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The event of the battle between Israel and the Philistines, in the overthrow of Israel and the death of Saul, and his three sons, this chapter opens with the relation of, as reported to David, by an Amalekite. The sacred historian, gives the account of the distress of David upon the occasion: his anger against the informer, who, thinking to have ingratiated himself with David, boasted of his having slain Saul, and is slain for it. David breaks out into a bitter lamentation on this event, and especially mourns over the death of his beloved Jonathan.
2 Samuel 1:1
(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;
David no doubt was busily engaged in repairing the injury the Amalekites had done to Ziklag while the Philistines' battle with Saul was going on. Though, no doubt, his anxiety concerning the event frequently made him send forth enquiries, David could not but be waiting the Lord's fulfillment of his promise concerning the kingdom. It was now several years since his being anointed, (seven at least, if not more) and therefore it was impossible but for his expectation to have been continually excited. Reader! In spiritual things God's people are continually anxious, though they know the promises of God in Christ Jesus to be yea and amen. The Lord hath said; Fear not little flock; it is your heavenly Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Yet it is also said, that it is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord. Luke 12:32 ; Lamentations 3:26 .
(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.
It should seem, if we compare the corresponding history of David in the book of the Chronicles, (See 1 Chronicles 12:1-22 .) with what is related of David in this place, that about this time David's army was increasing daily. And hence, as this man came out of the camp, and had seen the end of Saul, he considered David now as king. Hence he made obeisance.
(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? (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. (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. (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.
This relation is truly interesting. The anxiety, distress, and the various conflicts of natural and gracious feelings on the part of David, and the artfulness of address on the part of the man, are beautifully implied. We may easily conceive, from the well known character of David, what a conflict must have passed in his mind during this relation. And no doubt as the man knew David's history, he knew how to effect David's mind, in working upon his feelings in the relation of the death of Saul and Jonathan. Whether the relation he gave was altogether true is not certain; and there is some reason to question it, as there is no account of it in the relation given of Saul's death in the preceding chapter. See 1 Samuel 31:4-5 . And indeed it differs from it. I stay not however to enquire, as it is not very material. One thing is certain, that as this man brought the crown and bracelet of Saul to David, he must have been with Saul at his death. But I pass over these circumstances, which are not of the first importance, to advert to what appears to be more so in the thing itself. Let the Reader then remark with me, that, as the first instance of Saul's rebellion against God began in the affair of sparing Amalek, (See 1 Samuel 15:9-10; 1 Samuel 15:9-10 , etc.) so the Lord causeth the spared Amalekites to rise up to the last act of Saul's ruin. Oh! Reader, how certain is it, that the Lord never relaxeth one moment in the distribution of righteous judgment. Rather than one sin shall go unpunished, Jesus, his dear Son, shall die. See that solemn scripture: Zechariah 13:7 .
(11) ¶ Then David took hold on his clothes, and rent them; and likewise all the men that were with him: (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.
There can be no question but that this lamentation of David was real and sincere. And I take occasion here from to remark, and it is in my esteem a remark of no small importance, that what we meet with in David's Psalms, where he many times expresses himself harshly against his enemies, (as particularly Psalms 10:0 9th, which see) these expressions are to be considered, for the most part, as leveled against the enemies of God and of his church; and not the private foes of David. Very frequently he spake as under the Spirit of prophecy; and the Reader will do well upon all occasions of this sort, to make a proper distinction between the private feelings of the man, and the public Spirit of the Prophet. See Psalms 139:19-22 .
(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? (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.
Think Reader! (for I pass over all the lesser considerations connected with the event of this Amalekite's death) think if David considered this act so atrocious, because it was leveled against the Lord's anointed, what unparalleled impiety must that have been in the crucifiers of the Lord Jesus, the only begotten and anointed Son of God! And yet, dearest Jesus! such was thy matchless love and pity, that on some of these very men, whose hands were embrued in thy blood, thou didst send down the gift of thine Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, that by pricking them to the heart they might cry out for redemption and obtain it. Oh! heavenly Lord! Oh Son of David, and David's Lord, what a precious view of thy mercy doth this afford! See Act_2:22-23; Act_2:37 , etc.
