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the city underneath the palace, where, during his absence at the siege of Rabbah with Joab's army, his wife remained behind. From the roof of his palace, the King looked down on the cisterns which were constructed on the top of the lower houses of Jerusalem, and then conceived for Bathsheba the uncontrollable passion to which she offered no resistance. In the hope that the husband's return might cover his own shame, and save the reputation of the injured woman, he sent back for Uriah from the camp, on the pretext of asking news of the war. The King met with an unexpected obstacle in the austere soldier-like spirit which guided the conduct of the sturdy Canaanite. He steadily refused to go home, or partake of any of the indulgences of domestic life, whilst the ark and the host were in booths and his comrades lying in the open air. He partook of the royal hospitality, but slept always in the guards’quarterat the gate of the palace. On the last night of his stay, the King at a feast vainly endeavoured to entrap him by intoxication. The soldier was overcome by the debauch, but retained his sense of duty sufficiently to insist on sleeping at the palace. On the morning of the third day, David sent him back to the camp with a letter containing the command to Joab to contrive his destruction in the battle. Probably to an unscrupulous soldier like Joab the absolute will of the King was sufficient.
The device of Joab was, to observe the part of the wall of Rabbath-Ammon where the strongest force of the besieged was congregated, and thither, as a kind of forlorn hope, to send Uriah. A sally took place. Uriah with his soldiers advanced as far as the gate of the city, and was there shot
The murder of Uriah.
1 2 Sam. xi. 11. The words are admirably applied by Oliver Cromwell in a rebuke to his son Richard (Carlyle's Cromwell, Letter clxxviii.).
? Ibid. 9. Comp. Neh. iii. 16.
Josephus (Ant. vi. 7, $1) adds, that he gave as a reason an imaginary offence of Uriah. None such appears in the letter as preserved in 2 Samn. xi.
down by the Ammonite archers. It seems as if it had been an established maxim of Israelitish warfare not to approach the wall of a besieged city; and one instance of the fatal result was quoted, as if proverbially, against it—the sudden and ignominious death of Abimelech at Thebez, which cut short the hopes of the then rising monarchy.
Just as Joab had forewarned the messenger, the King broke into a furious passion on hearing of the loss, and cited, almost in the very words which Joab had predicted, the case of Abimelech. The messenger, as instructed by Joab, calmly continued, and ended the story with the words : “Thy servant also, Criah the Hittite, is dead.' In a moment David's anger is appeased. He sends an encouraging message to Joab on the unavoidable chances of war, and urges him to continue the siege. Uriah had fallen unconscious of his wife's. dishonour. She hears of her husband's death. The narrative gives no hint as to her shame or remorse. She 'mourned' with the usual signs of grief as a widow; and then became the wife of David.?
Thus far the story belongs to the usual crimes of an Oriental despot. Detestable as was the double guilt of this dark story, we must still remember that David was not an Alfred or a Saint Louis. He was an Eastern king, exposed to all the temptations of a king of Ammon or Damascus then, of a sultan of Bagdad or Constantinople in modern times. What follows, however, could have been found nowhere in the ancient world but in the Jewish monarchy.
A year had passed; the dead Uriah was forgotten ; the child of guilt was born in the royal house, and loved with all the passionate tenderness of David's paternal heart. Suddenly the Prophet Nathan appears before him. He comes
This appears from the fact that Joab exactly anticipates what the king will say when he hears of the
See the additions of the
LXX. to verse 22, with the remarks of Thenius thereon. See Lecture XV.
: 2 Sam. xi. 27.
as if to claim redress for a wrong in humble life. It was the true mission of the Prophets, as champions of the
oppressed, in the courts of kings. It was the true Prophetic A pologue spirit that spoke through Nathan's mouth. The apologue of of Nathan.
