14 January 20192 Samuel 1:1-12
They mourned and wept and fasted until evening for Saul and his son Jonathan. (v. 12)
Psalm: Psalm 47
At first sight the name of the book we call 2 Samuel is a bit of a misnomer; at the time that the account opens, Samuel has been dead for some years. We might think that a better title would be The Book of David as the subject matter of the 24 chapters is the reign of David and the establishing of his dynasty. It helps to remember that the division of the Hebrew book of Samuel into two is not original; 1 and 2 Samuel form a unity covering the reigns of the last of the judges and the two kings whom he anointed. It is only with the accession of Solomon (1 Kings 1) that Samuel’s decisive influence on the government of Israel comes to an end.
The handover of power between the two kings whom Samuel anointed was far from smooth. The events of today’s reading are part of the account of a civil war between the followers of David and those loyal to Saul. Like many civil wars, this one was not a straightforward conflict between two sides but complicated by the involvement of outside powers. David had been living with and fighting for the Philistines; at the time that Saul was killed on Mount Gilboa, however, David was miles away repulsing an invasion of the Amalekites.
It is an Amalekite who brings David news of Saul’s death and claims responsibility for it. His account is different from the version of events in 1 Samuel 31 (where we are told that Saul commits suicide), so it might be that this man is an opportunist attempting to curry favour with David. If so, it is a plan that backfires. David responds to the news not with joy as might have been expected but with grief. For all that Saul had been fighting against David for years, David had never desired Saul’s death. In fact, David had had opportunity to kill Saul himself and had not done so (1 Samuel 26:9f). And for all that David had been an exile from his own people amongst the Philistines, he is grieved that the army of Israel has been defeated. His response reminds us that the civil war was not of David’s choosing and that his true loyalty under God was always to Israel and its government.
- Does the complexity of the civil war in this story remind you of any situation in the world today? Pray for the country that comes to mind and for an end to the conflict there.
- The Amalekite might have expected to be thanked for bringing David Saul’s crown. Have you ever tried to please someone and only caused anger and hurt? What happened? How did you respond? If the situation is still unresolved, pray for reconciliation.