The Books of the Kings.

F. W. Grant.

Division 6. (2 Sam. 21:15 — 24.)


The book is not suffered to close in mere distress. Even the present evil is not without its good: for God is good, and Master in every scene and circumstance. This is the closing lesson here: the number of this division is that of mastery, of overcoming; and not only is it God who overcomes, but man also, wherever taught of Him. Faith is the spirit of the overcomer; it is the assurance of victory: "this is the victory that overcometh the world, even your faith." In the midst of difficulties and trials such as sin has occasioned, faith finds its exercise and opportunity; as Adullam showed itself in David's time the training-school of heroes. Here let us notice, however, that, as soon as we come once more to the bright side of the history, the typical meaning is that which alone gives it illumination. How much interest is there for us in these conquerors of giants and troops of aliens, except as we read in them the spiritual lessons which everywhere make Scripture what it is? This is the value and glory of the allegorizing method of interpretation, which Scripture itself insists upon and illustrates so fully. Let those who make little of it show us how else the same results "for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness," can be attained.

1. The first series of overcomings here is of the seed of Rapha or the giant, the kindred of Goliath of Gath, met and overcome, as he was, in the wars with the Philistines. The notion of a giant in Scripture is always connected with evil, the lifting up of man against God, the symbol of pride and self-sufficiency, as well as of oppressive power. He is the opposite of the little and the lowly, the humble in heart, with whom God delights to dwell; but thus may stand for the tyranny of a lust, as in the case of Og, or of a Satanic delusion, as with Goliath himself. In those before us we must see, what we have seen in their kinsman, the monstrous delusions which abide in a system of error such as Philistinism depicts, the ecclesiastical "mystery of lawlessness" of Christian times.

(1) Of these Ishbibenob may well represent the grand pretension, foundationand support of every other error. The name means, according to the lexicons, "his seat (or dwelling) is at Nob," while Nob is generally given as "hill," from nabah, "to be prominent," not used in scriptural Hebrew. But there is another nabah, which is in frequent use, and from which nabi, "prophet," is derived: so that Nob may be more probably rendered "prophecy"; a not unsuitable name for the priestly town which Saul desolated, where the high priest had lived, and from which, therefore, divine oracles were given.

When we find, therefore, in the Thyatiran assembly, which those skilled in Apocalyptic interpretation do not doubt to foreshadow the Romish church, "the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess" and realize how much is based for Romanism on the claim of divine inspiration for the church, we need not wonder that Ishbibenob should be the first Philistine giant for faith to overcome. And here it is intelligible why Abishai the son of Zeruiah should have to succor David and slay the giant. Abishai is the "source of gift," which is Christ risen, but thus the fruit of the cross (of which Zeruiah speaks), but which, more than anything in Christianity perhaps, the church of Rome sets aside and dishonors by constantly repeated offerings which make it vain. "For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true," — into which Rome's masses would keep Him continually entering, — "but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; NOR YET THAT HE SHOULD OFFER HIMSELF OFTEN, . . . for then must He often have suffered since the foundation of the world," — which yet they agree He has not; "but now ONCE in the end of the world hath He appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself." (Heb. 9:24-26.)

No offering without suffering, then; one offering once offered putting sin away; a Christ gone into heaven, not entering into holy places made with hands; and He "the father of gift" to His ransomed Church! Whereas in Rome none of these things are found, — Rome that would force Him to multiply His work on countless altars, put Him into the foul hands of worthless priests to answer to their wills, and as the sure result deny to His people all true knowledge of forgiveness, and, instead of "gift," sell them their meager pittances of church absolution, unavailing to keep them from paying in purgatory at last "the uttermost farthing."

No wonder that when Abishai comes to help in the strife, Ishbibenob's "new" sword should be unavailing! New-forged it is, for all the antiquity of which it boasts, and not "the sword of the Spirit, which is the saying of God." This sword it cannot and dare not handle.

(2) Saph, as in common use in Hebrew, denotes "basin," or "door, threshold," and this (I suppose) is commonly accepted as the meaning of the second giant's name. Young, however, gives "preserver"; while Simonis, collating with the Ethiopic, translates "extended, long, tall." If its derivation be from saphah, however, a meaning emerges so entirely in agreement with the connection here that we cannot hesitate to prefer it. Saphah has two meanings, opposed to one another, and yet in perfect spiritual harmony: it means either "to add," or "to take away." Saph may in this way stand for "addition," or "subtraction."

