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William M. (William Mackergo) Taylor.

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

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and history of those to whom they were originally addressed.
Now of this latter class the prediction on which I have been
remarking is an example. David was himself, in his offi-
cial position and dignity as king, a prophecy of the Messiah.
Hence predictions which had a primary reference to him
as a king, and to his house as a dynasty, had through him
an allusion to the Messiah, and were thoroughly fulfilled
only in Christ. When, however, we interpret all such ora-
cles, both of the type and of the antetype, we are not putting
upon them a double sense. The truth rather is, that he to
whom they were first given sustained a double character, and
we find that the one meaning of the predictions holds true of
him in both characters. It is, therefore, utterly impossible to
exhaust the meaning of such a prophecy as this before us, or
such a Psalm as the second, without going through David to
David's son, who was also David's Lord. Indeed, from some
of David's own expressions here, and especially from some
of his words in the 2d, Sgth, and noth Psalms, which all re-
duplicate on this message of Nathan's, it would almost seem
that he himself had some idea of its ultimate reference.
Perhaps we may apply to him the words of Peter to the
prophets generally, and say, " that he searched what, or what
manner of time, the Spirit of Christ did signify when it testi-
fied beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that
should follow." But, however that may be, and whether or
not he had in connection with this promise any prevision of
the Redeemer, we can not but feel that there are expressions
here which, true in a subsidiary sense of David, can only be
said to be fully verified in Jesus Christ.

But now, leaving the significance of the prophecy itself,



238 DAVID, KING OF ISRAEL.

we must attend to the manner in which it was received by
David. At the first, perhaps, there might be a pang of dis-
appointment in his heart, when he was told so decisively
that he was not to be the builder of the Temple, for this had
been the one great desire of his soul ; and it is not easy
for one in a moment to reconcile himself to another arrange-
ment of his life than that which he had planned for himself.
We think of the author who, having been kept by one inter-
ruption after another from the great work to which he meant
to give his life, is at last fairly in sight of its being under-
taken by him, and then, overtaken by weakness, is compelled
to leave it unattempted. We think of the statesman who
has fought his way through the jealousies, and envyings, and
depreciations of rivals into the front, and who seems just
about to lay his hand upon the helm of the commonwealth,
when God in his providence breaks him down with disease,
and bids him step aside that another may go before him.
We think of the President who had safely piloted his coun-
try through the rapids of a terrible civil war, and was just
about to reconstruct on a broader and more stable founda-
tion a reunited nation, when he was stricken down, and the
life that was shaping itself into a finished pillar became, to
human view, only a broken shaft. And as these and similar
disarrangements of earthly plans come up before us, bring-
ing with them their appropriate feelings, we may be apt to
imagine that when David saw the hope of his life cut off
in a moment, he would be plunged into the deepest dejec-
tion. But if, even for an instant, such an emotion existed
in his breast, it was speedily subdued, and he was not only
resigned to the determination of God, but also jubilant and
grateful for the divine goodness. Nor is it difficult to ac-
count for this ; for he sought to build the Temple, not for
his own glory, but for that of Jehovah. In desiring to rear
a majestic house for God's dwelling-place and worship, he



NATHAN'S MESSAGE. 239

was actuated by no vulgar craving for fame, like that which
impelled Erostratus to set fire to the Ephesian Diana's fane ;
he wished to honor Jehovah ; and if God preferred that he
should be honored by him in another way, who was he that
he should question the wisdom of his choice ? Moreover,
he was assured that the Temple should be built, and that
was, in his estimation, a greater thing than that he should
build it. Furthermore, the Lord had been graciously pleased
to speak to him of the royal house which he was to found,
and of the kingdom rising out of his own which was to last
forever ; and in the contemplation of these wondrous things
he forgot his personal predilections, and was dumb with
amazement at the divine regard for him, taking refuge in
God's omniscience as a guarantee that his silence would not
be misunderstood. " What can David say more unto thee ?
for thou, Lord God, knowest thy servant." Then, when he
could find speech again, he used it to magnify God's name,
and to turn the promises which he had just received into
prayers. "And now, O Lord God, the word that thou hast
spoken concerning thy servant, establish it forever, and do
as thou hast said." " Let it please thee to bless the house
of thy servant, that it may continue forever before thee : for
thou, O Lord God, hast spoken it : and with thy blessing let
the house of thy servant be blessed forever." Thus faith
ever produces humility, gratitude, and prayer humility at the
thought that God has been so good to the believer ; gratitude
at the remembrance of the goodness promised ; and prayer
that the promise may be fulfilled. To some, indeed, it may
seem that the two former are more natural results of faith
than the latter, since, if the faith be strong, it might be ex-
pected to leave God to himself, without making any request
to him on the subject. But they who think thus know little
of the workings of the filial heart. Your child does not re-
frain from asking because you have made him a promise ;



