WHEN RESPONDING TO LOSS
2 Samuel 1:1-4:12 ; November 2 2008
When war again erupted between Israel and the
Philistines, David commanded a small army hired out to
the Philistines. The Philistine generals distrusted his
loyalty, and they dismissed David’s army from the attack
on Israel. Since his troops were not participating in the
Israelite- Philistine conflict, David used them to destroy
the Amalekites. Meanwhile the Philistine invaders
slaughtered Israel’s army at Mount Gilboa. Among the dead
were Saul and Jonathan. Word about this battle struck David
with immeasurable grief. He expressed his sorrow by singing
a lament in honor of the dead. The words to the song were
recorded in a popular book of poems and narratives.
In the aftermath of Israel’s defeat, David moved to
Hebron with his two wives. His family grew while he lived
there (1 Chron. 3: 1-4). So too did his prestige and power.
The tribe of Judah soon declared David its king. This step
was the first in his becoming king of the whole nation.
However, despite having been anointed by Samuel, David
was not able immediately to extend his rule over the rest of
Israel. Israel’s commanding general, Abner, survived the
battle on Mount Gilboa ane remained loyal to Saul’s dynasty.
Without hesitation he declared Saul’s surviving son, Ish-
bosheth, was the new king of Israel . Civil war broke out
between Judah and the northern tribes.
Although Ish-bosheth wore the crown, Abner was the
real power in the Northern Kingdom. When Ish-bosheth
insulted him, Abner switched sides. This change
immediately shifted the balance of power to David.
Unfortunately, in the earlier fighting Abner had killed the
brother of Joab, David’s field commander. Joab took revenge
and murdered Abner. Nevertheless the damage to Ish-
bosheth’s campaign was done. He no longer enjoyed the
support of his military. So thereafter he was
assassinated by two army officers, leaving David without
significant opposition within Israel. The stage for Gods
establishment of David as king of Israel was essentially
1. Find Ways to Express Sorrow (2 Sam. 1:17-19)
2Sam. 1:17 David took up this lament concerning Saul
and his son Jonathan, 1:18 and ordered that the men of
Judah be taught this lament of the bow (it is written in
the Book of Jashar): 1:19 “Your glory, O Israel, lies
slain on your heights. How the mighty have fallen!
Lament . It was a common practice in the ancient
Near East to compose laments for fallen leaders and /or
heroes. Lament of the bow . Perhaps David taught his men
to sing this lament while they practiced the bow (Israel’s
most common weapon; 2 Sam. 22:35) as a motivation to
master the weapon thoroughly so they would not
experience a similar defeat ( Eze 21:9). Book of Jashar .
( Jos 10:13). Your glory . A reference to Saul and Jonathan
as divinely designated leaders of God’s covenant people,
who had achieved many significant victories over Israel’s
enemies (1Sam. 14:47-48 and note). Height . Of Gilboa
(2 Sam. 1:21,25; 1Sam. 31:1). How the mighty have fallen !
The theme of David’s lament (2 Sam.1: 27). David’s words
contain no suggestion of bitterness toward Saul but
rather recall the good qualities and accomplishments of
Saul and Jonathan.
2. Acknowledge What Is Lost (2 Sam. 1:24-27)
2Sam. 1:24 “O daughters of Israel, weep for Saul, who
clothed you in scarlet and finery, who adorned your
garments with ornaments of gold. 1:25 “How the mighty
have fallen in battle! Jonathan lies slain on your heights.
1:26 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. 1:27 “How the mighty
have fallen! The weapons of war have perished!”
Tell it not in gath . . . ashkelon . As the major
Philistine cities located the closest and farthest from
Israel’s borders, Gath and Ashkelon represent the entire
Philistine nation. David does not want the enemies of
God’s covenant people to take pleasure in Israel’s defeat
(as he knew they would; (1Sam. 31:9-10) and thus bring
reproach on the name of the Lord ( Ex 32:12; Num. 14:13-19;
Dt 9:28; Jos 7:9; Mic 1:10). Uncircumcised . (1Sam. 14:6).
O mountains of Gilboa . As an expression of profound grief,
David rhetorically pronounces a curse on the place where
Israel was defeated and Saul and Jonathan were killed (for
other such rhetorical curses Job 3:3-26; Jer 20:14-18).
Nolonger rubbed with oil . Leather shields were rubbed
with oil to preserve them ( Isa 21:5). In death they were
not parted. Even though Jonathan opposed his father’s
treatment of David, he gave his life beside his father
in Israel’s defense. More wonderful than that of women .
David is not suggesting that marital love is inferior
to that of friendship, nor do his remarks have any
sexual implications. He is simply calling attention to
Jonathan’s nearly inexplicable self-denying commitment
to David, whom he had long recognized as the Lord’s
choice to succeed his father rather than himself
( 1Sam. 20:13-16). Weapons of war . Probably a metaphor
for Saul and Jonathan.
