William M. (William Mackergo) Taylor.

David, king of Israel: his life and its lessons online

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Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1874, by

In the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington.


THE Psalms of David are the throbbing heart of Holy
Scripture. But they can not be fully understood unless
we read them in the light of the experiences out of which
they sprung. Hence the life of the son of Jesse must be ever
interesting to the devout student of the Word of God ; and
many have undertaken to set it forth in distinctness before
the modern reader.

In adding another to the works already existing on this
portion of sacred history, I have no other apology to offer
than that which arises out of the interest, amounting almost
to a fascination, which it has long had for myself. I have en-
deavored to give vividness and reality to the far-off past, and
to draw from it lessons of " doctrine, of warning, of reproof,
of correction, of instruction in righteousness" for the present.
In attempting to do this I have availed myself of all the light
which I could obtain from every quarter. I have not con-
sciously evaded any difficulty, or strained any statement;
and while I have carefully noted my obligations to others, I
can not forbear expressing in this place my indebtedness to
Dean Stanley's " Lectures on the Jewish Church," and the Bi-
ble dictionaries of Kitto, Smith, and Fairbairn.

Such as it is, I desire to lay my work at the feet of Him
" whose I am and whom I serve ;" and if it shall in any meas-
ure increase my reader's interest in the Old Testament Scrip-
tures, or add to his enjoyment of the sacred Psalter, or min-
ister to his spiritual profit, I shall be abundantly rewarded.

BROADWAY TABERNACLE, September 30, 1874.




I. The Anointing at Bethlehem 9

II. Medicinal Music 24

III. The Conflict with Goliath 41

IV. David and Jonathan 58

V. The Escape from Gibeah to Ramah 75

VI. The Valley of Deceit . . 93

VII. Songs in the Night _ 112

VIII. Cave Songs 133

IX. Ndbal 153

X. Ziklag, Endor, and Gilboa 170

XI. Hebron and Jerusalem 191

XII. The B 'ringing up of the Ark 210

XIII. Natharfs Message 230

XIV. David 's Administration 245

XV. The Great Transgression 264

XVI. The Bereavement 283

XVII. The Revolt of 'Absalom 299

XVIII. Absalom 1 s Defeat and Death 320

XIX. The Restoration of David to his Throne 338

XX. Famine and Pestilence 360

XXI. Even-song 379

XXII. The Coronation of Solomon 399

XXIII. Last Words 415





i SAMUEL xvi., 1-13.

N entering upon the consideration of the life-story of Da-
vid, King of Israel, it is needful that we have a clear
conception of the state of affairs in the land at the time
when he first appears upon the scene.

Samuel, to whose history the interest of every reader is
drawn with a peculiar fascination, was now an old man ; and
had, in a great measure, retired from public life to his home
at Ramah, where, however, he still presided over one of those
educational institutions which in the Old Testament are
called "schools of the prophets." He had judged Israel for
twenty years with prudence, impartiality, and success, and
was in every way as worthy as ever of the veneration and con-
fidence of the community. But moved, partly by the fact that
his sons did not walk in his footsteps, and partly also by
that ostentatious rivalry of their neighbors, which is the bane
of states as well as of families, the tribes desired a king. This
request at first greatly distressed the aged prophet, but after
consulting God upon the subject he was led to acquiesce in
the proposal, and at a solemn gathering of the people he ad-
dressed them in a strain of mingled tenderness and reproof,
took them to witness that he had managed their affairs with
moderation and integrity, and then summoned them to ap-
point their king, not however by popular election, but by lot,


thereby reminding them that he who should be set over them
would be, after all, only the vicar and representative of their
true King, Jehovah. The whole narrative impresses us with
a sense of the dignity and self-control of Samuel ; and we
see that he was a truly patriotic and self-sacrificing man,
willing to be any thing, or to do any thing, for the sake of his
people and his God.

The man on whom the lot at this time fell was Saul, the
son of Kish, of the tribe of Benjamin. He had an imposing
appearance, great martial prowess, and considerable intel-
lectual ability, and if he had been willing to sink his person-
al ambition in the service of the Lord, he might have be-
come truly great, but ever and anon he rebelled against and
overpassed what may be called the constitutional restraints
of the theocratic monarchy ; and so he lost the great op-
portunity of his life, and left behind him a name around
which the saddest associations hover, and to which no real
nobility belongs.

