Matthew Poole's Commentary
Now 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;2 SAMUEL CHAPTER 1
David being at Ziklag receiveth tidings by an Amalekite of Saul and Jonathan's death: the messenger pretendeth himself to have killed Saul 2Sa 1:1-12. David causeth him to be put to death, 2Sa 1:13-16; lamenteth Saul and Jonathan with a song, 2Sa 1:17-27.
Which though burnt, yet was not so consumed by the fire, that David and his men could not lodge in it.
It 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.On the third day; from David’s return to Ziklag, as the foregoing words manifest.
With his clothes rent, and earth upon his head; pretending sorrow for the loss of God’s people, in compliance with David’s humour.
And David said unto him, From whence comest thou? And he said unto him, Out of the camp of Israel am I escaped.No text from Poole on this verse.
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.He mentions only these two, as those who seemed most to obstruct David’s coming to the crown.
And David said unto the young man that told him, How knowest thou that Saul and Jonathan his son be dead?For the knowledge of this did most concern both David and the whole commonwealth of Israel.
And 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.No text from Poole on this verse.
And when he looked behind him, he saw me, and called unto me. And I answered, Here am I.No text from Poole on this verse.
And he said unto me, Who art thou? And I answered him, I am an Amalekite.No text from Poole on this verse.
He 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.Stand upon me, i.e. lean upon me by thy weight and force, that the spear may come through me; or, stay by me, i.e. stop thy flight, and tarry so long with me till thou hast killed me.
Anguish is come upon me, i.e. I am in great pain of body, and anguish of mind. Or thus, my coat of mail, or embroidered coat, hath hindered me, that the spear could not pierce into me. Thus divers both Hebrew and other learned expositors understand it.
My life is yet whole in me; I am heart-whole, and not likely to die, as well as not willing to live.
So 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.I stood upon him, and slew him: it is most probable this was a lie, devised to gain David’s favour, as he supposed. For, 1. Saul was not killed by a spear, as he pretends, but by his sword, 1 Samuel 31:4.
2. It is expressly said that Saul’s armour-bearer, being yet living, saw that Saul was dead, 1 Samuel 31:5; which doubtless he would very thoroughly examine and know, before he would kill himself upon that account, as he did.
3. Saul’s death is manifestly ascribed to his own action, even to his falling upon his sword, 1 Samuel 31:4,5.
I was sure that he could not live after that he was fallen: this he addeth by way of caution and excuse, that it might be thought all act of necessity and kindness, and not of choice or ill will, that he killed Saul. But here also he betrays himself; for how could this be true, when Saul’s life was whole within him, as he had now said, 2 Samuel 1:9?
The crown that was upon his head; not that he then wore it; which would have exposed him too much, and that unnecessarily, to the rage of the Philistines; but that he used to wear it. It is not likely that he found it now actually upon Saul’s head, but that he met with it in some part of the camp, whither Saul had brought it to wear it when he saw fit.
Unto my lord; unto thee, whom, now Saul is dead, I own for my lord and king.
Then David took hold on his clothes, and rent them; and likewise all the men that were with him:No text from Poole on this verse.
And 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.No text from Poole on this verse.
And David said unto the young man that told him, Whence art thou? And he answered, I am the son of a stranger, an Amalekite.Whence art thou? David heard and knew before what he was, but he asked it again judicially, in order to his trial and punishment.
And David said unto him, How wast thou not afraid to stretch forth thine hand to destroy the LORD'S anointed?Why didst not thou refuse to kill him, as his armour-bearer had done? For notwithstanding his great danger, something might have fallen out through God’s all-disposing providence, whereby his life might have been preserved.
And David called one of the young men, and said, Go near, and fall upon him. And he smote him that he died.No text from Poole on this verse.
And 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.Thy blood be upon thy head; the guilt of thy bloodshed or death lies upon thyself, not upon me, for thy free and voluntary confession is sufficient proof of thy guilt in killing the king.
And David lamented with this lamentation over Saul and over Jonathan his son:No text from Poole on this verse.
(Also he bade them teach the children of Judah the use of the bow: behold, it is written in the book of Jasher.)Also: having mentioned David’s lamentation in general, before he comes to the particular description of it, he interposeth this verse by way of parenthesis; to signify, that David did not so give up himself to lamentation as to neglect his great business, the care of the commonwealth, which now lay upon him; but took particular care to fortify them against such further losses and calamities as he bewails in the following song; and by his example, and this counsel, to instruct the people, that they should not give up themselves to sorrow and despondency for their great and general loss; but should raise up their spirits, and betake themselves to action.
He bade them: David being now actually king upon Saul’s death, takes his power upon him, and gives forth his commands.
The children of Judah: these he more particularly teacheth, because they were the chief, and now the royal tribe, and likely to be the great bulwark to all Israel against the Philistines, upon whose land they bordered; and withal, to be the most friendly and true to him, and to his interest.
