Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
2 Samuel 1:1, 2. - (ZIKLAG.)diadem, "a small metallic cap or wreath which encircled the temples, serving the purpose of a helmet, with a very small horn projecting in front, as an emblem of power" (Jamieson), and bracelet (or armlet worn above the elbow), and laid them at the feet of David, as the future king (ver. 10). His conduct reminds us of a well-known custom, according to which, whenever a French monarch departed this life, an official of the royal household appeared at the window, broke his staff, and cried, Le roi est mort! ("The king is dead!"); then took a new staff and shouted, Vive le roi! ("Long live the king!"). The change that occurred was -
I. OCCASIONED BY THE FALL OF AN UNFAITHFUL RULER. "After the death of Saul" (ver. 1).
1. Men are entrusted with power by God that they may employ it, not according to their own will and for their own honour, but according to his will and for his glory. This Saul failed to recognize.
2. Whenever a man misuses his trust he is sooner or later deprived thereof, and suffers the penalty of his sin (1 Samuel 15:23).
3. No man can fall into sin and destruction without involving others in his ruin. How often has a monarch's unfaithfulness caused the downfall of his dynasty!
4. The place from which he falls is thereby prepared for a more faithful man, and such a man is seldom wanting for the place. "Take therefore the talent," etc. (Matthew 25:28). "Saul's elevation was a first experiment in monarchy doomed to failure from the beginning; it was only when the people had been trampled down by his tyranny and involved in his fatal defeat that a lasting monarch was set according to the Divine will in the person and family of David, who was in this sense the man after God's own heart" (P. Smith, ' Ancient History,' 1:168).
II. AWAITED WITH PATIENCE BY A RIGHTFUL SUCCESSOR. "David abode in Ziklag." He was long ago assured of his royal destination. But:
1. The purpose of God is often slow in its accomplishment; which requires to be waited for in faith and patience.
2. Its slow accomplishment presents a strong temptation to impatience, and the. adoption of rash and unworthy expedients that hinder rather than promote the desired end. David was subject to such a temptation, and for the most part overcame it. In so far as he yielded to it he suffered the consequences of his imprudence (1 Samuel 27:1).
3. By patient continuance in well-doing men are best prepared for what God has prepared for them. David did not deem the crown "a thing to be grasped at." "What God has destined for him, he would not have until God gave it to him (Hengstenberg). "Endurance is the crowning quality." Qui dura vince ("He conquers who endures').
4. To those who await the accomplishment of the Divine purpose in a right spirit, it comes surely and at the right time, often suddenly and by unexpected means. "By degrees doth the Lord perform, his works to exercise the faith, the hope, the patience, and constancy of his chosen, but at last to the full he accomplisheth whatsoever he promiseth" (Guild).
III. RECOGNIZED AS INEVITABLE BY A SELF-SEEKING OBSERVER. It is remarkable that one of an alien and hostile race should be the first to perceive and acknowledge the speedy and certain transfer of the crown. He was a watchful observer of the course of events; acquainted, probably, with the general opinion concerning David, and with his present position; and, although possessing little love for his character and expecting little good to the Amalekites from his accession, he was desirous of using the occasion for the furtherance of his personal ends.
1. The tendency of human affairs is often so apparent that its result may be easily anticipated by all but the most obtuse.
2. A stranger or an enemy frequently perceives the destination of a man of ability more clearly than those who are intimately connected with him.
3. One who is supremely concerned about his own interest is quick to see anything that may be made conducive to it, however blind and unfeeling he may be in other respects.
4. His attempt to turn it to his own advantage sometimes turns only to the advantage of another, and to his own disappointment and ruin. "David had been long waiting for the crown, and now it is brought to him by an Amalekite. See how God can serve his own purpose of kindness to his people, even by designing men who aim at nothing but to set up themselves" (Matthew Henry).
IV. EFFECTED BY THE OPERATION OF DIVINE PROVIDENCE. "The Lord slew him, and turned the kingdom unto David the son of Jesse' (1 Chronicles 10:14). "God is the Judge; he putteth down one and setteth up another" (Psalm 75:7; 1 Samuel 2:1-10). By his providential working:
1. His purposes are fulfilled and the truth of his Word is confirmed. "By a series of events following in the ordinary course of Providence, without any miracle interposed, this prediction (given by Samuel and exhibited in the act of anointing) was brought to pass. David was raised to his divinely appointed station, when his shepherd's staff became a sceptre, and his flock a great people; none contributing more to the preparation of this event than Saul himself.... The complicated narrative is the exposition of the prophetic prescience' (Davison).
2. Those who oppose his purposes are overthrown.
3. He who humbly waits their fulfilment in the way of obedience is promoted.
4. Individuals and nations are constrained to turn from their own way, and submit to his plans as the wisest and best (2 Samuel 2:4; 2 Samuel 3:9; 2 Samuel 5:2). "The secret springs of revolutions are unaccountable, and must be resolved into that Providence which turns all hearts as the rivers of water" (Matthew Henry). "Notwithstanding those appearances which obscure the providence of God, it often makes itself conspicuous in the midst of them all. When we have allowed to human agency, to human wisdom and human power, a large circle of events imputed to nothing else, we see the Divine wisdom frequently disencumber itself from all communication with second causes, and stretch itself out in the face of all men, in defeating and confounding the plans of human wisdom, in the failure of the deepest schemes" (R. Hall). - D.
2 Samuel 1:2-10. - (ZIKLAG.)1 Samuel 31.; and, although credited by David, it was probably a fabrication, his motive therein being the desire of reward, as David himself clearly perceived (2 Samuel 4:16). In him we have a picture of what sometimes appears in others under higher moral influences, viz.:
1. Dominant selfishness. He is supremely concerned about his own interest. Self-love is an original principle of our nature, and, when properly regulated, points in the direction of virtue and happiness. But it easily degenerates into selfishness, "the source of all the sins of omission and commission which are found in the world." And when a man comes under the dominion of the latter, he may sink into any depth of meanness.
2. Subtle scheming. Amidst the dying and the dead, after the battle, his only thought is of gain; and, having plundered the fallen king of the regalia, he coolly calculates how he may dispose thereof to the greatest advantage; and then hastens a long distance across the country to one whom he expects to find ready to welcome the prospect of his own elevation by an enemy's death, and to pay him "the wages of unrighteousness."
