"Let us make a captain, and let us return into Egypt." Moses and Aaron were greatly troubled, but the two good men, Caleb and Joshua, stood up and encouraged the people, saying that they need not fear, for the Lord had given them the land, yet they were ready to stone Caleb and Joshua.
Then the Lord spake to Moses from the Tabernacle, and the people saw his glory. He said the people were unbelieving and disobedient, and for this reason they could not enter the promised land. He said, that all who were twenty years old and upward would die in the wilderness, except Caleb and Joshua, who had followed the Lord wholly. He also said that the people would be forty years in the wilderness, and only the youth and the children would live to enter Canaan.
There was mourning and repentance then because of the word of the Lord, and the people promised again to believe and obey, but over and over they lost faith and rebelled, and great storms of trouble fell upon them.
Once the earth opened and many were swallowed up; a sudden sickness destroyed thousands. Near Mount Hor, where Aaron died, fiery serpents ran among the people, and all who were bitten by them died; but there was full forgiveness and cure for those who turned to the Lord. When the fiery serpents entered the camp Moses lifted a brazen image of a serpent up on a pole so high that it could be seen all over the camp, and whoever looked upon it lived. It was a sign of the coming Saviour.
Between the marches and the battles with heathen tribes, some of whom were giants, Moses wrote in a book the laws that God gave him for the government of the people. They were wise laws, the keeping of which would bring health, peace and blessedness to the people. He gave the book to the Levites who carried the Ark, and they were to keep it always beside the Ark, and often read it aloud to the people.
Moses said many things to the people, and as Jacob blessed his twelve sons, so Moses blessed each of the twelve tribes that descended from them, for he was near the end of his long life. The Lord had told him that He should take him to Himself before the people entered Canaan, and that Joshua must lead the people into the promised land. So when they had reached the borders of Canaan, and were encamped near the Jordan, the Lord called his tried servant up into Mount Nebo, that he might see the land beyond the Jordan, where the twelve tribes were to find their promised home. Then the Lord gave him a view of the land, and there he died, as Aaron died on Mount Hor.
No one saw Moses die, and no one knows where he was buried, for the Lord buried him. He was one hundred and twenty years old, and yet as strong as a young man. After his death Joshua became the leader of Israel.
A NATION THAT WAS BORN IN A DAY.
The time had come for the people to cross the river Jordan, and enter their own land, and the Lord told Joshua to prepare the people for their last journey before going over Jordan. Joshua first sent two men over the river to see the land.
They went to the walled city of Jericho, and to the house of a woman named Rahab. The king heard that they were there and sent for them, but the woman hid them under the flax that she was drying on the roof of her house. Afterward she let them down by a rope through a window (for her house was built on the town wall), and they escaped. They promised Rahab before they went, that if she would hang a long line of scarlet thread from the window on the wall, that when they came to take the city she should be saved and all her family because of her kindness to them.
After they had returned to the camp they told Joshua that the Lord would surely give them the land, for the people were afraid of them. Then they rose up and marched to the banks of the Jordan and waited for Joshua to lead them over. Some of them remembered how they had passed through the Red Sea, and others had heard it from their parents, and they now waited to see the salvation of God. Joshua told them to follow the priests, and the Levites who would bear the Ark of the Covenant, so when Joshua said:
"Behold the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord of all the earth passeth over before you into Jordan," the people followed.
The Jordan lay spread before them like a lake, for it was the time of year when it overflowed all its banks, but when the feet of the priests who bore the Ark were dipped in the edge of the water, the waters from above stopped and rose like a wall, while the waters below flowed away into the Dead Sea, and left a wide path for the people to walk in, and the Ark stood still in Jordan until every one had passed over. Then twelve men, one out of every tribe, took a stone from the bed of the river and carried it over for a memorial altar, so that when any should ask in years to come, "What do these stones mean?" someone might tell them how the Lord led Israel through Jordan into their own land.
After the Ark had come up from the bed of Jordan, and there was not one of all the thousands of Israel left behind, the waters came down from the place where they had stayed, and flowed down into the Dead Sea, and overflowed the banks of Jordan as before.
The stones were heaped in Gilgal where they camped, and directly before them rose the walls of Jericho, and here they kept the passover. For forty years they had been fed with manna from heaven as they camped or journeyed in the wilderness, but now they began to eat the grain and the fruits of the land, and the manna fell no more.
Nearly five hundred years before the family of Jacob left this land to go down into Egypt where Joseph was. They grew to be a great people, but they were slaves. Then the Lord sent Moses to make them free, and they began the long journey, which at last brought them to their own land.
Forty years they were on the journey, and all this time they were pilgrims, but on the day that the Jordan ceased to flow, and parted while they passed over into the land promised to their fathers, they became a nation.
The land was before them, and they had only to obey the Lord and his servant Joshua to conquer and possess it.
As they filled the valley of the Jordan before Jericho, the hearts of the heathen fainted for fear, for they knew that only the Lord could divide a river to let his people pass.
Joshua went out of the camp to look at Jericho, the walled city. It was shut up for fear of the Israelites, and there was no one to be seen.
Suddenly Joshua saw a warrior standing with a drawn sword in his hand.
"Art thou for us," said Joshua, "or for our adversaries?" and the warrior angel answered,
"Nay! but as Captain of the host of the Lord, am I now come," and Joshua fell on his face before him.
He knew then that it was the Lord who would conquer Jericho, and he was told how the people were to help him.
So Joshua called the priests, and told them to take up the Ark, and he told seven priests to go before it bearing trumpets of rams' horns. Then the army of Israel, ready for war, followed, half of them marching before the Ark, and half of them coming after, and as the trumpets gave a great sound, they marched once around the city, and then went to camp. This they did once every day for seven days, but on the seventh day they marched around the city seven times, and as the priests blew the trumpets for the last time, Joshua cried with a mighty voice,
"Shout! for the Lord hath given you the city."
Then as a great shout went up from the people, the walls of the city fell down flat, so that the soldiers of Israel went up, every man straight before him, and took Jericho.
And Rahab was not forgotten. The Lord cared for her little house on the wall, and she, with all her family, were brought into the Camp of Israel.
And so by the conquest of Jericho the new nation of Israel began to possess its land.
SAMSON THE STRONG.
All the days of Joshua—and he lived to be an hundred and ten years old—the Israelites were conquering the people who lived in Canaan, and dividing it among the tribes. Joshua was a father to them, as Moses had been, and when at last they were at rest, each tribe within its own borders, and they had begun to build their houses, and plant their fields, Joshua spoke words of loving counsel to the people, and they set up a stone under an oak tree, as a sign that they would always serve the Lord and keep the law, and then he went to be with God. After his death Israel was ruled by wise men called judges, who helped them to conquer the land little by little. Some of them were good men and brave warriors as Othniel and Gideon and Jephthah and one was a prophetess named Deborah, a noble mother in Israel, and one was a mighty man of strength, Samson, the son of Manoah.
The people of Israel had turned away from the Lord, and could no longer conquer their enemies, but the Philistines had conquered them, and had been their masters for forty years, when the Lord sent Samson to deliver them. He was not a wise man like Moses or Joshua, but he had great strength, and the Lord used him against the Philistines.
Once a young lion came roaring against him, and he caught it and rent it in two, as if it had been a kid. When he passed the same way afterward he saw that the bees had built a nest in the body of the lion, and it was full of honey. At his marriage feast—for he married a Philistine woman—he made a riddle for the young men to guess:
"Out of the eater came forth meat, and out of the strong, come forth sweetness."
They tried for seven days to guess the riddle, but they could not, and then they told Samson's wife to find it out for them, or they would burn her house. She begged him with tears to tell her, and at last he told her of the honey comb in the body of the lion, and she told the young men, so that at the end of the seventh day they said to Samson,
"What is sweeter than honey?" and "what is stronger than a lion?"
He saw that he had been betrayed, so he paid his debt, a suit of clothes to each guest, and went home to his father's house. Afterwards when he found that his wife had been given to another he tied firebrands to the tails of three hundred foxes, and sent them among the wheat fields of the Philistines so that the fields were set on fire.
Once the men of Gaza tried to kill him when he was within their city, but he rose at midnight and took the city gates, with its posts and bar, and carried them away on his shoulders to the top of the hill. Again the Philistine lords had promised a great deal of money to a woman, if she would get Samson to tell her what made him so strong, so she begged him to tell her. Three times she thought she knew the secret, and told the Philistines, but they could not bind him. At last he was tired of her questions, and said to her plainly—that from a child no razor had ever touched his hair. If it should be cut he would be as weak as other men. Then she watched and cut his hair while he slept, and the Philistines bound him and carried him to Gaza, where they made him blind, and forced him to grind in the mills of a prison house. The Philistines were glad because Samson was their prisoner at last, and so they came together in a great feast to sacrifice to their god Dagon, for they said,
"Our god has delivered Samson into our hands." While they were merry they said:
"Let us send for Samson to make sport for us," and he was brought out of the prison. It was very sad to see the strong judge of Israel, weak and blind, led by a little lad, and making sport for the people in front of their temple. All the lords of the Philistines were there, and upon the broad roof of the temple were about three thousand people watching Samson while he showed his strength, for his hair had grown and his strength was returning. At last as he was standing between two great pillars that held up the roof, he prayed, lifting his sightless eyes to God:
"O Lord God, remember me, I pray thee, and strengthen me only this once."
