The Life of David - As Reflected in His Psalms
by Alexander Maclaren
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{Transcriber's Note: Obvious typos, printing errors and mis-spellings have been corrected, but spellings have not been modernized. Footnotes follow immediately the paragraph in which they are noted. In Chapter XV, eighth paragraph, second last line, "His" changed to "his" in the sentence "Happy thoughts, not fears, hold his eyes waking" to agree with the author's obvious reference to David rather than to God.}

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Perhaps the most striking characteristic of the life of David is its romantic variety of circumstances. What a many-coloured career that was which began amidst the pastoral solitudes of Bethlehem, and ended in the chamber where the dying ears heard the blare of the trumpets that announced the accession of Bathsheba's son! He passes through the most sharply contrasted conditions, and from each gathers some fresh fitness for his great work of giving voice and form to all the phases of devout feeling. The early shepherd life deeply influenced his character, and has left its traces on many a line of his psalms.

"Love had he found in huts where poor men lie; His daily teachers had been woods and rills; The silence that is in the starry sky, The sleep that is among the lonely hills."

And then, in strange contrast with the meditative quiet and lowly duties of these first years, came the crowded vicissitudes of the tempestuous course through which he reached his throne—court minstrel, companion and friend of a king, idol of the people, champion of the armies of God—and in his sudden elevation keeping the gracious sweetness of his lowlier, and perhaps happier days. The scene changes with startling suddenness to the desert. He is "hunted like a partridge upon the mountains," a fugitive and half a freebooter, taking service at foreign courts, and lurking on the frontiers with a band of outlaws recruited from the "dangerous classes" of Israel. Like Dante and many more, he has to learn the weariness of the exile's lot—how hard his fare, how homeless his heart, how cold the courtesies of aliens, how unslumbering the suspicions which watch the refugee who fights on the side of his "natural enemies." One more swift transition and he is on the throne, for long years victorious, prosperous, and beloved.

"Nor did he change; but kept in lofty place The wisdom which adversity had bred,"

till suddenly he is plunged into the mire, and falsifies all his past, and ruins for ever, by the sin of his mature age, his peace of heart and the prosperity of his kingdom. Thenceforward trouble is never far away; and his later years are shaded with the saddening consciousness of his great fault, as well as by hatred and rebellion and murder in his family, and discontent and alienation in his kingdom.

None of the great men of Scripture pass through a course of so many changes; none of them touched human life at so many points; none of them were so tempered and polished by swift alternation of heat and cold, by such heavy blows and the friction of such rapid revolutions. Like his great Son and Lord, though in a lower sense, he, too, must be "in all points tempted like as we are," that his words may be fitted for the solace and strength of the whole world. Poets "learn in suffering what they teach in song." These quick transitions of fortune, and this wide experience, are the many-coloured threads from which the rich web of his psalms is woven.

And while the life is singularly varied, the character is also singularly full and versatile. In this respect, too, he is most unlike the other leading figures of Old Testament history. Contrast him, for example, with the stern majesty of Moses, austere and simple as the tables of stone; or with the unvarying tone in the gaunt strength of Elijah. These and the other mighty men in Israel are like the ruder instruments of music—the trumpet of Sinai, with its one prolonged note. David is like his own harp of many chords, through which the breath of God murmured, drawing forth wailing and rejoicing, the clear ring of triumphant trust, the low plaint of penitence, the blended harmonies of all devout emotions.

The man had his faults—grave enough. Let it be remembered that no one has judged them more rigorously than himself. The critics who have delighted to point at them have been anticipated by the penitent; and their indictment has been little more than the quotation of his own confession. His tremulously susceptible nature, especially assailable by the delights of sense, led him astray. There are traces in his life of occasional craft and untruthfulness which even the exigencies of exile and war do not wholly palliate. Flashes of fierce vengeance at times break from the clear sky of his generous nature. His strong affection became, in at least one case, weak and foolish fondness for an unworthy son.

But when all this is admitted, there remains a wonderfully rich, lovable character. He is the very ideal of a minstrel hero, such as the legends of the East especially love to paint. The shepherd's staff or sling, the sword, the sceptre, and the lyre are equally familiar to his hands. That union of the soldier and the poet gives the life a peculiar charm, and is very strikingly brought out in that chapter of the book of Samuel (2 Sam. xxiii.) which begins, "These be the last words of David," and after giving the swan-song of him whom it calls "the sweet psalmist of Israel," passes immediately to the other side of the dual character, with, "These be the names of the mighty men whom David had."

Thus, on the one side, we see the true poetic temperament, with all its capacities for keenest delight and sharpest agony, with its tremulous mobility, its openness to every impression, its gaze of child-like wonder, and eager welcome to whatsoever things are lovely, its simplicity and self-forgetfulness, its yearnings "after worlds half realized," its hunger for love, its pity, and its tears. He was made to be the inspired poet of the religious affections.

And, on the other side, we see the greatest qualities of a military leader of the antique type, in which personal daring and a strong arm count for more than strategic skill. He dashes at Goliath with an enthusiasm of youthful courage and faith. While still in the earliest bloom of his manhood, at the head of his wild band of outlaws, he shows himself sagacious, full of resource, prudent in counsel, and swift as lightning in act; frank and generous, bold and gentle, cheery in defeat, calm in peril, patient in privations and ready to share them with his men, modest and self-restrained in victory, chivalrous to his foes, ever watchful, ever hopeful—a born leader and king of men.

The basis of all was a profound, joyous trust in his Shepherd God, an ardour of personal love to Him, such as had never before been expressed, if it had ever found place, in Israel. That trust "opened his mouth to show forth" God's praise, and strengthened his "fingers to fight." He has told us himself what was his habitual temper, and how it was sustained: "I have set the Lord always before me. Because He is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth." (Psa. xvi. 8, 9.)

Thus endowed, he moved among men with that irresistible fascination which only the greatest exercise. From the day when he stole like a sunbeam into the darkened chamber where Saul wrestled with the evil spirit, he bows all hearts that come under his spell. The women of Israel chant his name with song and timbrel, the daughter of Saul confesses her love unasked, the noble soul of Jonathan cleaves to him, the rude outlaws in his little army peril their lives to gratify his longing for a draught from the well where he had watered his father's flocks; the priests let him take the consecrated bread, and trust him with Goliath's sword, from behind the altar; his lofty courtesy wins the heart of Abigail; the very king of the Philistines tells him that he is "good in his sight as an angel of God;" the unhappy Saul's last word to him is a blessing; six hundred men of Gath forsake home and country to follow his fortunes when he returns from exile; and even in the dark close of his reign, though sin and self-indulgence, and neglect of his kingly duties, had weakened his subjects' loyalty, his flight before Absalom is brightened by instances of passionate devotion which no common character could have evoked; and even then his people are ready to die for him, and in their affectionate pride call him "the light of Israel." It was a prophetic instinct which made Jesse call his youngest boy by a name apparently before unused—David, "Beloved."

The Spirit of God, acting through these great natural gifts, and using this diversified experience of life, originated in him a new form of inspiration. The Law was the revelation of the mind, and, in some measure, of the heart, of God to man. The Psalm is the echo of the law, the return current set in motion by the outflow of the Divine will, the response of the heart of man to the manifested God. There had, indeed, been traces of hymns before David. There were the burst of triumph which the daughters of Israel sang, with timbrel and dance, over Pharaoh and his host; the prayer of Moses the man of God (Psa. xc.), so archaic in its tone, bearing in every line the impress of the weary wilderness and the law of death; the song of the dying lawgiver (Deut. xxxii.); the passionate paean of Deborah; and some few briefer fragments. But, practically, the Psalm began with David; and though many hands struck the harp after him, even down at least to the return from exile, he remains emphatically "the sweet psalmist of Israel."

The psalms which are attributed to him have, on the whole, a marked similarity of manner. Their characteristics have been well summed up as "creative originality, predominantly elegiac tone, graceful form and movement, antique but lucid style;"[A] to which may be added the intensity of their devotion, the passion of Divine love that glows in them all. They correspond, too, with the circumstances of his life as given in the historical books. The early shepherd days, the manifold sorrows, the hunted wanderings, the royal authority, the wars, the triumphs, the sin, the remorse, which are woven together so strikingly in the latter, all reappear in the psalms. The illusions, indeed, are for the most part general rather than special, as is natural. His words are thereby the better fitted for ready application to the trials of other lives. But it has been perhaps too hastily assumed that the allusions are so general as to make it impossible to connect them with any precise events, or to make the psalms and the history mutually illustrative. Much, no doubt, must be conjectured rather than affirmed, and much must be left undetermined; but when all deductions on that score have been made, it still appears possible to carry the process sufficiently far to gain fresh insight into the force and definiteness of many of David's words, and to use them with tolerable confidence as throwing light upon the narrative of his career. The attempt is made in some degree in this volume.

[A] Delitzsch, Kommentar, u. d. Psalter II. 376.

It will be necessary to prefix a few further remarks on the Davidic psalms in general. Can we tell which are David's? The Psalter, as is generally known, is divided into five books or parts, probably from some idea that it corresponded with the Pentateuch. These five books are marked by a doxology at the close of each, except the last. The first portion consists of Psa. i.-xli.; the second of Psa. xlii.-lxxii; the third of Psa. lxxiii.-lxxxix; the fourth of Psa. xc.-cvi.; and the fifth of Psa. cvii.-cl. The psalms attributed to David are unequally distributed through these five books. There are seventy-three in all, and they run thus:—In the first book there are thirty-seven; so that if we regard psalms i. and ii. as a kind of double introduction, a frontispiece and vignette title-page to the whole collection, the first book proper only two which are not regarded as David's. The second book has a much smaller proportion, only eighteen out of thirty-one. The third book has but one, the fourth two; while the fifth has fifteen, eight of which (cxxxviii.-cxlv.) occur almost at the close. The intention is obvious—to throw the Davidic psalms as much as possible together in the first two books. And the inference is not unnatural that these may have formed an earlier collection, to which were afterwards added the remaining three, with a considerable body of alleged psalms of David, which had subsequently come to light, placed side by side at the end, so as to round off the whole.