The use of the bow, i. e. the use of their arms, which are all synecdochically expressed under the name of the bow, which then was one of the chief weapons; and for the dexterous use whereof Jonathan is commended in the following song: which may be one reason why he now gives forth this order, that so they might strive to imitate Jonathan in the military skill, and to excel in it, as he did.
It is written; not the following song, as many think, for that is written here, and therefore it was needless to refer us to another book for it; but this foregoing counsel and course which David took to repair the last loss, which is here mentioned but briefly, and in general terms; but, as it seems, more largely and particularly described in the book of Jasher; of which see on Joshua 10:13.
The beauty of Israel is slain upon thy high places: how are the mighty fallen!The beauty of Israel; their flower and glory, Saul and Jonathan, and their army, consisting of young and valiant men.
Upon thy high places, i.e. those which belong to thee, O land of Israel.
How are the mighty fallen! how strangely! how suddenly! how dreadfully and universally!
Tell 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.Tell it not in Gath: this is not a precept, but a poetical wish; whereby he doth not so much desire that this might not be done, which he knew to be vain and impossible; as express his great sorrow because it was and would be done, to the great dishonour of God and of his people. He mentions
the daughters of the Philistines, because it was the custom of women in those times and places to celebrate those victories which their men obtained, with triumphant songs and dances; as Exo 15 Jud 11:34 1 Samuel 18:6.
Ye 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, neither let there be rain, upon you: this is no proper imprecation; which he had no reason to inflict upon those harmless mountains; but only a passionate representation of the horror which he conceived at this public loss; which was such, as if he thought every person or thing which contributed to it were fit to bear the tokens of Divine displeasure, such as this is, when the earth wants the blessed and necessary influences of dew and rain.
Nor fields of offerings, i.e. fruitful fields, which may produce fair and goodly fruits fit to be offered unto God.
The shield of the mighty; the shields of the valiant men of Israel.
Vilely dishonourably; for it was a great reproach to any soldier to cast away or lose his shield.
Cast away to wit, by themselves, that they might flee more swiftly away, as the Israelites did, and Saul with the rest; as is said, 1 Samuel 31:1,2.
As though he had not been anointed with oil; as if he had been no more nor better than a common soldier: he was exposed to the same kind of death and reproach as they were.
From 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.Turned not back, to wit, without effect: compare Isaiah 45:23 55:2. Their arrows shot from their bows, and their swords, did seldom miss, and commonly pierced fat, and flesh, and blood, and reached even to the heart and bowels.
Empty, i.e. not filled and glutted with blood: for the sword is metaphorically said to have a mouth, which we translate an edge; and to devour, 2 Samuel 2:26 11:25 Jeremiah 2:30 46:10. And this their former successfulness is here mentioned as an aggravation of their last infelicity.
Saul 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.Pleasant; amiable and obliging in their carriage and conversation, both towards one another, and towards their people; for as for Saul’s fierce behaviour towards Jonathan, 1 Samuel 20:30,33, it was only a sudden passion, by which his ordinary temper was not to be measured; and for his carriage towards David, that was from that jealousy and reason of state which usually engageth even good-natured and well-nurtured princes to the same hostilities in like cases. But it is observable, that David speaks not a word here of his piety and other virtues; but only commends him for those things which were truly in him; a fit pattern for all preachers in their funeral commendations.
In their lives; Jonathan was not false to his father, as was reported; but stuck close to him.
In their death they were not divided; and as he lived, so he died with him, at the same time, and in the same common and good cause.
Swifter than eagles; expeditious and nimble in pursuing their enemies, and executing their designs; which is a great commendation in a prince and in a soldier.
Stronger than lions, in regard of their bodily strength and the courage of their minds.
Ye daughters of Israel, weep over Saul, who clothed you in scarlet, with other delights, who put on ornaments of gold upon your apparel.Ye daughters of Israel: these he mentions, partly because the women then used to make songs, both of triumph and of lamentation, as occasion required; and partly because they usually are most delighted with the ornaments of the body here following.
Who clotheth you in scarlet: this he did, partly because he procured them so much peace as gave them opportunity of enriching themselves; and partly because he took these things as spoils from the enemies, and clothed his own people with them. Compare Psalm 68:12.
How are the mighty fallen in the midst of the battle! O Jonathan, thou wast slain in thine high places.Which were in thy country, and (had not thy father disinherited thee by his sins) in thy dominions.
I 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.For thee, i.e. for the loss of thee. For besides the loss of a true friend, and all the comfort of friendship, which is inestimable, he lost him who both could, and undoubtedly would, have given him a speedy, and quiet, and sure possession of the kingdom; whereas now he met with long and troublesome interruptions.
The love of women, i.e. that love wherewith they love their husbands or children; for their affections are usually more vehement and ardent than men’s.
How are the mighty fallen, and the weapons of war perished!Either,
1. Metaphorically so called, to wit, Saul and Jonathan, and the brave commanders and soldiers of Israel; who might have been called the chariots of Israel, and the horsemen thereof. Or rather,
2. Properly; for, together with the men, their arms were lost, which was a very great aggravation of their loss, and that loss seems to be at this time more irrecoverable and dangerous than the loss of their men.