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onslaught on them, completed the work of destruction. In the Murder of
Ishguard of Ish bosheth, which, like that of Saul, was drawn from
bosheth. the royal tribe of Benjamin, were two representatives of the old Canaanite league of Gibeon. They were chiefs of the marauding' troops which went from time to time to attack the territory of Judah. They knew the habits of the court and king. In the stillness of an Eastern noon, they entered the palace as if to carry off the wheat which was piled up near the entrance. The female slave by the door who was sifting the wheat had, in the heat of the day,fallen asleep at her task. They stole in and passed into the royal bedchamber, where Ishbosheth lay on his couch. They stabbed bim in the stomach, cut off his head, made their escape all that afternoon, all that night, down the valley of the Jordan, and presented the head to David at Hebron as a welcome present. They met with a hard reception. The new king rebuked them sternly, their hands and feet were cut off, and their mutilated limbs hung up over the pool at Hebron. In the same place, in the sepulchre of Abner, the head of Ishbosheth was buried.
But the vengeance of the Gibeonites was not yet sated, Crucifixion nor the calamities of Saul's house finished. It was in the of the course of David's reign that a three months' famine fell of Saul. on the country. A question arose as to the latent national crime which could have called forth this visitation. This, according to the oracle, was Saul's massacre of the Gibeonites. The crime consisted in the departure from the solemn duty of keeping faith with idolators and heretics—a duty which even in Christian times has often been repudiated, but which even in those hard times David faithfully acknowledged. 3 This is the better side of this dark event. The Gibeonites saw that their day was come, and they would not be put off
Comp. 2 Sam. ir. 2, iii. 22, where Josephus (Ant. vii. 2, $1). the same word (gedîd) is used.
3 Ps. xv. 4. See Lecture XI. : 2 Sam. iv. 5-7 (LXX.); and
with anything short of their full measure of revenge. Seven of the descendants of Saul—the two sons of Rizpah, the five sons of Merab—were dragged from their retreat beyond the Jordan. Seven crosses were erected on the sacred hill of Gibeah or of Gibeon, and there the unfortunate victims were crucified. The sacrifice took place at the beginning of barley harvest—the sacred and festal time of the Passover—and remained there in the full blaze of the summer skies till the fall of the periodical rain in October. Underneath the corpses sate for the whole of that time the mother of two of them, Rizpah—the mater dolorosa (if one may use a striking application of that sacred
' phrase) of the ancient dispensation. She had no tent to shelter her from the scorching sun, nor from the drenching dews, but she spread on the rocky floor her thick mourning garment of black sackcloth, and crouched there from month to month to ward off the vultures that flew by day, and the jackals that prowled by night over the dreadful spot. At last the royal order came that the expiation was complete, and from the crosses-such is one version of the eventthe bodies were taken down by a descendant of the gigantic aboriginal races. It would seem as if this tragical scene had moved the whole compassion of the king and nation for the fallen dynasty. From the grave beneath the terebinth of Jabesh-gilead, the bones of Saul and Jonathan were at last brought back to their own ancestral burial-place at Zelah, on the edge of the tribe of Benjamin.
It must have been at this same time that the search was made for any missing descendants of Jonathan. In the entire extinction of the family in Western Palestine it was with difficulty that this information could be obtained.
1 The verbal details of this account, be said that there remains the possiin strict conformity with the Hebrew bility that the bodies were hung up text, are suggested by Mr. Grove's after death. graphic article on Rizpan in the : 2 Sam. xxi. 11 (LXX.). Dictionary of the Bible. It should
It was given by Ziba,' a former slave of the royal house. And David said, 'Is there any that is left of the house of * Saul, that I may show him the kindness of God for Jonathan's sake?' One still remained. Mephibosheth was be- Mephi
bosheth. yond the Jordan, where he had been since his early flight. He must have been still a youth, but was married and had an only son. He came bearing with him the perpetual marks of the disastrous day of his escape. It would almost seem as if David had heard of him as a child from his beloved Jonathan. Feeble in body, broken in spirit, the exiled prince entered and fell on his face before the occupant of what might have been his father's throne; and David said, Mephibosheth. And he said, Behold thy “'
“ At David's table he was maintained, and through him and his son were probably preserved the traditions of the friendship of his father and his benefactor. His loyalty remained unshaken, though much contested both at the time and afterwards; and we part from him on the banks of the Jordan, where with all the signs of Eastern grief, he met David on his return from the defeat of Absalom. Two other descendants of the house of Saul appear in the court of David. A 3 son of Abner was allowed the first place in the tribe of Benjamin. A powerful“ chief of the family lived to a great old age on the borders of the tribe till the reign of Solomon. It is just possible that in the attempt of the usurper Zimri, there is one last effort of the descendants of Jonathan to gain the throne of Israel." So closed the dynasty of Saul. It will have been Sympathy
for its fail. observed, how tender is the interest cherished towards it throughout all these scattered notices in the sacred narrative—a striking proof of the contrast between our timid
1 2 Sam. ix. 2.
36, &c. See Lecture VI. ? See Lecture XXIV.
51 Kings xvi. 9–20. Compare * 1 Chr. xxvii. 2.
1 Chr. ix. 42. See Lecture XXX. • 2 Sam. xvi. 6, &c.; 1 Kings i.
anxiety, and the fearless human sympathy of the Biblical writers. In later ages, it has often been the custom to be wise and severe above that which is written, and in the desire of exalting David to darken the character of Saul and his family. In this respect we have fallen behind the keener discrimination which appeared in his own countrymen. Even when Abner fell, and by his fall secured the throne to David, this generous feeling expresses itself alike in the narrative and in David himself. “They buried Abner in Hebron :
and the king lifted up his voice, and wept at the grave of * Abner; and all the people wept, and the king lamented over Abner. “ Died Abner as Nabal died ? ” and all the people wept again over him. Such too is the spirit of the stern rebuke to the slayer of Saul, and to the murderers of Ishbosheth. Such is the deep pathos which runs through the dark story of Rizpah, the daughter of Aiah. Such, too, was the Jewish tradition which regarded the misfortunes of David's descendants as a judgment on the somewhat unequal measure with which he requited the gratitude of Mephibosheth and the friendship of Jonathan. "At the
same moment that David said to Mephibosheth, Thou and *Ziba shall divide the land; the voice of Divine Providence said, Rehoboam and Jeroboam shall divide the kingdom:"? and even if the sacred writer believed in the treason of Mephibosheth, there is no word to tell us so; his crime, if there were a crime, is left, shrouded under the shade which sympathy for the fallen dynasty has cast over it.
This tender sentiment appears in the highest degree towards Saul himself. Josephus did not feel that he was failing in reverence to David, by breaking forth into enthusiastic admiration of the patriotic devotion with which Saul rushed
3 to meet his end. And still more remarkably is this feeling
| Even S. Bernard thought that Saul and Jonathan were both lost for
See Morrison, Life of S. Bernard, p. 270.
· Quoted by Lightfoot, Sermon on 2 Sam. xix. 29.
3 Ant. vi. 14, $4.
exemplified in David's lamentation after the battle of Gilboa, Its instruction rises beyond the special occasion.
Saul had fallen with all his sins upon his head, fallen in David's the bitterness of despair, and, as it might have seemed to mortal eye, under the shadow of the curse of God. But not
Jonathan. only is there in David's lament no revengeful feeling at the death of his persecutor, such as that in which even Christian saints have indulged from the days of Lactantius down to the days of the Covenanters; not only is there none of that bitter feeling which in more peaceful times so often turns the beart of a successor against his predecessor; but he dwells with unmixed love on the brighter recollections of the departed. He speaks only of the Saul of earlier times, the mighty conqueror, the delight of his people, the father of his beloved and faithful friend; like him in life, united with him in death.
Such expressions, indeed, cannot be taken as deliberate judgments on the characters of Saul or of his family. But they may fairly be taken as justifying the irrepressible instinct of humanity which compels us to dwell on the best qualities of those who have but just departed, and which has found its way into all funeral services of the Christian Church, of our own amongst the rest. They represent, and they have, by a fitting application, been themselves made to express, the feelings with which in all ages of Christendom the remains of the illustrious dead, whether in peace or war, of characters however far removed from perfection, have been committed to the grave. It is not only a quotation, but an unconscious vindication of our own better feelings, when over the portal of the sepulchral chapel of the most famous of mediæval heroes, we find inscribed the words of David How are the mighty fallen, and the weapons of war
: * perished! Quomodo ceciderunt robusti, et perierunt arma
1 Tomb of the Cid near Burgos.