James Frederick McCurdy.

History, prophecy and the monuments (Volume 2) online

. (page 15 of 39)
Online LibraryJames Frederick McCurdyHistory, prophecy and the monuments (Volume 2) → online text (page 15 of 39)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


there throughout the country gradually disbanded. It
was yet long before war was to become a science or even
an art among the Hebrews. As they settled down to
pastoral and agricultural life, there was less need to con-
centrate forces for general defence. The development of
local interests still further discouraged the training of a
militia. Sometimes, even in the sorest need, as in the
days of Shamgar and Barak (§ 478 f.), it was difficult to
unite the scattered defenders of the struggling communi-
ties. Sometimes suitable weapons were hard to get.
How pressing was the need is shown by the virtual dis-
arming of the people by the victorious Philistines just at
the establishment of the kingdom (1 Sam. xiii. 19 £f.).
At best the armies that were raised during the whole
period of the Judges were hasty levies, composed of
straggling troops, tumultuous and ill-disciplined, each
man often fighting for his own hand. At best they Avere
a collection of local companies under local leaders.
Organized movements of large battalions Avere a thing
unknown. It seemed, in fact, much easier to set in
battle array tribe against tribe or section against section,
than to muster any large body of men to rejDel a foreign



Ch. V, § 518 BEGINNINGS OF A STANDING ARxMY 149

invader. All this was gradually changed, it is true,
upon the establishment of the monarchy. Yet it was
long before the discipline and tactics of a professional
soldiery could be seen on a large scale in any part of
Palestine. The highest militaiy art of those days was
first learned by the Aramieans of Damascus from their
Assyrian conquerors two centuries after the time of Saul.
The Damascenes were, in fact, the only great military
power of the West-land till the days of the Seleucidse.
Israel had its own share of military renown, and far more
■ than its share of patriots and heroes. But its achieve-
ments belong more to the records of personal valour and
devotion. The heroic age, with its triumphs of individ-
ual prowess and its spirit of unconquerable independence,
lingered long in the memory of Israel, and has filled out
a stirring chapter in the world's annals of patriotism.

§ 517. When, at length, Saul was made "king" over
Israel, the second stage of the military history of Israel
was besfun. His first care, after the relief of Jabesh-
Gilead and the customary dispersion of the levy, was
to select a permanent guard of three thousand men, and
station them in two divisions in positions specially
exposed to the assaults of the Philistines. Naturally
he and the heir to the throne at firet divided the com-
mand between them (1 Sam. xiii. 2 ff.). We also learn
that Saul made it his aim to secure for service in the
field any man who distinguished himself by valour or
heroic spirit (1 Sam. xiv. 52). A numerical principle
of organization was also followed (1 Sam. xvii. 18;
xviii. 13; cf. viii. 12). A general and captains were
appointed for active service, among whom the heroes of
the time had, doubtless, their own following severally.
A standing force was now recognized as a necessity, but
the soldier was still every man capable of bearing arms,
and the time of a military class or guild was yet to come.
§ 518. The third and final stage Avas, however, soon
arrived at. David chose for himself a body-guard of six



150 FEW HORSES AND CHARIOTS Book VII

hundred men. This band had very probably its begin-
nings in the company of refugees, outlaws, and broken
men who gathered around him in the wilderness of
Judah. We thus see that in its composition it struck
through the tradition of local or tribal selection, while in
its potential motive it illustrates the saving principle of
devotion to the person of the king (§ 515). The posses-
sion of this body of household troops usually turned the
scale thereafter in disputes about the royal succession.
At the same time the general militia was not annulled.
Its organization was rather maintained and extended
(2 Sam. xviii. 1; 2 K. i. 9; xi. 4, 19). In the time
of Jeroboam II the principle of tribal representation
seems to have been entirely done away, and each city
contributed its larger or smaller contingent (Amos v. 3;
cf. § 481 f.).i

§ 519. A standing militia, necessary as it was to mili-
tary greatness and prestige, was always hard to maintain
in Israel. No better proof of this is needed than the fact
that horses and chariots, which were indispensable to a
complete Oriental army, were as a rule but meagrely
represented. Solomon, averse though he was to foreign
wars (§ 206), expected to assure the integrity of the king-
dom of David by the establishment of a cavalry and
chariot service. His inflated revenues sustained for a
time the heavy expenses of the armament (cf. 1 K. x.
28 f.), but the collapse of this part of his establishment is
attested by the loss of the dependent states (§ 209). The
great schism limited forever the military possibilities of
either kingdom. Indeed, the comparative poverty of the
Hebrew territory of itself practically settled the question.
Chariots were more in demand than mounted horsemen,
and we may assume that at least after the time of David
they were never entirely absent. According to the report
of Shalmaneser II (§ 228) Ahab had two thousand

1 Some of the above-mentioned along with other interesting features of
military life in Israel are well exhibited by Nowack, HA. I, 359 ff.