At first his appointment to the regal office was the occa-
sion of discontent, and almost mutiny, among the people ;
but the promptitude and valor which he evinced in the res-
cue of the citizens of Jabesh-gilead secured to him the will-
ing homage of his subjects. His reverence for God, howev-
er, was not equal to his daring on the field of battle, and he
fretted and chafed under what he regarded as the interfer-
ence of Jehovah with his management of public affairs.

On at least two memorable and testing occasions he show-
ed his determination to take his own way, in defiance of the
commands of the Almighty.

The first of these was in connection with an effort to rid
the people of the vexatious bondage under which they were
held by the Philistines, who still maintained several garri-
sons in the midst of the Promised Land, from which they
came forth ever and anon to plunder and murder the inhab-


itants. Jonathan, Saul's noble son, had taken the strong-
hold of Geba ; and the king, desirous of following up this
success by a general assault upon the enemy, summoned
the people to Gilgal. It would appear, however, that Sam-
uel had, in the name of Jehovah, forbidden him to do any
thing until he had arrived and offered sacrifice, and that he
had appointed the seventh day for that purpose. In the
mean time, the Philistines, hearing of the movements of the
Israelites, had assembled in great force, and came up to of-
fer battle. Their appearance occasioned a panic among the
Israelites, and Saul's soldiers were deserting on every hand,
so that, in his view, it became necessary to act at once.
Hence, on the seventh day, though Samuel had not yet come,
Saul, thinking to stay the panic that had set in, and perhaps
also imagining that he would raise himself in the estimation
of the army, assumed the office of priest, and offered sacri-
fice with his own hands.

He had scarcely finished when Samuel arrived ; and hav-
ing heard what the king had done, the prophet sorrowful-
ly, yet sternly, said, " Thou hast done foolishly : thou hast
not kept the commandment of the Lord thy God, which he
commanded thee : for now would the Lord have established
thy kingdom upon Israel forever. But now thy kingdom
shall not continue : the Lord hath sought him a man after
his own heart, and the Lord hath commanded him to be
captain over his people, because thou hast not kept that
which the Lord commanded thee."*

The second similar occasion was in connection with a
commission which Saul received to destroy the Amalekites,
who were ancient foes of Israel, and whose extermination
was needful to the establishment of the great theocracy.
The order was very severe. No one was to be spared, and

* I Sam. xiii., 13, 14.


all the cattle were to be destroyed. But Saul faltered in
carrying it out. From a spirit of self-glory he spared Agag,
the chief, that he might grace his triumphant return to Gib-
eah. In the same arrogant disposition, he set up a memo-
rial of his victory near Carmel ; and preferring his own way
to God's, he spared the flocks and herds under pretense of
making a great offering to Jehovah. Again, however, he
was confronted by Samuel, who upbraided him with his self-
will, and gave utterance to that great principle which had in
it the forecast of the Gospel, " To obey is better than sacri-
fice, and to hearken than the fat of rams." Thereafter the
prophet repeated his solemn announcement, " Because thou
hast rejected the word of the Lord, he hath also rejected
thee from being king." This declaration deeply affected
Saul, and he sought by every means to draw from Samuel
some revocation. In the earnestness of his appeal he even
laid hold upon the prophet's mantle, but, from the rending
of the garment in the royal hand, Samuel only took occa-
sion to repeat the prediction in another form, saying, " The
Lord hath rent the kingdom of Israel from thee this day,
and hath given it to a neighbor of thine, that is better than
thou."* Still, commiserating the humiliated monarch, the
prophet yielded to his entreaty so far as to continue to hon-
or him that day before the people, but after he had with his
own hands put to death the chief of the Amalekites, Samuel
withdrew to his retirement in Ramah ; and so far as the rec-
ord bears he saw Saul again no more, save for a brief space
at Naioth, until that night of terror and dismay at Endor,
when he came forth from his grave to say to him, " To-mor-
row shalt thou and thy sons be with me."

Alas ! for Saul. With many elements of greatness about
him, and having withal such a disposition that those who

* I Sam. xv., 22, 23, 28.


were most intimately connected with him could not help lik-
ing him, he was yet the creature of impulse, swaying ever-
more between his better and his worse nature. Now he was
among the sons of the prophets entering enthusiastically into
their occupations, and catching the spirit of their service ;
and anon he was carried away by some caprice of self-con-
ceit, or some freak of personal inclination, to do what was
utterly inconsistent with the position which he occupied, as
the servant of the Lord upon the throne of Israel. Had he
yielded to the promptings of his nobler self, and the draw-
ings of God's Spirit, he might have been one of the grandest
characters in sacred history ; but he allowed his lower nature
to predominate, and though to the last we have occasion-
al outflashings of his old generosity and religiousness, these
were but like the glimmerings of an expiring lamp, which
went out in a darkness so profound as to sadden the heart
of every beholder. As Dean Stanley has truly remarked,
" His religion was never blended with his moral nature his
religious zeal was always breaking out in wrong channels on
irregular occasions in his own way ;" and again " it broke out
in wild, ungovernable acts of zeal and superstition, and then
left him a prey more than ever to his own savage disposition."*
With splendid opportunities and great abilities, he yet failed
to profit by either, because he knew not " the day of his
visitation," and because he repudiated the conditions within
which alone he could have risen to greatness. Yet there was
a strange charm about him too. Even as in our own day we
may know some reckless youth, with frank, impetuous dispo-
sition, and occasional impulses to right things, who is making
shipwreck of himself, and whom, in spite of his folly, we can
not help liking, so we are drawn toward Saul notwithstand-
ing his wickedness, and we can well understand how Samuel

* " The Jewish Church," vol. ii., pp. 21, 24.


felt when he "mourned" over him. He had hoped so much
from him ; he had seen so much that was lovable about
him ; and yet he had been so sadly disappointed in him, that
we do not wonder at his sorrow. Haply, too, he was cher-
ishing the expectation that he might yet come to himself, and
redeem the promise of his earlier time. But it was not so to
be, for now the command comes to the prophet, " How long
wilt thou mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from
reigning over Israel ? fill thine horn with oil, and go, I will
send thee to Jesse the Beth-lehemite : for I have provided me
a king among his sons."

The town to which Samuel was now sent was but a little
one among the thousands of Judah, and up to this time had
not come into any great prominence in the history of the
tribe. It is about five miles south of Jerusalem, a little to
the east of the road that leads to Hebron. It stands upon
the summit and slopes of a narrow ridge, which projects east-
ward from the central chain of the Judean mountains. The
sides of the hill below the village are carefully terraced, and
even in modern times they are occupied with fertile vine-
yards ; while in the valleys beneath, and on a little plain that
lies to the eastward, there are some corn-fields whose produce,
perhaps, gave the name Bethlehem, or house of bread, to the
town with which they were connected. Beyond these fields
is the wilderness of Judea, the chief features of which are
white limestone hills, thrown confusedly together, with deep
ravines winding in and out among them.

The place never was of any great political importance in
the land, but around it cluster associations which, throughout
eternity, will make its name illustrious. In the immediate
neighborhood, memorial of the tenderest sorrow of Jacob's
life, was the tomb of Rachel. In yonder corn-fields Ruth
gleaned after the reapers of Boaz, on those never-to-be-for-
gotten harvest-days which so materially changed the circum-


stances of the alien woman, and made her the ancestress of
a royal line, whose representative sits now at God's right
hand. On the slopes of these hills David was watching his
father's flocks on the occasion before us ; and here, too, was
announced to shepherds, as they tended their charge by
night, the glad tidings of the birth of him who " has brought
life and immortality to light."

It was an appropriate training-place for the future king
and bard of Israel, and no occupation could have been more
conducive to the development in him of those qualities of
prudence, promptitude, and prowess which his after-life re-
quired, than that of a shepherd. Its solitude would cast him
upon the companionship of God ; and when the night unveiled
the glory of the stars, he would become familiar with the gran-
deur of the heavens, thus storing his mind with lofty thoughts
and holy musings, which, either then or at a later day, came
forth glorified and made immortal by the music of his verse.
Nor was this all : his unceasing labors and occasional conflicts
with wild animals from the neighboring wilderness would give
him physical strength; while, again, his proximity to the tribe
of Benjamin would call forth in him a desire to outrival, in their
friendly matches, the skill of those eminent marksmen " who
could sling at a hair-breadth and not miss," and so, all un-
consciously to himself, prepare him for the work which lay
before him.