Now, in the case of Ishbibenob, we have had before us the false claim of modem Philistinism to the inspiration of the prophet, — to be the infallible oracle of God; and we should naturally expect in his brother giant to find some related pretension. Certainly, then, nothing is more nearly related to the claim of infallibilty than that of "adding" from time to time to the authoritative standard of Christian truth. Thus the apocryphal books were added to the canonical; tradition was added to Scripture; and doctrines many have been successively added to the creed of Rome, as the centuries have moved on. Saph is thus clearly another Philistine giant in close affinity with Ishbibenob. That these "additions" are real "subtractions" from the authority of Scripture, no one instructed in the Word can doubt. They are used to subvert some of its plainest teachings, as well as to take it out of the hands generally of the adherents of Rome. The numerical structure, again, is in perfect agreement with this meaning, as is plain: the number two is at once the number of addition and contradiction.

The slayer of the giant is more difficult to interpret; but "entanglement from Jah" seems to be the most satisfactory meaning of Sibbechai, and which would not be unsuited in application here: for this contradiction Of what is added to what they are made to supplement is indeed an entanglement from which the Romanist cannot escape. His "universal consent of the Church" cannot be found. "Fathers" contradict "fathers"; councils are against councils; pope against pope. It is only by bridling the witnesses that any evidence in favor of consent can be made to appear. Sibbechai is thus fairly the overcomer of Saph, and the type so read has consistency of meaning.

(3) In the case of the third giant the text of Chronicles is against that of Samuel, which seems to be an alteration from the other. In Samuel "Jaareoregim," which means "forests of the weavers," does not seem like the name of a man; while in Chronicles Elhanan is called the "son of fair," and the "oregim" ("weavers") may have crept in from the after-part of the sentence. It is possible, of course, that there may have been another Goliath the Gittite beside the one slain by David, but not very likely that Elhanan should have slain both him and (as in Chronicles) his brother also, and that these two exploits should be told separately, one in each book; while Beth-halahmi, "the Bethlehemite," in the one, comes suggestively near to "eth Lahmi" — Lahmi, in the objective case — in the other passage. Altogether, Chronicles would seem to give the correct text, though the Septuagint maintains both. A measure of uncertainty seems thus to be thrown over either reading, while some critics still hold to Samuel in preference to the other.

The numerical structure unites, however, here with the spiritual meaning to approve that text of Chronicles, which on other grounds and by the most satisfactory criticism is accepted as the true one. We must remember, as our guide in interpretation, that we are still in the line of the Philistine giant here. In this case Lahmi, which means "my bread," and under the number of sanctification, — consecrated bread, brings before us another of the gigantic errors of the Roman Babylon, and makes, with all that we have had before of these Philistine types, the picture well-nigh complete. A very small thing in itself may seem the matter of consecrated bread, but who knows not how largely it bulks in Rome's idolatrous system? Her consecrated bread becomes; by that very fact, as she blasphemously asserts, the very flesh and blood, soul and divinity of Christ Himself; and upon every altar every priest of hers, with a grossness that is perhaps nowhere else equaled, makes and then eats the god he worships!

The special notice of relationship here may at first sight not be intelligible. Why should Lahmi be pointed out as the "brother of Goliath the Gittite," rather than Saph or Ishbibenob, who seem alike to have been his brethren? Remembering what Goliath stands for, the awful distance from God which is the fruit of unappeased wrath against sin, the magical results of consecration of the bread, however insane and evil in their nature, may seem little akin to this. In fact, it will be found that they are specially near akin. No part of Romanism more than this enables the Church to shadow the consciences of its devotees with awe and mystery, and subject mind and heart to a tyranny which knows no compassion, and whose penal sanctions are gathered from time and eternity alike.

Hence the destroyer of Lahmi is Elhanan, "God hath shown grace," and he the son of Jair, who "awakens." These two things, a soul awake and established in the grace of God, give deliverance from the visions and the terrors of darkness. It only needs courage to approach such spectres, and they vanish.