the rich man and the ewe lamb has, besides its own intrinsic tenderness, a supernatural elevation which is the best sign of true Revelation. It ventures to disregard all particulars, and is content to aim at awakening the general sense of outraged justice. It fastens on the essential guilt of David's sin—not its sensuality, or its impurity, so much as its meanness and selfishness. It rouses the King's conscience by that teaching described as specially characteristic of prophecy, making manifest his own sin in the indignation which he has expressed at the sin of another. Thou art the man is, or ought to be, the conclusion, expressed or unexpressed, of every practical sermon. A true description of a real incident, if like in its general character -however unlike to our own case in all the surrounding particulars-strikes home with greater force than the sternest personal invective. This is the mighty function of all great works of fiction. They have in their power that indirect appeal to the conscience of which the address of Nathan is the first and most exquisite example. His parable is repeated, in actual words, in a famous romance which stirred the imagination of our fathers, and is the keynote of other
tales of like genius which have no less stirred our own. Repent- As the apologue of Nathan reveals the true Prophet, so
the Psalms of David reveal the true Penitent. Two? at least—the 51st and 32nd - can hardly belong to any other
period. He has fallen. That abyss which yawns by the side of lofty genius and strong passion had opened and
ance of David.
1 1 Cor. xiv. 24, 25.
? Ewald, while acknowledging the Davidie origin of the 32nd, doubts the 51st. But if verses 18 and 19
can be regarded as a later accommodation, the rest of the Pealm suits no other time or person equally.
closed over him. The charm of his great name is broken. But the sudden revulsion of feeling shows that his conscience was not dead. Our reverence for David is shaken, not destroyed. The power of his former character was still there. It was overpowered for the time, but it was capable of being roused again. The great waterfloods ’ had burst over him, but 'they had not come nigh' to his inmost soul." The Prophet had by his opening words, 'Give me a judgment,' 2 thrown him back upon his better nature. There was still an eye to see, there was still an ear to hear. His indignation
, against the rich man of the parable showed that the moral sense was not wholly extinguished. The instant recognition of his guilt breaks up the illusion of months. I have sinned against the Lord.' The sense of his injustice to man waxes faint before his sense of sin against God. Against * Thee, Thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Thy sight.'3 This is the peculiar turn given to his confession by the elevation and force of his religious convictions. He is worn away by grief; day and night he feels a mighty Hand heavy upon him; his soul is parched up as with the drought of an Eastern summer. But he rises above the present by his passionate hopes for the future. His prayers are the simple expressions of one who loathes sin because he has been acquainted with it, who longs to have truth in his innermost self, to have hands thoroughly clean, to make a fresh start in life with a spirits free, and just, and new. This is the true Hebrew, Christian, idea of · Repentance': — not penance, not remorse, not mere general confessions of human depravity, not minute confessions of minute sins dragged out by a too scrupulous casuistry, but change of life and mind.
" Ps. xxxi. 6.
: 2 Sam. xii. 1 (Vulgate, and Thenins).
Ps. li. 4. For the legends of this incident see Fabricius, Cod.
Pseudepig. V. T. p. 1000; Koran,
* Ps. xxxii. 4.
And in this, the crisis of his fate, and from the agonies of his grief, a doctrine emerges, as universal and as definite as was wrung out of the like struggles of the Apostle Paul. Now, if ever, would have been the time, had his religion led him in that direction, to have expiated his crime by the sacrifices of the Levitical ritual. It would seem as if for a moment such a solution had occurred to him. But he at once rejects it. He remains true to the Prophetic teaching. He knows that no substitution of dead victims, however costly, can fill up the gulf between himself and God. He knows that it is another and higher sacrifice which God approves. “Thou desirest no sacri<fice--else would I give it thee; but thou delightest not in • burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit,
a broken and contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise." ? And even out of that broken and troubled heart, the dawn of a better life springs up. •Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice • O ye righteous; and shout for joy, all ye that are true of • heart.'? He is not what he was before—but he is far nobler and greater than many a just man who never fell and never repented. He is far more closely bound up with the sympathies of mankind than if he had never fallen. We cannot wonder that a scruple should have arisen in recording so terrible a crime; and accordingly the Chronicler throws a veil over the whole transaction. But the bolder spirit of the more Prophetic Books of Samuel has been justified by the enduring results. Who is called the man after God's
• • own heart?' so the whole matter is summed up by a critic not too indulgent to sacred characters:- David, the He• brew king, had fallen into sins enough-blackest crimes '--there was no want of sin. And therefore the unbe• lievers sneer, and ask “Is this your man according to • “God's heart?” The sneer, I must say, seems to me but
i Ps. li. 16, 17.
? Ps. xxxii. 11.