Page images
PDF
EPUB

accepted : and, as a pledge of their acceptance, he was commanded to go up to the threshing-floor of Araunah the Jebusite, an inhabitant of Jerusalem, and there to offer a sacrifice of burnt-offerings and peace offerings to the Lord, who answered him from heaven by fire upon the altar. The place being thus consecrated, as it were, by God's approval, was fixed upon by the grateful king, as the site of the future temple, for which he continued to make large preparations until the end of his reign, an event which was now rapidly approaching. He became old, and full of days; and having publicly declared to the people his intention to leave the kingdom to his son Solomon, he devoted his remaining energies to secure for him the desired succession ; for the right of Solomon to succeed his father was not universally admitted. Adonijah, another of David's sons, laid claim to the kingdom also ; and being supported by Joab, and Abiathar the priest, proceeded to hold a festival, at which he called none but his own friends together, with the intention of proclaiming himself heir to the throne. David, however, being informed in time by his wife Bathsheba, and the prophet Nathan, of this undutiful attempt, took an immediate and decisive step to baffle it: he sent Nathan, with Zadok the priest, and Benaiah, one of his mighty men, to lead out Solomon to a public place, where Zadok, with all due ceremony, anointed him as king; which tidings when Adonijah heard, he fled, being deserted by his friends, and sought refuge at the altar of God; from which he did not depart, till he had received a promise from Solomon that his life should be spared, upon condition that he conducted himself humbly and obediently for the future. David, having thus secured the succession to Solomon, and having given him some advice as to his behaviour to Joab and Shimei, both of whom he foresaw that it might be necessary for him to treat with rigour, sank at last under the increasing infirmities of age, and died in that stronghold of Zion, which he had won from the heathen : a man who, whether as a successful champion, a powerful king, or a composer of those holy and prophetic Psalms which God's own Spirit taught him, ranks certainly among the most memorable individuals who ever lived, and fully deserves the reverence and affection with which he has been to this day regarded by his countrymen. To Christians he is recommended by an additional view which they may take of him, as an ancestor, a prophet, and a type of Christ; they may remember that Jesus their Lord " was made of the seed of David, according to the flesh;"* they may reflect that in the Psalms composed by him, the sufferings, the crucifixion, the resurrection, and the ascension of the Saviour are all distinctly noticed ; that finally, the Messiah himself has not disdained to be called by the name of his earthly ancestor ; that “the sure mercies of David”+ are the sure mercies of Christ; and when they have read the history of the son of Jesse, may rise convinced by the perusal, that the best and most favoured of God's merely human servants show always a large proportion of frailty and offence;

and that for perfection we must look alone to Him of whom David, in his best estate, was but a feeble image, the true defender and ruler of his people, the King of kings, I who was not the son of David only, but his immortal Lord---the Son of God, who liveth and abideth for ever.

* Rom. i. 3.
| Rev. xix. 16.

+ Isaiah. lv. 3. Acts xiii. 34.
§ Mark xii. 35–37. Psalm cx. 1.

CHAP. XXVI.

THE REIGN OF SOLOMON.

days."*

THE
HE constant success which had attended David in

his numerous wars against the enemies of his country, and the energy with which, in the last moments of his life, he had suppressed the faction of Adonijah, concurred in affording to his son Solomon the expectation of a peaceful reign, undisturbed by hostile attempts, whether foreign or domestic. Solomon, however, ascended his father's throne with a stronger assurance of its tranquil possession than the mere actual state of things was able to confer: he knew that the word of the Lord had come to David, saying, “ Behold a son shall be born to thee, who shall be a man of rest; and I will give him rest from his enemies round about ; for his name shall be Solomon, and I will give peace and quietness unto Israel in his

This declaration led him to look to the true quarter from which all security, whether political or personal, derives its origin,—the favour of his God; and therefore, having sought that favour according to the religious institutions of his country, by offering up a solemn sacrifice to him at Gibeon, where the tabernacle still was, though the ark had been removed to Jerusalem, when God appeared to him in a dream, by night, and said, “ Ask what I shall give thee,”f the young king remembered his father's prayer concerning him,- the Lord give thee wisdom and understanding;"I and for these blessings he humbly asked. “ Give thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad : for who is able to judge this thy so great a people ?"8 God was graciously pleased to approve • 1 Chron. xxii. 9.

+ 1 Kings iii. 5. Il Chron. xxii. 12.

§ 1 Kings iii. 9.

of this request, not only for what he had, but for what he had not demanded; it showed that he was free from selfishness, inasmuch as he had not asked for himself long life, to enjoy the advantages of his royal station ; free from covetousness, inasmuch as he had not asked for riches or honour; and free from malice, inasmuch as he had not asked the life of his enemies, but had craved only that talent which ought to be possessed by every ruler who would do justice to his people ; and therefore not only was it granted him in abundance, but also those other gifts of wealth and honour, which are the disgrace and ruin of the foolish, but become, under the guidarice of wisdom, desirable instruments of manifold advantage to mankind. No sooner had he obtained this precious gift, than he was called upon to exercise it on a remarkable occasion : a woman came before him, complaining of her fellow-lodger, who, like herself, had lately become a mother, that, in the night, her own child having died through her negligence, she had taken away hers while she slept, and substituted the dead infant in its room. This being denied by the accused person, as strongly as it was asserted by the other, the king, according to the sagacity divinely given him, perceived at once a method of deciding the matter : bring a sword, and divide the living child in two, and give half to the one, and half to the other."'* She whose own the child was not, and who took no real interest in it for its own sake, agreed to this apparently inhuman and absurd proposal : while all the true feelings of a mother being excited by it in the bosom of the other, she at once preferred even giving up her claim to it, to suffering it to die: “O, my lord, give her the living child, and in no wise slay it. Then the king said, give her the living child, and

is he said,

1 Kings iji. 25.

"*

in no wise slay it: she is the mother thereof." If any of us lack wisdom, let us ask it, like Solomon, of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not ;p let us use with thankfulness and with diligence the understanding which he thus bestows upon us, till we come, by reason of use, to have our senses exercised to discern both good and evil, I and to form a right judgment in all things, as to which our decision is required. The king of Israel was called upon, soon after this, to discharge a more painful duty ;-Adonijah, supported by Joab, and Abiathar the priest, renewed his pretensions to the kingdom, by asking to contract a marriage with Abishag, the companion of his father's age ; this, according to the manners of the east, was considered as an act of insubordination and rebellion, and as such was punished by Solomon, who caused both him and Joab to be put to death, and Abiathar to be deprived of the priesthood, and banished from Jerusalem. Having performed this act of indispensable severity, he addressed himself to the great object of his peaceable possession of the throne, the building with all due magnificence the temple of God; availing himself of all the treasures which David during his lifetime had laid up for that purpose, of all the resources of his own country, and of assistance from foreign lands, especially from the famous city of Tyre, whose king supplied him with timber in exchange for corn, and oil, and wine, and sent him also an experienced artist to superintend the work. This celebrated building, composed of materials of the most costly description, and employing the labour of a vast multitude of people, was raised in the course of seven years, from the fourth to the eleventh of Solomon's reign : it stood upon the Mount Moriah, where David had erected an altar during the plague,

* 1 Kings üi. 27. + James i. 5. I Heb. v. 14.

T

« PreviousContinue »