2 Kings i.
Notes & Commentary:
Ver. 1. Siceleg, though it had been burnt down. (Salien, the year of the world 2949.)
Ver. 6. Chance. He feigned this to obtain the favour of David; but the king punished him as he deserved. (Worthington) — Spear, or sword, as it is before expressed. (Menochius)
Ver. 8. Amalecite. The Rabbins say he was the son of Doeg; and has this appellation because Amalec sprung from Esau, Genesis 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. (Calmet)
Ver. 9. Anguish. Hebrew, “the coat of mail withholds me.” Septuagint, “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. (Calmet) — Protestants however agrees with us. — In me. I have yet received no mortal wound. (Haydock)
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. (Challoner) — 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. Hebrew, “the crown.” But it was not of metal, though such were already common, Exodus xxviii. 36., and 1 Paralipomenon 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, Numbers xxxi. 50. Such presents were made by the Romans to soldiers who had performed some feats of valour. (Pliny, [Natural History?] xxxiii. 2.) (Livy i. 10.)
Ver. 11. Rent them, in sign of grief, as many other nations did.
Tum pius Æneas humeris abscindere vestem. (Virgil, Æneid v.) (Calmet)
Ver. 12. Of the Lord, the priests; (Abulensis) though it seems to be explained by the following words, of all the Israelites. (Haydock)
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. (Calmet) — 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. (Tacitus 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, ver. 22. So one of the works of Hesiod is called “a buckler;” of Theocritus “a flute;” of Simmias “a wing;” &c. Septuagint have neglected this word entirely (Calmet) in the Roman edition. But it is found in the Alexandrian copy, which reads “Israel,” instead of Juda, perhaps properly. (Grabe, prol. iv. 2.) (Haydock) — Chaldean, “to shoot with the bow.” Many suppose that David cautioned his men to exert themselves in that art, (Menochius) as they might soon expect to have to encounter the Philistines, (Tirinus) who were very expert bowmen. (Worthington) — But the former interpretation seems preferable. (Calmet) — The bow might be also the beginning of some favourite song, to the tune of which (Du Hamel) David would have his men to sing this canticle, (Haydock) particularly when they went to battle. (Grotius) — Just. See Josue x. 3. (Menochius) — It seems this was a more ancient record, to which the author of this book refers. (Calmet) — He might have in view the canticle of Anna, (1 Kings ii. 4,) or some other. (Haydock) — The custom of composing canticles, on such solemn occasions, is very ancient and frequent. See 3 Kings iii. 33., and xiii. 29., and Jeremias xlviii. 31. (Homer, Iliad ps & ch) The style of this piece can hardly be equalled by the most polite writers. (Calmet) — David is chiefly occupied with the praises of Jonathan. (Haydock) — Consider….places. This sentence is omitted in Hebrew, Chaldean, Septuagint, and in some copies of St. Jerome’s version. (T. i. p. 365, Nov. edit. op.) It is a farther explication of the subsequent verse. (Calmet) — Yet the Septuagint read, “Erect a pillar, O Israel, [upon thy heights; the Vatican Septuagint places this after slain. (Haydock)] in honour of the slain, thy wounded soldiers. How are the mighty fallen?” The Hebrew seems to be different from what the Septuagint, Chaldean, &c., read, as the Masora now adopts etsbi, instead of etsib, which has greatly puzzled interpreters. Hence Aquila translates akriboson, with the Septuagint 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 Hebrew is very indeterminate, denoting “glory, a honey-comb,” &c., Ezechiel xx. 6., and Daniel xi. 16, 41. See Grabe, Prol. (Haydock)
Ver. 19. Illustrious. Hebrew, “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, Psalm xvii. 34., Canticle of Canticles ii. 9., and viii. 14. Syriac and Arabic, “O hart of Israel, they have been slain,” &c. (Calmet) — Slain. Hebrew chalal, signifies also “a soldier;” and this word agrees perfectly well with giborim, “valiant,” both here and ver. 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. (Haydock) — In this manner many such pieces commence, Lamentations i. (Tirinus)
Ver. 20. Triumph. He was aware of the exultation of the infidels. (Haydock)
Ver. 21. Fruits, which may be offered to the Lord. Inanimate things could not offend, nor does David curse them in earnest. But (Tirinus) 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. (Brochard.) (Calmet) — Job (iii.) speaks with the same animation, and curses his day. (Menochius) — Of Saul, or “Saul, the shield of his people, was cast away, as,” &c. Protestants, “as though he had not been anointed with oil.” (Haydock) — 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. (Tacitus, mor. Germ) — A woman of Sparta told her son, when she delivered one to him, “Bring this back, or be brought upon it” dead. Impositu scuto referunt Pallanta frequentes. (Virgil, Æneid x.) (Sanctius) (Calmet) — As though. Hebrew seems to have sh, instead of s, (as it is in several manuscripts correctly, in noshug) and bli, instead of cli, (Delany) as the former word seems no where else to signify quasi non; and the Syriac, Arabic, and Chaldean 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, (Vatable) as this was some times done: (Menochius) but the reflection would be here too trifling. (Calmet)
Ver. 22. From. Hebrew, “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, Psalm lxxx. 17. (Calmet) — Jonathan attacked the most courageous, and laid them dead at his feet. (Haydock) — Empty. Saul carried destruction wherever he went.
