2 Samuel 1:4
And David said to him, How went the matter? I pray you, 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.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
1:1-10 The blow which opened David's way to the throne was given about the time he had been sorely distressed. Those who commit their concerns to the Lord, will quietly abide his will. It shows that he desired not Saul's death, and he was not impatient to come to the throne.Now it came to pass ... - There is no break whatever between the two books of Samuel, the division being purely artificial. 2-12. a man came out of the camp from Saul—As the narrative of Saul's death, given in the last chapter, is inspired, it must be considered the true account, and the Amalekite's story a fiction of his own, invented to ingratiate himself with David, the presumptive successor to the throne. David's question, "How went the matter?" evinces the deep interest he took in the war, an interest that sprang from feelings of high and generous patriotism, not from views of ambition. The Amalekite, however, judging him to be actuated by a selfish principle, fabricated a story improbable and inconsistent, which he thought would procure him a reward. Having probably witnessed the suicidal act of Saul, he thought of turning it to his own account, and suffered the penalty of his grievously mistaken calculation (compare 2Sa 1:9 with 1Sa 31:4, 5). He mentions only these two, as those who seemed most to obstruct David’s coming to the crown. And David said unto him, how went the matter? I pray thee, tell me,.... That is, how went the battle? on which side the victory?

and he answered, that the people are fled from the battle; meaning the people of Israel, they had given way, and turned their backs upon their enemies, and were fled:

and many of the people also are fallen and dead; fell by the sword in the pursuit of them, and were not only wounded, but were slain, and these great numbers of them:

and Saul and Jonathan his son are dead also; which are mentioned last, because they fell some of the last; and this part of the account is reserved by the messenger to the last, because it was the article of the greatest importance; the death of these two persons, the one the enemy, and the other the friend of David, and the death of both made way for his accession to the throne.

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.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
4. How went the matter?] Lit. What was the affair? the same phrase as that used by Eli in 1 Samuel 4:16. The form of the Amalekite’s answer also closely corresponds to that of the man of Benjamin there. The rout, the slaughter among the people, the death of the leaders, are mentioned in an ascending climax.

many of the people] No contradiction to 1 Samuel 31:6, where “all his men” refers to Saul’s immediate body-guard.When the inhabitants of Jabesh in Gilead heard this, all the brave men of the town set out to Beth-shean, took down the bodies of Saul and his sons from the wall, brought them to Jabesh, and burned them there. "But their bones they buried under the tamarisk at Jabesh, and fasted seven days," to mourn for the king their former deliverer (see 1 Samuel 11:1-15). These statements are given in a very condensed form in the Chronicles (1 Samuel 31:11, 1 Samuel 31:12). Not only is the fact that "they went the whole night" omitted, as being of no essential importance to the general history; but the removal of the bodies from the town-wall is also passed over, because their being fastened there had not been mentioned, and also the burning of the bodies. The reason for the last omission is not to be sought for in the fact that the author of the Chronicles regarded burning as ignominious, according to Leviticus 20:14; Leviticus 21:9, but because he did not see how to reconcile the burning of the bodies with the burial of the bones. It was not the custom in Israel to burn the corpse, but to bury it in the ground. The former was restricted to the worst criminals (see at Leviticus 20:14). Consequently the Chaldee interpreted the word "burnt" as relating to the burning of spices, a custom which we meet with afterwards as a special honour shown to certain of the kings of Judah on the occasion of their burial (2 Chronicles 16:14; 2 Chronicles 21:19; Jeremiah 34:5). But this is expressed by שׂרפה לו שׂרף, "to make a burning for him," whereas here it is stated distinctly that "they burnt them." The reason for the burning of the bodies in the case of Saul and his sons is to be sought for in the peculiarity of the circumstances; viz., partly in the fact that the bodies were mutilated by the removal of the heads, and therefore a regular burial of the dead was impossible, and partly in their anxiety lest, if the Philistines followed up their victory and came to Jabesh, they should desecrate the bodies still further. But even this was not a complete burning to ashes, but merely a burning of the skin and flesh; so that the bones still remained, and they were buried in the ground under a shady tree. Instead of "under the (well-known) tamarisk" (eshel), we have האלה תּחת (under the strong tree) in 1 Chronicles 10:11. David afterwards had them fetched away and buried in Saul's family grave at Zela, in the land of Benjamin (2 Samuel 21:11.). The seven days' fast kept by the Jabeshites was a sign of public and general mourning on the part of the inhabitants of that town at the death of the king, who had once rescued them from the most abominable slavery.

In this ignominious fate of Saul there was manifested the righteous judgment of God in consequence of the hardening of his heart. But the love which the citizens of Jabesh displayed in their treatment of the corpses of Saul and his sons, had reference not to the king as rejected by God, but to the king as anointed with the Spirit of Jehovah, and was a practical condemnation, not of the divine judgment which had fallen upon Saul, but of the cruelty of the enemies of Israel and its anointed. For although Saul had waged war almost incessantly against the Philistines, it is not known that in any one of his victories he had ever been guilty of such cruelties towards the conquered and slaughtered foe as could justify this barbarous revenge on the part of the uncircumcised upon his lifeless corpse.

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