William M. (William Mackergo) Taylor.

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

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which tended to win for him the affection of those with
whom he came into contact. His ruddy complexion, beau-
tiful countenance, and well-knit frame would immediately
evoke a warrior's admiration, while, in his encounter with the
giant, he had exhibited such a mingling of courage, prudence,
and humility as must have captivated the chivalrous heart
of Jonathan. Perhaps, also, in the conversation, some flash-
es of his poetic genius might gleam forth, or some evidence
of his piety might appear, to increase the attraction ; but in
any case, " the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of
David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul." As a sub-
stantial token of this affection, he gave to David " his robe
and his garments, even to his sword, and his bow and his
girdle." It is not said that David gave him any thing in
return, but it is likely that there was some exchange made
between them, and that the present of David to Jonathan
was of so little value, comparatively speaking, that no men-


tion is here made of it. At all events, such interchanges
of gifts were not uncommon between friends in ancient
times, and Homer gives us some instances that may illus-
trate what is here recorded. In particular he tells that
Glaucus exchanged armor with Diomede, " golden for brazen,
the value of a hundred oxen for the value of nine."* Per-
haps, therefore, there was some similar reciprocity here, as
the seal of the new-born affection between Jonathan and

According to the common chronology, Jonathan was con-
siderably older than David ; but there was such community
of sentiment between them on the highest and most impor-
tant of all matters, and such similarity of tastes generally, as
fitted them for each other's fellowship. They were one in
their faith in God, and in their devotion to his will ; for on
the memorable occasion when Jonathan went forth, with his
armor-bearer as his sole companion, to attack the Philistine
stronghold, he said, in a spirit of sublimest trust, " It is all
one to the Lord to save by many or by few;" and in after-
clays, when he parted from David for the last time, in the
wilderness of Ziph, we are told that " he strengthened Da-
vid's hand in God." Then they had both a genius for mili-
tary leadership, and this would help in some measure to ce-
ment their friendship.

But though all this must be admitted, and though we do
not wish in the least degree to disparage David in this mat-
ter, yet there are special considerations which must be taken
into account, and which are peculiarly to the credit of Jona-
than. I can not allude to them all without, in some degree,
anticipating the narrative ; but it is so important to have a
clear and distinct idea of the whole intimacy between these
two remarkable men, that I may be excused for referring at

* " Iliad," book vi., lines 232-236.


this early stage to incidents which will come up for review
at a later portion of the history.

In the outset, then, we can not fail to be impressed with
the disinterested nature of this friendship, as far as Jonathan
was concerned. The king's son had, humanly speaking, at
this date nothing to gain from the shepherd of Bethlehem.
Jonathan might be of great service to David, but it was
scarcely likely that David could do very much for him.
His taking of David to his heart, therefore, was a purely un-
selfish thing. It was the outgoing of his affections toward
an object to which they were attracted, and all his joy was
in yielding to the charm by which he was influenced. Too
frequently the favorites of kings, and perhaps more fre-
quently of king's sons, have been those who have risen to
their position by pandering to the prejudices, or toadying to
the weaknesses, or, worse than either, by ministering to the
vices, of those by whom they were valued. But Jonathan had
no such reasons for binding David to him. He saw in the
young hero a congenial soul and a true man. He was at-
tracted by his piety, his patriotism, and his prowess, and he
yielded up his heart to him in the unselfish impulse of disin-
terested affection.

Again : this friendship was not tainted on Jonathan's side
by the slightest trace of envy or jealousy. There are, I fear,
few such friendships between those who are nearly equals
in eminence in the same profession. The proverb says that
" two of a trade can never agree," and it takes high-toned
principle to rejoice in the rise, to an equal position with our-
selves, of one who is in the same calling with us. Provided
there be a sufficient distance between us, either in excellence,
or in success, the difficulty is not greatly felt on either side.
The young statesman, just entering on public life, has neither
jealousy nor envy of the veteran leader, who has by genius
and perseverance made his way to the front rank of politi-


cians, and the leader, in his turn, feels it easy to be cordial
and encouraging to the youthful aspirant. But let the one
see the other as nearly as possible on a level with himself,
even in his own chosen department of excellence, and feel
that probably he must soon consent to be second to him,
and the case is altered. Then, almost in spite of themselves,
jealousies and envyings will spring up between them ; they
will look askance at each other, and though they may not
break out into open foes, there will be, what I may call, a sort
of armed watchfulness between them, and a very little matter
will set them in direct antagonism. The nearer individuals
come into competition with each other, the greater is their
tendency to be spiteful toward each other. It is easy to be
a patron, and, stooping down from a lofty height, to take by
the hand some struggling beginner ; it is easy, too, to be an
admiring pupil of one who is acknowledged to be a great
way above us ; but it is a much harder, and therefore a
much nobler, thing to be the warm appreciative friend of one
who is in the same calling with ourselves, and who is bid-
ding fair to outshine and surpass us. But it was just this
hard and noble thing that Jonathan did,, when he took to
his heart the youthful David. He did not seem to care that
the duel with the giant would, in the after - history of the
nation, be seen to rival his own briHiant achievement at
Geba. He did not think of himself at all ; but having
found a man whom he could love and trust, he "grappled
him to his soul with hooks of steel." Nay, even when he
came to discover that David was the predestined occupant
of his father's throne, the heart of Jonathan was never alien-
ated from him. He accepted the lot which was before him,
and rejoiced in it for David's sake, saying only "Thou shalt
be king in Israel, and I shall be next unto thee."* I have

* i Sam. xxiii., 17.


a high idea of David's magnanimity, but I doubt whether it
could have equaled this of Jonathan ; and so, in the matter
of this friendship, I am disposed to give the palm to the son
of Saul. And I greatly mistake if, as you read the record,
you shall not grow into the belief which I have long enter-
tained, that there are few characters in Old Testament his-
tory which, for genuineness, chivalry, self-sacrifice, and con-
stancy at once to his father and his friend, can be put into
comparison with Jonathan.

This leads me to say, further, that we are deeply im-
pressed with the fidelity with which, on Jonathan's part, this
friendship was maintained even in the face of personal dan-
gers. When Saul's heart was stirred against David, and
was filled with murderous intent regarding him, Jonathan
was placed in a very difficult and perplexing position. He-
was called to decide between his father and David, yet he
was true to his friend, without being unfilial to Saul. In
David's absence he stood forth in his defense before the
king, and once so provoked the royal indignation, that his
own life was endangered. Still he adhered to David after
all this ; and there are few more touching incidents record-
ed in history than that of their parting by the stone Ezel,
when " they kissed one another, and wept one with another
until David exceeded ;"* or that of their last interview, in the
forest of Ziph, when, though the son of Jesse was fleeing
from his father, "Jonathan strengthened his hand in God."f
That is the stoutest cable which can stand the strain of the
fiercest storm, and truly heroic must that friendship have
been which lasted through such dangers and heart perplexi-
ties as did this of Jonathan for David. Nor, to be just to Da-
vid, ought I to forget to add that it was on his part intensely
appreciated. It was his solace as a fugitive and exile ; it

* I Sam. xx., 41. t I Sam. xxiii., 16.


kept him repeatedly from laying violent hands on Saul; it
disposed him long afterward to show kindness to the chil-
dren and children's children of his early friend ; and on that
dark day when, in filial devotion to his father, the warrior
fell on Mount Gilboa, " slain on his own high places," it in-
spired him to sing his lament, in that plaintive ode, which,
by its passionate outburst of grief, has given even to this
present age its grandest funeral music.

Having dwelt so long on this beautiful union between two
congenial spirits, you will forgive me if, before proceeding to
less agreeable themes, I say a few words on the principles
which ought to regulate our choice of friends. It is for the
most part in early life that lasting companionships are form-
ed, and their influence on the course and complexion of the
after career can scarcely be overestimated. " He that walk-
eth with wise men shall be wise ; but the companion of fools
shall be destroyed." There are few ways of pitching one's
tent " toward Sodom " so common, or so insidious as the se-
lection of improper friends. Let me earnestly counsel you
all, therefore, and especially the young, to secure first, and be-
fore all others, the friendship of the Lord Jesus. Give your
hearts in confidence and love to him. Trust him as your
Saviour. Follow him as your example. Imbibe his princi-
ples. Obey his precepts. Seek to possess his spirit, and to
secure his regard. Remember the words which he spake to
his first followers : " Ye are my friends if ye do whatsoever I
command you. Henceforth I call you not servants, for the
servant knoweth not what his lord doeth, but I have called
you friends ; for all things that I have heard of my Father, I
have made known unto you." Aim first at securing this con-
fidential intercourse with the Lord Jesus Christ, through the
study of his Word, and earnest prayer to the Father in his
name. Then make this, your fellowship with Jesus, the test
by which you determine whether or not you will accept the


earthly friendships which are offered to you. You can not
withdraw from all dealings of every sort with the ungodly,
for then must you go out of the world altogether ; but into
the inner circle of your friends let none be admitted who do
not love supremely the Lord who has redeemed you, and
who can not "strengthen your hand in God." Make this
the indispensable prerequisite to your intimate companion-
ship. If he who seeks to become your friend would endeav-
or to undermine your religious principles, or to loosen the
bonds that unite you to the members of your Father's house,
or to lead you into places and practices in which you would
lose the fellowship of Christ, then turn away from him, and
say, " My soul, come not thou into their secret ; into their
assembly mine honor be not thou united."

But even among Christians, seek for your friends those who
have the greatest affinity with you, and in whom you can find
your own weaknesses of character most materially strength-
ened. There must be some points of contact and resemblance
between you and your friend, otherwise there can be no real
companionship ; but there must also be certain elements of
diversity, otherwise the one can be no help to the other. If
the one be merely the echo of the other, the friendship will
be tame and profitless to both ; but if in the individuality of
each there be qualities which the other lacks, and if these
are allowed by both to have free play in their mutual fellow-
ship, great good to both will be the result. This was the
nature of that companionship, the record and memorial of
which has been given to the world by Tennyson, in his " In
Memoriam;" and the idea of friendship is sketched by him
in these lines :

" He was rich where I was poor ;
And he supplied my want the more,
As his unlikeness fitted mine."

It may seem, however, that in giving the advice which I am


now enforcing I were making friendship impossible, inas-
much as, if we are to look for those who are thus richer than
ourselves, the benefit must be entirely one-sided. But it is
not so ; for we may be as greatly superior to our friend in
some things as he is to us in others, and he may receive
as much from us in some departments as we may obtain in
others from him. Thus the relationship will become, mutu-
ally helpful. How many instances of such reciprocity have
occurred in history ! John and Peter, Barnabas and Paul,
Luther and Melancthon, have proved at once the possibility
and the advantage of such a friendship as I have suggested ;
and as we see each pair shining like binary stars in the firma-
ment of history two, and yet in a great sense one we have
before us at once a model and a motive. On this subject I
know few things in our literature finer, or more instructive,
than the lines which Cowper has devoted to its elucidation.
I commend them all to your careful study, and select only
the following stanzas, by way of whetting your appetite for

the rest :

" No friendship will abide the test
That stands on sordid interest,

And mean self-love erected ;
Nor such as may a while subsist
'Twixt sensualist and sensualist,
For vicious ends connected.

" Who hopes a friend, should have a heart
Himself, well furnished for the part,

And ready on occasion
To show the virtue that he seeks ;
For 'tis a union that bespeaks
A just reciprocation.

" Pursue the theme, and you shall find
A disciplined and furnished mind

To be at least expedient ;
And after summing all the rest,
Religion ruling in the breast,

A principal ingredient."