Then he clasped his arms around the pillars on either side of him, and bowing himself with all his might, saying,
"Let me die with the Philistines," he drew the great pillars with him, and the house fell with all that were upon it, on all that were within it. So died Samson who judged Israel twenty years, yet a woman, Deborah, who was also one of the judges in Israel, was stronger than he, for the Lord looketh on the heart.
In the days when the judges ruled in Israel, there was a famine in the land, and an Israelite, who lived in Bethlehem, took his wife and his two sons into Moab where there was food. After a while the Israelite died, and the two sons married women of Moab.
After two years the sons died also, and their mother, Naomi, longed for her home in Bethlehem, for there was no longer a famine there. So she took Ruth and Orpah, her sons' wives, and started on the journey into the land of Israel.
But before they had gone far Naomi said:
"Go! return each to her mother's house; the Lord deal kindly with you, as ye have dealt with the dead, and with me."
She kissed them, and they wept and would not leave her.
"Turn again, my daughters," she said, "why will ye go with me?"
And Orpah kissed Naomi, and went back to her own mothers' house, but Ruth, whose heart was with Naomi, would not go back.
"Entreat me not to leave thee," she said, "or to return from following after thee, for where thou goest I will go; and where thou lodgest I will lodge; thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God; where thou diest I will die, and there will I be buried; the Lord do so to me, and more also, if aught but death part thee and me."
And so they came to Bethlehem, and the old friends of Naomi greeted her tenderly, and welcomed her back. It was about the beginning of the barley harvest.
There was a good and great man in Bethlehem named Boaz, and he was of the family of Naomi's husband. He had a field of barley where the reapers were at work, and Ruth asked Naomi if she should not go and glean after the reapers, to get grain, for they were poor.
Naomi said, "Go, my daughter," and she went.
When Boaz came out of the town into his field and greeted his reapers, he said to his servant having charge of the reapers,
"What maiden is this?" and he told him that she was the Moabitish girl who had come back with her mother-in-law Naomi.
Then Boaz spoke very kindly to Ruth, and told her to stay with his maidens, and freely drink of the water drawn for them, and Ruth bowed before him and asked why he should be so kind to a stranger. He told her that he knew all her kindness to her mother-in-law since the death of her husband, and how she had left her own family and country to come among strangers, and he blessed her, saying,
"A full reward be given thee of the Lord God of Israel, under whose wings thou art come to trust."
Then he told her to sit down and eat bread with them, and he helped her to the parched corn with his own hands, and when they returned to work he told his young men to let her glean among the sheaves and reprove her not, and to let some handfuls fall purposely for her to glean. When Ruth went home Naomi said,
"Where hast thou gleaned to-day?" and Ruth told her. Then Naomi blessed Boaz, and told Ruth that he was one of their near relatives.
And so Ruth gleaned in the fields of Boaz through all the barley and the wheat harvest. When all the reaping was done, the grain was threshed on a piece of ground made very smooth and level. The sheaves were beaten, and then the straw was taken away, and the grain and chaff below it was winnowed. By this the chaff was blown away and only the grain was left.
When Boaz winnowed his barley Naomi told Ruth to go down to his threshing floor and see him for he had a feast for his friends.
So after the feast Ruth came near to him and said,
"Thou art our near kinsman," and Boaz said,
"May the Lord bless thee my daughter," and with many kind words he gave her six measures of barley to take to Naomi.
Boaz remembered that it was the custom in Israel for the nearest relative of a man who had died, to take care of the wife who was left, and so he went to the gate of Bethlehem where the rulers met to hold their court, and spoke to the elders and chief men about Ruth. He also wished them to be witnesses that he was going to take Ruth to be his wife. Then the rulers all said,
"We are witnesses," and they prayed that God would bless Ruth and make Boaz still richer and greater.
So Ruth became the honored and beloved wife of Boaz, and they had a son named Obed.
Obed grew up and had a son named Jesse; and Jesse was the father of David, King of Israel, who was first a shepherd lad of Bethlehem.
More than a thousand years after Ruth lived there was born in Bethlehem, of the family of Boaz and Ruth, a little Child, who came, to be the Saviour of the world, and the shepherds in the fields, where, perhaps, Ruth gleaned, and David kept his sheep, heard the angels tell the good news and sing
"Peace on earth, good will to men."
SAMUEL—THE CHILD OF THE TEMPLE.
The Tabernacle that was built in the wilderness, and was brought into Canaan by the priests was set up at Shiloh in the very centre of the land of Canaan, and once every year the tribes came to it to worship and offer sacrifices. After it had come to Shiloh to stay it was called the temple.
When Eli was high priest a man named Elkanah came up from Ramah to worship, and Hannah his wife went with him. She was a good woman, and very sorrowful, because she saw other wives with sons and daughters around them, and she had none. Her husband was loving and kind and said:
"Am I not better to thee than ten sons?" but she prayed to God for a son. While she was at Shiloh she prayed in the temple, and Eli saw her lips move, though he heard no voice. At first he spoke harshly to her, thinking she had been drinking wine, but she told him that she had not taken wine, but was praying.
"I am a woman of sorrowful spirit," she said, "and have poured out my soul before the Lord." Then Eli blessed her and said:
"Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant thee the prayer that thou hast asked of him." Then Hannah was no longer sad.
Her prayer was answered, and the Lord sent her a little son, and when he was old enough, she took him to the temple, for she had promised the Lord that the child should be His. So Elkanah came bringing sacrifices, and the young child was with them. Hannah told Eli that she was the woman whom he saw praying in the temple.
"For the child I prayed," she said, "and the Lord has answered my prayer. Therefore I have lent him to the Lord; as long as he lives he shall be lent to the Lord." Eli was very glad and gave thanks to the Lord, and took the little boy to help him in the service of the temple. Every year his father and mother came to bring offerings to the Lord, and his mother always brought him a little coat which she had made.
Over it was a linen garment called an ephod, such as the priests wore. Eli was an old man, and his sons, though they were priests, were not good men, and he believed the Lord had sent him one who would be good, so he loved little Samuel as if he were his own.
One night when Eli was laid down to sleep, and Samuel also, while the light was still burning in the golden candlestick before the Ark, Samuel heard a voice calling him, and he answered, "Here am I," and ran to see what Eli wanted. But Eli said that he had not called, and Samuel lay down again. When the voice called again, Samuel went again to Eli's bed, but Eli told him to lie down again, for he had not called him. When the voice called the third time, Samuel said: "Here am I, for thou didst call me."
Then Eli told the boy to lie down once more, but if he heard the voice again to say,
"Speak Lord, for thy servant heareth."
And when the voice called again, "Samuel, Samuel," the boy answered,
"Speak Lord, for thy servant heareth."
Then the Lord told Samuel that the sons of Eli had become very wicked, and their father had not kept them from the evil, and therefore He could not accept their offerings.
When Eli asked Samuel what the Lord had said to him, the boy told him all and hid nothing from him, and Eli bowed his spirit before the Lord, and said:
"It is the Lord, let Him do what seemeth Him good."
After this all the people of Israel knew that the Lord had called Samuel to be a prophet. And as he grew up the Lord was with him, and he was a judge over his people all his life.
As for Eli and his sons, the word of the Lord soon came true. When the Philistines came against the Israelites in battle, the Elders of Israel said:
"Let us bring the Ark of the Lord out of Shiloh to us, that it may save us out of the hand of our enemies." And so they took it from the holy place to the camp of Israel. Then the Philistines fell upon the camp and scattered the men of Israel. They also took the Ark of God, and the two sons of Eli were among the thousands slain.
Eli, who trembled for the Ark of God, sat outside the city gate, by the wayside watching. He was nearly a hundred years old, and his eyes were dim, but when a messenger came with the bad news, he fell backward in his seat and died. His heart was broken.
Where was Samuel? Perhaps he was praying in the temple for the return of the Ark of the Covenant.
Wherever the Ark went among the Philistines, there went also trouble and death. When they put it in the temple of their fish-god Dagon, the great idol fell down before it and was broken. And when it was taken to another city, the people were smitten with sickness, until at last the Philistines said:
"Send away the Ark of the God of Israel, and let it go to its own place."
After seven months they sent it with gifts of gold to the Israelites. They placed it on a new cart drawn by two cows, and the cows, guided by the Lord alone, took a straight way into the land of Israel. How glad the people were when they looked up from their reaping in the fields, and saw the Ark coming safely back to them. The Philistines watched it from afar to see if it would be guided of God to its own place or not and then they returned to their city.
Samuel gathered the people to the Lord after this, and though they had sinned greatly, and had gone after the gods of the heathen around them, they repented and returned to the faith of their fathers, and were faithful all the days of Samuel. He went from year to year on a journey to three cities of Israel, and judged the people in those places, but his home was in Ramah, the city where he was born, and where Hannah had brought him up for the Lord.