Be that as it may, one thing is clear from the arrangement of the Psalter, namely, that the superscriptions which give the authors' names are at least as old as the collection itself; for they have guided the order of the collection in the grouping not only of Davidic psalms, but also of those attributed to the sons of Korah (xlii.-xlix.) and to Asaph (lxxiii.-lxxxiii.)

The question of the reliableness of these superscriptions is hotly debated. The balance of modern opinion is decidedly against their genuineness. As in greater matters, so here "the higher criticism" comes to the consideration of their claims with a prejudice against them, and on very arbitrary grounds determines for itself, quite irrespective of these ancient voices, the date and authorship of the psalms. The extreme form of this tendency is to be found in the masterly work of Ewald, who has devoted all his vast power of criticism (and eked it out with all his equally great power of confident assertion) to the book, and has come to the conclusion that we have but eleven of David's psalms,—which is surely a result that may lead to questionings as to the method which has attained it.

These editorial notes are proved to be of extreme antiquity by such considerations as these: The Septuagint translators found them, and did not understand them; the synagogue preserves no traditions to explain them; the Book of Chronicles throws no light upon them; they are very rare in the two last books of the Psalter (Delitzsch, ii. 393). In some cases they are obviously erroneous, but in the greater number there is nothing inconsistent with their correctness in the psalms to which they are appended; while very frequently they throw a flood of light upon these, and all but prove their trustworthiness by their appropriateness. They are not authoritative, but they merit respectful consideration, and, as Dr. Perowne puts it in his valuable work on the Psalms, stand on a par with the subscriptions to the Epistles in the New Testament. Regarding them thus, and yet examining the psalms to which they are prefixed, there seem to be about forty-five which we may attribute with some confidence to David, and with these we shall be concerned in this book.


The life of David is naturally divided into epochs, of which we may avail ourselves for the more ready arrangement of our material. These are—his early years up to his escape from the court of Saul, his exile, the prosperous beginning of his reign, his sin and penitence, his flight before Absalom's rebellion, and the darkened end.

We have but faint incidental traces of his life up to his anointing by Samuel, with which the narrative in the historical books opens. But perhaps the fact that the story begins with that consecration to office, is of more value than the missing biography of his childhood could have been. It teaches us the point of view from which Scripture regards its greatest names—as nothing, except in so far as they are God's instruments. Hence its carelessness, notwithstanding that so much of it is history, of all that merely illustrates the personal character of its heroes. Hence, too, the clearness with which, notwithstanding that indifference, the living men are set before us—the image cut with half a dozen strokes of the chisel.

We do not know the age of David when Samuel appeared in the little village with the horn of sacred oil in his hand. The only approximation to it is furnished by the fact, that he was thirty at the beginning of his reign. (2 Sam. v. 4.) If we take into account that his exile must have lasted for a very considerable period (one portion of it, his second flight to the Philistines, was sixteen months, 1 Sam. xxvii. 7),—that the previous residence at the court of Saul must have been long enough to give time for his gradual rise to popularity, and thereafter for the gradual development of the king's insane hatred,—that further back still there was an indefinite period, between the fight with Goliath, and the first visit as a minstrel-physician to the palace, which was spent at Bethlehem, and that that visit itself cannot have been very brief, since in its course he became very dear and familiar to Saul,—it will not seem that all these events could be crowded into less than some twelve or fifteen years, or that he could have been more than a lad of some sixteen years of age when Samuel's hand smoothed the sacred oil on his clustering curls.

How life had gone with him till then, we can easily gather from the narrative of Scripture. His father's household seems to have been one in which modest frugality ruled. There is no trace of Jesse having servants; his youngest child does menial work; the present which he sends to his king when David goes to court was simple, and such as a man in humble life would give—an ass load of bread, one skin of wine, and one kid—his flocks were small—"a few sheep." It would appear as if prosperity had not smiled on the family since the days of Jesse's grandfather, Boaz, that "mighty man of wealth." David's place in the household does not seem to have been a happy one. His father scarcely reckoned him amongst his sons, and answers Samuel's question, if the seven burly husbandmen whom he has seen are all his children, with a trace of contempt as he remembers that there is another, "and, behold, he keepeth the sheep." Of his mother we hear but once, and that incidentally, for a moment, long after. His brothers had no love for him, and do not appear to have shared either his heart or his fortunes. The boy evidently had the usual fate of souls like his, to grow up in uncongenial circumstances, little understood and less sympathised with by the common-place people round them, and thrown back therefore all the more decisively upon themselves. The process sours and spoils some, but it is the making of more—and where, as in this case, the nature is thrown back upon God, and not on its own morbid operation, strength comes from repression, and sweetness from endurance. He may have received some instruction in one of Samuel's schools for the prophets, but we are left in entire ignorance of what outward helps to unfold itself were given to his budding life.

Whatever others he had, no doubt those which are emphasized in the Bible story were the chief, namely, his occupation and the many gifts which it brought to him. The limbs, "like hinds' feet," the sinewy arms which "broke a bow of steel," the precision with which he used the sling, the agility which "leaped over a rampart," the health that glowed in his "ruddy" face, were the least of his obligations to the breezy uplands, where he kept his father's sheep. His early life taught him courage, when he "smote the lion" and laid hold by his ugly muzzle of the bear that "rose against him," rearing itself upright for the fatal hug. Solitude and familiarity with nature helped to nurture the poetical side of his character, and to strengthen that meditative habit which blends so strangely with his impetuous activity, and which for the most part kept tumults and toils from invading his central soul. They threw him back on God who peopled the solitude and spoke in all nature. Besides this, he acquired in the sheepcote lessons which he practised on the throne, that rule means service, and that the shepherd of men holds his office in order that he may protect and guide. And in the lowly associations of his humble home, he learned the life of the people, their simple joys, their unconspicuous toils, their unnoticed sorrows—a priceless piece of knowledge both for the poet and for the king.

A breach in all the tranquil habits of this modest life was made by Samuel's astonishing errand. The story is told with wonderful picturesqueness and dramatic force. The minute account of the successive rejections of his brothers, Samuel's question and Jesse's answer, and then the pause of idle waiting till the messenger goes and returns, heighten the expectation with which we look for his appearance. And then what a sweet young face is lovingly painted for us! "He was ruddy, and withal of a beautiful countenance, and goodly to look to" (1 Sam. xvi. 12)—of fair complexion, with golden hair, which is rare among these swarthy, black-locked easterns, with lovely eyes (for that is the meaning of the words which the English Bible renders "of a beautiful countenance"), large and liquid as become a poet. So he stood before the old prophet, and with swelling heart and reverent awe received the holy chrism. In silence, as it would seem, Samuel anointed him. Whether the secret of his high destiny was imparted to him then, or left to be disclosed in future years, is not told. But at all events, whether with full understanding of what was before him or no, he must have been conscious of a call that would carry him far away from the pastures and olive yards of the little hamlet and of a new Spirit stirring in him from that day forward.

This sudden change in all the outlook of his life must have given new materials for thought when he went back to his humble task. Responsibility, or the prospect of it, makes lads into men very quickly. Graver meditations, humbler consciousness of weakness, a firmer trust in God who had laid the burden upon him, would do in days the work of years. And the necessity for bidding back the visions of the future in order to do faithfully the obscure duties of the present, would add self-control and patience, not usually the graces of youth. How swiftly he matured is singularly shown in the next recorded incident—his summons to the court of Saul, by the character of him drawn by the courtier who recommends him to the king. He speaks of David in words more suitable to a man of established renown than to a stripling. He is minstrel and warrior, "cunning in playing, and a mighty valiant man," and "skilled in speech (already eloquent), and fair in form, and the Lord is with him." (1 Sam. xvi. 18.) So quickly had the new circumstances and the energy of the Spirit of God, like tropical sunshine, ripened his soul.

That first visit to the court was but an episode in his life, however helpful to his growth it may have been. It would give him the knowledge of new scenes, widen his experience, and prepare him for the future. But it cannot have been of very long duration. Possibly his harp lost its power over Saul's gloomy spirit, when he had become familiar with its notes. For whatever reason, he returned to his father's house, and gladly exchanged the favour at court, which might have seemed to a merely ambitious man the first step towards fulfilling the prophecy of Samuel's anointing, for the freedom of the pastoral solitudes about Bethlehem. There he remained, living to outward seeming as in the quiet days before these two great earthquakes in his life, but with deeper thoughts and new power, with broader experience, and a wider horizon, until the hour when he was finally wrenched from his seclusion, and flung into the whirlpool of his public career.

There are none of David's psalms which can be with any certainty referred to this first period of his life; but it has left deep traces on many of them. The allusions to natural scenery and the frequent references to varying aspects of the shepherd's life are specimens of these. One characteristic of the poetic temperament is the faithful remembrance and cherishing of early days. How fondly he recalled them is shown in that most pathetic incident of his longing, as a weary exile, for one draught of water from the well at Bethlehem—where in the dear old times he had so often led his flocks.

