Books, articles, sermons and blogs
online, based on the Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg
7. The Land.— (Ha-arets.)—This is par excellence the designation most frequently used in the Word, and this expression nearly always means nothing else than that particular region which is known as the land of Canaan. This was the land, the land of lands, to the people who inhabited it,—as is every land to its own inhabitants. But in this case it was called the land from something more than mere pride of patriotism.
When a land or a country is mentioned in the Word, it never means the mere soil of the ground,—for there is nothing of spiritual or eternal importance in dead matter. In the Old Christian Church many have the idea that the very soil of Canaan is holy, and an orthodox Jew can conceive of no greater posthumous bliss than to be buried in the "land of his fathers,"— the soil which is mingled with the dust of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. This veneration of the material soil is clearly founded on an association of ideas of living things,—the idea of the persons who have inhabited the soil, and the idea of the principles which they represented.
When we think of "our country," we are not thinking of the mere dirt and stones, but of our nation, our institutions, our principles of government and freedom, etc. And thus also, in the Word, whenever a "land" is mentioned it signifies, first, the people who live in that country; next, the peculiar and distinctive characteristics which make that people what it is,—its civil and moral good and truth; and finally, in the internal sense, the spiritual principles, the religious doctrines and life of the Church with that people, which lie at the foundation of all national development.
But the land of Canaan signifies "the Church" more especially than any other land, since from the beginning of the human race it had been the home of the purest form of the Church,—the home of the worship of the one living God. As the centre of Monotheism, the Church in the land of Canaan had for ages been the. centre of spiritual light and life, the heart and lungs of that world-wide "Church Universal" which, in more or less obscurity, exists among all races of mankind. Hence, when various countries are mentioned, such as the land of Egypt, the land of Edom. the land of Moab, etc., Canaan is simply mentioned as "the land,"—meaning the Church, where the Lord is worshipped and His Word acknowledged in purity of heart and doctrine.
8. The Holy Land. This designation originated during the Middle Ages, as an expression of the pious veneration with which pilgrims and crusaders looked up5n that country in which every mountain and stream was consecrated by the memory of Jesus and His twelve apostles. "The Holy Land" is still the most common name for Canaan, and one frequently hears stories of visitors to the "Holy Land" kissing that precious soil which had been pressed by the footsteps of Jesus and which had been moistened with His blood. But this is mere idolatry. The Lord is present in America just as much as He ever was in the Holy Land, and the blood that He shed was part of that merely Jewish human which He rejected at His resurrection. The soil of Canaan is, if anything, less holy than that of other parts of the earth,—having been defiled, for thousands of years, by the worst of all nations, and now largely desert, sterile and useless.> (AC 1438, 6516.) "The Holy Land" is therefore an expression which we may well leave to the sentimental in the Old Church.
9. The Land of Promise. Thus the land was called when spoken of as the inheritance which the Lord promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,—a land ardently longed-for by their descendants, a land "good and broad, flowing with milk and honey." These terms, indeed, do not apply to the dismal region now known as Palestine, but in ancient times this country was literally a paradise. The now bare and forbidding cliffs and wildernesses were then covered with fruitful loam and smiling verdure, a land the most favored of all by its situation, climate, and resources, the highway between Egypt and Assyria, protected by mountain- ranges, cooled by the sea, semitropical in climate, well watered, productive of everything the oriental heart could wish for,—a land of promise, truly. And this most blessed region was but the faint similitude of a still more glorious "Land of Promise,"—the Heavenly Canaan which is promised as the everlasting inheritance of all who follow the Lord.
10. The Land of Canaan.— (Kenaan.)—This name, we may say, is the most distinctive and proper designation of the land. It is to be observed that this name of the Land is not derived from Canaan, the son of Ham, as is generally supposed, but the Hamitic Canaanites were named from a root meaning "to be low," in correspondence with their character. For we are taught that the country was named Canaan from most ancient times, (AC 4453), long before the time of Noah and his descendants, and that "it was so named from 'merchandise' or 'trading,' "—in Hebrew kana,—and this because it was the central home of the Most Ancient Church and afterwards of the Ancient Church, from which all the other nations roundabout received their spiritual merchandise, that is, their knowledge of good and truth.
History strikingly confirms this teaching, for from prehistoric times the nations inhabiting the land of Canaan have been devoted to the love of trade. Here was the home of the ancient Hittites,— the gentle descendants of the Most Ancient Church, who even in the time of Abraham are referred to as merchants. Here, also, dwelt the Phoenicians, who, for some two thousand years, controlled the entire trade of the civilized world,—their little ships penetrating every nook of the Mediterranean Sea, visiting the North Sea and the Baltic, and even circumnavigating Africa. And the Jews, finally, though originally a pastoral people, after their conquest of Canaan developed that intense love of trading which to this day has remained as their most distinctive national characteristic. We are told in the Writings that even after death they continue their favorite occupation of trading in jewelry.
Whence came this unbroken love of trading among the inhabitants of Canaan, if not from their first ancestors who, in the clays of the Golden and Silver Ages, were the teachers of all mankind,—spiritual traders who ardently loved to communicate to the rest of the world the blessings which the Lord had bestowed upon them, the heavenly jewels and garments of genuine doctrine, the goods and truths which they had derived from that inexhaustible treasure-house which had been revealed to them by celestial perceptions, and in the pages of the Ancient Word? The earliest Canaanites were the great missionaries of ancient times who went forth, as did the Apostles in the dawn of Christianity, to spread the light of the Word to distant and gentile nations. Afterwards, when the Ancient Church became corrupt in the land of Canaan, it is easy to see how the missionaries began to work for their own gain instead of the salvation of others, and how they gradually took to natural instead of spiritual merchandise. The love of trading remained, but had now become worldly instead of heavenly.
It has been the same with more modern nations. Whenever the Word has been received and missionary zeal has been kindled, natural trade has followed in the foot-steps of the evangelists. It was so in Italy, during the Renaissance, when the Word again began to be studied, and when Venice, Florence, and Genoa became the trading centres of the world. It was so in Holland, after the Reformation had won its cause in the Low Countries. And it was so in England after the English had gained free possession of the Bible. Englishmen became and still remain the most zealous missionaries, as well as the most successful traders, in the world.
The derivation of the name "Canaan" from kana, to trade, though self-evidently reasonable, is not recognized by the learned world. In all modern lexicons the name is derived from another root, kana, to be low, but this etymology does not seem rational, inasmuch as Canaan as a whole is not a lowland, but most decidedly a highland. It is true, however, that the people of Canaan, after the Church had become corrupt among them, from being the highest became the most "low" and degraded of all civilized nations.
11. Palestine.— (Pelesheth.)—This is a name derived from the "Philistines," whose name, again, is derived from a root signifying to "emigrate." It is never used in a favorable sense in the Word itself, but always refers to that small but rich strip of coast-land where dwelt the most immediate enemies of the Israelitish nation. The name "Palestine" came into use especially during the age of the Crusaders, and is now the most common official designation of the country on all maps.
12. Es-Shem, and Syria, are the names by which the modern inhabitants, mostly Arabs, call their country. The former means simply "the land of the Semite," and the latter is derived from ancient Tyre, the capital of Phoenicia.