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this land,"' * for 800 years, down to the age of the prophet Samuel; during which period Jehovah himself condescended to rule and direct even the minutest concerns, in the government and religion of this highly favoured race ; to appoint over them rulers, judges, and prophets, constituting them, as it were, his own viceroys; to hear their complaints; to redress their grievances; to protect them from their enemies ; and to prepare them for future glory, grandeur, and happi
Of such a people, well might the Psalmist exclaim“Happy is that people that is in such a case; yea, happy is that people, whose God is the Lord.”+
It might have been imagined that the mere selection of an individual nation, and the transaction of such extraordinary events with one peculiar people, and they the fewest of all people, I would of itself form a sufficient and invincible argument to all unbelievers; for well indeed might the Divine Saviour
say, “ If they hear not Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead."'S
The two fatal battles of Aphek,|| in the last of which the Israelites lost the Ark of God and 30,000 men, had subjected them to the oppression of the Philistines, who appear to have ruled them with a rod of iron : but God so displayed his power in overthrowing their idols,** that those enemies were soon glad to send back the palladium of Israel's security; and, after twenty years, “ Samuel called to Israel to return to the Lord, and put away the strange gods and Ashtoreth+t from among them. Having yielded to this appeal, the prophet assembled them at Mizpeh, evidently with a view to throw off the yoke of Philistia ; but the lords of that nation having collected a great army, the Israelites became fearful, and besought Samuel not to cease to cry unto the Lord for them.
* Gen. xii. 7. xv. 16. + Ps. cxliv. 15. Deut. vii. 7. $ Luke, xvi. 31. || 1 Sam. iv. I 1 Sam. xiii. 19, 20. Burder, 0. C. 293.
.* | Sam. v. ++ A goddess of the Zidonians, 1 Kings, xi. 33. She was the same as Astarte or Astronoe, called by the Phænicians, the mother of the gods-compounded from As-Tora, the I!cifer of the Sun; or As-Tora-Noe, the Heifer of Noah of the Sun. This etymology will perfectly accord with the Narrative of Sanchoniatho, who teaches us, that Astarte was represented with the horns of a bull. The Phænician mother of the gods was merely the No-etic Ark, represented in the person of Astarte, under its usual emblem, the Heifer ; while her lover, Esculapius, was the Solar Noah.–Faber. Myst. CABIR. Vol. I. 103.
The prophet accordingly offered up a sucking lamb, and cried unto the Lord for Israel, and he heard him ; for the Philistines having drawn near to attack the Israelites whilst Samuel was performing the sacrifice, the Lord thundered at the Philistines, and discomfited them, and they were smitten before Israel; whereupon Samuel set up a stone between Mizpeh and Shen, and called the name of it Ebenezer, saying, “ Hitherto hath the Lord helped us."
“So the Philistines were subdued, and they came no more into the coast of Israel: and the band of the Lord was against the Philistines all the days of Samuel. And the cities which the Philistines had taken from Israel were restored to them, from Ekron even unto Gath; and the coast thereof did Israel deliver out of the hands of the Philistines. And there was peace between Israel and the Amorites.”
Insensible, however, to the high advantages and inestimable privileges with which they had so long been favoured, the Israelites grew tired of that very distinction from other nations, which they ought to have esteemed their highest honour; and even all the elders of Israel called upon Samuel, as Moses had prophesied,t to make them a king, to
* 1 Sam. vij. 13, 14. + Deut. xvii. 14.
judge them, like all the nations.* That this request raised the just indignation of their Almighty Protector, is evident from the declaration which he made to the prophet; “ They have not rejected thee, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them. According to all the works which they have done since the day that I brought them up out of Egypt, even unto this day, wherewith they have forsaken me, and served other gods, so do they also unto thee, Now therefore hearken unto their voice : howbeit yet protest solemnly unto them, and shew them the manner of the king that shall reign over them.”—“ This will be the manner of the king that shall reign over you; he will take your sons, and appoint them for himself, for his chariots, and to be his horsemen; and some shall run before his chariots. And he will appoint him captains over thousands, and captains over fifties; and will set them to ear his ground, and to reap his harvest, and to make his instruments of war, and instruments of his chariots. And he will take your daughters to be confectionaries, and to be cooks, and to be bakers. And he will take your fields, and your vineyards, and your oliveyards, even the best of them, and give them to his servants. And he will take the tenth of your seed, and of your vineyards, and give to his officers, and to his servants. And he will take your men-servants, and your maid-servants, and your goodliest young men, and your asses, and put them to his work. He will take the tenth of your sheep: and ye shall be his servants.