But though we cannot say confidently that we have any psalms prior to his first exile, there are several which, whatever their date may be, are echoes of his thoughts in these first days. This is especially the case in regard to the group which describe varying aspects of nature—viz., Psalms xix., viii., xxix. They are unlike his later psalms in the almost entire absence of personal references, or of any trace of pressing cares, or of signs of a varied experience of human life. In their self-forgetful contemplation of nature, in their silence about sorrow, in their tranquil beauty, they resemble the youthful works of many a poet whose later verse throbs with quivering consciousness of life's agonies, or wrestles strongly with life's problems. They may not unnaturally be regarded as the outpouring of a young heart at leisure from itself, and from pain, far from men and very near God. The fresh mountain air of Bethlehem blows through them, and the dew of life's quiet morning is on them. The early experience supplied their materials, whatever was the date of their composition; and in them we can see what his inward life was in these budding years. The gaze of child-like wonder and awe upon the blazing brightness of the noonday, and on the mighty heaven with all its stars, the deep voice with which all creation spoke of God, the great thoughts of the dignity of man (thoughts ever welcome to lofty youthful souls), the gleaming of an inward light brighter than all suns, the consciousness of mysteries of weakness which may become miracles of sin in one's own heart, the assurance of close relation to God as His anointed and His servant, the cry for help and guidance—all this is what we should expect David to have thought and felt as he wandered among the hills, alone with God; and this is what these psalms give us.

Common to them all is the peculiar manner of looking upon nature, so uniform in David's psalms, so unlike more modern descriptive poetry. He can smite out a picture in a phrase, but he does not care to paint landscapes. He feels the deep analogies between man and his dwelling-place, but he does not care to lend to nature a shadowy life, the reflection of our own. Creation is to him neither a subject for poetical description, nor for scientific examination. It is nothing but the garment of God, the apocalypse of the heavenly. And common to them all is also the swift transition from the outward facts which reveal God, to the spiritual world, where His presence is, if it were possible, yet more needful, and His operations yet mightier. And common to them all is a certain rush of full thought and joyous power, which is again a characteristic of youthful work, and is unlike the elegiac tenderness and pathos of David's later hymns.

The nineteenth Psalm paints for us the glory of the heavens by day, as the eighth by night. The former gathers up the impressions of many a fresh morning when the solitary shepherd-boy watched the sun rising over the mountains of Moab, which close the eastern view from the hills above Bethlehem. The sacred silence of dawn, the deeper hush of night, have voice for his ear. "No speech! and no words! unheard is their voice." But yet, "in all the earth goeth forth their line,[B] and in the end of the habitable world their sayings." The heavens and the firmament, the linked chorus of day and night, are heralds of God's glory, with silent speech, heard in all lands, an unremitting voice. And as he looks, there leaps into the eastern heavens, not with the long twilight of northern lands, the sudden splendour, the sun radiant as a bridegroom from the bridal chamber, like some athlete impatient for the course. How the joy of morning and its new vigour throb in the words! And then he watches the strong runner climbing the heavens till the fierce heat beats down into the deep cleft of the Jordan, and all the treeless southern hills, as they slope towards the desert, lie bare and blazing beneath the beams.

[B] Their boundary, i.e., their territory, or the region through which their witness extends. Others render "their chord," or sound (LXX. Ewald, etc.)

The sudden transition from the revelation of God in nature to His voice in the law, has seemed to many critics unaccountable, except on the supposition that this psalm is made up of two fragments, put together by a later compiler; and some of them have even gone so far as to maintain that "the feeling which saw God revealed in the law did not arise till the time of Josiah."[C] But such a hypothesis is not required to explain either the sudden transition or the difference in style and rhythm between the two parts of the psalm, which unquestionably exists. The turn from the outer world to the better light of God's word, is most natural; the abruptness of it is artistic and impressive; the difference of style and measure gives emphasis to the contrast. There is also an obvious connection between the two parts, inasmuch as the law is described by epithets, which in part hint at its being a brighter sun, enlightening the eyes.

[C] "Psalms chronologically arranged"—following Ewald.

The Word which declares the will of the Lord is better than the heavens which tell His glory. The abundance of synonyms for that word show how familiar to his thoughts it was. To him it is "the law," "the testimonies" by which God witnesses of Himself and of man: "the statutes," the fixed settled ordinances; that which teaches "the fear of God," the "judgments" or utterances of His mind on human conduct. They are "perfect, firm, right, clean, pure,"—like that spotless sun—"eternal, true." "They quicken, make wise, enlighten," even as the light of the lower world. His heart prizes them "more than gold," of which in his simple life he knew so little; more than "the honey," which he had often seen dropping from "the comb" in the pastures of the wilderness.

And then the twofold contemplation rises into the loftier region of prayer. He feels that there are dark depths in his soul, gloomier pits than any into which the noontide sun shines. He speaks as one who is conscious of dormant evils, which life has not yet evolved, and his prayer is more directed towards the future than the past, and is thus very unlike the tone of the later psalms, that wail out penitence and plead for pardon. "Errors," or weaknesses,—"faults" unknown to himself,—"high-handed sins,"[D]—such is the climax of the evils from which he prays for deliverance. He knows himself "Thy servant" (2 Sam. vii. 5, 8; Psa. lxxviii. 70)—an epithet which may refer to his consecration to God's work by Samuel's anointing. He needs not only a God who sets His glory in the heavens, nor even one whose will is made known, but one who will touch his spirit,—not merely a Maker, but a pardoning God; and his faith reaches its highest point as his song closes with the sacred name of the covenant Jehovah, repeated for the seventh time, and invoked in one final aspiration of a trustful heart, as "my Rock, and my Redeemer."

[D] The form of the word would make "reckless men" a more natural translation; but probably the context requires a third, more aggravated sort of sin.

The eighth psalm is a companion picture, a night-piece, which, like the former, speaks of many an hour of lonely brooding below the heavens, whether its composition fall within this early period or no. The prophetic and doctrinal value of the psalms is not our main subject in the present volume, so that we have to touch but very lightly on this grand hymn. What does it show us of the singer? We see him, like other shepherds on the same hills, long after "keeping watch over his flocks by night," and overwhelmed by all the magnificence of an eastern sky, with its lambent lights. So bright, so changeless, so far,—how great they are, how small the boy that gazes up so wistfully. Are they gods, as all but his own nation believed? No,—"the work of Thy fingers," "which Thou hast ordained." The consciousness of God as their Maker delivers from the temptation of confounding bigness with greatness, and wakes into new energy that awful sense of personality which towers above all the stars. He is a babe and suckling—is that a trace of the early composition of the psalm?—still he knows that out of his lips, already beginning to break into song, and out of the lips of his fellows, God perfects praise. There speaks the sweet singer of Israel, prizing as the greatest of God's gifts his growing faculty, and counting his God-given words as nobler than the voice of "night unto night." God's fingers made these, but God's own breath is in him. God ordained them, but God visits him. The description of man's dignity and dominion indicates how familiar David was with the story in Genesis. It may perhaps also, besides all the large prophetic truths which it contains, have some special reference to his own earlier experience. It is at least worth noting that he speaks of the dignity of man as kingly, like that which was dawning on himself, and that the picture has no shadows either of sorrow or of sin,—a fact which may point to his younger days, when lofty thoughts of the greatness of the soul are ever natural and when in his case the afflictions and crimes that make their presence felt in all his later works had not fallen upon him. Perhaps, too, it may not be altogether fanciful to suppose that we may see the shepherd-boy surrounded by his flocks, and the wild creatures that prowled about the fold, and the birds asleep in their coverts beneath the moonlight, in his enumeration of the subjects of his first and happiest kingdom, where he ruled far away from men and sorrow, seeing God everywhere, and learning to perfect praise from his youthful lips.


In addition to the psalms already considered, which are devoted to the devout contemplation of nature, and stand in close connection with David's early days, there still remains one universally admitted to be his. The twenty-ninth psalm, like both the preceding, has to do with the glory of God as revealed in the heavens, and with earth only as the recipient of skyey influences; but while these breathed the profoundest tranquillity, as they watched the silent splendour of the sun, and the peace of moonlight shed upon a sleeping world, this is all tumult and noise. It is a highly elaborate and vivid picture of a thunderstorm, such as must often have broken over the shepherd-psalmist as he crouched under some shelf of limestone, and gathered his trembling charge about him. Its very structure reproduces in sound an echo of the rolling peals reverberating among the hills.

There is first an invocation, in the highest strain of devout poetry, calling upon the "sons of God," the angels who dwell above the lower sky, and who see from above the slow gathering of the storm-clouds, to ascribe to Jehovah the glory of His name—His character as set forth in the tempest. They are to cast themselves before Him "in holy attire," as priests of the heavenly sanctuary. Their silent and expectant worship is like the brooding stillness before the storm. We feel the waiting hush in heaven and earth.

Then the tempest breaks. It crashes and leaps through the short sentences, each like the clap of the near thunder.

a. The voice of Jehovah (is) on the waters. The God of glory thunders. Jehovah (is) on many waters. The voice of Jehovah in strength! The voice of Jehovah in majesty!

b. The voice of Jehovah rending the cedars! And Jehovah rends the cedars of Lebanon, And makes them leap like a calf; Lebanon and Sirion like a young buffalo The voice of Jehovah hewing flashes of fire!

c. The voice of Jehovah shakes the desert, Jehovah shakes the Kadesh desert.

The voice of Jehovah makes the hinds writhe And scathes the woods—and in His temple— —All in it (are) saying, "Glory."