But we must not anticipate. When Samuel received his
commission he was filled with dismay, and said, " How can I
go? if Saul hear it, he will kill me." This fear on the part
of one who was usually so brave may indicate, either that
the mental malady with which Saul was latterly afflicted had
already begun to show itself in fierce outbreaks of passionate
cruelty, or that he had somehow manifested that unscrupu-
lous disregard of human life which he evinced at a later date
on more than one occasion, and more particularly when he


caused the seventy priests of Nob to be put to death. But
the Lord's will must be done. So he is commanded to al-
lay suspicion by summoning the inhabitants of Bethlehem
to a sacrifice. Here, however, was no subterfuge. There
would have been disingenuousness if he had professed to of-
fer sacrifice, while he really meant to do nothing of the kind;
but he did carry out his design in that matter, though for pru-
dential considerations he made no public allusion to the oth-
er commission with which he was intrusted. If any surprise
be felt at the offering of sacrifice, in a place other than that
appointed in the Mosaic law, the explanation is to be found
in the fact that the ark of the covenant of the Lord was not
at this time in the Tabernacle, but in the city of Kirjath-
jearim, and so the Tabernacle had ceased for the present to
be the only place of the nation's worship.*

The appearance of the prophet approaching the city, and
driving a heifer before him, created quite a sensation among
the people. They feared that in some way they had offend-
ed God, and that he had sent his servant to denounce them
and to bring some punishment upon their heads. Thus nat-
ural is it for men whose consciences tell of guilt, to fear when
any thing reminds them of Jehovah. Hundreds of years af-
ter this, when the heavenly light was seen in the same place
by the shepherds, they too were " sore afraid ;" but there was
as little ground for fear in the one case as in the other ; for
in both there was a provided sacrifice, and in both the mis-
sion was one of peace ; yea, as Samuel came to anoint David
to be a king, so the angel-heralded Jesus appeared " to make
us kings and priests unto our Lord and his Father."

Having exhorted them to make suitable preparations for
the sacred service, and having gone through the necessary
ritual observances, the prophet invited Jesse and his sons to

* See Keil on i Samuel, p. 168.


take their places at the feast with which the sacrifice con-
cluded ; but just as they were about to sit down, he looked
intently at the young men to see which of them was the
Lord's anointed. The eldest attracted his attention by his
countenance and his stature, and he said within himself,
" This must be he ;" but God, reminding him, perhaps, of the
same features about Saul, declared that he had refused him,
because he read in his heart unfitness for the royal office.
Similarly the rest were passed, until, in great perplexity,
Samuel said to Jesse, "Are here all thy children?" The
answer revealed to him that the youngest was in the field
following the sheep, whereupon he affirmed that they could
not proceed until he appeared, and directed that he should
be sent for immediately.

While, therefore, they await the return of the messenger,
we may briefly give you all that we can gather from the page
of Scripture of the genealogy and position of Jesse and his
family. From the table at the end of the book of Ruth,
taken in connection with that prefixed to the gospel of Mat-
thew, we learn that Jesse was the ninth, in direct descent,
from Judah, the son of Jacob ; and as in the first chapter of
the book of Numbers we have the name of Nahshon, the fifth
in that lineage, with the title " prince of the house of Judah "
attached to it, we may fairly presume that the family was of
great importance in the tribe. We know, too, that Boaz, the
grandfather of Jesse, was a wealthy magnate in Bethlehem ;
and so we may conclude that Jesse was, if not the chief man
in the place, at least one of its most influential inhabitants.
In the tables to which I have referred the names of two
Gentile women occur Rahab of Jericho, and Ruth of Moab
and it is by no means improbable that the connection of
his ancestors with Gentile nations may have had, when he
came to know it, a considerable influence on the mind of
David, while, perhaps, it contributed in after -days to his


choice of Moab as an asylum for his parents when it was no
longer safe for them to remain in Bethlehem.

