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6 By 8the word of the Lord were the heavens made;
And all the host of them by the breath of his mouth. ? He gathereth the waters of the sea together as a heap:
He layeth up the depth in storehouses. 8 Let all the earth fear the LORD: Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of
him. 9 For he spake—and it was done;
He commanded and it stood fast. 10 The LORD 'bringeth the counsel of the heathen to
naught: He maketh the devices of the people of none effect. 11 The h counsel of the LORD standeth forever, The thoughts of his heart 'to all generations.
Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD; And the people whom he hath kchosen for his own
inheritance. 13 The LORD looketh from heaven,
He beholdeth all the sons of men. 14 From the place of his habitation
He looketh upon all the inhabitants of the earth. 15 He fashioneth their hearts alike;
He m considereth all their works. 16 There is no king saved by the multitude of a host:
A mighty man is not delivered by much strength. 17 A horse is a vain thing for safety; Neither shall he deliver any by his great strength. Behold, p the eye of the LORD is 9 upon them that
s See Gen. 1. 1, 6, 7.
Job. 0. 12. Isa. 19. 8. b Job. 23. 18. Prov. 19. 21.
Isa. 46. 10. ! Heb. to generation and gen
i Psa. 68. 4.
16. 9. Job 28. 24.
a Psa. 44. 6.
Job 36. 7. 9 Psa. 147. 11,
19 To deliver their soul from death,
And 'to keep them alive in famine. 20 Our soul waiteth for the LORD:
He is our help and our shield. 21 For our heart shall rejoice in him. Because we have trusted in his holy name.
O LORD, be upon us, According as we hope in thee.
22 Let thy mercy,
See Job 8. 20.
t Bee Gen. 18. 1.
INTRODUCTION TO PSALM LV.
PSALM OF DAVID.
The class of Psalms which follow next in the order of time, belongs to a period ever memorable in David's life, on account both of his anguish as a father and his dishonour as a king. The judgments of God are often slow in their progress, imperceptibly maturing with the lapse of years, till at last they fall, with unerring precision and a ripened vengeance, when, perhaps, the unsuspecting victim had vainly imagined he had outlived their reach. David had been solemnly forewarned, as a punishment for the death of Uriah, that “the sword should never depart from his house.” Of the certainty of the threatened judgment he indulged the most confident apprehensions; but in what form it would alight, or from whence it would arise, he had no intimation.
Two years had elapsed since the subjugation of the Ammonites, and no symptom of revolt or discontent appeared throughout his dominions. But it was not upon the political horizon that the first omen of evil was to appear. The danger was nearer home. The volcano was to burst forth in his own family, in the rupture of family bonds, the destruction of domestic happiness, and the infliction of family disgrace. The elements were already secretly kindling, and the admonished king stood upon the trembling verge of the opening crater.
The incest of Amnon was an act of atrocious criminality, stamping an ineffaceable dishonour upon the family; and when the insulted Tamar fled to her brother Absalom for protection and revenge, the king had every reason to apprehend, both from the well known temper of Absalom, and from the universal law of retaliation which then prevailed, as now, in Oriental countries, that, sooner or later, some further act of violence must follow. Two years later, and Absalom's plan is matured for revenging the unfortunate and beautiful Tamar. His prudent reserve, meantime, had entirely disarmed the imbecile Amnon of all suspicion, and abated somewhat the fears of the king, so that Absalom at last succeeds in obtaining permission to assemble all the members of the royal family for the ostensible purpose of a banquet, but really to secure an opportunity publicly to slay Amnon. The plot succeeds; Amnon is slain in the midst of the feast, and Absalom, to avoid vengeance and the further shedding of blood, fled to Geshur, on the borders of Syria, northeast of Palestine, and took refuge at the court of Talmai, king of Geshur, who was his maternal grandfather.
