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The days of David were drawing to a close. He had been attentive to the claims of his kingdom, and made every provision for the peaceful transit of the sovereign power into the hands of Solomon. His last public duty was fulfilled, and he was ready to die in peace and honour. Calling Solomon to his bedside, he delivers to him his last charge, urging upon him fidelity as the servant of Jehovah, according to the statutes of Moses, and reminding him of the rich blessings of the covenant which the Lord had made with his house. He then further charges him with some particular acts of remunerative justice toward individuals, whom circumstances had prevented him hitherto from treating according to their deeds; and having thus finished his work, he delivers the following poem:
NOW THESE BE THE LAST WORDS OF DAVID.
David the son of Jesse said,
Although my house be not so with God;
This beautiful fragment from the dying bard, which comes to us like the last clear rays of the setting sun, was not intended for temple worship, and was not, therefore, set to music and classed with the lyrical psalms. Yet it is a precious relic of the same inspired author, and not only contains expressions of devout gratitude and joyful hope as to himself, but discloses, in language and metaphor inimitable, the one great burden of his pious soul—his solicitude that Solomon should keep the covenant of God, and govern the nation with justice, “ruling in the fear of God.” How sweet the dying of this great man How serene, how joyful, how hopeful his end! and what a model for the dying of a monarch 1 “David's life and history, as written for us in these Psalms of his,” says Thomas Carlyle, “I consider to be the truest emblem ever given of man's moral progress and warfare here below. All earnest souls will ever discern in it the faithful struggle of an earnest human soul toward what is good and best. Struggle often baffled, sore baffled, down as into entire wreck, yet a struggle never ended; ever with tears, repentances, true unconquerable purpose, begun anew.” But the struggle now ends, and the calm of life's evening is grateful to the worn warrior, and heaven's richest reward of fidelity.
INTRODUCTION TO PSALMS CXXVII AND CXXVIII.
PSALMS OF SOLOMON.
The early part of Solomon's reign was distinguished for a vigour and energy, and a devotion to the laws of Jehovah, which inspired the nation with the highest anticipation of a glorious and happy future. With a mind naturally strong and comprehensive, Solomon was carefully educated in all the knowledge of his times, and, above all, was enriched with a plenitude of Divine wisdom beyond all human precedent. The people, proud of their monarch, seconded all his plans with alacrity. The building of the temple, which had been one of the dearest objects of David's ambition, and for which he had left immense preparations, was to be the distinguishing honour of his illustrious son. In this enterprise the hearts of the nation harmoniously beat with the warmest pulsations.
In the second year of Solomon's reign, preparations for building the temple were commenced upon a magnificent scale. Artists from Tyre, and Sidon, and Gebal, and other parts of Phoenicia, were employed to superintend the work. One hundred and fifty-three thousand and six hundred men were drafted into the service; some to work in the mountains of Lebanon, some to be employed in transportation, and others to work in the quarries. The cedar brought from Lebanon was taken to the port of Tyre, and thence floated to the port of Joppa by the Phoenicians. From Joppa it was conveyed over land, by the way of the “ascent of Beth-horon,” to Jerusalem. Three years were occupied in preparing the timbers, stones, and other materials for the edifice, together with the varied articles of the sacred furniture, and seven years more were required to erect and complete the structure.
Psalm crxvii is generally supposed to be the production of Solomon, for the title, “A Psalm for Solomon,” might just as properly read, “A Psalm by or of Solomon.” The Psalm itself seems to have been intended as an expression of the wellknown maxim of Solomon, “A man's heart deviseth his way, but the Lord directeth his steps.” Proverbs xvi, 9. “It is,” says Hengstenberg, “primarily intended for such as think too highly of human efforts.” It appropriately suits the circumstances of the nation during their preparations for building the temple. It is evidently an address to the builders, and to the watchmen of the city, to incite them to trust in the Lord in the performance of their duties. “The discourse,” says Hengstenberg, “is of an actual house-building, and the watchman is the common night-watch of the city, as in Psalm cxxx, 6.” The Psalm seems designed also to encourage parents in their numerous domestic cares and privations, by holding forth the blessings of a numerous and well ordered family. Psalm crxviii is obviously written by the same author, for the purpose of inculcating the fear of the Lord and obedience to “his ways” upon all, and especially upon parents; and showing that by this means only can the family compact inherit the blessings originally pronounced upon the marriage state. There is manifested in these Psalms, a deep political insight into the social economy, as well as a most happy moral estimate of these primary relations. The theme of both these Psalms well suits Solomon, who, as Calvin and Hengstenberg remark, chiefly occupied the domestic-civic territory. Read 2 Chronicles ii, 1–18; 1 Kings v., 1–18.
PS AL M C XXVII.
DURING THE PREPARATIONS FOR BUILDING THE TEMPLE. The virtue of God's blessing, 1, 2; good children are his gift, 3–5.
T A Song of Degrees for [or of) Solomon.
! Except the LoRD build the house,
* It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late,
1 Heb, that are builders of it in it. a Gen. 3. 17, 19.
* Lo! "children are a heritage of the Lord; And “the fruit of the womb is his reward.
* As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; So are children of the youth.
* Happy is the man that hath "his quiver full of them; They "shall not be ashamed, But they 'shall speak with the enemies in the gate.
b Gen. 38.5. and 48.4. * Heb. filled his quirer with * Or, shall subdue, Jos. 24.8, 4. them. as Psa. 18.47, or, c Deut. 28.4. d See Job 5. 4. Prov. 27. 11. destroy.
PS AL M C XXVIII.
DURING THE PREPARATIONS FOR BUILDING THE TEMPLE.
The peculiar domestic blessings phich follow them that fear God.
T A Song of Degrees.
! Blessed is every one that feareth the LoRD; That walketh in his ways! * For "thou shalt eat the labour of thy hands; Happy shalt thou be, and it shall be well with thee. * Thy wife shall be "as a fruitful vine by the sides of thy house; Thy children like olive plants round about thy table. 4 Behold, that thus shall the man be blessed That feareth the LORD. 5 The LoRD shall bless thee out of Zion; And thou shalt see the good of Jerusalem all the days of thy life. 6 Yea, thou shalt “see thy children's children, And peace upon Israel.
a Isa. 3. 10. b Ezek. 19. 10. c Gen. 50. 23. Job 42. 16.