תמונות בעמוד

to the organization of his kingdom and the development of its resources. His army was raised to two hundred and eighty thousand regular soldiers. His intimate friends and best-tried supporters were made generals, governors, and ministers. Joab was commander-in-chief; and Benaiah, son of the high-priest, was captain of his body-guard, — composed chiefly of foreigners, after the custom of princes in most ages. His most trusted counsellors were the prophets Gad and Nathan. Zadok and Abiathar were the highpriests, who also superintended the music, to which David gave special attention. Singing men and women celebrated his victories. The royal household was regulated by different grades of officers. But David departed from the stern simplicity of Saul, and surrounded himself with pomps and guards. None were admitted to his presence without announcement or without obeisance, while he himself was seated on a throne, with a golden sceptre in his hands and a jewelled crown upon his brow, clothed in robes of purple and gold. He made alliances with powerful chieftains and kings, and imitated their fashion of instituting a harem for his wives and concubines, — becoming in every sense an Oriental monarch, except that his power was limited by the constitution which had been given by Moses. He reigned, it would seem, in justice and equity, and in obedience to the commands of Jehovah, whose servant he felt himself to be. Nor did he violate any known laws of morality, unless it were the practice of polygamy, in accordance with the custom of all Eastern potentates, permitted to them if not to their ordinary subjects. We infer from all incidental notices of the habits of the Israelites at this period that they were a remarkably virtuous people, with primitive tastes and love of domestic life, among whom female chastity was esteemed the highest virtue; and it is a matter of surprise that the loose habits of the King in regard to women provoked so little comment among his subjects, and called out so few rebukes from his advisers.

But he did not surrender himself to the inglorious luxury in which Oriental monarchs lived. He retained his warlike habits, and in great national crises he headed his own troops in battle. It would seem that he was not much molested by external enemies for twenty years after making Jerusalem his capital, but reigned in peace, devoting himself to the welfare of his subjects, and collecting materials for the future building of the Temple, — its actual erection being denied to him as a man of blood. Everything favored the national prosperity of the Israelites. There was no great power in western Asia to prevent them founding a permanent monarchy; Assyria had been humbled; and Egypt, under the last kings of the twentieth dynasty, had lost its ancient prestige; the Philistines

were driven to a narrow portion of their old dominion, and the king of Tyre sought friendly alliance with David.

In the course of time, however, war broke out with Moab, followed by other wars, which required all the resources of the Jewish kingdom, and taxed to the utmost the energies of its bravest generals. Moab, lying east of the Dead Sea, had at one time given refuge to David when pursued by Saul, and he was even allied by blood to some of its people, - being descended from Ruth, a Moabitish woman. The sacred writings shed but little light on this war; or on its causes; but it was carried on with unusual severity, only a third part of the people being spared alive, and they reduced to slavery. A more important contest took place with the kingdom of Ammon on the north, on the confines of Syria, caused by the insults heaped on the ambassadors of David, whom he sent on a friendly message to Hanun the King. The campaign was conducted by Joab, who gained brilliant victories, without however crushing the Ammonites, who again rallied with a vast array of mercenaries gathered in their support. David himself took the field with the whole force of his kingdom, and achieved a series of splendid successes by which he extended his empire to the Euphrates, including Damascus, besides securing invaluable spoils from the cities of Syria, — among

them chariots and horses, for which Syria was celebrated. Among these spoils also were a thousand shields overlaid with gold, and great quantities of brass afterward used by Solomon in the construction of the Temple. Yet even these conquests, which now made David the most powerful monarch of western Asia, did not secure peace. The Edomites, south of the Dead Sea, alarmed in view of the increasing greatness of Israel, rose against David, but were routed by Abishai, who penetrated to Petra and became master of the country, the inhabitants of which were put to the sword with unrelenting vengeance. This war of the Edomites took place simultaneously with that of the Ammonites, who, deprived of their allies, retreated with desperation to their strong capital, — Rabbah Ammon, twenty-eight hundred feet above the sea, and twenty miles east of the Jordan, — where they made a memorable but unsuccessful resistance.

It was during the siege of this stronghold, which lasted a year, that David, no longer young, oppressed with cares, and unable personally to bear the fatigues of war, forgot his duties as a king and as a man. For fifty years he had borne an unsullied name; for more than thirty years he had been a model of reproachless chivalry. If polygamy and ferocity in war are not drawbacks to our admiration, certain it is that no recorded crime or folly that called out divine censure can be laid to his charge. But in an hour of temptation, or from strange infatuation, he added murder to adultery, — covering up a great crime by one of still greater enormity, evincing meanness and treachery as well as ungoverned passion, and creating a scandal which was considered disgraceful even in an Oriental palace. “We read,” says South in one of his most brilliant paragraphs, “ of nothing like adultery in a persecuted David in the wilderness, when he fled hither and thither like a chased doe upon the mountains; but when the delicacies of his palace softened and ungirt his spirit, then it was that this great hero fell by a glance, and buried his glories in nocturnal shame, giving to his name a lasting stain, and to his conscience a fearful wound.” Nor did he come to himself until a child was born, and the prophet Nathan had ingeniously pointed out to him his flagrant sin. He manifested no wrath against his accuser, as some despots would have done, but sank to the ground in the greatest anguish and grief.

Then it was that David's repentance was more marvellous than his transgression, offering the most memorable instance of contrition recorded in history,

- surpassing in moral sublimity, a thousand times over, the grief of Theodosius under the rebuke of Ambrose, or the sorrow of the haughty Plantagenet for the murder of Becket. His repentance was so profound,

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