Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

he was deserted by all, then "he said unto his servant, seek me a woman that hath a familiar spirit, that I may go to her and inquire of her." Such a woman was soon found in her den at Endor,* whither she had probably been hunted; and Saul, disguised and in "other raiment" than that of royalty went forth in the deep shadows of night, and sought the oracle of his stormy destiny from a woman's lips.

The scene that followed was grand and terrible. It has been imitated by every art, and equalled by none! Saul's address to the weird woman, made with the abruptness of habitual power, "I pray thee, divine unto me by thy familiar spirit;"-the proscribed woman's reproaching the disguised king with laying a snare for her life, "knowing how Saul had cut off those who had familiar spirits ;"-Saul's emphatic oath, "as the Lord liveth, no punishment shall happen thee for this thing;" the conjuration of the spirit of Samuel-and the witch's exclamation, "why hast thou deceived me? thou art Saul;" -all these are finely preparative to the great denunciation which followed, that "the morrow should be the last day of Israel's independence, the last of Saul's and of his sons' existence;" for that "the Lord had rent the land out of his hand, and given it to his neighbour, even unto David !"

The crime which brought down this awful penalty was that he had not obeyed the voice of the Lord, nor executed his wrath upon Amalek." Saul heard all this, with his face stooped to the ground: his head bowed, his spirit was broken, and at last he "fell straightway all along the earth." It is remarkable that the wise woman, the witch of Endor, in answer to his questions of "what she saw," replied, "the Gods ascending out of the earth! and an old man coming up in a mantle." Saul believed on the woman's evidence, and acknowledged the vision of Samuel, which her power had conjured!

But this witch, this "midnight hag"-this banished,

* The term "witch," used in our translation, gives a false and a vulgar colour to this incident. The woman of Endor was, most probably, a personage somewhat answering to the sibyls of classical antiquity, though at that time persecuted, and in disgrace with the government.

proscribed, desolate woman, thrown beyond all human communion, and baited even to "the death," was a woman still, full of tender sympathy, instinct with pity. When she saw the mighty king of Israel prostrate on the earth, and that "there was no strength in him, for he had eaten no bread all the day, nor all the night," "the woman came unto Saul, and saw that he was sore troubled, and said unto him, behold thine handmaid hath obeyed thy voice, and I have put my life in thy hand, and have hearkened unto thy words which thou spakest unto me.

">

"Now, therefore, I pray thee hearken thou also to the voice of thy handmaid, and let me set a morsel of bread before thee, and eat, that thou mayest have strength when thou goest on thy way."

"And he refused and said, I will not eat. But his servants, together with the woman, compelled him; and he hearkened unto their voice; so he arose from the earth and sat upon the bed."

"And the woman had a fat calf in the house; and she hasted and killed it, and took flour and kneaded it, and did bake unleavened bread thereof."

"And she brought it before Saul, and before his servants, and they did eat; then they rose up and went away that night."*

All that was prophesied by the mysterious intelligence of this woman, or witch, came to pass; Saul, with his three sons, and Israel were overthrown. But Saul, though "sore wounded of the archers," fell by his own sword. Victorious even in defeat, he wrenched the glory of his death out of the hands of his enemies, and died with all the courage of a hero, and in all the majesty of a king! "One who saw him fall" (and lyingly boasted to David that he had killed him,) " brought the crown that was on his head, and the bracelet that was on his arm," to his rival and successor. David did not reject the royal insignia; but he smote the parasite who brought them " till he died;" smote him for having "slain the Lord's anointed," the first anointed king of Israel! Already David thought like a king, though he felt like a man; and punished the sup

66

* 1 Samuel, chapter xxviii. verse 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25.

posed regicide who had invaded the holy sanctuary of a royal life, while he profited by the treason by which himself was raised to the throne of Israel.

The instant death of the vainglorious Amalekite was followed by that outburst of sorrow and indignation-that sublime requiem over the "mighty fallen," the "swifter than eagles," the "stronger than lions," the "beauty of Israel," the "lovely and pleasant in their lives who in their deaths were not divided,”—which must ever be considered as the highest poetry-poetry in all its intensity, gushing from the deepest sources of sensibility and of passion by which the heart of man can be stirred, affection and remorse. David loved Jonathan with a “love passing that of woman," as " Jonathan loved him as his own soul;" and he might have felt, that if "the mighty was fallen," it was he-the son and subject, he who "had been set over the men of war" by Saul,-he, "the stripling,"* whom the king had taken into his own family, it was he, David, who had struck the first blow, that laid the Lord's anointed in the dust.

