David learns of Saul's death.
With his clothes torn and dirt on his head: Conventional signs of grief.
The Amalekite who brings the news to David tells a different version of Saul's death from the one in 1 Sam 31
. His casual attitude (I happened to be on Mount Gilboa, v. 6
) in the heat of battle suggests that he is lying in hopes of gaining David's favor. The fact that he is an Amalekite (v. 8
) does not endear him to David and his men, who have just come from fighting the Amalekites. The account of this battle is
difficult to reconcile with 1 Sam 15
, where Saul's army killed all the Amalekites except their king. But it also provides an ironic
view of Saul's sin: Saul is condemned for failing to annihilate the Amalekites completely, and now one of those Amalekites
claims to have killed him. David's predicament is clear: Although he presumably wanted Saul to be dead, he cannot even seem
to have anything to do with killing Saul, since that would leave him open to charges of usurping the throne. The crown and armlet (v. 10
) were Saul's royal insignia. David's possession of them would have to be explained.
A resident alien
is a non-Israelite who lives in Israel, which may also explain how this Amalekite escaped being slaughtered by Saul's army
in 1 Sam 15
. It also gives David the opening he needs: Since the Amalekite would have been responsible for following Israelite laws and
customs, David judges him guilty of the capital offense of having killed the LORD's anointed.
over Saul and Jonathan.
The title, The Song of the Bow, may reflect a textual error. If original, it refers to the tune to which the lament was sung. The Book of Jashar was a collection of poems that no longer exists.
Gath and Ashkelon were Philistine cities. The poem pleads that the news of Saul's and Jonathan's deaths not be proclaimed in Philistine cities,
where there would be rejoicing over it.
Gilboa was the mountain where Saul and Jonathan died in battle. It is being cursed along with the surrounding hills because of this
tragedy. Shields were made of leather and anointed
with oil in preparation for battle. Saul's shield now lies defiled from bloody battle and unused because its owner is dead.
The poem calls upon the Israelites to mourn because they prospered under Saul's rule.
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