Seven times the roar shakes the world. The voice of the seven thunders is the voice of Jehovah. In the short clauses, with their uniform structure, the pause between, and the recurrence of the same initial words, we hear the successive peals, the silence that parts them, and the monotony of their unvaried sound. Thrice we have the reverberation rolling through the sky or among the hills, imitated by clauses which repeat previous ones, as indicated by the italics, and one forked flame blazes out in the brief, lightning-like sentence, "The voice of Jehovah (is) hewing flashes of fire," which wonderfully gives the impression of their streaming fiercely forth, as if cloven from some solid block of fire, their swift course, and their instantaneous extinction.

The range and effects of the storm, too, are vividly painted. It is first "on the waters," which may possibly mean the Mediterranean, but more probably, "the waters that are above the firmament," and so depicts the clouds as gathering high in air. Then it comes down with a crash on the northern mountains, splintering the gnarled cedars, and making Lebanon rock with all its woods—leaping across the deep valley of Coelo-Syria, and smiting Hermon (for which Sirion is a Sidonian name), the crest of the Anti Lebanon, till it reels. Onward it sweeps—or rather, perhaps, it is all around the psalmist; and even while he hears the voice rolling from the furthest north, the extreme south echoes the roar. The awful voice shakes[E] the wilderness, as it booms across its level surface. As far south as Kadesh (probably Petra) the tremor spreads, and away in the forests of Edom the wild creatures in their terror slip their calves, and the oaks are scathed and stripped of their leafy honours. And all the while, like a mighty diapason sounding on through the tumult, the voice of the sons of God in the heavenly temple is heard proclaiming "Glory!"

[E] Delitzsch would render "whirls in circles"—a picturesque allusion to the sand pillars which accompany storms in the desert.

The psalm closes with lofty words of confidence, built on the story of the past, as well as on the contemplation of the present. "Jehovah sat throned for (i.e., to send on earth) the flood" which once drowned the world of old. "Jehovah will sit throned, a King for ever." That ancient judgment spoke of His power over all the forces of nature, in their most terrible form. So now and for ever, all are His servants, and effect His purposes. Then, as the tempest rolls away, spent and transient, the sunshine streams out anew from the softened blue over a freshened world, and every raindrop on the leaves twinkles into diamond light, and the end of the psalm is like the after brightness; and the tranquil low voice of its last words is like the songs of the birds again as the departing storm growls low and faint on the horizon. "The Lord will bless His people with peace."

Thus, then, nature spoke to this young heart. The silence was vocal; the darkness, bright; the tumult, order—and all was the revelation of a present God. It is told of one of our great writers that, when a child, he was found lying on a hill-side during a thunderstorm, and at each flash clapping his hands and shouting, unconscious of danger, and stirred to ecstasy. David, too, felt all the poetic elevation, and natural awe, in the presence of the crashing storm; but he felt something more. To him the thunder was not a power to tremble before, not a mere subject for poetic contemplation. Still less was it something, the like of which could be rubbed out of glass and silk, and which he had done with when he knew its laws. No increase of knowledge touching the laws of physical phenomena in the least affects the point of view which these Nature-psalms take. David said, "God makes and moves all things." We may be able to complete the sentence by a clause which tells something of the methods of His operation. But that is only a parenthesis after all, and the old truth remains widened, not overthrown by it. The psalmist knew that all being and action had their origin in God. He saw the last links of the chain, and knew that it was rivetted to the throne of God, though the intermediate links were unseen; and even the fact that there were any was not present to his mind. We know something of these; but the first and the last of the series to him, are the first and the last to us also. To us as to him, the silent splendour of noonday speaks of God, and the nightly heavens pour the soft radiance of His "excellent name over all the earth." The tempest is His voice, and the wildest commotions in nature and among men break in obedient waves around His pillared throne.

"Well roars the storm to those who hear A deeper voice across the storm!"

There still remains one other psalm which may be used as illustrating the early life of David. The Twenty-third psalm is coloured throughout by the remembrances of his youthful occupation, even if its actual composition is of a later date. Some critics, indeed, think that the mention in the last verse of "the house of the Lord" compels the supposition of an origin subsequent to the building of the Temple; but the phrase in question need not have anything to do with tabernacle or temple, and is most naturally accounted for by the preceding image of God as the Host who feasts His servants at His table. There are no other notes of time in the psalm, unless, with some commentators, we see an allusion in that image of the furnished table to the seasonable hospitality of the Gileadite chieftains during David's flight before Absalom (2 Sam. xvii. 27-29)—a reference which appears prosaic and flat. The absence of traces of distress and sorrow—so constantly present in the later songs—may be urged with some force in favour of the early date; and if we follow one of the most valuable commentators (Hupfeld) in translating all the verbs as futures, and so make the whole a hymn of hope, we seem almost obliged to suppose that we have here the utterance of a youthful spirit, which ventured to look forward, because it first looked upward. In any case, the psalm is a transcript of thoughts that had been born and cherished in many a meditative hour among the lonely hills of Bethlehem. It is the echo of the shepherd life. We see in it the incessant care, the love to his helpless charge, which was expressed in and deepened by all his toil for them. He had to think for their simplicity, to fight for their defencelessness, to find their pasture, to guard them while they lay amid the fresh grass; sometimes to use his staff in order to force their heedlessness with loving violence past tempting perils; sometimes to guide them through gloomy gorges, where they huddled close at his heels; sometimes to smite the lion and the bear that prowled about the fold—but all was for their good and meant their comfort. And thus he has learned, in preparation for his own kingdom, the inmost meaning of pre-eminence among men—and, more precious lesson still, thus he has learned the very heart of God. Long before, Jacob had spoken of Him as the "Shepherd of Israel;" but it was reserved for David to bring that sweet and wonderful name into closer relations with the single soul; and, with that peculiar enthusiasm of personal reliance, and recognition of God's love to the individual which stamps all his psalms, to say "The Lord is my Shepherd." These dumb companions of his, in their docility to his guidance, and absolute trust in his care, had taught him the secret of peace in helplessness, of patience in ignorance. The green strips of meadow-land where the clear waters brought life, the wearied flocks sheltered from the mid-day heat, the quiet course of the little stream, the refreshment of the sheep by rest and pasture, the smooth paths which he tried to choose for them, the rocky defiles through which they had to pass, the rod in his hand that guided, and chastised, and defended, and was never lifted in anger,—all these, the familiar sights of his youth, pass before us as we read; and to us too, in our widely different social state, have become the undying emblems of the highest care and the wisest love. The psalm witnesses how close to the youthful heart the consciousness of God must have been, which could thus transform and glorify the little things which were so familiar. We can feel, in a kind of lazy play of sentiment, the fitness of the shepherd's life to suggest thoughts of God—because it is not our life. But it needs both a meditative habit and a devout heart to feel that the trivialities of our own daily tasks speak to us of Him. The heavens touch the earth on the horizon of our vision, but it always seems furthest to the sky from the spot where we stand. To the psalmist, however,—as in higher ways to his Son and Lord,—all things around him were full of God; and as the majesties of nature, so the trivialities of man's works—shepherds and fishermen—were solemn with deep meanings and shadows of the heavenly. With such lofty thoughts he fed his youth.

The psalm, too, breathes the very spirit of sunny confidence and of perfect rest in God. We have referred to the absence of traces of sorrow, and to the predominant tone of hopefulness, as possibly favouring the supposition of an early origin. But it matters little whether they were young eyes which looked so courageously into the unknown future, or whether we have here the more solemn and weighty hopes of age, which can have few hopes at all, unless they be rooted in God. The spirit expressed in the psalm is so thoroughly David's, that in his younger days, before it was worn with responsibilities and sorrows, it must have been especially strong. We may therefore fairly take the tone of this song of the Shepherd God as expressing the characteristic of his godliness in the happy early years. In his solitude he was glad. One happy thought fills the spirit; one simple emotion thrills the chords of his harp. No doubts, or griefs, or remorse throw their shadows upon him. He is conscious of dependence, but he is above want and fear. He does not ask, he has—he possesses God, and is at rest in Him. He is satisfied with that fruition which blesseth all who hunger for God, and is the highest form of communion with Him. As the present has no longings, the future has no terrors. All the horizon is clear, all the winds are still, the ocean at rest, "and birds of peace sit brooding on the charmed wave." If there be foes, God holds them back. If there lie far off among the hills any valley of darkness, its black portals cast no gloom over him, and will not when he enters. God is his Shepherd, and, by another image, God is his Host. The life which in one aspect, by reason of its continual change, and occupation with outward things, may be compared to the journeyings of a flock, is in another aspect, by reason of its inward union with the stability of God, like sitting ever at the table which His hand has spread as for a royal banquet, where the oil of gladness glistens on every head, and the full cup of Divine pleasure is in every hand. For all the outward and pilgrimage aspect, the psalmist knows that only Goodness and Mercy—these two white-robed messengers of God—will follow his steps, however long may be the term of the days of his yet young life; for all the inward, he is sure that, in calm, unbroken fellowship, he will dwell in the house of God, and that when the twin angels who fed and guided him all his young life long have finished their charge, and the days of his journeyings are ended, there stretches beyond a still closer union with his heavenly Friend, which will be perfected in His true house "for ever." We look in vain for another example, even in David's psalms, of such perfect, restful trust in God. These clear notes are perhaps the purest utterance ever given of "the peace of God which passeth all understanding."

