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1 Samuel xxv.

2 And there was a man in Maon, whose possessions were in Carmel; and the man was very great, and he had three thousand sheep, and a thousand goats: and he was shearing his sheep in Carmel.

3 Now the name of the man was Nabal, and the name of his wife Abigail; and she was a woman of good understanding, and of a beautiful countenance: but the man was churlish and evil in his doings.

4 And David heard in the wilderness that Nabal did shear his sheep.

5 And David sent out ten young men, and David said unto the young men, Get you up to Carmel, and go to Nabal, and greet him in my name:

6 And thus shall ye say to him that liveth in prosperity, Peace be both to thee, and peace be to thine house, and peace be unto all that thou hast.

8 . . . Give, I pray thee, whatsover cometh to thine hand unto thy servants.

10 And Nabal said, Who is David? and -who is the son of Jesse?

11 Shall I then take my bread, and my water, and my flesh that I have killed for my shearers, and give unto men, whom I know not whence they be?

12 So David's young men came and told him all these sayings.

13 And David said unto his men, Gird ye on every man his sword; and David also girded on his sword: and there went up after David about four hundred men; and two hundred abode by the stuff.

14 But one of the young men told Abigail, Nabal's wife, saying, Behold, David sent messengers out of the wilderness to salute our master; and he railed on them.

18 Then Abigail made haste, and took two hundred loaves, and two bottles of wine, and five sheep ready dressed, and five measures of parched corn, and a hundred clusters of raisins, and two hundred cases of figs, and laid them on asses.

23 And when Abigail saw David, she hasted, and lighted off the ass, and fell before David on her face, and bowed herself to the ground.

25 Let not my lord, I pray thee, regard this man of Belial, even Nabal: for as his name is, so is he; Nabal is his name, and folly is with him: but I thine handmaid saw not the young men of my lord, whom thou didst send.

32 And David said to Abigail, Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, which sent thee this day to meet me:

35 So David received of her hand that which she had brought him, and said unto her, Go up in peace to thine house;

38 And it came to pass about ten days after, that the Lord smote Nabal, that he died.

39 . . . And David sent and communed with Abigail, to take her to him to wife.

41 And Abigail hasted, and arose, and rode upon an ass, with five damsels of hers that went after her; and she went after the messengers of David, and became his wife.

THE chief business of the women in the reigns of Kings Saul and David seems to have been to rescue men from the craft and the greed of each other. The whole interest in this story of Nabal centres in the tact of Abigail in saving their lives and possessions from threatened destruction, owing to the folly and the ignorance of her husband. His name, Nabal, signifying folly, describes his character.

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It is a wonder that his parents should have given to him such a name, and a greater wonder that Abigail should have married him. He inherited Caleb's estate; but he was far from inheriting his virtues. His wealth was great; but he was a selfish, snarling cynic. Abigail's name signifies "the joy of her father;" but he could not have promised himself much joy in her, caring more for the wealth than for the wisdom of her husband. Many a child is thus thrown away-married to worldly wealth and to nothing else which is desirable. Wisdom is good with an inheritance; but an inheritance without wisdom is good for nothing. Many an Abigail is tied to a Nabal; but even if they have her understanding they will find it hard enough to fill such a relation.

David and his men were returning from Samuel's funeral through the wilderness of Paran and were in sore need of provisions, and knowing that Nabal had immense wealth, and, moreover, that it was the season for sheep shearing, David thought that he would be happy to place the king under obligations to him, and was surprised to find him so disloyal. Abigail, however, appreciated the situation, and by her courtesy and her generosity made amends for the rudeness of her husband. She did not stop to parley with him, but hastened to meet the king with the needed provisions. She wasted no words of excuse for Nabal, but spoke of him with marked contempt. Her conduct would have shocked the Apostle who laid such stress on the motto, "Wives, obey your husbands." "What little reason we have to value the wealth of this world," says the historian, "when such a churl as Nabal abounds in plenty, while such a saint as David suffers want."

David sent to him most gracious messages; but he replied in his usual gruff manner, "Who is David, that I should share with him my riches? What care I for the son of Jesse?" The servant did not return to Nabal with David's outburst of wrath nor his resolution of vengeance; but he told all to Abigail, who made haste to avert the threatened danger. She did what she saw was to be done, quickly. Wisdom in such a case was better than weapons of war.

