stands before them as the first challenge of their impending campaign to take the land of Canaan is Jericho, a Canaanite city standing just inside the boarder near where the Israelites will cross the Jordan River.

Now, as is prudent in any campaign, Joshua selected two men as spy’s to go into the land to gather information regarding the state of things in general and in particular the state of Jericho. We read that when the spies came into Jericho they took lodgings with a woman named Rahab, who is described as a harlot. Word then got back to the king of Jericho that these strangers were in the city and he sent to Rahab to find out where the two men were. Rahab responded, no doubt at great risk to her own life, by concealing the men on the rooftop behind some stalks of flax. Then when it was safe, helped them make good their escape.

And so we read in verse one

And Joshua the son of nun sent two men out of Shittim to spy, secretly, saying, go look over the land, and Jericho. And they went and they came to into the house of a woman, a harlot; and her name was Rahab. And they lay down there.

Remembering that the Word has an internal sense that has nothing to do with the meaning we find in its literal sense. This inner meaning focuses on those things that belong to the inner mental world of our minds. Knowing this means that we can come to these stories of the Word open to understand them in terms of their application to the life of our regeneration. The Lord has given us these stories as a map of our own inner processes so that we can have some sense of how the Word interacts with us as it creates and disperses the things of the mind into its various forms and states that arise as we enter into the spiritual dimension of life.

We have already seen that Joshua represents the understanding of the Word that arises to support a person when they willingly take up the challenge to apply the principles of the Word to their inner life in the work of regeneration. Canaan represents the human mind, which when in its proper order is populated with things good and true from the Word which is what the Israelites represent. Now we see at this stage that the land is not in order but populated by Canaanites who are opposed to the Israelites is a picture of the disordered state of mind every person is in prior to being regenerated by the Lord. These enemies of Israel being in the land is how the Word represents the dominance evils and falsities have over us prior to being regenerated.

The Canaanites represent those things born of the loves of self and the world. No one is exempt from the activity of the selfish life of the proprium. The Heavenly Doctrines are very clear on this, the life we are in prior to applying truths to the inner life of our mind is nothing but selfishness arising from the evils and falsities that make up the proprium. So it is that the Word and the Heavenly Doctrines continually admonish us to work with the truths and principles they contain so that we can come to see this state of affairs. It is not until we actually apply these truths that we are given to see the actual state of things internally.

In order to understand what is being illustrated at this point of the story we need to establish what is meant by the two men set out from Shittim, what is meant by the woman Rahab, by her being a harlot, what is meant by the king of Jericho, the rooftop, and this stalks of flax. All these things have an interior meaning that relates to the internal realities of the Lord’s interaction with us, as the Word. So this morning we will set the background by looking at the meaning of the two spy’s and the spiritual connections represented by them coming from Shittim to Jericho.

When we look to the truths of the Word to govern our mental life the Word or Joshua then provides us with the ability to begin to see the quality of the life of our affections and thoughts. Spiritual life begins with self observation and our ability to observe our states of mind arises from a willingness to actually look within. It is when we are making an effort to do this inner reflection that the Word or Joshua begins to open up for us in a new way by providing us with truths that enable us to see things in the light of these truths. We actually begin to see that the state of the land or our mind is filled with things that are opposed to what we understand the heavenly life to be.

These two men are sent out from Shittim, which is an area located on the outside of the borders to Canaan east of the Jordan, where the Israelites were camped. Places in the Word correspond spiritually to states of good and truth the mind is in, and their names provide us with insight into the quality of the place referred to. Shittim, being the place where the spies were sent out from, spiritually represents the first truths that a person has to acknowledge for self examination to begin.

The area called Shittim got its name from the shittim wood presumably from the presence of the acacia trees of the middle eastern desert from which shittim wood comes. The Heavenly Doctrines teach us that shittim wood corresponds to the Lord’s righteousness and merit. So, the state of mind represented by Shittim from which self examination can begin relates to being in the acknowledgement of those truths that teach that the Lord alone is righteous and that all merit belongs to Him. Why is this acknowledgement necessary for self examination to begin? Well by righteousness and merit belonging to the Lord is meant that the Word alone is able to overcome evils and falsities, and that as far as spiritual matters are concerned human beings are absolutely powerless to effect anything. It is the Lord alone as the Word that fights for us and is able to overcome the selfish life of the proprium or ego.

When this is acknowledged by a person they then have what is needed to begin the process of self examination. Without this acknowledgement entering the land and all it represents is impossible for a person. This is because until a person acknowledges the Lord as the source of all that is good and true they are in a state where they claim merit for the good and truth that they have to themselves.

The thing to realise is, that it is with the acknowledgement of truth that creates the conditions for its opposite to come into view. By knowing truths one can know their opposite. So the first state of regeneration begins by acknowledging that the Lord alone is righteousness and merit, and when this acknowledgement is made as a matter of life and not just of the lips then we can begin to see its opposite within us. We can see in ourselves instances of wanting to take credit for any good we do.

When we are out of touch with the truth that the Lord alone has righteousness and merit we are unable to see that we do this. It is a state of disorder and its evident in every instance when we take credit, or feel offended that we are not acknowledged for what we do, or when we feel we are not appreciated. When we are caught up in these states and the emotions involved we are associating with spiritual influences that don’t recognise that all merit is the Lord’s and it translates in us as feelings that we deserve to be treated better. This is what Jericho is, and this is why our ability to observe this in ourselves comes from the acknowledgement represented by Shittim and the two spies sent forth to take an inventory of what lies within.

Self examination can only begin if we see a need to undertake it. If we can’t see that there is anything out of order within us, in the land of our minds, then we won’t see any need to examine ourselves or look to take up opportunities for us to be involved in spiritual work. It’s simple really, if you don’t see a problem you won’t see any need to seek a solution. If on the other hand you see that there are enemies in the land, then you will make efforts to do what the Word asks of you through stories such as this one, for when read and understood they create an opportunity for us to look to the Lord so that we can work with the Word to have what is opposed to heavenly loves removed from our life. The spy’s of Shittim teach us that as we look to make an effort to see in ourselves our tendency to take credit for good the Word or Joshua sends out truths which give us the ability to see our tendencies to take credit for what we do and so shut the Lord out of our life.

To acknowledge the truth of what the Word and Heavenly Doctrines teach is to engage in self examination and repentance acknowledgement that doesn’t lead to active spiritual work is not a real acknowledgement. So in response to this story we have an opportunity now to set an aim to observe our tendencies to claim credit for the good we do over the coming week, to take account of when we feel we are not given what we feel we deserve. If we will do this we will gain some insight into how these spy’s actually operate within us. We will also get a sense of what Jericho within us actually is, and have the way opened to finding out what Rahab might be in our own experience which is what we will look into next time.




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