THE MAKING OF A KING.
When Samuel was old he made his sons judges in his place, but they were not holy men like their father.
They loved money, and would judge unjustly, if money were given to them as a bribe. So the people came to Samuel at Ramah and said,
"Give us a king to judge us."
And Samuel prayed to the Lord, and the Lord told him to do as the people had asked him to do, for they had not rejected him as judge, but the Lord as their King, and now they must learn what kind of a king would reign over them. So Samuel told them what they must be ready to do for their King, for a king was often a hard master, and ruled his people cruelly, taking the best of their fields, and their harvests, and their flocks for themselves, and the finest of their sons and daughters to be his servants; but they said,
"We will have a king over us, that we may be like other nations, and that our king may judge us, and go out before us and fight our battles."
When Samuel told these things to the Lord he said, "Make them a king," and Samuel sent the people to their own cities.
Samuel did not choose a king for the people himself, but he waited for the Lord to send him the man He had chosen, and the Lord said to him as he went to a city called Zeph, to hold a sacrifice,
"To-morrow about this time I will send thee a man from the land of Benjamin, and thou shalt anoint him to be captain over my people Israel."
On the next day as Samuel came out to go up to the hill of sacrifice he met a tall, noble looking young man, who, with his servant, was looking for the lost asses of his father, Kish, the Benjaminite. He had come far, and had heard that Samuel, the seer was in that place, and he hoped he would tell him where to go for the asses that were lost.
Samuel knew from the Lord that this was the man God had chosen, so he told him to go up with him to the sacrifice, and the next day he would let him go.
He told him that he need not be troubled about the asses, for they were found, but the desire of Israel was set upon him. Saul, for that was his name, did not understand him until he was invited to feast with thirty of the chief men, and Samuel had talked with him upon the house-top. Early the next morning they both rose and went out of the city, and while Saul sent his servant on before, Samuel anointed Saul with oil, and kissed him saying, that the Lord had anointed him to be Captain over his inheritance.
As a sign that the Lord had done it, he told Saul three things that would happen to him on the way home, and charged him to go to Gilgal, where he would meet him and sacrifice to the Lord for seven days. As Saul turned to leave the prophet, God gave him another heart, and all the signs came to pass that day.
At Mizpah Samuel called all the tribes together, that the man who was to be their king, might be chosen in their sight, and when Saul, the son of Kish, the Benjaminite was chosen he could not be found; he had hidden from the people; but when they brought him out before them, he was taller than any of the people from his shoulders up, and looked a king indeed. For the first time in all their history they cried,
"God save the King!"
Then Saul went home, and there went with him a body of men whose hearts God had touched, while Samuel wrote in a book the order of the kingdom and laid it up before the Lord.
THE SHEPHERD BOY OF BETHLEHEM.
After Saul had been king of Israel for a few years, Samuel was deeply troubled about him, for he had hoped that he would be as truly a king as he looked, but he had a strange and wilful spirit that led him to turn away from the counsel of the Lord and follow his own way.
Samuel had been grieved again and again by Saul's rashness, until at last he said to him when he had taken the spoil of the enemy to sacrifice to the Lord,
"To obey is better than sacrifice; because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, He hath also rejected thee from being king," and he went to his house and mourned over Saul, for he had loved him.
At last the Lord told Samuel to cease from mourning for Saul, for He had rejected him, but to fill his horn with oil, and go to Bethlehem where Jesse lived, for He had chosen one of the sons of Jesse to be king in place of Saul.
Samuel went to Bethlehem leading a heifer, as the Lord had told him to do, that he might hold a sacrifice. He told the elders of the city to make ready for the sacrifice, and when he had found the house of Jesse, he called him and his sons. Jesse was the grandson of Ruth and Boaz, and owned the fields, no doubt, where Ruth gleaned. When Samuel saw Eliab, the son of Jesse, he said:
"Surely the Lord's anointed is before Him," but the Lord said:
"Look not on his countenance or on the height of his stature, because I have refused him, for the Lord seeth not as man seeth, for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart."
Then Jesse called Abinidab, but Samuel said:
"The Lord hath not chosen this." Then he made Shammah to pass before him, but Samuel said:
"Neither hath the Lord chosen this."
Jesse made seven of his sons to pass before Samuel, but Samuel said:
"The Lord hath not chosen these."
"Are here all thy children?" said Samuel.
"There remaineth yet the youngest, and he keepeth the sheep," Jesse replied. Then Samuel said:
"Send and fetch him, for we will not sit down till he come hither."
So Jesse sent out into the sheepfolds on the hillsides outside the city to bring the lad David in. What did the boy think when he found his father and his brothers waiting, with the old prophet in the midst? What did it mean that the eye of the seer was set upon him, as were the eyes of all in the house?
Samuel saw a noble youth, "ruddy, and of a beautiful countenance, and goodly to look to." He had been told that he must not look on the outward appearance "for the Lord seeth not as man seeth," and so he waited a little until the Lord said:
"Arise, anoint him, for this is he." Then he took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brethren, and the spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward, and Samuel went back to his house in Ramah.
It may be that his father and his brothers did not understand that the boy had been called to be king over Israel, but a new spirit of wisdom, and love, and strength came upon David, and though he went back to his father's flocks with no thought of being greater than his brothers, he went with a new song in his heart which he sang to the little harp he had made while watching the sheep. Long after when he was King of Israel, he made in memory of these days the beautiful Psalm to be sung in the temple beginning,
"The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want."
THE POWER OF A PEBBLE.
Saul the sullen was still king over Israel, although he had departed from the Lord, and in His sight he was no longer a king. He was very gloomy and dark in his mind, for he had driven the Lord's spirit away, and his light was gone.
His servants tried to amuse him, and told him of David, the son of Jesse, who was a skillful player on the harp, and a brave and handsome youth. So Saul sent for David, and David, bringing presents from his father, came to the king's house.
Saul was greatly pleased with David, and asked Jesse to let his son stay with him, for when the evil spirit was upon him, if David played upon his harp the darkness left him. But this did not last, and after a while David went back to his flocks, and Saul forgot him.
Then the Philistines rose against Israel again. Their camp was on a mountain side, and Saul gathered his warriors on the side of another mountain and there was a valley between them.
Out of the Philistine camp a giant came one day, Goliath of Gath. He talked loud and often in order to terrify the Israelites, asking them to send out a man to fight with him, but he was not truly brave, for he had carefully covered his great body with armor of brass, so that no spear or sword could touch him. He defied Israel every morning and evening for forty days, and no one was found who would dare to go out alone to fight him. David's elder brothers were in camp, and Jesse, their father, called David from the flocks to take food to them. He found the army of Israel ready to go into battle, but Goliath came out as he had done each day and defied the Israelites, who ran in terror at the sight of him. The spirit of David was moved at this, and he said:
"Who is this Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?" "The man who killeth him," said one, "the King will enrich him, and, will give him his daughter and make his father's house free in Israel."
Then Eliab, David's eldest brother, spoke sternly to David asking him why he had left his sheep to come down and see the battle, and called him naughty and proud, but David still talked with the men, for the spirit of the Lord was strong within him. When Saul heard of him and sent for him, David said:
"Let no man's heart fail because of him; thy servant will go and fight with the Philistine."
Saul frowned at David and said:
"Thou art not able to go against this Philistine; thou art but a youth, and he is a man of war."
Then David told the king how he had killed both a lion and a bear that had come down upon his father's flocks, and that he could also conquer the Philistine.
"The Lord that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and the paw of the bear," said David, "He will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine." And Saul said: "Go! and the Lord be with thee." Then Saul armed David with his own armor, but David said:
"I can not go with these, for I have not proved them," and he put them off.
And this was the way David armed himself to meet the giant.
He took his staff in hand, and chose five smooth stones from the brook and put them in his shepherd's bag, and with his sling in his hand, he drew near to the giant. Goliath came on also, his armor-bearer carrying the shield before him, but when he saw the youth David, he despised him, for he was without armor, or sword or spear, only his staff.
"Am I a dog, that thou comest to me with a staff," said Goliath, and then he told him that he would soon give his flesh to the birds and the beasts.
"Thou comest to me with a sword, and a spear, and a shield," said David, "but I come to thee in the name of the Lord of Hosts, the God of the armies of Israel whom thou hast despised."
Then the Philistine came down upon little David to destroy him, and David ran, not away from him, as the men of Israel had done, but straight toward him, taking a pebble from his shepherd's bag as he ran. Quickly putting it in the sling, he whirled it in the air once, twice, and then it went swift and straight to the mark. It sunk into the forehead of the giant, and he fell dead upon his face. Then David ran and stood upon the dead Philistine and cut off his head with the giant's great sword, and when the Philistines saw that their champion was really dead, they fled, pursued by the shouting hosts of Israel.
Saul had forgotten the youth who played upon the harp before him, for when he sent for him after the battle he said,
"Whose son art thou, thou young man?" and David answered,
"I am the son of thy servant Jesse, the Bethlehemite."
And Saul took him to live with him from that day.
