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tial persons at the new court, and demanded her intercession for obtaining from Solomon the permission of making Abishag the Shunamite his wife. Bathsheba, evidently anxious to keep peace between the two brothers, presented herself before Solomon, who received her with all the solemn dignity of a great eastern potentate, and bade her make her request. Abishag had been one of the inferior wives of king David, and as such belonged by law to his successor on the throne. Solomon understood the artful demand of Adonijah, and answered angrily, . And why dost thou ask Abishag the Shunamite for Adonijah ? ask for him the kingdom also, for he is my elder brother; yea, for him and for Abiathar the priest, and for Joab the son of Zeruiah.'
Adonijah had sealed his own fate; he fell on that very day by the hand of Benaiah at the command of the king. The priest Abiathar, who had joined the sedition of Adonijah, was deposed from his sacred office and exiled from Jerusalem. He was the last surviving descendant of the house of Eli. In his place the faithful Zadok was installed. It is difficult to speak of the last sad days of Joab without a thrill of pain and commiseration. The sturdy and valiant warrior is so completely associated in our minds with the early adventures of David's reign, and with the storming of the city of Jebus, that we can hardly bring ourselves to look upon him as a rebel to the king, or in any way unloyal to his master. Yet, though he had not turned aside in the days of Absalom, he had followed Adonijah ; besides which his hands were stained with the blood of Abner, that prince among men,' and of Amasa, a kinsman of David. There is a certain grandeur in the last acts of Joab's despair, and his resistance faithfully reflects his nature. He fled to the Tabernacle, within the precincts of which the fugitive deemed himself safe, and seized the horns of the altar for protection. There he
was found by Benaiah, who came with Solomon's fatal mandate. Benaiah shrank from defiling the Tabernacle, and bade Joab come forth. Nay, but I will die here,' resolutely exclaimed the aged warrior. As if awed by the greatness of the man, Benaiah hesitated, and brought the report of his interview to the king. But Solomon insisted upon executing what his dying father had enjoined upon him, and commanded Benaiah to return and to slay the guilty man. So Joab fell, still clinging to the altar, the mightiest and greatest of the sons of Zeruiah. He was buried in his own town in the wilderness of Judah.
Then Solomon sent for Shimei, who had once so bitterly cursed David on his flight from the capital, and commanded him never to leave Jerusalem on penalty of death. Shimei promised obedience; but at the end of three years, when two of his servants had escaped to Gath, he hastened after them to bring them back. This was enough; Benaiah's sword was again uplifted, and the last victim was slain to avenge king David.
With this chapter of bloodshed and retribution, we seem for a time to close the old and familiar records of the Bible, and to commence a new and far different narrative, which centres in the account of the growth and splendour of the Hebrew monarchy. And yet this very perfection enclosed the seeds of decay; it could not be upheld without a complete unity of all the tribes; and that unity was not to be counted upon.
100. SOLOMON'S WISDOM AND POWER.
[1 Kings III. IV.; 2 Chr. I.]
Solomon was twenty years of age when he came to the throne. His earnest and thoughtful mind was evidently
much impressed by the duties that devolved upon him. There seemed to be in his bearing a natural dignity and stateliness which never deserted him, and which imparted a solemn grandeur to every occurrence of his life. He was the very type of the wise oriental autocrat. Soon after his accession to the throne, he sought the friendship of Pharaoh, the powerful king of Egypt, and married his daughter, whom he brought to Jerusalem with the utmost pomp. But in spite of this union with an idolatress, Solomon remained faithful to the God of his ancestors, and was anxious to worship Him truly. However, he sacrificed and burnt incense on the high places, and especially at Gibeon, where the great altar' was erected, and where he offered a thousand holocausts at a time.
It was upon the occasion of one of these solemnities that Solomon, as he slept on the hill of Gibeon, had a remarkable dream or vision. He heard the Lord's voice saying, “ Ask, what shall I give thee?' His answer was prompt; he prayed for wisdom : Give Thy servant an understanding heart to judge Thy people, that I may discern between good and bad ; for who is able to judge this Thy great people ?' The speech pleased the Lord, since Solomon had not asked for long life, or for riches, or for the death of his enemies, but for discernment; and He said: 'I will do according to thy words; behold I give thee a wise and understanding heart, so that there was none like thee before thee, nor shall after thee anyone arise like thee; and I shall also give thee that which thou hast not asked, both riches and honour.'
When Solomon awoke from his dream, he felt strengthened and hallowed, and as if to confirm his resolution by a sacred vow, he offered sacrifices at Jerusalem before the Ark, and prepared a feast for all those who surrounded him.
He found many occasions for exercising that wisdom
for which he soon became famous; but no incident struck his contemporaries more forcibly than the following remarkable judgment. There appeared before him two women suing for justice. Their cause was a strange one. They lived together in the same house, and had each a child of exactly the same age. One night, one of these two children 'died. Now both women laid claim to the living infant, one of them declaring that the mother of the dead child had secretly changed it in the night for her own living one while she was asleep, the other affirming as positively that the living child was hers. The people thronged, in large numbers, to the place of judgment, to hear the king's decision. Solomon, after attentively listening to both parties, called for a servant, · Divide,' he said, the living child in two, and give half to the one and half to the other. These words were scarcely uttered, when one of the women exclaimed in agony and horror, 'Oh, my lord, give her the living child, and in no wise slay it. But her companion said coldly, “Let it be neither mine nor thine, but divide it. Then the king answered and said, “Give to the first woman the living child, and in no wise slay it: she is its mother.'
Similar proofs of shrewd knowledge of life and human nature, and of ready presence of mind, spread Solomon's fame far and wide ; and he was declared to be wiser than all others, even than all the children of the East, wiser than all the wise men of Egypt.' We are told that he was the author of three thousand proverbs, and of a thousand and five songs. Besides being a philosopher and a poet, he was well versed in the sciences of botany and of natural history : "he could tell of all trees, from the cedar-tree that is in Lebanon to the hyssop that springs out of the wall; and he could tell of beasts, of fowl, of creeping things, and of fish. Nothing was too large, and nothing
too trifling for his comprehensive mind and his all-embracing interest.
Under his rule, the empire was singularly powerful and prosperous. It comprised all the territories from the river of Egypt eastward and northward up to the Euphrates. It was disturbed neither by harassing warfare nor internal feud. It was acknowledged and respected by neighbouring kings and chieftains, who sought the great monarch's favour by presents and homage. Solomon himself prudently established friendly relations with other countries both near and distant. Egypt supplied him with horses, till then a very rare luxury in Palestine. From Arabia the caravans came laden with balms and spices for the royal palace. Ships sailed once in every three years westward to the seaport Tarshish or Tartessus in Spain, whose mines probably furnished him with stores of silver, or they ventured eastward to the coasts of Ophir or India, which yielded treasures of gold. Apes, peacocks, elephants' tusks, and other objects of curiosity or usefulness were brought home in abundance by enterprising mariners and merchants. Thus, for the first time, the wonders of remote countries broke upon the astonished and delighted eyes of the Israelites; and for the first time an intercourse was organised between the eastern world and the west, the birthplace of civilising arts.
Solomon's own royal state in Jerusalem was of unequalled splendour. His vast household demanded for daily consumption thirty measures of fine flour and sixty measures of other meal; ten fat oxen, twenty oxen out of the pastures, and a hundred sheep, besides harts, and roebucks, and fallow deer, and fatted fowl. Twelve officers had the care over the supply of these provisions, each of them for one month in the year. They were great chieftains, who deserved the name of princes. The royal stables numbered 40,000 horses and 12,000 horsemen,