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The bloodthirsty Joab, as implacable as Achilles, who had rendered such signal services to his sovereign, was consumed with jealousy at this new appointinent, and going up to the new general-in-chief as if to salute him, treacherously stabbed him with his sword, — but continued, however, to support David. He succeeded in suppressing the rebellion by intrigue, and on the promise that the city should be spared, the head of the rebel was thrown over the wall of the fortress to which he had retired. Even this rebellion did not end the trials of David, since Adonijah, the heir presumptive after the death of Absaloin, conspired to steal the royal sceptre, which David had sworn to Bathsheba he would bequeath to her son Solomon. Joab even favored the succession of Adonijah; but the astute monarch, amid the infirmities of age, still possessed a large measure of the intellect and decision of his heroic days, and secured, by a rapid movement, the transfer of his kingdom to Solomon, who was crowned in the lifetime of his father.
In all these foul treacheries and crimes within his own household may be seen the distinct fulfilment of the punishment foretold by Nathan the prophet, as prepared for David's own “great transgression.” God's providence is unerring, and men indeed prepare for themselves the retribution which, in spite of sincere repentance, is the inevitable consequence of their own violations of law, – physical, moral, and spiritual. God gave David the new heart he longed for; but the evil seeds sown bore nevertheless evil fruit for him and his children.
Asidu wom these troubles, we know but little of the latter days of David. After the death of Absalom, it would seem that he reigned ten years, on the whole tranquilly, turning his attention to the development of the resources of his kingdom, and collecting treasure for the Temple, which he was not to build. He was able to set aside, as we read in the twenty-second chapter of the Chronicles, a hundred thousand talents of gold and a million talents of silver, — an almost incredible sum.
If a talent of silver is, as estimated, about £390, or $1950, it would seem that the silver accumulated by David would have amounted to nearly two billion dollars, and the gold to a like sum, — altogether four billions, which is plainly impossible. Probably there is a mistake in the figures. We read in the twentyninth chapter of Chronicles that David gave to Solomon, out of his own private property, three thousand talents of gold and seven thousand talents of silver,
— together, nearly $74,000,000. His nobles added what would be equal to $120,000,000 in gold and silver alone, besides brass and iron, — altogether about $194,000,000, which is not incredible when we bear in
mind that a single family in New York has accumulated a larger sum in two generations. But even this sum, — nearly two hundred million dollars, — would have more than built all the temples of Athens, or St. Peter's Church at Rome. Whether the author of the Chronicles has exaggerated the amount of the national contribution for the building of the Temple or not, we yet are impressed with the vast wealth which was accumulated in the lifetime of David; and hence we infer that the wealth of his kingdom was enormous. And it was perhaps the excessive taxation of the people to raise this money, outside of the spoils of successful wars, that alienated them in the latter days of David, and induced them to rally under the standards of usurpers. Certain it is that he became unpopular in the feebleness of old age, and was forced to abdicate his throne.
David's premature old age presented a sad contrast to the vigor of his early days. He was not a very old man when he died, — younger than many monarchs and statesmen who in our times have retained their vigor, their popularity, and their power. But the intense labors and sorrows of forty years may have proved too great a strain on his nervous energies, and made him as timid as he once was bold. The man who had slain Goliath ran away from Absalom. He was completely under the domination of an intriguing wife. He showed a singular weakness in reference to the crimes of his favorite son, so as to merit the bitter reproaches of his captain-general. “Thou hast shamed this day,” said Joab, “the faces of all thy servants; for I perceive had Absalom lived, and all of us had died this day, then it had pleased thee well.” In David's case, his last days do not seem to have been his best days, although he retained his piety and had conquered all his enemies. His glorious sun set in clouds after a reign of thirty-three years over united Israel, and the nation hailed the accession of a boy whose character was undeveloped.
The final years of this great monarch present an impressive lesson of the vanity even of a successful life, whatever services a man may have rendered to his country and to civilization. Few kings have ever accomplished more than David; but his glory was succeeded, if not by shame, at least by clouds and darkness. And this eclipse is all the more mournful when we remember not only his services but his exalted virtues. He was the most successful and the most admired of all the monarchs who reigned at Jerusalem. He was one of the greatest and best men who ever lived in any nation or at any period. “When, before or since, has there lived an outlaw who did not despoil his country?” Where has there reigned a king whose head was less giddy on a throne, or who retained more humility in
the midst of riches and glories, unless it were Marcus Aurelius or Alfred the Great ? David had an inborn aptitude for government, and a power like Julius Cæsar of fascinating every one who came in contact with him. His self-denial and devotion to the interests of the nation were marvellous. We do not read that he took any time for pleasure or recreation; the heavy load of responsibility and care never for a moment was thrown from his shoulders. His penetration of character was so remarkable that all stood in fear of him; yet fear gave place to admiration. Never had a monarch more devoted servants and followers than David in his palmy days; he was the nation's idol and pride for thirty years. In every successive vicissitude he was great; and were it not for his cruelty in war and severity to his enemies, and his one great lapse into criminal selfindulgence, his reign would have been faultless. Contrast David with the other conquerors of the world; compare him with classical and mediæval heroes, — how far do they fall beneath him in deeds of magnanimity and self-sacrifice! What monarch has transmitted to posterity such inestimable treasures of thought and language ?
It is consoling to feel that David, whether exultant in riches and honors, or bowed down to the earth with grief and wrath, both in the years of adversity and in his prosperous manhood, in strength and in weak