Such were the thoughts and hopes of the lad who kept his father's sheep at Bethlehem. He lived a life of lofty thoughts and lowly duties. He heard the voice of God amidst the silence of the hills, and the earliest notes of his harp echoed the deep tones. He learned courage as well as tenderness from his daily tasks, and patience from the contrast between them and the high vocation which Samuel's mysterious anointing had opened before him. If we remember how disturbing an influence the consciousness of it might have wrought in a soul less filled with God, we may perhaps accept as probably correct the superscription which refers one sweet, simple psalm to him, and may venture to suppose that it expresses the contentment, undazzled by visions of coming greatness, that calmed his heart. "Lord, my heart is not haughty, nor mine eyes lofty; neither do I exercise myself in great matters, or in things too high for me. Surely I have smoothed and quieted my soul: like a weanling on his mother's (breast), like a weanling is my soul within me." (Psa. cxxxi.) So lying in God's arms, and content to be folded in His embrace, without seeking anything beyond, he is tranquil in his lowly lot.

It does not fall within our province to follow the course of the familiar narrative through the picturesque events that led him to fame and position at court. The double character of minstrel and warrior, to which we have already referred, is remarkably brought out in his double introduction to Saul, once as soothing the king's gloomy spirit with the harmonies of his shepherd's harp, once as bringing down the boasting giant of Gath with his shepherd's sling. On the first occasion his residence in the palace seems to have been ended by Saul's temporary recovery. He returns to Bethlehem for an indefinite time, and then leaves it and all its peaceful tasks for ever. The dramatic story of the duel with Goliath needs no second telling. His arrival at the very crisis of the war, the eager courage with which he leaves his baggage in the hands of the guard and runs down the valley to the ranks of the army, the busy hum of talk among the Israelites, the rankling jealousy of his brother that curdles into bitter jeers, the modest courage with which he offers himself as champion, the youthful enthusiasm of brave trust in "the Lord, that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear;" the wonderfully vivid picture of the young hero with his shepherd staff in one hand, his sling in the other, and the rude wallet by his side, which had carried his simple meal, and now held the smooth stone from the brook that ran between the armies in the bottom of the little valley—the blustering braggadocio of the big champion, the boy's devout confidence in "the name of the Lord of hosts;" the swift brevity of the narrative of the actual fight, which in its hurrying clauses seems to reproduce the light-footed eagerness of the young champion, or the rapid whizz of the stone ere it crashed into the thick forehead; the prostrate bulk of the dead giant prone upon the earth, and the conqueror, slight and agile, hewing off the huge head with Goliath's own useless sword;—all these incidents, so full of character, so antique in manner, so weighty with lessons of the impotence of strength that is merely material, and the power of a living enthusiasm of faith in God, may, for our present purposes, be passed with a mere glance. One observation may, however, be allowed. After the victory, Saul is represented as not knowing who David was, and as sending Abner to find out where he comes from. Abner, too, professes entire ignorance; and when David appears before the king, "with the head of the Philistine in his hand," he is asked, "Whose son art thou, young man?" It has been thought that here we have an irreconcilable contradiction with previous narratives, according to which there was close intimacy between him and the king, who "loved him greatly," and gave him an office of trust about his person. Suppositions of "dislocation of the narrative," the careless adoption by the compiler of two separate legends, and the like, have been freely indulged in. But it may at least be suggested as a possible explanation of the seeming discrepancy, that when Saul had passed out of his moody madness it is not wonderful that he should have forgotten all which had occurred in his paroxysm. It is surely a common enough psychological phenomenon that a man restored to sanity has no remembrance of the events during his mental aberration. And as for Abner's profession of ignorance, an incipient jealousy of this stripling hero may naturally have made the "captain of the host" willing to keep the king as ignorant as he could concerning a probable formidable rival. There is no need to suppose he was really ignorant, but only that it suited him to say that he was.

With this earliest deed of heroism the peaceful private days are closed, and a new epoch of court favour and growing popularity begins. The impression which the whole story leaves upon one is well summed up in a psalm which the Septuagint adds to the Psalter. It is not found in the Hebrew, and has no pretension to be David's work; but, as a resume of the salient points of his early life, it may fitly end our considerations of this first epoch.

"This is the autograph psalm of David, and beyond the number (i.e., of the psalms in the Psalter), when he fought the single fight with Goliath:—

"(1.) I was little among my brethren, and the youngest in the house of my father: I kept the flock of my father. (2.) My hands made a pipe, my fingers tuned a psaltery. (3.) And who shall tell it to my Lord? He is the Lord, He shall hear me. (4.) He sent His angel (messenger), and took me from the flocks of my father, and anointed me with the oil of His anointing. (5.) But my brethren were fair and large, and in them the Lord took not pleasure. (6.) I went out to meet the Philistine, and he cursed me by his idols. (7.) But I, drawing his sword, beheaded him, and took away reproach from the children of Israel."


David's first years at the court of Saul in Gibeah do not appear to have produced any psalms which still survive.

"The sweetest songs are those Which tell of saddest thought."

It was natural, then, that a period full of novelty and of prosperous activity, very unlike the quiet days at Bethlehem, should rather accumulate materials for future use than be fruitful in actual production. The old life shut to behind him for ever, like some enchanted door in a hill-side, and an unexplored land lay beckoning before. The new was widening his experience, but it had to be mastered, to be assimilated by meditation before it became vocal.

The bare facts of this section are familiar and soon told. There is first a period in which he is trusted by Saul, who sets him in high command, with the approbation not only of the people, but even of the official classes. But a new dynasty resting on military pre-eminence cannot afford to let a successful soldier stand on the steps of the throne; and the shrill chant of the women out of all the cities of Israel, which even in Saul's hearing answered the praises of his prowess with a louder acclaim for David's victories, startled the king for the first time with a revelation of the national feeling. His unslumbering suspicion "eyed David from that day." Rage and terror threw him again into the gripe of his evil spirit, and in his paroxysm he flings his heavy spear, the symbol of his royalty, at the lithe harper, with fierce vows of murder. The failure of his attempt to kill David seems to have aggravated his dread of him as bearing a charm which won all hearts and averted all dangers. A second stage is marked not only by Saul's growing fear, but by David's new position. He is removed from court, and put in a subordinate command, which only extends his popularity, and brings him into more immediate contact with the mass of the people. "All Israel and Judah loved David, because he went out and came in before them." Then follows the offer of Saul's elder daughter in marriage, in the hope that by playing upon his gratitude and his religious feeling, he might be urged to some piece of rash bravery that would end him without scandal. Some new caprice of Saul's, however, leads him to insult David by breaking his pledge at the last moment, and giving the promised bride to another. Jonathan's heart was not the only one in Saul's household that yielded to his spell. The younger Michal had been cherishing his image in secret, and now tells her love. Her father returns to his original purpose, with the strange mixture of tenacity and capricious changefulness that marks his character, and again attempts, by demanding a grotesquely savage dowry, to secure David's destruction. But that scheme, too, fails; and he becomes a member of the royal house.

This third stage is marked by Saul's deepening panic hatred, which has now become a fixed idea. All his attempts have only strengthened David's position, and he looks on his irresistible advance with a nameless awe. He calls, with a madman's folly, on Jonathan and on all his servants to kill him; and then, when his son appeals to him, his old better nature comes over him, and with a great oath he vows that David shall not be slain. For a short time David returns to Gibeah, and resumes his former relations with Saul, but a new victory over the Philistines rouses the slumbering jealousy. Again the "evil spirit" is upon him, and the great javelin is flung with blind fury, and sticks quivering in the wall. It is night, and David flies to his house. A stealthy band of assassins from the palace surround the house with orders to prevent all egress, and, by what may be either the strange whim of a madman, or the cynical shamelessness of a tyrant, to slay him in the open daylight. Michal, who, though in after time she showed a strain of her father's proud godlessness, and an utter incapacity of understanding the noblest parts of her husband's character, seems to have been a true wife in these early days, discovers, perhaps with a woman's quick eye sharpened by love, the crouching murderers, and with rapid promptitude urges immediate flight. Her hands let him down from the window—the house being probably on the wall. Her ready wit dresses up one of those mysterious teraphim (which appear to have had some connection with idolatry or magic, and which are strange pieces of furniture for David's house), and lays it in the bed to deceive the messengers, and so gain a little more time before pursuit began. "So David fled and escaped, and came to Samuel to Ramah," and thus ended his life at court.

Glancing over this narrative, one or two points come prominently forth. The worth of these events to David must have lain chiefly in the abundant additions made to his experience of life, which ripened his nature, and developed new powers. The meditative life of the sheepfold is followed by the crowded court and camp. Strenuous work, familiarity with men, constant vicissitude, take the place of placid thought, of calm seclusion, of tranquil days that knew no changes but the alternation of sun and stars, storm and brightness, green pastures and dusty paths. He learned the real world, with its hate and effort, its hollow fame and its whispering calumnies. Many illusions no doubt faded, but the light that had shone in his solitude still burned before him for his guide, and a deeper trust in his Shepherd God was rooted in his soul by all the shocks of varying fortune. The passage from the visions of youth and the solitary resolves of early and uninterrupted piety to the naked realities of a wicked world, and the stern self-control of manly godliness, is ever painful and perilous. Thank God! it may be made clear gain, as it was by this young hero psalmist.

