2 Samuel 1:17
And David lamented with this lamentation over Saul and over Jonathan his son:
David, after the bloody battle of Gilboa, in which he lost his old enemy, Saul, and his dear friend, Jonathan, infused into the hearts of the people a spirit of national pride. The words in the text, "the use of," you will notice are not in the original; they are supplied, carefully printed by our translators in italics, to show that they are an interpolation, from the supposition that they were wanted to mark the sense of what followed. In fact, they are not needed. "The Bow" is the title of the poem which is then given, and it would rather read, "Also he bade them teach the children of Israel the song of the bow," — the bow, by which their King and Prince had been slain; the bow, dear to the poet's memory as the means by which the young prince, Jonathan, had saved his friend's life, in that tender story when the unwitting lad through its instrumentality warned him; the bow, by which they were to assert and maintain their nationality. So he taught them not only the use, but he taught the song of the bow. Song filtrates and refines, gives passion and fervour to national feeling, and this, though so old, is a very wonderful song — surely one of the most pathetic and wonderful of all elegies, and it furnishes the key, and gives the fulness to that most wonderful of all funeral wails, the Dead March in Saul. The bow became representative of every kind of furniture of war. Just as bread stands for every kind of food in the Hebrew, so also the bow represents every kind of furniture for war. He turned, therefore, the death of Saul in his song into the means of bringing all the energies, the glowing patriotism of the land, upon national defence. He roused and concentrated the military spirit, and taught them the use, while he taught them the song, of the bow. History is inspiring. The bow, in Scripture, stands for something more than the mere engine of earthly war. Joseph was not a soldier, but it is the grand commendation of his character that "his bow abode in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the mighty God of Jacob." And you will notice that in the Bible no name becomes permanently great, no name is recorded of sterling and lasting worth, which is not moved by the Spirit of God, and which does not represent a firm compliance with His will. God spoke to each of these old heroes, God separated each, usually early in life. The heart looked up, knew the voice, owned it, and followed it. Life is no more matched and mastered without a struggle, without discipline and endeavour, than you are likely to be accomplished in your service of arms without training and trial. You know we speak of a Standard Bearer, and somebody has said that that means stand hard, and bear well.
2. The Song of the Bow is, therefore, a song of war. In the old Hebrew fashion, this is full of the grief of life. Nature is called, as it were, to put on mourning for the illustrious dead; "Ye mountains of Gilboa, let there be on you no dew," no refreshing shower, no bubbling desert spring. It is as if the plants and the woods were called to join in the melancholy wail, and the very flowers to sigh forth their grief; and it is so that in a great and sorrowful deprivation, trees and herbs, flowers and forests are called to sympathise with human sorrow; the rose to blush mournfully, and the anemone and the hyacinth to speak forth in their floral leaves the .tokens of grief, what conquers, what overcomes this. The Song of the Bow is not only the song of battle, discipline, and trial, but a song of victory and triumph. In Christ we adore the God of resurrections. We see Him, indeed, whose bow was made quite naked in the sight of all the tribes; "there brake He the arrows of the bow, the spear, the shield in the battle;" there "He brake the bow, and snapped the spear in sunder." Verily, when I think of the death of Christ and His resurrection, I feel that we may teach the children the Song of the Bow. Life is, indeed, full of resurrections. In many a floral and insect world she seems to exhibit something of the gospel of the resurrection, and hangs over the grave "resurrection lights." From repulsive shells which look forbidding to the eye and the touch, emerge creatures delicate and beautiful, bursting their harsh black prison, and on gossamer wings soaring and sailing through light and air. Out of the body of crawling worms comes forth the winged splendour of the butterfly; it spun its shroud, its coffin, its grave, and so prepared for its resurrection; then, instead of creeping on the earth, and feeding on the dust, it indulges its variable flight and sucks the pollen from the fragrant flowers.
(E. Paxton Hood.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And David lamented with this lamentation over Saul and over Jonathan his son: