1 Kings 11:21-22
And when Hadad heard in Egypt that David slept with his fathers, and that Joab the captain of the host was dead, Hadad said to Pharaoh…
This narrative of Hadad comes in as a short episode in the later days of King Solomon, when he was being punished for his defection. The story has an interest of its own. We wish to take this one feature — the love of country — and look at it as implanted in the human heart for a wise and Divine purpose, passing beyond this simple instance, and drawing whatever light we can from God's providence and Word.
1. The first remark we make is, that it is a feeling not only deep in our nature, as we do not need to show, but acknowledged and approved in the Bible. This has been denied, and some have blamed, while others have praised, the Book on this account; but whether it be to its blame or praise, the feeling is there. We cannot surely fail to perceive that the love of country was employed by God to build up the place He gave the Jewish people in preserving His truth in the long period of darkness, before the time came for the Gospel to go out into the world. Their love was drawn to it before they saw it as the land of Promise. But what purposes are served by this? There is one which may seem low enough to begin with, but which has its own importance. It is one of the ways by which God secures that the earth should be inhabited. There is a dispersive force in the world which began long ago, and which has been going on ever since, the spirit of adventure and energy which seeks action and change; so waste places are peopled and tilled. But there is needed not less an adhesive power to maintain what is gained. The world must have an anchor as well as a sail. Rocky Edom is dear as fertile Egypt, and bleak, storm-struck islands more than southern Edens. If it were not for this, wars for sunny spots would be more common than they are, and kindreds and peoples could not be gathered and held together to build up communities. But the building up of communities is a part of God's providential design. Each one in its own place brings out its own character, and, in the end, may be found to bring its own contribution to the interests of humanity. We may come to a higher view of this feeling when we think of its effect on the individual man. This love of the native soil has been one of the great springs of the poetry of the race; and whatever we may think of poetry ourselves, we cannot fail to see its power. God, who gives the bird wings for its safety and delight, has given man imagination. It is certainly His gift, if men would only use it for Him. And it can be said with truth that, apart from the region of the spirit itself, it is never more pure and purifying than when it takes for its subject the things of native land and home.
2. Another thought suggested by this feeling is that it leads to acts of great self-sacrifice and endeavour. Next to religion, there is probably nothing in human nature which has called out such a heroic spirit of martyrdom, or such long, persistent labour, as the love of native land. The grandest part of the history of nations has been the period when they have risen for independence and freedom, against the attempts to crush out their liberty or their separate life, and when they have left names of leaders which make hearts of men throb and thrill wherever they arc heard. It is a poor Christianity, because it is not a true humanity, which affects to disregard this. There is an heirloom of stimulus to a whole race in the heroic acts of those who have bequeathed them a name among the nations of the world. There are men who can be reached by the love of fellow-countrymen, when they cannot be moved by the love of their fellow-men; and it is quite possible for a man to have both. The narrower is sometimes more intense and energetic than the wider. In the annals of the civil wars in England, an officer, who had fought in many battles abroad, tells that in his first fight on English ground he heard a cry of agony in his own tongue, and he looked behind him to see who of his men was killed. He discovered that the cry came from the opposing ranks, and then first he realised what a terrible thing it was to kill his own countrymen. There are many who feel it so in our quieter times, and who can be stirred more strongly to save from destitution and death those who speak their own language, and have a nearer blood beating in their heart.
3. Another thought suggested by this feeling is, that it should enable us to understand the hearts, and work for the rights of all men. There is a rule recommended by some religious communities, that their members should have no special friendships; that they should do nothing for each other as friends. And there are some philosophers who defend this. They say that "friendship is a barrier which hides from view the qualities of many who are more worthy of regard, that it is a kind of theft from the common good for the benefit of a few, and that, in a higher state of society, friendship will disappear; which amounts very much to saying that if we put out our eyes, so as not to see things that are close to us, we shall be more likely to discover those that are far away. These are the theories of men who have either had no hearts to begin with, or have managed to cover them by cobwebs of speculation. has said that we may make a ladder of the dead things within us, to climb to the highest; but there is another ladder of living things by which we can rise as high, and by which our sympathies can be travelling to and fro like the angels in the dream of Bethel. The vision begins in the dreamer's own breast, and then it passes up into the skies. This is the very way in which God Himself has dealt with us. He came from the limits of the universe into this world, and became our friend, that He might lead us step by step into the fulness of Him that filleth all in all.
4. The last thought we suggest is, that this feeling may help the conception of another and a higher country. It is quite true that we find the spirit of patriotism filling the hearts of men with the highest enthusiasm, and spreading itself over masses of men and long periods, but bringing little spiritual desire. Yet it is one of the ways, as we have said, by which God keeps the heart above sensualism and utter selfishness — a kind of salt that saves nations from entire corruption. We see in the Bible that the thoughts of native land and home are more than any others the figures which God has used to convey to us conceptions about the future. They are more than figures. They have been woven into His plan of education. He made the old patriarchs exiles, in order that He might create in them the longing which went further than any land, behind or before them, in this world. The last view given us of the heavenly world is that of a land and city which have over them a Father and an Elder Brother, and for friends the nations of the saved.
(J. Ker, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And when Hadad heard in Egypt that David slept with his fathers, and that Joab the captain of the host was dead, Hadad said to Pharaoh, Let me depart, that I may go to mine own country.