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Joab laying hold on the Horns of the Altar.
1. KINGS i. 30.
And he said, Nay, but I will die here.
THIS is the resolution of Joab, who had fled to the altar, as his last refuge, when he knew, that king Solomon had determined to take away his life.
This Joab was a man of great distinction in the reign of David. The king made him the chief commander of his army, and principal counsellor in war ; and the duties of his high station he executed with wisdom, fidelity and courage. By his long continuance and eminent services in his office, he had acquired such unbounded influ. ence among the soldiery, that he affumed, in some cafes, an imperious controul over the king himfelf.
On certain occafions he expreffed some senfe of religion. David's order for numbering the people“ was abominable to Joab," and he remonstrate ed against it as what would be “ a cause of trefpass to Ifrael.” Before his famous battle with the combined forces of Syria and Ammon, he addrefr. cd the officers of his army in a speech, which fa
voured highly of patriotism and piety;
« Be of good courage, and let us play the men for our people and the cities of our God. And the Lord do that, which seemeth him good.”
But though he occasionally expreffed some pi. ous sentiments, yet in his habitual temper he was haughty, deceitful and ferocious. In an insidious and treacherous manner, and from mere jealousy and envy he assassinated two men, Amasa and Abner, who were more righteous than himself. Af. ter the suppression of Abfalom's rebellion, Joab threatened the king with another and more dangerous insurrection, if he continued to indulge his immoderate grief for the death of an unnatural fon. When, in the decline of David's life, Adonijah usurped the throne, Joab joined the party of the usurper, though he must have known, that the king intended to make Solomon his successor, This complication of crimes induced David to leave it in charge to Solomon, that he should not suffer Joab to go down to the grave in peace.
Solomon, after his father's demise, being firm. ly feated on his throne, caused Adonijah to be put to death ; and he deposed and banithed Abiathar the priest, who had been deeply concerned in the late ufurpation. Joab, hearing what measures the king was taking, and being conscious of his own crimes, and perhaps knowing David's charge to Solomon, expected, that his own fate muft foon follow. He therefore fled to the tabernacle and caught hold on the horns of the altar. Solomon, being informed of Joab's flight to the altar, sent an officer to fall upon him. The officer came to him and said, “ Thus faith the king, Come forth," that the altar be not stained with thy blood. Joab replied, “ Nay, but I will die here."
On a second order from the king, he was executed in that place.
In the land of Israel cities of refuge were appointed for the security of the man, who had llain his neighbour unawares ; and the tabernacle, at the door of which stood the altar of burnt-offering, was in some cases allowed to be a place of refuge for the manslayer. But neither the cities nor the tabernacle were to yield protection to a wilful murderer. When it appeared, on examination, that the man came presumptuously on his neighbour to slay him with guile, the divine order was express, “ Thou shalt take him from mine altar, that he may die.”
Jaab must have been too well acquainted with the law of God, to suppofe, that a wilful murderer and a rebel against the government, such as he was, could be saved from
death by fleeing to the altar.
The preservation of life was not his object in this action ; for he expected still to die. He said, “ I will die here.” It is probable he viewed this flight to the altar as an act of religion, which became a dyingsinner, and would procure him pardon and acceptance with an offended God. His crimes were such as no sacrifice of beasts could expiate, for the law had provided no atonement for prefumptuous sins. If he must die, he would die on the altar, and make himself the sacrifice, and his blood the atonement. If this last act was accompanied with repentance of his fins and faith in the mercy of God, he certainly was forgiven. Whether this was the state of mind in which he died, the story is silent, and we cannot judge.
There is, however, one very serious and important truth here suggested ; " that men, who have lived all their days without a regard to religion, may wish for the benefit and protection of it, when they die." Vol. V.
In the history of Joab's life, there is nothing, which indicates a governing sense of moral obli: gation and a future retribution. We find him guilty of the most flagrant crimes ; but we never hear from him any expressions of remorfe; we never see him at the tabernacle seeking the mercy of God by prayer, nor at the altar presenting a facrifice for any of his fins. His life seems to have been spent in the pursuit of military glory. To this object he could facrifice the lives of better men than himself, when they stood in his way. And if he ever resorted to religion, it was in some critical conjuncture, when danger nearly threatened him.
But now Joab has finished his military and poHitical career. He is no longer to command an army, or direct a cabinet. He is grown old. He has filled up the measureof his erimes. Justice has drawn the sword, and the day of execution is come. He fees no escape ; he flees to the tabernacle and lays hold on the altar. Here he remains fixed, and here he refolves to die. He wifhes to be protected, in his death, by that religion, which he had neglected in his life.
This is no singular case. Similar examples are recorded in fcripture, and similar examples occur to common obfervation.
Pharaoh, that impious contemner of God, and hardened oppressor of the people of God, could relent under a judgment, which threatened deftruction to himself and his realm. He could then acknowledge his dependence on a fuperior invifible power. He could call for the servants of Jehovah in hafte, and urge their intercession in his own and his country's behalf. He could say, “ I have finned againft the Lord your God, and against you ; now therefore forgive my sin, and intreat the Lord,
that he may take away from me this death only.” But, “ when he saw that there was respite, he hardened his heart.” Of Ahab king of Israel it is faid, “ There was none like him, who fold him. self to work wickedness in the fight of the Lord.' But when he heard the awful sentence of destrucțion, which God denounced against him and his bouse, “ he rent his clothes, put lackcloth on his flesh, fafted and went softly." Yet after this he could threaten and imprison a prophet of God for honestly warning him of his danger, and could treat a premonition from God with infolent con. tempt. When God wrought wonders in the wildernefs to supply the wants of his people, " they finned yet more against him and tempted him in their hearts : but when he flew them, then they fought him ; they turned and enquired early after him ; and they remembered, that God was their rock, and the high God their redeemer ; yet they dattered him with their lips, and they lied to him with their tongues, for their heart was not right with him, neither were they stedfast in his covenant." The Psalmist speaks of it as a common case, that, “ when fools," the defpifers of religion, “ arę by their fins brought near to the gates of death, then they cry to the Lord in their trouble, and he saveth them out of their distresses; he healėth them, and delivereth them from destruction.” Yet he intimates, that few “ praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men." Solomon observes, that they, who in their prosperity despise the reproofs and set at nought the counsels of wisdom, will call on God and seek him earnestly in times, when diftrefs and anguish come upon them. He describes a profligäte youth, as mourning at the last, when his Hefh and body were consumed, and lamenting,