FAITHFUL UNTO DEATH.
Saul had a son named Jonathan, and he loved David as his own soul. He took off his princely robes, even to his sword, and his bow, and his girdle, and made David wear them; and David acted wisely in all that the king gave him to do. There was great joy and much feasting over the Death of Goliath and the flight of the Philistines, and wherever Saul went, the women came out of the cities to meet him, singing and dancing, and the song with which they answered one another was,
"Saul hath slain his thousands, And David his tens of thousands."
Saul did not like this, and an evil spirit of jealousy came upon him, and he thought, "What can he have more but the kingdom."
The next day the evil spirit came upon Saul in the house, and David played on his harp to quiet him, but Saul hurled a spear at David, hoping to fasten him to the wall with it. This he did twice, but the Lord guided the spear away from David, just as he guided the pebble to Goliath, and he was unhurt. Saul was afraid of David. He was afraid that God was preparing him to be king over Israel, so he sent him into battle, hoping he would be killed, but the life of David was in the Lord's hand, and no enemy could destroy it.
After a great battle, in which David had been victorious, the evil spirit came again upon Saul, as he sat in his house with his spear in his hand, while David played on the harp. Again he tried to kill David, but the spear struck the wall and David slipped away.
It was clear that David could not live near the king, and so he talked with Jonathan, his friend, who said,
"God forbid, thou shalt not die," but David said,
"Truly there is but a step between me and death."
Then they made a promise to each other before the Lord that should last while they lived. They promised to show "the kindness of the Lord" to each other while life should last.
Jonathan told David that he might go away for three days, and they went out into a field together. They feared the anger of Saul when he found that David was absent from the feast of the new moon. So Jonathan told David to return after three days and hide behind a great rock in the field. Then Jonathan said he would come out and shoot three arrows from his bow, as if he were shooting at a mark, and he would send his arrow-bearer to pick them up. If he should call to the lad, "The arrows are on this side of thee," David would know that Saul was not angry, and would not hurt him, but if he cried, "The arrows are beyond thee," David would know he was in danger and must go away.
On the second day of the feast, Saul asked why David was not there, and Jonathan told him he had asked permission to go away for three days. Then Saul was very angry. He blamed his son for loving David, for, as Saul's son, Jonathan should be king after his death, but he never would be if David lived, and he commanded Jonathan to bring him that he might put him to death. When Jonathan asked what evil David had done that he should be put to death, Saul cast his spear at his own son. Then Jonathan knew there was no hope for David, and left the table in sorrow.
The next day he went out to the rock in the field with his armor-bearer and sent him on before. When he shot an arrow, he cried:
"The arrow is beyond thee; make haste! stay not!"
And David, in his hiding place heard it, and knew that he must flee for his life.
Then Jonathan gave his bow and arrows to the lad to take to the town, and David came out from his hiding place, and they kissed each other and wept together. But at last Jonathan said:
"Go in peace: as we have sworn both of us in the name of the Lord, saying, The Lord be between me and thee, and between my children and thy children forever."
And David went away to hide from Saul, and Jonathan went back to the king's house.
For seven years Saul hunted for David to take his life, and David, often hiding in caves in the wilderness, could not see his friend Jonathan, but they were faithful in their friendship, and when at last Saul was slain in battle, and Jonathan also, David came to mourn over his friend, saying:
"I am distressed for thee, my brother Jonathan: very pleasant hast thou been unto me; thy love for me was wonderful, passing the love of women."
DAVID THE OUTCAST.
For seven years King Saul hunted David from one end of the land of Israel to the other. The evil spirit of jealousy and hate had full possession of him, and David, with a few faithful men, was driven from one stronghold to another, until he cried, "They gather themselves together; they hide themselves; they mark my steps when they wait for my soul. What time I am afraid I will trust in thee."
He had escaped again and again from the hand of Saul, and now he was down in the desert country by the Dead Sea, hiding among the cliffs and caves of Engedi. Saul heard of it and took three thousand men to hunt for him among the rocks of the wild goats. He was very tired after climbing the rocks, and seeing a cave, he went in to lie down for a little sleep. He did not know that David and his men were in the cave hiding in the dark sides of it. Then his men whispered to David:
"Behold the day of which the Lord said unto thee: 'I will deliver thine enemy into thine hand that thou mayest do to him as it shall seem good to thee.'" Then David arose and crept near to Saul, and—did he kill the man who had so often tried to kill him?
No, he bent down and cut off a part of Saul's robe. Even this seemed wrong to David.
"The Lord forbid that I should do this thing unto my master," he said "to stretch forth my hand against him, seeing he is the anointed of the Lord," and in this way he kept his servants from harming Saul, and after Saul awoke he went out of the cave.
David also went out of the cave and cried,
"My Lord the King!"
And when Saul turned David bowed down to him and asked him why he listened to men who said that he wished to harm the king, and then he told him how the Lord had given him into his hand in the cave, but he would not touch the Lord's anointed to harm him.
"See, my father," he cried "see the skirt of thy robe in my hand. I have not sinned against thee, yet thou huntest my soul to take it."
Much more he said, and asked the Lord to judge between them, and Saul's hard heart was moved so that he wept aloud.
"Is this thy voice, my son David," he said, "Thou art more righteous than I, for thou hast rewarded me good, whereas I have rewarded thee evil," and he made a covenant with David. For though he made no promise to spare David's life, he made David promise to spare the life of his children when he should be made king.
But a year was hardly past before the evil spirit was again upon Saul, and he went out with three thousand men to hunt for David. Saul's camp was on a hill, and David saw where it was. At night he took Abishai, one of his warriors, and went down from the cliffs to Saul's camp, where Saul lay sleeping in a trench, and the spear stuck in the ground by his pillow, while all his men lay around him. Abishai wished to strike him through with the spear, but David said,
"Destroy him not, for who can stretch forth his hand against the Lord's anointed and be guiltless? The Lord shall smite him, or his day shall come to die, or he shall fall in battle and perish; but take thou now the spear that is at his pillow, and the cruse of water, and let us go."
And they took them and went away. A deep sleep had fallen upon the camp of Saul from the Lord, so that no one saw them.
Then David went up to his stronghold, and from the top of the cliff he cried to Abner, the captain of Saul's men, and asked why he had not defended his Master, and where was the king's spear, and his cruse of water?
Then Saul cried as before,
"Is this thy voice, my son David?"
"It is my voice, my lord, O King," said David, and again he plead his cause with his old enemy, but who could trust to the repentance of Saul? He cried,
"I have sinned; return, my son David, for I will no more do thee harm, because my soul was precious in thine eyes this day. I have played the fool, and erred exceedingly."
But David trusted him no more, and went and made friends with a Philistine prince that he might live within their borders.
Samuel the prophet was dead, and there was no one to give counsel to the darkened soul of the King when trouble fell upon him. The Philistines had come with a great army, but Saul was afraid, for the Lord's spirit was not with him. He tried to seek the Lord through the priests, and through dreams, but the Lord answered him not. Then he went to a witch by night, and asked her to bring up the spirit of Samuel. The witch could not bring up Samuel, but the Lord sent him to speak to Saul, and the woman cried out with terror when she saw the prophet of the Lord, and knew also that it was the King who had called for him.
"I am sore distressed," said Saul, "and God is departed from me. What shall I do?"
Then Samuel told him plainly that the kingdom was taken from him and given to David, and that on the next day he and his sons should fall in battle, and the Israelites into the hands of the Philistines.
Saul, forsaken and despairing, fell to the earth fainting, but was revived by the woman, who gave him food so that he went away through the dark to the camp of Israel.
In the battle of the next day the Philistines conquered. The three sons of Saul were slain, and Saul himself, when chased by the Philistines, fell upon his own sword and died.
When a messenger brought news of the battle to David he rent his clothes for grief, and in the chant of lamentation that he made, he mourned for his faithful friend Jonathan, and had no word of blame for his enemy Saul, neither did he triumph over him.
EVERY INCH A KING.
After Saul's death David came back to live with his own people, for he was of the tribe of Judah. He went to Hebron, the old home of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, for the Lord had told him to go there, and the men of his tribe came to Hebron and anointed him king. The other tribes did not come, for Saul's son and the captain of his host, Abner, were still holding the kingdom. But when both were killed by an enemy, then all the other tribes came to Hebron and made a league with him, so seven years after Saul's death David became king over all Israel. He was then thirty years old and his reign lasted forty years.
