Tuesday

11 January 2022

2 Samuel 1:17-27

'How the mighty have fallen!' (v. 19)

Psalm 48

Background

Yesterday we read how Saul died and today we see David's reaction. Verses 19-26 comprise a secular lament, or dirge, over Saul and his son Jonathan. There is no reference to God or God’s dealings with them. The focus is entirely on Saul and Jonathan's military prowess. David instructs the lament be written down in ‘The Book of the Righteous’ (Jashar), which is also referred to in Joshua 10.13. It is now lost. The people of Judah need to learn this song (v. 18). It will excite courage and enthusiasm for fighting when the people are at war with their pagan neighbours. Israel must always have the will to win. (Notice no reference is made in this lament to the defeat of Israel’s army.) And the dreadful deaths of Saul and Jonathan must never be so much as mentioned in Philistia, which is represented by two towns, Gath and Ashkelon (v. 20) lest they should have occasion to gloat over Israel’s misfortune.

There is much eulogising of Saul and Jonathan. The dirge is built around a repeated refrain, "How the mighty have fallen!" (verses 19, 25 and  27). The pair, a father and son who were inseparable (v. 23), are called "the glory of Israel" (v. 19) and "weapons of war" (v. 27). They were very effective warriors, swifter than eagles and stronger than lions (v. 23). Saul had been responsible also for an increase in Israel’s prosperity (v. 24).

So awful is the tragedy of their deaths that Mount Gilboa, the place where they died  is cursed: may it become a desert (v. 21).

At this time, both laments and songs of celebration for victories, were usually sung and danced to by groups of women (the "daughters" referred to in verses 20 and 24). In this case, however, the author was David, who inserts an intensely personal note of grief (v. 26). David and Jonathan loved each other in a wonderful way,  "passing the love of women". Is that a reference to deep friendship (see 1 Samuel 18-20)? Or an allusion to a homosexual relationship?

 

To Ponder:

  • It is common in funerals for a close relative or friend of the deceased to give an eulogy. It can sometimes seem like an alien wedge in an otherwise deeply Christian service of worship. But giving a ‘secular’ eulogy can be a wonderfully therapeutic act for someone heartbroken by a loved one’s death. So should we not thank God for it?
  •  Have you ever contemplated what you would say if you were asked to give the eulogy of someone you are very close to? It may be helpful to write it down, as a first draft.

Bible notes author

The Revd David Deeks

The Revd David Deeks is a retired Methodist minister. He has always focused on theology and spirituality as practical themes.

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