Our world is full of opposing forces without which the universe would die. There is a dualism in creation that ensures that everything is continuously changing, and it is the interplay of these polar opposites that keeps the cogs of the cosmic machine in ceaseless motion.
A number of these polarities can be cited, but of course a fundamental example is that of positive and negative charges. These opposites are attracted to each other, while the same charges repel ensuring a continual dance of matter at all levels of the physical universe. Electricity, the power of the modern world is generated through the oscillation of charge from positive to negative and back again. So too is light and all forms of radiation on which we depend on this planet.
We can also think of the example of kinetic and potential energy which drives ceaseless motion in the universe. The pendulum illustrates this concept as its arm swings back and forth from one extreme to another almost indefinitely, continuously interchanging both forms of energy in an unbroken chain.
Other opposites like hot and cold are responsible for the wind, for air moves from lower to higher temperatures. Similarly air flows from higher to lower pressures, the mechanism that ensures our breathing, for it is the continual movement of the diaphragm to cycle between inspiration and expiration that keeps us alive.
Indeed life itself which by definition is continuous change within the organism is tied to the interplay of opposing forces. Even before the scientific age in which we understand the primary forces of nature, man seemed to recognize the importance of polar opposites perhaps more on a philosophical level as necessary to sustaining life. On a biological level, it is of course the interaction between opposite sexes, male and female that generates new life whether it be in the human, animal, or plant kingdoms. And the ancients extrapolated from this knowledge the idea that there must be balance between the opposing forces to support life. In the Far East, they assigned to all objects animate and inanimate a designation of Yin or Yang and built an ideological system of thought around it with far reaching spiritual implications.
Yin is conceived of as earth, female, dark, passive, and absorbing. It characterizes the cool and shady northern face of a hill and is consequently linked with the lesser light of the moon. Yang on the other hand is understood as heaven, male, light, active, and penetrating. It portrays the warm and sunny southern face of a hill and so is associated with the brighter light of the sun. With this in mind, the energetic colors like orange and yellow which describe the sun are Yang, while the cooler colors like blue and violet are Yin.
Whatever opposites are envisioned as falling under Yin or Yang, each polarity is depicted as one half of a circle. In this way Yin and Yang complement each other so that together they form a complete circle, the symbol of perfection. Ideally each opposing force is in balance with the other to result in an ideal or harmonious condition and this philosophy has particularly manifested itself in Chinese pathology and medicine. As just the right amount of hot and cold produce an ideal temperature to live in, and as just the right amount of sun and shade yield a favorable environment, so too must Yin and Yang within the body be in balance for optimum health. Too much Yin and too little Yang or vice versa results in imbalance and disharmony and treatment entails restoring equilibrium between the opposing forces.
On a spiritual level, Yin and Yang are also interpreted to mean complimentary sides of the Supreme Being. That is to say, in Far Eastern thinking, God is both male and female. Interestingly, in the ancient Near East, this idea was also prevalent though in a polytheistic framework. Each civilization had its own pantheon of gods & goddesses which represented the divine masculine and feminine, and it was not uncommon to have a few major deities at the head of such pantheons. Often they were the “father” and “mother” of all the others, for it was believed that all of the lesser deities must have had some beginning just as any mortal would. In Canaan, this father of the gods was known as El which in the Semitic languages simply means “mighty.” He was the god in common to the whole region known by other titles such as Illabi (father god) and by the name El Elyon (God Most High) to Abraham. El was believed to have a wife named Asherah who brought forth many lesser deities. She the mother of all gods was formally known as “Asherah of the Sea” but also had the title of “Queen of Heaven” as she is referred to in the Old Testament. And though it was forbidden she was worshipped by the Israelites at various times as the major female deity.
Often it was the case that the major male deity was associated with the Sun as the Far Eastern concept of Yang would suggest. In Babylon, Shamash whose name means “sun” was naturally the prominent sun-god of the people. Ishtar on the other hand was known as the major female deity of Babylon. Known as the Great Mother she was popular not only in that region but around the Mediterranean. She was sometimes called the “mother-moon” which links her with the Oriental concept of Yin. The designation of a masculine sun and a feminine moon seems to have been part of the fabric of all Semitic languages, for even in Hebrew, the word for sun, Shemesh is male while the term for moon, Jericho is female.
