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The Message of the Amalekite
v. 1. Now it came to pass after the death of Saul, as related in the last chapter, when David was returned from the slaughter of the Amalekites, 1 Samuel 30, and David had abode two days in Ziklag,
v. 2. it came even to pass on the third day that, behold, a man came out of the camp from Saul, a man who had fought in the Israelitish army, with his clothes rent and earth upon his head, as a sign of the deepest grief; and so it was, when he came to David, that he fell to the earth and did obeisance, giving homage to David as the future king.
v. 3. And David said unto him, from whence comest thou? And he said unto him, Out of the camp of Israel, out of the army in the field, am I escaped, indicating, even here, that a great calamity had befallen the host.
v. 4. And David said unto him, how went the matter? I pray thee, tell me. The question, How was the affair, How did things go? is at the same time an exclamation of dismay. And he answered, that the people are fled from the battle, the army being broken up in wild confusion, and many of the people also are fallen and dead, in addition to Saul's body-guard, which had been cut down to the last man, 1 Samuel 31:6; and Saul and Jonathan, his son, are dead also. This was the climax of his sad message.
v. 5. And David said unto the young man that told him, How knowest thou that Saul and Jonathan, his son, be dead?
v. 6. And the young man that told him said, As I happened by chance upon Mount Gilboa, in the confusion of the battle and of the flight, behold, Saul leaned upon his spear, apparently so exhausted and weak that he found it difficult to stand up alone; and, lo, the chariots and horsemen followed hard after him. It is here that the messenger's falsehoods begin, for it was out of the question for the chariots of the Philistines to follow the fleeing army into the hills.
v. 7. And when he, Saul, looked behind him, he saw me and called unto me. And I answered, here am I.
v. 8. And he said unto me, who art thou? And I answered him, I am an Amalekite. Here again the improbability of the report is apparent, since Saul would hardly have been standing alone, with not a single Israelite, not even an armor-bearer, to come to his assistance.
v. 9. He said unto me again, Stand, I pray thee, upon me, by stepping up very closely to him, and slay me; for anguish is come upon me, he had been seized with a cramp and found himself unable to wield his weapons, because my life is yet whole in me, and he was afraid lest, in his defenseless condition, he would suffer the indignity of falling into the hands of the Philistines.
v. 10. So I stood upon him, went closely up to him, and slew him, because I was sure that he could not live after he was fallen, he would not survive this defeat; and I took the crown that was upon his head and the bracelet that was on his arm, for men, especially army officers, wore arm-bands as a mark of their rank, and have brought them, the symbols of the royal dignity, hither unto my lord. The man's idea was to secure the favor of David by his action and obtain a rich reward.
v. 11. Then David took hold on his clothes and rent them, as a sign of uncontrollable grief, and like wise all the men that were with him, not only out of deference to David, but because they were aware of the significance of this defeat for the whole nation;
v. 12. and they mourned, and wept, and fasted until even, abandoning themselves to their grief as it swept over them, for Saul, and for Jonathan, his son, and for the people of the Lord, and for the house of Israel, the king, the prince, the army, and the entire nation all coming in to make their grief very great, because they were fallen by the sword. The people of the Lord, by a holy covenant, had in this battle been abandoned by Jehovah; the house of Israel, all descendants of the same patriarch, was overthrown.
v. 13. And David said unto the young man that told him, who had distorted the facts and lied in order to gain the favor of David, as though he had killed a dangerous enemy, Whence art thou? And he answered, I am the son of a stranger, an Amalekite, of a man who had settled in Israel, but had not yet been acknowledged as a member.
v. 14. And David said unto him, How wast thou not afraid to stretch forth thine hand to destroy the Lord's anointed? What David had not dared to do, out of respect for the king's position and person, this stranger, by his own confession, had profanely done, and evidently in hopes of a reward.
v. 15. And David called one of the young men and said, Go near and fall upon him. David here spoke the sentence of death by virtue of his position as Saul's successor, upon a self-confessed murderer. And he smote him that he died.
v. 16. And David said unto him, Thy blood be upon thy head, this bloody punishment was in agreement with the crime which he had confessed to; for thy mouth hath testified against thee, saying, I have slain the Lord's anointed. David thus avenged a notorious and shocking political crime. If a person accuses himself of some transgression and glories in a crime which he did not commit, he shows a disposition which is guilty before God, and need not be astonished if he is judged according to his own words.
v. 17. And David lamented with this lamentation over Saul and over Jonathan, his son; he composed this elegy, or song of mourning, as an expression of his deep and sincere grief over the death of the king and of his dearest friend
v. 18. (also he bade them teach the children of Judah the use of the bow, he commanded that this song be practiced, learned by heart; behold, it is written in the Book of Jasher, it was a battle-song recorded in the Book of the Upright, and the bow was afterwards a very important weapon in Israel ):
v. 19. The beauty, the glory, of Israel is slain upon thy high places, namely, by the death of Saul and Jonathan on Mount Gilboa. Now are the mighty fallen!
v. 20. Tell it not in Gath, publish, announce, it not in the streets of Askelon, these being two of the five large Philistine cities, lest the daughters of the Philistines rejoice, lest the daughters of the uncircumcised triumph. If Philistia should learn of the death of the heroes of Israel, there would be, and there undoubtedly was, a scornful joy over the victory.
v. 21. Ye mountains of Gilboa, let there be no dew, neither let there be rain upon you nor fields of offerings, of first-fruits; the heavens should withhold their moisture, and the earth should refuse to give her increase, as a sign of mourning over the defeat; for there the shield of the mighty is vilely cast away, defiled with dust and blood, the shield of Saul, as though he had not been anointed with oil; no one was there to take the shield, the emblem of the leader of the army, out of the dirt to clean and to polish its surface anew.
v. 22. From the blood of the slain, from the fat of the mighty, considered a sign of great strength, the bow of Jonathan turned not back, and the sword of Saul returned not empty; both heroes were accustomed to gain complete victories, to destroy every opposing enemy, their bravery, their prowess, was known far and wide.
v. 23. Saul and Jonathan were lovely and pleasant, worthy of lore, beloved, and amiable, in their lives, and in their death they were not divided. United by love in life, they were bound together in death, together they gave their lives for Israel. They were swifter than eagles, distinguished for quickness and agility; they were stronger than lions, of lionlike courage and strength.
v. 24. Ye daughters of Israel, weep over Saul, who clothed you in scarlet, in crimson or purple garments from the booty of war, with other delights, adornments that pleased them; who put on ornaments of gold upon your apparel, as a proof of his kingly largess.
v. 25. How are the mighty fallen in the midst of the battle! O Jonathan, thou wast slain in thine high places! Here the key-note of the entire lament is once more sounded, with special reference to Jonathan.
v. 26. I am distressed for thee, filled with anxious thoughts by reason of grief and mourning, my brother Jonathan; very pleasant, beloved, hast thou been unto me; thy love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women, known for the depth of their affection and devotion.
v. 27. How are the mighty fallen, and the weapons of war, the heroes of Israel, as the instruments of battle, perished! The elegy was a national song and preserved the names of Saul and Jonathan in Israel. True lore and friendship requites that a person mourn the loss of a friend and always keep him in fond remembrance.
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Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 1". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://studylight.org/
the Fourth Week after Epiphany