But we must turn now, with whatever reluctance, to con-
template Saul's treatment of David. Immediately after the
conquest of Goliath, the king seemed to be friendly enough
to the young victor. He was in no haste, indeed, to perform
the promises which he had made previous to the encounter,
but he took him with him to Gibeah, and would let him re-
turn no more to his father's house. He made him also one
of his chief captains ; and such was the amiability of David,
that his exaltation, far from exciting the enmity of the mon-
arch's former servants, was approved of and rejoiced in by
them. This very popularity, however, was destined, in a
short time, to turn the heart of Saul against him, and a very
simple occasion was sufficient to rouse his anger and re-
venge. After their successful campaign against the Phi-
listines, the Israelitish troops returned in formal triumph
through many of the cities. They were met generally at the
gates by companies of women, who, playing on the tabret
and dancing to their own music, chanted also in responsive
chorus rhythmic lines appropriate to the occasion. At the
end of every strophe there came this refrain, sung by an-
swering companies : " Saul hath slain his thousands, and
David his ten thousands." Very likely there was nothing
more meant by this than an expression of joy at the nation's
deliverance, with such exaggeration as strong emotion is al-
ways prone to indulge in; but the sensitive soul of Saul,
now all the more inclined to be suspicious, since Samuel had
foretold the taking of the kingdom from him, took offense
at the implied preference of David to himself, and seeing,
perhaps for the first time, in the youthful Bethlehemite that
"neighbor better than himself" to whom his kingdom was
to be given, he murmured thus moodily to himself: "They
have ascribed unto David ten thousand, and to me they
have ascribed but thousands ; and what can he have more
but the kingdom." The thought was gall and wormwood to


his heart, and from that moment the determination to check-
mate David, and get rid of him by any means, no matter
how unscrupulous, became the ruling passion of his life.
Let it be observed, too, that there was in this not only ha-
tred of David, but also a defiant determination to circum-
vent and defeat the published purpose of the Almighty. I
am particular to draw your attention to this point, because
it is this, that especially marks the depth to which Saul had
sunk. Samuel had foretold that the kingdom was to be
given to another, and now that there is a sort of prophetic
premonition in his own heart that David was his appointed
successor, he is only thereby roused to more active antago-
nism, and seeks to make the fulfillment of the prophecy im-
possible. As Herod, long afterward, deliberately inquired
what the meaning of a prophecy was, in order that he might
set himself to falsify it, so Saul here defiantly sets himself
to defeat Jehovah. It was a strange perversity. If the pre-
diction had not come from God, why should he have cared
at all about it ? but if it had come from God, could all his
efforts prevent its fulfillment? Ah me! how vain the en-
deavor to beat back the Almighty ! and how terrible that
confession of defeat which came from Saul on that weird
night when, beside the cottage of Endor, he cried, " Bring
me up Samuel !" But it was then too late, and Samuel
came only to pronounce his doom.

The first effect of Saul's jealousy was a relapse of his mal-
ady, under the influence of which he was in a kind of rapture,
like that of the prophets when the Spirit came upon them ;
but in his case it was a spirit of evil, and not the Spirit of the
Lord. David, seeing that he was troubled as before, took his
harp and tuned it to sweetest music ; but instead of being
soothed thereby, the maniac monarch became only the more
enraged, and twice aimed a javelin at the head of the mu-
sician, who escaped only by dexterously evading its point.


This violence of his frenzy soon spent itself, but it settled
down into a deliberate purpose to compass David's destruc-
tion, not at first directly, but by roundabout contrivances.
First, he put him into a position in which he expected that
by his inexperience he would provoke such opposition as
might end in his death. But David behaved himself wisely,
and nothing came out of that plan. Then, after promising
to give him Merab, his elder daughter, to wife, he insulted
him by bestowing her upon Adriel, the Meholathite, expect-
ing, probably, that David would thereby be roused to do or
say something that might be construed into treason, and so
furnish a legal pretext for his being put to death. But nei-
ther did he succeed in this. Thereafter he discovered that
Michal, his second daughter, had fallen in love with David,
and, in a most diabolical spirit, he resolved to sacrifice her
most tender feelings to his own vindictive malice, by attempt-
ing to make her a snare to him. He caused some of his
servants privately to sound David, who in the most prudent
fashion intimated that he was by no means eager to be the
king's son-in-law, since he was a poor man, and could not
give any thing like a dowry suitable for a king's daughter.
In the East it was usual, and, I believe, is so still, for the
bridegroom to give a large present to his father-in-law, in ac-
knowledgment of the blessing which he expects to receive in
his wife ; and it is to this, probably, that David alludes when
he says, " Seemeth it to you a light thing to be a king's son-
in-law, seeing that I am a poor man and lightly esteemed ?"
On hearing a report of this conversation, Saul saw in the
very poverty of David a means of revenging himself; and
he cunningly and cruelly intimates to him that he would ac-
cept, as a dowry for Michal, the proof, "furnished after the
barbarous fashion of the times," that he had slain a hundred
of the enemies of Israel. His intention in all this was to
secure, as far as human calculations could secure, David's


death, while yet not Saul, but the Philistines, would be the
ostensible authors of the mischief. But he was again disap-
pointed, for He who went forth with Othniel when he won
the daughter of Caleb went forth again with David ; so that
before the appointed time he returned with evidence that
two hundred of the Philistines had fallen before his compa-
ny. After this there could be no possible pretext for delay-
ing the marriage : so Michal became the wife of David ; and
though the connection was not such as permanently con-
tributed either to David's happiness or holiness, we can not
deny to her the praise of standing faithful to him for a time,
even at the expense of her father's indignation. She would
not allow herself to become the instrument of Saul's re-
venge, and in the perplexing position in which she was
placed, she took for the time, without any hesitation, the part
of her husband. This only exasperated her father more ;
and as in all the matters to which he put his hand David's
wisdom and bravery were conspicuous, and his name be-
came renowned, Saul's hatred increased yet more and more,
until at length an open rupture became unavoidable.

Here, however, it will be convenient to pause, that we may
gather up some lessons for our modern life from this ancient
chapter of sacred history.

In the first place we may see the evil of centring our
thoughts and plans entirely on ourselves. This was the root
of Saul's misery. He was one of the most ardent selfists
that ever lived. He had made self his god. He looked
only and always at his own interests. " How will this affect
me ?" was his constant question as each new event trans-
pired ; and whensoever he imagined that he was to be in-
jured by any other man's elevation or advancement, he was
stirred up to seek his ruin. Thus he was ever moody and
unhappy. He hugged himself to his heart, and as a punish-
ment God left him to himself, and no companionship could


have been more miserable. But this was not the worst.
His self-devotion generated envy, hatred, malice, and even
murder in his heart. Because, in a woman's song, David
had apparently been set above him, he is filled with rage, and
schemes for the destruction of one who had in former days
been a blessing to him ; who had rid him of one of the fiercest
of his foes ; and who in his inmost heart was loyal to him
as the Lord's anointed. Behold how foul a progeny may
spring from one parent evil passion ! Men are apt to re-
gard self-worship as a little thing, and in its lower form of
self-conceit they think that it is worthy only to be laughed
at ; but when it is permitted to get the master} 7 , it may work
incalculable mischief. Who can tell how many alienations,
heart-burnings, jealousies, plottings against others' welfare,
and even murders, grow out of this root? The man who is
determined to be first can brook no competitor, and is led
to wish all rivals out of his way. Let us be on our guard in
this respect, and cultivate rather the noble magnanimity of
Jonathan, than the narrow and miserable selfishness of Saul.
How different (I can not but indulge the fancy) Saul's after-
life might have been had he only fostered David, and taken
him lovingly to his heart ! Instead of the ceaseless hunting
of his son-in-law, which from this point darkens his name, we
might then have read of their happy fellowship and mutual
help. He might not have been able to retain the crown in
his family, but he might have enjoyed peace in his own days,
and in the common devotion of Jonathan and David to his
interests he might have been relieved from the cares and
anxieties of his office. Thus in quiet enjoyment the years
might have rolled over him at Gibeah, and then at last, in-
stead of setting in blood behind the mountains of Gilboa, his
sun might have gone down in peace, and Jonathan and Da-
vid might have lived to fill in the beautiful outline of mutual
service to each other, and common devotion to their country


and their God, which the one had sketched when he said

Online LibraryWilliam M. (William Mackergo) TaylorDavid, king of Israel: his life and its lessons → online text (page 5 of 36)