Nabal begrudged the king and his retinue water; but Abigail gave them two casks of wine and all sorts of provisions in abundance. {p. 53} She met David on the march big with resentment, meditating the destruction of Nabal. But Abigail by her humility completely disarmed the king. With great respect and complaisance she urges him to lay all of the blame on her; and to attribute Nabal's faults to his want of wit, born simple, not spiteful. Abigail puts herself in the attitude of a humble petitioner.

David received all that Abigail brought him with many thanks. It is evident from the text that she gave to him many of the delicacies from her larder. Ten days after this Nabal died. David immediately sent messengers to Abigail asking her to be his wife. She readily accepted, as David had made a deep impression on her heart. So, with her five damsels, all mounted on white jackasses, she accompanied the messengers to the king and became his wife.

The Hebrew mythology does not gild the season of courtship and marriage with much sentiment or romance. The transfer of a camel or a donkey from one owner to another, no doubt, was often marked with more consideration than that of a daughter. One loves a faithful animal long in our possession and manifests more grief in parting than did these Hebrew fathers in giving away their daughters, or than the daughters did in leaving their family, their home or their country.

We have no beautiful pictures of lovers sitting in shady groves, exchanging their tributes of love and of friendship, their hopes and fears of the future; no temples of knowledge where philosophers and learned matrons discussed great questions of human destiny, such as Greek mythology gives to us; Socrates and Plato, learning wisdom at the feet of the Diametias of their times, give to us a glimpse of a more exalted type of womanhood than any which the sacred fabulists have vouchsafed thus far.

2 Samuel iii.

2 And unto David were sons born 'n Hebron: and his firstborn was Amnon, of Ahinoam the Jezreelitess:

3 And his second, Chileab, of Abigail the wife of Nabal the Carmelite; and the third, Absalom the son of Maacah the daughter of Talmai king of Geshur:

4 And the fourth, Adonijah the son of Haggith; and the fifth, Shephatiah the son of Abital;

5 And the sixth, Ithream, by Eglah David's wife. These were born to David in Hebron.

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The last is called David's wife, his only rightful wife, Michal. It was a fault in David, say the commentators, thus to multiply wives contrary to Jewish law. It was a bad example to his successors. Men who make the laws should not be the first to disobey them. None of his sons was famous, but three were infamous, due in part to their father's nature and example.

14 And David danced before the Lord with all his might; and David was girded with a linen ephod.

15 So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouting, and with the sound of the trumpet.

16 And as the ark of the Lord came into the city of David, Michal Saul's daughter looked through a window, and saw king David leaping and dancing before the Lord; and she despised him in her heart.

20 Then David returned to bless his household. And Michal the daughter of Saul came out to meet David, and said, How glorious was the king of Israel to-day, who uncovered himself in the eyes of his servants, as one of the vain fellows.

21 And David said unto Michal, It was before the Lord, which chose me before thy father.

Michal, like Abigail, does not seem to have been overburdened with conjugal respect. She was so impatient to let the king know how he appeared in her sight that she could not wait at home, but went out to meet him. She even questions the wisdom of such a parade over the ark, and tells the king that it would have been better to leave it where it had been hidden for years.

Neither Michal nor Abigail seem to have made idols of their husbands; they did not even consult them as to what they should think, say or do. They furnish a good example to wives to use their own judgment and to keep their own secrets, not make the family altar a constant confessional.

2 Samuel xi.

2 And it came to pass in an eveningtide, that David arose from off his bed, and walked upon the roof of the king's house, and saw a woman washing herself; and the woman was very beautiful to look upon.

3 And David sent and inquired after her. And one said, Is not this Bath-she-ba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?

4 And David sent messengers, and took her; and she came in unto him.

6 And David sent to Joab, saying, Send me Uriah the Hittite. And Joab sent Uriah to David.

7 And when Uriah was come unto him, David demanded of him how Joab did, and how the people did, and how the war prospered.

9 And Uriah slept at the door of the king's house with all the servants of his lord, and went not down to his house.

14 And it came to pass in the morning, that David wrote a letter to Joab, and sent it by the hand of Uriah.

15 And he wrote in the letter saying, Set ye Uriah in the forefront of the hottest battle, and retire ye from him, that he may be smitten, and die.

16 And it came to pass, when Joab observed

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the city, that he assigned Uriah unto a place where he knew that valiant men were.

26 And the men of the city went out, and fought with Joab: and there fell some of the people of the servants of David; and Uriah the Hittite died also.

