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deny this, who will assert that in their isolated position they have influence on none, and have no power to do good, we would
say, it is because they seek it not, not because they have it not; and beseech them to rouse their dormant energy to find and use it, and by the superiority of their mental resources, their spiritual piety, their noble energy, and pure meek womanly influence, alike in their domestic and
social position, make manifest to the nations how deeply they feel and glory in the privileges accorded to, and in the duties demanded from them, as the female children of the Lord.
WISE WOMAN OF TE KO À 1.-WOMAN OF A BEL,
- RIZ P A H.-JUDGMENT OF SOLOMON. W I DO W OF Ο Ν Ε OF Τ Η Ε SONS OF THE PROPHETS.
The period of our history which we are now regarding, will not supply us with such regular biographies as the preceding ones. Between Abigail and the Shunammite, in the time of Elisha, there is no female character which we can look upon as a whole, and derive thence individual benefit; but in the years of the 1.2onarchy stretching between the two above-mentioned, there are some notices of women peculiarly valuable to us in a national sense, as portraying our position, both social and intellectual.
The first of these is the wise woman of Tekoah, suborned by Joab to incline the king's heart towards Absalom. In what sense the epithet“ a wise woman” was regarded, we cannot exactly determine; but from Joab sending at once to Tekoah, we are led to suppose her a person noted for her wisdom, and selected for that reason.
Her story is, of course, a feigned one, and therefore does not command our commiseration ; but it is raluable, as it so undeniably mani'ests how easy it was for the women of Israel to obtain the ear of the monarch, and receive justice and protection at his hand, even against the opinions of the people. She tells David that she is a widow who had two sons, one of whom, in striving with the other, had smitten and slain bim. That the whole family had risen against the widow, commanding her to deliver up the survivor, that they might revenge his brother's death by also slaying him; and so, in the beautiful language of Scripture, " quench my coal which is left, and not leave my husband neither name nor remainder upon
the earth.” David, in answer, desires her to return to her home in peace; that he would give charge concerning her. Still she lingers, and he reiterates, “Whosoever saith aught unto thee, bring him unto me, and he shall not touch thee any more. Then said she, I pray thee, let the king remember the Lord thy God, that thou wouldst not suffer the revengers of blood to destroy any more, lest they destroy my son. And he said, As the Lord liveth, there shall not one hair of thy son fall to the ground."
By this we are led to believe, that the supposed crime of the one brother against the other came under the accidental murders, where the slayer was permitted to seek the cities of refuge. It is, as we know, a fictitious tale of grief; still it is important to mark how exactly it tallies with obedience to the ïaws. The woman asserts herself to be a widow, and consequently the peculiar care of her brethren. Her position is sanctified, and therefore is it that David not only hears her, and promises that he will take her in charge, but pledges himself to yet greater leniency than the law allows. In his own case, one exactly similar, David had done such violence to his own parental feelings, that three years had elapsed since he had looked on his darling Absalom, towards whom we are expressly told his soul longed to go forth. The laws of his country might not be transgressed for him, though a sovereign; and yet for a mourning widow his kind heart yielded. This does not evince disregard to woman's feelings, or that they were less objects of care in the state than man, but rather the complete contrary; the king's son was to remain in exile and ignominy, the widow's son was to be protected and pardoned.
Not content with the favur granted the supposed widow, she proceeds to entreat the king. “ Let thine handmaid speak, I pray thee, one word unto my lord the king. And the king said, Say on.” And then boldly and unhesitatingly the suppliant turns reprover; and, making her own case the king's, pronounces it a faulty judgment, else why does he not fetch home his banished? We need not transcribe the whole of her well judged appeal (see 2 Sam. xiv.). The king's penetration at once discovered the real mover of this scene, and addressing the woman as his equal, instead of demanding the truth from her as some might imagine due to his roya! prerogative, he asks, “ Hide not from me, I pray thee, the thing that I shall ask thee. And the woman said, Let my lord the king now speak. And the king said, Is not the hand of Joab with thee in all this ?" The whole was consequently revealed; but no anger at the deception followed. The king's word had passed, and though it was to a supposed case, he would not withdraw it. The young man Absalom was recalled from his grandfather's court, and brought by Joab to Jerusalem ; but still true to his paternal severity, David would not listen to his feelings; and for two years, though dwelling in the same town, the father and son never saw each other's face; whereas, had the widow's story been true, he would have permitted her the rich blessing of her son's continued presence and full pardon.
The incident is not an important one in itself; but by Joab's seeking a woman to bring the king to his wishes ; by the little difficulty she had to obtain a hearing; by the kindness and feeling which dictated the monarch's manner and words towards her, we cannot entertain a doubt of the real position of women in Judea;—that she was thought of, felt for, and protected, infinitely more in the state of Israel, than in any contemporary or even in any more modern nation; that even warriors and courtiers disdained not to ask and use her aid ; and that the king himself listened, not only when she was a supplicant on her own affairs, but when the strain was changed, and she ventured to address him on his own.
Nor is she the only “wise woman” whose instrumentality is mentioned in Holy Writ. Soon after the death of Absalom other confusions arose ; and a quarrel took place between the men of Israel and the tribe of Judah, as to who should have the greater influence over the aged king, “and the words of the men of Judah were fiercer than the words of the men of Israel ;" in consequence of which, a man of Belial (the scriptural term for a seditious and rebellious spirit) named Sheba, a Benjam te,
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olew a trumpet, and proclaimed, “We have no part in David, neither have we inheritance in the son of Jesse; every man to his tents, O Israel”—the usual war cry of the Jews. man of Israel went up from David, and followed Sheba, the son of Bichri: but the men of Judah clave unto their king.” A war of course ensued, seeming likely to be yet more injurious to Judea than even Absalom's rebellion. And Joab with a large army “ went from Jerusalem to pursue Sheba." His appearance and proclamation, “ He that is for David let him go after Joab,” recalled the wavering Israelites, and Sheba was compelled to take refuge in the city of Abel of Beth-maachah. There Joab besieged him, casting up a bank against the city, and rearing battering engines against the wall, so that destruction and slaughter were inevitable ; for no possibility or inclination for resistance appeared from within. Not one man had the necessary courage and wisdom to come forward, either to pacify Joab or to meet him in battle. A hesitation no doubt occasioned by the fear of Sheba, the natural reluctance to the delivering up of one who had taken refuge in their city, and the yet greater reluctance to rise against David. Between these conflicting emotions the downfall of the city was inevitable; but there was one within its walls, not only a wise, but a patriotic woman, who, boldly taking on herself all risk of personal danger, alike from the battering rams of Joab without and the rage of Sheba's adherents within, suddenly appeared upon the walls and called aloud, “ Hear, hear; say,
pray thee, unto Joab, Come near hither, that I may speak with thee.”
The noise of attack on the part of the besiegers involuntarily ceased, and soldiers and general must have gazed with some astonishment on the vision appearing thus boldly before them. And Joab approaching, she bade him “ hear the words of thine handmaid. And he said, I do hear. Then she spake, saying, They were wont to speak in old time, saying, They shall surely ask counsel at Abel, and so they ended the matter;" rather obscure words, yet, as appears to us from the succeeding verse, meaning that, in former years, the councils held by the inhabitants of Abel ended all difficult matters; but that Joab coming upon them in determined bostility had prevented any amicable treaty, and had in consequence checked the interference of all such who, like herself
, were “ peaceable and faithful in Israel.” The address also appears to allude to, and in fact to illustrate, the law contained in Deut. xx. 10–12. " When thou comest nigh unto a city to fight against it, then proclaim peace unto it. And it shall be, if it make thee answer of peace, and open unto thee, then it shall be, that all the people that is found therein shall be tributaries unto thee, and they shall serve thee. And i it will make no peace with thee, but will make war against thee, then thou shalt besiege it.” Joab's impetuous zeal seems to have neglected this merciful ordinance, and therefore no council as in ancient times could be held in Abel, and no decision made, either for peace or war.
And this was the more blamable on the part of Joab, because the city belonged to David; de iphabitants were bis own subjects. The speaker feels this in her concluding words, “ Thou seekest to destroy a city and mother in Israel : why wilt thou swallow up the inheritance of the Lord."
All she says is so essentially feminine, so moderate and gentle, that it at once satisfies us that her boldness and wisdom in no way mark her a masculine character. She was still a mother in Israel ; her endowments were evidently common to her sex and country, proving that they knew well how to unite the wisdom of the patriot with all the graces of the woman. Her very first words to Joab, "Hear the words of thine handmaid," mark her perfect consciousness of her own position, and pay that respect due alike to the rank and generalship of the person she addressed. An assumption of wisdom and consequently of authority, would bave lost her the ear of Joab at once. A man may be influenced by woman, but not dictated to, however superior may be her wisdom. We cannot discover the wisdom of this mother in Israel in her actual words, so much as in her actions. The address was indeed well chosen, for it appealed directly to the
best and holiest feelings of Joab, and could only have proceeded . from a mind long accustomed to well regulated thought; but her
sole plea was, that she was a “mother in Israel," a character and station to which the rudest and hardest natures never refused
" Far be it, far be it from me,” was Joab's earnest answer,“ to swallow up or destroy—the matter is not so, but a man of mount Ephraim, Sheba the son of Bichri by name, hath lifted up his band against the king, even against David.' Deliver him only, and I will depart from the city. And the woinan said, Behold, his head shall be thrown to thee over the wall. Then the