The death of Amnon overwhelmed the king with distress. The crime of fratricide had now been added, in his family, to that of incest, and he plainly saw that the work of judgment had commenced. Still, by the the law of goelism, which was of patriarchal origin and recognised by the law of Moses, the sin of wilful murder could not be fixed upon Absalom, and the question of a future reconciliation was not yet hopelessly excluded. Absalom was David's favourite son, and the one for whom he had reserved the honours of the succession ; but this daring act, covered by the most artful duplicity, had developed new features in the character of Absalom, and had thrown the king's mind into suspense as to his plans for the future occupancy of the throne. By the law of Moses, Amnon was justly doomed to death, (see Leviticns xx, 17,) and by the patriarchal law of retaliation, recognised by the law of Moses, Absalom might inflict that punishment. So far, therefore, as the criminality of the act was concerned, Absalom might be forgiven. But had Absalom no ulterior designs against the king's sons ? Had he no evil eye upon the throne itself? These were thoughts that rolled heavily through the mind of
the Hebrew monarch, and caused him to fear a reconciliation with the son of his pride and of his affections.
Three years thus elapsed, during which the jealousy of the king gradually yielded to the feelings of the father, till at length “ the soul of King David longed to go forth unto Absalom.” He had become satisfied that Absalom had procured the death of Amnon, not with the view to remove a competitor to the throne, but solely to avenge the dishonour of Tamar. Perceiving the favourable disposition of the king, Joab adroitly managed to obtain from him permission for Absalom's return, though he could not at that time obtain consent to a reconciliation. The exiled Absalom is accordingly recalled, and dwells two full years in Jerusalem without seeing the king's face. At last, however, by the influence of Joab, the father and son are brought together, the breach is repaired, and Absalom is once more restored to the family.
Absalom was a young prince of great personal beauty, artful and insinuating in his address, subtle in his policy, and bold in the execution of his schemes. To his many exterior graces, and a naturally acute and intrepid mind, he unhappily blended very corrupt moral principles. No sooner was he restored to favour, than he assumed the dignity of an Oriental prince, and “prepared him chariots and horses, and fifty men to run before him.” His public appearances, always thus formal, stately, and imposing, made their impression upon the popular mind; and by constantly surrounding his person with the forms and appendages of royalty, he invested his name, in the eyes of the awe-stricken multitude, with something of the reverence due to kings. At the same time he affected the most obliging condescension to the common people, saluting them with a kiss, which, among the Orientals, is seldom used except to peers; and inquiring especially into their cases of legal controversy, expressing his sorrow at the present inadequate provisions of government for the trial of ordinary cases of dispute, and the redress of common grievances, declaring, at the same time, that were he judge in the land, he would hear every man's cause, and would do him justice. These insinuations against the judicial system of David were heartless falsehoods. But selfishness is a powerful spring of action in our common nature, and there
was no surer way of ingratiating himself with the unreflecting multitude, than by thus affecting sympathy in their petty litigations, and bribing their prejudices by the empty largesses of flattery. This conduct of Absalom appeared the more gracious in the eyes of the people, as it contrasted so strikingly with the studied pomp of his public appearances. It was thus that “ Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel."
About eight years had elapsed since Absalom's reconciliation with his father, and his plan of rebellion is now matured. Hebron was the city selected in which to erect the standard of treason. It was well chosen. It was a strong city, about twenty miles south of Jerusalem, inhabited then, as at the present day, by bold and restless spirits, who were probably disaffected toward David for removing the seat of government from that place to Jerusalem. Absalom had carefully stationed spies and trumpeters, at proper distances from each other, throughout all the tribes. The trumpeters were stationed within hearing of each other, and were to constitute a sort of telegraphic line, so that by means of their loud and successive blasts, the news of affairs at Hebron might be rapidly propagated through the land. The trumpet was the signal, and at the sounding of it the proclamation was to be made, “ Absalom reigneth in Hebron !” Thus almost instantaneously the nation would be electrified, disconcerted, and awed by the bold and astounding tocsin of insurrection. Ahithophel, David's chief counsellor, and holding more influence over all classes, as a statesman, than any other man in Israel, was engaged in the conspiracy. To cover his departure from Jerusalem from all suspicion, the young prince, with consummate hypocrisy and falsehoods, obtains permission of the king to visit Hebron, under pretence of performing a religious vow, which he made while he remained in Geshur. Two hundred young men, warriors, attached to his person but ignorant of his design, follow him. The conspirators hasten from all parts to assemble at Hebron. Ahithophel arrives from Giloh. A numerous force is collected, and Absalom now throws off the mask.
At this juncture David is informed by a messenger that Absalom has revolted, that the disaffection of the people is general, and that the insurgent prince is now actually marching an army against Jerusalem. Alarmed at these appalling