(4) The fourth giant has no name, but is distinguished by his form. The numeral (4) would indicate that we come now to practical walk, and a nearer view confirms this. The hands speak of work; the feet of walk: in both respects there is something supernumerary, like a sixth finger or a sixth toe, and this is eminently characteristic of Romish piety*; the "religious" life is something more than needful, and not super- but unnatural. It has not victory over the world, but flees it. It calls marriage a sacrament, but refuses it as a profanation; while another "sacrament" — penance — is only obtainable through sin! The number 5 is that of the feeble creature (4) with the almighty Creator (1), and of this the hands and feet, in their normal condition, bear witness; but this Romish 6, the number of Antichrist, destroys this relation: the creature walks not with his Creator, but subject to every kind of human and invented rule; and conscience is not before God but man. Thus again the destroyer of this perversion of nature is that which brings in God and His unrepented-of goodness to His creatures, — Jonathan, "Jehovah" — the Unchangeable — "has given"; and he the son of Shimea, "hearkening," — obedience to God alone. Here the series of giants and their overcomers alike is ended.

{*"Ad majorem Dei gloriam, — "for the greater glory of God," — the motto of the Jesuits, would illustrate this. — (S.R.)}

2. We have now David's song of the deliverance to come, to which his "last words" are a necessary sequel. The first is, with but slight differences here and there, identical with the eighteenth psalm, and has, of course, the character of the psalms, in which prophecy is, as generally in the historic books also, typical, not formal, not announced as such, but is developed by the Spirit of God out of experiences in the soul and in the practical life, which are used as men use earth-distances to measure the heavens. In this, therefore, the identity between type and antitype is used and drawn out, while in the "last words" we have the contrast between these: they are distinguished from one another. We know well that both these things are needed throughout such histories, and require careful adjustment. The one encourages us by present realization of the blessing to come; the other prevents unfounded expectations from this, and carries us on in patience of hope to the divine fulfillment.

(1) The character of the psalm already spoken of accounts for a necessary dimness of outline when applied simply to David and the circumstances of his life and reign. These seem often exaggerated, and so far falsified, and the language used is often brought forward to disprove the Davidic reference, or else is ascribed to mere oriental hyperbolism. In this way the word of God is dishonored doubly, and a principle established by which all prophecy is degraded by mean and trivial interpretations, which are justified by the plea of eastern conceptions and manners of thought. It is plain that the question comes to be whether Scripture is the word of Him that cannot lie, or the very fallible word of men who had not even learned the soberness of nineteenth century thought and diction. No true faith will hesitate for a moment in its answer to this.

We propose a fuller examination of the psalm when, the Lord willing, we come to it in the book of Psalms. It will be sufficient here, therefore, to indicate its general meaning. There are seven sections, beginning and ending with the praise of God as the rock of faith and the great Deliverer of His people. Between these two we have the sufferings and deliverance of David from His enemies idealized and enlarged so as to speak of the Great Sufferer and the deliverance in which we rejoice all, and forever shall rejoice, culminating in the rule of an absolutely righteous King over both Israel and the Gentiles: One whom in this character David will presently assure us he too little resembles. To this rule we yet look forward and not backward: it is, thank God, — though David's may be the shadow of it, — not a memory of the past but a vision of the future.

 (a) Like the song of Moses, the song of David begins and ends with God. Every true song must. "Of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things"; and there can be no true joy which does not recognize the truth of this. In the flux and reflux of things here, God is alone what His name Jehovah recognizes, the One abiding. If the permanency of natural laws alone saves us from confusion of mind and uncertainty as to all our actions, the abiding confidence and security of faith are that God is a rock. The deliverances of one's life are but the freshly emphasized assurances of this: the refuge remains to us while the storm still rages; the Voice that calms it says to our importunate cry, "O ye of little faith, wherefore did ye doubt?"

(b) In the second part David, hunted by Saul, is only the foreground of a darker picture in which Messiah may be discerned in Gethsemane and on the cross. With David the deliverance was from death, for the Lord out of death; and such a death as for a righteous man had not a likeness. Here the indefiniteness of details helps the fuller application.

(c) But, in the third section, and with the resurrection of Christ before us, we find it still more impossible to stop short of Christ. The banded powers of earth and hell were there scattered the quaking ground and the rent graves bore witness to the intervention of God. There is nothing in this description which cannot be, without strain, applied to the true David, the Beloved, who could indeed say, He delivered me because He delighted in me."

(d) In the fourth section, under the number of testing and practical walk, we have the reason for God's intervention, and the justification of His delight. And here the clear and emphasized declaration of righteousness suits, in fact, only One. He alone could say of God, "I do always the things that please Him"; and this is, above all else, what is needed for the King that God approves, and the world needs. Spite of what might be the general character of David's reign, we know well that he could not pretend to this. Here, again, David was but the shadow, and not the perfect image of the true.

