Researched and studied by HH, Sir Godfrey Gregg D.Div
The Death and Burial of Solomon.
1 Kings 11:42, 43.
In the Book of Ecclesiastes, long believed to be a work of Solomon, but now considered to be the production of another hand and of a later age, there are many excellent sentiments, some of which apply with strict propriety and great force to the life of that wise man and eminent king. In one of these it is said, “Dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking savour: so does a little folly him that is in reputation for wisdom and honour.” The odour of sanctity in which Solomon may be said to have died would have embalmed his memory with the purest and richest perfume had it not been tainted by the folly of which he was guilty in his declining years. Perhaps this is to be lamented still more as an indication of the frailty of our common humanity, than as a sin on the part of a particular man, eminent as he was for wisdom.
Folly is inseparable from our fallen nature, even in its highest earthly condition; and all mere men seem to exhibit instances of failure even in those virtues for which they are most distinguished. The Scriptures afford abundant evidence of this. Aaron, the first High Priest of the Jews, whose duty it was to preserve the worship of Jehovah in its purity, was the first to sanction idolatry, in making and setting up the golden calf; and Moses, the meekest man in all the earth, was excluded from the land of Canaan for an outpouring of anger at the waters of Meribah. In the New Testament, Peter, the strongest in the faith, openly denies his Master; and John, the gentlest and most loving of the disciples, wishes to call down fire from heaven to consume those who refused to receive his Lord. The failing of Solomon, whose distinguishing glory it was to build a house for the Lord, a settled habitation where He might dwell forever, though inconsistent with his religious profession and eminent piety, was but too concordant with his natural corruptions. Such failings, common, in a greater or less degree, to all men, proclaim, from age to age and from day today, the great truth, that even those who are ingrafted into the true vine, though they receive new life and bring forth new fruits, still retain their old nature, their corrupt selfhood, and are only preserved from the grossest evils and the deepest hell by the unfailing mercy and sustaining power of the Lord and Saviour. And what is the great lesson which this teaches us? It teaches us the general lesson of profound humility, of distrust in ourselves, and constant dependence on Him who alone is pure and holy; and it teaches the particular lesson, that on those very points in which the Christian excels, and on which in consequence he is most liable to fall into spiritual pride, he is permitted to be tried, that he may have a constant practical sense of his own inherent weakness in that wherein his spiritual strength lies. However strong the Christian may be, yet if the hair of his Nazarite-ship is shaven off, he will become weak, and be like any other man. With the seven locks of his head with the holy principles of his regenerate life—all his spiritual power departs, and he becomes the slave and the sport of the lusts and imaginations of his own evil heart. However highly regenerated and endued with spiritual strength and virtue the Christian disciple maybe, his natural vileness and feebleness as a son of Adam remain, and his departure from the stale of faithfulness and integrity to which he has attained reduces him to a lower than his original condition. It is one thing, however, to fall entirely away from a state of righteousness, and another to betray our natural weakness in the chequered scenes of the probationary life. To expect or to affect exemption from this would be to put in our claim for being more than mortal. In this respect, we see the essential difference between every child of fallen Adam, who originally was made a living soul, and the second Adam, who was made a quickening spirit. The Lord inherited our frail nature and endured more than all human trials. In these respects, He was like His brethren according to the flesh. By taking upon Him human nature from a daughter of Eve, He placed Himself on a level with the lowest of His creatures. But with all the hereditary tendencies and inherent frailty of His maternal humanity, tempted beyond all possible or conceivable human experience, the Lord Jesus, though bowing under the weight of all hereditary evils and most direful temptations, never yielded, either by consent or commission, to the influences that bore so powerfully upon Him, and the authors of which would have triumphed over His least transgression of the law. We may not hope to reach any power of endurance or unswerving integrity like His. Yet it is through His that we are enabled in any degree to resist temptation or to fulfil the Divine law. And while our shortcomings should remind us of the immense distance between the Christian, in his best state, and the Author of Christianity; the pattern and the power which we find in Him who lived and died, and rose and ascended for us and before us, should teach us how great is our advantage, and how willing and ready we should be to use it.
