Exegetical Notes: 2 Samuel 1:22-2:7

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.

Continues the lamentation of David over the death of Saul and Jonathan (see. 1:17, 18). Officially titled “The Song of the Bow”. 

David highlights both Saul’s and Jonathan’s reputations on the battlefield in verse 22. Jonathan is known for his mastery of the bow and arrow, while Saul is a known swordsman. 

23 “Saul and Jonathan, beloved and lovely! In life and in death they were not divided; they were swifter than eagles; they were stronger than lions.

“beloved and lovely” – meaning they were loved and adored by their nation.

“In live and in death they were not divided” – Not only were Saul and Jonathan loyal to the nation, they also remained loyal to one another. 

“swifter than eagles; they were stronger than lions” – highlighting their speed and strength in battle.

24 “You daughters of Israel, weep over Saul, who clothed you luxuriously in scarlet, who put ornaments of gold on your apparel.

“weep over Saul” – The death of Israel’s first monarch was to be a time of mourning, not joy (1:20). 

APP: David gives us a clear picture here of what it means to live a life where you’re not the most important person in the room. In a circumstance where many would seek the praise of others, David insists that this is a time for weeping over the loss of Saul and Jonathan. 

“who clothed you luxuriously in scarlet…” – Saul’s success as king opened the door of financial prosperity for the nation.

25 “How the mighty have fallen in the midst of the battle! “Jonathan lies slain on your high places.

“How the mighty have fallen” – Repeated from verse 19. Showing emphasis. This is the theme of the lamentation. 

26 I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan; very pleasant have you been to me; your love to me was extraordinary, surpassing the love of women.

“your love to me was extraordinary, surpassing the love of women” – David’s very personal expression of emotion here should not be taken as evidence of a homosexual liaison with Jonathan; rather, it is a manifestation of the parameters of social relations that existed in ancient Israelite society. Marriages in ancient Israel took place primarily for the benefit of the tribe—to increase the size and strength of the social group through procreation (cf. Gen 1:28) and to increase its prosperity through the establishment of advantageous formal ties with other families (cf. Gen 34:21–23). A man’s wife was his partner in procreation and parenting, but not necessarily his best friend, confidant, or social peer. For David, Jonathan was the peer, friend, and confidant that no wife could ever have been in that society; and his untimely death left a gaping hole in David’s soul. Robert D. Bergen, 1, 2 Samuel, vol. 7, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996), 293.

27 “How the mighty have fallen, and the weapons of war perished!”

“How the mighty have fallen” – Repeated for the 3 time. 

After this David inquired of the Lord, “Shall I go up into any of the cities of Judah?” And the Lord said to him, “Go up.” David said, “To which shall I go up?” And he said, “To Hebron.”

David had looked back and lamented the past, but with the death of Saul came the future to which he had looked since the day of his anointing by Samuel more than 15 years before (1 Sam. 16:13). There was a power vacuum, particularly in Judah, now that Saul and three of his sons by his wife Ahinoam were gone. (Saul had two other sons by his concubine Rizpah, 2 Sam. 21:8, 11.) David, therefore, sought the mind of God and was told to go to Hebron where, at last, he was formally installed by oil-anointing as king over … Judah. (Later he was anointed a third time, as king of the entire nation, [5:3].) This was a decisive and important move for it immediately alienated him from the Philistines with whom he had taken refuge and made an alliance; it signified the quasi-independence of Judah from Israel, an attitude which would find complete expression at the division of the kingdom after Solomon’s death (1 Kings 12:16); and it asserted David’s reign as being in rivalry with that of Saul’s son, Ish-Bosheth, who succeeded his father in the North. Eugene H. Merrill, “2 Samuel,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 458.

“David inquired of the Lord” – Saul’s death removes the reason for his departure and the natural course of action would be to move back home. However, David still seeks God’s guidance in every situation. 

APP: No situation is too mundane to seek God’s guidance.

In the past, David used Abithar the Priest as a means to seek counsel from the Lord (1 Sam 23:9-12; 30:7-8), and this may be the case here as well, but we aren’t told so from the text.

It must be noted that David’s first act was to consult the Lord’s guidance, whereas building political support may have been the most expedite matter. However, David reveals his priorities by seeking the Lord first. 

So David went up there, and his two wives also, Ahinoam of Jezreel and Abigail the widow of Nabal of Carmel.

And David brought up his men who were with him, everyone with his household, and they lived in the towns of Hebron.

And the men of Judah came, and there they anointed David king over the house of Judah. When they told David, “It was the men of Jabesh-gilead who buried Saul,”

David sent messengers to the men of Jabesh-gilead and said to them, “May you be blessed by the Lord, because you showed this loyalty to Saul your lord and buried him.

Upon learning of the heroic act of the men of Jabesh Gilead, David sends word to them. 

1) This has a political benefit because it solidifies those loyal to Saul to accept David’s leadership.
2) It honors those willing to honor the fallen King, “the Lord’s annointed”.

Now may the Lord show steadfast love and faithfulness to you. And I will do good to you because you have done this thing.

Now therefore let your hands be strong, and be valiant, for Saul your lord is dead, and the house of Judah has anointed me king over them.”