« FöregåendeFortsätt »
and subject to continual mutability! Happy are they who are in favour with him, in whom there is no shadow of change! Where men
are commonly most ambitious to please with their first employments, Amasa slackens his pace. The least delay, in matters of rebellion, is perilous, may be irrecoverable. The sons of Zeruiah are not sullen ; Abishai is sent, Joab goes unsent to the pursuit of Sheba. Amasa was in their way, whom no quarrel but their envy had made of a brother an enemy.
Had the heart of Amasa been privy to any cause of grudge, he had suspected the kiss of Joab; now his innocent eyes look to the lips, not to the hand of his secret enemy; the lips were smooth, “ Art thou in health, my brother?” The hand was bloody, which smote him under the fifth rib; that unhappy hand knew well this way unto death, which with one wound hath let out the souls of two great captains, Abner and Amasa ; both they were smitten by Joab, both under the fifth rib, both under a pretence of friendship. There is no enmity so dangerous, as that which comes masked with love. Open hostility calls us to our guard; but there is no fence against a trusted treachery. We need not be bidden to avoid an enemy; but who would run away from a friend ?
Thus spiritually deals the world with our souls ; it kisses us, and stabs us at once: if it did not embrace us with one hand, it could not murder us with the other : only, God, deliver us from the danger of our trust, and we shall be safe.
Joab is gone, and leaves Amasa wallowing in blood; that spectacle cannot but stay all passengers. The death of great persons draws ever many eyes:
“Is not this
my lord Amasa ?" Wherefore do we go to fight, while" our general lies in the dust? What a sad presage is this of our own miscarriage! The wit of Joab's followers hath therefore soon both removed Amasa out of the way, and co
each man says,
vered him, not regarding so much the loss, as the eyesore of Israel. Thus wicked politics care not so much for the commission of villainy, as for the notice. Smothered evils are as not done: if
oppressions, if murder, if treasons may be hid from view, the obdured heart of the offender complains not of remorse.
Bloody Joab, with what face, with what heart canst thou pursue a traitor to thy king, while thou thyself art so foul a traitor to thy friend, to thy cousin-german, and, in so unseasonable a slaughter, to thy sovereign, whose cause thou professest to revenge? If Amasa were now in an act of loyalty, justly on God's part, paid for the arrearages of his late rebellion, yet that it should be done by thy hand, then and thus, it was flagitiously cruel : yet, behold, Joab runs away securely with the fact, hasting to plague that, in another, whereof himself was no less guilty. So vast the
gorges of some consciences, that they can swallow the greatest crimes, and find no strain in the passage.
It is possible for a man to be faithful to some one person, and perfidious to all others. I do not find Joab other than firm and loyal to David, in the midst of all his private falsehoods, whose just quarrel he pursues against Sheba, through all the tribes of Israel. None of all the strong forts of revolted Israel can hide the rebel from the zeal of his revenge. The city of Abel lends harbour to that conspirator, whom all Israel would, and cannot protect. Joab casts up a mount against it, and having environed it with a siege, begins to work upon the wall; and now, after long chase, is in hand to dig out that vermin, which had earthed himself in this borough of Bethmaachah. Had not the city been strong and populous, Sheba had not cast himself for succour within those walls; yet, of all the inhabitants, I see not any one man move for the preservation of their whole body: only a woman undertakes to treat with
Joab for their safety. These men, whose spirits were great enough to maintain a traitor against a mighty king, scorn not to give way to the wisdom of a matron: there is no reason that sex should disparage, where the virtue and merit is no less than masculine. Surely the soul acknowledgeth no sex, neither is varied according to the outward frame. How oft have we known female hearts in the breasts of men, and contrarily manly powers in the weaker vessels! It is injurious to measure the act by the person, and not rather to esteem the person for the act.
She, with no less prudence than courage, challengeth Joab for the violence of his assault, and lays to him that law, which he could not be an Israelite and disavow : the law of the God of peace, whose charge it was, that, when they should come near to a city to fight against it, they should offer it peace; and if this tender must be made to foreigners, how much more to brethren! So as they must inquire of Abel ere they battered it. War is the extreme act of vindicative justice; neither doth God ever approve it for any other than a desperate remedy, and, if it have any other end than peace, it turns into public murder. It is therefore an inhuman cruelty to shed blood, where we have not proffered fair conditions of peace, the refusal whereof is justly punished with the sword of revenge.
Joab was a man of blood, yet, when the wise woman of Abel charged him with going about to destroy a mother in Israel, and swallowing up the inheritance of the Lord, with what vehemency doth he deprecate that challenge! “ God forbid, God forbid it me, that I should devour or destroy it." Although that city, with the rest, had engaged itself in Sheba's sedition, yet how zealously doth Joab remove from himself the suspicion of an intended vastation ! How fearful shall their answer be, who,
upon the quarrel of their own ambition, have not spared to waste whole tribes of the Israel of God! It was not the fashion of David's captains to assault any city ere they summoned it; here they did. There be some things that in the very fact, carry their own conviction; so did Abel in the entertaining, and abetting a known conspirator: Joab challenges them for the offence, and requires no other satisfaction than the head of Sheba. This matron had not deserved the name of wise and faithful in Israel, if she had not both apprehended the justice of the condition, and commended it to her citizens, whom she had easily persuaded to spare their own heads, in not sparing a traitor's. It had been pity those walls should have stood, if they had been too high to throw a traitor's head over.
Spiritually the case is ours; every man's breast is as a city enclosed; every sin is a traitor that lurks within those walls : God calls to us for Sheba's head; neither hath he any quarrel to our person, but for our sin. If we love the head of our traitor above the life of our soul, we shall justly perish in the venge
We cannot be more willing to part with our sin, than our merciful God is to withdraw his judgments.
Now is Joab returned with success, and hopes, by Sheba's head, to pay the price of Amasa's blood; David hates the murder, entertains the man, defers the revenge; Joab had made himself so great, so necessary, that David may neither miss nor punish him. Policy led the king to connive at that which his heart abhorred. I dare not commend that wisdom which holds the hands of princes from doing justice. Great men have ever held it a point of worldly state, not always to pay where they have been conscious to a debt of either favour or punishment; but to make time their servant for both. Solomon shall once defray the arrearages of his father. In the mean time Joab commands and prospers, and
David is fain to smile on that face, whereon he hath, in his secret destination, written the characters of death.
THE GIBEONITES REVENGED.
The reign of David was most troublesome towards the shutting up, wherein both war and famine conspire to afflict him; almost forty years had he sat in the throne of Israel with competency, if not abundance of all things; now at last are his people visited with a long dearth : we are not at first sensible of common evils. Three years' drought and scarcity are gone over, ere David consults with God, concerning the occasion of the judgment; now he found it high time to seek the face of the Lord. The continuance of an affliction sends us to God, and calls
upon us to ask for a reckoning; whereas, like men stricken in their sleep, a sudden blow cannot make us to find ourselves, but rather astonisheth than teacheth us.
David was himself a prophet of God, yet had not the Lord, all this while, acquainted him with the grounds of his proceedings against Israel; this secret was hid from him, till he consulted with the Urim; ordinary means shall reveal that to him, which no vision had descried; and if God will have prophets to have recourse unto the priests, for the notice of his will, how much more must the people ! Even those that are inwardest with God must have use of the ephod.
Justly it is presupposed by David that there was never judgment from God, where hath not been a provocation from men; therefore, when he sees the plague, he inquires for the sin. Never man smarted