The death-like the life of Solomon may be considered as equally relating to the Lord and to the Christian disciple. In reference to either the blemishes of the king’s life do not represent actual evils. So far as they refer to evils, they represent temptations to commit them; and only so far include the idea of actual evil, which is sin, as is necessarily connected with every act of imperfect man: for there is no man that lives and sins not.
The death of Solomon, in its highest representative sense, does not of necessity represent the Lord’s death, nor even His resurrection, to which His death led, and which arose out of it, as He rose from the grave. The death of representative characters may have reference to any change by which the progressive work of glorification, and, in the secondary sense, of regeneration, is carried by successive degrees to its completion. Death, indeed, involves the idea of resurrection, since death to the body is a resurrection to the soul. But the death of Solomon represents the ascension of the Lord rather than His resurrection. The Lord’s ascension was the complement and the completion of His resurrection. He died that He might rise, He rose that He might ascend. The Lord was our Exemplar even in His death, and resurrection, and ascension. His glorification was the pattern of our regeneration, from our birth to our entrance into heaven. Every man has his death, his resurrection, and his ascension. When the body dies the soul rises into the world of spirits, the Hades of the New Testament, the common receptacle for all souls on their first entrance into the eternal world; and after the necessary preparation there, the righteous ascend into heaven, where they are ever with the Lord. Jesus, whose glorifying work required that He should pass through all states answering to those of man’s regeneration and final salvation, passed through these final states and experiences also. His resurrection was into the world of spirits, and after forty days He ascended into heaven. He several times indeed appeared to His disciples who were in the natural world, and when He was about to ascend into heaven He led them out as far as Bethany, where His ascension took place. But although the disciples, to whom He appeared, were in the natural world, they did not see Him with their natural eyes, nor hear Him with their natural ears, nor cognise Him by any of their natural senses. They saw and heard and felt Him with their spiritual senses, those senses which, when the material body is laid aside once and forever, cognise objects at least as sensibly and perfectly as the natural senses cognised objects in the natural world. And the Lord, when He ascended, led the disciples out as far as Bethany, for the sake of the correspondence in accordance with which the Lord always both spoke and acted. There He had raised Lazarus from the dead, which represented the raising up of the Church anew, the celestial and spiritual affections of which were represented by Mary and Martha, their brother representing the truth which was restored to them from the dead. As the disciples beheld the Lord’s ascension with their spiritual eyes, they were virtually and sensibly present in the spiritual world; and from that part of the spiritual world which is intermediate between earth and heaven, the Lord actually ascended.
In conformity the Apostle Paul speaks of the Lord in this wise: “Now that He ascended, what is it but that He also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that He might fill all things “(Ephesians 4:9, 10). The apostle speaks of the Lord as first making a descent, and into the lower parts of the earth. What does he mean by this? What are the lower parts of the earth to which He descended? Some understand them to mean the profound depths of the earth on which we dwell, and that Jesus literally descended into these material depths as well as above all heavens, that He might fill, or fulfil, all things. The apostle could not teach anything so meaningless as this. The lower parts of the earth, to which the Lord descended after His resurrection, were the lower parts of the world of spirits, called the lower earth, where certain of the souls of departed men had been preserved until the Lord should come into the world, and, after He had accomplished the work of Redemption and glorified His humanity, deliver them from what may be called a state of bondage, and take them up with Him into heaven, when He ascended through it far above all heavens into the light, that no man can approach to. This lower earth is what the Apostle Peter calls a prison, and those who are preserved in it he calls the spirits in prison, in that remarkable passage respecting the meaning of which there has been much speculation: “For Christ also has once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: by which also He went and preached to the spirits in prison; which sometime were disobedient, when once the long-suffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls, were saved by water. The like figure whereunto even baptism does also now save us, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ: who is gone into heaven and is on the right hand of God; angels, and authorities, and powers being made subject to Him” (1 Peter 3:18-22). This passage, which commentators acknowledge to be obscure, and which must appear dark to those who deny the existence of a middle state, affords valuable testimony to the truth of an important doctrine of the Lord’s New Church.