The Israelites clearly had a Semitic religious heritage at their root which was both multigender and polytheistic. Undoubtedly this made it difficult for them to accept the monotheism that Moses was delivering to them. Though it might not have been clear to them at the time, Moses nonetheless presented Yahweh as a God divisible by parts. The famous Old Testament prayer known as the Shema says, “Here O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One.” Interestingly the Hebrew word for One is “echad”, meaning united. Here was a veiled allusion to the Trinity, yet just one of many. In the first chapter of Genesis, Moses writes the Creation story and relates that God said, “Let us make man in our image, male and female.” Not only do we see plurality in this proclamation but also the idea that both genders are found in the Godhead, a notion that would certainly be consonant with both the traditions of the Near and Far East.
Moses taught the Israelites about God under the special name of Yahweh which we commonly translate as The LORD. In Hebrew it is written as four consonants, the famous Tetragrammaton YHWH. Many scholars have recognized how the holy name of God captures the essence of both genders, for Y (yodh) is masculine while H (he) is feminine. Some have suggested that the first syllable of the name, YAH is consequently male while the second, WEH is decidedly female.
Perhaps we in modern times can see these allusions to both plurality and multigender in the name of God. But the primitive Israelites almost assuredly could not. The framework that Moses gave them was hard to adapt to, and so we have historical evidence that many of the people worshipped both Yahweh and his consort who might be thought of as Yahweh’s wife. Israelite engravings in southern Palestine attest to this belief among the Chosen People, one which undoubtedly persisted for many centuries up until the Exile.
Nonetheless feminine allusions to God continued to appear especially among the writings of the prophets. We have the words of the Psalmist who declared, “He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge.” Speaking for God, Isaiah tells us, “As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you.” He also relates God’s affection for Israel asking, “Can a mother forget her baby, or the child within her womb? Even if she should forget, I will never forget you, O Israel.”
We shouldn’t be surprised to know then that the Hebrew word for “Spirit” as in the Spirit of God is decidedly feminine. It is the word “Ruwach” which translates as “breath” or “wind.” This notion carries over seamlessly into the New Testament where we have the formal recognition of the Trinity. At Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan, all three members of the Trinity were present. Jesus as the Divine Son was physically in the water while the Divine Father spoke as a voice from heaven. The Holy Spirit also descended in the form of a dove upon the beloved Son. It is significant that this third member of the Blessed Trinity came down as this delicate and gentle bird, for stretching back for centuries, the dove symbolized female deities of the Near East. Often depicting the fertility goddess, it stood for peace, purity, and constancy. In this regard we understand the Holy Spirit as the Divine Mother, the eternal Spouse of the Divine Father and the Mother of the Divine Son. The Primordial Family is consequently the ancient forerunner and prototype of all the families of creation. Recognized as such by Early Church Fathers of the Near East (i.e. Aaphrahat of Persia), these clerics referred to “God [their] Father and the Holy Spirit [their] Mother.”
We have seen that within many religious traditions including our own, there is an idea that both male and female exist within the Godhead. These two opposing attributes dwell within the Supreme Being as complementary natures, balancing each other and emanating harmony and peace to the whole creation. Naturally the idea of marriage in our physical realm reflects this principle of the Deity, for the things of earth are by design made to mirror the things of heaven. What is true of the macrocosm is also true of the microcosm, and so we understand on a spiritual level that because there is masculine and feminine in the Godhead there is also by extension both of these qualities within each individual person. In an ideal situation, both forces within man are in balance which we might call the “inner marriage,” a unity between the masculine and feminine poles within us just as they are in harmony within God.
What we might identify as male and female attributes would certainly make up a lengthy list, but we could boil down the essence of each gender to a couple of overarching concepts for simplicity. Often the mind of man is said to be subdivided into two parts which we might call the objective and subjective minds. The former is known as the intellect while the latter is understood to be the emotions. Historically the male sex has generally been linked with the analytical side of a person while the female gender has been associated with the sentimental side. In common language we might refer to both of these parts as the head and heart of man respectively.
