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daughter. And there came a traveller unto the rich man, and he spared to take of his own flock and of his own herd, to dress for the wayfaring man that was come unto him ; but took the man's lamb, and dressed it for the man that was come to him."
David thought that Nathan was asking for a royal decree in the matter, and, full of indignation, he exclaimed, “ As the Lord liveth, 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.”
And Nathan said to David, “ Thou art the man. Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, I anointed thee king over Israel, and I delivered thee out of the hand of Saul. Wherefore hast thou despised the commandment of the Lord, to do evil in his sight? Thou hast killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and hast taken his wife to be thy wife, and hast slain him with the sword of the children of Ammon.”
David became sensible of his sin; his conscience awoke, and he penitently confessed, “ I have sinned against the Lord.” Nathan declared to him that the Lord had forgiven his sin, but, at the same time, that the consequences of it should be visited upon himself and his family. “ Behold,” said he in the name of the Lord, “I will raise up evil against thee out of thine own house. Thou shalt not die. Howbeit, because by this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme, the child also that is born unto thee shall surely die.”a
“ Have mercy
It must be a severe stroke to a father, to be told that, as a punishment for his unbridled passion, a little child must die. For seven days David lay upon the earth fasting and weeping, and beseeching the Lord for the child's life. At this time he composed one of those penitential psalms which now stand in the Bible, for the consolation of every broken-hearted sinner : upon me, O God, according to thy loving-kindness ; according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.
For I acknowledge my trangressions; and my sin is ever before me. Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight. Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.”b
But, when the child was dead, he arose from the earth, and washed and anointed himself, and changed his apparel, and came into the house of the Lord with the voice of praise and thanksgiving. “Bless the Lord, O my soul ; and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases; who redeemeth thy life from destruction ; who crowneth thee with loving kindness and tender mercies. As for man, his days are as grass ; as the flower of the field, so he flourisheth. For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone; and the place thereof shall know it no more.
But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children's children ; to such as keep his covenant, and to those that remember his commandments to do them.”c How many thousands of parents, when mourning over the loss of their children, have comforted themselves with this psalm of David's !
b Psalm li. 1-10.
41. The death of his infant child was only the beginning of David's sorrows. Worse things followed. Absalom, one of David's sons, had murdered his brother Amnon. David made Absalom severely feel his displeasure ; upon which he formed a design to drive his father from the throne. The plan was very artfully devised. Alithophel, one
of David's chief counsellors, attached himself to Absalom, and many of the people were for him. The beauty of his person, surpassing that of any in all Israel, had already prepossessed many in his favour; but still more did he by artful conduct steal away the hearts of the people.
Suddenly one day there came a report to Jerusalem : “ Åbsalom has been proclaimed king at Hebron.” At this the heart of David, formerly so courageous, gave way. “Arise, and let us flee,” he cried ; “ for we shall not else escape from Absalom.” The king went over the brook Kedron, and he went up the ascent of Mount Olivet, and wept as he went up, and had his head covered ; and he went barefoot, and all the people that were with him covered every man his head. And they went up, weeping as they went. A relation of Saul's, named Shimei, cast stones at him as he went, and cursed him. And A bishai, the son of Zeruiah, wished to go and take off his head. But David said, “Let him curse, because the Lord hath said unto him, Curse David. Who shall then say, Wherefore hast thou done so ?” David went to the stronghold of Mahanaim.
Absalom took possession of the king's throne at Jerusalem, and felt so secure, that he thought he had only to command the thousands of Israel to deliver up his father, dead or alive. But the faithful in the land soon assembled around David ; and when they came to battle, Joab was able to go against the rebellious son with a strong army. They would not allow the aged king to go out with them; for, said they, “ Thou art worth ten thousand of us : therefore now it is better that thou succour us out of the city.” As they went out,
David commanded the captains publicly : “Deal gently, for my sake, with the young man, even with Absalom."
The rebels army was completely defeated. Absalom himself, in his flight, was caught by his beautiful hair, which was remarkably long, in the branches of an oak; and there he was left hanging, and the mule that was under him went away. One of the soldiers who saw him hanging, told the chief captain.
Why didst thou not smite him to the ground ?” said Joab. “I would have given thee ten shekels of silver, and a girdle.”
• Though I should receive a thousand shekels of silver in mine hand,” said the other,
yet would I not put forth my hand against the king's son: for in our hearing the king charged thee, saying, Beware that none touch the
Absalom.” “ I may not tarry with thee,” replied Joab. And he took three darts, and thrust them through the heart of Absalom, while he was yet alive in the midst of the oak.
The news of the victory gave at first no joy to the king, because his son was dead. He wept, and cried out again and again, “ O Absalom, my son, my son! would God I had died for thee !” a But in Jerusalem, and all Israel, every thing was changed as soon as the news of the victory arrived. With great joy the men of Judah came to lead David back in triumph. Even Shimei also came bowing, and asking forgiveness. Surrounded by joyful companions, David returned again to Jerusalem. And Israel remained one mighty kingdom so long as David lived.
a 2 Sam. xviii.