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David as a not as a solitary fugitive, or persecuted suppliant, but as a freebooter.
powerful freebooter. His 600 followers have grown up into an organised force, with their wives and families about them. He has himself established a name and fame in the pastures of Southern Judæa, which show that his trials had already developed within him some of those royal, we may almost say, imperious qualities, that mark his after life. Two wives have followed his fortunes from these regions. Of one, Ahinoam, we know nothing except her birth-place, Jezreel, on the slopes of the southern Carmel. The other, Abigail, came from the same neighbourhood, and her introduction to David opens to us a glimpse of the lighter side of his wanderings, that we cannot afford to lose; in which we see not only the romantic adventures of Gustavus Vasa, of Pelayo, of the Stuart Princes, but also the generous, genial life of the exiled Duke in the forest of Ardennes,
or the outlaw of Sherwood forest.
chief, whose wealth, as might be expected from his place of
In them the shepherds recognised the slaves or attendants of the chief of a band of freebooters who had showed them unexpected kindness in their pastoral excursions. To Nabal they were unknown. They approached him with a triple salutation; enumerated the services of their master, and ended by claiming, with
81 Sam. xxv. 2, 4, 36.
1 1 Sam. xxvii. 3, 4.
that mixture of courtesy and defiance so characteristic of the East, 'whatsoever cometh to thy hand, for thy servants and for thy son David.' The great sheepmaster was not disposed to recognise this new parental relation. He was notorious for his obstinacy, and his low and cynical turn of mind. On hearing this demand, he sprang? up and broke out into fury: "Who is David ? and who is the son of Jesse ?' The moment that the messengers were gone, the shepherds that stood by perceived the danger of their position. To Nabal himself they durst not speak. But they knew that he was married to a wife as beautiful and wise as he was the reverse. To Abigail, as to the good angel of the household, one of the shepherds told the state of affairs. She loaded her husband's numerous asses with presents, and with her attendants running before her, rode down towards David's encampment. She was just in time. At that very moment, he had made the usual vow of extermination against the whole household. She threw herself on her face before him, and poured forth her petition in language which both in form and substance almost assumes the tone of poetry.
The main argument rests on the description of her husband's character, which she draws with that union of playfulness and seriousness which, above all things, turns away wrath. his name is, so is he: Fool (Nabal) is his name and folly ' is with him. She returned with the announcement that David had recanted his vow. Already the tenacious adhesion to these rash oaths had given way in the better heart of the people. Like the nobles of Palestine at a later period, Nabal had drunk to excess, and his wife dared not communicate to him either his danger or his escape. At break of day she told him both. The stupid reveller was suddenly aroused to a sense of his folly. It was as if a stroke of
? 1 Sam. xxiv. 10 (LXX.).
paralysis or apoplexy had fallen upon him. Ten days be lingered, and the Lord smote Nabal and he died.' The memory of his death long lived in David's memory, and in his dirge over the noblest of his enemies, he rejoiced to say that Abner had not died like! Nabal. The rich and beautiful widow became his wife.
In this new condition, David appears at the court of Achish, King of Gath. He is warmly welcomed. After the manner of Eastern potentates, Achish gave him, for his support, a city-Ziklag on the frontier of Philistia - which thus became an appanage of the royal house of Judah. His increasing importance is indicated by the fact that a body of Benjamite archers and slingers, twenty-three of whom are specially named, joined him from the very tribe of his rival." Possibly during this stay he may have acquired the knowledge of military organisation, in which the Philistines surpassed the Israelites, and in which he surpassed all the preceding rulers of Israel.
He deceived Achish into confidence by attacking the old nomadic inhabitants of the desert frontier, and, with relentless severity, cutting off all witnesses of this deception, and representing the plunder to be from portions of the southern tribes of Israel or the nomadic tribes allied to them. But this confidence was not shared by the Philistine nobles; and accordingly when Achish went on his last victorious campaign against Saul, David was sent back, and thus escaped the difficulty of being present at the battle of Gilboa.' He found that during his absence the Bedouin Amalekites, whom he had plundered during the previous year, had made a descent upon Ziklag, burnt it to the ground, and carried off the wives and children of the new settlement. A wild scene of frantic grief and recrimination ensued between David and his followers. It was calmed by an oracle of assurance from Abiathar. It happened that an important accession had just been made to his force. On his march to Gilboa, and on bis retreat, he had been joined by some chiefs of the Manassites, through whose territory he was passing. Urgent as must have been the need for them at home, yet David's fascination carried them off, and they now assisted him against the plunderers. They overtook the invaders in the desert, and recovered the spoil. These were the gifts with which David was now able, for the first time, to requite the friendly inhabitants of the scene of his wanderings. A more lasting memorial was the law which traced its origin to the arrangement made by him, formerly in the affair with Nabal, but now again, more completely, for the equal division of the plunder amongst the two-thirds who followed to the field, and the one-third who remained to guard the baggage. Two days after this victory a Bedouin arrived from the North with the news of the defeat of Gilboa. The reception of the tidings of the death of his rival and of his friend, the solemn mourning, the vent of his indignation against the bearer of the message, the pathetic lamentation that followed, which form the natural close of this period of David's life, have been already described in their still nearer connexion with the life and death of Saul. It is a period which has left on David's character marks never afterwards effaced.
1 2 Sam. iii. 33 (Heb. and LXX.).
? The suspicions entertained by theologians of the last century, that there was a conspiracy between David and Abigail to make away with Nabal, have given place to the better spirit of modern criticism, and Ewald enters fully into the feeling of the narrator, closing his summary of Nabal's death with the reflection that it was not without justice regarded as a Divine
11 Sam. xxvii. 6. Here we meet with the first note of time in David's life. He was settled there for a 'year and four months' (xxvii. 7). But the value of this is materially damaged by the variations in the LXX. to 'four months,' and Joseph. (Ant. vi. 13, 810) to four months and twenty days.
1 Chr. xii. 1-7.
"1 Sam. xxix. 3-11.
4 1 Sam. XXX. 26-31.
Effects of his wanderings.
Hence sprang that ready sagacity, natural to one who had so long moved with his life in his hand. At the very beginning' of this period of his career, it is said of him that he • behaved himself wisely,' evidently with the impression that it was a wisdom called forth by his difficult position--that peculiar Jewish caution, like the instinct of a hunted animal, so strongly developed in the persecuted Israelites of the middle ages. We cannot fix with certainty the dates of the Psalms of this epoch 3 of his life. But, in some at least, we can trace even the outward circumstances with which he was surrounded. In them, we see David's flight 'as a bird to the mountains '4— like the partridges that haunt the wild hills of southern Judah. As he catches the glimpses of Saul's archers and spearmen from behind the rocks, he sees them · bending their bows, making ready their arrows upon the string'—he sees the approach of those who hold no converse except through those armed, bristling bands, whose very "teeth are spears and arrows, and their tongue a sharp sword.'5 The
savage scenery suggests the overthrow of his enemies. • They shall be a portion for the ravening jackals.'6 They shall be overtaken by fire and brimstone, ?storm and “tempest,' such as laid waste the cities of old, in the deep chasms above which he was wandering. His mind teems with the recollections of the rocks and fastnesses,' the caves and leafy coverts' amongst which he takes refugethe 'precipices' down which he «slips '—the steps cut in the cliffs for him to tread in, the activity as of a wild goat'
11 Sam. xviii. 14, 30. 2 See Lecture III.
3 To this period are annexed by their traditional titles Psalm xi. (believed by Ewald to be David's); liv. ( When the Ziphim came and said, Doth not David hide himself with us?'); lvii. (“When he fled from Saul
in the cave'); lxiii. ("When he was
* Ps. xi. 1.