Ch. V, § 520 THE MEKCENAUY TROOPS 151

chariots, but his successors had to submit to an enormous
reduction (i^ K. vii. 13; xiii. 7), and Samaria at its capture
seems to have had but fifty (Vol. I, p. 425). Hezekiah of
Judah was ridiculed by the legate of Sinacherib for his
lack of war-horses and horsemen (2 K. xviii. 23). In
brief it may be said that it was only in times of special
warlike enterprise that any considerable force of cavalry
could be put in the field.

§ 520. A powerful standing arni}^ was difficult to main-
tain for other reasons besides. The centre and mainstay
was of course the royal body-guard (§ 517 f.). With them
no doubt began the system of a regular commissariat and
fixed wages. The levies of the militia appear to have pro-
vided their own supplies (cf. 1 Sam. xvii. 17 f.) or to have
been provisioned by rich landholders (2 Sam. xvi. 1 f. ; xvii.
21 f. ; cf. 1 Sam. xxv. 5 IT.). Now these mercenary troops
were, as in all Oriental kingdoms, largely foreigners, or
taken from subject states of uncertain allegiance to Israel,
as for example, the "Cretans and Philistines" (§ 192).
The system of armed retainers of royalty was discouraged
by the best Israelites on several grounds. In the first
place, it tended to foster arbitrary power. Again, it was
apt to be made the instrument of insurrection (cf. 1 K.
xvi. 9). In the next place, it depreciated the patriotic
spirit of the people. In the heroic times every Israelite
was a volunteer soldier, ready with spear and bow or
any handy weapon for the defence of Jehovah's land.
National deliverance or lu-edominance if procured through
the valour of hirelings was a cheapening of loyalty of the
rankest kind and the beginning of national degradation. ^
The idea of personal responsibility for tlie defence of
Israel was retained till the latest times. It was not,
moreover, favourable to a professional soldiery, that the

1 IIow nobly loyal a soldier of the guard might be, even one of foreign
descent, is shown in the course of the pathetic story of the betrayal and
assassination of Uriah the Hettite (2 Sam. xi. 6 ff.). But such men, of
course, speedily became true Israelites (§ 550).



152 SAUL'S GOVERNMENT TRANSITIONAL Book VII

well-to-do proprietors kept up the good old custom (Gen.
xiv. 14 f.) of marching to the field at the head of their
armed retainers. To the stout yeomanry of the planta-
tions as well as the hardy shepherds and hunters, chariots
and horses must always have been an outlandish kind of
fighting material, besides being rather clumsy in their
movements upon the rugged terrain of Palestine .^ That
the Prophets so frequently inveighed against horses and
chariots was partly due to the consideration already men-
tioned. They had also the additional motive of dissuad-
ing the people from their fatuous schemes of alliance
with Egypt, whence the supply of war-steeds was usually
obtained (e.g. Isa. xxxi. 1), and from building up a strong-
secular power generally, which would turn the heart of
the nation from trust in Jehovah.

§ 521. We pass on now to the consideration of the
governmental and judicial changes brought about by the
kingdom. We observe at the outset the very striking fact
that the first three kings, Saul, David, Solomon, represent
three distinct stages in the development of the monarchy.
We notice, moreover, that the period which they occupy
contains germinally all subsequent decisive national
changes. The government of Saul was merely experi-
mental and preliminary. His conception of the kingdom
was that it was a kind of hereditary dictatorship (cf. § 51).
His administration had none of the pomp and prestige of
royalty. Nor was it guarded and stayed up by a cabinet
of court officials responsible only to the king, which is the
strength and support of every Semitic monarchy. This of
itself weakened his dynasty and cleared the path for a
popular pretender. His lack of political talent, his incon-

1 So the Syrians of Damascus, who were always famed for their cavalry
and charioteers (cf. again the report of Shalmaneser II, § 228) found that
in spite of these they were defeated on "the hills "by the footmen of
Israel (1 K. xx. 1, 21, 23, 25). Naturally they ascribed their defeat to
" the gods of the hills," but in so doing they implied that they had had
an uphill task during the battle.