16 And when the wife of Uriah heard that her husband was dead, she mourned for her husband.

27 And when the mourning was past, David sent and fetched her to his house, and she became his wife, and bare him a son. But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord.

This book contains but little in regard to women. What is worthy of mention in the story of Bath-sheba is finished in the following book. David's first vision of her is such a reflection on his honor that, from respect to the "man after the Lord's own heart," we pass it in silence.

David's social ethics were not quite up to the standard even of his own times. It is said that he was a master of his pen as well as of his sword. His poem on the death of Saul and Jonathan has been much praised by literary critics. But, alas! David was not able to hold the Divine heights which he occasionally attained. As in the case of Bath-sheba, he remained where he could see her; instead of going with his army to Jerusalem to attend to his duties as King of Israel and general of the army, he delegated them to others. Had he been at his post he would have been out of the way of temptation. He used to pray three times a day, not only at morning and evening, but at noon also. It is to be feared than on this day he forgot his devotions and thought only of Bath-sheba.

Uriah, the husband of Bath-sheba, was one of David's soldiers, a man of strict honor and virtue. To get rid of him for a season, David sent him with a message to one of the officers at Jerusalem, telling him that in the next battle to place Uriah in the front rank that he might distinguish himself. Uriah was a poor man and tenderly loved his wife. He little knew the fatal contents of the letter which he carried. When Joab received the letter, he took it for granted that he was guilty of some crime and that the king wished him to be punished. So Joab obeyed the king and Uriah was killed. In due time all this was known, and filled the people with astonishment and greatly displeased the Lord.

It is to be hoped that he did not commune with God during this period of humiliation or pen any psalms of praise for His goodness

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and mercy. He married Bath-sheba, and she bore him a son and called his name Solomon. But this did not atone for his sin. "His heart was sad, his soul," says a commentator, "was like a tree in winter which has life in the root only."

2 Samuel xii.

And the Lord sent Nathan unto David. And he came unto him, and said unto him: There were two men in one city; the one rich, and the other poor.

2 The rich man had exceeding many flocks and herds;

3 But the poor man had nothing, save one little ewe lamb, which he had bought and nourished: and it grew up together with him, and with his children: it did eat of his own meat, and drank of his own cup, and lay in his bosom, and was unto him as a daughter.

4 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, but took the poor man's lamb and dressed it.

5 And David's anger was greatly kindled against the man; and he said to Nathan, As the Lord liveth, the man that hath done this thing shall surely die:

6 And he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing.

7 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;

9 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.

10 Now therefore the sword shall never depart from thine house; because thou hast despised me, and hast taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be thy wife.

And the Lord said unto Nathan the Prophet, David's faithful friend, "Go thou and instruct and counsel him." Nathan judiciously gives his advice in the form of a parable, on which David gives his judgment as to the sin of the chief actor and denounces him in unmeasured terms, and says that he should be punished with death--"he shall surely die." David did not suspect the bearing of the fable until Nathan applied it, and, to David's surprise and consternation, said, "Thou art the man."

Uriah the Hittite had but "one little ewe lamb," one wife whom he loved as his own soul, while King David had many; yet he robbed Uriah of all that he had and made him carry his own message of death to Joab, the general of the army, who gave to him the most dangerous place in the battle, and, as the king desired, he was killed.

When the king first recalled Uriah from the field, Uriah went not to his own house, as he suspected foul play, having heard that Bath-sheba often appeared at court. Both the king and Bath-sheba urged him to go to his own house; but he went not. Bath-sheba had been to him all that was pure and beautiful in woman, and he could not

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endure even the suspicion of guilt in her. He understood the king's plans, and probably welcomed death, as without Bath-sheba's love, life had no joy for him. But to be transferred from the cottage of a poor soldier to the palace of a king was a sufficient compensation for the loss of the love of a true and faithful man.

This was one of the most cruel deeds of David's life, marked with so many acts of weakness and of crime. He was ruled entirely by his passions. Reason had no sway over him. Fortunately, the development of self-respect and independence in woman, and a higher idea of individual conscience and judgment in religion and in government, have supplied the needed restraint for man. Men will be wise and virtuous just in proportion as women are self-reliant and able to meet them on the highest planes of thought and of action.

No magnet is so powerful as that which draws men and women to each other. Hence they rise or fall together. This is one lesson which the Bible illustrates over and over--the degradation of woman degrades man also. "Her face pleaseth me," said Samson, who, although he could conquer lions, was like putty in the hands of women.

E. C. S.

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