When there is lop-sidedness between the two poles within us, problems often arise. The intellect by itself can be cold and calculating when untempered by sensitivity to others and the world around it. On the other hand, the emotions by themselves ultimately prove to be irrational without the voice of reason to accompany them. Likewise when there is an inner estrangement of head and heart, turmoil also arises in the individual, for we can only be conflicted when the intellect proposes an idea that the heart cannot embrace or vice versa. An open channel of communication between the two sides is absolutely essential to being a healthy balanced person, just as a marriage between a man and a woman can only be successful with regular exchange between the two parties.
On a spiritual level, the faculties of intellect and emotion are raised to a higher level. The purified objective mind comes to be characterized by divine wisdom while the purified subjective mind comes to be marked by divine love. From a biblical perspective, it is this unity of wisdom and love in the individual that is illustrated through numerous narratives for us to glean a sense of the importance of the inner marriage. As we examine various stories within the Old Testament we will take note of how balance between the two polarities is essential to one’s spiritual illumination and understanding. We will observe how spiritual fruitfulness is tied to head and heart in unison not unlike how procreation is linked to a man and woman in the physical realm. And we will see how unleashing divine power within us is mandated by an inner harmony of love and wisdom just like how two partners in a marriage are stronger together than each is individually.
We begin first by considering briefly the motif of gold and silver as they appear in the Old Testament. Historically, gold which is the color of the sun reflects the divine masculine principle, while silver the color of the moon symbolizes the divine feminine principle. Both of these very valuable metals found their way into the furnishing and fashioning of the Jewish tabernacle and later on the temple.
The original instruction to Moses featured the tabernacle built with frames of wood overlaid with gold and bases for the frames made of silver. Additionally the hooks that suspended the curtains of the tabernacle were made of both silver and gold. In the time of the temple we understand from the Book of Ezra that all of the plates, bowls, and pans associated with the sacrificial rituals were made of gold and silver. All of this wealth of the temple had been carted away to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar at the beginning of the Exile, and of course as a spiritual low point for the people of God this was in fact very relevant. The physical temple erected by the Jews was certainly a symbol of the inner temple or each individual’s spiritual self. (We might recall that the Apostle Paul said that we are each the temple of the Holy Spirit.) The confiscation of these twin metals from the building at Jerusalem was a final sign that God in both the male and female natures had been driven from the hearts of the Israelites as they began their season of captivity.
Of significance, King Cyrus of Persia who authorized the rebuilding of the temple decades after its destruction by the Babylonians instructed that the people return and “provide [God] with silver and gold, with goods and livestock, and with freewill offerings for the temple of God in Jerusalem.” Ultimately he decreed, “The gold and silver articles of the house of God, which Nebuchadnezzar took from the temple in Jerusalem and brought to Babylon, are to be returned to their places in the temple in Jerusalem; they are to be deposited in the house of God.” Certainly the restoration of these two precious metals signified the return of God, male and female to his abode in the Holy City.
It seems that the symbolic import of gold and silver was high especially at the high water mark of Israelite kingdom under Solomon. We are told that “the king made silver and gold as common in Jerusalem as stones” and from that statement we may perhaps infer that the physical prosperity of the kingdom at that time was also in no small way tied to its embrace of Yahweh in a balance of both male and female qualities.
It seems from biblical internal evidence, that Solomon and his father David had an understanding of the masculine and feminine essences within God, and this was reflected in the Wisdom literature of the period. Particularly this is true of the Song of Solomon which may be interpreted as a poem celebrating love in the union of a man and a woman or alternatively as a symbol of the union between God (male) and the human soul (female.) In the first chapter of that ballad, the Lover says to his Beloved, “We will make you earrings of gold, studded with silver” which provides a poignant image of the twin divine natures in union.
In the Proverbs which were mostly written by Solomon, we find somewhat of a cryptic verse but one that we may interpret in line with our current theme. He writes, “A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.” The imagery of this saying conveys to us that when someone speaks something of value, it is both full of wisdom (gold) and overflowing with love (silver.) This is especially true of the words of a friend which rebuke a neighbor in a compassionate way, for Solomon also said, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.”
