II Samuel 1

 

1 “Now it came to pass after the death of Saul, when David was returned

from the slaughter of the Amalekites, and David had abode two days in

Ziklag;” Now it came to pass. During the last few days events had been

crowding fast upon one another. Living as fugitives at Ziklag, in the land of

the Philistines, David and his men, unfit for the peaceful occupations of

agriculture, had been driven to seek their maintenance by raids upon the

wild tribes in the desert. Of these the chief were the Amalekites, whose

home was the bare region lying between the south of Judah and Egypt. We

have ample proof that this race was utterly hostile to all order and

quietness; it lived by the plunder of others, and, sheltering itself in the

recesses of the wilderness, broke out thence on every opportunity to carry,

ravage and ruin into all the neighboring districts. The Amalekite was thus

every man’s enemy, and the object of universal dislike; and the cruelty

which he habitually practiced would justify to David’s mind the barbarity

with which he put to death all whom he found, man and woman alike. But

his object was not justice. His cruelty was the result of selfish motives. For

it was necessary for him to keep tidings of his real doings from the ears of

Achish, who naturally would not approve of David’s military activity. He

very probably had put him there upon the borders to protect his realm from

incursions; but David in the Amalekite war was the assailant, and was,

moreover, practicing his men for ulterior objects. Achish most probably

received a share of the captured cattle; but his inquiries were met with an

equivocation (I Samuel 27:10-12), which made him suppose that

David, with the usual bitterness of a renegade, had been harrying his own

tribesmen. And the falsehood soon entangled David in most painful

consequences; for Achish, nothing doubting of his fidelity, and of his bitter

hatred of Saul. determined to take him with him in the grand army of the

Philistines, which was slowly moving northward for the conquest of the

land of Israel. David had God’s promise of ultimate safety, and he ought

not to have deserted his country. As a deserter to the Philistines, he had to

descend to falsehood, and now treason seemed inevitable. His only choice

lay between betraying his country or the king who had given him so

hospitable a refuge. The jealousy, or rather the good sense, of the Philistine

lords (ibid.  ch. 29:4) saved him from this dreadful alternative, and he

was sent back, to his great joy, to Ziklag. But it was a dreadful sight which

there met his view. With strange mismanagement, he had left no portion of

his men to guard his little city, and the Amalekites had made reprisals. The

news of the Philistine army upon its march upwards would be quickly

carried through the desert, and the wild tribes would be sure to take the

opportunity for gathering plunder far and wide. So undefended: was the

whole country, that they met nowhere with resistance. And David saw, on

his return, only the smoking ruins of the little city where for many months

he had dwelt. His wives, Ahinoam and Abigail, the wives and children of

his men, had all been carried away for the Egyptian slave market. So secure

were the Amalekites, that they had no fear about encumbering their march

with a vast multitude of children and cattle. And to add to his distress, his

men, indignant, and not without reason, at David’s want of precaution,

were threatening to stone him as an alleviation for their distress. Never had

David’s fortunes fallen so low as at that moment; but quickly they were to

rise again. By energetic action he not only recovered the spoil and the

captives taken from Ziklag, but also won the immense wealth gathered by

the Amalekites in a wide raid made at a time when there was no one to

resist them. His own share of the spoil was so large that he was able to

send valuable presents of sheep, oxen, and camels to his friends in Judaea,

probably not without some prescience that the way to his return might be

opened by the events of the war between the Philistines and Saul. The

dangerous issues of that war could not be hidden from him; but he would

find solace for his anxieties in the active work of restoring order at Ziklag,

and in providing hasty shelter for the women and children whom he had

brought back to their desolated homes. But his suspense did not last long.

For when David had abode two days in Ziklag, news came which

confirmed his worst fears. The battle had been fought; Israel had been

routed; and Saul and Jonathan, the friend who had been to him more than a

brother, lay among the slain.

 

2 “It came even to pass on the third day, that, behold, a man came out of the

camp from Saul with his clothes rent, and earth upon his head: and so it

was, when he came to David, that he fell to the earth, and did obeisance.”