Ch. V, § 522 DAVID'S COURT OFFICIALS 153

sistencies, his alienation of the priestliood, his easily roused
animosity, the " madness " of his jealousy, estranged him
and his government from the sympathies of the people,
and paralyzed the new institution in its earliest infancy.
His reign marked the great transition in the history of
Israel as a nation and in the development of Hebrew soci-
ety (§ 467). It swayed helplessly backward and forward,
and leaned equally upon the past and the future. Israel
during its tragic progress was like a wanderer who has
struck into a promising path, and who halts in utter
bewilderment at a sudden parting of the ways ; then night
falls upon him, and he sinks down in confusion and de-
spair. But the return of morning to Israel, after the
gloom and terror of Gilboa, revealed at least some things
clearly. The past could not be retraced ; the kingdom
was still the only hope and security. And a worthy king
was at hand, whose advent brought to the nation some-
thing like clearness and order.

§ 522. Under Saul the new and the old had been
hopelessly intertwined. David disengaged the new from
the old, and made it the order of the da}^ He was a
great king in many things, but in none more than in this,
that although an opportunist, he was no innovator. He
simply gave the kingdom a chance to survive. Though
he organized it for the first time, he really established no
institutions new to the Semitic world or unfamiliar to
Israel among the nations. Through him the monarchy
began to fulfil its functions. While Saul never deputed
another to do anything which he thought he could execute
for himself, the officers of David's court were appointed to
merely obvious duties, and were really the most elementary
functionaries of a well-established monarchy. Such were
a "recorder," or rather a secretary of state; a "scribe,"
or court annalist; one "over the tribute," or rudimen-
tary finance minister (cf. § 205). It was inevitable that
these, as well as the other officials of the general govern-
ment, should be his creatures, and that they should less



154 DAVID'S POLICY AND DEFECTS Book VII

and less represent the people from whose ranks they Avere
drawn. But this was inherent in the very nature of the
kingdom, at least of the only type of kingdom of which
the Hebrews were capable, most independent and demo-
cratic though they were of all the Semites (§ 63).

§ 523. Such a centralizing system* is the strength of
the king, but the bane of the people. David's ruling
motive, however, was the upbuilding of Jehovah's people
rather than his own aggrandizement. He strenuously
sought to conciliate all the tribes of Israel without dis-
tinction. His public faults, at least, were not those of
the typical Oriental despot. Even the census which he
undertook (§ 205), and which was so thoroughly made,
was, from the point of view of mere statesmanship, rather
commendable than otherwise. It was rightly op})Osed
by the politic Joab (2 Sam. xxiv. 3), who foresaw the
discontent of the people as indicated in the popularity of
the pretender Absalom. For the census was undertaken
under military auspices, and was supposed to have in
view both the conscription of every freeholder (cf. 1 Sam.
viii. 11 f.) and a scheme of general taxation. It was
opposed by the prophet of Jehovah apparently because
of what it presaged. Being the convenient basis of
taxation by system, it foreshadowed a wholesale exaction
of the people's wealth, and a spoliation of Jehovah's
poor ; in short, the virtual enslavement of the nation »
(1 Sam. viii. 14 ff.). If, therefore, the administration
of David was faulty, it was so mainly because, according
to Samuel's unsparing characterization, the kingly rule
in Israel must needs tend to selfish despotism. His
conduct in the matter of Uriah the Hettite was an indi-
cation of the lirutalizing tendency of suddenly acquired,
unlimited power. What a light it throM's upon the
possibilities of evil in an Oriental court! To David it
seemed, until his moral awakening, an assertion of his
mere personal prerogative. But how clearly did the
prophet, who stood for the independence as well as the



Cii. V, § 524 SOLOMON'S GOVERNMENT A FAILURE 155

sanctity of the Israelitisli home and household, reveal
the far-reaching responsibilities of the kingly office!