3. Feigned sympathy. He comes into the presence of David "with the marks of distress and dismay - dust and clay smeared over his face, and his clothes torn" - on account of the disaster which has befallen Israel (1 Samuel 4:12). But how little does his appearance correspond with the feelings of his heart! "Self-love sometimes borrows the face of honest zeal" (Hall).
4. Obsequious homage. "He fell to the earth, and did obeisance;" prostrating himself before the rising sun of the new era with abject, insincere, and wicked mind. "To those who are distinguished in the kingdom of God as specially called and favoured instruments of grace, falsehood and hypocrisy draw near most pressingly and corruptingly in the guise of humility and self-abasement" (Erdmann).
5. Plausible lying. (Vers. 6-9.) He artfully mingles falsehood with the truth he utters, for the sake of enhancing the value of his good offices. If he had been satisfied with simply telling the tidings of the death of Saul, all would have been well with him; but by his gratuitous inventions he entangles himself in a dangerous snare.
6. Unconscious self-accusation. "I stood upon him, and slew him, because I was sure that he could not live after that he was fallen" (ver. 10). He accuses himself in the excuses he makes for his conduct. Qui s'excuse s'accuse. Even the request of Saul would not have justified his act or absolved him from responsibility. And how could he be sure that the wounded king could not live? Even the most hardened villain deems it needful to endeavour to palliate his offence. And he who is solely intent upon his own interest often makes admissions that clearly reveal his guilt.
7. Fatal miscalculation. He judges of the character of another by his own, meets with a generosity, loyalty, and justice which he cannot understand, fails of his purpose, and receives a reward which he did not anticipate. "The incident gives us the opportunity of marking the immense difference in the order of mind and character which may subsist between two individuals brought together by one event, and having their attention occupied by one and the same object" (J.A. Miller, 'Saul'). "He taketh the wise in their own craftiness" (Job 5:13). "The wicked is snared in the work of his own hands" (Psalm 9:16; Proverbs 6:15; Proverbs 18:7). - D.
1 Samuel 31., is doubtful. Possibly Saul did not die at once when he fell upon his sword, and being in anguish, and fearing to fall into the hands of the Philistines, begged the Amalekite to despatch him. But it is more probable that the account was false. In either case Saul committed suicide. It was a tragic end of a tragic life - a life full of the interest which arises from remarkable events, contrasted characters, the working of powerful passions, etc. But we have to view it in the aspects which tend to our moral and spiritual profit.
I. IT WAS THE END OF A LIFE WHOSE BEGINNING WAS FULL OF PROMISE. Arising from:
1. His personal qualities. Those of body - tall and commanding, fitting him in such times to be a leader of men. Those of moral nature. Character is the most powerful factor in a life; and if we see a youth of good character we hope well of him. Saul comes before us as a modest, humble, unassuming youth, diligently discharging his duty as a son, and affectionately concerned not to give pain to his father (1 Samuel 9:5, where "take thought" means "fear," "be anxious"). Still even then, judging from the silence of the narrative he was without decided piety.
2. Divine calls and gifts. Chosen of God to be king, he was anointed by Samuel, and received unmistakable signs that the prophet was the representative of God in the matter. Chosen also by lot, although some were disaffected, he was soon able to secure general acceptance by his prowess and able leadership in war; and was solemnly set apart as sovereign. Moreover, a change passed over himself which fitted him for his post. "God gave him another heart" (1 Samuel 10:9). He became also a partaker of the spirit of prophecy. (1 Samuel 10:10.)
3. Great opportunities. The career opened to Saul was one of peculiar dignity and honour. Called to be the first king of God's nation, he might have been also the father of a race of such kings, and have thus occupied no mean place in the development of God's plans for the redemption of mankind. And his immediate work, that of leading the people to victory over their heathen oppressors and clearing the land of them, and then of drawing the tribes of Israel more closely into unity and framing them into a "kingdom of God," was worthy of the highest powers and the strenuous labours of a long life.
4. Early achievements. Those, for instance, recorded in 1 Samuel 11., in which he manifested both courage and capacity, and which obtained for him the general consent of the people to his appointment.
II. IT WAS THE END OF A LIFE WHICH HAD BEEN A CONSPICUOUS FAILURE. He lost his opportunity, forfeited his throne, and deprived his family of the honour of succeeding him. He was tried, found wanting, and rejected. He had shown that he possessed some kingly qualities. Did he possess the most essential quality for the king of such a people - a king under God as supreme Monarch - that of faith in God, showing itself by ready and hearty obedience even under difficulties? It was peculiarly important that the first king should not fail in such qualities. Twice especially he was put to the proof and failed; in the first instance (1 Samuel 13.) by doing what he ought not to have done, and in the second (1 Samuel 15.) by leaving undone what he ought to have done. Twice his doom was pronounced by Samuel, who then sorrowfully retired, and left him to his own self-will and certain fate. But though he thus failed in securing the great prize set before him, he had space and opportunity for repentance and its fruits. He became after a time aware who was to secure the honour which he had forfeited, and had he been humbled in spirit and penitent, he might have shown by his conduct to David that he acquiesced in the Divine will, and was prepared to be a coworker with God in its accomplishment. He might have cherished the spirit of John the Baptist, and said with resignation, if not joy, "He must increase, but I must decrease." Instead of this he cherished envy, which ripened into hatred, and would have culminated in murder but for the special providence which guarded David's life. Baffled in his repeated attempts on his life, he sought to kill his own son, because he pleaded for David; and actually slew eighty-five priests, their wives, children, and cattle, because one of them had shown kindness to David, in ignorance of the real state of affairs. Meanwhile David acted towards him with the utmost forbearance, sparing him when once and again he could easily have taken his life; the subsequent knowledge of which softened the king, but only for a little while. Yet he was not without some zeal for the Law of God, and, besides his sacrificial offerings, "had put away those that had familiar spirits, and the wizards, out of the land" (1 Samuel 28:3). In the extremity, however, of his distress and perplexity, he sought the help of a woman that had a familiar spirit, but only to have his doom once more pronounced.
