King James Bible
with Catholic Commentary by George Leo Haydock

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2 Samuel 1

Tidings brought to David of the death of Saul. (1-10) The Amalekite is put to death. (11-16) David’s lamentation for Saul and Jonathan. (17-27)

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Tidings brought to David of the death of Saul

1 Now it came to pass after the death of Saul, when David was returned from the slaughter of the Amalekites, and David had abode two days in Ziklag;

2 It came even to pass on the third day, that, behold, a man came out of the camp from Saul with his clothes rent, and earth upon his head: and so it was, when he came to David, that he fell to the earth, and did obeisance.

3 And David said unto him, From whence comest thou? And he said unto him, Out of the camp of Israel am I escaped.

4 And David said unto him, How went the matter? I pray thee, tell me. And he answered, That the people are fled from the battle, and many of the people also are fallen and dead; and Saul and Jonathan his son are dead also.

5 And David said unto the young man that told him, How knowest thou that Saul and Jonathan his son be dead?

6 And the young man that told him said, As I happened by chance upon mount Gilboa, behold, Saul leaned upon his spear; and, lo, the chariots and horsemen followed hard after him.

7 And when he looked behind him, he saw me, and called unto me. And I answered, Here am I.

8 And he said unto me, Who art thou? And I answered him, I am an Amalekite.

9 He said unto me again, Stand, I pray thee, upon me, and slay me: for anguish is come upon me, because my life is yet whole in me.

10 So I stood upon him, and slew him, because I was sure that he could not live after that he was fallen: and I took the crown that was upon his head, and the bracelet that was on his arm, and have brought them hither unto my lord.

The Amalekite is put to death

11 Then David took hold on his clothes, and rent them; and likewise all the men that were with him:

12 And they mourned, and wept, and fasted until even, for Saul, and for Jonathan his son, and for the people of the LORD, and for the house of Israel; because they were fallen by the sword.

13 And David said unto the young man that told him, Whence art thou? And he answered, I am the son of a stranger, an Amalekite.

14 And David said unto him, How wast thou not afraid to stretch forth thine hand to destroy the LORD’s anointed?

15 And David called one of the young men, and said, Go near, and fall upon him. And he smote him that he died.

16 And David said unto him, Thy blood be upon thy head; for thy mouth hath testified against thee, saying, I have slain the LORD’s anointed.

David’s lamentation for Saul and Jonathan

17 And David lamented with this lamentation over Saul and over Jonathan his son:

18 (Also he bade them teach the children of Judah the use of the bow: behold, it is written in the book of Jasher.)

19 The beauty of Israel is slain upon thy high places: how are the mighty fallen!

20 Tell it not in Gath, publish it not in the streets of Askelon; lest the daughters of the Philistines rejoice, lest the daughters of the uncircumcised triumph.

21 Ye mountains of Gilboa, let there be no dew, neither let there be rain, upon you, nor fields of offerings: for there the shield of the mighty is vilely cast away, the shield of Saul, as though he had not been anointed with oil.

22 From the blood of the slain, from the fat of the mighty, the bow of Jonathan turned not back, and the sword of Saul returned not empty.

23 Saul and Jonathan were lovely and pleasant in their lives, and in their death they were not divided: they were swifter than eagles, they were stronger than lions.

24 Ye daughters of Israel, weep over Saul, who clothed you in scarlet, with other delights, who put on ornaments of gold upon your apparel.

25 How are the mighty fallen in the midst of the battle! O Jonathan, thou wast slain in thine high places.

26 I am distressed for thee, my brother Jonathan: very pleasant hast thou been unto me: thy love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women.

27 How are the mighty fallen, and the weapons of war perished!

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G Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Ver. 1. Siceleg, though it had been burnt down. Salien, A. 2949.

Ver. 6. Chance. He feigned this to obtain the favour of David; but the king punished him as he deserved. W. — Spear, or sword, as it is before expressed. M.

Ver. 8. Amalecite. The Rabbins say he was the son of Doeg; and has this appellation because Amalec sprung from Esau. Gen. xxxvi. 12. But this is all very uncertain. The man seems to have gotten possession of the marks of the royal dignity in the night, as the Philistines deferred till the next day stripping the bodies of the deceased. C.

Ver. 9. Anguish. Heb. “the coat of mail withholds me.” Sept. “horrid darkness encompasses me.” Shabah, signifies a coat of mail, made of cloth, very thick, and boiled in vinegar, to render it more impenetrable. The Greeks emperors and the French formerly wore them much, instead of iron. C. — Prot. however agrees with us. — In me. I have yet received no mortal wound. H.