shall cry out in that day because of your king which ye shall have chosen you; and the Lord will not hear you in that day.”+
So infatuated were these wretched people, that they refused to obey the voice or hearken to the warning admonition of Samuel, but said “nay, but we will have a king over us,
* | Sam. viii. 5.
+ 1 Sam. viii. 7, 8, 9, 11-18.
that we also may be like all the nations; and that our king may judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles. And Samuel heard all the words of the people, and he rehearsed them in the ears of the Lord. And the Lord said unto Samuel, hearken unto their voice, and make them a king.”
And it is hardly possible to read this part of their history, without figuring to one's imagination the heartfelt agony of the holy Samuel; whose prophetic spirit no doubt enabled him to pierce the mists of succeeding ages, and to anticipate all the horrors and miseries his beloved nation were dragging down upon their own heads, and those of their posterity; and when in their impious fury and madness they cried out, “God save the king,”'f we may readily believe his heart was going up to God in some such prayer as that of the Saviour, upon another even more awful occasion, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do."
So heinous, indeed, as we may well suppose, was the crime which they had committed, and so melancholy were its necessary consequences, that more than three centuries afterwards, the Lord himself, with whom a thousand years are as one day, made the following pathetic lamentation over them ; “O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself; but in me is thine help. I will be thy king : where is any other that may save thee in all thy cities and thy judges, of whom thou saidst, give me a king and princes? I gave thee a king in mine anger, and took him away in my wrath.”'S
In consequence, however, of this most ungrateful petition, Saul was anointed king over them, shortly before the death of the prophet Samuel ;|| and we are informed, that, upon that occasion, Samuel told the people the manner of the kingdom, and wrote it in a book, and laid
1 Sam. viji. 19. 22. Luke, xxii. 31.
+ 1 Sam. x. 24. Burder, 0. C. 291. $ Hosea, xiii. 9, 10, 11. ll 1 Sam. x, 1.
up before the Lord.* What this book contained, we know not, as no other mention is made of it in the sacred writings.
Saul began his reign over Israel about 1095 + years before the birth of Christ. He was the son of Kish, of the family of Matri, and of the tribe of Benjamin; and previous to his elevation to the government of Israel, was evidently engaged, like the earlier patriarchs, in agricultural pursuits.
On the first communication of the mind of God to Saul, he discovered a disposition of humility, from which better results might have been anticipated. “Am not I a Benjamite, of the smallest of the tribes of Israel ? and my family the least of all the families of the tribe of Benjamin? Wherefore then speakest thou so to me?"'
After the anointing of Saul, by the prophet Samuel, we are informed, that God gave him another heart; and meeting with a company of prophets, the Spirit of God came upon him, and he prophesied among them. And whatever was the exact moral change which then took place, it was, at all events, so great, as induced the people to cry out, “ Is Saul also among the prophets?" ||
Notwithstanding the previous anointing, Saul was afterwards solemnly chosen by lot, from all the tribes and families of Israel, upon which occasion he exhibited, as it would seem, a still further instance of humility, for he could not be found, but hid himself among the stuff. Neither did he betray any of that littleness of mind, and thirst for bomage,
* | Sam. X. 25. + I adopt the chronology of Bishop Wilson, until that of Dean Prideaux begins, which I afterwards follow, and which is probably the best; and it is not iny intention, or at all material for the object of this work, to enter into critical questions upon that subject. I 1 Sam. ix. 21. $ 1 Sam. x. 10. || 1 Sam. x. 12.
Il Sam. x. 22.