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2 Samuel 1:1-2:7
Key Verse: 2:4a

Through the study of 1 Samuel, we thought of the story of people, particularly, Hannah, Eli, Samuel, Jonathan, Saul and David. Those who honoured God were honoured and those who despised God were disdained. The story finally led to David, who received God’s severe trainings and was thus paving his way to be king over the Israelites. So in short, 1 Samuel is the story of God’s preparing a man David for his purpose of establishing a theocratic kingdom of Israel. Then 2 Samuel is the story of how David’s kingdom to be established, damaged and restored.

In today’s passage the men of Judah anoints David king over the house of Judah. This event is preceded by the story of David’s dealing with an Amalekite who brought the news of the death of Saul and Jonathan and of his lament concerning Saul and Jonathan, and is followed by the story of his treatment of the men of Jabesh Gilead who buried Saul. This passage excellently shows who David is, which is directly related to what his kingdom would be like.

First, David and an Amalekite. (1-16). After the death of Saul, David returned from defeating the Amalekites and stayed in Ziklag two days. On the third day a man arrived from Saul’s camp, with his clothes torn and dust on his head. He was an Amalekite and reported the death of Saul and Jonathan to David. According to his report he happened to be on Mount Gilboa, where he saw Saul leaning on his spear, with chariots and riders almost upon him. Then at the request of Saul the man stood over Saul and killed him, because the Amalekite knew that after Saul had fallen, he could not survive. The man took the crown that was on Saul’s head and the band on his arm and brought them to David.

Seeing the evidence of the death of Saul and Jonathan, David and all the men with him took hold of their clothes and tore them. They mourned and wept and fasted until evening for Saul and his son Jonathan, and for the army of the LORD and the house of Israel, because they had fallen by the sword. Saul was the one who had pursued him for many years to kill him. And David had opportunities to destroy Saul. But he did not do that, because Saul was the LORD’s anointed, and David entrusted the matter to the hand of the LORD. Now David heard the news of Saul’s death. At this he mourned and wept for Saul as well as for Jonathan. This showed that David’s respect for the LORD’s anointed was true and his heart was really beautiful as one who was after God’s own heart. And his mourning and weeping was also for the army of the LORD and the house of Israel. It was beyond his personal level. The sorrow over the army of the LORD and the house of Israel who was closely related to Saul was in his heart with his deep concern for them. Surely it was the expression of his love for God and for God’s people.

But this is not all about the story. Something striking is written. After the great mourning and weeping and fasting, David’s attention went to the young man, who brought him the report. Why? When the young man brought David the crown and the band of Saul after killing him, the man must have thought that he had done something great to win David’s favour and expected a big reward from David. But surprisingly David asked him, “Why were you not afraid to life your hand to destroy the LORD’s anointed?” (14) And then David let him be struck down and killed. For David had said, “Your blood be on your own head. Your own mouth testified against you when you said, ‘I killed the LORD’s anointed.’” Based on a comparison of the accounts of Saul’s death in 1 Sam 31, and here according to the Amalekite’s tale in 2 Sam 1, it is highly likely that the Amalekite was lying to David. But David executed the Amalekite on the basis of his own testimony, not on the basis of the truthfulness of his story. This shows how much the LORD’s anointed meant to him. Here “the LORD’s anointed” mentioned two times. As for David not only he himself, but anyone, even the Amalekite, was to honour the LORD’s anointed. And through striking down the Amalekite David was clear that he had no part with the one who said that he had killed the LORD’s anointed. And also by removing such a man, who tried to get favour from David taking advantage of other’s death, here the death of the one whom he thought was David’s enemy, David would imply what his kingdom would be like. Such an opportunist would not stand in his kingdom at all. His kingdom was to be the kingdom of righteousness and justice.

Second, David’s song of lament (17-27). After the death of Saul and Jonathan, David made a song of lament. In verses 17 and 18, “David took up this lament concerning Saul and his son Jonathan, and ordered that the men of Judah be taught this lament of the bow (It is written in the Book of Jashar).” David’s lament over Saul and Jonathan was so evident that he wrote a poem, entitled “the lament of the bow.” Here the word may have been chosen with reference to Jonathan, who with the bow helped David escape Saul’s wrath (1 Sam 20:35-42). Furthermore, the bow of Jonathan is mentioned in verse 22, “The bow of Jonathan did not turn back.” This poem of lament would be like a text to be taught the men of Judah, perhaps to learn to mourn together with the people of Israel. And most certainly David intended to have both Saul and his noble son Jonathan commemorated through the teaching of this song to all Israel. It was included in the “Book of Jashur”, a poetic collection of Israel’s wars in which Israel’s events and great men were commemorated. Another event of the Scriptures written in the Book of Jashar was the sun standing still and the moon stopping by the command of Joshua (Josh 10:13)

What are the contents of the lament of the bow? It starts with verse 19, “Your glory, O Israel, lies slain on your heights. How the might have fallen!” A similar description is written again in verse 25, “How the might have fallen in battle! Jonathan lies slain on your heights”, and in verse 27, “How the mighty have fallen! The weapon of war have perished!” “The weapons of war” is a figurative expression referring to Saul and Jonathan. And “the mighty “is mentioned two more times, in verse 21, “the shield of the mighty was defiled” and in verse 22, “the flesh of the mighty…” The glory and the mighty of Israel were supposed to last longer even forever, but the glory lies slain and the mighty have fallen and perished too soon. This was David’s view of Saul and Jonathan and of their death in his deep sorrow.

First of all, this demise of the glory and the mighty of God’s chosen people should not be told and proclaim among the Philistines, the uncircumcised. So it says, “Tell it not in Gath, proclaim it not in the streets of Ashkelon, lest the daughters of the Philistines be glad, let the daughters of the uncircumcised rejoice.” We are reminded of what David said in confronting Goliath, “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?” (17:26). As for David it was the most unbearable thing for God’s honour and glory to be slandered among the uncircumcised. The glory of God and his people is to be proclaimed to the world, but not the opposite, something inglorious.

Then, “mountains of Gilboa” might have no more blessing, though the mountains themselves were innocent. It was like the nature being cursed when man sinned. Verse 21 says, “O mountains of Giloa, may you have neither dew nor rain, nor fields that yield offering of grain.” The reason is, “for there the shield of the mighty was defiled, the shield of Saul—no longer rubbed with oil.” This was also the expression of David’ deep sorrow at the death of Saul and Jonathan.

Then David wrote how Saul and Jonathan fought: “From the blood of the slain, from the flesh of the mighty, the bow of Jonathan did not turn back, the sword of Saul did not return unsatisfied.” In short they fought to the point of the last drop of blood shed and last strength of flesh gone. It is a general tendency that people try to exaggerate and maximize the wrongdoing of those whom they don’t like and minimize and even get rid of their good deeds when those people are absent or dead. It is not easy to see things and people objectively. But David was different. Personally, he had been so hurt and wounded by Saul while he was alive. And when David faced Saul, who pursed him unceasingly, “…I have not wronged you, but you are hunting me down to take my life. May the LORD judge between you and me. And may the LORD avenge the wrongs you have done to me…” (1 Sam 24:11-12). Yet, at the death of Saul David saw him objectively from the nations’ viewpoint and praised Saul as well as Jonathan for their brave fighting. He did not just praise Saul groundlessly and unreasonably, but based on the facts.

And then in verse 23, “Saul and Jonathan—in life they were loved and gracious, and in death they were not parted.” Here we see David’s forgiving heart for Saul, as he said, “In life they were loved and gracious.” And “in death they were not parted.” There was a time when Saul hurled his spear at Jonathan to kill him as Saul was assured that Jonathan sided with David, and their relationship was broken (1 Sam 20:30-34). Yet, it was true that they fought together for Israel and died together. And then David said, “They were swifter than eagles, they were stronger than lions.” David was truly a godly man, who could see things and people objectively, and recognized the greatness of Saul and Jonathan in this song of lament.

In verse 24, “O daughters of Israel, weep for Saul, who clothed you in scarlet and finery, who adorned your garments with ornaments of gold.” David particularly wanted the daughters of Israel weep for Saul, who served them as the king and in whose service they could have the time of glory.

Now the final part of his song goes to Jonathan. He said, “How the might have fallen in battle! Jonathan lies slain on your heights. I grieve for you, Jonathan my brother; you were very dear to me. Your love for me was wonderful, more wonderful than that of women.” David did not take Jonathan’s love for granted, but remembered it at this time when he was gone from this world. So far we have seen Jonathan’s love for David. His love was sacrificial with his selfish ambition crucified. Jonathan loved David as himself, becoming one in spirit with him and making a covenant with him. He had said to David, when David was unsure of his survival at the pursuit of Saul, “Go in peace, for we have sworn friendship with each other in the name of the LORD, saying, ‘The LORD is witness between you and me, and between your descendants and my descendants forever” (1 Sam 20:42). In short Jonathan’s friendship with David was in God, which was truly beautiful and wonderful. This is the reason we want to build up spiritual fellowship in Christ, among brothers , among sisters, and even between brothers and sisters, between parents and children, and even between a husband and a wife. 1 John 1:4 says, “Our fellowship is with the Father and his Son.” It can be possible when each part strives to keep the grace of Jesus and imitate him, who gave his life for us and strive to do the will of God. Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). And he said, “Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother” (Mk 3:35).

Then this song of lament ends with the words, “How the might have fallen! The weapons of war have perished!” David truly had deep sorrow in his heart for the death of Saul and Jonathan. In this song we see that at the death of Saul and Jonathan David did not want the glory and the mighty of God’s chosen people to be scorned among the uncircumcised. He saw Saul and Jonathan from God’s viewpoint and recognized their greatness and brave fighting and honoured them. He particularly remembered Jonathan’s love and expressed his deep love for Jonathan.

David ordered that the men of Judah be taught this lament of the bow. Nowadays, in our public school too lowly things are taught. How great and beautiful it is when such a poem was taught in the nation! When David wrote this poem and ordered that it be taught, he was not only pure-hearted but also strategic in the thought of the whole nation, both the house of Judah and the house of Israel. He knew who he was before God. In God’s plan he would be king over Israel, and he was preparing himself and all possible things for that purpose. A man said, “I should act like a boy anymore, for I am going to be a father.” God wants each of us to know each one’s position in Christ and live accordingly. 1 Peter 2:9 says, “You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God.” May we know our position/identity in Christ and our hearts be prepared, purified and tuned to the will of God.

Third, David, anointed king over the house of Judah (2:1-7). In 2:1, “In the course of time, David inquired of the LORD, ‘Shall I go up to one of the towns of Judah?’ he asked.” David was aware that it was the time for him to take action to become king over Israel. Yet, he still asked for God’s leading. The LORD said, “Go up.” God knew that David was ready when his heart was prepared. Then David asked further, “Where shall I go?” “To Hebron,” the LORD answered. Interestingly, God did not say from first, “Go up to Hebron.” When David asked one more time, God said, “To Hebron.” When David relied on God, God gave him a specific direction.

So David went up there with his two wives, Ahinoam of Jezreel and Abigail the widow of Nabal of Carmel. David also took the men who were with him, each with his family, and they settled in Hebron and its towns. Then the men of Judah came to Hebron and there they anointed David king over the house of Judah. When David’s heart was ready, everything went smoothly for a kingdom to be established. A kingdom is possible in a family, or in a community, when a person’s heart is prepared.

The next event also shows David’s beautiful heart and strategic mind and vision. When David was told that it was the men of Jabesh Gilead who had buried Saul, he sent messengers to the men of Jabesh Gilead to say to them, ‘The LORD bless you for showing this kindness to Saul your master by burying him. May the LORD now show you kindness and faithfulness, and I too will show you the same favour because you have done this.” David recognized the valiant act of the men of Jabesh Gilead as they took the body of Saul from the Philistines and buried him. In David’s kingdom such people would be blessed and honoured regardless of which tribe they belonged to. David also knew their discouraging and vulnerable situation due to the death of Saul their master. So he said, “Now then, be strong and brave, for Saul your master is dead, and the house of Judah has anointed me king over them.” David knew both whom he had to strike down and whom he had to encourage and embrace for the united kingdom of Israel. David’s heart was both uncompromising and generous.

In this study we see David, who was seeking justice, God’s honour and glory, and who was godly in his view, and forgiving, loving and embracing, for the purpose of establishing a kingdom in God. And God was pleased with him to be anointed king over the house of Judah. May God raise us to be people like him for his purpose in our time.

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