Ver. 10. I killed him. This story of the young Amalecite was not true, as may easily be proved by comparing it with the last chapter of the foregoing book. Ch. — Fall. This he says, apprehending that David would perhaps disapprove of what he had done. — Diadem, or ribband, which was tied round his head, as a badge of his dignity. Heb. “the crown.” But it was not of metal, though such were already common. Ex. xxviii. 36. 1 Par. xx. 2. Some pretend that Doeg gave these insignia to this son, that he might ingratiate himself with the future king. But they were upon Saul, so that the enemy could easily distinguish him. — Bracelet. The Hebrews took a great many from the Madianites. Num. xxxi. 50. Such presents were made by the Romans to soldiers who had performed some feats of valour. Plin. xxxiii. 2. Livy i. 10.

Ver. 11. Rent them, in sign of grief, as many other nations did.

Tum pius Æneas humeris abscindere vestem. Æneid v. C.

Ver. 12. Of the Lord, the priests; (Abulensis) though it seems to be explained by the following words, of all the Israelites. H.

Ver. 13. Stranger, residing among the Hebrews.

Ver. 16. Head. None but thyself can be answerable for thy death. See Matthew xxvii. 25. David was already supreme magistrate, and he wished that all should be convinced that he rejoiced not at the death of the king, and that none might imitate the example of this wretch. C. — Thus Vitellius punished the murderers of Galba, “not out of respect to Galba; but, according to the custom of princes, as a protection for the present, and a threat of vengeance for the future,” in case any should dare to treat him in like manner. Tacit. i. Tradito principibus more, munimentum in præsens, in posterum ultionem.

Ver. 18. Bow. So this canticle was entitled, because it spoke in praise of the bow and arrows of Saul and Jonathan, v. 22. So one of the works of Hesiod is called “a buckler;” of Theocritus “a flute;” of Simmias “wing;” &c. Sept. have neglected this word entirely (C.) in the Roman edition. But it is found in the Alex. copy, which reads “Israel,” instead of Juda, perhaps properly. Grabe, prol. iv. 2. H. — Chal. “to shoot with the bow.” Many suppose that David cautioned his men to exert themselves in that art, (M.) as they might soon expect to have to encounter the Philistines, (T.) who were very expert bowmen. W. — But the former interpretation seems preferable. C. — The bow might be also the beginning of some favourite song, to the tune of which (D.) David would have his men to sing this canticle, (H.) particularly when they went to battle. Grotius. — Just. See Jos. x. 3. M. — It seems this was a more ancient record, to which the author of this book refers. C. — He might have in view the canticle of Anna, (1 K. ii. 4,) or some other. H. — The custom of composing canticles, on such solemn occasions, is very ancient and frequent. See 3 K. iii. 33. and xiii. 29. Jeremias xlviii. 31. Iliad ps & ch. The style of this piece can hardly be equalled by the most polite writers. C. — David is chiefly occupied with the praises of Jonathan. H. — Consider…places. This sentence is omitted in Heb. Chal. Sept. and in some copies of S. Jerom’s version. T. i. p. 365, Nov. edit. op. It is a farther explication of the subsequent verse. C. — Yet the Sept. read, “Erect a pillar, O Israel, [upon thy heights; the Vat. Sept. places this after slain. H.] in honour of the slain, thy wounded soldiers. How are the mighty fallen?” The Hebrew seems to be different from what the Sept. Chal. &c. read, as the Masora now adopts etsbi, instead of etsib, which has greatly puzzled interpreters. Hence Aquila translates akriboson, with the Sept. of Ximenes, i.e. “Execute or consider with attention,” this sepulchral monument on which you shall inscribe, “For the dead and for thy wounded.” It was to be placed on some “eminence,” according to custom. The present Heb. is very indeterminate, denoting “glory, a honey-comb,” &c. Ezec. xx. 6. Dan. xi. 16. 41. See Grabe, Prol. H.

Ver. 19. Illustrious. Heb. “the glory (beauty, hart, &c.) of Israel hath been pierced,” &c. The comparison of Saul with a hart, is noble enough in the ideas of the ancients. Ps. xvii. 34. Cant. ii. 9. and viii. 14. Syr. and Arab. “O hart of Israel, they have been slain,” &c. C. — Slain. Heb. chalal, signifies also “a soldier;” and this word agrees perfectly well with giborim, “valiant,” both here and v. 22. and 25. Kennicott would apply it to Jonathan, upon whom David’s attention is mostly fixed. “O ornament of Israel! O warrior, upon thy high places! How,” &c. H. — In this manner many such pieces commence. Lament. i. T.