Silver and gold are only two of many images of the twin divine principles in the Bible. We examine now those narratives that illustrate the fruitfulness of the union between the spiritual masculine and feminine within the individual, and we begin with a brief account from the Book of Numbers which depicts such a concept.
When the Israelites had first approached Canaan as they came out of Egypt, they sent spies into the land to explore it and bring back a report on its people, terrain, and vitality. Apparently what they found was indeed a land of “milk and honey,” abundant in vegetation and fruit as indeed we would expect of the Promised Land. We are told, “When they reached the Valley of Eshcol, they cut off a branch bearing a single cluster of grapes. Two of them carried it on a pole between them, along with some pomegranates and figs.” In Hebrew Eshcol means cluster, as in a bunch of grapes or other fruit. Apparently the size of the grapes was enormous so that it was necessary for two men to carry it back together. The image that is presented before us is a large cluster of grapes and other fruit suspended on a shaft between two people, one representing the masculine and the other the feminine spiritual pole. That they are balancing this rod between them indicates an equilibrium between these opposing forces with great spiritual fruitfulness as a result.
Not only do the large grapes capture this idea, but in an even more significant way so do the pomegranates and figs that the spies also bore on the beam between them. The former term is a Latin hybrid combining the words “pomum” (apple) and “granatum” (seeded.) This “many-seeded apple” is comprised of hundreds of seeds encapsulated in a succulent pulp. The myriad of seeds found in this fruit symbolizes spiritual proliferation and life giving substance. Significantly this concept was present in the Mosaic Law, for it was instructed that the vestments of the high priest be made with ornamental pomegranates. The Book of Exodus says, “They made upon the hems of the robe pomegranates of blue and purple and scarlet, and twined linen.” Also of importance, in the Song of Solomon, the Beloved was said to be as a fruitful garden whose “plants are an orchard of pomegranates.” Like the pomegranate, the fig which is also featured in this espionage narrative is a fruit full of one seeded capsules though drier than the pomegranate. Nonetheless it carries with it the same degree of symbolism in this particular story.
The fruitfulness that accompanies the union of wisdom and love in an individual may also be depicted in another familiar story from the Book of Kings. In the chapter that we are first introduced to Elijah the great prophet, we are told that there was a drought in the land and as a result famine was spreading. Elijah, himself was both hungry and thirsty, and coming to a town named Zarephath, he met a widow as he was entering the gate and asked her for a cup of water and for a piece of bread. She replied that she only had one measure of flour left and a little oil and was preparing to bake a small cake for her and her son before they both died. However, Elijah requested that she not be afraid but make a sacrifice for the sake of a visitor baking him a small cake first before proceeding to make another for her and her son. Elijah promised that if she should oblige him, “The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord gives rain on the land.” We are informed that the woman elected to follow the prophet’s instructions, and indeed there was food every day for Elijah, the woman, and her son until the drought was over.
The setting of our story is one in which the countryside is feeling the effects of hunger and thirst from a severe drought. The woman (the feminine pole of spirit) along with her son were in a partial state of starvation, down to their last handful of flour (spiritual substance) and last jug of oil (joy.) We understand that she was a widow and therefore deprived of a “male counterpart” in her life, and we infer that this condition was somehow exacerbating her lack. But along came Elijah (the masculine pole of spirit) who was also in state of hunger and thirst and proposed to her a deal. Perhaps thinking she had nothing to lose at that point, she agreed to his terms (forged a union with him) and miraculously the jar of flour and jug of oil began to increase so that there was enough for them all long-term. The narrative demonstrates for us the idea that when love and wisdom are separated, both are in a state of lack, but when they are joined together in consciousness (the inner marriage) increase begins at once and there is abundant good. But this union could only come about as would any who enter a marriage. First, the two parties must each overcome the fear of entering into such an arrangement, that is the loss of control which comes with being autonomous. (Elijah told the widow not to be afraid.) Then with this step taken, each party must then sacrifice its own best interests for the other. (The widow gave Elijah the only food she had left.) When these steps are accomplished, the synergy of the union of masculine and feminine is much greater than each of the separated entities combined and there is spiritual fruitfulness.
