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Story of the Bible by  Jesse Lyman Hurlbut
Table of Contents


 

 

THE SHEPHERD BOY BECOMES A KING

II Samuel i: 1, to iv: 12.

[306]

O N the third day after the battle on Mount Gilboa, David was at his home in Ziklag, on the south of Judah, when a young man came into the town, running, with garments torn and earth on his head, as was the manner of those in deep grief. He hastened to David, and fell down before him. And David said to him, "From what place have you come?"

And the young man said, "Out of the camp of Israel I have escaped."

And David said to him, "What has taken place? Tell me quickly."

Then the man answered, "The men of Israel have been beaten in the battle; very many of them are slain, and the rest have fled away. King Saul is dead, and so is Jonathan, his son."

"How do you know that Saul and Jonathan are dead?" asked David.

And the young man said, "I happened to be on Mount Gilboa in the battle; and I saw Saul leaning upon his spear wounded, and near death, with his enemies close upon him. And he said to me, 'Come to me, and kill me, for I am suffering great pain.' So I stood beside him and killed him, for I saw that he could not live. And I took the crown that was on his head, and the bracelet on his arm, and I have brought them to you, my lord David."

Then David and all the men that were with him tore their clothes, and mourned, and wept, and took no food on that day, on account of Saul, and of Jonathan, and for the people of Israel who had fallen by the sword.

And David said to the young man who had brought to him the news, "Who are you? To what people do you belong?"

And he said, "I am no Israelite; I am an Amalekite."

[307] "How was it," said David to him, "that you were not afraid to slay the king of Israel, the anointed of the Lord? You shall die for this deed."

And David commanded one of his men to kill him, because he had said that he had slain the king. He may have told the truth, but it is more likely that he was not in the battle, and that after the fighting he came upon the field to rob the dead bodies, and that he brought a false story of having slain Saul, hoping to have a reward. But as David would not slay the anointed king, even though he were his enemy, he would not reward, but would rather punish the stranger who claimed to have slain him.

And David wrote a song over the death of Saul and Jonathan. He taught it to the people of Judah, and called it

THE SONG OF THE BOW

Thy glory, O Israel, is slain upon thy high places!

How are the mighty fallen!

Tell it not in Gath.

Publish it not in the streets of Ashkelon;

Lest the daughters of the Philistines rejoice,

Lest the daughters of the heathen triumph.

Ye mountains of Gilboa.

Let there be no dew nor rain upon you neither fields of offerings:

For there the shield of the mighty was cast away as a vile thing.

The shield of Saul, not anointed with oil.

From the blood of the slain, from the fat of the mighty,

The bow of Jonathan turned not back,

And the sword of Saul returned not empty.

Saul and Jonathan were lovely and pleasant in their lives,

And in their death they were not divided:

They were swifter than eagles,

They were stronger than lions.

Ye daughters of Israel, weep over Saul,

Who clothed you in scarlet delicately,

Who put ornaments of gold upon your apparel.

On Jonathan, slain upon thy high places!

I am distressed for thee, my brother Jonathan,

Very pleasant has thou been unto me;

Thy love to me was wonderful,

Passing the love of women.

How are the mighty fallen,

And the weapons of war perished!"

[308] After this, at the command of the Lord, David and his men went up from Ziglag to Hebron, in the middle of the tribe-land of Judah. And the men of Judah met together at Hebron, and they made David king over their tribe. And David reigned in Hebron, over the tribe of Judah, for seven years.


[Illustration]

HEBRON, WHERE DAVID WENT

But Saul's uncle, Abner, who had been the chief over his house and over his army, was not willing to have the kingdom go out of the family of Saul. He made a son of Saul king over all the tribes in the north of the land. This king was called Ish-bosheth, a name which means "a worthless man." He was weak and helpless, except for the strong will and power of Abner, who had made him king. For six years seemingly under Ish-bosheth, but really under Abner, the form of a kingdom was kept up, while Ish-bosheth was living at Mahanaim, on the east of Jordan.

Thus for a time there were two kingdoms in Israel, that of the north under Ish-bosheth, and that of the south under David. But [309] all the time David's kingdom was growing stronger, and Ish-bosheth's kingdom was growing weaker.

After a time Abner was slain by one of David's men, and at once Ish-bosheth's power dropped away. Then two men of his army killed him, and cut off his head, and brought it to David. They looked for a reward, since Ish-bosheth had been king against David. But David said, "As the Lord lives, who has brought me out of trouble, I will give no reward to wicked men, who have slain a good man in his own house, and upon his own head. Take these two murderers away, and kill them!"

So the two slayers of the weak king, Ish-bosheth, were punished with death, and the head of the slain man was buried with honor. David had not forgotten his promise to Saul to deal kindly with his children.


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