Ver. 20. Triumph. He was aware of the exultation of the infidels. H.

Ver. 21. Fruits, which may be offered to the Lord. Inanimate things could not offend, nor does David curse them in earnest. But (T.) nothing could more strikingly express his distress and grief, than this imprecation. It is false that those mountains have since been barren. This canton is one of the most fruitful of the country. Brocard. C. — Job (iii.) speaks with the same animation, and curses his day. M. — Of Saul, or “Saul, the shield of his people, was cast away, as,” &c. Prot. “as though he had not been anointed with oil.” H. — He is not reproached for throwing away his buckler, for nothing was deemed more shameful. The ancient Germans would not allow such a one to enter their temples or places of assembly. Tacit. mor. Germ. — A woman of Sparta told her son, when she delivered on to him, “Bring this back, or be brought upon it” dead. Impositu scuto referunt Pallanta frequentes. Æneid x. Sanctius. C. — As though. Heb. seems to have sh, instead of s, (as it is in several MSS. correctly, in noshug) and bli, instead of cli, (Delany) as the former word seems no where else to signify quasi non; and the Syr. Arab. and Chal. omit the negation. It might therefore be the shield of Saul, “the arms of him who has been anointed with oil.” Kennicott. — Some would refer this unction to the shield, (Vatab.) as this was some times done: (M.) but the reflection would be here too trifling. C.

Ver. 22. From. Heb. “without the blood of soldiers, without the fat of the valiant, the bow of Jonathan had never returned.” Kennicott. — Fat. The entrails. It might also denote the most valiant of the soldiers, as we read of “the fat or marrow of corn” for the best. Ps. lxxx. 17. C. — Jonathan attacked the most courageous, and laid them dead at his feet. H. — Empty. Saul carried destruction wherever he went.

Et nos tela, pater, ferrumque haud debile dextrâ,

Spargimus & nostro sequitur de vulnere sanguis. Æn. xii. 50.

Ver. 23. Lovely, or united. Jonathan always behaved with due respect towards his father, though he could not enter into his unjust animosity against David. C. — The latter passes over in silence all that Saul had done against himself, and seems wholly occupied with the thought of the valour and great achievements of the deceased. H. — Sanchez believes that these epithets were introduced of course into funeral canticles, like Alas! my noble one, (Jer. xxii. 18. M.) as Saul could have no pretensions to be styled lovely, or friendly, towards the latter part of his reign; since he treated the priests, David, and even his son Jonathan, with contumely, and even with unrelenting fury. But all this David would willingly bury in oblivion. He will not even notice how different was the end of the two heroes. Jonathan died like a virtuous soldier in his country’s cause; Saul was wounded, but impiously accelerated his own death, through dread of torments and of insult. Though they died, therefore, on the same field of battle, their end was as different as that of the saint and of the impenitent sinner. H.

Ver. 25. Battle. Heb. “in the midst of battle! O Jonathan, thou warrior upon thy high places!” Kennicott, Diss. i. p. 123.

Ver. 26. Brother. So they lamented, Alas! my brother. Jer. xxii. 18. M. — Women. He indicates the ardour of his love, not any inordinate affection. D. — I love thee more than any person can love a woman, (C.) more than women can love their husbands or children. M. — Chal. “thy love is more wonderful to me than the love of two who are espoused.” — As, &c. This is not found in Heb. Sept. or S. Jerom. C.

Ver. 27. Perished, falling into the hands of the enemy; though Saul and Jonathan may be styled the arms, as well as the shield, of Israel. M. — No character could be more worthy of praise than the latter. His breast was never agitated by envy, though he seemed to be the most interested to destroy David. Even Saul had many excellent qualities; which makes Ven. Bede compare him in those respects with Jesus Christ; as most of the memorable persons and events of the Old Testament had a view to Christ on the one hand, and to the Synagogue on the other. Saul is one of the most striking figures of the reprobation and conduct of the Jewish church. As he was adorned with many glorious prerogatives, and chosen by God, yet he no sooner beheld the rising merit of David, than he began to persecute him: so the Jews had been instructed by the prophets, and had been selected as God’s peculiar inheritance; and nevertheless took occasion from the virtues and miracles of the Son of God, to conspire his ruin. The Romans were sent to punish the Jews, who are now become the most abject of all mankind, and are filled with rage, seeing the exaltation of the Christian Church, as Saul was reduced by the Philistines to the greatest distress, and his children were forced to implore the protection of the man whom he had so cruelly persecuted, &c. C. — Saul and Judas may be a warning to us, that no person ought to live without fear, since they perished so miserably, though they had been elevated by the hand of God. S. Amb. &c. H.