§ 524. What was germinal and incipient in David's
measures of government worked itself out under Solomon.
The most meritorious feature of the general policy of
Solomon, which, however, was mainly incidental, was
his attitude towards outsiders (§ 552). But the only
praiseAvorthy public act recorded of this king, who was sc
renowned for mental acuteness and wisdom of speech, was
the building and endowing of the Temple. All the rest
of his official deeds that we know of were those of a per-
sonall}' ambitious, self-aggrandizing tyrant. Especially
short-sighted was the impoverishment of the other tribes
for the sake of his own tribe of Judah. The perpetual
abridgment of his own dynastic authority Avas among
the least of the misfortunes brought upon Israel by these
and other high-handed measures (§ 206). The prosperity
induced by the stimulation of trade and manufacture was
forced and artificial, and therefore short-lived. Perhaps
the most stupendous practical folly of this grmid nio-
narque, who " never said a foolish thing, and never did a
Avise one," Avas his attempt to make a commercial nation
of Israel — a feat Avhich no one has as yet succeeded in
accomplishing for inland Palestine, and it is to be pre-
sumed never Avill.^ Indeed, if the attempt had been
feasible, it Avould have been the undoing of Israel, Avhose
mission it Avas through its OAvn poverty to make many
rich. Possibly it never occurred to Solomon that, unless
the country could pay by its own resources or earnings
for the horses and chariots, ivory and apes, peacocks and

1 The commercial navigation of tlie Red Sea from a subjugated seaport
of Edom, so often attempted by Israel, was a quite different enterprise
from the great achievements of the PhiDnician cities. Tlie Elanitic gulf
was too far from the centre of Israel's activity. If the Red Sea port had
been a colony of a trading nation, the case would have been different.
And in fact the only successful business carried on from that locality was
done by Phcenician vessels, and was always, when undertaken by Israel,
of brief duration. (1 K. ix. 26 ff. ; cf. § 67, 209, 215, 269.)



156 THE KINGDOM BEFORE THE SCHISM Book VII

sandal-wood (1 K. x. 22, 28 f.), which he imported so
lavishly, it would soon become poorer than it was when
he received it from his wise old father. And, as a matter
of fact, it was not a very wealthy or prosperous land
which Solomon left to his like-minded son and successor.

§ 525. But the economic follies of Solomon were not
the greatest of his crimes against his country. What
w^as of more lasting consequence was the example he set
of gaudy extravagance, of unbridled sensualit}', of luxuri-
ous self-indulgence at the cost not merely of the people's
money, but of their dearly bought tranquillity and peace.
How different Israel had now become within the century
of the new regime! What a gulf lay between Saul re-
turning to his farm and oxen after the relief of his be-
leaguered countrymen, and Solomon on his throne of gold
and ivory, with his troops of gilded courtiers and foreign
courtesans, and the mass of his subjects on the eve of
revolt! The great schism was, after all, not merely a
political but a moral necessity, and with all its disastrous
consequences really the lesser of two evils. Israel had
been rent in twain by Solomon before the revolt was
j)roclaimed in Shechem.

§ 526. Before the death of Solomon two broad conclu-
sions about the monarchy must have been drawn by the
responsible, thoughtful, middle-class people from whose
ranks came the Prophets of Israel. It was clear, on the
one hand, that the kingdom was necessary, and on the
other hand, that it had been for its chief purpose a
lamentable failure. It had prevented the complete dis-
integration and destruction of the Hebrew settlement.
But it could not avail to bind the tribes into one homo-
geneous nation. There never had been a real union of
sentiment. Nor, as it would appear, was there, for any
considerable time at least, a uniform administration of
the government over the whole people. The strength
and almost entire success of Absalom's rebellion testi-
fies to the smouldering spirit of discontent throughout



Ch. V, § 527 DISABILITIES OF THE NORTHERN KINGDOM 157

the greater part of Israel during the reign of David.
That Solomon treated, through residentiary officers, the
tribes north of Jerusalem as a sort of subject people is
to be fully explained only when we assume that they,
unlike the Judaic section, supported the administration
very reluctantly. This, then, we may be assured of,
that the union of the tribes was never fully realized in
any form after the conquest of Canaan, not even under
the kingdom of David, glorious as it was. A third fact,
also, we must not forget. Though outward political
union was but briefly and precariously realized, the
Hebrew people were still one and continued so to be,
and that in a sense in which unity cannot be affirmed
of any other divided ancient people. They were all the
servants and children of Jehovah (cf. § 378). Hence-
forward, even in their separation, the national develop-
ment of both kingdoms must go forward upon the same
ideal lines, and be judged by the same ideal standards.
Though parted forever, they were still brothers and neigh-
bours, with the same intellectual and spiritual inheritance
and with common political traditions.