240 DAVID, KING OF ISRAEL.

nay, rather, just because of your promise, he asks all the
more. And if it be thus with our faith in a human father,
we may not wonder that it is so also with our confidence in
the promises made to us by our Father who is in heaven.
When Mary of Nazareth was told that to her was reserved
the highest honor of womanhood, it was thus she made reply
to Gabriel : " Behold the handmaid of the Lord ; be it unto
me according to thy word," thereby uniting the sublimest
faith and prayer in one. And we then only truly believe
God's promise when we take it and turn it into a petition.
Let us profit, then, from such examples ; and when we come
upon some gracious word, let us pause over it, and trans-
mute it into supplication. Is it written " I, even I, am he
that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and
will not remember thy sins," let us while we read make this
response : " For thy name's sake, O Lord, pardon mine in-
iquity, for it is great." Is it written, "A new heart also will
I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you," let us
while we read make this request : " Create in me a clean
heart, O God ; and renew a right spirit within me." Is it
written, " I will put my Spirit within you," let us while we
read raise this supplication : " Be it unto me according to thy
word." But why need I enlarge? You can scarcely read a
page of the Scriptures without coming upon some exceeding
great and precious promise ; be it yours, therefore, to pause
over each, and let your faith in it blossom into a prayer for
it. This will be the true responsive reading of the sacred
Scriptures, wherein there shall be not merely the answering
of voice to voice among men, but the responding of your
heart to God. Happy they in whose souls there is thus a
continually recurring amen to the benedictions of the Lord !
In the chapter which follows God's message to David
through Nathan, and the account of David's reception of it,
we have a general summary of the wars of David, not pre-



NATHAN'S MESSAGE. 241

sented in the order in which they occurred, but gathered up
into one aggregate account; and at the close we have an
enumeration of the members of what in modern phrase would
be called his cabinet. Both of these, however, we shall
meanwhile omit, reserving them for our next discourse, which
shall be devoted to an account of the national administration
of David. And we conclude now with a brief reference to
his treatment of Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan.

Considering the devoted friendship between David and Jon-
athan, and the solemn league into which they entered with
each other, we are apt to think that David was very tardy
in seeking to carry out the weighty obligations under which
he lay. And if he had been really aware that a son of Jona-
than was in existence, we should have been disposed to blame
him very much for neglecting the child of his noble and dis-
interested friend ; but, from what appears in the narrative here,
taken in connection with the incidents of Mephibosheth's
early life, we are led to conclude that he was ignorant of
his existence up till the time when he made the inquiry of
which an account is here given. Referring to the fourth
chapter of 2d Samuel, fourth verse, we learn that when Jona-
than was slain Mephibosheth was only five years old. Now,
for six years before that date David had not been at the
court of Saul. Probably, therefore, he had never heard of
the birth of Jonathan's son, and the events which occurred
after the battle of Gilboa were of such a nature as to render
it all but impossible for him to hear much concerning Me-
phibosheth. He was living at Gibeah with his nurse when
news of the death of his father arrived. When she heard
what had happened, she hastened to take him to a place of
safety; but, in her trepidation, she either let him fall, or stum-
bled and fell with him, and in consequence of the injuries
which he thus received he was a cripple for life. After his
escape from Gibeah he was taken to the other side of the

