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Bible Commentaries
2 Samuel 1

Preacher's Complete Homiletical CommentaryPreacher's Homiletical

Verses 1-16


2 Samuel 1:6. “The chariots and horsemen.” It has been remarked that it is extremely unlikely that chariots and horsemen, pursued the Israelites on to the mountains, and this statement has been generally regarded as a part of the falsehood of the whole story, which is throughout at variance with the account in the last chapter.

2 Samuel 1:7. “Here am I,” etc. This statement also, as Kiel remarks, has about it the air of untruth, for it is extremely improbable that Saul would have no Israelite by his side to whom to address his request.

2 Samuel 1:9. “Anguish.” From a verb meaning to interweave, or work together; hence some translate “My cuirass hindereth me,” etc., but Keil, Erdmann, Kunchi, and others cramp. Gesenius reads, giddiness, vertigo.

2 Samuel 1:10. “Crown,” rather diadem, “A small metallic cap or wreath, which encircled the temples, serving the purpose of a helmet, with a very small horn projecting in front, as the emblem of power.” “Bracelet,” i.e., “the armlet worn above the elbow, an ancient mark of royal dignity.” (Jamieson.)

2 Samuel 1:12. “The people of Jehovah” and the House of Israel are distinguished from one another, according to the twofold attitude of Israel, which furnished a double ground for mourning. Those who had fallen were first of all members of the people of Jehovah, and secondly, fellow-countrymen. (Ked.) “They were, therefore, associated with them both according to the flesh and according to the spirit, and for that reason they mourned the more.” (Schmidt.)

2 Samuel 1:13. “A Stranger,” etc, i.e. “An Amalekite who had emigrated to Israel.” (Keil). Although most Bible students regard the Amalekite’s story as untrue, yet Josephus adopts it. Wordsworth thinks it may be supplementary to the former account, and that though Saul was the author of his own death, inasmuch as he did what he could to destroy himself, yet he was despatched at last by the Amalekite, and remarks, “If the story be true, it is worthy of remark that Saul owed his death to one of that nation of Amalek, which he had been commanded by God to destroy.”

2 Samuel 1:15-16. Although some commentators think that this action of David was a political one, most believe that he was moved by a higher motive, and that according to Erdmann “he acted theocratically with perfect justice in slaying with holy anger the murderer of the Lord’s anointed.”



I. Those who plan to deceive others are often deceived by means of their own plan. This is a principle of Divine working which is continually manifesting itself. When the sons of Jacob laid a plot to rid themselves of their brother, and to prevent the fulfilment of his dreams, the deception which they thus practised on their father was the first step by which Joseph ascended to the rulership of Egypt. In the case before us we have a man who, having conceived a plan of deception, brought it forth in falsehood, hoping thereby to gain a great reward. But this scheme of his, instead of bringing him the praise and the preferment for which it had been planned, brought him the condemnation and death which his deception merited as much as the deed for which David judged and punished him.

II. Bad men judge others by their own moral standard. The untoward issue of this plan of the Amalekite arose from his mismeasurement of the man with whom he had to deal. He knew what his own feelings would be if he were in David’s case, and had no other rule by which to judge actions except the amount of fancied good or ill they brought to himself. So is it with all bad men. Their own supposed interest is the measure of all things—self is first, and often last, and if righteousness and mercy mingle at all with their plans and purposes, it is only when they do not hinder the main object of their existence. Hence they cannot understand a man who sorrows over anything that is not a personal and material loss, and still more are they puzzled to comprehend him who is displeased at a deed which brings him gain, or who grieves over the fall of others when that fall is a stepping-stone to his own elevation. This heathen of the olden time was not farther removed from David’s stand-point of action than men of the world now are from that of the spiritual man.


David’s course in this matter was the best policy for him; but we have no right to conclude from that fact that he was led to it by considerations of policy. He had himself shown, on an occasion of great temptation, that reverence for the Lord’s anointed of which he here speaks. The fact that “honesty is the best policy” will not of itself alone make a man honest; but neither does it prevent a man’s being honest, or give us a right to suspect a good man’s motives.—Transr. of Lange’s Commentary.

David had been long waiting for the crown, and now it is brought him by an Amalekite. See how God can serve his own purpose of kindness to his people, even by designing men who aim at nothing but to set up themselves.—Henry.