III. IT WAS THE END OF A LIFE IN WHICH THE DISPLEASURE OF GOD HAD BEEN MADE SIGNALLY MANIFEST.
2. By the sorrowful abandonment of him by Samuel. (1 Samuel 15:35.)
3. By the departure of the Spirit of the Lord from him, and the entrance into him of "an evil spirit from the Lord." The Spirit which had fitted him for the discharge of his duties forsook him, and an evil spirit troubled him - an habitual melancholy, most likely, and depression. He felt he was not the same man. He was continually haunted with the sense of his being condemned and rejected, of the inevitableness of his fate, the certainty that, however long he might continue sovereign, he could not transmit the dignity to his son. And this gloom sometimes passed over into frenzy. He was, as we should say, subject to fits of insanity. This, doubtless, furnishes some excuse for the madness of his conduct.
5. By his miserable end. Nothing, surely, can be more affecting than the circumstances of his death, as recorded in 1 Samuel 31:3-6, supplemented by our text.
1. Every man has a Divine mission. Not only kings and great men. God has assigned us our pest, and expects us to fill it as under him. In doing so he gives the opportunity of great distinction and honour, even the attainment of an everlasting crown of glory.
2. Habitual regard to the Divine will is essential to the fulfilment of our mission. And how shall we ascertain it? We have no inspired Samuel by our side. But we have a greater than he, even the Lord Jesus Christ - the Word he has given us, the Spirit he bestows, the principles of godliness, holiness, and love which he implants. We need not seriously err.
3. Disobedience will be surely followed by punishment.
4. One serious failure in obedience to God may blight and ruin the whole life.
5. Persistent rebellion issues in utter rejection of God. And the final doom may be foreshadowed by the withdrawment of God's Spirit, and entire abandonment to the spirit of evil.
6. Let not the young trust to their good moral qualities. Let them seek at once through Christ that change of heart which will turn their virtues into holiness, render them loving and loyal to God, and ensure for them his favour now and evermore. - G.W.
2 Samuel 1:11, 12. - (ZIKLAG.)
I. THE NEWS OF A GREAT CALAMITY, now only too fully confirmed (vers. 5-11). A calamity is deeply affecting when, as in this case, it:
1. Consists of a combination of mournful events (ver. 12).
2. Falls on those who are intimately connected with us.
3. Occurs suddenly and unexpectedly.
4. Involves irreparable loss, and affords little prospect of alleviation.
II. THE SCENE OF A GRIEVOUS MOURNING. The sincerity and intensity Of David's grief, in which his six hundred men shared, were shown by
(1) rending the garments;
(2) wailing aloud;
(4) until the evening;
common signs of sorrow in the East, as genuine as any other, and relieving as well as indicating a burdened heart. What a "day of trouble" was that on which David and his heroes sat there watching the sinking sun! (For other days of a like nature, see 2 Samuel 2:24; 2 Samuel 3:32; 2 Samuel 6:9; 2 Samuel 12:1, 16; 2 Samuel 13:21, 30; 2 Samuel 15:13; 2 Samuel 18:33; 2 Samuel 20:4; 2 Samuel 21:1; 2 Samuel 24:13, 17.)
III. THE PROOF OF AN EXCELLENT DISPOSITION. Sorrow is an evidence of love. David's disposition was:
1. Forgiving toward an enemy. "For Saul."
2. Faithful toward a friend. "For Jonathan his son."
3. Patriotic. "For the house of Israel."
4. Devout. "For the people of the Lord." The uprightness of his heart and the sincerity of his feelings cannot for a moment be doubted by those who read his lament over Saul and Jonathan with an unprejudiced mind. Pretended sorrow never could speak thus (Hengstenberg). "The only deep mourning for Saul, with the exception of the Jabeshites, proceeded from the man whom he had hated and persecuted for so many years, even to the time of his death; just as David's Successor wept over the fate of Jerusalem even when it was about to destroy himself (O. von Gerlach). Observe:
1. That the most generous grief requires to be restrained within due bounds. Its excessive indulgence is injurious and wrong.
2. That the beneficial effect of trouble is not usually experienced at "the present," but "afterward" by means of reflection and submission (Hebrews 12:11).
3. That to the eye of faith the darkest cloud is illumined by Divine goodness and mercy. "At eventide weeping cometh in to tarry for a night; but with the morning cometh a shout of joy" (Psalm 30:5). - D.
2 Samuel 1:13-16. - (ZIGLAG.)
I. THE CRIME which was laid to his charge, viz. the intentional and unjustifiable taking away of the life of another:
1. Proceeding, like every act of murder, from indifference to the sacredness of human life and the dignity of human nature, created in the image of God.
2. Aggravated in guilt by irreverence toward the person of the king, "the Lord's anointed," who ought, on account of his high position, to have been held in special honour (1 Samuel 24:6; 1 Samuel 26:11; 1 Samuel 31:5). "When the Israelites were under royal authority, it would appear to have been a maxim of their law that the person of the king was inviolable, even though he might be tyrannical and unjust; and, in fact, this maxim is necessary, not only to the security of the king, but also to the welfare of the subject; for it is the dread of assassination and treacheries that usually makes kings tyrants, and novices in tyranny absolute despots" (Michaelis).
3. Exhibiting disobedience to the command of God. "Thou shalt not kill" (Exodus 20:13), i.e. do no murder (Exodus 21:12). With this law the Amalekite was probably acquainted. He knew, at least, that it was wrong to take away life without adequate reason. Hence he sought to justify the act by pleading the request of Saul (ver. 9), and his suffering condition, which it was mercy to terminate. But how could Saul authorize another to do to him what he had no right to do to himself? Genuine loyalty and mercy would have prompted a different course of conduct; and malice and selfishness were clearly the motives of the deed. There was in it nothing praiseworthy, but everything to be abhorred and condemned (ver. 14).
