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Bible Commentaries

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

2 Samuel 1

Verse 1

Now it came to pass ... - There is no break whatever between the two books of Samuel, the division being purely artificial.

Verse 9

Anguish - The Hebrew word used here occurs nowhere else, and is of doubtful meaning (compare the margin). The rabbis interpret it as a cramp or giddiness.

Verse 10

The Amalekite was one of those who came “to strip the slain” on “the morrow” after the battle 1 Samuel 31:8, and had the luck to find Saul and possess himself of his crown and bracelet. He probably started off immediately to seek David, and invented the above story, possibly having heard from some Israelite prisoner an account of what really did happen.

Verse 12

For Saul ... - David’s thoroughly patriotic and unselfish character is strongly marked here. He looked upon the death of Saul, and the defeat of Israel by a pagan foe, with unmixed sorrow, though it opened to him the way to the throne, and removed his mortal enemy out of the way. For Jonathan he mourned with all the tenderness of a loving friend.

Verses 13-14

Whether David believed the Amalekite’s story, or not, his anger was equally excited, and the fact that the young man was an Amalekite, was not calculated to calm or check it. That David’s temper was hasty, we know from 1 Samuel 25:13, 1 Samuel 25:32-34.

Verse 16

David might well think his sentence just though severe, for he had more than once expressed the deliberate opinion that none could lift up his hand against the Lord’s anointed, and be guiltless (see 1 Samuel 24:6; 1 Samuel 26:9, 1 Samuel 26:11, 1 Samuel 26:16).

Verse 17

The words lamented and lamentation must be understood in the technical sense of a funeral dirge or mournful elegy. (See similar dirges in 2 Samuel 3:33-34; and 2 Chronicles 35:25.) This and the brief stanza on the death of Abner are the only specimens preserved to us of David’s secular poetry.

Verse 18

The use of the bow - Omit “the use of.” “The bow” is the name by which this dirge was known, being so called from the mention of Jonathan’s bow in 2 Samuel 1:22. The sense would then be: And he commanded them to teach the children of Israel the song called Kasheth (the bow), i. e. he gave directions that the song should be learned by heart (compare Deuteronomy 31:19). It has been further suggested that in the Book of Jasher there was, among other things, a collection of poems, in which special mention was made of the bow. This was one of them. 1 Samuel 2:1-10 was another; Numbers 21:27-30 was another; Lamentations 2:0 was another; Lamentations 3:0 was another; Jacob’s blessing Genesis 49:0; Moses’ song Deuteronomy 32:0; perhaps his Blessing (Deuteronomy 33:0. See 2 Sam. 1:29); and such Psalms as Psalms 44:0; Psalms 46:1-11; Psalms 76:1-12, etc.; Habakkuk 3:0; and Zechariah 9:9-17, also belonged to it. The title by which all the poems in this collection were distinguished was קשׁת qesheth, “the bow.” When therefore the writer of 2 Samuel transferred this dirge from the Book of Jasher to his own pages, he transferred it, as we might do any of the Psalms, with its title.

The book of Jasher - See the marginal reference note.

Verse 19

The beauty ... - i. e. Saul and Jonathan who were the chief ornament and pride of Israel, and slain upon “high places” 2 Samuel 1:25, namely, on Mount Gilboa.

Verse 20

Gath, the royal city of Achish 1 Samuel 21:10; 1 Samuel 27:2. Askelon, the chief seat of worship (1 Samuel 31:10 note).

Verse 21

Let there be no dew ... - For a similar passionate form of poetical malediction, compare Job 3:3-10; Jeremiah 20:14-18.

Nor fields of offerings - He imprecates such complete barrenness on the soil of Gilboa, that not even enough may grow for an offering of first-fruits. The latter part of the verse is better rendered thus: For there the shield of the mighty was polluted, the shield of Saul was not anointed with oil, but with blood). Shields were usually anointed with oil in preparation for the battle Isaiah 21:5.

Verse 24

The women of Israel are most happily introduced. They who had come out to meet king Saul with tabrets, with joy, and with instruments of music” in the day of victory, are now called to weep over him.

Verse 25

How are the mighty fallen - The recurrenee of the same idea 2 Samuel 1:19, 2 Samuel 1:25, 2 Samuel 1:27 is perfectly congenial to the nature of elegy, since grief is fond of dwelling upon the particular objects of the passion, and frequently repeating them. By unanimous consent this is considered one of the most beautiful odes in the Bible, and the generosity of David in thus mourning for his enemy and persecutor, Saul, enhances the effect upon the mind of the reader.

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Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 1". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bnb/2-samuel-1.html. 1870.