<< THE LIONESS AND HER WHELPS. >>
Moreover, take thou up a lamentation for the princes of Israel, and say, What was thy mother? A lioness: she lay down among lions; she nourished her whelps among young lions. And she brought up one of her whelps: it became a young lion, and it learned to catch the prey; it devoured men. The nations heard of him; he was taken in their pit, and they brought him with chains unto the land of Egypt. Now when she saw that she had waited, and her hope was lost, then she took another of her whelps, and made him a young lion.
And he went up and down among the lions: he became a young lion, and learned to catch the prey, and devoured mem. And he knew their desolate palaces; and he laid waste their cities; and the land was desolate, and the fulness thereof, by the noise of his roaring.
Then the nations set against him on every side from the provinces, and spread their net over him : he was taken in their pit. And they put him in ward, in chains, and brought him to the king of Babylon: they brought him into strongholds, that his voice should no more be heard upon the mountains of Israel.-EZEKIEL xix. 1-9.
IN the text are described the successive profanations of truth, by the enticements of false principles, derived from evil affections.
THE LITERAL MEANING.
Literally, the princes of Israel were the kings and princes of the Israelitish nation. The mother o the Israelitish Church was the Ancient Church, which, in her better states, was powerful. And so, in Oriental imagery, that Church in her vigor, was here represented as a lioness.
Beasts, often displaying the characteristic qualities of men, very naturally represent men. And, knowing the character of the beast, we can readily see the kind of man it represents, according as it is used in a good sense, or in a perverted sense.
The Jews often called the Romans "beasts." And when Paul escaped from the representatives of Nero, he expressed himself as having been delivered from the mouth of a lion. And when Paul refers to his contest with the mob, at Ephesus, he speaks of " fighting with the beasts, at Ephesus." And when Marsyas informed King Agrippa of the death of the Emperor, Tiberias, he expressed himself thus, "The lion is dead." Nero was often called a "beast." And Xerxes was called "the lion." And, we remember how often beasts are named in the Scriptures, to represent human qualities, especially in the books of Ezekiel and Daniel, and the Apocalypse.
There are many scriptural references to the lion; the lioness, etc., in representing powerful persons; and spiritually, in denoting powerful principles. "Behold, the people riseth up as a lioness; and as a lion cloth he lift himself up: he shall not lie down until he eat of the prey, and drink the blood of the slain." (Numbers xxiii. 24.) "He couched, he lay down as a lion, and as a lioness; who shall rouse him up ?" (Numbers xxiv. 9.)
The two whelps mentioned in the text, are supposed to refer, historically and figuratively, to the two kings of Judah, Jehoahaz and Jehoiakim, both of whom were evil men, ambitious, covetous, revengeful and idolatrous. Jehoahaz was captured by Pharaoh, and carried to Egypt, and his career ended. Jehoiakim, another son of Josiah, was afterwards made king. But he was captured by Nebuchadnezzar, and carried away to Babylon.
And these facts are referred to in the literal sense of our text, which is called a lamentation for the princes, and for the nation in general. For the nation had become very corrupt, and thus enfeebled, and brought to great sorrow and humiliation.
THE REPRESENTATIVE PICTURE.
In better clays, Judah, as the royal tribe, was represented by the lion, as the king of beasts. But the glory of Judah had departed forever; and her kings were captives in exile. Thus passes before us, to-day, the moving panorama of a noted ancient nation, planted by Jehovah, and nursed by His loving providence; but completely destroyed by the dreadful corruption of its people. Its literal history sets before modern men, individually and collectively, a long series of vivid warnings against evil, falsity and sin. And the Scripture references to such history, often couched in figurative language, vigorously enforce the intended lessons of that history.
But, to him "who hath ears to hear," there lies within all this figurative reference, a still more profound and spiritual history of human life, in the dealings of the Divine Love and Wisdom with human hearts and lives, not only in the distant ages of the past, but also in the practical doings of our lives, today.
THE SPIRITUAL MEANING.
In our inward minds, the church is our system of principles, which we love and believe, and which we carry out in our practical life. Among these principles, the mother is the primary, or leading truth, from which other truths and good principles are derived. In the days of our innocence, the mother-principle, the leading truth in our mind, is from our Lord. But, if we degenerate in character, the spiritual children of that mother, and their children, will become perverted, gradually, until they shall have lost the quality of their ancestress.