ii



242 DAVID, KING OF ISRAEL.

Jordan, and brought up in the house of Machir, at Lo-debar,
in Gilead, where he was discovered by Ziba, a servant of the
house of Saul, whom David employed for the purpose of
bringing him to court. When Mephibosheth came to Jeru-
salem, David caused him to be reinstated in the family in-
heritance of Saul, and, committing its management to Ziba as
steward, with instructions to bring the returns at stated times
to his master, he retained Mephibosheth himself at Jerusa-
lem, and reserved for him a place of honor at his own ta-
ble. Not every king would thus have honored the heir of
the dynasty which he had dispossessed ; but David remem-
bered Jonathan and believed God. The memory of his for-
mer friend bound him to Mephibosheth ; and his belief in
the promise of God through Nathan kept him from all fear
of being dispossessed of his throne.

In bringing our review of this important portion of the sa-
cred narrative to a close, I restrict myself to one particular
line of remark. We have seen that David was himself a
prophecy of Christ. It follows from that, therefore, that the
Temple which he so desired to build is a prophecy of the
Church. With all its grandeur under Solomon, that stately
building was, after all, only a type of that more glorious spir-
itual fabric which is " built upon the foundation of the apos-
tles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner-
stone, in whom all the building, fitly framed together, grow-
eth into an holy temple in the Lord." Now, in the erection
of this living temple we may all take part. When by faith
in Jesus Christ we become united to him, and receive the
Holy Spirit into our hearts, we, as it were, build ourselves,
or, in another aspect of it, are built by God, as living stones
into that glorious edifice which Jehovah through the ages is
rearing for his own eternal abode. When, again, by our in-
strumentality, either directly in the efforts which we put forth
at home, or indirectly through the labors of those whom we



NATHAN'S MESSAGE. 243

sustain abroad, we work for the conversion of others, we are
engaged as under-builders on the same spiritual edifice. Da-
vid would have counted it the highest privilege of his life if
he had been permitted to build the Temple on Moriah ; and
even after the prohibition came by the mouth of Nathan, it
was the joy of his latter years to collect materials wherewith
Solomon, his son, might raise a house worthy of Jehovah's
worship. Nay, more, in the days of Solomon himself, after
the gorgeous structure had been raised, every one who had
done any thing, however small, in the way of helping on its
erection, was invested with a peculiar honor in the eyes of
his fellow-countrymen. As the Psalm expresses it : "A man
was famous according as he had lifted axes upon the thick
trees." But a higher privilege, and a more lasting renown,
will be the portion of him who assists in the most humble
capacity in the uprearing of that Church which is to be " for
a habitation of God through the Spirit." " They that be wise
shall shine as the brightness of the firmament, and they that
turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever."
Shall this honor, my hearer, be thine ? What art thou doing
now for the building of the spiritual temple of the Lord of
Hosts ? Let me beseech thee to build for eternity, by build-
ing here. Only beware how thou buildest, for " if any man
build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood,
hay, stubble; every man's work shall be made manifest: for
the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire ;
and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is."
Remember this also, that if we would build acceptably at this
temple, we must sacredly preserve our own holiness of heart
and purity of life. It is recorded of Sir Christopher Wren,
that, having heard that some of the workmen engaged in the
erection of St. Paul's Cathedral, London, had been guilty
of profane swearing, he caused it to be posted all round the
works that if any one should be heard taking the name of



244 DAVID, KING OF ISRAEL.

God in vain, he should be instantly dismissed ; because he
considered it an impious thing that any such practices should
be indulged in by those who were building a house of God.
But if so much care was taken by that great man, that those
who were working on a material structure should hallow
God's name on their lips, should not we who seek to build
up the Church of Christ itself endeavor always to honor God
in our hearts ? They who are engaged in church work, or
missionary effort, should be men of peace, of holiness, of love
themselves ; for if they are not distinguished by these char-
acteristics, they will do more harm than good to others, and
they will draw down punishment upon themselves ; for "if any
man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy." Here,
then, is the order of our exhortations : first build your own
selves into this temple by faith in Jesus Christ; thereafter
seek to build others into it also by your efforts, your contri-
butions, and your prayers ; and all the while that you are
working thus, see that ye keep yourselves unspotted from
the world, " for the temple of God is holy, which temple are
ye. Know ye not that your bodies are the members of
Christ ? Shall ye, then, take the members of Christ and
make them instruments of uncleanness? God forbid ! Know
ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which
is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own ?
for ye are bought with a price : therefore glorify God in your
body, and in your spirit, which are God's."



XIV.

DAVID'S ADMINISTRATION.
2 SAMUEL viii., 15.

IN the minds of most readers of the Bible, the name of
David, king of Israel, is associated mainly with military
prowess, poetic genius, and personal piety ; and only on the
rarest occasions do we hear any reference made to his ad-
ministrative ability. Yet in this last quality he was, at least,
as remarkable as in any one of the others which we have
named ; and great injustice is done to him if we leave out
of view the eminent services which he rendered to his coun-
try by the exercise of his governmental and organizing facul-
ties. It has happened thus with the son of Jesse, as with
many others, that the showier and more dashing talents which
he possessed have eclipsed, or cast into the shade, his other
less ostentatious, but, in their own places, equally valuable
characteristics. It may help us, therefore, to a correct esti-
mate of his public and official career, as well as prove in it-
self a most interesting study, if we devote a short while to
an inquiry into the manner in which he arranged and admin-
istered the affairs of the nation. In prosecuting our investi-
gations, we shall avail ourselves of the details which are very
fully given in various portions of the books of Samuel, the
Kings, and the Chronicles, acknowledging our obligations
throughout to the labors of Dean Stanley, Dr. Blaikie, Dr.
Kitto, and others, in this department; and we shall fail to
produce in your minds the conviction at which we have our-
selves arrived, if we do not lead you to conclude that more
than Charlemagne did for Europe, or Alfred for England,
David accomplished for the tribes of Israel.



246 DAVID, KING OF ISRAEL.

We shall commence our review by setting before you the
military organization of the country. This may be divided
into three branches : first, the regular standing army ; sec-
ond, the king's own body-guard ; and, third, the order of mil-
itary knighthood, if so we may call it, which he established
at his court. As regards the regular army, we find that there
were in the land two hundred and eighty -eight thousand
men enrolled as soldiers. These unitedly composed what
was called the host. Now there were two evils to be guarded
against in reference to this large body of troops. On the
one hand, the maintenance of an army of such magnitude, if
it had been kept constantly under arms, would have serious-
ly drained the resources of the country, both by the positive
expense which would have been incurred in supporting it,
and by the withdrawal of so many able-bodied men from
those agricultural pursuits, on the fruits of which the people
mainly depended. On the other hand, if all these soldiers
had been called out at one time, and brought to one central
place for drill, the outlying boundaries of the land would
have been left, for the mean while, undefended. But both
of these dangers were obviated by the plan which David
adopted, and of which a minute account is given in i Chron-
icles xxvii., where we have a register of " the children of Is-
rael after their number to wit, the chief fathers and captains
of thousands and hundreds, and. their officers that served
the king in any matter of the courses, which came in and
went out month by month throughout all the months of the
year, of every course were twenty-and-four thousand." From
this account it appears that the army was divided into twelve
portions, each of which had its own month of service. Over
each of those divisions, as we may call them, there was one
general officer, under whom were captains of thousands,
whose bands, again, were subdivided into hundreds, each of
which was led by an officer, corresponding somewhat to the



DAVID'S ADMINISTRATION. 247

\ Roman centurion of after days. Over the host as command-
\ er-in-chief was Joab, the son of Zeruiah.

In addition to this national army, there was the king's
jbody-guard, generally supposed to be identical with those
pho in 2 Samuel viii., 18, are styled the Cherethites and the
Pelethites. Dean Stanley and others are of opinion that
those who composed this royal brigade (equivalent almost
to what, in Great Britain, are denominated the household
troops), were mostly foreigners ; and they remind us of the
analogous instances of the Swiss Guard, who stood so true
to Louis XVI. at the French Revolution, and the guard of
honor of the Pope at the present day. But there does not
appear to me to be sufficient reason for adopting such a
view, since the commander-in-chief of these troops was Be-
naiah, the son of Jehoiada, of the family of the priests ; and
so far as we can discover from the record, David, at this time
at least, and up to the era of his great transgression, was se-
cure in the affection and confidence of his subjects, and did
not need the adventitious and, to his people, almost insult-
ing aid of strangers.