The elevation of David to the kingdom of Judah followed close upon the death of Saul. To this high dignity the son of Jesse had been called (as he himself said) by the men of Judah; "for your master, Saul, is dead, and the men of Judah hath anointed me king over them." But, though David had won the good will of Judah, the great conquest was yet to be achieved: for the army, and Abner, its general, had raised the surviving grandson of Sau!, the unfortunate Ishbosheth, "to the throne of all Israel" (the infant son of the brave and beautiful Jonathan having been saved and carried away "by his nurses.") The civil wars, which ensued between the adverse tribes, were carried on with relentless cruelty and base treachery, such as scripture has recorded as characterizing the hostilities of the Hebrews among each other. These horrors ended in the assassination of Ishbosheth, "while he slept ;" and in the elevation of David to his throne and power; "for the elders of Israel made a league with him (David), and anointed him king over all Israel."

[blocks in formation]

CHAPTER IX.

The Hebrew Women under the Monarchy, continued. Their social condition. Abigail. Michal. Bathsheba.

SAUL, the single-minded, the brave, spirited, and impetuous Saul, the founder of the Jewish monarchy, was succeeded by one whose temperament and character differed in every thing from his own, though his origin was the same, and his election, (humanly considered,) was based on the same qualities, and governed by the same expediency. David, when introduced to Saul by his bravery, having become the idol of the people, and the instrument of the hierarchy, fled from the not unjustifiable wrath of the king; and, at the head of a little band of six hundred desperate men, led a stealthy and predatory life, "abiding in the strongholds of the wilderness, and in the Mountain of the Desert of Zeph," until, "having found grace in the eyes of Achish," king of the Philistines, he became a subsidiary to the enemy of Saul, and begged the little territory of Ziklag, from whence he made many incursions on the surrounding tribes, “which secured him the protection of Achish."

But the Philistines suspected David; their princes "disallowed him;" they considered him as a spy on their movements, and "a deserter from his master, Saul :" for, when the lords of the Philistines passed on by hundreds and by thousands, and “ David and his men passed in the rearward with Achish, they asked, What do these Hebrews here? Make this fellow return to his place, and let him not go down to battle with us; lest in battle he should be an adversary to us: for wherewith should he reconcile himself to his master, Saul? Should it not be with the heads of these (our) men?" His royal protector was obliged to yield to the opinion of his military chiefs; and David, returning to his territory at Ziklag, found that in his absence with the army, his home had been spoiled,

and his two wives taken prisoners by a neighbouring tribe, the Amalekites.* David pursued the ravagers, recovered the spoils, rescued his wives, and was " returning victorious from the slaughter," when the news of the death of Saul and his sons was brought him.

The kingly power of Israel was now vested in one who was in the flower of manhood, (the prime of all the passions) and in all the high excitement of victory! He was the protected of the priesthood, the pride of the people; and, seeing that his kingdom was exalted, and his rule undisputed, he took the ancient monarchies of the East as the model of his own; he adopted their civilisation, affected their habits, and imitated their luxuries and their vices. Whatever was the nature of his connexion with Tyre, or his friendship with its king, he received from that powerful monarch cedar-trees for constructing, and expert workmen for raising, the first royal palace in Israel (in "the city of David"). He renewed (though he did not introduce) the Oriental institute of polygamy, by the example of his own boundless indulgence; and thus, in his own person, produced a great and fatal influence on the moral interests of society, and on the after events of his own life and reign.

Under the change of government effected by the force of circumstances, under the hierarchy of Samuel, the moral condition of the women of the Hebrews had undergone an obvious change their agency having received a new direction; but still, they were agents, and their intellects took a wider developement, as they became more habitually applied to worldly affairs.

Saul, who had but one wife-whose state of king had been prophesied by one woman, and whose fate and death had been predicted by the ill-explained agency of another -was the first, in his kingcraft, (a trade soon learnt) to apply the subtle mind of woman as an instrument of state policy. He accordingly selected his own clever and deviceful daughter, Michal, and gave her as a wife to David, "to ensnare him." But David (astute as the king), at

* A natural reprisal, as David had "smote their land, and left neither man, nor woman, nor alien; and took away the sheep and oxen, the asses and the camels, and the apparel, and came to Achish."

« ZurückWeiter »