II. THE EVIDENCE on which he was convicted. "Thy mouth hath testified against thee," etc. (ver. 16). His confession was:
1. Voluntarily made; not extorted from him by the infliction or threatening of suffering, or the promise of reward.
2. Confirmed by the signs of his connection with the death of the king (ver. 10).
3. A sufficient ground, under the circumstances, for judgment, without further inquiry. Even if, as is probable, he did not actually commit the deed, he took upon himself the responsibility, and justly incurred the consequences thereof. But why did he not retract and repudiate his confession? Perhaps he thought that it would be of no avail; and he would thereby have acknowledged his falsehood and mercenariness. Possibly he did retract, and was not believed. For "a liar is not believed though he speak the truth." Considered in relation to his times, the evidence on which David acted was sufficient; but the incident affords an illustration of the uncertainty which often pertains to the crime of murder and the fallibility of human judgment.
III. THE AUTHORITY by which he was condemned. Although David was not yet publicly recognized as civil ruler, to whom the right of judging properly belonged, yet he was fully justified in assuming the office, inasmuch as:
1. It had been virtually conferred upon him by the appointment of the Divine King of Israel.
2. The chief hindrance to its exercise was removed by the death of Saul. There was no higher authority than his in the land, and it had been acknowledged by the Amalekite himself (ver. 10).
3. Its assumption was necessary to the fulfilment of the purpose of his appointment, the manifestation of the justice of God, and the promotion of the welfare of the people. He may have wished to clear himself from the suspicion of complicity in the king's death, to show that he entertained no feeling of revenge against him, and to gain the esteem of the people of Israel; but his main motive was of a higher nature. He acted on theocratic principles, as on a subsequent occasion (2 Samuel 4:9-12).
IV. THE PUNISHMENT which he suffered (ver. 15). "When the sentence of death was pronounced by the king, it was executed by his body guard" (2 Samuel 15:18; 2 Samuel 20:23). Capital punishment may be upheld on the ground of:
1. The claims of justice. It has been generally felt, even from the most ancient period (Genesis 4:10, 14), that the murderer deserves to die.
2. The teaching of Scripture. "Whoso sheddeth man's blood," etc. (Genesis 9:6). "This was the first command having reference to the temporal sword. By these words temporal government was established, and the sword placed in its hand by God" (Luther). It gave the right and imposed the duty of inflicting death; and it is of permanent obligation (Leviticus 24:17; John 19:11; Acts 25:11; Romans 13:4).
3. The welfare of society. It exalts the principle of justice; declares the dignity of man in the most impressive manner; effectually prevents the offender from repeating his offence; powerfully deters others from following his example; and thus conduces to the security of human life. Severity to one is mercy to many. On the other hand, it may be said that:
1. The claims of justice are adequately satisfied by a lifelong penal servitude.
2. Scripture, rightly interpreted, does not justify the infliction of death. The Noachic precept (if it be such) was adapted only to an early stage of society, its literal fulfilment is no longer required, and the principle on which it rests (the dignity of man) is preserved and more fully maintained by the revelations and influences of Christianity. The whole spirit of the New Testament is in favour of seeking the reformation rather than effecting the destruction of the offender. "Mercy glorieth against judgment." Even the fratricide Cain was spared (Genesis 4:5), as if to show the possibility and propriety of sparing the life of the criminal.
3. The welfare of society is more fully promoted by sparing his life than by taking it away. Hardened criminals and persons under the influence of strong passion are not deterred by the fear of death; other persons are more powerfully affected by other motives. The possibility of the innocent suffering a penalty which is irreversible causes hesitation in its infliction where there is the least doubt, and so the guilty often escape, punishment becomes uncertain, and men are tempted to commit crime in the hope of impunity. As a matter of fact, crime does not increase in those countries where capital punishment is abolished. "After the Divine permission to inflict capital punishment which had been given for a considerable period of time, had displayed itself as the most extreme madness in the execution of Christ, the question of its abolition has become only a question of time. The question is whether Christ may not have done enough for this" (Ewald, 'Antiquities,' p. 174). - D.
I. WHO MAY BE THUS ADDRESSED.
1. Those who assail the gospel of Christ.
2. Those who endeavour to destroy his work in the souls of men.. Such as resolutely resist and suppress the thoughts and emotions he produces in themselves, resisting his Spirit. Such also as set themselves to prevent or destroy his influence over others; endeavouring to undermine their faith, to corrupt their morals, to entice them from the paths of piety and goodness (see Matthew 18:6, 7).
3. Those who persecute his people. "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?"
II. WHY THEY ARE NOT AFRAID.
1. Ignorance, in some, of what they are doing. As seems to have been the case with this Amalekite. This palliation of guilt is admitted in the case of those who put our Lord to death (Acts 3:17; 1 Corinthians 2:8). And he told his disciples that their persecutors even unto death would think they were "doing God service" (John 16:2). But ignorance itself may be guiltiness, though not so great as sinning against the light, knowing it to be light and hating it on that account.
2. Disbelief as to the truth of Christianity, as to God himself, or even as to the reality and worth of godliness and goodness.
3. Moral insensibility. Which may spring from disbelief, or from habits of godlessness and wickedness, or of mere worldliness.
4. Expectation of impunity. Because of the seeming weakness of him whom they assail (Matthew 27:42, 43), or his delay in punishing (Ecclesiastes 8:11), or from false notions of the goodness of God. All these reasons cannot exist in the same person; but some in one, some in another.
III. WHY THEY OUGHT TO BE AFRAID.
1. Because Jesus is the Lord's Anointed - the Christ of God. He comes to men with Divine authority, appointed to be their King and Saviour. There is sufficient proof of this. "This is my beloved Son" was not only uttered from heaven; it appears in the whole character, teaching, miracles, in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ; in the correspondence of prophecy and history; in the testimony of the apostles and the miracles which attested their mission; in the birth, growth, and perpetuation of the Church; in the mighty beneficial influence of Christianity in the world; in its effects on individual character and happiness, on family life and national life. It is echoed in the hearts and consciences of men; in the happy consciousness of every Christian. It is fashionable now to apologize for unbelief, and treat sceptics very tenderly, as if their love of truth made them sceptics. But compare the sayings of our Lord, "He that is of the truth heareth my voice," and "If any man willeth to do his will, he shall know of the teaching, whether it be of God." If, then, Jesus be God's Anointed, to fight against him is to fight against God, which is both impious and perilous.