§ 527. In the foregoing sections I have tried to show
that the two main tribal aggregations of Israel never
really coalesced. It has also been shown how near they
came to coalition, and why they failed to unite com-
pletely. We are now prepared to understand why the
two kingdoms diverged so widely in their subsequent
history, in spite of their close internal affinities and
their frequent interaction. The more obvious and out-
ward differences between them, so marked in their sep-
arate destinies, have been already sufficiently detailed
in connection with the narrative sketch (§ 271 ff. ; cf.
§ 372 ff.). It is now made plain that the internal causes
are equally influential. It is clear that what is known
as Northern Israel never really came under monarchical
government under the earliest kings, at least not in the
same degree, and scarcely in the same sense, as did the



158 THE CHIEF GRIEVANCES Book VII

more favoured kingdom of David. The advantage thus
conferred upon the smaller division was never lost. The
kingdom of the " Ten Tribes " soon came to greater
strength and outward prosperity; but it did not attain
to a fixed constitution until the germs of dissolution
had already been planted in the body politic. What
gave Judah its stability, its cohesiveness, its endur-
ance, its name and influence in history, was almost
as much its political advantage as its religious supe-
riority.

§ 528. The social and governmental development of
the two kingdoms proceeded pretty much on parallel
lines, as we would expect from their similar antece-
dents and common traditions and origin. But, as we
have seen, their positions at the starting-point were
immensely different. The central and especially the
northern people were politically far in the rear. Their
revolt and election of a new king brings this fact out
into clear relief. These were desperate measures, re-
sorted to only under the direst necessity. The feeling
was at bottom not so much one of local jealousy. Nor
was it due to attachment to the house of Saul, which
was, at the death of Solomon, little more than a pathetic
tradition. Neither was the revolt wholly prompted by
the desire on their part to have a king of their own sec-
tion. There were in reality several different sections of
Israel concerned in the movement, and the choice of an
Ephraimite shows that the sentiment of brotherhood was
stronger than local interest or passion. Moreover, they
were quite contented with the principle of hereditary
succession. This was the only kind of kingship known,
or even possible, to them^ (§ 51), and that they would

1 It must not be inferred from the frequent changes of dynasty in the
northern, as contrasted with the southern, kingdom (§ 278), that the
hereditary principle was held less religiously in the former. The revolu-
tions there only illustrate further the unsettlement and disintegration of
the tribes of Israel north of Benjamin, the pendant of Judah. The sue-



Cii. V, § 529 POLITICAL BACKWARDNESS 159

have been content with a congenial representative of the
family of David is shown by their adhesion to the banner
' of Absalom. Their most pressing grievance was that
they had no chance of impartial consideration from the
house of David.

§ 529. But this was not all. The desperation of the
seceders was due not simply to the fact that the}' had
been neglected and misgoverned, but that they had been
practically without any government that transcended
the tribal organization of their fathers. We know that
among the Western Semites kinglj' rule did not extend
far beyond the influence of the court officials and the
dependent nobles, unless where conquest brought about
a forcible union (cf. § 29 ff.). The administrative dis-
tricts erected by Solomon might have served to unify
the tribes, if they had not been devised for purposes
of taxation, military conscription, and statute labour.
That is to say, while the energies and resources of the
people of the north were being employed to build up
Judah and Jerusalem, and to strengthen and develop a
central aristocracy in the south, their own local interests
and institutions were neglected. The king was repre-
sented not so much by civil governors and magistrates
as by tax-gatherers and garrisons. In short, the most
of Israel remained domestically and internally pretty
much as it was in the time of the Judges, while its ex-
perience of the monarchy had served mainly to harass and
distract it beyond endurance. This was the crisis of the
great schism. The unsettlement, the strife, the misery,
of the succeeding forty years Avere but the working out
of the effort to consolidate on the basis of the monarchy
(cf. § 375). They were the throes of the birth-time of a
new order. Politically and socially. Northern Israel was
no further advanced on the accession of Omri (§ 212) than

cession, from the very beginning, devolved, of course, upon the eldest son,
unless set aside by the will of the kingly house-father (§ 428) ; and this
canon also was as valid in the one kingdom as ui the other.



Online LibraryJames Frederick McCurdyHistory, prophecy and the monuments (Volume 2) → online text (page 15 of 39)