On the third day. This means the third day after  David’s return with the spoil and

captives recovered from the Amalekites. If we study the data, we find that David

had marched with Achish as far as Aphek in the plain of Jezreel (I Samuel 29:1),

opposite to which, on the rising ground near Gilboa, Saul had posted his army.

A march of three days had brought him back to Ziklag (ibid. ch. 30:1), and

after the shortest possible delay he had started in pursuit of the Amalekites.

The rapidity of his movements is proved by so large a proportion of his hardy

men falling out of the ranks at the brook Besor; but nevertheless some time

must have been lost at Ziklag in discovering the greatness of their disaster, in

searching for any who might possibly have escaped, in getting food, and in

mustering again together for the pursuit. Near the brook they seem to have

found the Egyptian slave who became their guide, and who had been

abandoned three days before David found him. It follows, therefore, that

the Amalekites were then three days’ march in advance, and however

rapidly the pursuit was urged on, we cannot allow less than five days for it,

and one for the battle (vs. 12-13, 17). The march homeward would take

a longer time, as David was now encumbered with flocks and herds,

women and children. If it took eight days, the time occupied in it by the

Amalekites, the whole period that had elapsed since David was sent away

from Aphek by the Philistine lords would be eighteen or nineteen days; and

it is thus evident that the Amalekites were plundering Ziklag at the very

time when he was being dismissed, half angry, half rejoicing, at the slight

put upon him, but little thinking of the sad need there was for his presence

elsewhere. Now, the messenger from Gilboa, if an active runner, would

easily traverse in two days the distance which David and his men had

traveled in three. And thus it follows that the battle at Gilboa was fought

on the very day of David’s happy return from the pursuit, and about

nineteen days after the review at Aphek. If the word “tomorrow” in

I Samuel 28:19 seems to imply a more rapid march of events, we must

remember that the meaning of the word in Hebrew is more indefinite than

with us (compare Genesis 30:33; Exodus 13:14). With his clothes

rent, and earth upon his head. Though the Amalekite came out of the

camp, yet we are not to suppose that he had been one of the combatants.

Every army is followed by a vast number of vagabonds, intent upon gain,

purchasing of the troops their booty, plundering wherever they have the

chance, and carrying on a lucrative but illicit trade. He was more probably

a sort of gypsy sutler than, as many suppose, the slave of some Israelite. He

professes, however, to be upon Israel’s side, and appears with the usual

marks of sorrow. By so doing he hoped to commend himself to David,

whom he knew to be too patriotic to rejoice at the defeat of his

countrymen, though he doubted not that he would hear with joy of the

death of so inveterate a personal enemy as Saul. On this account, and

because the way would now stand open to David’s ambition, he evidently

felt sure of receiving a large reward for his news. There is, moreover, a

further interest in his conduct; for it demonstrates the existence of a

wide spread popular feeling that David was destined to be Israel’s king. It

was this conviction which made him give David kingly honor; for he fell

to the earth, and did obeisance. And all Israel, on the morrow after the

defeat, would probably have done the same, but for David’s own conduct.

Israel was too high-spirited a nation to take at once for a king a man who

had marched with their enemies to fight against them, even though they

knew that the voice of prophecy had appointed him to inherit Saul’s

throne.

                                                                                                                             

3 “And David said unto him, From whence comest thou? And he said

unto him, Out of the camp of Israel am I escaped.  4 And David said unto

him, How went the matter? I pray thee, tell me. And he answered, That

the people are fled from the battle, and many of the people also are

fallen and dead; and Saul and Jonathan his son are dead also.

5 And David said unto the young man that told him, How knowest

thou that Saul and Jonathan his son be dead?”  Out of the camp of Israel

 am I escaped. Non-combatants would hang about the army, watching, as soon

as the battle had begun, the fortunes of the day, and immediately that they saw

the impending defeat of their own side, would think chiefly of their personal

safety. But for an active young man the opportunity would then have come for

booty. The Philistines, in pursuit of the enemy, would soon leave the battlefield

in their rear, and multitudes would quickly prowl about it to plunder the dead.

While so busied, the Amalekite falsely represents himself as having come

by chance upon the wounded, but still living, Saul.

