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Barnes' Notes on the Bible
Introduction to 2Samuel
See the Introduction to Samuel in the notes on First Samuel
1Now 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;
Now it came to pass ... - There is no break whatever between the two books of Samuel, the division being purely artificial.
2It 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.
3And David said unto him, From whence comest thou? And he said unto him, Out of the camp of Israel am I escaped.
4And 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.
5And David said unto the young man that told him, How knowest thou that Saul and Jonathan his son be dead?
6And 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.
7And when he looked behind him, he saw me, and called unto me. And I answered, Here am I.
8And he said unto me, Who art thou? And I answered him, I am an Amalekite.
9He 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.
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.
10So 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.
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.
11Then David took hold on his clothes, and rent them; and likewise all the men that were with him:
12And 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.
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.
13And David said unto the young man that told him, Whence art thou? And he answered, I am the son of a stranger, an Amalekite.
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.
14And David said unto him, How wast thou not afraid to stretch forth thine hand to destroy the LORD'S anointed?
15And David called one of the young men, and said, Go near, and fall upon him. And he smote him that he died.
16And 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.
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).
17And David lamented with this lamentation over Saul and over Jonathan his son:
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.
18(Also he bade them teach the children of Judah the use of the bow: behold, it is written in the book of Jasher.)
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 was another; Lamentations 3 was another; Jacob's blessing Genesis 49; Moses' song Deuteronomy 32; perhaps his Blessing (Deuteronomy 33. See 2 Samuel 1:29); and such Psalms as Psalm 44; Psalm 46:1-11; Psalm 76:1-12, etc.; Habakkuk 3; 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 ransferred 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.
19The beauty of Israel is slain upon thy high places: how are the mighty fallen!
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.
20Tell 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.
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).
21Ye 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.
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.
22From 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.
23Saul 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.
24Ye daughters of Israel, weep over Saul, who clothed you in scarlet, with other delights, who put on ornaments of gold upon your apparel.
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.
25How are the mighty fallen in the midst of the battle! O Jonathan, thou wast slain in thine high places.
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.
26I 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.
True friendship, founded on sincere love, so rare, so difficult to be found, so little known among the gay and the great, is one of the richest of Heaven's blessings to man, and when enjoyed, should be regarded as more than a compensation for all of show, and splendor, and flattery that wealth can obtain.
"Though choice of follies fasten on the great,
None clings more obstinate, than fancy fond.
That sacred friendship is their easy prey;
Caught by the wafture of a golden lure,
Or fascination of a high-born smile.
Their smiles, the great, and the coquette, throw out.
For other's hearts, tenacious of their own,
And we no less of ours, when such the bait,
Ye fortune's cofferers? ye powers of wealth!
Can gold gain friendship! Impudence of hope!
As well mere man an angel might beget.
Love, and love only, is the loan for love.
Lorenzo! pride repress; nor hope to find.
A friend, but what has found a friend in thee.
All like the purchase; few the price will pay,
And this makes friends such miracles below.
A friend is worth all hazards we can run.
Poor is the friendless master of a world;
A world in purchase of a friend is gain."
Night Thoughts, Night 2
I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge - That it may not be "reckoned," or imputed to them - λογισθείῃ logistheiē. On the meaning of this word, see the notes on Romans 4:3, and Philemon 18. The prayer of the apostle here breathes the very spirit of Christ; see the notes on Luke 23:34; compare Acts 7:60.
27How are the mighty fallen, and the weapons of war perished!