Page images

CHA P. V. Tamar is ravisbed, and inhumanly

treated, by her own Brother. That Rape is revenged by his Death. Abfalom, who New him, flies to Geshur. Nathan's prophecies further fulfilled.

WITHen David had taken Rabbah, and

V all the other cities of Ammon, and punished all the unsubmitting miscreants which he found in them, as they deserved; he returned, with all his people, to Jerusalem ; but had not been long there, before another part of Nathan's prophecy, I will raise up evil against thee out of thine own house, began to be sadly fulfilled upon him.

ABSALOM, the son of David by Maacah the daughter of Talmai, king of Geshur, had a fister by the same mother, of such singular beauty, that Amnon, another son of David's (the first-born of his family) by Abinoam the Jezreelitess, fell deeply in love with her ; and being conscious, that his passion


was very criminal, he concealed it for some time, but at the expence of his health and happiness; raeked by the violence of a strong desire, and the terror of indulging it. · Amnon, saith the sacred writer, (2 Sam. xiii. 2.) was so vexed, that he fell fick for bis hifter Tamar ; for me was a virgin, and Amnon thought it hard for him to do any thing to her. It is natural to think, that this passion is nowhere so wasteing and vexatious, as where it is unlawful. A quick sense of guilt (efpecially where it is enormous, as in the instance before us) strikes the soul with horror ; and the impossibility of an innocent gratification, loads that horror with desperation. A conflict too cruel, and too dreadful, for human bearing! Witness the two most remarkable instances of it, found in history ; that of Antiochus, for Stratonice his mother-in-law; and this of Amnon, for Tamar his sister. Indeed that of Antiochus appears the less criminal of the two ; inasmuch as he seemed determined to conceal his, to death *; and at the same time to hasten that death, to prevent its publication, had not the fagacity of Erasistratus, his physician, discovered it. * Plutarch, in the life of Demetrius. .


Altho' poffibly Amnon had done the fame, had not the importunity of his false and fubtile friend, Jonadab the son of Shimea, David's brother, drawn the secret from him. He plainly perceived, that Amnon's disease was some strong desire ungratified ; and in- ' finuated to him, that he, who was a king's fon, might give a loofe to his desires, and defpife the restraints of ordinary men. How vile was this advice ! and how lamentable is it, that the heirs of royalty, whose virtue is of infinitely more confequence than that of meaner men, should yet be under more temptation to taint it, from the poison of infectious flatterers! How much happier was Antigonus, in the advice and friendship of Menedemus the philofopher ; when being invited to a feast, where a very beautiful courtefan was to make a part of the entertainment, and asking Menedemus, What he should đo ? he answered, Remember thou ert a king's son, and shouldjt do nothing unworthy of thyself ! Jonadab was of a character directly contrary to that of Menedemus : he was of that species of courtiers mentioned by Tacitus*, who can applaud all the actions

[merged small][ocr errors]

of princes, whether good or evil. And Amnon seems not far removed from that character of Domitian, mentioned by the fame Tacitus; that he played the prince's fon in whoredoms and adulteries. And therefore it is no wonder, if Jonadab's detestable flattery * had its effect upon such a spirit.

AMNON opened his whole heart to him, and told him his pafsion for Tamar I love Tamar my brother Abfalom's filter ; (he was ashamed to say his own); the subtile and supple courtier, whose conscience was his least concern, immediately furnished him with an expedient to gratify his passion. He advised him to take his bed, and feign himself fick; and when his father should come to see him, to beg his permission, that Tamar his sister might attend him in his fickness, and prepare him fome sustenance ; which he believed he could take, if he saw it prepared by her own hands. The desires of fick people are often fantastical, and unaccountable ; yet must often be indulged. The train took: David's paternal

* More criminal even than that of the Persians to Cambyses in the like case, tho? not altogether fo monstrous as that of Julia to. Caracalla.

Vol. IIJ. F : affection

affection did not suffer him to be long absent from a fick son, his favourite, and his firstborn; nor allow him to hesitate upon granting his petition. Tamar was immediately ordered to attend him, and did so accordingly; and when she had learned what food was most agreeable to him, set herself instantly to prepare it for him, with all the housewifely skill of those simpler ages ; where an utter insignificancy to all the purposes of domestic life made no part even of a princess's praise. For the text tells us, that She took flour and kneaded it, and made cakes in his fight, and did bake the cakes ; and added another preparation of them in a pan, and then seryed * them up to him; but he refused to eat. The insinuation was, That he was grown worse. And, to cover the deceit the better, he ordered every body to go out of his room, as if he could bear neither the fight, nor the noise, of company. And when they were gone, he desired his fister to bring the victuals into an inner chamber, where he might eat unmolested.

* In the text it is, And she took a pan, and poured them out before him. Which makes it probable, that she fried them in oil.


« PreviousContinue »