 

6 “And the young man that told him said, As I happened by chance upon

mount Gilboa, behold, Saul leaned upon his spear; and, lo, the chariots and

horsemen followed hard after him.  7 And when he looked behind him,

he saw me, and called unto me. And I answered, Here  am I.  8 And he

said unto me, Who art thou? And I answered him, I am an Amalekite.”

As I happened by chance upon Mount Gilboa. The story of the

Amalekite is at variance with the account of Saul’s death given in the

last chapter of the preceding book. There, sore pressed and wounded by

archers, hopeless of escape, and unable to make any further resistance, in

sore distress at the death of his sons and the loss of the battle, Saul and his

armor bearer fall upon their own swords. Here, closely pursued by

chariots and horsemen, the king is so utterly deserted by all his body guard

that he calls to a vagabond prowling about for booty to slay him. Naturally,

Ewald and his followers, who regard the books of the Bible as mere

patchwork, find here the marks of different narrators, whose stories the

compiler of the Book of Samuel pieced together without having the

shrewdness to observe that they were utterly irreconcilable. Some modern

commentators have, however, attempted to harmonize them with little

success. Really, the story of the Amalekite is a most improbable fiction,

and utterly untrue. He knew nothing as to the manner of Saul’s death, but

found the body, probably some time after the king had fallen; and he was

able to strip it because the pursuing Philistines were hurrying forward to

make their victory complete, without being aware of what was the

crowning glory of their success. As the pursuit advanced it would soon

become safe for the Amalekite and others like him to try and secure some

of the booty before the Philistines returned. Archers shooting from a

distance might easily so distress Saul as to make him despair of escape —

and it appears from the first narrative that they had not recognized him; for

Saul is afraid lest they should do so, and, having taken him alive, should

abuse,” or make a mock of him. Here chariots and horsemen are in close

pursuit, and the king faces them grimly; nevertheless, they allow a stranger,

who would not have dared to mix himself up with the battle, to rob them of

their prize. We may feel sure that it was not until the tide of battle had

moved onward in pursuit that the Amalekite ventured upon the field to rob

the dead. When so occupied he came upon a corpse, now for some brief

space dead, and at once recognized the tall form of the king, whose

identity was made more plain by the golden circlet upon his helmet. At

Once he saw the chance of larger gains, and hastily tearing off the royal

crown and the bracelet from the fallen monarch, without a thought of

rescuing the remains from the indignities which the Philistines were sure to

inflict upon them, he hurried away with his tidings. Of course, he knew

nothing of David’s recent conduct, nor that for some time he had

accompanied the invading army, nor that Ziklag had just experienced rough

treatment from his own countrymen. Still, if he had told the truth, he would

have fared well; for he brought news of great importance. But truth was

not a virtue much practiced in those days, and, fancying that the treatment

he had met with from Saul would fill David’s heart with bitter rancor against

him, the Amalekite invented this story of his having slain the king with his

own hands, in the expectation that it would win for him a double reward.

 

9 “He said unto me again, Stand, I pray thee, upon me, and slay me:

for anguish is come upon me, because my life is yet whole in me.”

Anguish. This word, which occurs only in this place, comes

from a root signifying to entwine or knot together. On this account Jewish

commentators explain it of cramp, which often follows upon loss of blood;

but it is equally possible that it means vertigo, or giddiness, when things

seem to dance or interweave themselves together before the eyes. The next

words signify, For yet is my life whole within me, and give the reason

why Saul asked the Amalekite to slay him. The story is at least plausible. It

represents the king as deserted by his army, even to the last man, and with

the Philistine cavalry and chariots in close pursuit. He is not mortally

wounded, but, as giddiness prevents his escape, there is danger of his

falling alive into the enemy’s hand; and as they would probably not have

killed him, but carried him in triumph through their cities, the way would

still have been blocked against David’s succession. The fear of this

indignity would account for Saul’s earnest appeal to the Amalekite to slay

him, and, so requested, it seemed right to put him to death, instead of

trying to carry him off to a place of safety. But all this was merely to keep

up appearances, and in his heart he doubted not that David would regard it

as a signal service that his enemy was put out of the way.

