Read 2 Samuel 1
David Hears of Saul’s Death
1 After the death of Saul, David returned from striking down the Amalekites and stayed in Ziklag two days. 2 On the third day a man arrived from Saul’s camp with his clothes torn and dust on his head. When he came to David, he fell to the ground to pay him honor.
3 “Where have you come from?” David asked him.
He answered, “I have escaped from the Israelite camp.”
4 “What happened?” David asked. “Tell me.”
“The men fled from the battle,” he replied. “Many of them fell and died. And Saul and his son Jonathan are dead.”
5 Then David said to the young man who brought him the report, “How do you know that Saul and his son Jonathan are dead?”
6 “I happened to be on Mount Gilboa,” the young man said, “and there was Saul, leaning on his spear, with the chariots and their drivers in hot pursuit. 7 When he turned around and saw me, he called out to me, and I said, ‘What can I do?’
8 “He asked me, ‘Who are you?’
“‘An Amalekite,’ I answered.
9 “Then he said to me, ‘Stand here by me and kill me! I’m in the throes of death, but I’m still alive.’
10 “So I stood beside him and killed him, because I knew that after he had fallen he could not survive. And I took the crown that was on his head and the band on his arm and have brought them here to my lord.”
11 Then David and all the men with him took hold of their clothes and tore them. 12 They mourned and wept and fasted till evening for Saul and his son Jonathan, and for the army of the Lord and for the nation of Israel, because they had fallen by the sword.
13 David said to the young man who brought him the report, “Where are you from?”
“I am the son of a foreigner, an Amalekite,” he answered.
14 David asked him, “Why weren’t you afraid to lift your hand to destroy the Lord’s anointed?”
15 Then David called one of his men and said, “Go, strike him down!” So he struck him down, and he died. 16 For David had said to him, “Your blood be on your own head. Your own mouth testified against you when you said, ‘I killed the Lord’s anointed.’”
David’s Lament for Saul and Jonathan
17 David took up this lament concerning Saul and his son Jonathan, 18 and he ordered that the people of Judah be taught this lament of the bow (it is written in the Book of Jashar):
19 “A gazellea]” lies slain on your heights, Israel.
How the mighty have fallen!
20 “Tell it not in Gath,
proclaim it not in the streets of Ashkelon,
lest the daughters of the Philistines be glad,
lest the daughters of the uncircumcised rejoice.
21 “Mountains of Gilboa,
may you have neither dew nor rain,
may no showers fall on your terraced fields.“
For there the shield of the mighty was despised,
the shield of Saul—no longer rubbed with oil.
22 “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.
23 Saul and Jonathan—
in life they were loved and admired,
and in death they were not parted.
They were swifter than eagles,
they were stronger than lions.
24 “Daughters of Israel,
weep for Saul,
who clothed you in scarlet and finery,
who adorned your garments with ornaments of gold.
25 “How the mighty have fallen in battle!
Jonathan lies slain on your heights.
26 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.
27 “How the mighty have fallen!
The weapons of war have perished!”
As we begin our study of 2 Samuel, it’s important for us to remember that originally this was part of one long book (the Book of Samuel). This isn’t a new book as much as it is a new arc to an ongoing story, this time focused on David. At the end of 1 Samuel, Saul dies with a heart full of bitterness toward God and toward David. As news reaches David that Saul (who has been after him for so long) is dead, David’s response is different than one might expect. It would be normal for David to breathe a sigh of relief or perhaps even rejoice at the news that Saul is dead. But instead of joy, we see lament. Yes, he is mourning the loss of Jonathan, his closest friend and Saul’s son, but he is also heartbroken by the death of Saul. David and those around him immediately go into a period of mourning upon hearing of their demise.
There is a lot we can learn from David in this chapter. The death of Saul means a vacant throne, and twenty years after his royal anointing, David is the logical successor to Saul as King of Israel. Throughout their tumultuous relationship, David largely responded to Saul’s venom with grace and love. He, unlike Saul, was never overcome with bitterness and hatred (even though, from a worldly perspective, it was justified). Saul’s downfall was tragic and, in many ways, avoidable. That had to weigh on David. David also acknowledges the heaviness of this moment for Israel. They had just lost their king. This left God’s people in a precarious situation and David was fully aware of the weight of that.
This story is an example of the humility that makes David such a compelling character in Scripture. We see his heart for others (notably Saul and Jonathan) and for the nation of Israel through his words and his actions. As the rest of 2 Samuel unfolds, we’ll see more of this side of David. We’ll see why David was referred to as a man after God’s heart (1 Samuel 13:14), but we’ll also see David’s downfall as well. Like Saul, David’s reign starts off promising only to crumble as a result of sin and poor choices. As we read through these next 23 chapters, let’s learn all that we can from the life of David (both the good and the bad).
- How would you have expected David to react upon hearing of the death of Saul and Jonathan?
- What stood out to you about David’s lament at the end of this chapter?
- How can you extend grace and mercy to those undeserving of it (like David did to Saul) even when you feel like you have been wronged?
Did You Know?
The young Amalekite who delivered the news of Saul’s death to David likely expected to be rewarded by David. He would have known that David was the heir to the throne so he would have anticipated joy from David. David, however, responded with lament because he knew Saul was the Lord’s anointed and it left Israel without their king.
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