Then David began to establish the kingdom. There was a rocky height not far from Hebron with a valley all around it that was still held by the Jebusites, one of the tribes of Canaan that the Lord said must not be left in the land. The city was Jerusalem, and the stronghold was Zion, and close by Zion was the mount to which Abraham had once gone to offer up Isaac. David wanted this stronghold for the chief city of the kingdom, and so he took it, and it became the city of David. He built a beautiful house for himself there, and King Hiram of Tyre sent skilled workmen, and cedar trees, and they built a house of cedar for him. But stronger than the wish to have a house for himself was the longing to see the Ark of God set within the curtains of the Tabernacle in the city of David. It had been in the house of Abinadab in Kirjath-Jearim for seventy years, ever since it was sent home by the Philistines who captured it. Because the people had grown cold toward God, they did not wish to hear the reading of the law, or be led by his counsel. Now David called together the flower of all Israel, thirty thousand men, and they went to bring the Ark to the city of David. While on the way a man who had laid his hand upon the Ark when it was unsteady was smitten and died, for no one but the priests and Levites could touch the Ark of God. David feared to bring it further, and so he placed it in the house of Obededom which was near by. It was there three months, and great blessing came to the house because of it. When David heard this he went joyfully down to bring the Ark to his city, and it was with sacrifices, and shouting, and the sound of trumpet that it was brought and set in the Tabernacle that had been made ready for it. And so the worship of the Lord was established in Jerusalem, which was to be the great altar for the sacrificial worship until the sacrifice should be taken away, and the kingdom of Christ established on the earth.
But David was not satisfied.
"See," he said to Nathan the prophet, "I dwell in a house of cedar, but the Ark of God dwelleth within curtains."
That night the Lord spoke to Nathan and told him what to say to the king. He promised to establish the royal house of David, and give final peace to the people, and also to build a house for the worship of the Lord, but he said that David's son, who should be king after him, should build a house to his name, and of him the Lord said, "I will be his Father, and he shall be my son."
Then King David went in to the Tabernacle and thanked the Lord for His promise to him and to his son, and asked His blessing upon them. Though he reigned forty years, he never forgot that his work was not to build the temple of the Lord, but to prepare for it. So he subdued enemies, built cities, made leagues with friendly nations, gathered much wealth of wood, and stone, and gold, and silver and precious stones for the house of the Lord, and trained choirs of singers for the service. He also kept his heart open toward the Lord, so that he was able to write some wonderful poems that were set to music and sung by the temple choirs. We call them the Psalms of David.
Though David had grown rich and great, he did not forget his promise to Jonathan. He called Ziba, who had been Saul's servant and said to him,
"Is there not yet any of the house of Saul that I may show the kindness of God to him?"
Then Ziba told him of a man who was lame in both his feet, who was the son of Jonathan. David sent for him, and gave him all the land of Saul, and a place was made for him at the king's table among his own sons, and it was his while he lived.
The army of Israel was at war with the Ammonites, and Joab was the chief captain. David did not go out with the army, but stayed in his house in Jerusalem. One evening he was walking on the flat roof of his house, as the people of that country always do, and he saw a little way off a very beautiful woman. He sent a servant to ask who she was, and found she was the wife of Uriah who was in the army with Joab, fighting the Ammonites. Then a great temptation was set before David, and instead of going to the Lord to be saved from it, he sent to Joab, asking him to send him Uriah, the Hittite. So Uriah came, and David talked kindly with him, and found him a good and faithful man. When he went back to Joab he took a letter from David, who asked that he be set in the front of the battle. So Joab placed him there, and when the two armies met Uriah was killed, and Joab sent a messenger to tell David. After her mourning was ended, Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah, became the wife of David, but the Lord was displeased with David. He also knew David's heart and how to deal with him, so he sent Nathan the prophet to him.
"There were two men in one city," said Nathan, "one of them rich and the other poor. The rich man had many flocks and herds, but the poor man had nothing, save one little ewe lamb, which he had bought and nourished up; and it grew together with him and with his children: it did eat of his own meat and drink of his own cup, and lay in his bosom and was unto him as a daughter. And there came a traveller unto the rich man, and he spared to take of his own flock to dress for the wayfaring man that was come to him, but took the poor man's lamb and dressed it for the man that was come to him."
David was very angry at the man who could do such a cruel thing, and he said to Nathan,
"The man that hath done this thing shall surely die; and he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity."
Then Nathan said to David, "Thou art the man," and he told him how greatly the Lord had blessed him in making him King over Israel, and in delivering him from the hand of Saul, and how he had slain a faithful servant and taken his wife for himself; therefore evil would befall him.
David said, "I have sinned against the Lord," and the Lord saw that his repentance was real, and forgave the sin, but that David might never forget and sin again, the Lord took the little child that was born to him and to Bathsheba. While it was sick David fasted and lay all night upon the earth, and would not rise to taste food. This he did for seven days while the little child was sick, but when they told him that his child was dead he arose and bathed and dressed himself and went to the house of the Lord to worship, and returned to take his food. Then his servants wondered at it, and replied,
"While the child was yet alive I fasted and wept, for I said, who can tell whether God will be gracious unto me that the child may live. But now he is dead, wherefore should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me."
After this another child was born to Bathsheba, and they named him Solomon, which means "Peaceable."
And David wrote a prayer of repentance for his sin. It is the fifty-first Psalm, and has been the prayer of penitent souls for nearly three thousand years.
David had a very beautiful son named Absalom. From the crown of his head to the soles of his feet there was no fault to be seen in him. His hair was thick and long, and his beauty was much talked of through all Israel. But the Lord who looks upon the heart saw that the heart of Absalom was wicked and false. He killed his brother Amnon, and then fled to another country and stayed three years. When he returned he tried to see his father, but David would not see him for two years. Then Absalom forced Joab to bring him to the king's house by setting Joab's barley field on fire. He was false as well as handsome, and won his father's heart by pretending to be humble.
After this Absalom began to live more like a king than a prince. He had fifty men to run before his chariot when he rode, and he stood in the city gates and talked with the men who came to see the king about their rights. He told them that if he were ruler over the land every man should have all that he wanted, and deceived many by a false show of friendship.
Then he asked the king if he could go to Hebron to pay a vow to the Lord by offering sacrifice there, and David told him to go in peace, and he went. But he had cruelly deceived his father. He had sent spies through all the land to persuade them to join him at Hebron and make him king. He also took two hundred men out of Jerusalem to help him, and one of them was David's counsellor. They had arranged to have all the people, as soon as they heard anywhere the sound of the trumpet, to cry,
"Absalom is king in Hebron."
Then it came to the ears of David that his people had been led away by deceit to follow Absalom, and David, who had been fearless before Goliath and before great armies of other nations, was afraid. His heart was broken at the treachery of his son, and he said to his servants,
"Arise, and let us flee; make haste and go, for fear Absalom may come and fight against the city with the sword."
His servants were ready to fight for him, but he fled in haste over the brook Kedron and went toward the wilderness, with all of the people of the city with him, until there was a great multitude, and in the midst the priests and the Levites bearing the Ark of God, but when David saw this he said,
"Carry back the Ark of God into the city. If I shall find favor in the eyes of the Lord He will bring me again. Let Him do to me as seemeth good to Him."
So the priests and the Levites returned to the city with the Ark of God.
It was a sad procession that went over the Mount of Olives led by David, weeping as he went, with his head covered and his feet bare. Some enemies of the house of Saul came out and troubled him by the way, but there was no anger in the heart of David toward any. He believed the hand of the Lord was upon him, and he said,
"It may be the Lord will look on mine affliction."
Absalom came to Jerusalem, and while he was asking his chief counsellor what to do, he was persuaded by a friend of David, who had stayed behind, to wait until he had gathered a larger army before he followed after David. This gave him time to send word to David to cross over Jordan before Absalom should overtake him. The chief counsellor, when he saw that his advice was not followed, went to his own house and hanged himself, for he knew that the Lord was bringing his counsel to naught.
After David had passed over into Gilead the people of that land brought food, and dishes, and beds to the sorrowful king and his tired people, and they were cared for in the city of Mahanaim. Then Joab, the captain, gathered the men together to go and meet Absalom and his army, and as they passed out of the city David stood in the gate and charged all the captains as they passed, saying
"Deal gently, for my sake, with the young man, even with Absalom."
So they went out to battle, and it was in a wood. God had given David's army the victory, and twenty thousand men of Absalom's army were slain. Absalom, who rode on a mule, was caught by his long thick hair in the branches of an oak tree, and the mule went away and left him hanging there.
A man ran and told Joab that he had seen Absalom hanging in an oak.
"Why didst thou not smite him there?" said Joab.
The man said he would not have done it for a thousand shekels of silver, because David had charged them all not to touch the young man Absalom.
But Joab turned away, and when he had found Absalom in the oak, he, with the ten young men who were with him, killed Absalom, and they buried him in the wood.
Then Joab sent two messengers to carry news of the victory to the king, who sat between the city gates, while a watchman stood over the gates on the city wall. When the watchmen saw the two men running, one after the other, he cried out and told the king. The first man cried as he came, "All is well," but when the king said, "Is the young man Absalom safe?" he could not answer, and when the second messenger cried, "Tidings, my lord, the king," again David asked,
"Is the young man Absalom safe?"
"The enemies of my lord the king and all that rise against thee to do thee hurt be as that young man," said the messenger.
Then the king went up to the room over the city gate and wept, and as he went he cried,
"O my son Absalom! my son, my son Absalom! would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son!"
The people who had come back joyful because the enemy had been conquered were distressed by the grief of the king, so that Joab persuaded David to come down to the gate and meet the people.