 

10 “So I stood upon him, and slew him, because I was sure that he

could not live after that he was fallen: and I took the crown that

was upon his head, and the bracelet that was on his arm, and have

brought them hither unto my Lord.  11 Then David took hold on his

clothes, and rent them; and likewise all the men that were with him:”

After that he was fallen; Hebrew, after his fall; that is, his defeat;

for Saul was standing and supporting himself with his spear.

The crown, probably, was a narrow band of gold encircling the royal helmet.

Bracelet. We read of “bracelets” in    Numbers 31:50, in the enumeration

of the spoil taken from the Midianites, and there too apparently they were

the ornaments of warriors. In the Assyrian monuments chiefs are generally

represented with ornaments upon their wrists and arms (see Layard,

Nineveh,’ etc., pl. 18).

 

12 “And they mourned, and wept, and fasted until even, for Saul, and

for Jonathan his son, and for the people of the LORD, and for the

house of Israel; because they were fallen by the sword.  13 And David

said unto the young man that told him, Whence art thou? And he

answered, I am the son of a stranger, an Amalekite.  14  And David said

unto him, How wast thou not afraid to stretch forth thine hand to destroy

the LORD’s anointed?”  They mourned, and wept, and fasted. The sight of

Saul’s royal insignia was clear proof of Israel’s disaster; and this sorrow of

David and his men shows how true their hearts were to their country, and how

unbearable would have been their position had not the prudence of the

Philistine lords extricated them from the difficulty in which they had been

placed by David’s want of faith. But David had other reasons besides

patriotism for sorrow. Personally he had lost the truest of friends, and even

Saul had a place in his heart for he would contrast with his terrible death

the early glories of his reign, when all Israel honored him as its deliverer

from the crushing yoke of foreign bondage, and when David was himself

one of the most trusty of his captains. Otto von Gerlach compares David

thus weeping over the fall of his implacable enemy with David’s Son

weeping over Jerusalem, the city whose inhabitants were his bitter foes,

and who not only sought his death, but delivered Him up to the Romans, to

be scourged and spitefully intreated, and slain upon the cross.

 

15 “And David called one of the young men, and said, Go near, and

fall upon him. And he smote him that he died.  16 And David said unto

him, Thy blood be upon thy head; for thy mouth hath testified against

thee, saying, I have slain the LORD’s anointed.”  Go near, and fall upon him.

This was no hasty sentence, for they had “fasted until even.” And before

pronouncing it David asks, “Whence art thou?” that is, he makes more full

inquiry into his condition and previous doings. He knew that he was an Amalekite,

and most probably had seen clearly enough that his whole story was false; but

before deciding upon his fate, he desired fuller information as to the man’s

previous life. His question elicits from him that he was a subject of Saul.

For the word “stranger” means a settler, who had withdrawn from his own

country and joined himself to Israel. Moreover, it was the Amalekite’s

father who had done this, and probably he was one of many, who, finding

their old nomad life too dangerous, had sought a home in the southern

districts of Judah; but when the war broke out, the old instinct of these

Bedouin made them follow the army for pilfer and trade in spoil. But as

the son of a settler, the Amalekite owed by birth allegiance to Saul, and,

should the occasion arise, was bound to render him loyal aid. Now,

according to his own account, he had found Saul in no immediate danger

of death, “for his life was still whole within him.” Escape was at least

possible with the Amalekite’s aid, but he is eager to kill him. And David’s

question, “How wast thou not afraid…to destroy the Lord’s anointed?”

