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Our Young Folk's Josephus by  William Shepard
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SAUL AGAIN PERSECUTES DAVID

[137] SOON after this the Philistines made war again with the Israelites, and David was sent against them with an army. He won the victory and returned in triumph, and the people received him with shouts of joy and praise. Again Saul was angry and jealous. And the evil spirit returned and tormented him to fury. Saul commanded David to come to his bedside and sing and play to him on his harp. The king held a javelin at him with great force, but David saw it coming and avoided it. Then he fled to his own house and remained there all day.

But at night the king sent officers to the house, who were to watch it and see that he did not escape. For he intended to bring David to trial and have him put to death. Michal guessed what her father's intentions were, and she came in great distress to David, her husband, and said,—

"Let not the sun find thee here when it rises, for if it do that will be the last time it will see thee; fly away, then, in the night-time, for know this, that if my father find thee, thou art a dead man."

So she let him down by a cord out of the window where Saul's men could not see him, and he escaped.

After she had done this, she arranged the bed so as to make it look as if a sick man were lying in it, and put under the bedclothes the liver of a goat that had been freshly killed. At daybreak Saul's messengers knocked at the door. [138] Michal told them that David had been sick during the night, and she drew the curtains of the bed, and the liver, which was still warm and throbbing, caused the bedclothes to move up and down, so that the men believed David was breathing like one that had the asthma. They went to the king with this story, but Saul ordered that David should be brought into his presence, no matter how sick he might be. And when the men returned and lifted up the bedclothes, they saw that the princess had deceived them. And Saul was angry with his daughter for what she had done.

David fled to the prophet Samuel, at Ramah, and told him of all Saul had done. Samuel took him to a place called Naioth, where he lived for some time with the prophet. Afterwards David went to the place where Jonathan was, and complained to him that though he had done no evil, yet Saul was anxious to have him killed. But Jonathan sought to comfort him, and told him he was mistaken, that the king did not wish him to be killed.

"My father," said Jonathan, "always consults me before he does anything, and asks my advice, and as he has said nothing to me about wishing your death, I do not believe what you imagine can be true."

But David swore to him that so it was. And he said to Jonathan, "To-morrow is a feast-day, when I have been accustomed to sit down with the king at supper. I am afraid to go there, and if the king asks thee why I am absent, tell him that you gave me permission to go to Bethlehem to keep a festival with my own tribe. If he say, 'It is well that he went,' then you may assure yourself that he bears no enmity to me. But if he answer otherwise, that will be a sure sign that he hath some design against me. And you will let me know what was the king's answer."

Jonathan swore he would do as David requested. And when David asked, "Who shall tell me what thy father's answer is?" Jonathan replied,—

[139] "As soon as I know my father's mind, I shall go out into the plain where I am accustomed to practise shooting with the bow. If I shoot three arrows at a mark and then bid my servant run and get the arrows, for they are in front of him, then thou mayest know there is no mischief to be feared from the king, but if thou hearest me saying something else, then expect evil from the king."

The young men then embraced and bade each other farewell. When Saul sat down at the feast and saw that David's seat was empty, he inquired of Jonathan why the son of Jesse was not present. Jonathan answered, -

"He asked leave of me to go to Bethlehem to celebrate the festival with is own tribe."

Then it was that Jonathan understood how great was his father's hatred for David. Saul could not restrain his anger, he heaped abuses upon Jonathan, and called him a traitor and a wicked and unnatural son. He ordered him to go and fetch David, that he might be punished as he deserved.

But Jonathan spoke gently, and asked,——

"What sin hath David done, that thou wouldst punish him?"

Saul became still more angry with his son, and he no longer contented himself with bare words, but snatched up his spear and leaped upon Jonathan, and would have killed him if he had not been prevented by his officers.

Then the king's son rose hastily from supper, for he was to much grieved to be able to eat anything. All that night he wept, because he knew now that David's death was decided upon. As soon as it was day he went out into the plain where he practised with his bow, and having hsot three arrows, he dismissed his servant without telling him to pick them up. David had been hiding near the plain, and he now came out and fell at Jonathan's feet. Jonathan lifted him up, and they embraced each other and wept. Then David bade Jonathan farewell, and they parted.


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