Throw your soldiers into positions whence there is no escape and they will prefer death to flight. — Sun Tzu

Story of the Chosen People - Helene Guerber




The Ark Brought to Jerusalem

David was soon obliged to leave his new capital, to go forth and fight his old foes, the Philistines. When he had conquered these enemies, he felt that it was time to bring the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem, and to build a temple where it might take up its abode for good. With an escort of thirty thousand men, he therefore set out. The Ark was placed on a new cart, driven by the sons of the high priest, and the procession slowly wended its way towards Jerusalem.

God had commanded that no one should venture to touch the Ark while on its way, but one of the high priestís sons stretched out his hand to steady it when the cart tipped. No sooner had he touched it than he fell down dead.

Awed by this accident, the king ordered the journey stopped, and the Ark was placed for safe keeping in a house nearby, where it remained three months. Then, seeing that it brought great blessings to the place where it was kept, the people again became anxious to have it in Jerusalem; and as soon as the new tent, or tabernacle, was finished, they sent the Levites to bring it thither.

To show his respect for the God of Israel, David went ahead of the Ark on foot, in the simple garb of a minstrel; and, dancing and playing upon his harp, he led the way to Mount Zion, where the Ark was to remain.

In his joy at the recovery of this precious Ark, David also gave alms to all the poor, and he offered up costly sacrifices. His joy was marred, however, when Michal, his wife, taunted him for dancing and singing before his people. David finally grew so angry with her that he sent her away from him forever.

Although David had thus safely brought the sacred Ark to Jerusalem, and had placed it in the new tabernacle, he did not consider a tent a sufficiently handsome abode, and wished to build a fine temple for it.

But when he consulted the prophet Nathan, he learned that the honor of building this temple was reserved for one of his sons. He also received a renewal of the old promise of the birth of the Messiah. This promise gave him great pleasure, and was the probable source of the joyful psalms which are known as the Messianic psalms.

As David did not dare to undertake the building of the temple after Nathanís words, he made use of his time in completing the defeat of the Philistines. Then, too, he punished the Moabites for the treacherous murder of his parents, whom he had left in their care.

David also made war against the Edomites, one of whose young princes fled to Egypt. There he grew up and plotted revenge, coming back to Palestine with a mighty army in the days of the next king, Solomon.

Rizpah
RIZPAH PROTECTING THE BODIES OF HER SONS


By all these victories, which are celebrated in some of the psalms, David little by little enlarged his kingdom, till it reached as far as the banks of the Red Sea. All the Promised Land now belonged to the Chosen People; but their hold on it was rather uncertain, because they had not always been faithful to the Lord.

David was now so firmly placed upon the throne that he no longer feared the family of Saul. He even received Saulís last descendants in his palace, where he made them welcome and treated them like his own sons.

But the consequences of Saulís sins were not yet ended. Because he had murdered the Gibeonites, a great famine came over the land a few years later, and lasted three years, causing much suffering. David, hoping to end this famine, finally offered to give the Gibeonites satisfaction, and in answer to their demands he gave up into their hands seven of the former kingís family. The Gibeonites, like most people of the time, believed in revenge; so they hung these seven men on the hill of Gibeon, and decreed that their corpses should swing there for several months.

Rizpah, the distracted mother of two of the dead, wished to protect their bodies from the beaks and claws of the vultures and other birds of prey, so she took up her position at the foot of the gallows. There she wildly strove to drive away the birds by day and the wild-beasts by night, until David, touched by her devotion, had the bodies taken down and buried.

[Illustration] from The Story of the Chosen People by Helene Guerber