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David had been returned to Ziklag only two days, when a man came to him from the camp of Israel, with his clothes rent, and earth upon his head, and informed him that Israel had fed, and that Saul and Jonathan were slain. In answer to more particular enquiries, he most probably feigned many of the circumstances which he related, in order to ingratiate himself with David; by pretending that he had, at the request of Saul, slain him himself; and, as evidence of the fact, delivered to David the crown that was upon his head, and the bracelet that was on his arm, insignia with which David was no doubt well acquainted. The reward which this Amalekite met with was far different from what he anticipated; for David said to him, How! wast thou not afraid to stretch forth thine hand to destroy the anointed of Jehovah ? And he ordered one of his attendants to slay him ; for he said, thy blood be upon thy head; for thy mouth hath testified against thee, saying, I have slain the anointed of Jehovah.*
And David and all his men rent their clothes, and mourned and wept, and fasted until even, for Saul and Jonathan his son, and for the people of Jehovah, and for the house of Israel; because they were fallen by the sword. If we call to mind what pleasing anticipations of the future had been formed by these illustrious friends, David and Jonathan, when the latter, in beautiful simplicity and self-denial, had said, † Thou shalt be king over Israel, and I shall be next unto thee; and when the former, no doubt, had already determined that Jonathan, if not a sharer in the throne, should occupy a distinguished post of honour in his kingdom; and longed for the opportunity of shewing him how highly he appreciated the friendship and attachment Jonathan had exhibi
2 Sam. i, 16. Burder, 0. L. 475, 476.
+ 1 Sam. xxiii, 17.
ted towards him, during the period of his adversity :-if we call these circumstances and recollections to mind, we can, in some small degree, enter into the feelings of David, when he uttered the following beautiful and pathetic lamentation, “ The beauty of Israel is slain upon thy high places : how are the mighty fallen! Tell it not in Gath, publish it not in the streets of Askelon ; lest the daughters of the Philistines rejoice, lest the daughters of the uncircumcised triumph. Ye mountains of Gilboa, let there be no dew, neither let there be rain upon you, nor fields of offerings; for there the shield of the mighty is vilely cast away, the shield of Saul, as though he had not been anointed with oil. From the blood of the slain, from the fat of the mighty, the bow of Jonathan turned not back, and the sword of Saul returned not empty. Saul and Jonathan were lovely and pleasant in their lives, and in their death they were not divided : they were swifter than eagles, they were stronger than lions. Ye daughters of Israel, weep over Saul, who clothed you in scarlet, with other delights, who put on ornaments of gold upon your apparel. How are the mighty fallen in the midst of the battle! 0 Jonathan, thou wast slain in thine high places. I am distressed for thee, my brother Jonathan: very pleasant hast thou been unto me: thy love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women. How are the mighty fallen, and the weapons of war perished."
David, conceiving, no doubt, that the period was A. C. 1056.
arrived when he was to assume the diadem of Israel,
but unwilling to take any measure towards such an important result without the express permission of Jehovah, enquired of him expressly whether he should go up into any of the cities of Judah; when Jehovah directed him to go up
2 Sam. i. 19–27. See a beautiful Latin version of this song from
Kennicott, apud Ad. Clarke.
unto Hebron.* David went up accordingly, with his wives and children, and all his men, with their wives and children, and they dwelt in the cities of Hebron; and the men of Judah came, and anointed him king over the house of Judah.