2. Because of the penalties incurred by opposition to Christ. The injury they do to themselves now, the judgment which will come upon them hereafter. Him whom they assail they will one day see coming in the clouds of heaven, to take vengeance on his foes. "Those mine enemies ... bring hither and slay them before me."
3. Because of the injury they do to others. Men with any regard to the welfare of others may well be asked to pause before they endeavour to rob them of their faith, and all that springs out of it, in sound moral principles, right character, happiness, comfort under the troubles and burdens of life, and hope in death; especially as avowedly they have no adequate substitute to offer. They ought to be afraid of taking a course which, if successful, would deprive the lowly and the poor of their chief consolation, leave unrestrained by any sufficient check the passions of men, and so demoralize and disorganize society.
IV. THE EXPOSTULATIONS. WHICH SHOULD BE ADDRESSED TO THEM. "How is it that thou art not afraid," etc.? Christian speakers and writers sometimes oppose those who are opposing Christ in a style suitable to the discussion of some abstract question. The conflict is conducted as if it were one of mere opinion. But surely those to whom Christ is dear ought to make it felt that they regard the question of his position and claims as one of life and death - one in which all that is most valued by them for the sake of themselves, their families, and society at large is involved. And it is due to the foes of Christ themselves that this should be done. Their consciences should be addressed as well as their reasoning faculty. Remonstrance should be employed, and warning, as well as argument. Only let the warmth shown be that of love and intense desire for the salvation of men. Finally, let the Christian rejoice that all opposition to "the Lord's Anointed" is, and must be, vain. It cannot injure him; it cannot seriously or permanently injure his cause. It can only recoil on those who engage in it (see Psalm 2.; Luke 20:17, 18). - G.W.
2 Samuel 1:17, 18. - (ZIKLAG.)
I. THE OCCASION of this lament, threnody, elegy, or funeral dirge, was the arrival of fatal tidings from Gilboa. "There were only two in that great slaughter concerning whose fate David was eager to know the truth - his enemy and his friend. 'How knowest thou that Saul and Jonathan his son be dead?' (ver. 5). When the news was fully established, he immediately went through all the signs of Eastern grief. He and his six hundred heroes sat with their clothes rent, uttering the loud Oriental wail, observing the rigid Eastern fast until the sunset of the fatal day released them. Then David roused himself to action. The first vent to his grief was in the stern exaction of the life of the unhappy messenger, according to the hard temper of those fierce times. The second vent was in the touching dirge, which, according to the tender spirit of the sweet psalmist of Israel, he poured forth over the two departed chiefs" ('The Songs of Israel,' Good Words, 1863). It was probably accompanied by his harp, that had long been silent, but was now taken up afresh and struck to a song of sorrow which for tenderness and intensity has never been surpassed. "The genius and origin of the elegy among the Hebrews may be clearly traced to their manner of celebrating their funeral rites" (Lowth). "If you attend to David's harp, you shall hear as many hearse-like airs as carols" (Bacon).
II. THE TITLE of "The Bow" (Kesheth), which it appears to have received, may have been derived from the mention of the bow in ver. 22, as the favourite weapon of Jonathan (1 Samuel 18:4; 1 Samuel 20:20), as it was of his tribesmen (1 Chronicles 12:2); or "because it was a martial ode" (Keil). It is improbable that David introduced "the use of the bow" (Authorized Version) into the tribe of Judah, either as a tribute to the memory of his friend, or as a means of repairing the recent disaster; for that had been long familiar. But he "bade them teach the children of Judah" the song of "the bow" (possibly that his youthful warriors might sing it in their military practice with the bow) - a title given to it in the Book of Jashar (Joshua 10:13), or collection of national songs, in which it was preserved. "When the writer of 2 Samuel transferred the dirge to his own pages, he transferred it, as we might do any of the psalms, with its title, which was as follows: 'For the children of Israel to learn by heart. Kasheth from the Book of Jasher'" ('Speaker's Commentary').
III. ITS FORM is that of a lyrical composition, the oldest as well as the most common species of Hebrew poetry; and (like the rest) it is distinguished by parallelism or rhythm, "the measured rise and fall of feeling and utterance, in which the poet's effort to become fully master of his poetic inspiration finds harmonious expression, and the external rhythm of sound is properly subordinated to the rhythmic pulsation of thought" (British Quarterly Review, January, 1877). It contains a refrain or chorus, twice repeated; and falls into three strophic divisions marked by its recurrence, either at their commencement (Keil)or their close (Kitto, 'Cyclopaedia of Biblical Literature'); or, according to more common arrangement, into five or six stanzas. "The putting of lamentations into poems made them the more moving and affecting, and the more lasting" (Matthew Henry).
IV. IN SUBSTANCE and general character it is an outburst of natural grief (as the song of Hannah was of spiritual gladness) over the fallen heroes, and a celebration of their worth. "We can hardly call it religious poetry. It is not a psalm or hymn. The name of God never occurs in it. It is a war song which sums up the national feelings of every age over the graves of its departed heroes" (Stanley). Yet it is instinct with most generous and devout feeling. "As in view of the remains of a friend all the pain which he caused us while living is forgotten in the remembrance of his excellences and the kindness which he showed us, so David no longer has a memory for the period of persecution now past. He is a man, and not the judge of the dead. Therefore Saul stands before him only in his virtues, and he celebrates not only Jonathan, but also Saul, as loved ones who can never be forgotten. We see in this case that anger belongs only to the accidental utterances of noble souls, whose constant motive is love" (Delitzsch, 'Old Test. Hist. of Redemption'). "Though God often reproved his ancient people for paying religious homage to the idols of the heathen, yet we never find that he reproved them for paying funeral honours to departed men of superior merit among their own nation. Their example in this respect, therefore, seems to have a Divine sanction, and plainly teaches us the propriety of lamenting the death and commemorating the virtues of those who have been eminently useful in life" (N. Emmons). - D.
I. A DECLARATION OF THE CAUSE OF MOURNING.
"O pride of Israel, on thy high places slain!
1. Men of rich endowments are the ornament, beauty, and glory of a people.
2. Such men are sometimes stricken down suddenly and under unexpected circumstances. "Not on the level plains where defeat from the chariots and horses of the enemy might have been expected and had been before encountered, but on the high places where victory seemed the rightful prize of the mountain chiefs and the indomitable infantry of the Israelitish hosts" - there the towering form of Saul was "hit by the archers" (1 Samuel 31:3), the heroic heart of Jonathan thrust through, the splendour of Israel eclipsed. "All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field," etc. (Isaiah 40:6, 7; Jeremiah 9:23, 24).
3. Their loss is a great calamity, and a source of bitter grief to those who form a proper estimate of their worth, and possess a genuine concern for the public good (ver. 12).
II. A DEPRECATION OF THE TRIUMPH OF THE ENEMY.
"Tell it not in Garth,
1. The fall of men of eminence among the people of God causes exultation among their adversaries.
3. Whatever contributes to this result should be earnestly deprecated by all who have a sincere regard for the reputation of the great, the welfare of the good, and the honour of God. That which makes the ungodly rejoice should often make the faithful weep.
III. AN IMPRECATION ON THE SCENE OF DISASTER.
"O mountains in Gilboa, nor dew nor rain (be) upon you,
1. It is the tendency of grief to dwell upon the objects that are associated with its cause, and by the contemplation of them it becomes intensified.
2. Under the influence of strong emotion the mind seeks sympathy with itself even in material and inanimate objects, and is apt to indulge in wishes that are incapable of literal fulfilment.
3. The aspects of nature correspond in greater or less degree with the mental mood in which they are regarded. Sorrow projects its shadow over the external world, and clothes the fairest scenes with gloom.
4. The language of poetic inspiration must not be interpreted in its literal, prosaic sense, but in the light of the feeling and imagination of the poet. David's imprecation was no more intended to have an actual effect on the fields of Gilboa than Job's (Job 3:1) on the day of his birth.
IV. A CELEBRATION OF THE VIRTUES OF THE FALLEN.
"From blood of slain,
1. Imposes a becoming silence concerning their imperfections, is forgetful of personal injuries, and puts out of sight everything that is contrary to itself (vers. 11, 12). De mortuis nil nisi bonum.
2. Delights to dwell upon the special aspects of their character which are worthy of admiration.
3. Sees in their extraordinary virtues a measure of the loss that has been experienced. "The nobility of Jonathan's character cannot easily be overestimated. The rival claims of friendship and of nature, of David and Saul, were adjusted with admirable delicacy. He strengthened his friend's hands (1 Samuel 22:16) and saved his life; but he clung to his father. The shadows were falling on Saul, yet he did not join David's party, though he knew that he would succeed to the throne. With a gallant loyalty and a true-hearted despair, he followed his doomed sire to Gilboa" (B. Kent).
V. AN ENUMERATION OF THE GIFTS OF A BENEFACTOR.
"O daughters of Israel, wail for Saul!
1. The benefits conferred by an able and successful ruler upon his people are great, and deserve a grateful recognition.
2. The value of those benefits is seldom fully appreciated until they can be no longer bestowed.
3. Public mourning is as appropriate in its season as public rejoicing (1 Samuel 13:7). It expresses and deepens the general sorrow, and is a testimony to departed worth. The chorus is here repeated. "This recurrence of the same idea 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" (Lowth).
VI. A COMMEMORATION OF THE LOVE OF A FRIEND.
"O Jonathan, on thy high places slain!
2. It is exalted and glorified in our view by means of death.
3. The memory of those in whom it dwells in an eminent degree is worthy of being perpetuated to all ages. (For translations and paraphrases of this lament see Lowth; Horsley, 'Bibl. Crit.;' Geo. Sandys: 1636; J. Oldham: 1677.) - D.
I. THE VANITY OF MAN in the glory of his might. He is proud of his exalted state, his wisdom, strength, or riches; and he is admired and envied by others. But:
1. How precarious his position! He stands on "slippery places." All his grandeur rests on life, than which nothing is more unsubstantial or uncertain.
2. How futile his purposes! Formed in ignorance, weakness, and presumption, they are defeated and" broken off." "There is no king saved by the multitude of a host;" etc. (Psalm 33:16).
3. How unsatisfying his possessions! They afford no solid peace in life or death. "Vanity of vanities," etc. (Ecclesiastes 1:1).
4. How transient his duration! "Man is like to vanity; his days are as a shadow that passeth away" (Psalm 144:4).
5. How signal his downfall! "How are they brought into desolation as in a moment!" (Psalm 73:19).
6. Hew evanescent his fame!
7. How complete his humiliation! The sword of Saul is cast away, his shield covered with blood and rust, his sceptre broken, his diadem and bracelet pilfered, his head placed in the temple of Dagon, his body fastened on the wall of Bethshan, his sons slain, and his dynasty destroyed. "Man that is in honour, and understandeth not, is like the beasts that perish" (Psalm 49:20; Psalm 39:5; Daniel 4:31; Acts 12:23). "The last act is sanguinary, beautiful as is all the rest of the play. Dust is cast upon the head, and there is an end and forever" (Pascal).
"Farewell, a long farewell, to all my greatness! The third day comes a frost, a killing frost; 1. How evident its existence! "The Lord reigneth." It is not only declared in the Scriptures, but also plainly shown by the facts of history and daily observation. Of Saul it is said, "The Lord slew him" (1 Chronicles 10:14). 3. How vast its domain! All space, all time, all orders of being and all events, the least as well as the greatest (Matthew 10:29). Even the actions of free and responsible creatures, of individuals and nations, the Philistines as well as the Israelites, the evil as well as the good, are encircled and pervaded by it; foreseen, permitted, directed, controlled, restrained, or overruled. The course of Saul was foreseen at his appointment; yet he was not thereby placed under the necessity of acting as he did "Contingency, whose verge extendeth not 4. How manifold its operations! What skilful adaptations it makes! What endless instrumentalities it employs! What varied issues it evolves! 5. How mysterious its methods! The fact is certain, the mode unknown. Its ways are obscure, perplexing, completely hidden for a while, and then made apparent and fully justified. "We know in part." 6. How righteous its administration! (Psalm 31:23; Psalm 37:1-11; Psalm 97:2). "Saul died for his transgression," and Israel (whose self-will he reflected) was chastised through the man of their own choice. 7. How beneficent its aims! The repression of sin, the salvation of men, the glory of God. The fall of Israel's first king was overruled for the good of the nation; the fall of Israel, in subsequent ages, was "the riches of the world." "Oh the depth," etc.! (Romans 11:33-36). IMPROVEMENT. 1. Glory not in any earthly good, but only in the Lord. 2. Be ambitious to serve rather than to rule. 3. "Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him." 4. Strive for the crown and kingdom that will endure forever. - D.
The third day comes a frost, a killing frost;
1. How evident its existence! "The Lord reigneth." It is not only declared in the Scriptures, but also plainly shown by the facts of history and daily observation. Of Saul it is said, "The Lord slew him" (1 Chronicles 10:14).
3. How vast its domain! All space, all time, all orders of being and all events, the least as well as the greatest (Matthew 10:29). Even the actions of free and responsible creatures, of individuals and nations, the Philistines as well as the Israelites, the evil as well as the good, are encircled and pervaded by it; foreseen, permitted, directed, controlled, restrained, or overruled. The course of Saul was foreseen at his appointment; yet he was not thereby placed under the necessity of acting as he did
"Contingency, whose verge extendeth not
4. How manifold its operations! What skilful adaptations it makes! What endless instrumentalities it employs! What varied issues it evolves!
5. How mysterious its methods! The fact is certain, the mode unknown. Its ways are obscure, perplexing, completely hidden for a while, and then made apparent and fully justified. "We know in part."
6. How righteous its administration! (Psalm 31:23; Psalm 37:1-11; Psalm 97:2). "Saul died for his transgression," and Israel (whose self-will he reflected) was chastised through the man of their own choice.
7. How beneficent its aims! The repression of sin, the salvation of men, the glory of God. The fall of Israel's first king was overruled for the good of the nation; the fall of Israel, in subsequent ages, was "the riches of the world." "Oh the depth," etc.! (Romans 11:33-36).
1. Glory not in any earthly good, but only in the Lord.
2. Be ambitious to serve rather than to rule.
3. "Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him."
4. Strive for the crown and kingdom that will endure forever. - D.
I. THE OCCASIONS OF SUCH JOY.
1. In general, the misfortunes of the Church, whatever hinders its advancement or causes reversal.
2. In particular, the inconsistencies of professing Christians. It is amazing how men will gloat over the occasional lapses of Christians into sins which they are themselves habitually committing. Still it is a serious enhancement of the guilt of such lapses that they cause "the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme" (2 Samuel 12:14).
3. Contentions and divisions among Christians. When these are rife, the world is apt to exclaim in scorn, "See how these Christians love one another!"
4. Failures in their work.
II. THE CAUSES OF SUCH JOY.
1. Hatred of God and goodness. To "rejoice in iniquity" is a sure sign of this; and to rejoice in the enfeebling of the power which most of all tends to its subjugation - the power of Christian life and teaching - is scarcely less so. It is a diabolical joy.
2. The encouragement in sin which is derived from the faults of good men. Sinners feel as if justified in their own sins when Christians fall into them; their guilty consciences are relieved. As if sin in themselves were less sinful because practised by those who profess to have renounced it; or as if the Law of God, Which condemns the Christian's occasional sins, did not at least equally condemn the habitual sins of others. Rather should they remember that the knowledge of the evil of sin by which they condemn others is to their own condemnation (Romans 2:1, 3). They ought, therefore, to take warning instead of indulging satisfaction.
III. HOW CHRISTIANS SHOULD BE AFFECTED BY IT.
1. They should be careful not needlessly to publish that which will produce it. "Tell it not," etc. Not needlessly; for ofttimes secrecy is impossible, sometimes it would be injurious. We must not deny facts, nor palliate sin, to prevent the triumph of enemies. But we ought not to eagerly announce to the world the occurrences which tend to our humiliation and their exultation.
(1) For the sake of those who would exult. That they may not add to their sins by their unholy joy, nor become more hardened in them.
(2) Lest we should put stumbling blocks in the way of feeble Christians; or
(3) discourage our brethren in their conflicts with evil; or
(4) lessen the power of the testimony of the Church on the side of Christ and holiness.
2. They should be still more careful so to live as to give no occasion for such exultation. "That by well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men" (1 Peter 2:15).
3. They should in no degree imitate it. Which they do when they rejoice at any scandal which arises in another Church that they regard as a rival, or at failure on its part in efforts to do good. Christian love "rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth," and will be grieved at sin wherever it may be found, and at the failure of Christian work by whomsoever it may be done. - G.W.
wonderful, considered in the light of
(1) the selfishness that prevails among men,
(2) the hindrances that stood in the way of its exercise,
(3) the Divine grace by which it was produced and maintained,
(4) the admirable qualities that distinguished it, and
(5) the services and sacrifices in which it was evinced.
1. Appreciative of their worth (see 1 Samuel 18:1-4). It sets a special value upon them, however they may be despised by others; looks at them in relation not merely to what they actually are, but to what they may become; and singles them out as objects of its individual concern. "Thy love to me was wonderful." "He calleth his own sheep by name" (John 10:3).
2. Sincere and thoroughly disinterested (1 Samuel 19:1-7). It seeks their welfare rather than its own; is trustful, unsuspecting, and watchful over their interests; freely communicates its thoughts and feelings; counsels and reproves; faithfully performs its promises; and affords protection and aid according to their need.
3. Sympathetic. (1 Samuel 20:1-9.) It finds delight in their society; holds familiar intercourse with them; desires a return of its affection; makes their joys and sorrows its own; and is considerate, gentle, tender, and kind. "Behold, how he loved him!" (John 11:36).
4. Intense. (1 Samuel 20:10-42.) "More wonderful than woman's love." "No less ardent, sincere, and sweet than the highest conjugal affection; which ought to be (as Strigelius here glosses) ardent without simulation, sincere without any suspicions, and sweet without morosity or disdain" (Patrick). Its intensity is shown in its utterances, efforts, tears; courage, forbearance, forgiveness, and unwearied patience.
5. Self-denying and self-sacrificing. Jonathan identified himself with his friend, whose life was in imminent peril; renounced a crown and suffered shame for his sake; but who shall tell what Christ renounced and suffered for us (Philippians 2:7, 8)?