After this those who were left of the followers of Absalom begged the king to come back to Jerusalem, and so he came, and thousands came to meet him. He had only forgiving words for those who had injured him, and for Barzillai and the men of Gilead who had fed them and shown them great kindness in the darkest hour of the king's life, and who came a little way on the journey with them, he had grateful words and blessings.
And so the king came to his own again. He was now getting to be an old man, and the love of his people made his last days blessed.
His warriors said, "Thou shalt go no more out with us to battle, that thou quench not the light of Israel."
Once he sinned against the Lord by numbering his people. He wanted to know how many men in his kingdom could bear arms in battle, and he forgot that victory over the enemy was not with the many or the few, but with the Lord, who is the strength of his people. When he saw that he had done wrong he confessed it and begged for forgiveness, but a pestilence spread over all the land, and came near to Jerusalem, and the angel was stayed by the Lord's hand just over the threshing floor of Araunah. This was the broad flat top of Mount Moriah where long before Abraham had built an altar on which to offer Isaac.
When David saw the angel he said,
"I have done wickedly, but these sheep, what have they done? Let Thine hand, I pray thee, be against me, and against my father's house."
Then the prophet Gad said, "Go up, rear an altar to the Lord in the threshing-floor of Araunah," and David went as the Lord commanded.
When they reached the mount Araunah offered David the piece of ground with the oxen for a sacrifice, but he would not take them as a gift.
"But I will surely buy it of thee at a price," said David, "neither will I offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God of that which doth cost me nothing."
So he bought the piece of ground and paid for it six hundred shekels of gold. Twice had the Lord blessed this spot with a miracle of salvation, and twice an altar had been built there, and looking upon it, David said,
"This is the house of the Lord God, and this is the altar of burnt offering for Israel," and he prepared to build there the temple of Solomon,—the altar of the world.
THE BUILDING OF THE GOLDEN HOUSE.
The time was near when David must leave his people and go to his God, and his chief thought was about the house of the Lord that he had longed to build, that the Ark of God might be at rest, and that the people might have a place of worship for all time to come. He knew that his son Solomon was to build the temple, but he was still young, and David made ready as far as he could for the building of the house. There were men at work in the quarries, cutting great stones, and there were men in the forests of Lebanon cutting and hewing cedars, and others gathering iron and brass, and gold, and silver for the treasury of David. He also spent much time dividing the sons of Levi into companies, so that they could in turn serve with the priests in the temple, and ordering the times and manner of service, for he believed that this temple would be a house of prayer for all nations. David had been a man of war, for he had been called to destroy idol worship in the land of Canaan, and to make it the land of Israel, in which the one true God should be worshipped forever, but Solomon's reign was to be one of peace, and the Lord chose a man of peace to build his house.
David had another son, Adonijah, who tried to make himself king as Absalom did, but David heard of it, and had Solomon proclaimed king before his own death, lest trouble should arise after. When Adonijah heard the shouts of the people, and the sound of the trumpets he was afraid, and expected Solomon would kill him, but Solomon said if he would only show himself a good man no harm should come to him.
The last things that David did were to call his princes and chief men together and tell them that the Lord had promised many years before, that Solomon should build the house of the Lord during his reign; and also that his children's children should rule over Israel, and he begged them to keep the Lord's commandments, that they might keep the good land that had been given them.
He also charged Solomon before them all to serve God with all his heart, but if he failed to do so he would be cast off forever.
David gave Solomon all the plans and patterns for the house of the Lord, as the Lord had given them to him; also the gold and silver stored up for time of building. He also told the people, when he had called them together, what he had stored for the work of the temple, and asked them who were willing to give also. Then the people brought gifts, as they did when the Tabernacle was built, and gave them to the Lord. David led them in a great thanksgiving service, and they offered three thousand sacrifices.
Solomon was again anointed king in the presence of all Israel, and took the throne of David; and David died, honored and loved by his people, and he was buried in his own city.
When Solomon went to Gibeon to sacrifice the Lord came to him in a dream and said,
"Ask what I shall give thee."
Solomon was wiser than all the sons of David, and yet he did not feel himself to be so. He said,
"I am but a little child; I know not how to go out or come in, and thy servant is in the midst of a great people that cannot be numbered. Give therefore 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 so great a people."
And the Lord said,
"Because thou hast asked this thing, and hast not asked for thyself long life, neither riches, nor the life of thine enemies, lo, I have given thee a wise and understanding heart, and I have also given thee that which thou hast not asked—both riches and honor; and if thou wilt walk in my ways as thy father David did, then I will lengthen thy days."
The Lord was true to his word. Solomon had wisdom, beyond all the old and the learned men of his kingdom, and many came to him for counsel who were not of Israel, for he was famous among the nations. Some of these nations wished to be ruled by him, and brought him many precious things as gifts; they had been conquered by David, and now they wished to be ruled by Solomon. He had thousands of servants and he knew how to direct their work. Away up in the mountains of Lebanon they worked with the servants of Hiram, King of Tyre, getting the cedar timbers ready for the temple, while Hiram's artisans in gold, and silver, and brass, and fine linen came to Jerusalem to work on the temple, and Solomon sent Hiram wheat, and olive oil, and wine. So wise were the workers in stone and wood that when the temple was built there was no sound of a hammer or any tool heard on Mount Moriah. Each stone was ready to fit into its place, and each piece of wood to fit another.
The house was not like any that we have ever seen. It was not large, but it was very precious. The cedar boards that lined the walls were carved in flower patterns, and covered with gold. The floor also was covered with gold. He divided the temple in two parts, as the Tabernacle had been, with a rich curtain of blue and purple and crimson. The innermost room was called the most holy place, and was for the Ark, and its walls were beautiful with cherubim, and palm trees, and flowers, overlaid with gold, as was the floor also. Within this most holy place stood two cherubim fifteen feet high. They were of olive wood covered with gold, and they stood with wings spread forth so that they touched each other, and also touched the wall on either side, and their wings overshadowed the mercy seat where the Ark of the Lord was to rest. All the carvings upon wood were covered with gold, and precious stones were set among them for light and beauty.
Solomon's workmen made two great pillars of brass to stand before the house, and a great brass altar for the burnt offerings. They also made ten basins of brass that were set upon wheels, and one very great one called the "sea" which stood on twelve brass oxen.
They also made many things for the use of the temple—candlesticks, and spoons, and censers all of pure gold, and there was also a golden altar and a golden table.
Solomon was seven years building the house of the Lord, and when it was finished, and its outer courts made ready, he called all the elders and chief men of Israel together to carry the Ark of God to its place. So the Ark, borne by the priests, and holding the tables of the law, was carried into the most holy place, and set under the wings of the cherubim. After the priests came out a cloud filled the house of the Lord so that the priests could not go in. It was the glory of the presence of the Lord.
Then Solomon stood before all the people and gave thanks to God and asked him to take the temple for his own house to dwell in, and kneeling down, he prayed that wherever the children of Israel might be, at home, or captives in a strange land, that the Lord would hear them when they prayed toward his house, and that all prayer offered in it might be heard and answered
Then fire from heaven fell upon the great altar, and the sacrifice was consumed, and all over the great pavement of the court the people bowed and worshipped the Lord, saying, "For He is good, and His mercy endureth forever."
There were offerings and feasting for fourteen days, and then the people went to their homes to think of the wonderful things they had seen. And there were sacrifices offered morning and evening each day, on the Sabbath, and at the three great feasts of the year—the feast of the passover, the feast of the harvest, and the feast of tabernacles.
Solomon also built a wonderful house for himself, and another called the "house of the forest of Lebanon," where he kept his armor. The roof was upheld by cedars of Lebanon, standing like mighty pillars beneath it. So famous did his work and his wisdom become that a queen from a distant land called Sheba came to visit him. She came with a caravan of servants and camels bringing costly presents of spices, and gold, and precious stones. She asked him many things that she had longed to know, and he answered all her questions, and told her strange and wonderful things, so that after she had seen all his palace, and his servants, and the service of his table, and the beautiful ascent by which he went up to the temple, she said that the half had never been told her in her own country. They exchanged costly presents, and she went back to her own land.
Solomon had many ships upon the sea that brought riches from every land He learned much of the world in this way, and as he grew older and from his throne of gold and ivory judged his people, he dropped many wise sayings that were written in a book by the scribes and are now called the "Proverbs of Solomon."
But in Solomon's latter days his wives, who were daughters of heathen kings, turned his heart from the Lord. When his father sinned he repented at once, and his heart never turned to idols, but with all his wisdom, Solomon was weak of will, and built temples for his wives to worship idols in.
The Lord had made a promise to David that his sons should inherit the throne, and He kept the promise, but he allowed the kingdom to be divided. The two tribes who lived near to Jerusalem—Judah and Benjamin—were left to Solomon's son Rehoboam, but the ten tribes chose a man named Jeroboam to be their king. The men of Rehoboam, led by their king, went out to fight with the ten tribes, but the Lord would not let them. He spoke to them through a prophet and they went home.
So now there were two kings in Israel, and Rehoboam's kingdom was called the kingdom of Judah, and that of Jeroboam was called the kingdom of Israel; but after the kingdom was divided no kings ever reigned who could be compared with David and Solomon.
