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Bible Commentaries
2 Samuel 1

Whedon's Commentary on the BibleWhedon's Commentary

Verse 1

1. Two days in Ziklag The town had not been so utterly destroyed (see

1 Samuel 30:1) that it was impracticable still to abide there.

Verses 1-16


As soon as the results of the fearful battle of Gilboa became known, great must have been the excitement through all the land of Israel. Saul’s partisans and all his loyal subjects must have felt the spell of mingled alarm and grief, and even the bitterest malcontents must have been ill at ease when they learned that the whole army of Israel was demoralized and put to flight by the Philistines. In this chapter we learn with what anguish David’s loyal heart received the bitter tidings.

Verse 2

2. His clothes rent See on 1 Samuel 4:12, and references.

Fell to the earth Thus showing David the profoundest reverence. All his object evidently was to ingratiate himself with the person who, he supposed, would succeed Saul in the kingdom. See further in note on 2 Samuel 1:6.

Verse 4

4. The people are fled This announcement of the bitter tidings is climacteric, like that of 1 Samuel 4:17, where see note.

Verse 6

6. As I happened by chance upon mount Gilboa The account of Saul’s death here given is largely a fabrication of this Amalekite. The true account is given in the last chapter of the preceding book, and wherein the two accounts differ, that is to be regarded as right and this wrong. This is a much more natural supposition than that the compiler found two contradictory documents, and, not knowing which to prefer, inserted both! The messenger expected that David would be greatly pleased to hear of Saul’s death, and to receive the crown and bracelets of his enemy, and that he would honour the man by whose hand that enemy had fallen.

Verse 9

9. Anguish is come upon me The margin, following the Latin version of Junius and Tremellius, reads: My coat of mail, or, My embroidered coat hindereth me. Septuagint: A fearful darkness has taken hold of me. Others render שׁבצ , a spasm or cramp. The root שׁבצ means to interweave, and its derivative, as here applied to Saul’s difficulty, most probably means confusion, perplexity of mind. Thus the meaning is, Confusion or bewilderment has seized upon me.

Verse 10

10. I took the crown By his disobedience in not smiting the Amalekites, Saul forfeited his crown and his kingdom, and now, behold, that crown is taken from his head by the hand of an Amalekite and transmitted to the man he hated and sought to destroy!

Bracelet Or armlet, an ornament for the arm or wrist.

Verse 11

11. David took hold on his clothes, and rent them The sign of most bitter humiliation and grief. See references.

Likewise all the men David’s anguish was contagious, so that all his attendants caught the spirit of his sorrow, and wept with him.

Verse 16

16. Thy blood be upon thy head Thy infamous deed of slaying the king can be atoned for only by the immediate shedding of thine own blood.

Thy mouth hath testified against thee David regarded an offence against the person of the king as most execrable sacrilege, and therefore, to his mind, a man who gloried in slaying the Lord’s anointed deserved death.

Verse 17


17. This lamentation, which evidently sprang from deep and sanctified emotions, is an elegy of surpassing tenderness, and one of the most beautiful odes of the Old Testament. The fallen power and beauty of Israel, as represented by the king and his noble-hearted son, is the poet’s theme, and though that king had burned with a deadly fury towards David, chased him like a partridge in the mountains, and sought his life in many ways, not the slightest trace of resentment or cherished passion, not the most distant allusion to the persecutions which he had suffered from him, appear in all this tender song. It is the pure lamentation of a loving heart that has forgiven and forgotten the injuries of the past, and knows no other feeling than that of profoundest sympathy and sorrow for the heroic dead. “It is almost impossible,” says Dr. Clarke, “to read the noble original without feeling every word swollen with a sigh or broken with a sob. A heart pregnant with distress, and striving to utter expressions descriptive of its feelings, which are repeatedly interrupted by an excess of grief, is most sensibly painted throughout the whole.” We give, as usual in our notes on poetical passages, a new and literal version, in which the order and idiom of the Hebrew original is, as far as possible, exhibited.

Verse 18

18. Teach the children of Judah the use of the bow Because, say some of the older interpreters, the chiefs of Israel had fallen by the arrows of the enemy, therefore David thought it necessary that the warriors of Judah should also become skilled in archery. This interpretation our translators have countenanced by adding the words the use of, which are not in the original. But the Israelites were already skilled in the use of the bow, and in 2 Samuel 1:22 the poet celebrates the fearful power of the bow of Jonathan. The word Bow is therefore to be regarded as the title of this elegy. The second chapter of the Koran is entitled THE COW, because it contains the words, “God commands you to sacrifice a cow.” So this dirge is called THE BOW from the mention in 2 Samuel 1:22 of the bow of Jonathan.

This title would tenderly remind David of that affectionate interview with Jonathan when the latter shot from his bow the arrows that were to warn him of his danger. 1 Samuel 20:20; 1 Samuel 20:36. Compare, also, the titles to some of the Psalms. (Psalms 23:0; Psalms 45:0.) David commanded his own tribe to learn to sing this mournful strain in order to show that they had no hardness and jealousy towards Benjamin, the tribe of Saul. At a later time all the singing men and singing women were required to learn Jeremiah’s lamentation over the good Josiah. 2 Chronicles 35:25.

Book of Jasher A book of national songs; a Hebrew anthology. It was probably a compilation begun early in the history of Israel, enlarged by additions at later periods. Like several other ancient works quoted by writers of the Old Testament, this book is now lost. See on Joshua 10:13.