We have already seen numerous instances of the respect and attention which David invariably exhibited towards Saul; and he now gave a delicate illustration of that feeling, with respect to the men of Jabesh Gilead, who, no doubt from a grateful remembrance of their deliverance by his hands, at the beginning of his reign,t had preserved the remains of Saul and his three sons; for he sent messengers unto them, and said unto them, Blessed be ye of Jehovah, that ye have shewed this kindness unto your lord, even unto Saul, and have buried him. And now Jehovah shew kindness and truth unto you: and I also will requite you this kindness, because ye have done this thing. Therefore, now let your hands be strengthened, and be ye valiant: for your master Saul is dead, and also the house of Judah have anointed me king over them. I
By the death of Jonathan, Abinadab, and Melchishua, Ishbosheth, who was then forty years old, became the survivor ; and Abner, the son of Ner, brought him to Mahanaim, and made him king over all Israel; but the house of Judah followed David. Abner, however, no doubt contemplated the subjugation of David, and relying upon his numbers, and perhaps his own popularity, he attempted to excite a tumult, which he hoped might end in a general war, which might place all the tribes of Israel and Judah under the authority of his master, and, if so, virtually under his own; for it would seem that Ishbosheth was very imbecile character.
• The metropolis of the tribe of Judah. Ad. Clarke.
+ See page 10. 1 2 Sam. ij. 5—7.
With this view, Abner led out the servants of Ishbosheth to Gibeon, which occasioned a corresponding movement on the part of David; for Joab, and his other servants, went forth, and met Abner's party by the pool of Gibeon; the one party sitting down on one side of the pool, and the other party on the other side of the pool. Abner, in prosecution of his plan, proposed to Joab that their young men should play, or have a sham fight together, which Joab, although he could hardly be insensible of Abner's secret object, did not think it right to refuse. Accordingly, twelve men of Benjamin went out from Abner's party, and twelve from the servants of David, but they evidently came together in great animosity; for each man caught one of the opposite party by the head, and thrust his sword into his side, without attempting any defence or trial of skill, so that the whole twenty-four fell down dead; and the place was called Helkathhazzurim.* This rencontre was followed, according to Abner's intention, by a general battle, which did not end, however, agreeably to his wishes; for he and the men of Israel were beaten before the servants of David.
Out of this arose a circumstance which occasioned much evil in the result; for Joab had two brothers, Abishai, and Asahel, the latter of whom was light of foot as a wild roe. Although but a youth, he took upon bim to pursue Abner, in the hope, no doubt, of either slaying or taking him prisoner; forgetting, that although he might be swift enough to overtake Abner, he was no match for him in arms and bodily strength. Abner finding it impossible to escape, and not wishing to injure him, from respect and regard to his brother Joab, repeatedly called out to him to desist from his purpose, and instead of attacking himself, to turn aside and take the
• The field of strong men, or of rocks, or the portion of the nighty.
2 Saun. ii. 16.
armour from one of the young men, as a sufficient trophy. Whether Asahel really thought himself a match for Abner, or considered this proposal as a sort of treason to his commander, he kept pressing on Abner, which left the latter no other resource than to run him though with a spear, and he fell down and died.
Joab and Abishai had also continued the pursuit, and the sun went down when they were come to the hill of Ammah, that lies before Giab, by the way of the wilderness of Gibeon. And the children of Benjamin gathered themselves together, after Abner, and became one troop, and stood on the top of a hill. Abner now thought it prudent to beat a parley, and called upon Joah to put a stop to the pursuit; upon which the latter, who probably had received instructions from David to confine his operations to self defence, blew a trumpet, and all his people stood still, and pursued after Israel no more, neither fought they any more. Abner crossed over Jordan, and returned to Mahanaim, through Bithron, with the loss of 360 men ; whereas Joab's loss amounted only to 19, besides the swift footed Asahel. And they took up Asahel, and buried him in the sepulchre of his father, which was in Bethlehem. And Joab and his men went all night, and they came to Hebron at break of day.*
The war, however, thus begun, was continued; and David waxed stronger and stronger ; but the bouse of Saul waxed weaker and weaker. Abner and Ishbosheth having quarrelled about Rizpah, one of Saul's concubines, the former became very wroth, and sware solemnly, that he would translate the kingdom from the house of Saul, and set up the throne of David over Israel and over Judah, from Dan even to Beersheba. And accordingly he sent messengers to David, proposing to make a league with him, and to bring all Israel
• 2 Sam. ii. 32.