There is something very humiliating—something peculiarly distressing, because felt to be deeply degrading, in this very circumstance of having been so misunderstood and misjudged as to have been supposed capable of finding gratification in acting out principles which rule minds of another order, and of sympathising with the courses to which these principles conduct. There is scarcely a trial which is more hard to endure, or which pierces the heart with so deep a pang, than thus to find one’s self standing in the estimation of a man whose feelings and principles are low, on that same low platform which marks his own moral position, and side by side with himself.—Miller.

Verses 17-27


2 Samuel 1:17. “Lamented—Lamentation.” These words must be understood in a technical sense.… This lamentation has a peculiar interest as being the only specimen preserved to us of David’s secular poetry. (Bib. Commentary.)

2 Samuel 1:18. “The bow.” This is the name given to the dirge probably on account of its warlike character. “The use of.” These words are improperly inserted in the English version. “The Book of Jasher.” Or, the book of the righteous or the “upright ones.” “It was in existence before the Books of Joshua and Samuel (Joshua 10:13), and contained (judging from the extracts) a collection of songs on specially remarkable events of the Israelitish history, together with a celebration of the prominently pious men whose names were connected with these events.” (Erdmann.). Other conjectures have been formed about this book, but they appear unworthy of attention.

2 Samuel 1:19. “The ode” (which here begins) “is arranged in three strophes, which gradually dimiuish in force and sweep (viz., 2 Samuel 1:19-27), and in which the vehemence of sorrow is gradually modified, and finally dies away. Each strophe opens with the exclamation, How are the mighty fallen! The first contains all that had to be said in praise of the fallen heroes; the deepest mourning for their death, etc. The second commemorates the friendship between David and Jonathan. The third simply utters the last sigh, with which the elegy becomes silent.” (Kiel.)

2 Samuel 1:19. Some read the first stanza, “Thy glory, O Israel, upon thy heights (is) slain.” De Wette, Kitto, Stanley, and others, for glory read gazelle, and Ewald refers it to Jonathan. “But this,” says Erdmann, “in the absence in the song of any comparison with the gazelle, or any allusion to its swiftness and agility, is untenable, because the song speaks throughout not of one hero but of two. As the composition has the ring of a hero song in honour of these two, who were, in fact, the hero glory of Israel, we must render the word glory, ornament.”

2 Samuel 1:20. “Gath, Askelon.” “These two Philistine cities as the most prominent, are named for the whole land, which they represent (Gath very near, Askelon at a distance on the sea.”) (Erdmann.) “Lest the daughter,” etc. Referring to the Oriental custom of the celebration of victories by the women of the nation. (1 Samuel 18:6, etc.)

2 Samuel 1:21. “Fields of offerings,” or of first-fruits, i.e., fields from which were taken the first-fruits, which were, of course, the most fruitful. The last clause of this verse should be read without the italics in the authorised version—“The shield of Saul not anointed with oil.” It was customary to clean and polish the shield with oil (see Isaiah 21:5), and this expression denotes its defilement and unfitness for war consequent upon the defeat of its owner.

2 Samuel 1:24. “With delights,” “or with lovelinesses; i.e., in a lovely manner.” (Keil.) Al the adornments here enumerated were probably the spoils of war.

2 Samuel 1:25. “O Jonathan.” “David’s union of heart with his friend differences this lament sharply from the foregoing over him and Saul as heroes.” (Erdmann.)

2 Samuel 1:27. “Weapons of war.” Not the materials of warfare but the heroes themselves.



I. The truly great can separate the man and the enemy. We cannot do David the injustice to suppose that any of the language which he here uses is anything but the expression of the feelings of his heart—that any word of praise which occurs here is used merely for effect, or is an exaggeration of what he felt to be truth. How, then, was it possible for him so to regard the man who had now for so many years made him an exile—who had made his youth and early manhood a season of unceasing anxiety and danger? To be able honestly to render such a tribute to Saul’s memory, David must have been able to look at the man quite apart from the treatment which he had received from him—to put entirely aside the hatred with which he knew Saul regarded him, and to look at him not only without prejudice but with pity, and thus sincerely to mourn over his sins and his sorrows.

