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ISRAELITISH CONQUESTS. CONSIDERING how much has been written about
David in all the nations of Christendom, and how familiar Christian people are with his life and writings, it would seem presumptuous to attempt a lecture on this remarkable man, especially since it is impossible to add anything essentially new to the subject. The utmost that I can do is to select, condense, and rearrange from the enormous quantity of matter which learned and eloquent writers have already furnished.
The warrior-king who conquered the enemies of Israel in a dark and desponding period; the sagacious statesman who gave unity to its various tribes, and formed them into a powerful monarchy; the matchless poet who bequeathed to all ages a lofty and beautiful psalmody; the saint, who with all his backslidings and inconsistencies was a man after God's own heart, — is well worthy of our study. David was the most illustrious of all the kings of whom the Jewish nation was proud, and was a striking type of a good man occasionally enslaved by sin, yet breaking its bonds and rising above subsequent temptations to a higher plane of goodness. A man so elevated, with almost every virtue which makes a man beloved, and yet with defects which will forever stain his memory, cannot easily be portrayed. What character in history presents such wide contradictions? What career was ever more varied ? What recorded experiences are more interesting and instructive ? - a life of heroism, of adventures, of triumphs, of humiliations, of outward and inward conflicts. Who ever loved and hated with more intensity than David ? — tender yet fierce, brave yet weak, magnanimous yet unrelenting, exultant yet sad, committing crimes yet triumphantly rising after disgraceful falls by the force of a piety so ardent that even his backslidings now appear but as spots upon a sun. His varied experiences call out our sympathy and admiration more than the life of any secular hero whom poetry and history have immortalized. He was an Achilles and a Ulysses, a Marcus Aurelius and a Theodosius, an Alfred and a Saint Louis combined ; equally great in war and in peace, in action and in meditation ; creating an empire, yet transmitting to posterity a collection of poems identified forever with the spiritual life of individuals and nations. Interesting to us as are the events of David's memorable career, and the sentiments and sorrows which extort our sympathy, yet it is the relation of a sinful soul with its Maker, by which he infuses his inner life into all other souls, and furnishes materials of thought for all generations.
David was the youngest and tenth son of Jesse, a prominent man of the tribe of Judah, whose greatgrandmother was Ruth, the interesting wife of Boaz of Moab. He was born in Bethlehem, near Jerusalem,-a town rendered afterward so illustrious as the birthplace of our Lord, who was himself of the house and lineage of David. He first appears in history at the sacrificial feast which his townspeople periodically held, presided over by his father, when the prophet Samuel unexpectedly appeared at the festival to select from the sons of Jesse a successor to Saul. He was not tall and commanding like the Benjamite hero, but was ruddy of countenance, with auburn hair, beautiful eyes, and graceful figure, equally remarkable for strength and agility. He had the charge of his father's sheep, — not the most honorable employment in the eyes of his brothers, who, according to Ewald, treated him with little consideration ; but even as a shepherd hoy he had already proved his strength and purage by an encounter with a bear and a lion.
Until David was thirty years of age his life was identified with the fading glories of the reign of Saul, who laid the foundation of the military power of his successors, – a man who lacked only the one quality imperative on the vicegerent of a supreme but invisible Power, that of unquestioning obedience to the divine directions as interpreted by the voice of prophets. Had Saul been loyal in his heart, as David was, to the God of Israel, the sceptre might not have departed from his house, — for he showed some of the highest qualities of a general and a ruler, until his jealousy was excited by the brilliant exploits of the son of Jesse. On these exploits and subsequent adventures, which invest David's early career with the fascinations of a knight of chivalry, I need not dwell. All are familiar with his encounter with Goliath, and with his slaughter of the Philistines after he had slain the giant, which called out the admiration of the haughty daughter of the king, the love of the heirapparent to the throne, and the applause of the whole nation. I need not speak of his musical melodies, which drove the fatal demon of melancholy from the royal palace; of his jealous expulsion by the King, his hairbreadth escapes, his trials and difficulties as a wanderer and exile, as a fugitive retreating to solitudes and caves of the earth, parched with heat and thirst, exhausted with hunger and fatigue, surrounded with increasing dangers, — yet all the while forgiving and magnanimous, sparing the life of his deadly enemy, unstained by a single vice or weakness, and soothing his stricken soul with bursts of pious song unequalled for pathos and loftiness in the whole realm of lyric poetry. He is never so interesting as amid caverns and blasted desolations and serrated rocks and dried-up rivulets, when his life is in constant danger. But he knows that he is the anointed of the Lord, and has faith that in due time he will be called to the throne.
It was not until the bloody battle with the Philistines, which terminated the lives of both Saul and Jonathan, that David's great reign began, — first at Hebron, about the year 1051 B. C.,' where he reigned seven and one half years over his own tribe of Judah,
– but not without the deepest lamentations for the disaster which had caused his own elevation. To the grief of David for the death of Saul and Jonathan we owe one of the finest odes in Hebrew poetry. At this crisis in national affairs, David had sought shelter with Achish, King of Gath, in whose territory he, with the famous band of six hundred warriors whom he had collected in his wanderings, dwelt in safety and peace. This apparent alliance with the deadly enemy of the Israelites had displeased the people. Notwithstanding
1 Authorities differ as to the precise date of David's accession.