Obrazy na stronie

their march toward Mizpeh: but, Samuel having offered a sucking lamb for a burnt-offering, and having earnestly implored the Divine assistance, they were confounded and dispersed by a tremendous thunderstorm, and chased with prodigious slaughter to the vicinage of Beth-Car. This defeat gave so mortal a blow to the strength of the Philistines that they were rendered incapable of giving any molestation to Israel during the remaining years of Samuel's government.

During this interim of public tranquillity, Samuel made it his regular practise to take an annual circuit round. Bethel, Gilgal, and Mizpeh, to administer justice; and then returned to Ramah, the place of his nativity, where he had erected an altar to the God of his fathers, and whither the Hebrews resorted to him at all other times..

Notwithstanding the beneficial effects that resulted. from his prudent government, Samuel had the mortifica tion to find that his two sons, whom he had entrusted with the magistracy at Beer-sheba, had rendered themselves despicable by their venality, and thereby induced the Israelites to prefer a request for a king,. who might govern them like the neighbouring nations. Samuel was greatly surprised at a petition which not only evinced the unstable disposition of the people, but also savored of the blackest ingratitude to that Adorable Being, who had hitherto guided, protected, and delivered them upon every emergency, and who had himself appointed that form of government which they were now solicitous to overturn *. He therefore expostulated warmly on the

* We must not suppose from this narration that a monarchical government was displeasing to the Almighty: but the crime of the Israelites was that of ingratitude to their God whom they now rejected from being king, over them. However, when

impolicy and evil tendency of their proposal, and forewarned them of all the grievances which they and their families would in all probability, suffer, under a monarchical government. But, as all his eloquence was exhausted in vain, and God commanded him to gratify their desire, he dismissed them for the present, and soon afterward, presented Saul, the son of Kish, to the people as the person whom the Lord had chosen for their ruler. The nomination of this man, who was possest of an uncommon share of comeliness, and whose stature exceeded that of any of the Hebrews, by the head and shoulders, was received with great satisfaction by the majority of Israel, and the air rang with repeated acclamations of "God save the king," though a party of profligate persons pretended to despise him on account of his youth, and refused to acknowledge him for their lawful sovereign. Samuel, who had already told the people what a king might do in the plenitude of his power, now instructed the new monarch in all the duties of his high station, and dismissed the assembly with an appropriate exhortation.

their petition was answered, the Lord himself appointed the man who should sway the sceptre: and, from this period to the end of the Scripture History, crowned heads are spoken of with the greatest respect, both by the Deity, his prophets, and apostles. Instead, therefore, of supposing that the regal autho rity is displeasing to the Almighty, let us pray for assistance to obey the sacred injunction " Fear God and honor the king."



From the Commencement of the monarchical Government among the Israelites, to the revolt of Ten Tribes under Jeroboam.

B. C. IT


It was not long before Saul had an oppor

tunity of exhibiting his courage, and proving himself worthy of the supreme dignity; for, the inhabitants of Jabesh-Gilead having sent to inform him, that they were closely besieged and threatened with the severest cruelties by Nahash, king of the Ammonites, he caused a yoke of oxen to be hewed in pieces, and distributed among all the tribes, with a declaration that whosoever refused to march to the relief of Jabesh, should see his cattle destroyed in the same manner. This assertion was attended with the desired consequences, and' thie people flocked in such numbers to the standard of their prince, that he soon compelled the tyrannical Ammonite to raise the siege, and to provide for. his own safety by flight. This brilliant exploit inspired the Israelites with such zeal for their sovereign, that they eagerly proposed the death of all who had refused to submit to his authority. This design, however, was overruled by Saul, who generously observed that it would be both criminal and inconsistent to blot the commencement of his reign with a massacre, after the Deity had vouchsafed. to crown his arms with conquest,

Samuel, having proposed to renew the kingdom after this glorious achievment, caused the victor to be in

stalled with great solemnity, at Gilgal; and embraced this opportunity of justifying his late administration; because his authority, which now desolved upon Saul, could no longer prevent them from exhibiting any complaint against him. He also recapitulated all the wonders which God had wrought among the people, and convinced them of their ingratitude in demanding a king, by praying that the Lord would send a storm of thunder and rain, which immediately took place, though it was then the time of harvest, when the air was free from clouds and perfectly serene. He assured them, however, that he would continue his good offices toward them, during the remainder of his life; and faithfully predicted the good or evil consequences that would result to themselves and their king, according to their compliance with, or their disobedience to the commands of their Creator.


In the second year of this reign the Philistines encamped in the vicinage of Michmash with thirty-thousand charioteers, six thousand horsemen, and a prodigious multitude of foot soldiers, with a design to avenge the garrison of Geba, which had been recently cut off by Jonathan, the heroic son of Saul. At the sight of this formidable army, the Hebrews were overwhelmed with such consternation, that, instead of attempting to improve their late victory, or to evince their zeal for their valiant leader, they fled, in great numbers, to the caves and excavations of the rocks for shelter, while others retreated precipitately to Gilead, beyond the Jordan, and basely left the Land of Promise open to the incursions of their enemy. To add to the general consternation, the Philistines had craftily deprived them of all kinds of weapons; so that when Saul came to

assemble his little army, who are said to have followed him trembling, there was neither sword nor spear in the hands of any man, except the king and his son Jonathan.

Anxious to learn the result of the approaching hostilities, Saul remained at Gilgal in expectation of receiving some satisfactory information from Samuel; but, as the prophet did not arrive within seven days, he ventured to offer a sacrifice, in order to procure the divine protection. The victim, however, was scarcely consumed before Samuel appeared, and condemned him, in the severest terms, for his impatience; Saul urged the distressing state of his affairs as an excuse, but the prophet told him he had committed a very foolish action, and that God would assuredly punish his disobedience by transferring the kingdom to a more deserving person. As soon as Samuel had uttered this prediction, he went to Gibeah of Benjamin, whither Saul and his son, also, marched at the head of six hundred unarmed men, who beheld the enemy making a three-fold incursion into their country, and committing great depredations by separate detachments.

Whilst the pusillanimous Israelites were mourning over the fertile territories which they had neither courage nor inclination to defend, Jonathan, accompanied by his armour-bearer, fell unexpectedly upon one of the enemy's out-posts, and attacked them with such intrepidity, that they were instantly thrown into confusion, and those who escaped his sword fled toward their camp, where they occasioned a general consternation. Saul, perceiving the tumult, and finding that Jonathan was missing, rightly conjectured what had happened,. and fell on the fleeing enemy with his little army, which

« PoprzedniaDalej »