(e) Now we have the execution of judgment, and the putting of enemies under His feet, and thus from the resurrection go on to the appearing of Christ. We have but to look at the book of Revelation to see how the Lamb will be the warrior; and this is in accord with Isaiah and the prophets generally. Not only is the Lion of the tribe of Judah the Lamb slain, but the Lamb slain is no less the Lion. We think this in opposition, perhaps, to the character of Christ, while yet we recognize that all judgment is given to Him because He is the Son of man. Judgment is what the world needs and must have. Those that destroy the earth must be destroyed. Love can strike in behalf of the loved. And here again the judgment goes beyond the type in David, to reach the Antitype.

(f) Finally here we have One delivered from the strivings of "My people" (Israel), and becoming the Head of the nations. Power is there before which all must bow, even strangers in heart, who finally are exposed and doomed: "Strangers fade away, and are afraid out of their close places." It is to be remembered that the spirit here is Davidic and not Solomonic, — righteous rule putting down evil, rather than the peace that follows it. As a consequence

(g) The seventh section is rather indicated than outlined. The continuance of blessing is "to David and his seed for evermore," — the maintenance of the throne in the hands to which it has been trusted. Safe and blessed hands we know these are, and rest to the heart it is to recognize them: but we read this into the picture from elsewhere; we must go elsewhere to find it.

(2) David's last words, as already said, show us what the song does not, the contrast between type and antitype; and there is correspondingly much greater brightness. It is when David becomes simply a Voice like the Baptist, to speak of Another, that all the sweetness and melody and divine character of this voice is found. David reminds us here of his own lowly origin, and of the grace that raised him up. He is the anointed of the God of Jacob, the One whose glory it is to bring out of the poorest material a vessel for His praise. As the anointed thus, he is rather Israel's "sweet psalmist" than her king. And so assuredly our hearts deem of him: what is the king in comparison with the psalmist? And no wonder: for here David is but the channel through which God's own living water has flowed to the lips of the thirsty ever since: "The Spirit of Jehovah spake in me; and His word was on my tongue."

Sweeter now therefore than the former utterance, though it may be the same theme still, is this of a "righteous Ruler over men, a ruler in the fear of God!" It is now not even simply the Spirit of God speaking through the experiences and in the faith of a divinely constituted instrument, but a direct revelation: "the Rock of Israel spake to me." Upon that divine revelation David himself rests in faith amid all within and around that may seem adverse to it.

Yet the vision is abrupt, enigmatical; not in itself, indeed, but in its application. This it receives from the lips of the dying king, with the sunset radiance in his eyes. As the world darkens heaven brightens: can he mistake whence the darkness, whence the brightness, is? We shall hear presently his testimony.
"A righteous ruler over man!
A ruler in the fear of God!"

The second thing is here the first foundation of character, as is plain: the only morality worth calling that is the fruit of godliness; the creature place truly kept, the right relation of a soul with its Creator insures all other relations to be right.

When we consider WHO it is that will fulfill this, we may well be amazed. The Word made flesh, a Divine Being in this creature place to teach us the goodness of it: not simply on the throne, but filling the lowliest places on the road to this, which is the reward of absolute perfection in all these; proved Master of Himself, and so fit to be, as none else, the Master of others. And there is much more than this behind it, a deeper depth than ever known by a righteous man beside, a motive of divine love to reach and bring up the captives of sin and the heirs of death, and bring them by his sacrifice to glory!

What must be the kingdom of such a king? Is there — has there ever been — a kingdom of earth that could be in anything but contrast with it? His own words have presented this contrast between the prizes for ambition found in the one and the love-service of the other: "ye know that the princes of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones use authority over them; but it shall not be so among you, but whosoever desires to be great among you, let him be your minister, and whosoever desires to be first among you, let him be your servant: even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many."

Thus the blessed consequences: —
"Even as the morning-light when the sun arises,
A morning without clouds;
From the brightness after rain
The herb springeth from the earth."

No more absolute lordship is there than the sun exercises over the earth, none in its sphere more beneficent. The tenderest plant is served by it. By it the showers that refresh are drawn up from under the whole heaven and rained down again. With it rule is surely service. And the sun is Christ's image, the glory of the light (which God is) upon a material candlestick. But the sun exists not for itself; and the tiniest creature bathes as freely in its brightness as the mightiest.