David's calm indifference to outward circumstances affecting himself, is very strikingly expressed in his conduct. Partly from his poetic temperament, partly from his sweet natural unselfishness, and chiefly from his living trust in God, he accepts whatever happens with equanimity, and makes no effort to alter it. He originates nothing. Prosperity comes unsought, and dangers unfeared. He does not ask for Jonathan's love, or the people's favour, or the women's songs, or Saul's daughter. If Saul gives him command he takes it, and does his work. If Saul flings his javelin at him, he simply springs aside and lets it whizz past. If his high position is taken from him, he is quite content with a lower. If a royal alliance is offered, he accepts it; if it is withdrawn, he is not ruffled; if renewed, he is still willing. If a busy web of intrigue is woven round him, he takes no notice. If reconciliation is proposed, he cheerfully goes back to the palace. If his life is threatened he goes home. He will not stir to escape but for the urgency of his wife. So well had he already begun to learn the worthlessness of life's trifles. So thoroughly does he practice his own precept, "Fret not thyself because of evil-doers;" "rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him." (Psa. xxxvii. 1, 7.)

This section gives also a remarkable impression of the irresistible growth of his popularity and influence. The silent energy of the Divine purpose presses his fortunes onward with a motion slow and inevitable as that of a glacier. The steadfast flow circles unchecked round, or rises victorious over all hindrances. Efforts to ruin, to degrade, to kill—one and all fail. Terror and hate, suspicion and jealousy, only bring him nearer the goal. A clause which comes in thrice in the course of one chapter, expresses this fated advance. In the first stage of his court life, we read, "David prospered" (1 Sam. xviii. 5, margin), and again with increased emphasis it is told as the result of the efforts to crush him, that, "He prospered in all his ways, and the Lord was with him" (verse 14), and yet again, in spite of Saul's having "become his enemy continually," he "prospered more than all the servants of Saul" (verse 30). He moves onward as stars in their courses move, obeying the equable impulse of the calm and conquering will of God.

The familiar Scripture antithesis, which naturally finds its clearest utterance in the words of the last inspired writer—namely, the eternal opposition of Light and Darkness, Love and Hate, Life and Death, is brought into sharpest relief by the juxtaposition and contrast of David and Saul. This is the key to the story. The two men are not more unlike in person than in spirit. We think of the one with his ruddy beauty and changeful eyes, and lithe slight form, and of the other gaunt and black, his giant strength weakened, and his "goodly" face scarred with the lightnings of his passions—and as they look so they are. The one full of joyous energy, the other devoured by gloom; the one going in and out among the people and winning universal love, the other sitting moody and self-absorbed behind his palace walls; the one bringing sweet clear tones of trustful praise from his harp, the other shaking his huge spear in his madness; the one ready for action and prosperous in it all, the other paralyzed, shrinking from all work, and leaving the conduct of the war to the servant whom he feared; the one conscious of the Divine presence making him strong and calm, the other writhing in the gripe of his evil spirit, and either foaming in fury, or stiffened into torpor; the one steadily growing in power and favour with God and man, the other sinking in deeper mire, and wrapped about with thickening mists as he moves to his doom. The tragic pathos of these two lives in their fateful antagonism is the embodiment of that awful alternative of life and death, blessing and cursing, which it was the very aim of Judaism to stamp ineffaceably on the conscience.

David's flight begins a period to which a large number of his psalms are referred. We may call them "The Songs of the Outlaw." The titles in the psalter connect several with specific events during his persecution by Saul, and besides these, there are others which have marked characteristics in common, and may therefore be regarded as belonging to the same time. The bulk of the former class are found in the second book of the psalter (Ps. xlii.-lxxii.), which has been arranged with some care. There are first eight Korahite psalms, and one of Asaph's; then a group of fifteen Davidic (li.-lxv.), followed by two anonymous; then three more of David's (lxviii.-lxx.), followed by one anonymous and the well-known prayer "for Solomon." Now it is worth notice that the group of fifteen psalms ascribed to David is as nearly as possible divided in halves, eight having inscriptions which give a specific date of composition, and seven having no such detail. There has also been some attempt at arranging the psalms of these two classes alternately, but that has not been accurately carried out. These facts show that the titles are at all events as old as the compilation of the second book of the psalter, and were regarded as accurate then. Several points about the complete book of psalms as we have it, seem to indicate that these two first books were an older nucleus, which was in existence long prior to the present collection—and if so, the date of the titles must be carried back a very long way indeed, and with a proportionate increase of authority.

Of the eight psalms in the second book having titles with specific dates, five (Ps. lii., liv., lvi., lvii., lix.) are assigned to the period of the Sauline persecution, and, as it would appear, with accuracy. There is a general similarity of tone in them all, as well as considerable parallelisms of expression, favourite phrases and metaphors, which are favourable to the hypothesis of a nearly cotemporaneous date. They are all in what, to use a phrase from another art, we may call David's earlier manner. For instance, in all the psalmist is surrounded by enemies. They would "swallow him up" (lvi. 1, 2; lvii. 3). They "oppress" him (liv. 3; lvi. 1). One of their weapons is calumny, which seems from the frequent references to have much moved the psalmist. Their tongues are razors (lii. 2), or swords (lvii. 4; lix. 7; lxiv. 3). They seem to him like crouching beasts ready to spring upon harmless prey (lvi. 6; lvii. 6; lix. 3); they are "lions" (lvii. 4), dogs (lix. 6, 14). He is conscious of nothing which he has done to provoke this storm of hatred (lix. 3; lxiv. 4.) The "strength" of God is his hope (liv. 1; lix. 9, 17). He is sure that retribution will fall upon the enemies (lii. 5; liv. 5; lvi. 7; lvii. 6; lix. 8-15; lxiv. 7, 8). He vows and knows that psalms of deliverance will yet succeed these plaintive cries (lii. 9; liv. 7; lvi. 12; lvii. 7-11; lix. 16, 17).

We also find a considerable number of psalms in the first book of the psalter which present the same features, and may therefore probably be classed with these as belonging to the time of his exile. Such for instance are the seventh and thirty-fourth, which have both inscriptions referring them to this period, with others which we shall have to consider presently. The imagery of the preceding group reappears in them. His enemies are lions (vii. 2; xvii. 12; xxii. 13; xxxv. 17); dogs (xxii. 16); bulls (xxii. 12). Pitfalls and snares are in his path (vii. 15; xxxi. 4; xxxv. 7). He passionately protests his innocence, and the kindliness of his heart to his wanton foes (vii. 3-5; xvii. 3, 4); whom he has helped and sorrowed over in their sickness (xxxv. 13, 14)—a reference, perhaps, to his solacing Saul in his paroxysms with the music of his harp. He dwells on retribution with vehemence (vii. 11-16; xi. 5-7; xxxi. 23; xxxv. 8), and on his own deliverance with confidence.

These general characteristics accurately correspond with the circumstances of David during the years of his wanderings. The scenery and life of the desert colours the metaphors which describe his enemies as wild beasts; himself as a poor hunted creature amongst pits and snares; or as a timid bird flying to the safe crags, and God as his Rock. Their strong assertions of innocence accord with the historical indications of Saul's gratuitous hatred, and appear to distinguish the psalms of this period from those of Absalom's revolt, in which the remembrance of his great sin was too deep to permit of any such claims. In like manner the prophecies of the enemies' destruction are too triumphant to suit that later time of exile, when the father's heart yearned with misplaced tenderness over his worthless son, and nearly broke with unkingly sorrow for the rebel's death. Their confidence in God, too, has in it a ring of joyousness in peril which corresponds with the buoyant faith that went with him through all the desperate adventures and hairbreadth escapes of the Sauline persecution. If then we may, with some confidence, read these psalms in connection with that period, what a noble portraiture of a brave, devout soul looks out upon us from them. We see him in the first flush of his manhood—somewhere about five-and-twenty years old—fronting perils of which he is fully conscious, with calm strength and an enthusiasm of trust that lifts his spirit above them all, into a region of fellowship with God which no tumult can invade, and which no remembrance of black transgression troubled and stained. His harp is his solace in his wanderings; and while plaintive notes are flung from its strings, as is needful for the deepest harmonies of praise here, every wailing tone melts into clear ringing notes of glad affiance in the "God of his mercy."

Distinct references to the specific events of his wanderings are, undoubtedly, rare in them, though even these are more obvious than has been sometimes carelessly assumed. Their infrequency and comparative vagueness has been alleged against the accuracy of the inscriptions which allocate certain psalms to particular occasions. But in so far as it is true that these allusions are rare and inexact, the fact is surely rather in favour of than against the correctness of the titles. For if these are not suggested by obvious references in the psalms to which they are affixed, by what can they have been suggested but by a tradition considerably older than the compilation of the psalter? Besides, the analogy of all other poetry would lead us to expect precisely what we find in these psalms—general and not detailed allusions to the writer's circumstances. The poetic imagination does not reproduce the bald prosaic facts which have set it in motion, but the echo of them broken up and etherealised. It broods over them till life stirs, and the winged creature bursts from them to sing and soar.

If we accept the title as accurate, the fifty-ninth psalm is the first of these Songs of the Outlaw. It refers to the time "when Saul sent, and they watched the house to kill him." Those critics who reject this date, which they do on very weak grounds, lose themselves in a chaos of assumptions as to the occasion of the psalm. The Chaldean invasion, the assaults in the time of Nehemiah, and the era of the Maccabees, are alleged with equal confidence and equal groundlessness. "We believe that it is most advisable to adhere to the title, and most scientific to ignore these hypotheses built on nothing." (Delitzsch.)

It is a devotional and poetic commentary on the story in Samuel. There we get the bare facts of the assassins prowling by night round David's house; of Michal's warning; of her ready-witted trick to gain time, and of his hasty flight to Samuel at Ramah. In the narrative David is, as usual at this period, passive and silent; but when we turn to the psalm, we learn the tone of his mind as the peril bursts upon him, and all the vulgar craft and fear fades from before his lofty enthusiasm of faith.

