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old times, saying, They shall surely ask counsel at Abel: and so they ended the matter.
I am one of them that are peaceable and faithful in Israel; thou seekest to destroy a city and a mother in Israel: why wilt thou swallow up the inheritance of the LORD? And Joab answered and said, Far be it, far be it from me, that I should swallow up or destroy.
The matter is not so: but a man of mount Ephraim (Sheba the son of Bichri by name) hath lift up his hand against the king, even against David: deliver him only and I will depart from the city. And the woman said unto Joab, Behold, his head shall be thrown to thee over the wall.
Then the woman went unto all the people in her wisdom, and they cut off the head of Sheba the son of Bichri, and cast it out to Joab: and he blew a trumpet, and they retired from the city, every man to his tent : and Joab returned to Jerusalem unto the king,
ANNOTATIONS AND REFLECTIONS.
We find that David was resolved to remove Joab from the supreme command of the army, agreeably to his promise to Amasa, for his insolence was insupportablę. Amasa not being able to make such quick dispatch as the case required, David was greatly disquieted, which made him send Abishai, with the Cherethites, &c. who met with Amasa.
Joab it is supposed joined then, with a determined resolution to put Amasa to death, and retain the command of the army in defiance of the king: when he had perpetrated this wicked act, he professed himself in David's interest; and as there was an absolute necessity to go against the rebels, the people without hesitation followed him.
The arguments used by the wise woman were persuasive and powerful; though, according to our transla. tion, they are in a great measure unintelligible to us but it plainly appears, that she meant to expostulate with Joab for not first offering terms of peace, before he proceeded to the destruction of a city, which was part of the LORD's inheritance; assuring him, that had he informed them of the cause, the inhabitants would soon have ended the matter, by complying with any reasonable demands. The treachery of Joab in respect to Amasa, must strike every good mind with abhorrence; and it is needless to comment on it.
A FAMINE IN ISRAEL
As soon as the leader was cut off, the sedition was at an end, and peace was established, but another dreadful calamity soon fell upon the land of Israel, a three years famine. This is among the evils which is generally understood by people, who have religious minds, as coming immediately from the hand of God, to bring men to repentance and reformation. David, in the present instance, considered it in that light, and enquired of the LORD; by which means he learnt, that it was for Saul and his bloody house, because he slew the Gibeonites.
It has been related in a former part of this history, that Joshua made a league with the Gibeonites ; in con sequence of which, the Israelites were bound, in the most solemn manner, to suffer them to live quietly amongst them. Saul, it seems, had violated this treaty,
* 2 Sam, xxi.
and killed a number of them in times of peace without the least provocation, in order that his friends might possess their cities: many of the Israelites had been instrumental to his injustice; GOD was dishonoured by the people's having broken a covenant made in his holy name, and his religion would have been despised, if the nations around had had cause given them to suppose it admitted of a breach of a public treaty.
The Gibeonites, it is likely, were by this time so increased, that they were distressed for towns to dwell in; and the Israelites, in all probability, inattentive to their necessities, made themselves partakers of Saul's sin, by retaining those cities, which were the lawful property of the Gibeonites. National sin calls for national punishment; and according to the Jewish constitution, it was necessary that atonement should be made for every breach of the Divine law.
As soon as the cause of the famine was known, David's next care was to find out the remedy; for this purpose he applied to the Gibeonites, to learn in what manner he could give them satisfaction. They demanded to have seven men of the family of Saul delivered into their hands; this requisition was consistent with their ideas of justice; therefore David was commanded of God to comply with their desire, and seven men were accordingly delivered to them, whom they hanged. As it was left to David to fix on the persons, who were by their deaths to make satisfaction to the Gibeonites, he carefully saved alive those who were the immediate decendants of Saul and Jonathan, namely Mephibosheth the son of Jonathan, and Micah the son of Mephibosheth, with the four sons of Micah ; by which means he performed the oath which he sware in the cave of En-gedi; that He would not cut off Saul's seed after him, to destroy his name out
of his father's house; and the covenant he made with Jonathan, to shew kindness to his posterity. The men who were hanged were inconsiderable persons, and they most likely had been actually concerned with Saul against the Gibeonites, in which case they met with the fate they deserved; but if they were innocent victims to public justice, as they died for the good of their country, GoD doubtless removed them to a better state.
A full vindication of David's conduct in this transaction has been written by a learned author, and satisfactory reasons given, why GoD required such an expiation to be made; but it is of little use, to the generality of readers, to employ their time and thoughts upon this any obscure passage, since we may be certain it is of no real importance to us to investigate them: for every part of scripture, essentially necessary to be understood, in order to obtain eternal happiness, is so plainly expressed, that the meanest understanding may comprehend it; though persons who have leisure and abilities are by no means forbidden to employ their researches into what is difficult, provided they do not, "in the pride of human reason, dispute the truth of DIVINE REVELATION, or say in their hearts, GoD is unjust, or unfaithful."
When the Gibeonites had received full satisfaction, and the famine ceased, David greatly rejoiced, and he is supposed to have written the following psalm on this occasion.
+ Praise waiteth for thee, O God, in Sion: and unto Thee shall the vow be performed.
O Thou that hearest prayer, unto thee shall all flesh come. Iniquities prevail against me: as for our transgressions, Thou shalt purge them away.
Blessed is the man whom Thou choosest and causest to
+ Psalm lxv.
approach unto Thee, that he may dwell in Thy courts: we shall be satisfied with the goodness of Thy house, even of Thy holy temple.
By terrible things in righteousness wilt Thou answer us, O GOD of our salvation: who art the confidence of all the ends of the earth, and of them that are afur off, upon the sea.
Which by his strength setteth fast the mountains; being girded with power.
Which stilleth the noise of the seas, the noise of their waves, and the tumult of the people.
They also that dwell in the uttermost parts are afraid at Thy tokens: Thou makest the out-goings of the morning and evening to rejoice.
Thou visitest the earth and waterest it: Thou greatly enrichest it with the river of GOD which is full of water: Thou preparest them corn, when Thou hast so provided for it.
Thou waterest the ridges thereof abundantly: Thou! settlest the furrows thereof: Thou makest it soft with showers, Thou blessest the springing thereof.
Thou crownest the year with Thy goodness, and Thy paths drop fatness.
They drop upon the pastures of the wilderness: and the little hills rejoice on every side.
The pastures are clothed with flocks; the vallies also are covered over with corn; they shout for joy, they also sing.
In this psalm David acknowledges, that praise is due to GOD from all mankind, but particularly from those of SION, where the holy sanctuary was. He observes that they should not be discouraged by their iniquity from addressing their petitions to the LORD, since he had graciously pardoned the sins of him and his people. He confesses the almighty power of GoD, who is able to rule the stormy elements, and the turbulent passions of the