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comes stabuli?—the constable' of the King, such as appears in the later monarchy. He is the first instance of a foreigner employed in a high function in Israel, being an Edomite or 2 Syrian, of the name of Doeg,—according to Jewish tradition 3 the steward who accompanied Saul in his pursuit after the asses, who counselled him to send for David, and whose son ultimately slew him ;according to the sacred narrative, a person of vast and sinister influence in his master's counsels.
The King himself was distinguished by marks of royalty not before observed in the nation. His tall spear, already noticed, was always by his side, in 4 repose, at his meals, when 6 sleeping, when in battle.? He wore à diadem round his brazen helmet and a bracelet on his arm.8 His victories soon fulfilled the hopes for which his office was created. Moab, Edom, Ammon, Amalek, and even the distant Zobaho felt his power. The Israelite women met him on his return from his wars with songs of greeting; and eagerly looked out for the scarlet robes and golden ornaments which he brought back as their prey.10
From these signs of hope and life in the house of Saul,
we turn to the causes of its downfall. His
If Samuel is the great example of an ancient saint growimperfect conversion. ing up from childhood to old age without a sudden conver
sion, Saul is the first direct example of the mixed character often produced by such a conversion, a call coming in the midway of life to rouse the man to higher thoughts than the lost asses of his father's household, or than the tumults of
war and victory. He became another man,' yet not entirely. He was, as is so often the case, half-converted, half-roused. His mind moved unequally and disproportionately in its new sphere. Backwards and forwards in the names of his children, we see alternately the signs of the old heathenish superstition, and of the new purified religion of JEHOVAH. Jonathan his first born is 'the gift of Jehovah;' Melchi-shua is “the help of Moloch ;' his grandson Meribbaal is the soldier of Baal;' and his fourth son Ish-baal,
the man of Baal;' and here again, ‘Baal' is swept out, and appears only as · Bosheth,'the shame or reproach,'— Mephibosheth, Ish-bosheth. He caught the Prophetic inspiration not continuously but only in fitful gusts. Passionately he would enter into it for the time, as he came within the range of his better associations, tear off his clothes, and lie stretched on the ground under its influence for a night and a day together. But then he would be again the slave of his common pursuits. His religion was never blended with his moral nature. It broke out in wild, ungovernable acts of zeal and superstition, and then left him more a prey than ever to his own savage disposition. With the prospects and the position of a David, he remained to the end a Jephthah or a Samson, with this difference, that, having outlived the
age of Jephthah and of Samson, he could not be as they; and the struggle, therefore, between what he was and what he might have been grew fiercer as years went on; and the knowledge of Samuel, and the companionship of David, become to him a curse instead of a blessing.
Of all the checks on the dangers incident to the growth His of an Oriental monarchy in the Jewish nation, the most opposition prominent was that which Providence supplied in the con- Prophets. temporaneous growth of the Prophetical office. But it was just this far-reaching vision of the past and future, which
i 1 Sam. xiv. 4, 9; xxxi. 2; 1 Chr. viii. 33.
Saul was unable to understand. At the very outset of his career, Samuel, the great representative of the Prophetical order, had warned him not to enter on his kingly duties till he should appear to inaugurate them and to instruct him in them. It would seem to have been almost immediately after his first call, that the occasion arose. The war with the Philistines was impending. He could not restrain the vehemence of his religious emotions. As King, he had the
. right to sacrifice. Without a sacrifice it seemed to him impossible to advance to battle. He sacrificed, and by that ritual zeal defied the warning of the Prophetic monitor. It was the crisis of his trial. He had shown that he could not understand the distinction between moral and ceremonial duty, on which the greatness of his people depended. It was not because he sacrificed, but because he thought sacrifice greater than obedience, that the curse descended upon him.
Again, in the sacred war against Amalek, there is no reason to suppose that Saul spared the king for any other reason than that for which he retained the spoil--namely, to make a more splendid show at the sacrificial thanksgiving.” Such was the Jewish tradition preserved by Josephus, who expressly says that Agag was saved for his stature and beauty, and such is the general impression left by the description of the celebration of the victory. Saul rides to the southern Carmel in a chariot, never mentioned elsewhere, and sets up a monument there, which, according to the Jewish traditions, was a triumphal arch of olives, myrtles, and palms. The name given to God on the occasion is taken from this crowning triumph, The Victory of Israel.'. This second act
' 6 of disobedience calls down the second curse, in the form of that Prophetic truth which stands out all the more im
11 Sam. xiii. 8, compared with 1 Sam. x. 8, with which it must be taken in close connexion. See Thenius ud loc. and Ewald.
2 1 Sam. xv. 21.
pressively from the savage scene with which it is connected. * Hath Jehovah as great delight in burnt offerings and
sacrifices, as in obeying the word of the Lord ? Behold, 'to obey is more than good sacrifice, to hearken than the fat of rams.' The struggle between Samuel and Saul in their final parting is indicated by the rent of Samuel's robe of state, as he tears himself away from Saul's grasp, and by the long anguish of Samuel for the separation. "Samuel • mourned for Saul.' 'How long wilt thou mourn for • Saul ? '3 The terrible vengeance exacted on the fallen King by Samuel is the measure of Saul's delinquency. The mighty chief whose sword was so dreaded amongst the mothers * of Israel was now himself crouching 5 awestruck at the feet of the Prophet, who hewed him limb from limb-a victim (so the narrative seems to imply) more fitted for the justice of God than the helpless oxen and sheep, whose fat carcasses and whose senseless bleating and lowing filled the Prophet's soul with such supreme disdain. The ferocious form of the offering of Agag belongs happily to an extinct dispensation. But its spirit reminds us of the famous saying of Peter the Great, when entreated in a mortal illness to secure the Divine mercy by the pardon of some criminals condemned to death: Carry out the sentence. Heaven • will be propitiated by this act of justice.' To receive benefits from the society of those whom we condemn, and yet to exclaim against the pollution of it, to set at nought obvious duties for the sake of the religious ascendency of our own peculiar views, is, as has been well said, the modern likeness of the piety of Saul when he spared
rendered delicately' (1 Sam. xv.) in the A. V. should be translated in joy' or in terror. See Thenius ad loc. The Vulgate gives both pinguissimus and tremens.
31 Sam. xv. 35; xvi. 1.
* Stahlin's Peter the Great, 82.
the best of the oxen and the sheep to sacrifice to the Lord in Gilgal.
What Saul did then, he was doing always. His religious zeal was always breaking out in wrong channels, on irregular occasions, in his own way. The Gibeonites he destroyed, probably as a remnant of the ancient Canaanites, heedless
of the covenant which their ancestors had made with Joshua.? His super. The wizards 8 and necromancers he cut off, unmindful, till stition.
reminded by the Prophet, that his own wilfulness was as the sin of witchcraft, and his own stubbornness as the sin of idolatry. The priesthood of Nob he swept away, perhaps in the mere rage of disappointment, or under the overweening influence of Doeg, but also, it may be, as an instrument of Divine vengeance on the accursed house of Ithamar.
Out of these conflicting elements-out of a character unequal to his high position-out of the zeal of a partial conversion degenerating into a fanciful and gloomy superstition,
arose the first example of what has been called in after times His religious madness. The unhingement of his mind, which is madness.
perhaps first apparent in the wild vow or fixed idea which doomed his son to death, gradually becomes more and more evident. He is not wholly insane. The lucid intervals are long, the dark hours are few, but we trace step by step the gradual advance of the fatal malady. “The Spirit of the • Lord departed from Saul; and an evil spirit from the Lord • troubled him — terrified, choked him. It was an evil spirit; and yet it seemed,—it is expressly called,—'a spirit
of God;' and in the midst of his ravings, the old Prophetic inspiration of his better days6 could return—he prophesied.'
1 Arnold, On the Christian Duty of brought on by despotic power. conceding the Roman Catholic Claims και έπνιγεν, 1 Sam. xvi. 14. πνίγμους (Miscell. Works, r. 76).
αυτή και στραγγάλας επιφέροντα (Jo2 2 Sam. xxi. 2. See Lecture XI. seph. Ant. vi. 8, $2). 3 1 Sam. xxviii. 9 (Ewald, iii. 67.). Compare also the double meaning
* • Thou and all thy father's house,' of prophesying,' 1 Sam. xviii. 10, 11. 1 Sam. xxii. 16. Josephus (Ant. vi. (See Joseph. Ant. vi. 11, $5.) 12, 87) regards it as the climax of guilt,