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AN

ESSAY

ON THE

Conduct of David

AT THE

COURT OF AOETSE KING OF QATE,

IN A

LETTER OF MR. DUMONT,

PASTOR OF THE FRENCH CHURCH AT ROTTERDAM, AND PROFESSOR OF THE

ORIENTAL LANGUAGES, AND ECCLESIASTICAL HISTORY,

TO

MR. SAURIN, AT THE HAGUE.

TRANSLATED BY ROBERT ROBINSON.

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GABRIEL DUMONT, author of the following essay, was born at Crest, in Dauphiny, August 19th, 1680, and died at Rotterdam, January 1st, 1748. He was a refugee for religion, pastor of the Waloon church at Rotterdam, and professor of Oriental languages and Ecclesiastical history. He published nothing himself during his life ; but, after his decease, Mr. Superville, his colleague, published, with a short preface, one volume of his sermons, containing twelve discourses, the most plain, artless, and edifying that I have ever had the happiness of reading; not so disputatious as those of Amyraut, not so grave as those of Superville, not so stiff as those of Torne and Bourdaloue, not so far-fetched and studied as those of Massillon, nor so charged with colouring as those of Saurin: but placid, ingenious, gentle, natural, and full of evidence and pathos : just as 'wisdom from above should be, ' pure, peaceable, mild—full of mercy and good fruits—sown in peace to make peace,' James iii. 17, 18. The public owe this volume to Mademoiselle de Heuqueville, the pious patroness and friend of the author, who had, as it were, extorted them from him before his death.

Mr. Saurin, who published this essay in his dissertations on the Bible, says I follow our version, and the general sense of interpreters. A learned man (Mr. Dumont), has investigated the subject at large, and, if he does not furnish us with demonstrations in favour of the system he proposes, yet his conjectures are so full of erudition, and so very probable, that we cannot help admiring them, while we feel an inclination to dispute them.'

For my part, I own, if I may venture a conjecture, 1 think Mr. Dumont bas placed his opinion in a light both beautiful, and, in a very high degree probable. To sum up his meaning, he would read the passage thus:

1 SAMUEL, chap. xxi. Ver. 10. And David fled that day for fear of Saul, and went to Achish, the king of Gath.

11. And the servants of Achish said unto him, Is not this David the king of the land ? did they not sing one to another of him in dances, saying, Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands ?

12. And David was struck to the heart with these words, and was sore afraid of Achish king of Gath.

13. And he changed countenance before them, and fell convulsed into their hands, and he hurt and marked himself against the posts of the gate, and he frothed on his beard.

14. Then said Achish unto his servants, Lo, you see the man is epileptic: wherefore then have you brought him unto me?

15. Have I need of epileptics, that ye have brought this man to fall into convulsions in my presence? Shall this fellow come into my house?

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AN ESSAY

ON

THE CONDUCT OF DAVID AT THE COURT OF ACHISH,

King of Gath.

Sir,

First, his life was in danger; and will not a I MAY venture to call the letter I have the man give all that he has for his life? Have we honour to write you, ' An apology for the con- not a right to do every thing except sin to duet of David at the court of king Achish,' for avoid death? Blame, and welcome, the cruel my design is to prove three things : First, that policy of Dionysius of Sicily,* who sometimes if David had counterfeited madness on the oc- spread a report that he was sick, and somecasion mentioned in the twenty-first chapter times that he had been assassinated by his solof the first book of Samuel, he would not have diers, with a design to discover, by the uncommitted any sin. Secondly, that David did guarded conversation of his subjects, how they not feign himself mad, as is generally sup- stood affected to his government, that he might posed. And thirdly, that this heir apparent have a pretence for proscribing such as were to the crown of Israel, had not, at the court of ill affected to his despotism. Censure, if you Gath, the least degree of madness, either real please, the king of Ithaca, and the astronomer or feigned.

Metont for pretending to have lost their senses, 1. If you were a man who decided a point the first for the sake of his continuing with his of morality by human authority, I might al. dear Penelope, and the last to avoid accompalege, in favour of this first article, the follow- nying the Athenians in an expedition against ing distich of Cato.

Sicily. Pity, if you will, the two monks SiInsipiens esto, cum tempus postulat, aut res ;

meon and Thomas, who affected to play the Studiitiarr simulare loco, prudentia summa est.* fool, lest the extraordinary holiness of their Independently of this author, of whom we hard- lives should not be perceived. I freely give ly know either the true name, the religion, the up these tyrants and hypocrites to the most se

vere criticism; and I am inclined to be of the country, or the age, every body will allow that there is a good deal of wisdom required to opinion of Cicero, who calls the finesse of play the fool properly. Madness is no sin, it Ulysses, non honestum consilium, a disingenuis a disease of the mind, or rather of the brain. ous conduct. Form, if you think proper, the David, it is to be observed, during his pre-St. Ephraim,|| who, understanding that he was

same opinion of the stratagem of the famous tended madness, said nothing criminal. He did a few apparent acts of a person insane. force him to be ordained, ran into a public

chosen bishop, and that they were going to Why might he not be allowed to free himself from imminent danger by this prudent dissimu- place, walked irregularly, let fall his robe, lation ? To treat of this question fully and ac

went eating along the streets, and did so many curately, it would be necessary to go to the he had lost his senses. He watched his oppor

actions of this kind, that every body thought bottom of the subject, and examine

the grounds tunity, fled and concealed hmiself, and conand principles of the obligations men are under to speak and act sincerely to one another. tinued to do thus till they had nominated anIt might not be improper to investigate this ther this proceeded from his contempt of vain

other bishop. I will not pretend to say, whematter by inquiring, whether, in this recipro- glory, as Sozomens pretends, or from his great tween deceiving by words known and agreed love of retirement, for he was nou xies us azar on between mankind, and misleading, by ac

spelotns. For my part, I make no scruple to tions, the natural signs of the

sentiments of our say of this artifice, as well as of the trick he hearts

. Particularly, it should be examined, played Apollinaris,** non honestum consilium. whether there be no cases in which this kind But you, sir, who are such a good citizen, will of contract is in a sort suspended, and whether you condemn the wise Solontt for counterDavid were not in one of these cases, in which feiting distraction, in order to divert his fellowhe was not obliged so to act, as to convey to citizens of Athens from their resolution to king Achish his true and real sentiments. But abandon Salamin, his country, to the inhabitu I know, sir, you have examined this subject in the case of Samuel, I will confine my

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* Polyænus Stratag. I. v. cap. 2. S. 15, 16.

Ælian variar. historiar. lib. xii, cap. 12. self to two arguments, supported by a few

Evagrius. Hist. Eccles. lib. iv. cap. 34. facts, relative to the conduct attributed to Da- Cic. de officiis. lib. iii. cap. 26. vid in order to justify him.

Sozomen Hist. Eccl. lib. lii. cap 16.

** Greg. de Nyssen Paneg. de S. Ephr. * Disticha de moribus, lib. ii. Dist. 18.

It Diogenes Laert. lib. i. in Solone.
S

i Soz. ibid.

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ants of Megara? You, sir, who are no enemy conversation of the ministers of state, in the to prudence, will you disapprove the opinion court of king Achish, he fell under a real abgiven of Lucius Junius Brutus,*

sence of mind, and behaved, in a few instances,

like a man disordered in his senses. SebasBrutus erat stulti sapiens imitator,

tian Schmidt,* a celebrated Lutheran divine, He affected to be stupid, lest he should become proposed as a kind of problem, whether Prosuspected by Tarquin the proud, who had put vidence might not permit David to be territo death his father and his eldest brother, for fied into a momentary delirium, in order to efthe sake of seizing their great wealth. It fect his deliverance. Mr. John Christian should seem, that on supposition David acted Ortlob, a learned man of Leipsict published a a part when he was in danger of his life, in a dissertation, in 1706, on the delirium of Darid place where he had fled for refuge, it would be before king Achish, in which he shows, that a sufficient justification of his character to say, the whole of the sacred text in Samuel natuthat he thought he might innocently make use rally leads us to judge that David was so of such a stratagem.

struck with the fear of sudden death, that for å 2. If the danger of losing his life be not suf- few moments his understanding was absent. ficient, let it be observed farther, that the de- As this thesis is little known in this country, ception was directed to the Philistines, with and as it is curious in itself, you will not be whom the Israelites were then at war. This displeased, sir, if I give you here a sketch of is a second argument to justify the conduct of what he says. David. When was it ever unlawful to use 1. Mr. Ortlob shows, that dissimulation stratagems in war? Did not God himself order was impracticable in David's condition. Eithe Israelites to lie in ambush' and 'to flee' ther he affected to play the fool the moment before the inhabitants of Ai, in order to draw he was seized by the servants of the king, or them from the city? Is there any less evil in only while he was in the presence of Achish. affecting cowardice than there is in pretending The text is contrary to the first, for it express to be deprived of reason? Where is the gene- ly assures us that this madness of David was ral, who would not be glad to take cities at in consequence of the conversation that passed the same price as Callicratidas of Cyrenet between Achish and his officers in the pretook the fort of Magnesia, by introducing four sence of David. The second supposition is soldiers, who pretended to be sick? You not at all likely, for it would have been very have observed, sir, in Buchanan's excellent imprudent for him to begin to act his part in history of Scotland, † the manner in which the presence of Achish; his officers would king Duncan defeated the army of Swen king have discovered the artifice, and would have of Norway, who was besieging him in Perth. informed their master : beside, it is inconHe sent the besiegers a great quantity of wine ceivable that David should continue from his and beer, in which some herbs of noxious being first taken to that moment as mute as a qualities had been infused, and while this so- fish, in order to conceal a design which reporific was taking effect, he went into the quired a state of mind more tranquil than that camp, and put the whole army to the sword, of David could be, in a danger so imminent. except the prince of Norway, and ten soldiers, 2. Next, Mr. Ortlob proceeds to prove, who had suspected the present made them by that David had a true and natural alienation the enemy, and had not tasted the beverage. of mind. The herb is supposed to be the solanum or The first proof is, his fear of danger. Dastrychnos of Pliny,the night shade, which in vid, says the twelfth verse, 'laid up the words a certain quantity stupifies, in a greater quan- in his heart, and was sore afraid of Achish the tity distracts, and if more than two drachms, king of Gath. The terror that seized his causes death. For these two reasons, then, soul affected the organs of his body, and disI conclude that my first proposition is suffi- concerted the fibres of his brain. There are ciently clear. I said, if David had counter- many examples of persons affected in like feited madness, and played the fool, he would manner with sudden fear. Our learned alnot have committed any sin : first, because thor relates the case of a girl of ten years of his life was in danger and secondly, be- age, who was so terrified with thunder and cause the Philistines were at war with his lightning in a furious tempest, that she was country.

seized with violent convulsions in her left · II. If any continue obstinately to maintain arm and her left leg. Though she did not that the dissimulation of David was criminal, lose her senses, yet she was constrained to filee and opposite to sincerity and good faith, i on the other foot along the wainscot of the have another string to my bow, to defend this chamber, and the company could not stop illustrious refugee. I affirm that David did her. not play the fool, and act a part; but that, be- The next proof is taken from the expres. ing seized with extreme fear at hearing the sions of the inspired writer, which simply and

literally explained, signify a real madness. * Dion. Halicarn. Antiquitat. Roman. lib. 4.

• David changed his behaviour.' It is in Polyænus Stratag. lib. ii. cap. 27, S. I.

the Hebrew his taste, that is his reason, for | Buchanani Hist. Scotica-Rem. This tale is not credited by some historians, and indeed it appears highly improbable in itself. Infamous and improbable story.-Hist. of Scot. Vol.

*D. Sebast. Schmidius in 1 Sam. xxi. I. p. 234.

| Davidis delirium coram Achis. Lipsiæ, 1706, 4. p. 24. Plin. Hist. Nat. lib. xxi. cap. 31.-Salmas ad So- Ephemer. Med. Phys. Germ. Academiæ, curioso p.

rum, An. 8. Observ. 71.

Mr. Guthrie calls it an

lin.

1080.

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reason is, in man, what taste is in regard to 1. My first reason is taken from the origialiments.

nal terms, which perfectly agree with an epi* And he became mad.' The Hebrew verb | lepsy. This is not easy to discover in our mohalal, in the conjugation hithpael, as it is here, dern versions ; but it is very plain in the Sepalways signifies in Scripture real, and not tuagint, and in the old Latin version, which feigned madness; and there is nothing in the our interpreters often very injudiciously detext which obliges us to depart from a sense spise. The authors of both these versions that perfectly agrees with the simplicity of were in a better condition than we are, to unthe history. The French and English ver- derstand the force and the real signification sions render it, he feigned himself mad; but of Hebrew words and idioms. I am fully perthey are wrong, for the original says nothing suaded we ought to prefer these versions in the about feigning.

present case. • He scrabbled on the doors of the gate.' David, said the sacred historian, changed Cornelius a Lapide thinks he wrote the letter his behaviour, or his taste. The Septuagint tau to form the figure of the cross. Rabbi reads it ηλλοιωσε το προσωπον, αυτον and the ValSchabtai, in a German book entitled Esrim gate, immutavit os suum, he changed counteVearba,* was better informed, and he says nance. I think this translation is better than that David wrote on the gates of the palace, · The of Mr Ortlob, his reason waschanged: because king owes me a hundred thousand guilders, it is added, before them, or in their sight, and and his kingdom, fifty thousand.' Mr. Ort in the thirty-fourth psalm, before Abimelech, lob, learned as he is, does not know so much or in his presence. It is well known, that the as the Rabbi and the Jesuit. He contents countenance of a person taken with an epilephimself with observing, that David, all taken sy is suddenly changed. But should we reup with his delirium, and having no instru- tain the word reason, we might with equal jusment in his hand to write, scratched the gate tice say, that the reason, or the taste is change with his fingers, like people in a malignant fe- ed in an epileptic fit, because for a few moTer. He observes also, that the indecent man- ments reason is absent. ner in which David . let his spittle fall down 2. Our version adds, he feigned himself mad upon his beard,' is a natural and usual conse- in their hands. The Septuagint seems to me quence of a delirium.

to have rendered the words much better, His third proof is taken from the connex- παραφέρετο εν ταις χερσιν αυτον. He struggled or ion of the whole bistory, which supposes and tossed himself in their hands. (For I think the indicates real madness. • David changed his preceding words in this version, in that day bebaviour: the sacred author explains first in he feigned,' is one of those interpolations, what this change consisted, it was in becom- which passed from the margin to the text; ing mad in the presence of the king and his and that the words, και ετυμπανιζεν επι ταις θυραις officers; and he adds two actions of madness, TMS Trosas, are of some other version, and have the one scratching and writing on the gates got into the text as the former.) The Hewith his fingers, and the other drivelling on brew word halal is a general term, which sighis beard.

nifies to agitate one's self, to shake, either by The last proof our author takes from the twinkling like the stars, or by applauding like consequences. Achish gives David his life some one, or by boasting of any thing of our and liberty, as a man beneath his resentment. own, which the Latins call jactare, jactare se: He was angry with those who brought a mad- or by moving ourselves involuntarily, as a man to him. David, on his side, escaped the paralytic man does, or a madman, or a person danger, recovered his spirits, and became him- in convulsions, or one in excessive joy. The sell. There is no reason to question whether Septuagint could not translate the word here he observed the precept given by himself in better than by παραφερεσαιθ, because παραφορος the thirty-fourth Psalm, which he composed, among the Greeks* is put for a distracted peras well as the fifty-sixth, to praise God for his son, a demoniac, and because a body irregu. deliverance, keep thy lips from speaking larly and involuntarily agitated is said taproeguile,' ver. 13.

pertal, Aristotlet uses it in the same sense. My second proposition was, that David did Having said that there seems something in the not feign himself mad, as is usually supposed ; soul of an intemperate man beside reason, and and Mr. Ortlob, in this treatise, has justified opposite to it, he adds, he is like a paralytic David from the charge of every kind of dis- body, the patient aims to move the right hand simulation, and so far it gives me pleasure to or the right foot, and the left hand and the follow him ; for this is an opinion more tole- left foot move TruvarToOn eas To apst tegae Tapal peper ell. rable than the former, but I'must beg leave to The only difference is, we perceive irregular dissent from this learned writer, and to state motions of the body, whereas those of the soul in the next place my own opinion, for I do not are invisible. The Vulgate translates in a think, as Mr. Ortlob does, that David had manner more favourable still to my opinion, any degree of madness.

et collabebatur inter manus eorum, he fell into III. I think the whole passage ought to be their hands. The term collabi, as well as caunderstood of an epilepsy, a convulsion of the dere, and corruere, are applied to the epilepsy, whole body, with a loss of sense for the time. which the Hebrews, like us, called the falling Judge, sir, of the reasons on which I ground sickness. All these Latin words may be seen this third proposition.

* Phavorinus in voce Ta prepopos * Printed in 1703.

Aristot. Ethicor. ad Nichomacum, lib. 1. cap. 13.

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