Philo, On Flight and Finding

LCL 275: 8-9

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Sabbatical year (166–172). This last naturally leads to some thought on the Sabbatical gift of peace (173–174), but to Philo’s mind the best example is the promise to the Israelites in Deuteronomy of cities, houses, cisterns, vineyards, oliveyards, for which they have not laboured, all of them really types of spiritual blessings (175–176).

The next phrase in the text which calls for discussion is “spring of water.” “Spring” is used as the symbol for five different things: first for the mind, which in the Creation story is described as the spring which waters the whole face of the earth, i.e. of the body (177–182); secondly it is used for education, and thus the twelve springs of Elim or “gateway” signify the Encyclia, the gateway to knowledge; and, since beside these springs there grew up seventy palm-trees, we have a short digression on the virtues of the two numbers (183–187). Thirdly there are the springs of folly, and this is illustrated by the phrase “uncovering the fount of the woman,” where the woman is sense and her husband mind, and uncovering the fount comes when the sleeping mind allows each of the senses to have free play (188–193). Fourthly there are the springs of wisdom, from which Rebecca drew (194–196); and fifthly God Himself, Who is called by Jeremiah the fountain of life. And since Jeremiah adds that the wicked dig for themselves broken cisterns which hold no water, we see the contrast with the wise who, like Abraham and Isaac, dig real wells (197–201).

The fountain by which Hagar was found was the fountain of wisdom, but hers was not yet a soul which could draw from it (202). The treatise concludes with shorter notes on a few other phrases

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in the passage. When the angel asked, “Whence comest thou, and whither goest thou?” it was not because he did not know the answer, since his omniscience is shewn by his knowing that the child would be a boy. The first part of the question was a rebuke for her flight, the second an indication of the uncertainty of the future (205–206). Something is added about the description given in the angel’s words of the Ishmael or sophist nature (207–211). And finally we note that Hagar acknowledges the angel as God, for to one in her lower stage of servitude God’s servants are as God Himself (211–end).

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DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.philo_judaeus-flight_finding.1934