virtually means, “How wast thou not afraid to kill thy own king?” The

Lord, that is, Jehovah, was no name of power to any outside the covenant

people, nor in settling in Judea did the Amalekites accept the national

religion. But the words would show even to a stranger that Saul was

Israel’s lawful and consecrated king. Commentators, with strange

perverseness, have found in these words an outbreak of selfishness on

David’s part, and have supposed that he wished to guard his own person

against future treason by making a wholesome example. But this is both to

misunderstand the examination of the culprit summed up in vs. 13-14,

and also to put aside all account of the deep and agonizing sorrow which

was rending David’s heart. What would have been an Englishman’s

feelings if news had come that we had lost, for instance, the battle of

Waterloo, and if the fugitive who brought the information had said that he

had killed the wounded commander-in-chief? In David’s case, besides deep

distress at the disaster which had befallen his country, there was personal

grief for the death of Jonathan and of Saul’s other sons, who were David’s

brothers-in-law; and the words really prove his loyalty to Saul himself. He

was still Jehovah’s anointed, whatever his conduct might have been; and

we have found David on previous occasions actuated by the same generous

respect for duty when clearly it was contrary to his own interests (see, for

instance, I Samuel 26:9). David put the wretch justly to death for

meanly murdering one whom he might possibly have saved. And the man’s

very purpose was to suggest to David, in a covert way, that escape really

was possible, but that he had made all things sure, and so deserved a large

reward. As a matter of fact, he had not killed Saul, but had invented the

story because, judging David by his own immoral standard, he had

supposed that he would regard the crime as a valuable service.

 

17 “And David lamented with this lamentation over Saul and over

Jonathan his son:” David lamented with this lamentation. The Hebrew

word for “lamentation” is kinah, a technical term for an elegy or poem

commemorative of the dead. Thus Jeremiah wrote a kinah in memory of

King Josiah (II Chronicles 35:25); and there is little doubt that the

lamentations there spoken of were a collection of dirges, in which

probably this ode written by David held an honored place. In ch. 3:33-34

we have a short kinah in Abner’s honor, which possibly formed part of a

longer poem, of which those two verses only are quoted as sufficing to prove,

not only David’s innocence, but also his indignation at Joab’s foul deed.

In both these places we have remains of David’s secular poetry, and find it

marked by the same strong emotion and the same sublimity of thought as

distinguish his psalms. We observe also the nobleness of David’s nature in

his total silence concerning himself, and his generous eulogy, not of Jonathan

only, but also of Saul. The mean envy and the implacable jealousy of the latter

are no more remembered, and he sees in him, not the personal foe, but the brave

king who has fallen in his country’s cause.

 

18 (Also he bade them teach the children of Judah the use of the bow:

behold, it is written in the book of Jasher.)  Also he bade them teach the

children of Judah [the use of] the bow. The old view is that given by the inserted

words, and is well put by Ephrem Syrus in his commentary upon the passage.

He says that, as Israel’s defeat at Gilboa was the presage of a long struggle, and

as the Philistines had gained the victory there by their skill in archery, David

used his utmost authority with his own tribe to get them to practice this art for

their protection in future wars. This explanation would be plausible were it

not that we have reason for believing that the Israelites were already skilful

in the use both of the sling and the bow, in both of which the Benjamites

especially excelled (I Chronicles 12:2). The modern view is that given

in the Revised Version, where the inserted words are “the song of” the

bow. “The Bow” is thus the name of the elegy, taken from the allusion to

Jonathan’s skill in the use of that weapon (v. 22; compare I Samuel

18:4; 20:36); and the meaning is that David made his own tribesmen, who

were probably ill disposed to Saul and his family, learn this dirge, not so

much for its preservation, as to make them give the fallen king due honor.

Similarly Exodus 3. is called “The Bush” in Mark 12:26. The book of

Jasher. See on this book Joshua 10:13, where the Syriac Version calls

it “The Book of Canticles,” and understands by it a collection of national

ballads commemorative of the brave deeds of Israelite heroes. Jasher

literally means “upright,” and the Book of Jasher would be equivalent to

“Hero book,” the Hebrews always looking to the moral rather  of their great

men.

