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children's children; to such as keep his covenant, and to those that remember his commandments to do them." c How many thousands of parents, when mourning over the loss of their children, have comforted themselves with this psalm of David's!
THE death of his infant child was only the beginning of David's sorrows. Worse things followed. Absalom, one of David's sons, had murdered his brother Amnon. David made Absalom severely feel his displeasure; upon which he formed a design to drive his father from the throne. The plan was very artfully devised. Ahithophel, one
c Psalm ciii. 1-18.
of David's chief counsellors, attached himself to Absalom, and many of the people were for him. The beauty of his person, surpassing that of any in all Israel, had already prepossessed many in his favour; but still more did he by artful conduct steal away the hearts of the people.
Suddenly one day there came a report to Jerusalem: "Absalom has been proclaimed king at Hebron." At this the heart of David, formerly so courageous, gave way. "Arise, and let us flee," he cried; "for we shall not else escape from Absalom." The king went over the brook Kedron, and he went up the ascent of Mount Olivet, and wept as he went up, and had his head covered; and he went barefoot, and all the people that were with him covered every man his head. And they went up, weeping as they went. A relation of Saul's, named Shimei, cast stones at him as he went, and cursed him. And Abishai, the son of Zeruiah, wished to go and take off his head. But David said, "Let him curse, because the Lord hath said unto him, Curse David. Who shall then say, Wherefore hast thou done so?" David went to the stronghold of Mahanaim.
Absalom took possession of the king's throne at Jerusalem, and felt so secure, that he thought he had only to command the thousands of Israel to deliver up his father, dead or alive. But the faithful in the land soon assembled around David; and when they came to battle, Joab was able to go against the rebellious son with a strong army. They would not allow the aged king to go out with them; for, said they, "Thou art worth ten thousand of us : therefore now it is better that thou succour us out of the city." As they went out,
David commanded the captains publicly: "Deal gently, for my sake, with the young man, even with Absalom."
The rebel's army was completely defeated. Absalom himself, in his flight, was caught by his beautiful hair, which was remarkably long, in the branches of an oak; and there he was left hanging, and the mule that was under him went away. One of the soldiers who saw him hanging, told the chief captain. "Why didst thou not smite him to the ground?" said Joab. "I would have given thee ten shekels of silver, and a girdle.' "Though I should receive a thousand shekels of silver in mine hand," said the other, "yet would I not put forth my hand against the king's son: for in our hearing the king charged thee, saying, Beware that none touch the young man Absalom." "I may not tarry with thee," replied Joab. And he took three darts, and thrust them through the heart of Absalom, while he was yet alive in the midst of the oak.
The news of the victory gave at first no joy to the king, because his son was dead. He wept, and cried out again and again, "O Absalom, my son, my son! would God I had died for thee!" a But in Jerusalem, and all Israel, every thing was changed as soon as the news of the victory arrived. With great joy the men of Judah came to lead David back in triumph. Even Shimei also came bowing, and asking forgiveness. Surrounded by joyful companions, David returned again to Jerusalem. And Israel remained one mighty kingdom so long as David lived.
a 2 Sam. xviii.
PESTILENCE IN ISRAEL.
PESTILENCE IN ISRAEL.
THE spirit of rebellion was not quelled with Absalom's death. First of all, a man of Benjamin, of the name of Sheba, blew a trumpet, and said, "We have no part in David, neither have we inheritance in the son of Jesse." But Joab soon subdued the rising. Then the spirit of disobedience broke out again in David's own family. Joab wished to make Adonijah king, to succeed his father David; but by the prompt measures of king David this plan was suppressed, and Solomon, one of David's youngest sons, was proclaimed king. But, before Solomon's accession to the throne one awful visitation occurred.
In consequence, probably, of these repeated rebellions, David wished to give a military constitution to the kingdom, which was entirely opposed to the law given by Moses. For this purpose, he directed his chief captain, Joab, to have the people numbered. Joab properly remonstrated with the king against this. But the king's word prevailed against his chief captain's; and for more than nine months Joab and the rest of the captains were employed in going through all the tribes, for the purpose of taking the numbers. But when Joab brought the numbers to the king, David's heart smote him, and he began to repent of the step which he had taken. Then God sent the prophet Gad to David, who said to him, in the name of the Lord, "I offer thee three things; choose thee one of them, that I may do it unto thee. Shall seven years of famine come unto thee in thy land? or wilt thou flee three months before thine enemies, while they pursue thee? or that there be three
days' pestilence in thy land?" David said, “I am in a great strait: let us fall now into the hand of the Lord, for his mercies are great; and let me not fall into the hand of man." So the Lord sent a pestilence upon Israel, so that there died of the people from Dan even unto Beersheba seventy thousand men. And when the angel stretched out his hand upon Jerusalem to destroy it, the Lord repented of the evil, and said to the angel that destroyed the people, "It is enough; stay now thine hand.” a And the angel of the Lord was by the threshing place of Araunah the Jebusite. And David went and built there an altar unto the Lord, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings. So the Lord was intreated for the land, and the plague was staid.
David appointed officers for the people from among the Levites, according to the law, to the number of six thousand. The rest of the Levites were divided, for the service of the temple, into twenty-four courses, each course consisting of a thousand men ; and he appointed the temple choir, consisting of four thousand singers, divided into twenty-four courses, out of the sons of Asaph; and over them were placed the pious psalmist Jeduthun, and the venerable minstrel Heman.
As setting in order the service of the sanctuary had been one of David's first concerns on coming to the throne, so his last thoughts were directed to the same great object. In the presence of all the officers of the kingdom, and all the chiefs of the people, David resigned the government to his son Solomon, and charged him above all things to erect the house of God, which he had himself
a 12 Sam. xxiv.