3. Look for New Opportunities of Service (2 Sam. 2:1-4)
2Sam. 2:1 In the course of time, David inquired of the LORD.
“Shall I go up to one of the towns of Judah?” he asked. The
LORD said, “Go up.” David asked, “Where shall I go?” To
Hebron,” the LORD answered. 2:2 So David went up there
with his two wives, Ahinoam of Jezreel and Abigail, the
widow of Nabal of Carmel. 2:3 David also took the men
who were with him, each with his family, and they settled
in Hebron and its towns. 2:4 Then the men of Judah came
to Hebron and there they anointed David king over the house
of Judah. When David was told that it was the men of
Jabesh Gilead who had buried Saul,
David inquirer of the Lord . By means of the ephod
through the priest Abiathar ( Ex 28:30; 1Sa 2:28; 23:2).
One of the towns of Jusah . Even though Saul was dead
and David had many friends and contacts among the
people of his own tribe (1Sam. 30:26-31), David did not
presume to return from Philistine territory to assume
the kingship promised to him without first seeking the
Lord’s guidance. Hebron . An old and important city
(Gen. 13:18; 23:2; Jos 15:13-15; 1Sam. 30:31) centrally
located in the tribe of Judah. Ahinoam of Jezreel .
(1Sam. 25:43. Abigail . 2Sam. 2: 25). Men who were
with him . (1Sam. 22:2; 23:13; 30:3,9). Anointed David
king . (1Sam. 2:10; 9:16). David had previously been
anointed privately by Samuel in the presence of his
own family (1Sam. 16:13). Here the anointing ceremony
is repeated as a public recognition by his own tribe of
his divine calling to be king. Over the house Judah . Very
likely the tribe of Simeon was also involved (Jos 19:1;
Jdg 1:3), but the Judahites in every way dominated the
area. Men of Jabesh Gilead . (1Sam. 11:1; 31:12). Buried
Saul . (1Sam. 31:13).
4. Show Kindness to Others (2 Sam. 2:5-7)
2Sam. 2:5 he sent messengers to the men of Jabesh
Gilead to say to them, “The LORD bless you for showing
this kindness to Saul your master by burying him. 2:6
May the LORD now show you kindness and faithfulness,
and I too will show you the same favor because you
have done this. 2:7 Now then, be strong and brave,
for Saul your master is dead, and the house of Judah
has anointed me king over them.”
Your Master is dead , And the house of Judah has
Anointed Me King over them . David’s concluding
statement to the men of Jabesh Gilead is a veiled
invitation to them to recognize him as their king just
as the tribe of Judah had done. This appeal for their
support, however, was ignored (1Sam. 2:8-9).
Abner son of Ner. (1Sam. 14:50). Saul’s army. His
small standing army of professionals loyal to him
and his family (1Sam. 13:2,15; 14:2,52). Ish -Bosheth.
The name was originally Ish- (or Esh-) Baal (1Ch 8:33)
but was changed by the author of Samuel to Ish-bosheth,
meaning “man of the shameful thing” (2 Sam. 4:4).
Evidently Baal (meaning “lord” or “master”) was at
this time still used to refer to the Lord. Later this was
discontinued because of confusion with the Canaanite
god Baal, and the author of Samuel reflects the later
sensitivity. Son of Saul . (1Sam. 14:49; 31:2). Brought
him . Abner takes the initiative in the power vacuum
created by Saul’s death, using the unassertive
Ish-bosheth as a pawn for his own ambitions
(2 Sam.3:11; 2Sam. 4:1). There is no evidence that
Ish-bosheth had strong support among the Israelites
generally. Mahanaim . A Gileadite town in Transjordan
and thus beyond the sphere of Philistine domination
—a kind of refugee capital.
‘ The city of Hebron was located 19 miles
south of Jerusalem and 15 miles west of the Dead
Sea. It is 3,000 feet above sea level. Nearby was an
abundant water supply and fields with rich soil that
was ideal for agriculture.
Hebron was an ancient city associated
with the patriarchs. Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and
Rebekah, and Jacob and Leah were buried in a nearby
cave (Gen. 23:19; 25:9; 35:29; 49:31; 50:13).
Hebron was given to Caleb after the
conquest of Canaan (Josh. 14:14; 15:13). It was the
largest city of refuge in the region (Josh. 21:13). A
city of refuge was an essential component of the
ancient Israelite legal system. An accused murderer
could appeal to these cities for sanctuary. If its
elders determined the accusation was false, they
granted the accused safe haven. In light of David’s
hiring his soldiers out to the Philistines, some
Israelites may have wrongly believed he had played
some role in Saul’s death. Furthermore, the city was
set aside as a home for priests (Josh. 21:13) and
the priest Abiathar was among David’s followers.
God Bless My Friend
Robert G O’Haver