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Flight of


the city of Jerusalem. There is no single day' in the Jewish history of which so elaborate an account remains as of this memorable flight. There is none, we may add, that combines so many of David's characteristics—his patience, his highspirited religion, his generosity, his calculation : we miss only bis daring courage. Was it crushed, for the moment, by the weight of parental grief, or of bitter remorse?

Every stage of the mournful procession was marked by some peculiar incident. He left the city, accompanied by his whole court. None of his household remained, except ten of the women of the harem, whom he sent back, apparently to occupy the Palace. The usual array of mules and asses was left behind. They were all on foot. The first halt was at a spot on the outskirts of the city, known as “the Far? House.' The second was by a solitary olive-tree 3 that stood by the road to the wilderness of the Jordan. Here the long procession formed itself. The body-guard of Philistines moved at the head: then followed the great mass of the regular soldiery: next came the high officers of the court; and last, immediately before the King himself, the six hundred warriors, his ancient companions, with their wives and children. Amongst these David observed Ittai of Gath, and with the true nobleness of his character entreated the Philistine chief not to peril his own or his countrymen's lives in the service of a fallen and a stranger sovereign. But Ittai declared his resolution (with a fervour which almost inevitably recalls a like profession made almost on the same spot to the Great Descendant of David centuries afterwards) to follow him in life and in death. The King accepted his faithful service; and calling him to his side, they advanced to the head of the


Strange that it should have been reserved for Ewald (iii. 228-235) to have first dwelt on this remarkable fact. In what follows I am indebted to him at every turn.

2 2 Sam. xv. 17; A. V. 'a place

that was far off.'

8 2 Sam. xv. 18 (LXX.).

• Ewald, iri. 177 note. According to the probable reading of Gibborim for Gittim.

5 Matt. xxvi. 35.

march, and passed over the deep ravine of the Kidron, followed close by the guards and their children. It was the signal that he was determined on flight; and a wail of grief rose from the whole procession, which seemed to be echoed back by mountain and valley, as if the whole land wept with a • loud voice.' At this point they were overtaken by another procession, consisting of the Levites and the two Priests, Zadok and Abiathar, bringing the ark from its place on the hill' of Zion to accompany the King in his flight. There is a difference in the conduct of the rival Priests which seems to indicate their different shades of loyalty. Zadok remained by the ark; Abiathar went apart on the mountain ? Abiathar. side, apparently waiting to watch the stream of followers as it flowed past. With a spirit worthy of the King who was Prophet as well as Priest, David refused this new aid. He would not use the ark as a charm; he had too much reverence for it to risk it in his personal peril. He reminded Zadok that he too by his prophetic insight Zadok, ought to have known better. Thou a seer !! It was a case where the agility of their two sons was likely to be of more avail than the officious zeal of the chief Priests. To them he left the charge of bringing him tidings from the capital, and passed onwards to the Jordan. Another burst of wild lament broke out as the procession turned up the mountain pathway; the King leading the long dirge which was taken up all down the slope of Olivet. The King drew his cloak over his head, and the rest did the same; he only distinguished by his unsandalled feet. At the top of the mountain, consecrated by one of the altars in that age common on the hilltops of Palestine, and apparently used


1 2 Sam. xv. 24, ånd Balbáp (LXX.).

? According to the Jewish tradition, to consult the Divine oracle on the billtop, which was supposed to have returned the answer which guided

David's refusal to allow the progress
of the ark (Jerome, Qu. Heb. ad loc.).

Comp. 2 Sam. xix. 4, and Mark
xiv. 72, επιβαλών έκλα ε.




habitually by David, they were met by Hushai the Archite,

the friend,' as he was officially called, of the King. The priestly' garment, which he wore after the fashion, as it would seem, of David's chief officers, was torn, and his head was smeared with dust, in the agony of his grief. In him David saw his first gleam of hope. For warlike purposes he was useless; but of political stratagem he was a master. A moment before, the tidings had come of the treason of Ahithophel. To frustrate his designs, Hushai was sent back, just in time to meet Absalom arriving from Hebron. It was

when David passed over the mountain top, and now, as Jerusalem was left behind, and the new prospect opened before him, two new characters appeared, both in connexion with the hostile tribe of Benjamin, whose territory they were entering. One of them was Ziba, slave of Mephibosheth, taking advantage of the civil war to make his own fortunes, and bringing the story that Mephibosheth had gone over to the rebels, in the hope of a restoration of the dynasty of his grandfather Saul. The King gratefully accepted his offering, took the stores of bread, dates, grapes, and wine for his followers, and, in a moment of indignation, granted to Ziba the whole property of Mephibosheth. At Bahurim, also on the downward pass, he encountered another member of the fallen dynasty, Shimei, the son of Gera. His house was just within the borders of Benjamin, on the same spot where-apparently for this reason--Michal, the princess of that same house, had left her husband, Phaltiel. All the fury of the rival dynasties, with all the foul names which long feuds had engendered, burst forth as the two parties here came into collision. On





1 2 Sam. xv. 32; Cutaneth; Toy
iTwva ; A. V. 'coat.'
: 2 Sam. xvi. 1 (LXX.).
• In the Jewish traditions, he was

identified with Nebat, father of Jeroboam, “first of the house of Joseph' (2 Sam. xix. 20). See Jerome, Qu. Heb. on 2 Sam. xvi.



the one side the fierce Benjamite saw 'the Man of Blood,' stained, as it must have seemed to him; with the slaughter of Abner and Ishbosheth, and the seven princes whose cruel death at Gibeon was fresh in the national recollection. On the other side the wild sons of Zeruiah saw in Shimei one of the dead dogs,' or dogs' heads, according to the offensive language bandied to and fro amongst the political rivals of that age. A deep ravine parted the King's march from the house of the furious Benjamite. But along the ridge he ran, throwing stones as if for the adulterer's punishment, or when he came to a patch of dust on the dry hill side, taking it up, and scattering it over the royal party below, with the elaborate curses of which only eastern partisans are fully masters -curses which David never forgot, and of which, according to the Jewish tradition, every letter was significant. The companions of David, who felt an insult to their master as an injury to themselves, could hardly restrain themselves. Abishai,- with a fiery zeal, which reminds us of the sons of Thunder centuries later,—would fain have rushed across the defile, and cut off the head of the blaspheming rebel. One alone retained his calmness. The King, with a depth of feeling undisturbed by any political animosities, bade them remember that after the desertion of his favourite son anything was tolerable, and (with the turn of thought so natural to an Oriental) that the curses of the Benjamite might divert some portion of the Divine anger from himself, and that they were in a certain sepse the direct words of God Himself. The exiles passed on, and in a state of deep exhaustion reached the Jordan valley, and there rested after the long eventful' day, at the ford or 2 bridge of the

1 2 Sam. xvi. ; comp. 1 Sam. xxiv. 14; 2 Sam. ii. 8.

. See 1 Kings ii. 8. It was believed to spell out the words Adulterer, Moabite, Infidel, Leper, Abominable

(Jerome, Qu. Heb. ad. loc.).

3 The Lord hath said unto him, Curse David . ,. Let him curse, for the Lord hath bidden him. (2 Sam. xvi. 10, 11).

1 river. Amongst the thickets of the Jordan, the asses of Ziba were unladen, and the weary travellers refreshed themselves, and waited for tidings from Jerusalem. It must have been long after nightfall, that the joyful sound was heard of the two youths, sons of the High Priests, bursting in upon the encampment with the news from the capital.

Absalom had arrived from Hebron almost immediately Counsel of after David's departure; and, by the advice of Ahithophel, Ahitho

took the desperate step-the decisive assumption, according phel,

to Oriental usage, of royal rights--of seizing what remained of the royal harem in the most public and offensive manner. The next advice was equally bold. The aged counsellor offered, himself, that very night, to pursue and cut off the King before he had crossed the Jordan. That single death would close the civil war. The nation would return to her legitimate Prince, as a bride to her 3 husband. But now another adviser had appeared on the stage; Hushai, fresh

from the top of Olivet, with his false professions of rebellion, and with his ingenious scheme for saving his royal master. He Husbai.

drew a picture of the extreme difficulty of following Ahithophel's counsel, and sketched the scheme of a general campaign. It shows how deeply seated was the dread of David's activity and courage, even in this decline of his fortunes, that such a counsel should have swayed the mind of the rebel Prince. It was urged with all the force of Eastern poetry. The she-bear in the open field robbed of her whelps, the wild boar in the Jordan valley, would not be fiercer than the old King and his faithful followers. David, as of old, would be concealed in some deep cave, or on some inaccessible hill, and all pursuit would be as vain as that of Saul on the crags of Engedi. An army must be got together capable


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" 2 Sam. xvi. 14, xvii. 22. * Joseph. Ant. vii. 11, 82.

3 2 Sam. xvii. 3 (LXX.) • Ibid. 8 (LXX.).

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