ELIJAH THE GREAT HEART OF ISRAEL.
During the reign of Jehoshaphat, fourth king of Judah, and Ahab, sixth king of Israel, after the division of the kingdom, there came out of Gilead Elijah, a prophet of the Lord. Two of the kings of Judah, and all of the kings of Israel had been wicked men, and the Lord sent Elijah to Ahab, king of Israel, to tell him that there should be no rain for years in the land of Israel, and then only as Elijah should ask for it. Ahab was more wicked than the kings that reigned before him, and had built a temple for the god Baal in Samaria.
Because he would seek to destroy Elijah, the Lord told His prophet to go to the brook Cherith that ran into the Jordan, and there He would take care of him. "Thou shalt drink of the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to feed thee there," said the Lord.
And so it was. Morning and evening the ravens came bringing bread and meat, and the brook brought him water out of the rock, but as there was no rain, the brook at last dried up, and there was a great famine.
Then Elijah was told to go to Zarephath, for a woman there had been told to feed him, and he went at once. As he came near the city gate he saw a woman gathering sticks, and he asked her to bring him a cup of water and a little bread. She told him that she had but a handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a cruse, and she was going to bake it for herself and son, that they might eat it and die.
Then Elijah said, "Fear not; go and do as thou hast said, but make me thereof a little cake first, and after that make for thee and thy son, for thus saith the Lord God of Israel, 'The barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail until the day that the Lord sendeth rain upon the earth.'"
She believed Elijah, and did as he commanded, and they ate for a whole year, and the meal and the oil lasted all that time.
After this the woman's son grew very sick, so very sick that he appeared to be dead, and the woman cried to the prophet in her distress,
"O thou man of God, art thou come unto me to call my sin to remembrance and to slay my son?"
Then he said, "Give me thy son," and he took him up to his own room and laid him upon his bed and prayed over him. Then he stretched himself upon the child three times and cried,
"O Lord my God, I pray Thee let this child's soul come unto him again!"
And God heard Elijah, and the soul of the child came to him again, and he revived.
Then he gave the boy to his happy and grateful mother, saying, "See, thy son liveth."
In the third year of the famine the Lord said to Elijah,
"Go, show thyself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the earth."
As Elijah went he met a good man named Obadiah, who was governor of the king's house. This man worshipped the Lord, and when Ahab's wicked wife, Jezebel, tried to kill all the Lord's prophets he hid a hundred of them in two caves and kept them alive with bread and water. He was seeking grass and water for the king's horses, and when he saw Elijah he fell on his face and said,
"Art thou my Lord Elijah?"
"I am," said Elijah, "go, tell thy lord, 'Behold, Elijah is here.'"
Obadiah was in distress at this command, for he knew that the king would kill Elijah if he found him, and he could not think that Elijah would be brave enough to meet the king, or he thought perhaps the spirit of the Lord would carry him away, and he alone would have to meet the anger of the king.
"As the Lord of hosts liveth," said Elijah, "I will surely show myself unto him to-day."
So Obadiah told Ahab, and Ahab went to meet Elijah, and said to him,
"Art thou he that troubleth Israel?"
"I have not troubled Israel," he said, "but thou and thy father's house, in that ye have forsaken the commandments of the Lord, and thou hast followed Baalim."
Then he told Ahab to call all Israel to Mount Carmel which overlooks the sea, and to bring there also the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal, and the four hundred prophets of the groves.
So the king called them together, and Elijah cried to the people,
"How long halt ye between two opinions? If the Lord be God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him."
And the people, afraid of the king and his wicked wife, answered not a word.
"I, even I only, remain a prophet of the Lord," said Elijah, "but Baal's prophets are four hundred and fifty men." And then he told the people how it could be proven which was true—the God of Israel, or Baal.
He told the prophets of Baal to make an altar and place wood and a sacrifice upon it, and he also would do the same, and they should call upon Baal, and he would call on the name of the Lord, and "the God that answereth by fire, let him be God."
This the priests of Baal were willing to do, and they cried around their altar from morning until night, "O Baal, hear us," but there was no voice, and no answer by fire.
Elijah watched and waited, sometimes telling them that perhaps their god was asleep, and could be waked; or that he had gone on a journey, or was talking with somebody, and then they became wild and leaped upon the altar and cut themselves with knives.
After many hours Elijah called the people to him, and he repaired a broken altar of the Lord that stood there with twelve stones for the twelve tribes of Israel, and made a trench all around it. Then he placed wood on the altar and told the people to pour four barrels of water over the sacrifice. This they did three times, and the water ran down and filled the trench around the altar, and the people saw that Elijah could not by any means make a fire there.
Then, as it was the hour of the evening sacrifice in the temple, Elijah knelt by his altar with his face toward Jerusalem, and prayed to his God that He would hear him, and show the people that they were called from the worship of idols to the service of the living God.
What a wonderful sight was that, when fire fell from heaven and burnt up the sacrifice, and the wood, and the altar, and even the water in the trench around the altar!
And the people all fell on their faces at the sight, and cried,
"The Lord He is the God! The Lord He is the God!" Then Elijah told them to take the prophets of Baal and destroy them, and they did so.
"There is a sound of abundance of rain!" said Elijah to the king, and then he went to the very top of Carmel, and threw himself upon the earth, hiding his face between his knees, while he sent his servant to look toward the sea, and watch for the coming of the rain.
This the servant did seven times, each time coming to his master and saying, "There is nothing," but the prophet told him to look seven times more, and when he came back the seventh time he said,
"Behold, there ariseth a little cloud out of the sea like a man's hand."
Then he sent his servant to Ahab, saying,
"Prepare thy chariot and get thee down, that the rain stop thee not."
The little cloud grew to be a great one, and filled all the sky until it was black with clouds and wind, and there was a great rain. And as Ahab rode in his chariot, Elijah, who was strong with the spirit of the Lord and glad for His great victory over sin, ran before the chariot to the gates of the city.
Jezebel the queen was furious when she heard that the priests had been destroyed. She sent word to Elijah that he would be treated the same way on the morrow, and so Elijah fled for his life, and leaving his servant in Beer-Sheba on the southern border of Israel, he went a day's journey into the wilderness. There he sat down under a juniper tree, and for the first time his heart grew weak within him.
"It is enough," he said, "Now, O Lord, take away my life, for am I not better than my fathers."
Perhaps he was discouraged because he was tired and hungry, for he fell asleep, and when he awoke it was because an angel touched him, saying, "Arise and eat," and he looked, and there was a cake just baked on the hot coals, and a bottle of water close beside him. So he ate and drank, but he was not yet rested, and he fell asleep again. The angel waked him the second time telling him to eat and drink, for the journey was too great for him. Then he ate and drank again, and went on the strength of that food forty days and forty nights, till he came to Horeb, the mount of God, where the Ten Commandments were given to Moses, and there he lodged in a cave. He was still gloomy and discouraged, and when the Lord said, "What doest thou here, Elijah?" he said,
"I have been very jealous for the Lord God of hosts, for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword, and I, even I only am left, and they seek my life to take it."
Then the Lord told him to go out and stand on the mount before the Lord, and he passed by. There was a great wind that split the mountains, and broke the great rocks, but the Lord was not in the wind, and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still, small voice.
When Elijah heard that, he wrapped his face in his mantle and stood at the door of the cave, and the Lord asked again, "What doest thou here, Elijah?" and Elijah answered him just as he did before.
Then the Lord told him to go back and anoint a new king over Syria, also a new king over Israel, and Elisha to be prophet in his place.
Elijah went, and he found Elisha ploughing with twelve yoke of oxen. He cast his mantle over Elisha, and Elisha followed him and became his servant.
When Elijah came back to his own country he found there had been war between Israel and Syria, and Ahab had grown hard of heart again. He and his wicked wife Jezebel had taken the vineyard of Naboth away from him because Ahab wanted it for a garden, and they had caused the death of Naboth, so when Elijah came he found Ahab in the vineyard, and said,
"Hast thou killed and also taken possession?" and he told him that he should die where Naboth died.
"Hast thou found me, O mine enemy!" cried the king.
"I have found thee," answered Elijah, and he spoke to him the word of the Lord, that he should be destroyed out of Israel with his whole family.
Then Ahab repented, and the Lord spared his life two years, but later his wife Jezebel came to a dreadful end, with the seventy sons of Ahab.
When the time came for the Lord to take his servant to himself, Elijah wished to be alone, but Elisha his servant would not leave him. He followed his master from one town to another until they came to the river Jordan. Then Elijah took off his mantle, and folding it, struck the waters and they were divided, so that they went over on dry ground. Then Elijah said, "Ask what I shall do for thee," and Elisha prayed that a double portion of his Master's spirit might rest upon him.
"If thou see me when I am taken from thee it shall be so unto thee," he said, "but if not, it shall not be so."
And as they went there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, parting them from each other, and Elijah went up in a whirlwind to heaven. Now Elisha wished his master to know that he saw him, so he cried,
"My father, my father! the chariot of Israel and the horsemen thereof!" and he saw him no more.
