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and tyrannical. Prosperity and power had turned his head, and developed all that was evil in him. Nero was not more unreasonable and bloodthirsty than was Saul in his latter days. Prosperity developed in Solomon a love of magnificence, in Nebuchadnezzar a towering vanity, but in Saul a malignant envy of all extraordinary merit, and a sullen determination to destroy the persons it adorned. The last person in his kingdom of whom apparently he had reason to be jealous, was the ruddy and beardless youth whom he had sent for to drive away his melancholy by his songs and music. Nor was it until David killed Goliath that Saul became jealous; before this he had no cause of envy, for kings do not envy musicians, but reward them. David's reward was as extravagant as that which Russian emperors shower upon singers and dancers : he was made armor-bearer to the King, — an office bestowed only upon favorites and those who were implicitly trusted and beloved. Little did the moody and jealous King imagine that the youth whom he had brought from obscurity to amuse his melancholy hours by his music, and probably his wit and humor, would so soon, by his own sanction, become the champion of Israel, and ultimately his successor on the throne.
In the latter part of the reign of Saul the enemies with whom he had to contend were the various Canaanitish nations that had remained unconquered during the hard struggle of four hundred years after the Hebrews had been led by Joshua to the promised land. The most powerful of these nations were the Philistines. “Strong in their military organization, fierce in their warlike spirit, and rich by their position and commercial instincts, they even threatened the ancient supremacy of the Phænicians of the north. Their cities were the restless centres of every form of activity. Ashdod and Gaza, as the keys of Egypt, commanded the carrying trade to and from the Nile, and formed the great depots for its imports and exports. All the cities, moreover, traded in slaves with Edom and southern Arabia, and their commerce in other directions flourished so greatly as to gain for the people at large the name of Canaanites, -- which was synonymous with ‘merchant.' Even the word 'Palestine' is derived from the Philistines. Their skill as smiths and armorers was noted; the strength of their cities attest their strength as builders, and their idols and golden mice and emerods show their respect for the arts of peace.” It is supposed that they had settled in Canaan about the time of Abraham, and were originally a pastoral people in the neighborhood of Gesar, or emigrants from Crete. When the Israelites under Joshua arrived, they were in full possession of the southern part of Palestine, and had formed a confederacy of five power
ful cities, — Gaza, Ashdod, Askelon, Gath, and Ekron. In the time of the Judges they had become so prosperous and powerful that they held the Israelites in partial subjection, broken at intervals by heroes like Shamgar and Samson. Under Eli there was an organized but unsuccessful resistance to these prosperous and warlike heathen. Under Samuel the tide of success was turned in Israel's favor at the battle of Mizpeh, when the Israelites erected their pillar at Eben-ezer as a token of victory. The battle of Michmash, gained by Saul and Jonathan after an immense slaughter of their foes, was so decisive that for twenty-five years the Israelites were unmolested. In the latter part of the reign of Saul the Philistines attempted to regain their ascendency, but on the death of Goliath at the hand of David they were driven to their own territories. The battle of Gilboa, where Saul and Jonathan were slain, again turned the scale in favor of the Philistines. Under David the Israelites resumed the aggressive, took Gath, and completely broke forever the ascendency of their powerful foes. Under Solomon it would appear that the whole of Philistia was incorporated with the Hebrew monarchy, and remained so until the calamities of the Jews gave Philistia to the Assyrian conquerors of Jerusalem, and finally it fell into the hands of the Romans. The Philistines were zealous idolaters, and in times of great religious apostasy they succeeded in introducing the worship of their gods among the Israelites, especially that of Baal and Ashtaroth.
Samuel did not live to see the complete humiliation of his nation which succeeded the bloody battle when Saul was slain ; but he lived to a good old age, and never lost his influence over the Israelites, whom he had rescued from idolatry and to whom he had given political unity. Although Saul was king, we are told that Samuel judged Israel all the days of his life. He died universally lamented. There is no record in the Scriptures of a death attended with such profound and general mourning. All Israel mourned for him. They mourned because he was a good man, unstained by crime or folly; they mourned because their judge and oracle and friend had passed away; they mourned because he had been their intercessor with God himself, and the interpreter of the divine will. His like would never appear again in Israel. “He represents the independence of the moral law, as distinct from regal and sacerdotal enactments. If a Levite, he was not a priest. He was a prophet, the first in the regular succession of prophets. He was also the founder of the first regular institutions of religious instruction, and communities for the purposes of education. From these institutions were developed the universities of Christendom.”
In a spiritual and religious sense the prophet takes the highest rank in the kingdom of God on earth. Among the Hebrews he was the interpreter of the divine will; he predicted future events. He was a preacher of righteousness; he was the counsellor of kings and princes; he was a sage and oracle among the people. He was a reformer, teaching the highest truths and restoring the worship of God when nations were sunk in idolatry; he was the mouthpiece of the Eternal, for warning, for rebuke, for encouragement, for chastisement. He was divinely inspired, armed with supernatural powers, — a man whom the people feared and obeyed, sometimes honored, sometimes stoned ; one who bore heavy responsibilities, and of whom were demanded disagreeable duties. We associate with the idea of a prophet both wisdom and virtue, great gifts and great personal piety. We think of him as a man who lived a secluded life of meditation and prayer, in constant communion with God and removed from all worldly rewards, – a man indifferent to ordinary pleasures, to outward pomp and show, free from personal vanity, lofty in his bearing, independent in his mode of life, spiritual in his aims, fervent and earnest in his exhortations, living above the world in the higher regions of faith and love, disdaining praises and honors, soft raiment and luxurious food, and maintaining a proud equality with the great