It has already been remarked that the Lord came into the world to save the spiritual and that all were of the spiritual character or genius who lived from the time of Noah, or from the commencement of the Ancient Church.
It is the common belief of Christians that after the Fall there was no salvation for sinners but in Jesus Christ. But how were men saved by a redemption that was not effected for ages after they had lived and died? They were saved, it is said, by faith in the coming Saviour. But how did faith save them? Their faith was counted to them for righteousness. But how was their faith counted to them for righteousness? Faith was the forerunner of righteousness. Faith in Christ before the Incarnation was perfected by the righteousness of Christ after the Incarnation. No man can be saved without being regenerated, and no one could be regenerated until the Lord was glorified. He was the first-fruits of them that slept, the first-born of every creature, the beginning of the creation of God. Whatever else these Scripture declarations include, they teach the all-important truth, that the Lord Jesus Christ was the Author, because the beginning, of that spiritual awakening from the sleep of spiritual death into which mankind had fallen, which prepared them to receive the life which Christ had to give them; the first of every creature in whom fallen humanity was born again, and thus the beginning of that new creation by which men would become new creatures.
We have already spoken on this subject, in explaining how the faithful who lived before the Lord’s coming was able to receive from Him, and through His redemption, the forgiveness of sins that were past. They remained in the middle state, as prisoners of hope, until the Lord had risen from the dead, when, by virtue of the works of redemption and glorification He had performed in the world, He was able to complete in them the work of regeneration, which could not be completely effected before. Those who thus waited for deliverance were, as we have said, the spiritual, who had lived from the time of Noah. The judgement which took place in the world of spirits at the time of the Lord’s first advent was upon the Ancient Church, or on all who had lived in the world from the commencement of that Dispensation. For although the Hebrew and the Israelitish Churches were, in a certain sense, dispensations having a distinctive character, they were but prolongations of the Ancient Church and had nothing of spiritual vitality in them except what they had derived from it. They were only provided to prolong the existence of the spiritual Church, until the fullness of time, when the Lord should come into the world.
While the reign of Solomon represented more peculiarly that part of the process of the Lord’s glorification which consisted in His making His humanity Divine Good, it included in it, representatively, the Lord’s work in the spiritual world, between His resurrection and ascension. Except in the Writings of the New Church, no satisfactory view has ever been presented of where the Lord was or what He did during the forty days that intervened between these two great events.
Certainly no idea has been entertained of the Redeemer is engaged in performing a great work in the spiritual world, no less a work than reaping the harvest that had been growing up since the days of Noah, of separating the wheat from the tares, binding the tares in bundles to burn them, and gathering the wheat into His garner. The good had not only to be separated from the evil, like the Israelites from* the Egyptians, but they had to be brought through the Red Sea, and led through the wilderness, and introduced through the Jordan into their land of Canaan. They had to pass through that perfecting process which had been commenced but could not be completed upon earth, that in them the prophetic utterance of the Psalmist might receive its accomplishment, “You have ascended on high, You have led captivity captive: You have received gifts for men; yea, for the rebellious also, that the Lord God might dwell among them” (Psalm 68:18).
The death of Solomon represents, therefore, the Lord’s ascension rather than His resurrection, which was represented by the death of David. This will further appear from the history itself.
Solomon, like David, reigned forty years. As types of the Lord, their forty years’ reign finds each its parallel in the forty days during which the Lord was in the wilderness and the forty days that intervened between His resurrection and ascension. The forty days during which our Lord was in the wilderness represented the duration of His temptations in the world; for wilderness is symbolic of temptation, and forty, whether it be days or years, is expressive of their duration. The forty days which intervened between the Lord’s resurrection and ascension were also symbolic of temptation, but the temptations now were not temptations of the Lord, but of the redeemed in the world of spirits.
We may now turn from this view of the subject, as relating to the Lord Himself, whom, in the highest sense, Solomon represented, to that view which shows it in relation to the Lord’s disciples, who are privileged to follow Him, and to see His Divine work reflected and practically realized in their own.
Solomon, at the end of his forty years’ reign, “slept with his fathers.” This beautiful phrase, which occurs so often in the Old Testament Scriptures, which might convey to the Israelitish people only a carnal though tender feeling, expresses to the Christian a beautiful spiritual truth. The Christian is enabled to think of death as the gate of life, as that which introduces the soul into the company of the faithful of his spiritual as well as of his natural kindred. In the spiritual sense, death and burial do not mean resurrection into the other world merely —a resurrection which is common to the evil and to the good, for all live to God—but they mean also resurrection into a new state of spiritual life, a state of spiritual love and faith. This resurrection is peculiar to the faithful. It is that which is called resurrection from the death of sin to the life of righteousness. This the wicked know not; this they never experience. And it is for this reason that burial was refused among the Jews to such as had been guilty of great crimes, or even of grave offences; and that death and the grave themselves are so frequently spoken of as if they implied an entire end of human existence. But when the phrase occurs of the dead were gathered to their fathers, a peculiar state which the regenerate have attained is implied by it. For the term father is expressive of the principle of goodness, as son is of the principle of truth; for truth proceeds from good as a son from a father. Nor is anything meant by the names Father and Son, in relation to the Divine Being Himself, but the Divine Goodness and Truth. When our Lord declared that He came forth from the Father and that He returned to the Father, He instructed us, that He, as the Divine Truth, came forth from the Divine Goodness, or as the Divine Wisdom from “the Divine Love; and that after effecting the work of regeneration and glorification, He returned to the Divine Goodness or Love—to the glory which He had with the Father before the world was; but that He returned as the Word made flesh and glorified. In the highest representative sense, the phrase thus refers to the Lord’s return to His Father, in and with His glorified Humanity. And this return was the result and the expression of so intimate a union, that the Lord, after He had made His humanity Divine Truth in the world, made it Divine Good after His departure out of the world; and this making His humanity Divine Good was connected with and represented by His forty days’ presence with the spirits of the just who was being made perfect. In relation to the Christian, this language is expressive of a corresponding work. The regenerate are gathered to their fathers when they have passed from a state of truth into a state of goodness—from a state of wisdom into a state of love, from a state of faith into a state of charity. Such a change of state is but an image of that which is expressed by the Lord’s return to the Father, for the states of life attainable by the faithful are but the shadows as they are the effects of those which the Lord effected in Himself. Because He lives, we shall live also. Because He lifted His humanity up from its earthly state, He will draw all men who are willing to be drawn from their earthly states to Himself. Because He has returned to His Father, we can ascend to Him as our Father. Because He has become as to His humanity the Divine Love itself, we can be raised into a state of love.
But Solomon not only slept with his fathers, but he was buried in the city of David his father. David represented the Lord as to Divine Truth. But David is here spoken of as a father. And David as a father is expressive of Divine Truth derived from Divine Good. Truth with the regenerate exists in two different states; or, there are two kinds of truth which they possess in the two general stages of their regeneration. There is a truth that leads to goodness, and there is a truth derived from goodness. In the first general stage of the regenerate life, the Christian acquires knowledge of goodness, and by means of that knowledge, he strives after goodness. His first truth, therefore, has no goodness in it, his first faith has not to love in it because he is as yet only striving after goodness and love. Hut when goodness and love have been attained, his truth and faith change their character. His truth becomes united to good, his faith to love. Henceforth his truth is no longer a means and an instrument by which good is sought after and attained, but a means and instrument by which good works out its own purposes by truth; faith is no longer a faith that looks and strives after love, but a faith that works by love, or by which love works out its ends. Such is the truth and such is the faith of the regenerate, as distinguished from those of men who are being regenerated. Entrance into this new state of life is spiritually meant by Solomon being buried in the city of David his father. That city was Zion. As a city, it represents the truth of the highest kind—truth grounded in goodness the goodness that comes from love to the Lord. The city of David his father is the truth of the Church derived from the Divine Truth of the Divine Good itself. In reference to the regenerate, the death and burial of the great king of Israel point in the significant language of representatives to the new birth of the soul into the life of heavenly love and truth, which may be considered as completing that sublime work, which is the first and last end of all the other Divine works of the Lord, the regeneration and salvation of the human soul.