6. Enduring. "Having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end" (John 13:1); and gave them, on the eve of his departure, a proof of his condescending, pure, undying affection. His love is still the same; and it "passeth knowledge" (Ephesians 3:19).
7. Influential (1 Samuel 23:16-18) in attracting love and constraining devotion; strengthening, preserving, comforting, purifying those in whom it dwells; perfecting its image in them and preparing them to enter into its eternal joy. "Unto him that loved us," etc. (Revelation 1:5). - D.
I. JONATHAN'S FRIENDSHIP WITH DAVID.
1. It seems to have originated in admiration. The qualities of David, as they were displayed in the conflict with Goliath, found an echo in Jonathan's own soul, which became "knit with the soul of David," so that "Jonathan loved him as his own soul" (1 Samuel 18:1, 3). There were natural affinities - youth, courage, faith in God. But there was, doubtless, also that subtile something, undiscoverable by analysis, which specially adapts one soul for closest union with another.
2. It was very warm and passionate. See the above quotation, and David's words in the text, "Thy love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women."
3. It was cemented and confirmed by pledges and compacts. (1 Samuel 18:3, 4; 1 Samuel 20:16, 17, 41, 42; 1 Samuel 23:18.) Note especially 1 Samuel 20:17, "Jonathan caused David to swear again," etc. His love was so strong and passionate that it was never weary of pouring itself out in vows and protests and covenants.
4. It was more than disinterested. For Jonathan soon saw that David would succeed his father on the throne, and the prospect was strongly represented to him by Saul (1 Samuel 20:31). But no jealousy sprang up in his heart; he was content to be second where David was first (1 Samuel 23:17).
5. It was shown by practical service. He interceded with his father repeatedly for David, and exposed himself thereby to death from his father's rage. He warned David of his father's deadly purpose, and repeated the warning when, contrary to his hope, he found how implacable that purpose was. He visited his friend when banished from court and pursued by his relentless enemy. He "strengthened his hands in God." In all ways he proved himself a "brother;" yea, "a friend that sticketh closer than a brother "(Proverbs 18:24).
6. It was associated with strict loyalty to his father. He had a difficult part to play, but he played it well. He was loving and devoted to Saul, while maintaining so warm a friendship with him whose life the father sought. David would only the more admire and love him on this account, for he was equally loyal to the unhappy king, and would have served him as devotedly if he had been permitted; and so, when both were slain on one battlefield, he united their memories in his elegy. "Saul and Jonathan were lovely and pleasant in their lives, and in death they were not divided."
II. HIS DEATH. The dearest friends must be parted by death; and the pleasure they have enjoyed in each other's love and society will make the pain the more severe.
"There is no union here of hearts Yet this is not strictly true. Christian friendships are immortal. III. DAVID'S LAMENTATION. A worthy tribute of friendship - tender, sublime, and sincere. David would feel his loss irreparable. No friendship equal to this was it possible to form. Happily, while lamenting his loss, his sorrow was not embittered by the memory of any unkindness or unfaithfulness on his part. It is, however, singular that even in such a composition no reference to future life and reunion should find place. The consolations so natural to a Christian are unnoticed. They were not ordinarily known with sufficient distinctness to be of much service. "Our Saviour Jesus Christ... brought life and immortality to light through the gospel" (2 Timothy 1:10). We may regard the friendship of Jonathan for David as a picture of - I. THE FRIENDSHIP OF JESUS FOR US. This is "wonderful" indeed, in its condescension, its spontaneousness, its disinterestedness, its sacrifices, its services and bestowments. And it never ends. This Friend never dies, never changes in love or power. II. WHAT OUR FRIENDSHIP TO HIM SHOULD BE. It cannot be purely disinterested; we owe so much to him, and expect so much from him. Yet may our love be far more than gratitude; we may love him for his own sake, and shall do so if we are his. Nor let us restrain our affection, but lavish it upon him - ardent, tender, even passionate. He requires and deserves to be loved more than our dearest earthly relatives and friends. But ever let us remember that he values most our obedient and self-denying service, and our practical love for his sake of those whom he loves and for whom he gave his life. III. WHAT OUR FRIENDSHIP WITH EACH OTHER SHOULD BE. Our Lord came to found in the world a sacred friendship, a brotherhood, based on faith in him and love to him, and kept alive by regard for his love to us all. In Jonathan, and still more in Jesus, we see what this friendship ought to be. - G.W.
Yet this is not strictly true. Christian friendships are immortal.
III. DAVID'S LAMENTATION. A worthy tribute of friendship - tender, sublime, and sincere. David would feel his loss irreparable. No friendship equal to this was it possible to form. Happily, while lamenting his loss, his sorrow was not embittered by the memory of any unkindness or unfaithfulness on his part. It is, however, singular that even in such a composition no reference to future life and reunion should find place. The consolations so natural to a Christian are unnoticed. They were not ordinarily known with sufficient distinctness to be of much service. "Our Saviour Jesus Christ... brought life and immortality to light through the gospel" (2 Timothy 1:10). We may regard the friendship of Jonathan for David as a picture of -
I. THE FRIENDSHIP OF JESUS FOR US. This is "wonderful" indeed, in its condescension, its spontaneousness, its disinterestedness, its sacrifices, its services and bestowments. And it never ends. This Friend never dies, never changes in love or power.
II. WHAT OUR FRIENDSHIP TO HIM SHOULD BE. It cannot be purely disinterested; we owe so much to him, and expect so much from him. Yet may our love be far more than gratitude; we may love him for his own sake, and shall do so if we are his. Nor let us restrain our affection, but lavish it upon him - ardent, tender, even passionate. He requires and deserves to be loved more than our dearest earthly relatives and friends. But ever let us remember that he values most our obedient and self-denying service, and our practical love for his sake of those whom he loves and for whom he gave his life.
III. WHAT OUR FRIENDSHIP WITH EACH OTHER SHOULD BE. Our Lord came to found in the world a sacred friendship, a brotherhood, based on faith in him and love to him, and kept alive by regard for his love to us all. In Jonathan, and still more in Jesus, we see what this friendship ought to be. - G.W.