The psalm begins abruptly with a passionate cry for help, which is repeated four times, thus bringing most vividly before us the extremity of the danger and the persistency of the suppliant's trust. The peculiar tenderness and closeness of his relation to his heavenly Friend, which is so characteristic of David's psalms, and which they were almost the first to express, breathes through the name by which he invokes help, "my God." The enemies are painted in words which accurately correspond with the history, and which by their variety reveal how formidable they were to the psalmist. They "lie in wait (literally weave plots) for my life." They are "workers of iniquity," "men of blood," insolent or violent ("mighty" in English version). He asserts his innocence, as ever in these Sauline psalms, and appeals to God in confirmation, "not for my transgressions, nor for my sins, O Lord." He sees these eager tools of royal malice hurrying to their congenial work: "they run and prepare themselves." And then, rising high above all encompassing evils, he grasps at the throne of God in a cry, which gains additional force when we remember that the would-be murderers compassed his house in the night. "Awake to meet me, and behold;" as if he had said, "In the darkness do Thou see; at midnight sleep not Thou." The prayer is continued in words which heap together with unwonted abundance the Divine names, in each of which lie an appeal to God and a pillar of faith. As Jehovah, the self-existent Fountain of timeless Being; as the God of Hosts, the Commander of all the embattled powers of the universe, whether they be spiritual or material; as the GOD of Israel, who calls that people His, and has become theirs—he stirs up the strength of God to "awake to visit all the heathen,"—a prayer which has been supposed to compel the reference of the whole psalm to the assaults of Gentile nations, but which may be taken as an anticipation on David's lips of the truth that, "They are not all Israel which are of Israel." After a terrible petition—"Be not merciful to any secret plotters of evil"—there is a pause (Selah) to be filled, as it would appear, by some chords on the harp, or the blare of the trumpets, thus giving time to dwell on the previous petitions.

But still the thought of the foe haunts him, and he falls again to the lower level of painting their assembling round his house, and their whispers as they take their stand. It would appear that the watch had been kept up for more than one night. How he flings his growing scorn of them into the sarcastic words, "They return at evening; they growl like a dog, and compass the city" (or "go their rounds in the city"). One sees them stealing through the darkness, like the troops of vicious curs that infest Eastern cities, and hears their smothered threatenings as they crouch in the shadow of the unlighted streets. Then growing bolder, as the night deepens and sleep falls on the silent houses: "Behold they pour out with their mouth, swords (are) in their lips, for 'who hears'?" In magnificent contrast with these skulking murderers fancying themselves unseen and unheard, David's faith rends the heaven, and, with a daring image which is copied in a much later psalm (ii. 4), shows God gazing on them with Divine scorn which breaks in laughter and mockery. A brief verse, which recurs at the end of the psalm, closes the first portion of the psalm with a calm expression of untroubled trust, in beautiful contrast with the peril and tumult of soul, out of which it rises steadfast and ethereal, like a rainbow spanning a cataract. A slight error appears to have crept into the Hebrew text, which can be easily corrected from the parallel verse at the end, and then the quiet confident words are—

"My strength! upon Thee will I wait, For God is my fortress!"

The second portion is an intensification of the first; pouring out a terrible prayer for exemplary retribution on his enemies; asking that no speedy destruction may befall them, but that God would first of all "make them reel" by the blow of His might; would then fling them prostrate; would make their pride and fierce words a net to snare them; and then, at last, would bring them to nothing in the hot flames of His wrath—that the world may know that He is king. The picture of the prowling dogs recurs with deepened scorn and firmer confidence that they will hunt for their prey in vain.

"And they return at evening; they growl like a dog, And compass the city. They—they prowl about for food If (or, since) they are not satisfied, they spend the night (in the search.)"

There is almost a smile on his face as he thinks of their hunting about for him, like hungry hounds snuffing for their meal in the kennels, and growling now in disappointment—while he is safe beyond their reach. And the psalm ends with a glad burst of confidence, and a vow of praise very characteristic on his lips—

"But I—I will sing Thy power, And shout aloud, in the morning, Thy mercy, For Thou hast been a fortress for me. And a refuge in the day of my trouble. My strength! unto Thee will I harp, For God is my fortress—the God of my mercy."

Thrice he repeats the vow of praise. His harp was his companion in his flight, and even in the midst of peril the poet's nature appears which regards all life as materials for song, and the devout spirit appears which regards all trial as occasions for praise. He has calmed his own spirit, as he had done Saul's, by his song, and by prayer has swung himself clear above fightings and fears. The refrain, which occurs twice in the psalm, witnesses to the growth of his faith even while he sings. At first he could only say in patient expectance, "My strength! I will wait upon thee, for God is my fortress." But at the end his mood is higher, his soul has caught fire as it revolves, and his last words are a triumphant amplification of his earlier trust: "My strength! unto thee will I sing with the harp—for God is my fortress—the God of my mercy."


"So David fled, and escaped and came to Samuel to Ramah, and told him all that Saul had done unto him. And he and Samuel went and dwelt in Naioth" (1 Sam. xix. 18)—or, as the word probably means, in the collection of students' dwellings, inhabited by the sons of the prophets, where possibly there may have been some kind of right of sanctuary. Driven thence by Saul's following him, and having had one last sorrowful hour of Jonathan's companionship—the last but one on earth—he fled to Nob, whither the ark had been carried after the destruction of Shiloh. The story of his flight had not reached the solitary little town among the hills, and he is received with the honour due to the king's son-in-law. He pleads urgent secret business for Saul as a reason for his appearance with a slender retinue, and unarmed; and the priest, after some feeble scruples, supplies the handful of hungry fugitives with the shewbread. But David's quick eye caught a swarthy face peering at him from some enclosure of the simple forest sanctuary, and as he recognised Doeg the Edomite, Saul's savage herdsman, a cold foreboding of evil crept over his heart, and made him demand arms from the peaceful priest. The lonely tabernacle was guarded by its own sanctity, and no weapons were there, except one trophy which was of good omen to David—Goliath's sword. He eagerly accepts the matchless weapon which his hand had clutched on that day of danger and deliverance, and thus armed, lest Doeg should try to bar his flight, he hurries from the pursuit which he knew that the Edomite's malignant tongue would soon bring after him. The tragical end of the unsuspecting priest's kindness brings out the furious irrational suspicion and cruelty of Saul. He rages at his servants as leagued with David in words which have a most dreary sound of utter loneliness sighing through all their fierce folly: "All of you have conspired against me; there is none of you that is sorry for me" (1 Sam. xxii. 8.) Doeg is forward to curry favour by telling his tale, and so tells it as to suppress the priest's ignorance of David's flight, and to represent him as aiding and comforting the rebel knowingly. Then fierce wrath flames out from the darkened spirit, and the whole priestly population of Nob are summoned before him, loaded with bitter reproaches, their professions of innocence disregarded, and his guard ordered to murder them all then and there. The very soldiers shrink from the sacrilege, but a willing tool is at hand. The wild blood of Edom, fired by ancestral hatred, desires no better work, and Doeg crowns his baseness by slaying—with the help of his herdsmen, no doubt—"on that day fourscore and five persons that did wear an ephod," and utterly extirpating every living thing from the defenceless little city.

One psalm, the fifty-second, is referred by its inscription to this period, but the correspondence between the history and the tone of the psalm is doubtful. It is a vehement rebuke and a prophecy of destruction directed against an enemy, whose hostility was expressed in "devouring words." The portrait does not apply very accurately to the Doeg of the historical books, inasmuch as it describes the psalmist's enemy as "a mighty man,"—or rather as "a hero," and as trusting "in the abundance of his riches,"—and makes the point of the reproach against him that he is a confirmed liar. But the dastardly deed of blood may be covertly alluded to in the bitterly sarcastic "hero"—as if he had said, "O brave warrior, who dost display thy prowess in murdering unarmed priests and women?" And Doeg's story to Saul was a lie in so far as it gave the impression of the priests' complicity with David, and thereby caused their deaths on a false charge. The other features of the description are not contrary to the narrative, and most of them are in obvious harmony with it. The psalm, then, may be taken as showing how deeply David's soul was stirred by the tragedy. He pours out broken words of hot and righteous indignation:

"Destructions doth thy tongue devise, Like a razor whetted—O thou worker of deceit."

* * * * *

"Thou lovest all words that devour:[F] O thou deceitful tongue!"

[F] Literally, "words of swallowing up."

He prophesies the destruction of the cruel liar, and the exultation of the righteous when he falls, in words which do indeed belong to the old covenant of retribution, and yet convey an eternal truth which modern sentimentalism finds very shocking, but which is witnessed over and over again in the relief that fills the heart of nations and of individuals when evil men fade: "When the wicked perish, there is shouting"—

"Also God shall smite thee down for ever, Will draw thee out,[G] and carry thee away from the tent, And root thee out of the land of the living; And the righteous shall see and fear, And over him shall they laugh."

In confident security he opposes his own happy fellowship with God to this dark tragedy of retribution:

"But I—(I am) like a green olive tree in the house of God."

[G] The full force of the word is, "will pluck out as a glowing ember from a hearth" (Delitzsch).

The enemy was to be "rooted out;" the psalmist is to flourish by derivation of life and vigour from God. If Robinson's conjecture that Nob was on the Mount of Olives were correct (which is very doubtful), the allusion here would gain appropriateness. As the olives grew all round the humble forest sanctuary, and were in some sort hallowed by the shrine which they encompassed, so the soul grows and is safe in loving fellowship with God. Be that as it may, the words express the outlaw's serene confidence that he is safe beneath the sheltering mercy of God, and re-echo the hopes of his earlier psalm, "I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever." The stormy indignation of the earlier verses passes away into calm peace and patient waiting in praise and trust:

"I will praise Thee for ever, for Thou hast done (it), And wait on Thy name in the presence of Thy beloved, for it is good."

