Tuesday

05 July 2016

"Then David took hold of his clothes and tore them; and all the men who were with him did the same. 12They mourned and wept, and fasted until evening for Saul and for his son Jonathan, and for the army of the Lord and for the house of Israel, because they had fallen by the sword." (vv. 11-12)

Psalm: Psalm 114


Background

The book 2 Samuel not surprisingly comes immediately after 1 Samuel. The events carry on without even the writer seeming to draw breath. In fact the two books were originally one - they were divided by the Septuagint (the Greek version of the Old Testament) and were only divided in the Hebrew Bible in the 15th century.

The books of Samuel are named after the person God uses to establish kingship in Israel. Saul was the first king, who was anointed by the prophet Samuel. At the end of 1 Samuel we read of the death of Saul at the battle at Mount Gilboa. According to 1 Samuel 31, Saul took his own life, falling on his own sword (1 Samuel 31:4), as he knew he had been fatally wounded and knew that his three sons were already dead (1 Samuel 31:2-3).

But reading today's passage we discover that there is a contradiction. 1 Samuel says Saul killed himself; but the report that David receives says that the messenger who brought news of Saul's death said that he killed him (verse 10). Who is telling the truth?

Some commentators suggest that the messenger was lying in order that he might be rewarded by David, even though the news was tragic. But the text gives no indication of this. In fact, it is the opposite as the messenger himself is killed.

The presentation of the crown and the band (verse 10) is evidence that that Saul is dead, as the messenger could not have retrieved them otherwise, rather than an indication that David should become king (even though he does).

Notice David's reaction to the news. He and all his men took hold of their clothes and tore them. Here is a very vivid and physical expression of grief. No words are needed. This physical expression is intensified by their weeping and fasting until nightfall. It is only then that the writer records David speaking again.


To Ponder

  • The end of 1 Samuel contradicts the start of 2 Samuel. How do you react and respond when the Bible contradicts itself? How do you view the Bible and its relationship to truth?
  • David and his followers give a very physical expression to grief and tragedy. You can sometimes see similar expressions of grief in news reports from the Middle East? How comfortable do you feel about seeing this? How would you feel being some expressive in sorrow? Would it help to display your feelings and help you in your grief? Why?


Bible notes author: Ken Kingston

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