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Bible Commentaries
2 Samuel 1

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New TestamentsSutcliffe's Commentary

Verses 1-27

2 Samuel 1:6 . Mount Gilboa, two miles from mount Tabor. The battle was fought near the place where Barak fought with Sisera.

2 Samuel 1:10 . The crown and the bracelet. A true mercenary soldier. He first killed, and then plundered his sovereign for a reward. Some say he was son of Doeg the Edomite, who was of Amalek’s race, but is called an Idumean, because he had lived among Esau’s race. David in one week, after being rejected by the lords of Philistia, was made king. Happy reverse of exile for glory.

2 Samuel 1:18 . Teach the use of the bow. David’s men had learned this part of the art of war in Philistia. The Greeks used the spear, but threw missile weapons against a column advancing to the charge. The Romans had short heavy swords, with shields on their left arm. Though this was not the best armour in the onset, it was far the best at close quarters. The bow was terrible against an advancing foe, and on the flanks, as the Greeks experienced to their sorrow on the plains of Troy; and it was terrible on a routed army, as now on Gilboa, and when Ahab fell. Bows were made by our ancient kings, of yew trees and strings of catgut. But what has military exercises to do in the midst of a sublime elegy? Saul fell by the bow: “the archers hit him.” 1 Samuel 31:3. Hence the Alexandrine Greek regards BOW as the title of the elegy, and reads, “David enjoined them to teach it [the song entitled the Bow ] to the children of Judah.” Its celebrity gained its admission into the book of Jasher; that is, the book of the Just. It is understood to have been a collection of national odes, celebrating the grand achievements of the nation; its calamities and its deliverances, sometimes by miracles, and sometimes by valiant men. Some of those odes and hymns were written by inspired men; but others had not so high a claim. Hence this book sustained a high reputation; and it is worthily quoted in the sacred text. The latter part of this verse should have stood at the head of the elegy, being the authority cited here. The Voluspa; the Edda; and the Ossian, are of like character with the Jasher of the Hebrews.

2 Samuel 1:20 . Tell it not in Gath, lest the virgin choir should celebrate their fall in songs of triumph.

2 Samuel 1:21 . As though he had not been anointed. Many MSS. and Versions read, The shield of Saul instruments anointed with oil.


Stand still and see the salvation of God. Thou canst not make one hair white or black: in due time ye shall be exalted. How applicable are all these texts to David’s case. In ten days what did God do for his servant. He was hindered from fighting against his country; he was enriched with all the booty of Amalek; and the crown of Saul was laid at his feet. Now David is ashamed of his fears, and he blushes under the weight of mercy. Let every believer hope and quietly wait for the salvation of God in every affliction of providence. The transition from the greatest affliction to prosperity and repose, is often rapid as the transition from winter to spring.

The next object which strikes us here is, the sacred light in which David viewed the person of a king. He is the Lord’s anointed, an image of God in his government; and the lives, independence, and happiness of a nation are very often involved in the safety and glory of his person. A good king is God’s best gift to a kingdom, and no one but the giver has a right to resume the gift.

It is often the sad lot of kings to be surrounded by mean and mercenary men, who are the first to flatter them in prosperity, and the first to betray them in adversity. Saul’s veteran guards would neither forsake him in the fight, nor slay him when he requested it through a principle of mistaken honour: but when he resolved to destroy himself, they all sought safety in flight. They were men worthy of a better general. But here was in the rear, one who made no scruple of the greatest of crimes in piercing the sacred person of his sovereign; who was animated with a base and selfish policy, though surrounded with the utmost carnage of defeat; for he seized the crown and bracelet as pledges to ensure preferment with David. Being the son of a stranger he shed no tears for the fall of his king, and he accounted the defeat of Israel no calamity. Here is the character of men who turn every occurrence to their interest, and always espouse the strongest side.

Honesty is better than policy; for the wicked are often taken in their crimes. While the regicide expected to see joy sparkle in the eyes of David, he saw the tears trickle down his cheeks; he saw him rend his garments, for grief took possession of his soul. And while he expected a vast reward, or to receive some promise of promotion, he heard the weeping king convict him on his own evidence, and sentence him to immediate death.

In the elegy on Saul and Jonathan, (and grief always drove the Psalmist to his harp, and his God;) we mark first the goodness of his heart. He celebrated the praises of the fallen monarch as though he had been to David the best of fathers, and the best of kings: yet in the sacred strains of panegyric, he offers not the slightest violence to truth. Posterity could not say of this production, “False marble,” or “lying scroll.” He knew nothing of the venal eloquence and affected modesty of a Flechere. He introduces at once the subject of his tears. He strikes the soul by an apostrophe to his country. “The beauty of Israel is slain upon thy high places.” Saul and his sons in their splendour, dignity and achievements, were most assuredly the boast and glory of their country. Anxious to conceal the shame, he says, “Tell it not in Gath.” On Gilboa he invokes a temporary curse of barrenness, that the mountains might join the people in lamenting the fall of their king. There the shield of the mighty, the shield which had hitherto been the banner of victory, was ingloriously cast away; and for the warrior to survive the loss of his shield was to cover himself with the last reproach, There also the bow of Jonathan, whose arrows had pierced so many of his foes, now lay prostrate on the ground. Inexpressible calamity: subject of eternal tears. If we except a melancholy in the sire, how great were their personal and military virtues. In battle they were swifter than eagles and stronger than lions. He next calls the daughters of Israel to weep for Saul, who bettered the condition of the country, and clothed them in scarlet. But to Jonathan he gives the preference, because of his constancy and love. And these are virtues which survive all calamities, and exist for ever in the remembrance of God. When illustrious men fall, they do not lose their glory; they survive in records like the ruins of desecrated temples.

Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 1". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jsc/2-samuel-1.html. 1835.
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