Hunted from Nob, David with a small company struck across the country in a southwesterly direction, keeping to the safety of the tangled mountains, till, from the western side of the hills of Judah, he looked down upon the broad green plain of Philistia. Behind him was a mad tyrant, in front the uncircumcised enemies of his country and his God. His condition was desperate, and he had recourse to desperate measures. That nearest Philistine city, some ten miles off, on which he looked down from his height, was Gath; the glen where he had killed its champion was close beside him,—every foot of ground was familiar by many a foray and many a fight. It was a dangerous resource to trust himself in Gath, with Goliath's sword dangling in his belt. But he may have hoped that he was not known by person, or may have thought that Saul's famous commander would be a welcome guest, as a banished man, at the Philistine court. So he made the plunge, and took refuge in Goliath's city. Discovery soon came, and in the most ominous form. It was an ugly sign that the servants of Achish should be quoting the words of the chant of victory which extolled him as the slayer of their countryman. Vengeance for his death was but too likely to come next. The doubts of his identity seem to have lasted for some little time, and to have been at first privately communicated to the king. They somehow reached David, and awoke his watchful attention, as well as his fear. The depth of his alarm and his ready resource are shown by his degrading trick of assumed madness—certainly the least heroic action of his life. What a picture of a furious madman is the description of his conduct when Achish's servants came to arrest him. He "twisted himself about in their hands" in the feigned contortions of possession; he drummed on the leaves of the gate,[H] and "let his spittle run down into his beard." (1 Sam. xxi. 13.) Israelitish quickness gets the better of Philistine stupidity, as it had been used to do from Sampson's time onwards, and the dull-witted king falls into the trap, and laughs away the suspicions with a clumsy joke at his servants' expense about more madmen being the last thing he was short of. A hasty flight from Philistine territory ended this episode.

[H] The Septuagint appears to have followed a different reading here from that of our present Hebrew text, and the change adds a very picturesque clause to the description. A madman would be more likely to hammer than to "scrabble" on the great double-leaved gate.

The fifty-sixth psalm, which is referred by its title to this period, seems at first sight to be in strange contrast with the impressions drawn from the narrative, but on a closer examination is found to confirm the correctness of the reference by its contents. The terrified fugitive, owing his safety to a trick, and slavering like an idiot in the hands of his rude captors, had an inner life of trust strong enough to hold his mortal terror in check, though not to annihilate it. The psalm is far in advance of the conduct—is it so unusual a circumstance as to occasion surprise, that lofty and sincere utterances of faith and submission should co-exist with the opposite feelings? Instead of taking the contrast between the words and the acts as a proof that this psalm is wrongly ascribed to the period in question, let us rather be thankful for another instance that imperfect faith may be genuine, and that if we cannot rise to the height of unwavering fortitude, God accepts a tremulous trust fighting against mortal terror, and grasping with a feeble hand the word of God, and the memory of all his past deliverances. It is precisely this conflict of faith and fear which the psalm sets before us. It falls into three portions, the first and second of which are closed by a kind of refrain (vers. 4, 10, 11)—a structure which is characteristic of several of these Sauline persecution psalms (e.g., lvii. 5, 11; lix. 9, 17). The first part of each of these two portions is a vivid description of his danger, from which he rises to the faith expressed in the closing words. The repetition of the same thoughts in both is not to be regarded as a cold artifice of composition, but as the true expression of the current of his thoughts. He sees his enemies about him, ready to swallow him up—"there be many fighting against me disdainfully"[I] (ver. 2). Whilst the terror creeps round his heart ("he was sore afraid," 1 Sam. xxi. 12), he rouses himself to trust, as he says, in words which express most emphatically the co-existence of the two, and carry a precious lesson of the reality of even an interrupted faith, streaked with many a black line of doubt and dread.

[I] Literally, "loftily." Can there be any allusion to the giant stature of Goliath's relations in Gath? We hear of four men "born to the giant in Gath," who were killed in David's wars. (2 Sam. xxi. 22.)

"(In) the day (that) I am afraid—I trust on Thee."

And then he breaks into the utterance of praise and confidence—to which he has climbed by the ladder of prayer.

"In God I praise His word, In God I trust, I do not fear:— What shall flesh do to me?"

How profoundly these words set forth the object of his trust, as being not merely the promise of God—which in David's case may be the specific promise conveyed by his designation to the throne—but the God who promises, the inmost nature of that confidence as being a living union with God, the power of it as grappling with his dread, and enabling him now to say, "I do not fear."

But again he falls from this height; another surge of fear breaks over him, and almost washes him from his rock. His foes, with ceaseless malice, arrest his words; they skulk in ambush, they dog his heels, they long for his life. The crowded clauses portray the extremity of the peril and the singer's agitation. His soul is still heaving with the ground swell of the storm, though the blasts come more fitfully, and are dying into calm. He is not so afraid but that he can turn to God; he turns to Him because he is afraid, like the disciples in later days, who had so much of terror that they must awake their Master, but so much of trust that His awaking was enough. He pleads with God, as in former psalms, against his enemies, in words which go far beyond the occasion, and connect his own deliverance with the judgments of God over the whole earth. He plaintively recalls his homelessness and his sorrows in words which exhibit the characteristic blending of hope and pain, and which are beautifully in accordance with the date assigned to the psalm. "My wanderings dost Thou, even Thou, number." He is not alone in these weary flights from Gibeah to Ramah, from Ramah to Nob, from Nob to Gath, from Gath he knows not whither. One friend goes with him through them all. And as the water-skin was a necessary part of a traveller's equipment, the mention of his wanderings suggests the bold and tender metaphor of the next clause, "Put my tears in Thy bottle,"—a prayer for that very remembrance of his sorrows, in the existence of which he immediately declares his confidence—"Are they not in Thy book?" The true office of faithful communion with God is to ask for, and to appropriate, the blessings which in the very act become ours. He knows that his cry will scatter his foes, for God is for him. And thus once again he has risen to the height of confidence where for a moment his feet have been already planted, and again—but this time with even fuller emphasis, expressed by an amplification which introduces for the only time in the psalm the mighty covenant name—he breaks into his triumphant strain—

"In God I praise the Word; In JEHOVAH I praise the Word: In God I trust, I do not fear:— What shall man do to me?"

And from this mood of trustful expectation he does not again decline. Prayer has brought its chiefest blessing—the peace that passeth understanding. The foe is lost to sight, the fear conquered conclusively by faith; the psalm which begins with a plaintive cry, ends in praise for deliverance, as if it had been already achieved—

"Thou hast delivered my life from death, (Hast Thou) not (delivered) my feet from falling, That I may walk before God in the light of the living?"

He already reckons himself safe; his question is not an expression of doubt, but of assurance; and he sees the purpose of all God's dealings with him to be that the activities of life may all be conducted in the happy consciousness of His eye who is at once Guardian and Judge of His children. How far above his fears and lies has this hero and saint risen by the power of supplication and the music of his psalm!

David naturally fled into Israelitish territory from Gath. The exact locality of the cave Adullam, where we next find him, is doubtful; but several strong reasons occur for rejecting the monkish tradition which places it away to the east, in one of the wild wadies which run down from Bethlehem to the Dead Sea. We should expect it to be much more accessible by a hasty march from Gath. Obviously it would be convenient for him to hang about the frontier of Philistia and Israel, that he might quickly cross the line from one to the other, as dangers appeared. Further, the city of Adullam is frequently mentioned, and always in connections which fix its site as on the margin of the great plain of Philistia, and not far from Gath. (2 Chron. xi. 7, etc.) There is no reason to suppose that the cave of Adullam was in a totally different district from the city. The hills of Dan and Judah, which break sharply down into the plain within a few miles of Gath, are full of "extensive excavations," and there, no doubt, we are to look for the rocky hold, where he felt himself safer from pursuit, and whence he could look down over the vast sweep of the rich Philistine country. Gath lay at his feet, close by was the valley where he had killed Goliath, the scenes of Samson's exploits were all about him. Thither fled to him his whole family, from fear, no doubt, of Saul's revenge falling on them; and there he gathers his band of four hundred desperate men, whom poverty and misery, and probably the king's growing tyranny, drove to flight. They were wild, rough soldiers, according to the picturesque description, "whose faces were like the faces of lions, and were as swift as the roes upon the mountains." They were not freebooters, but seem to have acted as a kind of frontier-guard against southern Bedouins and western Philistines for the sheep-farmers of the border whom Saul's government was too weak to protect. In this desultory warfare, and in eluding the pursuit of Saul, against whom it is to be observed David never employed any weapon but flight, several years were passed. The effect of such life on his spiritual nature was to deepen his unconditional dependence on God; by the alternations of heat and cold, fear and hope, danger and safety, to temper his soul and make it flexible, tough and bright as steel. It evolved the qualities of a leader of men; teaching him command and forbearance, promptitude and patience, valour and gentleness. It won for him a name as the defender of the nation, as Nabal's servant said of him and his men, "They were a wall unto us, both by night and by day" (1 Sam. xxv. 16). And it gathered round him a force of men devoted to him by the enthusiastic attachment bred from long years of common dangers, and the hearty friendships of many a march by day, and nightly encampment round the glimmering watchfires, beneath the lucid stars.

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