Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

and to his father's palace, feeling as though it were he who was going into banishment.

From this moment until the death of Saul, David's life becomes one unbroken chain of remarkable adventures. It is the very type of the romantic chronicles of all later heroes of chivalry, which are often recalled to us by David's hairbreadth escapes, by his daring, his courage, his generous treatment of Saul, his subtle ingenuity and ready invention. Marvellous was the charm he exercised over those around him, the charm acquired by superiority of mind, strength of will, and soaring ambition. From his earliest days, he called forth the admiration and unwavering submission of many who looked upon him as their natural counsellor, guide, and protector.

He seems at first to have intended seeking shelter in his father's house; for we hear of him in Nob, which lies about half-way between Gibeah and Bethlehem. Nob was at that time a holy place, distinguished by the common Sanctuary and a numerous priesthood. Weak, and almost fainting from his long flight, David appeared before the priest Ahimelech, who knew him well as the captain, friend, and son-in-law of Saul, and who had often ere now consulted for him the Divine oracle. To account for his coming without troops, body-guard, or attendant, David feigned to be on a private mission for the king. He asked Ahimelech for some bread. The priest had nothing but the cakes that had been removed from the Shew-bread table in the Tabernacle; he hesitated to profane them by giving them to a non-Levite. But David overruled his scruples. He then asked for a sword; and as there was none in the place except that which he had himself taken from the giant Goliath, and which had been preserved ever since in the Sanctuary, David, exclaiming, “There is none like it,' at once took possession

of it, and hastily departed. But all that he had done in Nob had been carefully observed and noticed by the vigilant and suspicious eyes of Doeg the Edomite, whose treachery was soon to be revealed.

David must indeed have been in great perplexity ; for he saw no alternative but to flee to Gath, a chief town of his bitterest enemies, the Philistines, with the very sword of their slaughtered champion at his side. He hoped that he would not be recognised, and that he might be permitted to stay in the town as a helpless stranger. But his hope proved false; the servants of Achish, the king of Gath, said to their master, Is not this David, the king of the land ? did they not sing one to another of him in dances, saying, Saul has slain his thousands and David his ten thousands ?' When David heard this, he was justly afraid. To save himself, he pretended madness, well knowing that the insane were held inviolable, as smitten but protected by the Deity. Thus he was allowed to leave the town in peace.

He then escaped eastward, and sought refuge in one of the caves near Adullam, in the plain of Judah, between Bethlehem and Hebron. It was a secure retreat, where his brothers and all his father's house came to see him. His solitary abode was soon known, and he was joined by many that were in distress, or in debt, or had any other cause of discontent: they flocked to him, because they trusted to his valour and wisdom to save them from their troubles, or at least to shield them against persecution. Thus four hundred men were gathered round him, over whom he had supreme command, like a great outlaw captain. He then proceeded to Mizpeh, in the land of Moab, and entreated the king to afford shelter to his father and mother, as long as his own fate was so uncertain and full of danger. The heathen monarch consented. Then David, advised by the prophet Gad, who was faith

fully attached to him, went with his followers to encamp in the forest of Hareth in Judah.

Saul meanwhile was anxiously waiting for news about David, of whose movements he was entirely ignorant. One day he was sitting, spear in hand, beneath a tamarisk-tree at Gibeah, surrounded by his ministers and councillors. He addressed them irritably and angrily : he was a stranger, he said, among his own family and his own people ; his son had made a covenant with his chief enemy; and his subjects were awaiting the elevation to the throne of that foe, because they expected that he would give to all of them fields and vineyards and high military posts; no one had ever taken to heart the king's vexation, or given him the least tidings of David. Then Doeg the Edomite stepped forward, and related all he had seen of David in Nob, and told him of Ahimelech the priest's readiness in giving him bread and Goliath's sword. Saul's rage was kindled by this account; he sent at once for Ahimelech and all the priests of Nob. They came at his bidding, and were fiercely upbraided for their treacherous and disloyal conduct in favouring David's flight. Ahimelech replied calmly and truthfully, · Who is so faithful among all thy servants as David, who is the king's son-in-law, and goes out at thy bidding, and is honoured in thy house ? Was it then the first time that I enquired of God for him ? Be it far from me, let not the king impute anything to his servant, nor to all the house of my father, for thy servant knew nothing of all this, neither little or much. But Saul in his passion ordered the instant death of the priests. No Hebrew could be found to commit so impious a crime. Doeg the Edomite alone consented to execute the horrible command. Ahimelech and all his guiltless priests, eightyfive in number, were slain on that day; the city of Nob was taken, and all living beings found therein were mas

sacred—both men and women, children and sucklings, and oxen and asses, and sheep.' One man alone escapedAbiathar, the son of Abimelech; he fled to David with the Ephod which he had saved from the general destruction. He was cordially received, and remained with the fugitive, sharing his perils and his wanderings, and making known to him the Divine oracles.

Moved by patriotism and full of generous courage, David next undertook an expedition against the Philistines, who were pilfering the granaries of Keilah, a city in Judah. He inspired his comparatively small band of followers, at first timid and reluctant, with his own martial ardour, attacked the Philistines vigorously, and drove them back with great slaughter. After having thus rescued Keilah by a daring exploit, his own life was in danger from its ungrateful inhabitants. When Saul heard what David had done, and that he was within a town with gates and walls, he considered it a good opportunity for enclosing and seizing him, and resolved to march out against Keilah. But David, distrustful of the people, who would surely have delivered him up to the king, and warned by a Divine oracle, hastily departed, and fled with his 600 followers to the desert land south of Hebron, where the wilderness of Ziph and that of Maon afforded welcome retreats and hiding-places. When Saul heard that David had left Keilah, he desisted from the intended expedition.

It was in the wilderness of Ziph that Jonathan had one last stealthy interview with David. He came full of affection and solicitude, and strengthened David's courage with God.'

He felt how much his friend, surrounded as he was by difficulties and privations, needed encouragement, in order to remain steadfast and trustful, and not to despair of a better future. Fear not,' he said, "for the hand of Saul my father shall not find thee,

and thou shalt be king over Israel, and I will be next to thee, and that also Saul my father knows.' In that lonely wilderness of Ziph, the outlaw and the king's son confirmed their old vows, and there they parted for

ever.

While dwelling in the desert of Ziph, David nearly fell into the grasp of Saul; for some persons living in the neighbouring districts, went up to Gibeah, and betrayed his retreat to the king. When David heard of Saul's approach, he left Ziph, and sought safety in the more distant wilderness of Maon. Saul pursued and discovered him, and would surely have enclosed him and all his men, had not the sudden alarm of a Philistine invasion compelled him to a hasty return, in order to meet the enemy. But David proceeded to Engedi, eastward of Hebron, where he could hope to find a secure stronghold in the rocky cliffs on the shore of the Dead Sea. When Saul had returned from chastising the Philistines, he resumed his pursuit of David with fresh ardour. He took with him three thousand men, and with this host he scoured the mountains, searching for David from rock to rock, and from cave to cave.

Once in this desperate chase, Saul fell into the hands of David. The wearied king had entered a cave to take some rest; and David, surrounded by his band, lay concealed in that very den. He held Saul now wholly in his power, and his followers urged him to believe that this chance was providentially sent to rid him of his foe, and to ensure his safety for ever. But David shrank from the suggestion, and softly approaching Saul, he cut off the skirt of his robe. But he instantly repented even of this act, which might be construed into a want of the respect which he owed to the anointed of the Lord. He waited quietly until Saul had left the cave; then following him and remaining at some distance, he bowed his

« AnteriorContinuar »