In the past couple narratives that we have examined, we have identified living people as representatives of the spiritual masculine and feminine principles, but certainly inanimate objects can tell the same kind of story. Such is the case with a couple prominent structures in the temple of Solomon. At the entrance to this magnificent edifice were two large pillars flanking the door. Fashioned out of bronze, they each stood approximately 27 feet high and were each about 6 feet wide. On top of each pillar was a capital that was elaborately ornamented with rows of pomegranates, lilies, and interwoven chains. Though it is by no means sure, some scholars have suggested that each capital contained fire, lighting up the area and emitting smoke to symbolize Yahweh’s presence.
We are told that Solomon named the two pillars that he erected at the portico of his temple. The one on the left hand side he called “Jachin,” while the one on the right he dubbed “Boaz.” The former means “He establishes,” and the latter translates “In him is strength.” With the temple facing the East, Jachin was situated on the south side of the building, while Boaz was on the north. And recalling our survey of the concepts of Yin & Yang, we would symbolically identify Jachin as male and Boaz as female.
Extrapolating from this, some spiritual writers have seen in these twin pillars the relationship between God (masculine) and the soul (feminine) which might be called the “mystical marriage” of the individual with his creator. Of course this is the same idea as the nation of Israel symbolizing the wife of Yahweh or the Church as the Bride of Christ. In this respect, the pillars symbolize the partnership between God and the soul along the salvation journey. It may be construed as the balance between human effort and divine grace that ultimately brings the soul into the full embrace of God. Boaz our northern feminine pillar represents the soul’s efforts to approach God, the labors of the individual in conjunction with its own problems and suffering which we generalize as PRAYER. It is this offering which ascends towards heaven to be met by the Creator with the reciprocation of BENEDICTION (signified by Jachin our southern masculine pillar.) When we make an effort to come to God he always responds to strengthen us in our striving by pouring down graces upon us in the form of illumination, consolations, and other spiritual fruits.
Like an endless circle which often characterizes a marriage, the soul offers up its prayer to God and then in return it receives the Almighty’s benediction coming down from above to nourish it, and so the endless loop of giving and receiving continues. The cyclical relationship is naturally mirrored in our own physical breathing, for expiration from our lungs captures the idea of human effort while inspiration epitomizes God’s grace being poured into us. It is within the lungs that de-oxygenated or “blue blood” returns from being spent in the body (prayer) only to leave as re-oxygenated or “red blood” going out to rejuvenate (benediction) the body once again.
The spiritual ideas of male and female can signify many things, and while God and the soul are legitimate meanings, in keeping with our theme, the two genders certainly represent masculine and feminine poles which must come into a reciprocal relationship within the person. Jachin and Boaz can just as easily symbolize the male and female forces in a human soul that are to be in balance and therefore supporting the temple (or inner temple.) That we see these pillars adorned with pomegranates unquestionably advances the concept of fruitfulness when the “inner marriage” is realized. Although we also take note that lilies decorated the pillars as well. Unquestionably, they signify purity because of their white color, but there is another nuance that we could contemplate in this particular flower.
The lily has a characteristic tube-like shape to it that flares out at the end. In many ways it resembles a trumpet, and for this reason there is a variety of this flower known as the “trumpet lily.” In fact the Hebrew word shuwshan which is used for lily implies the trumpet type shape. In the bible, the trumpet is often depicted as an instrument of power. Its piercing vibratory force was employed to bring down the walls of Jericho in Israel’s conquest of Canaan. With a trumpet blast Gideon defeated the Midianites, and in many narratives we see it used as the people enter into battle with the enemy. Apparently, the symbolic value of the lily was in the mind of God in the words of the prophet Hosea who said, “I will be as the dew unto Israel, he shall grow as the lily.”
That we see the lily associated with the two great pillars of Jachin and Boaz, we might also infer that more than just fertility is linked to the union of masculine and feminine principles within the person. The joining together of the two poles results in an increase in spiritual power within the individual which may be depicted in a few additional stories from the Old Testament.
The two that we shall consider here both come from the life of Samson the judge. In one account Samson was seeking a wife and was interested in a particular woman who lived in a town of the Philistines. We are told that Samson together with his mother and father went to that town to make arrangements for a marriage, but along the road a young lion came out and charged. Then, “the Spirit of the Lord came upon him in power so that he tore the lion apart with his bare hands.” Some time later he came back to the carcass and found that a swarm of bees had taken up residence in it and there was consequently honeycomb in it as well. Samson took some of the honey and ate it and then gave it to his mother and father.