II. The truly great think their own advancement as nothing compared with God’s honour. The first and ruling emotion in the breasts of most men in David’s place would have been.—if not gratification at the downfall of an enemy, yet of exultation at being delivered from his persecution and being once more free to return in safety to his native land. And with the remembrance of the anointing oil upon his head, no one in whom all thoughts of a personal nature were not swallowed up in anxiety for the public good could have avoided looking forward with anticipation to the issue of this great event. But such a man as David found more matter of mourning in the triumph of the uncircumcised than of rejoicing in his own altered prospects. It was more to him that the God of Israel had been dishonoured in the eyes of the heathen than that the heavy cloud was lifted from his own future. In all his conduct at this time he showed that true nobility which is only possible to him who makes God, and not himself, the centre of the universe.


I believe it is not dangerous but safe, not a homage to falsehood but to truth, in our judgments of those who are departed, to follow David’s example. We may dwell upon bright and hallowed moments of lives that have been darkened by many shadows, polluted by many sins; these moments may be welcomed as revelations to us of what God intended His creature to be; we may feel that there has been a loveliness in them which God gave them, and which their own evil could not take away. We may think of this loveliness as if it expressed the inner purpose of their existence; the rest may be for us as though it were not. As Nature, with her old mosses and her new spring foliage, hides the ruins which man has made, and gives to the fallen tower and broken cloister a beauty scarcely less than that which belonged to them in their prime, so human love may be at work too, “softening and concealing, and busy with her hand in healing” the rents that have been made in God’s nobler temple, the habitation of His own Spirit.—Maurice.

2 Samuel 1:12. The only deep mourning for Saul, with the exception of that of the Jabeshites, proceeded from the man whom he had hated and persecuted for so many years even to the time of his death; just as David’s successor wept over the fall of Jerusalem, even when it was about to destroy himself.—Von Gerlach.

2 Samuel 1:26. Passing the love of woman? How can that be? we of these days shall say. What love can pass that, saving the boundless love of Him who stooped from heaven to earth that He might die on the cross for us? No. David, when he sang these words, knew not the depth of a woman’s love. And we shall have a right so to speak. The indefeasible and divine right which is bestowed by fact. As a fact we do not find among the ancient Jews that exalting and purifying ideal of the relations between man and woman which is to be found, thank God, in these days, in almost every British work of fiction or fancy. It is enunciated, remember always, in the oldest Hebrew document. On the very threshold of the Bible it is enunciated in its most ideal purity and perfection. But in practice it was never fulfilled.… Abraham had Sarah his princess wife. But he has others.… And so has David in like wise, to the grief and harm both of him and Abraham.—Kingsley.

If ever to the human heart of David the throne had seemed desirable as the height of worldly grandeur, detestable in the last degree would such a feeling now appear, when the same act that opened it up to him deprived him of his dearest friend—his sweetest source of earthly joy. The only way in which it was possible for David to enjoy his new position was by losing sight of self; by identifying himself more closely than ever with his people; by regarding the throne only as a position for more self-denying labours for the good of others. And in this song there is evidence of the great strength and activity of this feeling.… Thus both by the afflictions that saddened his heart and by the stroke of prosperity that raised him to the throne, David was impelled to that course of action which is the best safeguard under God against the baneful influences both of adversity and prosperity.—Blaikie.

These words of the song,—

“Tell it not in Gath, publish it not in the streets of Askelon,”

have, since that time, in the circles of the faithful, become a proverb. It is frequently heard when one of their community has failed to take heed to his ways, and therefore has given rise to a scandal. Would that that call were more faithfully observed than is for the most part the case! Would that the honour of the spiritual Zion lay always as near to the heart of the children of the kingdom as did that of the earthly to the heart of David! But how often does it happen that they even strive to disclose before the world the weaknesses of their brethren, and thus, by a repetition of the wickedness of Ham, become traitors to the Church which Christ has purchased with His own blood. Thus they make themselves guilty of bringing dishonour upon the Gospel, while they open the gates to such dishonour through their perhaps altogether malicious tale-bearing, and to their own great prejudice disown the charity which “believeth all things, and hopeth all things,” and also “covereth a multitude of sins.”—Krummacher.

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 1". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/phc/2-samuel-1.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.
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