David's heart is in his eyes as this vision beckons him. He sees clearly that all his glory and the glory of his house count for nothing here. Amnon, Absalom, have died their deaths of shame; his successor is the child of his own transgression. What hope in nature? None, save from the covenant of the unchanging God: —
"Although my house be not so with God,
Yet He hath made me an eternal covenant,
Ordered in all, and sure:
For this is all my salvation and all of delight,
Though He maketh it not to grow."

For there seems indeed no hope: less and less only as man's history lengthens. The power of sin, the subtlety and might of Satan, have seemed after all divine deliverances and triumphs again to revive and make of the fairest work the saddest ruin. Every successive dispensation has ended in worse failure than the previous one. Does it not seem as if the salvation of the earth, and the long desire of good in it, were a plant which even God "made not to grow"? Could David have looked over the long gap of time since his day, would he have been encouraged with the progress made? No, it is but the covenant, the eternal covenant, that encourages us yet. God must intervene; judgment, long delayed, must come: —
"And the sons of Belial shall be all of them as thorns thrust away,
Because they cannot be taken in the hand;
And the man that will touch them provideth himself iron and wood of a spear,
And they shall be burned up with fire, so as to cease."

Thus faith and love acquiesce in the judgment which alone can free the earth from its long chain. "Let grace be shown to the wicked, yet will he not learn uprightness." "When thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world shall learn righteousness."

3. We have now the list of David's mighty men, with some special examples of their prowess, mostly against the Philistines. They read, when spiritually rendered, like a leaf out of the book of accounts in the day fast approaching, when every one shall have his praise from God. The words of the apostle, when referring to it, are much more penetrating than appears in our common version of 2 Cor. 5:10. It is not simply, "we must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ," but "we must all be manifested." And this is what the record here suggests. Most of it is simply a list of names, which, of course, therefore, as we must read them, stand for persons, not merely for deeds. And the deeds themselves which are related are such as we realize cannot be exceptional or accidental, but show what the men were that did them. They are, of course, David's men, and their deeds are deeds of war entirely. They are not in that way a full sample even of what will come out in the day of Christ. Probably no sufficient sample could be given us. Probably, also, in the condition of the world in which we are, the most characteristic exhibition of Christ's people that could be given would exhibit them as soldiers. In their power over the terrible power of the enemy is proved their devotedness to Christ, (against whom all his efforts are directed,) and thus to His people, His representatives in the world. Not that the spirit of strife is the Christian spirit: far from it. The dove would flee far, if it were not held by its affections; and these brought the Lord Himself into the place of sorrow and conflict, who is still the Captain of salvation, and leads His people through fields He Himself has passed through. The very table He spreads for us is in the presence of our enemies." His love is a banner over us. The inheritance which belongs to us can be attained only by a struggle, not indeed with flesh and blood, but with "principalities and powers, with the rulers of the darkness of this world, with spiritual hosts of wickedness in heavenly places." Bye and bye, how the lists will shine with the names of God's heroes whose histories have never been written in this world, but whom the King will greet as friends to Him well known!

When we turn to the record here, however, it is disappointing to find how little we can make of it. The record itself seems as if it had been torn out of the hands of contestants, and come down to us with the marks of war upon it. There are difficulties as to the text, difficulties as to the parallel accounts which we find in Chronicles, difficulties as to the meanings of words and of names. Little meaning of any value seems ever to have been seriously attached to what is here; and accordingly as we find here, the mistakes of copyists and commentaries have been allowed to accumulate, and little believing work has been done to rectify them.

(1) In the case of the first and highest in rank here, in the single verse which relates his deeds, almost every word is in question. The name, if it be a name, here Josheb-basshebeth, or, as in the common version, "he that sat in the seat," is in Chronicles (1 Chron. 11:11) Jashobeam, "the people return," or "shall return." The "Tachmonite" is there written "Hachmonite," or rather "the son of Hachmoni," (the wise). The words "he is Adino the Ezrite" are variously read or disputed over. "His delight is in the spear," "his brandishing of" or "smiting with the spear" have been suggested, hut the meaning of the last word is quite doubtful, and its strongest support is from the parallel place in Chronicles, where the word used is quite different, "he brandished his spear." If we do not accept this, then the connection with the following words "against eight hundred" has to be arbitrarily supplied. Finally, Chronicles substitutes three hundred for eight hundred.