This fantastic story conveys more to us than just some incredible events in the chronicle of this “larger than life” judge. That both of his parents were present with him on his trip to the land of the Philistines hints at the dynamo that functions when one’s male and female qualities are unified. In this case, Samson’s mother and father represent his own inner male and female attributes, and their presence in this tale corroborates his supernatural demonstration of strength in slaying the lion with his bare hands.
As unbelievable as it may appear for one to kill a powerful beast like this without a weapon, we may be just as equally surprised that the cavity of the dead lion became the home of a bee colony. Perhaps stranger things have happened, but there is additional meaning to this passing reference that we might reflect on. In contrast to milk which is the food of babes and by symbolic implication, spiritual children in the words of the Apostle Paul, honey is the sustenance of the spiritually mature, “celestial” food that nourishes the soul. We are told that on one occasion Jonathan son of Saul dipped his staff in some wild honey, and bringing it to his mouth, his “eyes brightened.” Indeed it is inner enlightenment that is signified by this sweet substance, the privilege of those who have learned to balance wisdom and love within themselves. We are told that Samson gave this “heavenly” food to his parents which we might take to mean that he purposed to further fortify the masculine and feminine forces within himself, the source of his power.
As instructive as this story might be, the two polarities working together in great strength is probably best envisioned in the last episode of Samson’s life. After terrorizing the Philistines for a number of years, the judge was finally captured and his eyes were gouged out. His enemies rejoiced greatly, and they brought him to the temple of their god in thanksgiving. Standing him between the two great pillars that were supporting the temple, they led him out to entertain the crowds. While between the two columns of the building, he prayed to God asking for strength one more time to avenge himself on his enemies. Then bracing himself between the two mighty supports, with his right hand on one and his left hand on the other, he pushed with all of his might and brought down the entire temple dying along with several thousand people who were present.
Naturally we remember Samson for his superhuman strength, but all of that was lost when his hair was deceitfully cut off while he slept. Consequently he became powerless when the Philistines took him captive. But in this final account of his life, the judge demonstrates for us that supernatural power is found in the balance between head and heart, between wisdom and love that are in equilibrium. Even though he was outwardly blind, Samson found these twin pillars to brace himself between, and indeed we must locate these forces deep within ourselves, not with natural eyes but with spiritual vision to harness the power they bring.
So far we have considered how harmony between the masculine and feminine spiritual poles within us brings both fruitfulness and power. But we also suggested earlier that the balancing of the two forces within the individual is accompanied by a sense of illumination and inner enlightenment. Once again we examine the life of Samson to find this kind of imagery.
We are told in one account of his life that he went to the Philistine city of Gaza and spent the night with a prostitute. The people of the city learned that he was there and lay in wait for him at the city gate thinking to kill him at dawn. But Samson lay in bed only until the middle of the night at which point “he got up and took hold of the doors of the city gate, together with the two posts, and tore them loose, bar and all. He lifted them to his shoulders and carried them to the top of the hill that faces Hebron.”
Though a short narrative, this little anecdote nonetheless carries with it some allegorical meaning for us to contemplate. Despite being called by God as a Nazirite with a special mission, Samson was apparently morally lax on occasion, and so we see him frequenting a prostitute under cover of night. Symbolically, it is the night hours that represent our spiritual darkness and the sin that entangles us. It is during the night that we lay inert on our beds asleep signifying how we can be oblivious to the things of the spirit.
But the account suggests a change in Samson’s condition. Halfway into the night, he awoke and rose up depicting a departure from spiritual lethargy. His posture changed from horizontal (the things of earth) to vertical (the things of God) and proceeded to leave behind the city and the waywardness he indulged himself in while there. He uprooted the entire city gate including the two door posts along with the bar that joined them and carried them. Of course we see in this description the polarities of gender which this judge of Israel now takes upon himself balancing them across his shoulders (harmonizing them within himself.) With this gate borne on his shoulders, Samson climbed to the top of a hill which we interpret to mean that he received the enlightenment that comes with a “mountaintop” experience. Frequently, in the scriptures we see people having encounters with God on top of a high peak, and we could cite Mt. Sinai or the Mount of Transfiguration just to name a couple.