(17) ¶ And David lamented with this lamentation over Saul and over Jonathan his son: (18) (Also he bade them teach the children of Judah the use of the bow: behold, it is written in the book of Jasher.)
Probably David, in the first paroxysms of his grief, expressed himself in a strain like those pathetic parts of the elegy which follow. What this book of Jasher means is not generally understood. It hath never been handed down to the Church. And whether the Bow which he commanded to be taught, means the bow of the battle, or of music, I cannot say. The use of the bow was known long before David's time. Jacob, in his dying moments, spake of the bow of Joseph his son. No doubt in his instance it meant the spiritual armory in Jesus's salvation. But whether David meant it so I know not. See Genesis 49:24 .
(19) The beauty of Israel is slain upon thy high places: how are the mighty fallen! (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. (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. (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. (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. (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. (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. (27) How are the mighty fallen, and the weapons of war perished!
To offer a comment upon the beauties of this elegy, would be to disgrace it. It is too highly finished in point of language, beauty, simplicity, and the expressions of all the finer feelings of the heart, to receive the smallest addition. But after paying all possible respect to it, as a poem which surpasses everything of the kind to be met with among profane writers, I must still remind the Reader that it falls far short of the other writings of David, and hath no claim to be classed among them. And I hope, indeed, that the pious Reader will discover the vast inferiority in it to everyone of those Psalms, composed under divine inspiration by this sweet Singer in Israel. For what is the subject itself compared to what they contain? The love of Jonathan or the death of Saul, how infinitely doth it shrink to nothing when brought in competition with his love which passeth knowledge, or his death which is the life of the world. Yes, thou blessed Jesus! one thought of thee, and of thy matchless excellency, surpasseth all other meditations as the light of the sun the faint taper of the night. And, if David called upon the daughters of Jerusalem to weep over Saul with tears of love because he clothed them with scarlet, and put on ornaments of gold on their apparel; with what love and tears of holy joy shall we look up to thee, thou precious Redeemer, who hast clothed us with the robe made scarlet in thy blood, and put on the everlasting ornaments of thy salvation, and righteousness, more precious than the gold of Ophir, on our apparel, in which we shall appear before thee, and the Father, in thy courts of bliss forevermore!
SEE Reader! in the beautiful conduct of David at Saul's death, how grace enables the believer to stay all enmity, and even to requite good for evil. Depend upon it, nothing but this can accomplish such a purpose; for it is the sole work of God the Holy Ghost.
But let us, in the view of this chapter, go further and remark, that as nothing but grace can throw down all the jealousies of life in our competition with others, so nothing but the same divine principle can reconcile us to our death. Until we know Jesus truly and savingly, we can neither think of death with comfort nor meet it with fortitude, Yes, dearest Jesus! it is thy death, which hath overcome death; and thy blood which hath taken out its sting. Oh! grant me grace ever to be keeping thy triumphs for thy people in view, and never to look at death but with a steady eye also to thee. Thy victory over death, hell, and the grave, is the everlasting consolation of thy people; and death, no more than life, or principalities, or powers, shall be able to separate from thee. Through death thou hast destroyed him that had the power of death, and hast delivered them who through fear of death are all their lifetime subject to bondage. Oh! thou dearest Lord! give me to see the full privilege of thy triumphs; that my iniquity is pardoned, and my sin covered; that death hath no terrors, nor the grave any alarm; let me hear that blessed voice of thine, and my soul will rejoice in full assurance of faith: Fear not, I am the first and the last; I am he that liveth and was dead; and behold, I am alive forevermore, and have the keys of hell and death. Amen.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 1". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 12 / Ordinary 17