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The occasion of the woman's using such a mode of expression was, as follows.
After Absalom had been three years in banishment on account of his having slain his brother Amnon, Joab, in order to effect a reconciliation between him and his father David, employed, after the manner of the East, a wise woman of Tekoah to influence the king through the medium of a parable or apologue. For this purpose, having gained an audience of her sovereign, she told him, that one of her two sons had unfortunately slain the other; that the whole family. of the deceased, in their quality of revengers of blood, demanded the death of the offender, he not having had time or opportunity to flee to a city of refuge'; and that, under such distress, she implored on his behalf the royal protection, To this request David assented: and, when he had thus pledged himself to the imaginary case in the apologue, his appellant forthwith threw off her disguise and made the application to the real case of his own family.
We must needs die, and are as water spilt on the ground which cannot be gathered up again. It is fruitless to lament the dead, for it exceeds all our power to restore them to life. Why then should the king be more inexorable than the law of Jehovah? God respects not any person : yet, with regard to homicides, doth he devise means,
at the death of each high-priest, that his banished be not expelled from him. Therefore the king doth speak this thing as one which is faulty, in that he doth not fetch home again his banished son Absalom.
The cases were by no means parallel : but they served to furnish materials for an apologue. With respect to the woman however, so far from expressing any disbelief of a future state, shë merely uses the trite proverb: What is done, cannot be undone. Amnon is dead: and, grieve as you will for him, you cannot restore him to life.
(2.) The second passage, which the bishop brings forward, is taken from the book of Job.
There is hope of a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again and that the tender branch thereof will not cease. Though the root thereof wax old in the earth, and the stock thereof die in the ground; yet, through the scent of water; it will bud and bring forth boughs like a plant. But man dieth and wasteth away: yea, man giveth up the ghost; and where is he? As the waters fall from the sea, and the flood decayeth and drieth up: só man lieth down and riseth not, till the heavens be no more; they shall hot awake; nor be raised out of their sleep'.
Such, ho doubt, is the language either of Job
Job xiv. 7-12. And again : As the cloud is consumed and vanisheth away; so he, that goeth down to the grave, shall come up no more. He shall return no more to his house: neither shall his place know him any more. Job vii. 9, 10. The two passages are exactly parallel.
himself or of the inspired author who wrote his history. But what then? Have we here any avowal of an utter disbelief in a future state? I can discover nothing beyond an assertion, that, when once man dies, we must never expect him to revive again in this world ; an assertion, which, if viewed in an insulated state, is exactly parallel to that of the woman of Tekoah.
But, in truth, there is a most remarkable and important supplement to the present assertion, which the bishop has wholly omitted to notice. After saying, They shall not awake, nor be raised out of their sleep; the holy man goes on to explain very clearly, how we are to understand these expressions.
O that THOU WOULDEST HIDE ME IN HADES, that THOU WOULDEST KEEP ME IN SECRET UNTIL THY WRATH BE PAST, that THOU WOULDEST APPOINT ME A SET TIME AND REMEMBER ME. If a man die, shall he live? ALL THE DAYS OF MY APPOINTED TIME WILL I WAIT, TILL MY RENOVATION COME.
Thou shalt call, and I WILL ANSWER THEE : thou shalt have a desire to the work of thine hands.
Now what is the doctrine, which Job here sets forth? Does he profess, or deny a belief in a future state of existence ? Nothing, so far as I can judge, is more unambiguous than his language. Though, agreeably to the common lot of mortality, he has no expectation of being raised again from the dead in this world : yet he commits his soul to God as to a faithful Creator; praying, that after death he would hide him for a season in the intermediate state of Hades, that he would there keep him in secret until his wrath be past, that he would remember him and appoint him a set time of deliverance from the safe keeping of his invisible prison. Meanwhile he is content to wait with patience all the days of his appointed time: for, though his body will never in this world germinate again like a cut-down plant; yet, in evident allusion to the imagery which he had just before been using, he expresses an assured hope, that the time of his renovation or regermination would come'. Then, at the period of his admission into the immediate beatific presence, God will call, and Job will answer him : for, though his body may for a season be dissolved in the grave, and though his soul may long continue to exist separately in the invisible intermediate state; yet the Lord has in no wise forgotten him, but will at length have a desire to the work of his hands.
* Job xiv. 13-15.
Till my RENOVATION come, as the original is excellently rendered by Miss Smith. The word expresses the regermination of a lopped tree: and it is the very same as that, which, in the seventh verse, our translators properly render it will SPROUT again,
Thus, when the entire passage is viewed, instead of proving Job's ignorance of a future state, it furnishes a most illustrious demonstration of his faith and knowledge'.
(3.) The bishop next produces three texts from the book of Psalms.
In death there is no remembrance of thee : in Hades who shall give thee thanks ??
What profit is there in my blood, when I go down to the pit? Shall the dust praise thee? Shall it declare thy truth?
Wilt thou shew wonders to the dead? Shall the dead arise and praise thee? Shall thy loving kindness be declared in the grave, or thy faithfulness in destruction? Shall thy wonders be known in the dark, and thy righteousness in the land of forgetfulness“? These
passages his lordship deems so decisive and explicit as to require no comment. Yet, after all, what do they prove; particularly when viewed, as they assuredly ought to be viewed, with reference to those other texts from the
1 In the fourteenth verse, the present Hebrew runs ; If a man die, shall he live? But the copy, used by the Seventy, must have wanted the interrogative prefix: for they translate the passage, not interrogatively, but affirmatively. If a man die, HE SHALL LIVE having accomplished the days of his life : I will wait, until I shall again exist. Eav yap arobavy av pwtos, ζησεται συντελεσας ημερας το βια αυτο• υπομενω, έως αν παλιν γενωμαι. If we adopt this reading, I need scarcely remark how the force of the passage is heightened: but it is sufficiently decisive, even according to the common Hebrew reading. ? Psalm vi.6. 3 Ibid, xxx. 9.
4 Ibid. lxxxviii. 10-12.