We are informed that Samson ascended the hill that faces Hebron, the Israelite city 38 miles away to the East. It is significant that this place is mentioned in the context of this passage, for Hebron means “joined, alliance, association.” Indeed it signifies the inner marriage of the objective and subjective minds, head and heart in a spiritual alliance. We can imagine by the time the judge reached the top of this hill, it was somewhere near dawn, and so we can envision the first rays of sunlight hitting his face from the East as he reached the top. In this we can also appreciate Samson’s name, for related to the Hebrew Shemesh which we have mentioned earlier, it is translated as “sunlight” and is unquestionably relevant to this allegory.
The City of Hebron was historically important in the Old Testament, especially for the monarchy, and we learn from the Book of Samuel that after Saul’s death, David was anointed king there and reigned over Israel for 7 years from that place. It is interesting to consider the details of that account, for we are told that he entered the city with his two wives, Ahinoam and Abigail in anticipation of receiving the kingship. A reflection on the names of these three is relevant, for the masculine and feminine poles are associated with the characters. Ahinoam means “brother of pleasantness,” while Abigail translates as “father of delight.” Both names therefore signify the masculine which we would associate with the ideal of wisdom. By contrast, David means “loving” and therefore symbolizes the ideal of love which is decidedly feminine. The marriage between David and his wives depicts this inner bond of love and wisdom that must characterize the spiritually mature. Of course, that David and his wives entered a city signifying the inner alliance of head and heart further underscores the importance of this idea.
We now close our survey of gender polarities with another story of David that also comes to us from the Book of Samuel. It was clear that David was to replace Saul as king, and of course this fomented an insane jealousy within Saul that he attempted to kill David on many occasions. In one account, Saul and his army were pursuing David when they made camp for the night. While they were all in a deep sleep, David and a companion entered the camp to the place where Saul lay. A spear was driven into the ground near the king’s head and Saul’s water bottle was also right beside him. David took both of these items, and we are told, “No one saw or knew about it, nor did anyone wake up.” Then David and his friend left to a distant hill where David chided Abner, Saul’s general for not adequately guarding the king.
We draw our attention to the two key elements in the story which we anticipate have more than superficial meaning. The spear stuck in the ground was traditionally used as a sign of a ruler’s headquarters and so it marked the place where Saul lay sleeping. As an instrument of war, we understand it to be a symbol of strength, power, or force and therefore epitomizes the masculine pole of spirit. By contrast, Saul’s water bottle represents the feminine. In allegory, the natural elements of earth and water are feminine while the elements of fire and air are masculine, very much in line with the concept of Yin/Yang. Water in the form of ocean or lake has a blue color to it which naturally ties in with this, but water is frequently associated with women because it is theorized that life first came from water as indeed new life comes from women. Without water every living thing would die as surely as without women our species would die out. We see religious figures frequently tied to water like the Greek goddess Aphrodite who was said to be born of the sea foam.
In this narrative, we saw both the spear and water jug lying near to Saul’s head indicating that they were both important to him. Now David who was to assume the kingship took them for himself as they would be critical to his own rule. We infer from this that the one who would be ruler, that is the one who would govern himself, controlling his passions and living according to the way of the spirit must take to himself both the masculine and feminine elements and reconcile them within himself. Of course this is an inner process that takes time, for we are told “No one saw it or knew about it.”
With this we conclude our examination of male and female polarities as they appear through biblical imagery. Suffice it to say, balancing the intellect with the emotions or on a higher level, wisdom with love is vital to one’s spiritual growth and progress. Much more could be said about this important duality for many symbolic pairs dot the pages of the scriptures. Whether it be the Urim and Thummim that were used to by the high priest to predict the future or the twin mountains of Gerizim and Ebal upon which the Israelites stood or even the two tablets of stone (one masculine relating to God and the other feminine relating to our neighbor,) there is a lesson in the subject of polarity. Ultimately our spiritual health is tied to reconciling such opposites, and so we remember the message of the Fourth Commandment: “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.”