The life of the leaders, in Israel, became more and more corrupt, and opposed to the principles of the Lord's church, until that church was destroyed, in the minds of men, and as an institution. Even the leaders of the nominal church became merely natural-minded men, perverted in character, especially by means of sensuous reasonings.
And these things and conditions are reproduced, today, in the minds of all who pervert the principles of the church, and destroy its life, by preferring the corrupt life of the senses to the pure life of the spirit.
The powerful truth of the Lord's Word, which, in its vigor in men's minds, has been represented by a lioness in freedom, became weakened, stripped of its power, like a chained and caged lion, in the minds of degenerate men.
In general, the lion, the most powerful beast with which the Israelites had to contend, represented power, especially the power of truth, in ultimates, that is, in its outward forms, as, for instance, in the letter of the Divine Word. In the supreme sense, the lion represented the Lord, as the Divine Truth, as to the power of His truth. In this sense, the Lord was called "the Lion of the tribe of Judah."
The lioness, or female lion, represented especially the power of the truth united with goodness. But, in the text, as the degenerated church is represented, the lioness is used in the opposite sense, of falsity springing from evil. For the degenerating mind changes its good into evil, and its truth into falsity. Hence in our text, the lioness is the power of falsity linked with evil. And, in the mind of the unregenerate man, this power is exerted against the principles of the Lord's church; and It seeks to destroy those principles, in the man's mind, and, by his influence, in the minds of others.
A young lion is one in the vigor of his youth. And he represents the evils and falsities of the unregenerate mind, in their full power. He catches the prey; i.e., he destroys truths. He devours men: i.e., he destroys goodness, by destroying the intelligent understanding of truth.
THE PIT AND SNARES.
The text declares concerning the young lion, "The nations heard of him; he was taken in their pit, and they brought him with chains, into the land of Egypt." In representatives, the antagonism between this lion and the nations does not indicate antagonism of character, or any goodness in the nations; for they were heathen nations, representing unregenerate conditions of life. But the dealings of the nations with the two young lions, in the text, represent the action of one class of evils and falsities upon another class of corrupt principles.
Pits, snares, nets, traps, gins, etc., which take animals by deceit, and by enticing, represent the enticement and deception practised by the lusts of the external natural mind, and the corporeal senses, to drag down all the feelings and thoughts, and thus to fix them in the lusts of the senses. In the life of the senses, a man's natural tendencies to evil draw him along, towards his desires, as the current of a river draws every floating object towards the ocean, and to destruction. Hence, to snare, or to trap, means to deceive, to entice, to lure to destruction, by enticing the delights of self-love and the love of the world, especially by reasonings from the fallacies of the natural senses, which always favor the delights of self-love.
Evil spirits, who see a man's natural and selfish loves, seek to arouse these evil loves, and to delight them, by cunning suggestions, until the mind is so ensnared that it reasons from falses, instead of truths, and from evils, instead of good. But, while such snares and enticements catch those who love themselves and the world above all things else, they do not entrap the sincere mind, which is seeking regeneration. "Will a lion roar in the forest, when he hath no prey? Will a young lion cry out of his den, if he have taken nothing? Can a bird fall in a snare, upon the earth, where no gin is for him ?" (Amos iii. 4, 5.)
The secret is, that things which are snares to some men, are not snares to others, who are protected by their knowledge of truth, and by their good life.
The young lion was taken to Egypt, by means of chains, or hooks. A wild beast was often managed, in captivity, by means of a ring, or hook, set in the beast's lip, or nose, and a chain attached to the ring, as is done in these days, with a dangerous bull. And, in ancient times, when cruelty was common, human prisoners of war were thus treated by their captors, especially when it was intended to humiliate a famous captive.
The lip and nose are so sensitive to pain, that an animal, or a man, so chained, readily yields to the drawing of the chain. And, in this, he represents the mind which readily yields to the drawing of its sensuous delights; for, in such case, although the mind knows that such indulgences are forbidden, it feels that it cannot bear the pain of opposing its natural inclinations,
The land of Egypt, to which the lion was taken in chains, represents the learning of the natural senses, the vast accumulation, in the memory, of thoughts and persuasions, which the natural senses regard as established truths, and which are the feeding-ground for false ideas. But the mind which is ensnared and chained by the fallacies of the natural senses, is like the young lion of the forest, captured and chained; or like the captured king of Judah, dragged painfully to the dungeon.
THE SECOND WHELP.