Out of all this it is hard to gather any meaning fully to be relied on. The text in Chronicles is easy, and the substitution of it as a whole would simplify things; but who can assert that the one passage was ever identical with the other? Names especially varied much among the Hebrews, and seem to have been used with a certain latitude, so that no one could say that Jashobeam and Josheb-basshebeth were not alternative names for the same person. In this case there arises a possible spiritual significance for the foremost of David's warriors so suitable apparently to all the connection, that it claims at least to be suggested. It is the spiritual meaning that should surely give us largest help amid difficulties so great and many as we find in this place.

"One sitting in the seat," (or "abiding in the abode,") is the meaning of the first name here; and the numerical place would easily attach to this the thought of power shown in persistence, — continuance in the place belonging to him. If we think, as we must in connection with the typical meaning, of Christian warfare in its highest character, then we must undoubtedly go to the epistle to the Ephesinus for the account of it: thus to that conflict with principalities and powers in the heavenly places, of which the epistle speaks. But as the prelude to this and the necessary introduction to it, Ephesians brings into the place itself which is, as it were, the place of the conflict. God "has raised us up" — with Christ from the dead, says the apostle, "and made us sit together in heavenly places, in Christ Jesus." (Eph. 2:6.) Here is undeniably a "sitting in the seat" essential to the highest, that is the Christian, warfare: and the maintaining of this place, — the abiding in it, — is the grand necessity for spiritual triumph. The place every believer has. The practical abiding in it, — ah, how little is this to be seen! How few among Christians know the meaning of it! How few among those who know it as a doctrine, know its power in the soul! How few of these, once more, abide in the place in which divine grace has set them!

Josheb-basshebeth, then, may well be the Hachmonite, the "Wise," and with that the prince of warriors. Who will question, that know in any wise, what these things mean?

The second name is that of Eleazar ("help of God") the son of Dodo ("his Beloved") the Ahohite (brotherly?) Here, also, Chronicles differs from Samuel. Instead of being only one of the three mighty men with David, when they defied the Philistines," — in which case one would expect the others to be noticed in the action, — Chronicles simply represents him as being "with David at Pas-dammim, and the Philistines assembled there" to battle. Here, however, Chronicles seems to have a gap in the text, which thus ascribes the action of Shammah (whom it omits) to Eleazar. Single-handed, as it would appear from the narrative here, he smites the Philistines till his cramped hand cleaves to his sword-hilt. The people, who were absent from the battle, returned only to the spoil. Thus Jehovah through him wrought a great deliverance; and this the number seems to emphasize.

Shammah's deed, on the other hand, in accordance also with the numeral, is a work of resurrection. The Israelites are not merely absent: they have fled. His own name means "astonishment," and he is the son of Agee, perhaps "sprout," the Hararite, or "mountaineer." Words such as these are capable of easy combination in relation to the lesson of his acts. The power of revival is found in him who has learned amid the difficulties of a rugged path the awe of the God of resurrection.

(2) The power of God is manifest indeed in the exploits of these first three; we now find a second three, at first unnamed, but the two names that follow, Abishai and Benaiah, reveal two of the number. The third is unknown, and probably not one of the thirty-one that follow, who thus with these two threes make up the total of thirty-seven given at the end.

But this second three should thus have a different lesson for us from the first. Accordingly, while the power of God is still manifested, it is less prominent in these, while the tender sympathy with David shown in the next exploit may well speak to our hearts of Christ's delight in our fellowship with Himself. It is striking, too, that now first we find, instead of merely individual exploits, fellowship with one another. The chivalry of the act (as men would say) is magnificent. There is no common need that appeals to them; there is no danger such as would make men brave a world in arms; David's thirst even could be as effectually quenched with water from many another well beside that of Bethlehem; even that expressed wish would never, with the risk involved in its fulfillment, have been seriously uttered: it was but the sigh of a heart escaping from the burdens and sorrows of late so heavy, back to the days that were, to the fresh breezy hours of simple childhood, and the joys that, after all, never could be revived. It was not the water of Bethlehem, after all, that could satisfy David's soul. Ask him did he really mean it, it would be found but one of those passing illusions by which for a moment a strong man may willingly allow himself to be deceived, but which can last but for a moment. An impassable gulf separates the man of today from the child of yesterday: could you bring back the whole surroundings you would accomplish nothing, except you could bring back, as you cannot, the child that moved among them. Bring them back, and you only make him realize the more, with a sharpened pain, that it is only in his sorrow he can be now the child: its joys are passed forever.

