Message of death. This narrative reports David's reaction to the message of Saul's death. The account of Saul's death here disagrees with
the account in 1 Sam. ch 31
. There it was told that Saul, after begging his arms‐bearer to kill him, committed suicide by falling on his sword; here,
that Saul, after requesting an unknown Amalekite to kill him, died by the hand of that Amalekite. Some scholars explain the
discrepancy by assuming two different sources; others contend that the Amalekite lied (to find favor with David). It is quite
possible, however, that the two accounts complement each other. The Amalekite does not say that he killed Saul, but that he
finished him off (v. 10
). Perhaps Saul, close to death after falling upon his sword, begged the Amalekite to finish him off (regarding the statement
in 31.6 that Saul died, cf. 1 Sam. 17.50–51
). According to this interpretation, Saul, who failed to kill all the Amalekites and particularly their king (1 Sam. ch 15
), is now dispatched himself by an Amalekite. David, at any rate, believes the Amalekite, who brings Saul's crown and armlet
as evidence. The Amalekite expects to be rewarded by David for liquidating his enemy, but David puts him to death, and mourns
over Saul and Jonathan.
After the death of Saul, cf. Josh. 1.1; Judg. 1.1
. This formula motivated the division of Samuel into two books at this particular point. The Amalekites, see 1 Sam. ch 30
. Ziklag, see 1 Sam. 27.6
His clothes rent and earth on his head, conventional signs of mourning.
The man's account, conveying the bad news in increasing order, is similar to the account given to Eli by the man of Benjamin
(1 Sam. 4.16–17
Saul, weak from his mortal wounds, supported himself on his spear, the symbol of his kingship (see 1 Sam. 26.11 n.
). The Philistines had chariots, which carried a charioteer and an archer.
The Amalekite justifies his deed: Not only did he fulfill Saul's explicit wish, but he was also sure that Saul had no chance
of recovering. He would never rise from where he was lying, lit. “he would not live after his falling” (presumably, upon his sword). Crown, actually a coronet or band worn on the forehead. It was a symbol of kingship (2 Kings 11.12
); the armlet here likely serves a similar function.
To lift your hand and kill the Lord's anointed, cf. 1 Sam. 24.7; 26.9, 11
This v. chronologically precedes v. 15
. Your blood be on your own head, the guilt for your death is entirely yours. I put the Lord's anointed to death: David's formulation of the Amalekite's confession reflects his own viewpoint.
David's dirge. Like the first part of the ch, the dirge demonstrates David's deep sorrow over Saul and Jonathan's death. The dirge lacks
religious or national motifs. It does not mention God, and the expressions of grief relate to the deaths of Saul and Jonathan
only, not to Israel's defeat. Prominent among the dirge's many poetical features—parallelism, metaphor, synecdoche, etc.—is
the frequent use of apostrophe, the direct addressing of Israel, (virtual) messengers, the hills of Gilboa, the daughters
of Israel, and Jonathan. This device is particularly impressive, because the addressees are unable to hear and respond. The
two lines of v. 19
recur, in different form, in v. 25
, and the second line also recurs in v. 26
, forming a refrain that underscores the contrast between the leaders' courage and their fate.
The difficult word bow is not in LXX. Regarding David's instruction that the song be taught, Deut. cf. 31.22 and Ps. 60.1
Glory: The metaphor refers to Saul.
The towns Gath and Ashkelon stand for all Philistia. Daughters: Women used to celebrate victories with song and dance (Judg. 11.34; 1 Sam. 18.6
). Uncircumcised, see 1 Sam. 14.6 n.
Gilboa, see 1 Sam. 31.1, 8
. Instead of bountiful fields, the Heb may be translated “fields of heights” (the same Heb root in Judg. 5.18
), which parallels hills of Gilboa. Shields were made of leather, and had to be oiled regularly.
From the blood…from the fat, i.e., from spilling the blood and the fat.
Daughters of Israel: Dirges were conventionally sung by women (Jer. 9.16–19
). The clothes and ornaments represent the prosperity brought by Saul.
This v., wholly dedicated to Jonathan, and formulated in the first and second person, is the most direct and personal one
in the dirge. David's statement that Jonathan's love was wonderful to him more than the love of women (for him) does not hint at homosexual relations, but is an expression of deep friendship (regarding this friendship, see 1 Sam. chs 18–20; 23.15–18
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