“In a fighting age the bard stands in the same relation to civilization as the newspaper of the present day. He was the organ of intelligence, the bearer of news, the representative of the ideas of his times. When men take to reading, the bard becomes a plaything. He may beguile the long hours of a winter evening, or increase the pleasures of a feast, but no more. In early times he was the educator also. His days, as sung by himself, and repeated from mouth to mouth, formed the minds of his countrymen. The song, the ballad, these were the intellectual food of the people. Of such ballads probably consisted the book of Jasher, and the book of the wars of Jehovah, mentioned in the Bible.” SMITH’S Bampton Lecture for 1869.

Verse 19

19. Gazelle The word צבי primarily means ornament, beauty, and is so rendered by the common version and most interpreters. But it also Signifies in many places a gazelle, or antelope, one of the fleetest and most beautiful of eastern animals. We prefer this rendering here because of its appropriateness and beauty. The allusion is to Jonathan, not to both Saul and Jonathan. This is seen in 2 Samuel 1:25, where, instead of gazelle of Israel, we have the name Jonathan. Hence the mistake of those who urge that mighty ones of one member of the parallelism must be equivalent to the corresponding word of the other.

Thy mountains The mountains of the gazelle. The image is that of a fleet and beautiful animal pierced with arrows, and dead upon its own native heights.

Verse 20

20. Tell it not For bitterly humiliating would it be to have the women of Philistia celebrate with singing and dancing and instrumental music (comp. 1 Samuel 18:6) this victory over Israel.

Verse 21

21. Mountains in Gilboa “Even nature is to join in the mourning. May God withdraw his blessing from the mountains upon which the heroes have fallen, that they may not be moistened by the dew and rain of heaven, but, remaining in eternal barrenness, be memorials of the horrible occurrence that has taken place upon them!” Keil.

Fields of offerings Fertile fields, producing the best and most suitable fruits for offering in sacrifice to God.

Vilely cast away the shield Ingloriously and with abhorrence cast away by the mighty heroes themselves upon realizing that it no longer defends them from the arrows of the enemy.

Not anointed with oil It is difficult to determine whether this refers to Saul or his shield. The English version, after the Vulgate, supplies the words as though, and refers it to Saul. It favours this interpretation that the word משׁיח is always elsewhere applied to persons, never to things. The Chaldee, Syriac, and Arabic omit the negative particle, and read: The shield of Saul who was anointed with oil. But these versions evidently aimed to correct the Hebrew text. Some have thought to read כלי , instruments, for בלי , not, but this is mere conjecture. Others refer the epithet to the shield, and understand that Saul had not properly anointed his shield previous to the battle. Compare Isaiah 21:5. Keil, on the other hand, supposes that the shield had not after the battle been polished with oil, so that the marks of Saul’s blood still adhered to it. We prefer, however, to refer the word anointed to Saul, and understand David as implying that after the shield was vilely cast away, and Saul himself was ignobly fallen, he could no longer be regarded as the anointed of Jehovah. Thus: The shield of Saul, (who, after his inglorious fall, is) not (now the) anointed with oil. Comp. Isaiah 51:21. “Thou afflicted, and drunken, but not with wine.”

Verse 22

22. Turned not back This verse celebrates the heroism and unusual success of the mighty dead as warriors.

Verse 23

23. Beloved and pleasant in their lives Jonathan was eminently so, and though Saul in his madness had even threatened his son’s life, (1 Samuel 20:33,) and sought for successive years to destroy David, yet David’s tender heart seems to forget all the injuries of the past, and celebrates only the virtues of his fallen enemy. Saul’s love for his son Jonathan was exceedingly strong, as may be seen from such passages as 1 Samuel 14:39; 1Sa 19:6 ; 1 Samuel 20:2; and while Jonathan’s love for David was wonderful, it was so much stronger for his father that he cast in his lot with the sinking fortunes of the latter, rather than with the growing greatness of his friend David.

Swifter than eagles Fleetness of foot was an admired qualification of a warrior. 2 Samuel 2:8. The mightiest hero of Greece was the “swift-footed Achilles.”

Verse 24

24. Daughters… who clothed you in scarlet “The idea is, that under Saul the land had attained to such a degree of wealth that elegance and splendour of dress were within the reach of all. Scarlet was the favourite colour of the wealthy and noble. Proverbs 31:21; Lamentations 4:5; Daniel 5:7; Daniel 5:16; Daniel 5:29. This appeal to the instinctive taste of the sex well comports with the general character of oriental females; Compare Judges 5:28-30.” Robinson.

With delights With other delightful things of a similar nature to scarlet-coloured clothing.

Verse 26

26. Distress is upon me Filled with heart-rending grief.

Thy love to me was wonderful See note on 1 Samuel 20:13.

Verse 27

27. Implements of war The shields and other implements that were vilely cast away. 2 Samuel 1:21. Some understand here, not the weapons of war but the heroes, considered figuratively as the instruments by whom the war was carried on, and Isaiah 13:5, is referred to as a parallel. But though persons are sometimes in this sense termed instruments, we nowhere find them called instruments of war; and as this elegy makes mention of military weapons as cast away with abhorrence, we feel obliged to adhere to the most obvious signification of the word.

Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 1". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/whe/2-samuel-1.html. 1874-1909.
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