Besides these two kinds of forces, and as furnishing a re-
ward of honor for those who had distinguished themselves
in any signal manner, David appears to have founded a mil-
itary order analogous to that of knighthood in more recent
times. The members of this body are called " worthies," or
" mighty men," and a list of them, together with a rehearsal
of some of their most illustrious deeds, is given in^z Samuel
xxiii., and i Chronicles xi. Stanley, following in this in-
stance the German author Ewald, attributes the special form
which this order took, to the circumstances of David, when
he was in the cave of Adullam. He says that, as there were
six hundred men in the hold, that number was preserved as
the limit to which the order was restricted. It became sub-
divided into three large bands of two hundred each, and thir-



248 DAVID, KING OF ISRAEL.

ty small bands of twenty each. The small bands were com-
manded by thirty officers, one for each band, and these offi-
cers formed the thirty worthies, or mighty men ; and the
three large bands were commanded by three officers, who
together formed the three ; while the whole were under one
chief, the captain of the mighty men. This reckoning, how-
ever, gives only thirty-four as the total of the worthies, where-
as in 2 Samuel xxiii. the aggregate number is thirty-seven.
Moreover, there seems to be a distinction in the same chap-
ter between the first three and another three, who, while
very honorable, had not attained to the valor of the first ;
and for this distinction the subdivision of Stanley fails to
find a place. Perhaps, therefore, assuming the basis of six
hundred to be correct, we may modify Ewald's arrangement
thus, so as to bring it into harmony with the number thirty-
seven. The six hundred, we may suppose, were divided into
six bands of one hundred, as well as into twenty of thirty
each. Over the senior portion of the band, amounting to
three companies of one hundred each, there were the first
three ; over the junior portion of the band, composed of oth-
er three companies of one hundred each, were the second
three ; and then, over all, there was the captain of the might-
ies, who was Jashobeam, the Hachmonite. The captain of
each band formed one of the band, and must be reckoned
with it in making up the numbers.

The deeds of the worthies, specified in the chapters to
which I have been referring, are mostly such as in a rude
and barbarous age are rewarded by badges of distinction ;
and those who sneer at the record of them here must bear
in mind that even in this boasted age, and in countries which
claim to be enlightened, the honors of knighthood and the
peerage are frequently bestowed upon no higher grounds.
The day has not yet fully arrived for the recognition of the
nobility of holiness and love. True, in these latter years we



DAVID'S ADMINISTRATION. 249

may have made some advancement toward it, but it is as yet
in Messiah's kingdom alone that distinction is conferred for
works of faith, and holiness, and love. This is the grand
foundation-difference between the typical kingdom of David
and that of Christ, which is its antetype ; and we must never
allow ourselves to lose sight of it while we are considering
either the one or the other. David's kingdom was founded
and maintained by military power, and it was fitting, therefore.



jhat its honors should be bestowed on martial heroes for
daring deeds upon the field of battle. Christ's kingdom is
founded on righteousness and love, and to those who cry to
him for honor he makes this reply, pointing to Gethsemane
and Calvary the while : "Are ye able to drink of the cup
that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism
that I am baptized with ?" But of this more anon.

We pass now to the civil administration of the son of
Jesse ; and here it will Appear that Jie exerted himself rnqst
earnestly toimrjirove_the ^courts of justice, the educational
institutions, Tthe domestic comfort, and the commercial pros-
perity of the country. He gave new vitality to the old tribal
arrangements ; for (as we learn from i Chronicles xxvii.),
he set thirteen princes over as many different districts.



Online LibraryWilliam M. (William Mackergo) TaylorDavid, king of Israel: his life and its lessons → online text (page 19 of 36)