The lioness was disappointed when her first whelp did not return to her. And, in the unregenerate mind, the mental lions, the powerful falsities which range through the natural mind, do not bring the expected happiness; for the first one is ensnared by the fallacies of the senses on the corporeal plane of thought, the external natural mind. And the natural sciences, even when corrupted, set bounds to the liberty of the false principle.
But the lioness sends out another young lion; i.e., the ruling falsity from evil, lifts itself to a higher plane of thought, and exerts itself against the life of the church, as to the principles of the interior natural mind. Here, again, an attempt is made to catch the prey, and to devour men; i.e., to destroy truths and good principles, but on a higher plane of thought and feeling. Here, too, the young lion knew men's desolate palaces, or " desolate widows," as it is sometimes translated: i.e., the leading false principle recognizes the desolation of the natural mind, deprived of its men, its spiritual principles. It also lays waste the cities; i.e., it destroys the doctrines of the church, in the mind; doctrines which are, to the mind, what cities are to men, dwellings for good and true principles. And the land is desolated, spiritually, when the good principles of the mind are destroyed by falsity.
It is said that " the land was desolate, and the fulness thereof, by the noise of his (the lion's) roaring." The fulness of the land, in the mind, is the fulness of life afforded to the mind by an abundance of truths, from the Divine Word. But the evil delights of self-love attack and destroy all the truths of the Lord, in the unregenerate mind, so that love to the Lord, and love to the neighbor, and the love of usefulness, are first confused, and then destroyed.
The roaring of a lion is one of the most dreadful of all the sounds in nature. It is great in volume, and very prolonged, seeming to shake the earth, rolling over the ground, and reverberating among the hills; carrying with it a sphere of deadly influence, which often momentarily paralyzes the nerves of the hearer, and renders him helpless; carrying terror and dismay to men and beasts.
We can easily imagine the terror in which the inhabitants of a village are kept, when they know that a vigorous lion is prowling around their vicinity, ready to spring upon anyone who may be going in or out of the village. And the roaring of the lion, when it has taken some man or beast, keeps the villagers always reminded of the dreadful terror under which they live. One of the sorrows prophesied of degenerate Israel, is this: "A leopard shall watch over their cities." (Jeremiah v. 6.)
And there is a parallel between these distressing things and the corresponding conditions in the human mind, when a powerful mental lion, a deadly falsity, is ranging through the mind, imperilling the spiritual life of everything good and true; seizing upon every truth of the Lord's Word, and tearing out its life, by falsifying it; by perverting it to evil purposes; and using it to confirm evil principles. In this condition, the whole mind is kept in the terror of peril and uncertainty. Take, for instance, the false thought that man's natural reason is sufficient for the understanding of all truth, without any aid from Divine revelation. This terrible falsity, will do, in our minds, spiritually, the things which correspond to the destruction among men caused by prowling lions. Spiritually, the roaring of the lion is the falsity constantly proclaimed, with great vehemence, and lusting to destroy all truth and goodness.
THE SECOND WHELP CAPTURED.
But the second lion of the unregenerate mind is also enticed into the net, and taken to Babylon. Babylon, the great cultured heathen community, represents those who acknowledge a church, and those who have the Word of the Lord in its literal sense, but who use the church, and the Divine Word, as a means of ruling over men; who seek to exercise dominion over the souls of men; and who claim that the Lord has given them such power. But, in doing these things, they pervert the good, and falsify the truth, in the church.
Impersonally, Babylon represents the evil principle of love of dominion over others, from self-love. And to be led away to Babylon, in chains, is to allow this Infernal spirit of love of dominion, for selfish purposes, to profane the Divine Truth, in our minds, and to corrupt our life, so that we are held in bondage to that spirit of self-love, in the strongholds of our own selfish lusts.
To spread the net over the lion, is to allow our self-love to entice us by the delights of worldly ambition, and by reasonings from our lusts, wrought, like a net, into a system, which will keep us in helplessness. And then our "voice" shall "no more be heard upon the mountains of Israel ;" i. e., dragged down into the lower things of self and the world; we shall think no more of the higher planes of human life, because all that we know of good, will then have been corrupted, and truth falsified. And, in our degenerate minds, the church will have been destroyed. It is for us to exterminate the heathen of our own minds, because they would be a snare to us. O Lord, "The wicked have laid a snare for me; yet I erred not from Thy precepts. Thy testimonies have I taken as an heritage forever; for they are the rejoicing of my heart." (Psalm cxix. 110, 111.)
Author: Edward Craig Mitchell 1903