 

19 “The beauty of Israel is slain upon thy high places: how are the

mighty fallen!”  The beauty of Israel. The word zebi means both “beauty” and

also “the gazelle.” Ewald takes it in the second sense, and explains it of

Jonathan - “everywhere the first in courage, in activity, and speed; slender

also and of well-made figure, and whose personal beauty and swiftness of

foot in attack or retreat gained for him among the troops the name of ‘the

gazelle.’ The Syriac Version also translates ‘gazelle,’” but Ephrem says

that the whole Israelite nation is meant, the flower of whoso manhood lay

slaughtered on Mount Gilboa. Which signification we take must really

depend upon the meaning we attach to the words, “thy high place;” and

these in the Authorized Version have nothing to refer to, and so become

unmeaning. The Revised Version follows the Vulgate in taking Israel as a

vocative, and renders, “Thy glory, O Israel, is slain upon thy high places.”

The sense would thus be that given by Ephrem, Israel’s glory being its

mighty” men or heroes, its warriors slain upon Mount Gilboa with their

king. But v. 25 makes it plain that the “high places” are Jonathan’s, and

not those of the nation; and the more correct rendering is “O beauty [or,

gazelle’] of Israel, slain upon thy high places! how are the heroes fallen!”

Thus Jonathan is certainly meant, and the heroes are the young, prince and

his father; and as the hunted antelope is said to return to its lair in the

mountains, and there await its death, “gazelle” is probably the right

rendering. In a dirge in honor of Saul and Jonathan we may be pretty sure

that Jonathan would be referred to in its opening words, and the camp

name of his friend would bring back to David’s mind many a brave feat

wrought together, and many a pleasant hour of companionship in past

years.

 

20 “Tell it not in Gath, publish it not in the streets of Askelon; lest the

daughters of the Philistines rejoice, lest the daughters of the

uncircumcised triumph.”  GathAskelon. By thus localizing the triumph,

and bringing before the mind the thought of multitudes in these well-known

places rejoicing with dance and song over the news of their victory, a more

affecting picture is produced by the contrast with Israel’s distress than

could have been effected by mere generalizations. Probably, too, there was

present in David’s mind the remembrance of scenes which he had

witnessed in these towns. In course of time, “Tell it not in Gath became a

proverb (Micah 1:10). The daughters. It is the custom in the East for

the women to celebrate the prowess of the nation’s warriors (Exodus 15:20;

I Samuel 18:6; Psalm 68:11 Revised Version).  Uncircumcised. For some

unknown reason, this word is used as a term of reproach, especially of the

Philistines (I Samuel 14:6; 17:26).                  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           

 

21 “Ye mountains of Gilboa, let there be no dew, neither let there be rain,

upon you, nor fields of offerings: for there the shield of the mighty is vilely

cast away, the shield of Saul, as though he had not been anointed with oil.” 

Fields of offerings; Hebrew, fields of terumoth. The terumoth were heave

offerings (Leviticus 7:14, 32), and the Vulgate, regarding these as thank offerings,

translates, “Fields of firstfruits.” The sense would thus be, “Fields of corn such

as was used for heave offerings.” Still, this gives us no suitable meaning; for

Gilboa was not a place fit for the growth of corn; and Theodoret, in his version,

has preserved a different reading, which is probably right, namely, “Ye fields

and mountains of death.” The shield…is vilely east away. This rendering contains

a classical idea derived from the Greeks and Romans, among whom it was a

disgrace for a soldier to return without his shield. But this imputes personal

cowardice to Saul — a reproach which is entirely undeserved; for he did not

cast away his shield, but remained steadfast unto death. The right translation is,

“For there the shield of heroes, yea, the shield of Saul, was defiled,” stained, that

is, with blood. We have no proof whatsoever that the Israelites had the

same notion as the Greeks, and if they had, David would certainly not have

put such a stigma upon the fallen king. [As though he had] not [been]

anointed with oil. By rejecting the inserted words, we get the original,

with all its simplicity, but with all its difficulty.

 

“There the shield of the heroes was defiled:

The shield of Saul not anointed with oil.”

 

The interpretation put upon these words in the Authorized Version is taken

from the Vulgate, no mean authority, but it is one which cannot be

reconciled with the Hebrew, where it is not Saul, but his shield, which is

referred to. It was a Jewish custom to anoint the shield with oil before a

battle (Isaiah 21:5), in order probably to make the missiles of the

enemy glance off from it without injury. And bearing this in mind, David

now contrasts the sad issue of the battle with the hopes with which the

warrior had in old times gone forth to war. Then his shield glistened

brightly; now it was defiled with blood. In the Revised Version the

rendering, “vilely cast away,” is retained, the Revisers not having perceived

that “defiled,” which they have placed in the margin, is absolutely required

for the text by the contrast with “the shield not anointed with oil.”

