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42. PESTILENCE IN ISRAEL. The spirit of rebellion was not quelled with Absalom's death. First of all, a man of Benjamin, of the name of Sheba, blew a trumpet, and said, “We have no part in David, neither have we inheritance in the son of Jesse.” But Joab soon subdued the rising. Then the spirit of disobedience broke out again in David's own family. Joab wished to make Adonijah king, to succeed his father David ; but by the prompt measures of king David this. plan was suppressed, and Solomon, one of David's youngest sons, was proclaimed king. But, before Solomon's accession to the throne one awful visitation occurred.

In consequence, probably, of these repeated rebellions, David wished to give a military constitution to the kingdom, which was entirely opposed to the law given by Moses. For this purpose, he directed his chief captain, Joab, to have the people numbered. Joab properly remonstrated with the king against this. But the king's word prevailed against his chief captain's; and for more than nine months Joab and the rest of the captains were employed in going through all the tribes, for the purpose of taking the numbers. But when Joab brought the numbers to the king, David's heart smote him, and he began to repent of the step which he had taken. Then God sent the prophet Gad to David, who said to him, in the name of the Lord, “ I offer thee three things; choose thee one of them, that I may do it unto thee. Shall seven years of famine come unto thee in thy land ? or wilt thou flee three months before thine enemies, while they pursue thee? or that there be three

days' pestilence in thy land ?” David said, “I am in a great strait: let us fall now into the hand of the Lord, for his mercies are great; and let me not fall into the hand of man.” So the Lord sent a pestilence upon Israel, so that there died of the people from Dan even unto Beersheba seventy thousand men.

And when the angel stretched out his hand upon

Jerusalem to destroy it, the Lord repented of the evil, and said to the angel that destroyed the people, “ It is enough ; stay now thine hand.” a And the angel of the Lord was by the threshing place of Araunah the Jebusite. And David went and built there an altar unto the Lord, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings. So the Lord was intreated for the land, and the plague was staid.

David appointed officers for the people from among the Levites, according to the law, to the number of six thousand. The rest of the Levites were divided, for the service of the temple, into twenty-four courses, each course consisting of a thousand men; and he appointed the temple choir, consisting of four thousand singers, divided into twenty-four courses, out of the sons of Asaph; and over them were placed the pious psalmist Jeduthun, and the venerable minstrel Heman.

As setting in order the service of the sanctuary had been one of David's first concerns on coming to the throne, so his last thoughts were directed to the same great object. In the presence of all the officers of the kingdom, and all the chiefs of the people, David resigned the government to his son Solomon, and charged him above all things to erect the house of God, which he had himself intended to build. He gave him plans which he had prepared, and immense treasures of gold and silver, and of brass and iron, which he had collected together for the purpose ; also a multitude of gold and silver vessels which he had caused to be made, and vast quantities of hewn timber and stone; and he called upon all the people, especially the great and rich men, to make free offerings of gold, and silver, and precious stones.

a 2 Sam. xxiv.

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Solomon was the richest of all the kings of his time. His people enjoyed the blessings of peace during the whole of his reign. Every man dwelt securely under his own vine

and under his own fig tree. But his wisdom was still more remarkable than his wealth. Shortly after he came to the throne, God appeared to him in a dream, and said to him, “ Ask what I shall give thee." Solomon said, “ Thou hast showed unto thy servant David my father great mercy; and thou hast made thy servant king instead of David my father; and I am but a little child: I know not how to go out or come in. And thy servant is in the midst of thy people which thou hast chosen, a great people, that cannot be numbered nor counted for multitude. Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad : for who is able to judge this thy so great a people?” And the speech pleased the Lord, that Solomon had asked this thing. And God said unto him, " Because thou hast asked this thing, and hast not asked for thyself long life; neither

hast asked riches for thyself, nor hast asked the life of thine enemies; but hast asked for thyself understanding to discern judgment; behold, I have done according to thy words: lo, I have given thee a wise and an understanding heart; so that there was none like thee before thee, neither after thee shall any arise like unto thee. And I have also given thee that which thou hast not asked, both riches and honour; so that there shall not be any among the kings like unto thee all thy days. And if thou wilt walk in my ways, and keep my statutes and

my commandments, as thy father David did walk, then I will lengthen thy days.” a

Although this was a dream, the result proved that the dream was from God. Solomon was more famed for his wisdom, his riches, and his glory, than any other king has ever been. His ships went to India by way of the Red Sea. Kings came from a great distance to see him, and to hear his wisdom. His proverbs are so full of truth and so rich in meaning, that they still serve both for the instruction of the ignorant and for the edification of the wisest.

Yet the possession of such great wisdom could not preserve Solomon from sin. He had in his court many hundred queens, amongst whom there were princesses of Canaan, of Sidon, of Tyre, of Egypt, and others, who brought their own false religions with them to Jerusalem, and led Solomon's heart astray to idolatry. Thus this wisest of kings himself took the lead in breaking that covenant which God had made with Israel; and his grievous fall affords a solemn warning against evil connexions.

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44.

THE DIVISION OF THE KINGDOM.

AFTER the death of Solomon, the men of Israel assembled together at Shechem. Rehoboam considered himself as already king. But he acted not as a king who desires to be the father of his people; but as a haughty tyrant, whose only desire is to rule by fear. The people sent deputies to him with this message, “ Thy father made our yoke grievous : now, therefore, make thou the grievous service of thy father, and his heavy yoke which he put upon us, lighter, and we will serve thee.” But Rehoboam said, “My father made your yoke heavy, and I will add to your yoke : my father also chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions.” (This is supposed to have been the name of a kind of scourge with sharp pricks.). With these harsh words the foolish son of the wise Solomon thought to frighten the people; but they had already resolved what to do: - What portion have we in David ? neither have we inheritance in the son of Jesse : to your tents, O Israel. Now see to thine own house, David.”a

Ten of the tribes fell away from Judah, and formed a separate kingdom, which was called the kingdom of Israel. They chose a celebrated captain, Jeroboam, for their king, and God himself allowed them to do so; for when Rehoboam wished to go to fight against the ten tribes, God sent a prophet, who said to the king and to all the people, “ Ye shall not go up nor fight against your brethren the children of Israel : return every man to his house ; for this thing is from me. And

* 1 Kings xii. 4.-16.

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