Then he took Elijah's mantle that fell from him, and struck the waters of Jordan again, and they parted, and he went over, and he knew that the power of the old prophet's spirit had been given to him.
Fifty young men, sons of the prophets, saw him return, and they said,
"The spirit of Elijah doth rest on Elisha," and they bowed themselves to the ground before him.
THE LITTLE CHAMBER ON THE WALL.
Elisha did many wonderful things in the strength of the spirit that Elijah's God gave him. He changed the waters of Jericho, so that they were no longer poisonous, by casting salt in the spring.
He brought water for the thirsty armies of three kings who had gathered to battle, by telling them to dig ditches in a valley of Edom, and watch for the water to come, without wind or rain. When the morning dawned the valley was full of running water.
He helped a poor widow to pay a debt and take care of her two sons by telling her to borrow empty pots and pans of all her neighbors, and pour into them her one little pot of oil. The oil increased until all the pots and pans were full, and she had plenty to sell.
He saved the sons of the prophets from death by casting meal into the pot when a poisonous nut had been mingled with the food, and he fed a hundred people with the bread that was brought as a portion for himself.
But the most beautiful story in the life of Elisha is that of the Shun-amite mother and her son. The mother was a noble lady of Shun-em, who believed in God, and in the good man who passed her house so often, and she said to her husband,
"Let us make for him a little chamber on the wall." And so they did, and when Elisha came again he lodged there. He was grateful to these kind people, and asked the woman what he should do for her—if she would ask anything of the king, but she only said,
"I dwell among mine own people."
Then the prophet, knowing that she had no child, promised that she should have a son, and though it was hard to believe, the little son was sent to her, and she was very happy. But one day when he went out in the field where his father and his men were reaping, he cried out, "My head, my head!" and they carried him in to his mother. She held him in her arms until noon, and then he died and she laid him in the prophet's chamber. Perhaps the heat of the harvest time had been too great for one so young. Did the mother cry out and call her husband? No, she called for a servant and a donkey, and rode as fast as she could to Mount Carmel where Elisha was. His servant saw her coming, and Elisha sent him to meet her and ask if it was well with her and her husband and her child, and she said,
"It is well," though her heart was breaking.
"Did I ask a son of my lord?" she said as she came to Elisha and fell at his feet. Then he knew that the child was ill or dead, and he would have sent his servant to lay his staff on the child, but the mother cried,
"As the Lord liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee," and he arose and followed her.
When he came to the Shun-amite's house he went into his little room where the dead child lay upon his bed, and, shutting the door, prayed to the Lord. Then he stretched himself upon the child, and breathed upon him until life began to creep back into the little cold body, and when he had done this twice the child opened his eyes Then Elisha called the mother, and when she had fallen at his feet in grateful joy, she took up her child and went out.
A LITTLE MAID OF ISRAEL.
There was war almost all the time between Israel and Syria. A band of Syrians from Damascus would often come into a village of Israel and take the people away for slaves. One little girl who was carried off by the Syrians became a slave in the house of a Syrian general called Naaman, and was a maid to Naaman's wife.
Naaman was a great man, and beloved by all, but he had a disease that could never be cured. It was leprosy. He could go about, but he could not touch others without giving them the disease which turns the skin white and dead, and finally eats the flesh away.
The little maid said to her mistress one day,
"Would God my lord were with the prophet that is in Samaria! for he would recover him of his leprosy."
When this was told to Naaman he talked with the king, who sent him to the king of Israel with a letter, but the king of Israel was angry.
"Am I God to kill and make alive, that this man doth send unto me to recover a man of his leprosy?" he cried, but when Elisha heard of it he said,
"Let him come now to me, and he shall know that there is a prophet in Israel."
So Naaman came with his horses and chariot to Elisha's house, but the prophet did not even come to the door, but sent his servant with this message,
"Go wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean."
But Naaman went away in a rage. He expected Elisha to come out, and that there would be a fine scene while he called on the name of God, waved his hand over the leprous spots, and made a cure.
"Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? May I not wash in them and be clean?" he said.
Then some of his servants came near to him and said,
"My father, if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldst thou not have done it? How much rather, then, when he saith to thee, 'Wash and be clean.'"
Then he went down and dipped himself seven times in Jordan, and his flesh became like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.
After this he, with all that were with him, went humbly back to Elisha and said,
"Now I know that there is no God in all the earth but in Israel." And he urged the prophet to take gifts from him, but he would not.
But Naaman begged of Elisha two mule-loads of earth to take to his own country. He wanted to build an altar upon it to worship the God of Israel, and he thought it must stand on the soil of Israel.
Did Naaman ever send the little maid of Israel to her home? We do not know, but surely he was kind to her in some way.
THE TWO BOY KINGS.
There were many kings over Israel from the days of Solomon until the time when they were carried away captives to Babylon. The kingdom was divided soon after Solomon's death, and a king reigned in Jerusalem over the kingdom of Judah, and another in Samaria over the kingdom of Israel. There were a few kings who tried to follow that which was right, but the most of them were men who were given to idolatry, and who did not help the people to remember the true God. The Lord sent them prophets to remind them of Him, but they were often driven away or ill treated. There were a few good kings of Judah, such as Asa and Jehoshaphat, and Hezekiah, and among them were two who became kings when they were very young.
When Ahaziah, King of Judah, was killed, his mother, who was a wicked woman, killed all his sons, that she herself might be queen. All but a baby boy who was hidden with his nurse in the temple, and tenderly cared for by the good high priest and his wife for six years. Then when he was seven years old the priests and the Levites brought out little Joash and anointed him king. They formed a guard all about him, and when the high priest had crowned him there was a great cry around the temple of "God save the King."
The old queen heard this and came to see what it meant. When she saw the little Joash standing by a pillar with a crown on his head she cried out that the people were plotting against her.
The people did by her as she had done by her grandsons—they took her life.
Then there was great rejoicing. The house of Baal was torn down, and the Lord's gold and silver brought back to the temple, and the good high priest began the worship of God in the temple after the manner of former days.
When Joash was old enough to understand he longed to make the temple beautiful again, for it was falling into decay, so he called for money throughout his kingdom. Everyone was asked to drop a silver piece in the chest that was set at the temple door, and more than enough was brought to re-build the temple, and while the high priest lived the king worshipped there with all the princes of Judah, but as soon as he died they went back to idol worship, and killed the new high priest in the court of the temple because he told them that the Lord would bring great trouble upon them. And so it came to pass in less than a year the Syrians came and killed the princes, and took away the gold and silver treasures of the temple. Joash himself became very sick, and his own servants took his life as he lay helpless.
It was quite different with little Josiah. He was only eight years old when he was crowned King of Judah, and he had no one so good as the high priest Jehoida, who was the teacher of Joash, to help him to do right. Even the holy writings that were given to Moses were lost, and the people did not ask to hear them read. But the Lord had not allowed His word to be destroyed, and when Josiah was having the temple repaired the high priest found the rolls of parchment on which the law was written, and sent it to the king by a servant of the king who was a writer. Josiah was full of interest in the ancient book, and wished to know what was in it, and his servant read it to him.
When he found that he and his people were not living as God had commanded in the law, he sent to inquire of the Lord what He would have them to do, and they went to Huldah, the prophetess. She told the king's messengers that a great calamity would fall upon the kingdom because they had turned away from the true God, but because the king's heart was tender and full of desire to follow the Lord, it should not come during his lifetime.
Then the king called all the chief men of Judah, and the people of the city, both great and small, with the priests and the Levites, to the Lord's house, and there he read in their hearing the word of the Lord. It was like a new book to the most of them, but they were ready to follow the king in making a solemn promise to the Lord to do His commandments, and bring back the true worship.
So they had a great feast of the passover, to which all the people came with offerings, and there was no passover in all the history of the kings of Judah and Israel that was like this one that was held in the eighteenth year of the reign of Josiah.
After he had prepared the temple for worship, and had destroyed the altars of the idols, he went out to meet the King of Egypt in battle and was killed, and there was a great mourning for him in all the land, for he had been a good king—kind to his people and faithful to his God. Jeremiah the prophet made a great lamentation for him, for he knew that one of Josiah's sons would be the last king of Judah, and that for their sins the people would be driven out of their own land to be captives in Babylon for seventy years.
THE FOUR CAPTIVE CHILDREN.
Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, came with his armies and besieged Jerusalem, just as Jeremiah the prophet had foretold. He took the king and the princes of Judah captive, and carried away their precious things from the temple and the palaces into his own land, and put them in the temples of his gods. Before twenty years had passed the whole nation had been driven into captivity, and their holy house had been burned, and the ark of the covenant lost or destroyed. As the kingdom of Israel had also been scattered, the whole land lay desolate, and the walls of the cities were broken down.
When the King of Babylon first besieged Jerusalem he carried away the finest of the princely families to serve him. They were the flower of Jerusalem—young men of noble face and form; well taught in the learning of the Jews, and skilfull in the sciences of that time. They were also chosen for their natural ability to learn the language and the wisdom of the Chaldeans.