 

22 “From the blood of the slain, from the fat of the mighty, the bow of

Jonathan turned not back, and the sword of Saul returned not empty.”

From the blood of the slain. In old time, Saul and Jonathan

had been victorious warriors, who had returned from the battlefield stained

with the blood of their enemies: from this battle they return no more, and

their weapons have lost their old renown.

 

23 “Saul and Jonathan were lovely and pleasant in their lives, and in

their death they were not divided: they were swifter than eagles,

they were stronger than lions.”  Lovely and pleasant. The words of the

Authorized Version contain a beautiful antithesis, which, however, does not

exist in the Hebrew, which celebrates the close union of father and son in life

as well as in death.

 

“Saul and Jonathan, the lovely and pleasant,

Neither in their lives nor in their death were they divided.”

 

Notwithstanding Saul’s rash vow, Jonathan had ever been his father’s

faithful friend and companion, nor had his affection for David made him

untrue to the ties of natural affection. And David generously commends his

friend for thus acting.

 

24 “Ye daughters of Israel, weep over Saul, who clothed you in scarlet,

with other delights, who put on ornaments of gold upon your apparel. 

25 How are the mighty fallen in the midst of the battle! O Jonathan,

thou wast slain in thine high places.” Ye daughters of Israel. In old time,

the women of Israel had celebrated Saul’s triumphs (v. 20), but now it is their

sad office to bewail his death. And a touching reason is given for their sorrow.

During Saul’s reign the condition of the women had greatly improved. When a

nation is in the miserable plight described in I Samuel 13:19-22, there is neither

safety nor comfort for the weak; but when the strong arm of Saul had won

freedom for Israel, the women were the first to reap the benefit, and “their

scarlet clothing with delights,” that is, their delightful or delicate clothing

of bright colors and their golden ornaments, prove that the nation had made a

great advance in prosperity and culture during the happier years of Saul’s reign.

 

26 “I am distressed for thee, my brother Jonathan: very pleasant hast

thou been unto me: thy love to me was wonderful, passing the love

of women.”  Thy love to me was wonderful. Never was there a purer

friendship than that of Jonathan for David. It began just after the combat

with Goliath, when the young prince, instead of seeing in David a rival,

who had equaled his own feat of valor, took him to his heart, put upon

him his own robe and armor, and thus presented him to the army as his

friend and brother. Nor did his father’s hatred of David, nor the knowledge

that David was to inherit the kingdom, interfere with his love. He remained

a dutiful son to his father, and accepted his inferior position with

magnanimity, without once seeing in David cause for blame; and it

surpassed the love of women, because, to requite their devotion, they look

for protection and homage, the more delightful because it is paid by the

strong to the weak. But here the lives of the two friends could not combine

in one happy fusion of mutual union. Their hearts were bound together, but

a hard fate, of which they were fully aware, made the ruin of the one the

certain result of the happiness of the other. Nevertheless, Jonathan, with

everything to lose, and David with everything to gain, remained true and

loyal friends.

 

27 “How are the mighty fallen, and the weapons of war perished!”

How are the mighty fallen! This lament, which occurs three

times, is the central thought of the elegy. Glorious and noble in their past

lives, the heroes had now fallen, not as Wolfe fell at Quebec, with the

shout of victory in his ears, but in the lost battle. And David seeks relief for

his distress in dwelling upon the sad contrast between the splendid victories

which Saul had won for Israel when first chosen to be king, and the terrible

defeat by which life and kingdom had now been lost.

 

“So Saul died for his transgression which he committed against the Lord,

even against the word of the Lord, which he kept not, and also for asking

counsel of one that had a familiar spirit, to inquire of it; And inquired

not of the Lord:  therefore He slew him, and turned the kingdom unto

the son of Jesse.”  (I Chronicles 13-14)

 

 

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