The family of Jesse consisted of eight sons and three
daughters. David was the youngest child ; and so great a
difference was there between his age and those of some of
the elder ones, that the sons of his sister Zeruiah seem to
have been brought up as boys along with him, and were
through life associated with him not always to his advan-
tage. Of his mother we know almost nothing ; her name
has nowhere been preserved for us in sacred history. Some
have supposed that she was Jesse's second wife, and others
have not scrupled to place her in a less honorable relation-
ship ; with no good ground, however, so far as I can see.
David in his Psalms styles himself, on more than one occa-
sion, " the son of God's handmaid ;" and this leads us to be-
lieve that she had a holy influence upon him, and that it was
most likely from her lips that he first heard the wondrous
story of God's former dealings with his people, as well as
the simple, pathetic pastoral of Ruth. His father is not re-
ferred to by him in any such way as to evince that he owed,
either intellectually or spiritually, very much to him. In-
deed, as one has said, Jesse " seems to have been a sort
of dull country squire, with not many thoughts beyond his
sheep, and not many aspirations beyond the advancement
of himself and family. He manifestly thought very little of
his youngest son ; perhaps because he was a quiet, thought-
ful, pious lad, who liked better to make hymns and sing
them, than to pursue those arts by which his older brothers
were seeking to push their way in the world."* But he had
a firm hold on his mother's heart ; and we can imagine how,
when he came home at night fatigued by the day's toils, she

* Dr. \V. L. Alexander, of Edinburgh : " Christian Thought and Work,"
pp. 256, 257.


would soothe and solace him, and minister to his wants,
bringing with her some well-saved dainty which she knew he
would prize ; how, when he spoke to her some of his musings
over the realities of the world unseen, she would enter into
his views and feelings, and deepen every salutary impres-
sion ; and how, when he sung to her some simple song
which he had made that day while following the flock, she
would shield him from the ridicule of his brothers, and
give him, in her loving appreciation of his verse, a new in-
spiration, firing his heart with the ambition of some day
producing such poetry that " the world would not willingly
let it die."

But yonder he comes ! with his shepherd's crook in his
hand, his face flushed with the exertions he has been mak-
ing to obey his father's call, his auburn hairf_flowing in the
breeze, and a light flashing from his fair, bright eyes. We
can easily picture him to ourselves as, with bashful surprise,
he felt the holy oil suffuse his head, and saw it flow even to
the skirts of his garments.

We are not informed whether Samuel explained to him, or
to his father, the meaning of this sacred rite. The likeli-
hood is that he did not, because his words would have been
sure in some way or other to have reached the ears of Saul,
and then all his prudential measures would have been taken
in vain. But David would receive all needful knowledge
from another quarter, for "the Spirit of the Lord came upon_
Jnm Jrpmthat day forward." I^ot with. s"tormlul gust, like
that which TwepT'over th"e~soul of Saul when he met the
children of the prophets, and which speedily passed away ;
but with the gentle silence of the opening dawn which bright-
ens into perfect day, the Spirit came into David's heart, and
soon, by his secret, supernatural suggestions, he would dis-

* I Sam. xii., 6.


cover for what purpose the prophet had emptied his horn of
oil upon his head.

It was a crisis in his history. He entered from that mo-
ment upon a higher stage of life than that on which hereto-
fore he had stood. The light-hearted boy became a thought-
ful youth, forecasting the duties and responsibilities of his
future career ; but, far from considering the tending of his
sheep a work too menial for one on whom the consecrating
oil had been shed, he went back to it, seeing in it a new sig-
nificance as a preparative for the nobler labors that lay be-
fore him. He sought to fit himself for the loftier sphere by
continuing faithfully to discharge the duties of the humbler ;
and while he was far from putting away from him the exal-
tation which was in store for him, he was content to wait un-
til it was God's time for him to rise to it. The revelation
of the future neither soured his heart at the present, nor

Online LibraryWilliam M. (William Mackergo) TaylorDavid, king of Israel: his life and its lessons → online text (page 1 of 36)