They do not stay to think of all this, nor ask if he means it seriously, as he does not. With a devotion sublime in its utter recklessness, they think but that they can give this water he so longs for to the lips of the "beloved" one they serve, and serve now the more joyfully in a service he never has commanded, — which he never would command. What is the Philistine host, that it should stand between David and the well of Bethlehem? The very slightness of the object of desire makes it perhaps seem but the more impossible that it should be denied him. With dauntless heroism they break through the enemy's camp, and the water for which David longed is here: let him drink and be satisfied.

But David dares not drink. The glory of that deed of love falls on him with an awe that humbles as with the sense of the divine presence. This love stronger than death, — this peril of life to gratify but a passing desire of his heart, — he is not worthy of it, must not accept it: God alone is worthy of it, God alone should have it. He pours it out before Him with disclaiming words that come to us with the claim of another "Beloved" upon us, carrying us from type to Antitype, to One human and yet divine, to One who has shown us Himself a love, which is henceforth the pattern of all other: "hereby perceive we love, because He" not risked, but "laid down His life for us." David disappears from our gaze, and Christ our Lord is before our souls.

Passing from type to Antitype, we see how great the contrast is and must be, amid all the resemblance. All that is trivial, passing, mistaken even, and that even in that very character appeals to and affects us in the story before us, can of course have no place in the higher application. Yet this only makes the lesson for us so much the fuller, so much the more solemn, so much the sweeter. Our David has cravings and longings of heart, which need also the water of the well of Bethlehem for their satisfaction; — no passing desires, but, as His nature is, abiding, perfect, necessary to His perfection. Is it not the water, living water, whose spring is at the outgoing of the Father's "house of bread," — which He longs to receive from us; wherein He finds but the fruit of the travail of His soul, and with which alone He can be satisfied?

Moreover, like this expressed wish of David, which never was a command, nor intended to be, if we are to reach any worthy thoughts at all, we must distinguish between commands that are laid upon us (which there are), and His "word," which shows us what is in His heart, and in receiving which we come into intelligent communion with Himself. So the Lord in His last words with His disciples expressly, distinguishes. (John 14:21, 23.) Commands may be given to servants only,who are never admitted into the secrets of the heart, but the words which are spoken as to friends claim also response, and will find response, from the truly devoted. Not "what must I do?" but "what may I do?" is the expression of attachment to His Person; and so only can we be in sympathy with the act of the mighty three.

But then, if we will act in this spirit, — if we have this spirit, — we shall find the world a hostile world to Christ. Yes, and not the world only — but right in the way, barring the way, to the well of Bethlehem, we shall find the Philistine camp, the host of natural men that have intruded into spiritual things. We must be prepared to break through the entrenchments of tradition, formality, worldliness in religious guise, if we are to gratify the Lord's longing for us. And shall men take their lives in their hand for men after this manner, and the world have its heroes of self-sacrifice, and the love that passeth knowledge have no fit return?

Abishai and Benaiah, as two of these three mighty men, express in their names correspondingly this fellowship with Christ. The father of gift," as we have already seen, may speak even of Christ Himself in resurrection receiving gifts for men. And there are almost always in these histories secondary applications of such things in which it is shown how those who look on Christ's unveiled face are changed into His image. Thus the knowledge of Christ as the source of gift becomes in us fruitful in forming in us this image. A dewdrop may thus shine with the image of the sun. Nor need we wonder that still what is recorded is a history of conflict. It must needs be so while Satan rules the world.

Benaiah the son of Jehoiada means "Jah builds" with all the perfection of "Jehovah's knowledge"; but the least of His people are called now to be builders too. As to his exploits we may be little able to speak at present. We are moving among things that have been so little supposed in general to contain any spiritual meaning, that the only wonder is with the light and little labor thus bestowed on them, to have seen so much. More and more, as we learn nevertheless to question, will the answer come.

