« PreviousContinue »
BIBLE HISTORY OF THE JEWS.
CHAPTER XXXVI. David did not remain long at peace. The Philistines repeatedly came up against him, but they were at length, after some years, effectually put down : Gath, and many other cities, taken from them, and they themselves brought into subjection to the kings of Judah for 246 years.
The Moabites, the ancient enemies of Israel, were next attacked; some of them David put to death, and some he saved alive, and they became his servants, and brought him gifts.
“ David smote also Hadadezer,” the king of Zobah, “ as he went to stablish his dominion by the river Euphrates :" taking from him 1000 chariots, many horsemen and footmen, and destroying all his horses. The Syrians of Damascus came to succour Hadadezer, but David slew of them “ two and twenty thousand men,” put garrisons in their towns, and made them his servants. All the spoil that David took in these wars, did he dedicate to the Lord: he brought away shields of gold from Hadadezer's men, and brass from his cities. Josephus says that the brass which David took from the Syrians was of most excellent quality, surpassing in value gold itself; as the famous Corinthian brass, among the Greeks, surpassed other brass! All these treasures were stored up for the building of the future temple : to the service of which were also dedicated the vessels of gold, silver, and brass, brought by Jotham, son of Toi, king of Hamath, who sent to make a league with David, when he heard of his victory over Hadadezer ; “ for Hadadezer had wars with Toi.” He also smote the Ammonites and Syrians; and took also Rabbah,
the city of waters.' " And he took their king's crown from off his head (the weight whereof was a talent of gold with the precious stones), and it was set on David's head : and he brought forth the spoil of the city in great abun-, dance."
In fine, his arms were so crowned with success, that he extended his dominions from the banks of the river Euphrates on the east, to the shores of the Mediterranean Sea on the west : and from Mount Taurus on the north, to the frontiers of Egypt on the south.
All this while David did not neglect the internal affairs of his kingdom ; for we read that he “ executed judgment and justice unto all his people." (2 Sam. viii. 15.) Neither did he forget to inquire if any were left alive of the house of Saul, to whom he might show kindness for Jonathan's sake. And finding one, a son of Jonathan, who was “ lame on his feet,” he sent and fetched him, restored to him the hereditary lands of Saul, his grandfather, and gave him a fitting maintenance.
Thus far king David's reign was prosperous and happy: his fame “ went out into all lands; and the Lord brought the fear of him upon all nations.” God “ took him from the sheep-folds to feed Jacob his people, and Israel his inheritance, so he fed them according to the integrity of his heart, and guided them by the skilfulness of his hands.” So long as he served the Lord in righteousness he prospered! But suddenly he sinned; and fell from God: and God fell from him. His guilt in the matter of Uriah the Hittite (2 Sam. xi.), brought upon David the heavy
displeasure of Him who " accepteth not the persons of princes, nor regardeth the rich more than the poor.” He was made to pronounce judgment on his own sin, in the following manner.
The prophet Nathan came unto David and said, “There were two men in one city; the one rich, and the other poor. The rich man had exceeding many flocks and herds : but the poor man had nothing, save one little ewe lamb, which he had bought and nourished up; and it grew up together with him, and with his children ; it did eat of his own meat, and drink of his own cup, and lay in his bosom, and was unto him as a daughter. And there came a traveller unto the rich man, and he spared to take of his own flock and of his own herd, to dress for the wayfaring man that was come unto him; but took the poor man's lamb, and dressed it for the man that was come to him."
“ And David's anger was greatly kindled against the man; and he said to Nathan, As the Lord liveth, the man that hath done this thing shall surely die : and he shall. restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.”
“ And Nathan said unto David, Thou art the тап. , Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, I anointed thee king over Israel, and I delivered thee out of the hand of Saul; and I gave thee thy master's house, and thy master's wives into thy bosom, and gave thee the house of Israel and of Judah ; and if that had been too little, I would, moreover, have given unto thee such and such things. Wherefore hast thou despised the commandment of the Lord, to do evil in his sight? Thou hast killed Uriah the Hittite with
the sword, and hast taken his wife to be thy wife, and hast slain him with the sword of the children of Ammon. . Now therefore the sword shall never depart from thine house; because thou hast despised me, and hast taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be thy wife,'
“ And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the Lord. And Nathan said unto David, the Lord also hath put away thy sin ; thou shalt not die." His life was spared, “yet God inflicted upon him those temporal punishments which the prophet had denounced. The remainder of his days were as disastrous as the beginning had been prosperous."
The threatened evil soon came; and, as the prophet had declared, it arose in David's “ house,”—his foes were they of his own household: his most deadly enemy was his own dearly-loved son! This son, Absalom, had been an exile from his father's court for three years, because he had, in vengeance for insult received, slain his half brother. He was reinstated in his father's favour at the intercession, and by the stratagem of Joab, who saw that David's heart secretly yearned towards his banished son. And now, he repays his father's love with the blackest ingratitude. He tried to steal away the hearts of Israel from David. To do this, he was in the first place, eminently qualified by the beauty of his person.
“ In all Israel there was none to be so much praised as Absalom for his beauty ; from the sole of his foot even to the crown of his head there was no blemish in him." And he now began to ingratiate himself yet more ningly with the people who already loved him for his beauty and for his prowess in arms.
In order fully to understand how he set about doing this, we must bear in mind, that it is the duty of an oriental king to hear causes and to administer justice in his own proper person; which duty often becomes so burdensome, that it is found necessary to appoint judges to hear ordinary cases, reserving only a right of appeal at certain hours, to the sovereign. It would seem that David adopted the more popular measure of hearing causes himself, and that out of this very custom, discontent arose; of which Absalom availed himself to promote his own ends.
The greatest princes in the East rise early, and hold their levees soon after daybreak; the cool, early morning hour being favourable to exertion. Thus it was that “ Absalom rose up early, and stood beside the way of the gate : and it was so, that when any man that had a controversy came to the king for judgment, then Absalom called unto him, and said, Of what city art thou ? And he said, Thy servant is of one of the tribes of Israel. And Absalom said unto him, See, thy matters are good and right; but there is no man deputed of the king to hear thee. Absalom said moreover, Oh, that I were made judge in the land, that every man which hath any suit or cause might come unto me, and I would do him justice! And it was so, that when any man came nigh to him to do him obeisance, he put forth his hand, and took him, and kissed him. And on this manner did Absalom to all Israel that came to the king for judgment. So Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel."