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all his victories and exploits, his anointment at the hand of Samuel, his noble lyrics, his marriage with the daughter of Saul, and the death of both Saul and Jonathan, there had been at first no popular movement in David's behalf. The taking of decisive action, however, was one of his striking peculiarities from youth to old age, and he promptly decided, after consulting the Urim and Thummim, to go at once to Hebron, the ancient sacred city of the tribe of Judah, and there await the course of events. His faithful band of six hundred devoted men formed the nucleus of an army; and a reaction in his favor having set in, he was chosen king. But he was king only of the tribe to which he belonged. Northern and central Palestine were in the hands of the Philistines, — ten of the tribes still adhering to the house of Saul, under the leadership of Abner, the cousin of Saul, who proclaimed Ishbosheth king. This prince, the youngest of Saul's four sons, chose for his capital Mahanaim, on the east of the Jordan.
Ishbosheth was, however, a weak prince, and little more than a puppet in the hands of Abner, the most famous general of the day, who, organizing what forces remained after the fatal battle of Gilboa, was quite a match for David. For five years civil war raged between the rivals for the ascendency, but success gradually secured for David the promised throne of united Israel. Abner, seeing how hopeless was the contest, and wishing to prevent further slaughter, made overtures to David and the elders of Judah and Benjamin. The generous monarch received him graciously, and promised his friendship; but, out of jealousy, — or perhaps in revenge for the death of his brother Asahel, whom Abner had slain in battle, - Joab, the captain of the King's chosen band, treacherously murdered him. David's grief at the foul deed was profound and sincere, but he could not afford to punish the general on whom he chiefly relied. “Know ye,” said David to his intimate friends, “ that a great prince in Israel has fallen to-day; but I am too weak to avenge him, for I am not yet anointed king over the tribes." He secretly disliked Joab from this time, and waited for God himself to repay the evil-doer according to his wickedness. The fate of the unhappy and abandoned Ishbosheth could not now long be delayed. He also was murdered by two of his body-guard, who hoped to be rewarded by David for their treachery; but instead of gaining a reward, they were summarily ordered to execution. The sole surviving member of Saul's family was now Mephibosheth, the only son of Jonathan, a boy of twelve, impotent, and lame. This prince, to the honor of David, was protected and kindly cared for. David's magnanimity appears in that he made special search, asking “ Is there any that is left of the house of Saul, that I may show him the kindness of God for
Jonathan's sake?” The memory of the triumphant conqueror was still tender and loyal to the covenant of friendship he had made in youth, with the son of the man who for long years had pursued him with the hate of a lifetime.
David was at this time thirty-eight years of age, in the prime of his manhood, and his dearest wish was now accomplished; for on the burial of Ishbosheth “came all the tribes of Israel to David unto Hebron," formally reminded him of his early anointing to succeed Saul, and tendered their allegiance. He was solemnly consecrated king, more than eight thousand priests joining in the ceremony; and, thus far without a stain on his character, he began his reign over united Israel. The kingdom over which he was called to reign was the most powerful in Palestine Assyria, Egypt, China, and India were already empires; but Greece was in its infancy, and Homer and Buddha were unborn.
The first great act of David after his second anointment was to transfer his capital from Hebron to Jerusalemn, then a strong fortress in the hands of the Jebusites. It was nearer the centre of his new kingdom than Hebron, and yet still within the limits of the tribe of Judah. He took it by assault, in which Joab so greatly distinguished himself that he was made captaingeneral of the King's forces. From that time “David
went on growing great, and the Lord God of Hosts was with him.” After fortifying his strong position, he built a palace worthy of his capital, with the aid of Phænician workmen whom Hiram, King of Tyre, wisely furnished him. The Philistines looked with jealousy on this impregnable stronghold, and declared war; but after two invasions they were so badly beaten that Gath, the old capital of Achish, passed into the hands of the King of Israel, and the power of these formidable enemies was broken forever.
The next important event in the reign of David was the transfer of the sacred ark from Kirjath-jearim, where it had remained from the time of Samuel, to Jerusalem. It was a proud day when the royal hero, enthroned in his new palace on that rocky summit from which he could survey both Judah and Samaria, received the symbol of divine holiness amid all the demonstrations which popular enthusiasm could express. “And as the long and imposing procession, headed by nobles, priests, and generals, passed through the gates of the city, with shouts of praise and songs and sacred dances and sacrificial rites and symbolic ceremonies and bands of exciting music, the exultant soul of David burst out in the most rapturous of his songs : ‘Lift up your heads, 0 ye gates; and be ye lift up ye everlasting doors; and the King of Glory shall come in !” – thus reiterating the fundamental
truth which Moses taught, that the King of Glory is the Lord Jehovah, to be forever worshipped both as a personal God and the real Captain of the hosts of Israel
“One heart alone,” says Stanley, “ amid the festivities which attended this joyful and magnificent occasion, seemed to be unmoved. Whether she failed to enter into its spirit, or was disgusted with the mystic dances in which her husband shared, the stately daughter of Saul assailed David on his return to his palace — not clad in his royal robes, but in the linen ephod of the priests — with these bitter and disdainful words: How glorious was the King of Israel today, as he uncovered himself in the eyes of his handmaidens !'-an insult which forever afterward rankled in his soul, and undermined his love.” Thus was the most glorious day which David ever saw, clouded by a domestic quarrel; and the proud princess retired, until her death, to the neglected apartments of a dishonored home. How one word of bitter scorn or harsh reproach will sometimes sunder the closest ties between man and woman, and cause an alienation which never can be healed, and which may perchance end in a domestic ruin !
David had now passed from the obscurity of a chief of a wandering and exiled band of followers to the dignity of an Oriental monarch, and turned his attention