(3) Of the thirty (thirty-one), known only by their names, little can be said also till they have been more minutely studied. Chronicles, it is well known, though giving practically the same list (1 Chron. 11), with additions at the end, differs yet very considerably when we come to details. It is just in such lists as this also, dry and barren as they have been suffered to remain through our negligence, that we may expect to find textual errors abounding. There are evidently many, though variations in lists in general identical are, of course, not necessarily such. Let the people of God study His word; dig deep, and expect much; and we shall soon have few such utter gaps in our knowledge as for the present we have to lament here.

4. We end with the divine overcoming of man's sin, — a suitable and beautiful ending for such a history. God is the great Overcomer. The Lamb is the perfect expression of this, and in that double way in which God works, governmentally and in the nearer personal action of His grace. Both things we find in the chapter before us.

The state of Israel is such that God is provoked to anger against them, and out of this comes the thought which God permits to be suggested to David, to number the people. It is a military order, clearly having respect to their strength for war, and which shows the spirit dictating it, a spirit in which king and people shared alike. The victories abroad, the growth of a petty kingdom hardly able to preserve its independence of the nations round it, into an empire, — had no doubt intoxicated them with pride and ambition. And pride is the giant sin of a fallen nature, the essential evil, man lifting himself up, even against God. It is the typal sin, therefore; and against which God must, in very mercy, show Himself. He therefore exhibits it, and smites upon it. So plainly is it manifest, and yet so blind is the one actuated by it, that Joab sees at once the evil which David cannot see. He demurs to the numbering, shirks it as far as possible, but is overborne by the king's mandate. The sum of the people is delivered to the king; and only then does his conscience awake to the meaning of what he has done. Little, after all, would it seem in man's eyes; but God seeth not as man seeth.

Word comes, therefore, to David through Gad his seer, offering him his choice of three modes of chastisement: three years of famine, three months of flight before his enemies, three days of pestilence. The number is that of divine holiness and manifestation. David beautifully chooses (yet how could he do otherwise?) to fall into God's hand, the mercies of which he knows; and the pestilence comes upon the land.

The blow is heavy, for it is needed; and yet rightly has David counted on his Lord. It is from the Lord's own grace that the staying of the evil comes. "When the angel stretched forth his hand over Jerusalem to destroy it, Jehovah repented Him of the evil, and said unto the angel that destroyed the people, It is enough: stay now thy hand. And the angel was by the threshing-floor of Araunah the Jebusite."

Government has done its needful work, and now the story of divine grace begins. And where should grace be shown as God would show it, but in the case of one of the chief of sinners? Araunah is a Jebusite, one of the Canaanite races of the land, long since under the curse, and a Jebusite, a "treader down" of God's royal city.

Now God was treading down; not ruthlessly as a destroyer, however, but as threshing is accomplished under the feet of the patient ox, where, with all the roughness of the process, the precious grain is sought and secured, — God's harvest, if man's the blessing. Judgment thereafter goes not beyond the "threshing-floor." There it halts, stayed by the pity of God, and Araunah ("filled with lamentation"?) receives his divine name Aranjah, "the singing of Jah"! How gloriously is the Lord's story of God's reception of His prodigals anticipated here! — a joy, not of man, but of God: "He will rest in His love; He will joy over thee with singing"! What music, touching all the chords of nature with the ecstasy of its blessedness, and penetrating with its divine sweetness all the harmony that it awakens round, this music in the heart of God! What a close for a history such as this has been! God's victory it surely is, over man's sin, — over man's enmity and pride and unbelief. God is God, and all that man has done against Him only has brought out the more the meaning of this. Not in Israel alone, not alone in the full tide of the earth's praise hereafter, — no, not alone in the songs of the redeemed in heaven, will be the sufficient answer to this, which shall fill the universe of the unfallen also with ceaseless joy and praise. The throne of God shall be thus forever also the "throne of the Lamb." If the glory of God be seen in its splendor in the Jerusalem of God, the Lamb shall be the lamp of its display.

To one who knows the inefficacy of the legal sacrifices, and yet how God by this very inefficacy only pointed men forward to the true offering that was yet to come, it will not be strange to find that David does not here offer sin- or trespass-offering. Burnt-offerings and peace-offerings only are enjoined and offered. The place of offering is purchased for fifty shekels of silver, in which we once more see the full responsibility of man recognized, and the debt to divine government completely met. David for a moment here stands forth again as the type of Christ our Lord, meeting, as alone He could, the whole claim of God, the whole due of sin. Thus the book closes fitly, with the lustre of such a vision for the anointed eyes of faith.