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THE JEWISH ADVOCATE.
BIBLE HISTORY OF THE JEWS.
With them came Shimei and the treacherous Ziba :* Shimei brought with him 1000 men of Benjamin ; thus accompanied, it might have been unsafe to reject his advances at that time, though, judging by his conduct in the day of David's adversity, his loyalty was very doubtful. Abishai was for putting Shimei to death ; but the king forgave him. These all went as far as the Jordan to meet the king, and to assist in conducting him across the river. Barzillai, the Gileadite, “ who had provided the king of sustenance while he lay at Mahanaim,” went over Jordan with him. The king would have persuaded him to go on to Jerusalem ; but “ Barzillai was a very aged man, even four score years old,” and he preferred to stay and die in his own city, where he might be buried by the grave of
* Ziba. When the king came to Jerusalem he found that Ziba had deceived him with regard to Mephibosheth. That so far from plotting against the king, Mephibosheth had “neither dressed his feet, nor trimmed his beard, nor washed his clothes, from the day the king departed until the day he came again in peace.”
his father and mother; he was willing, however, that his son should follow the fortunes of the king. So the “ king kissed Barzillai, and blessed him; and he returned unto his own place.”
When the king had crossed the river, people from every tribe, even “ half the people
” of Israel, joined him. But a great jealousy of the tribe of Judah (who had most contributed to the king's restoration) soon manifested itself. A violent quarrel ensued, in which “ the words of the men of Judah were fiercer than the words of the men of Israel.” At the instigation of a man named Sheba, a Benjamite, this spark of jealousy soon blazed out into open rebellion. Sheba blew a trumpet, and said, “ We have no part in David, neither have we inheritance in the son of Jesse : every man to his tents, O Israel.” At the sound of this watch word, every man of Israel went up from after David, and followed Sheba : the men of Judah alone clave to the king, they alone of all the tribes remained, and conducted him to Jerusalem.
Once more reinstated on his throne, David prepared to quell this new rebellion. He sent for Amasa, to whom he was now fully reconciled, and gave him command to assemble the men of Judah within three days. Amasa delayed so long in obeying, that David sent Abishai, with Joab's men, and the Cherethites, and the Pelethites, to pursue Sheba, lest he should draw to a head, and make good any of the fenced cities of Israel against the king. Joab was to go with them, no longer captain of the host, but superseded by Amasa, according to promise, (2 Sam. xix. 13,) an indignity he was not likely to put up with. Accordingly we find, that having over
taken Amasa, he treacherously assassinated him, assumed the command of the whole army, led them to Abel of Beth-maachah, into which town Sheba had thrown himself, and besieged it. The inhabitants were induced, by the advice of “a wise woman,” in the city, to consult their own safety by cutting off Sheba's head, and casting it out to Joab; upon which Joab blew a trumpet, and retired from the city. And thus ended this formidable rebellion.
The land was next visited by a famine, which lasted three years. David inquired of the Lord why it was so ? And the Lord answered, “ It is for Saul, and his bloody house, because he slew the Gibeonites.* Wherefore David said unto the Gibeonites, What shall I do for you ? and wherewith shall I make the atonement, that ye may bless the inheritance of the Lord ? And the Gibeonites said unto him, We will have no silver nor gold of Saul, nor of his house ; neither for us shalt thou kill any man in Israel. And he said, What ye shall say, that will I do for you. And they answered the king, The man that consumed us, and that devised against us that we should be destroyed from remaining in any
of the coasts of Israel. Let seven men of his sons be delivered unto us, and we will hang them
unto the Lord in Gibeah of Saul, whom the Lord did choose. And the king said, I will give them.”+ Seven of Saul's descendants were
* Gibeonites. See Joshua ix. 3—21, for an account of the league made with the Gibeonites. Their slaughter by the hand of Saul is no where recorded in the Bible.
† The law of blood-revenge, observed in the East, makes it a point of honour for the nearest relatives of a person slain, to become the avenger of his blood. It delivered into the hands of the Gibeonites, and hanged : “ And God was intreated for the land.” This happened in the beginning of barley harvest; "and Rizpah (the mother of two of the slain) took sackcloth, and spread it for her upon the rock, from the beginning of harvest until water dropped upon them out of heaven,* and suffered neither the birds of the air to rest upon them by day, nor the beasts of the field by night." The affection of Rizpah moved the compassion of David; and he caused the bodies of the slain, together with the bones of Saul and Jonathan, which until now had rested at Jabesh Gilead, to be buried “ in the sepulchre of Kish,” the ancestor of this unhappy family.
But the tranquillity of the land was soon again effectually broken by a wide spread judgment which was felt through all the tribes. In the words of Holy Writ, “Satan stood up against was according to this law that Joab killed Abner. Amongst the Arabs, the whole family of the murderer is considered responsible for his deed; and the only way in which it can be atoned for, and the matter peaceably settled, is, by the family of the slayer agreeing to pay a heavy fine, called the “price of blood.” But this fine may be rejected by the family of the murdered man; and blood for blood may be demanded. Moses found this law existing among the Eastern nations, and he did not alter it ; he only provided cities of refuge for the slayer to flee to, till his guilt or innocence could be proved, and some arrangement made.
*“ Until water dropped upon them out of heaven." “ It seems probable that some vow decreed them to remain suspended, until that sign of peace and fertility was restored.” 6. The harvest in Judæa happened about the Vernal equinox, or 21st of March. The autumnal rains commenced about October. Thus for five months did this broken-hearted woman watch by the bodies of her sons.”_Comprehensive Bible.
Israel, and provoked David to number Israel." Whether it were in the pride of his heart that he desired to see what a mighty multitude he ruled over; or whether he contemplated extending his kingdom by further conquest, in case his forces were strong enough ; or whether, by an undue exercise of earthly power, he neglected to take a ransom for each man “ for his soul,” as had been advised in numbering the people (Exod. xxx. 12); whatever it was that constituted the guilt of this action of David we know not precisely: we only know that it was something very heinous, that so provoked the Lord against him
and his people.
“ And David said to Joab, and to the rulers of the people, Go number Israel, from Beersheba even to Dan; and bring the number of them to me, that I may know it.” And Joab said unto the king, “ Now the Lord thy God add unto the people, how many soever they be, an hundredfold, and that the eyes of my lord the king may see it : but why doth my lord the king delight in this thing ?” The king's word
was abominable unto Joab;' but the king prevailed, “ and Joab and the captains of the host went out from the presence of the king, to number the people of Israel. And when they had gone through all the land, they came to Jerusalem at the end of nine months and twenty days. And there were in Israel eight hundred thousand valiant men, that drew the sword; and the men of Judah were five hundred thousand men :" in all, one million three hundred thousand men of war ! *
* In the account of this transaction, given in 1 Chron. xxi., there is a difference in the total number ; which