Et nos tela, pater, ferrumque haud debile dextra,
Spargimus & nostro sequitur de vulnere sanguis. (Virgil, Æneid 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. (Calmet) — 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. (Haydock) — Sanchez believes that these epithets were introduced of course into funeral canticles, like Alas! my noble one, (Jeremias xxii. 18.; Menochius) 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. (Haydock)
Ver. 25. Battle. Hebrew, “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, Jeremias xxii. 18. (Menochius)
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. (Menochius) — 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. (Calmet) — 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. (St. Ambrose, &c.) (Haydock)
Bible Text & Cross-references:
David mourneth for the death of Saul and Jonathan: he ordereth the man to be slain who pretended he had killed Saul.
1 Now *it came to pass, after Saul was dead, that David returned from the slaughter of the Amalecites, and abode two days in Siceleg.
2 And on the third day, there appeared a man who came out of Saul’s camp, with his garments rent, and dust strewed on his head: and when he came to David, he fell upon his face, and adored.
3 And David said to him: From whence comest thou? And he said to him: I am fled out of the camp of Israel.
4 And David said unto him: What is the matter that is come to pass? tell me. He said: The people are fled from the battle, and many of the people are fallen and dead: moreover Saul, and Jonathan, his son, are slain.
5 And David said to the young man that told him: How knowest thou that Saul, and Jonathan, his son, are dead?
6 And the young man that told him, said: I came by chance upon Mount Gelboe, and Saul leaned upon his spear: and the chariots and horsemen drew nigh unto him,
7 And looking behind him, and seeing me, he called me. And I answered, Here am I.
8 And he said to me: Who art thou? And I said to him: I am an Amalecite.
9 And he said to me: Stand over me, and kill me: for anguish is come upon me, and as yet my whole life is in me.
10 So standing over him, I killed him: for I knew that he could not live after the fall: and I took the diadem that was on his head, and the bracelet that was on his arm, and have brought them hither to thee, my lord.
11 Then David took hold of his garments and rent them, and likewise all the men that were with him:
12 And they mourned, and wept, and fasted until evening, 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 to the young man that told him: Whence art thou? He answered: I am the son of a stranger of Amalec.
14 David said to him: *Why didst thou not fear to put out thy hand to kill the Lord’s anointed?
15 And David calling one of his servants, said: Go near and fall upon him. And he struck him so that he died.
16 And David said to him: Thy blood be upon thy own head: for thy own mouth hath spoken against thee, saying: I have slain the Lord’s anointed.
17 And David made this kind of lamentation over Saul, and over Jonathan, his son.
18 (Also he commanded that they should teach the children of Juda the use of the bow, as it is written in the Book of the just.) And he said: Consider, O Israel, for them that are dead, wounded on thy high places.
19 The illustrious of Israel are slain upon thy mountains: how are the valiant fallen?
20 Tell it not in Geth, publish it not in the streets of Ascalon: lest the daughters of the Philistines rejoice, lest the daughters of the uncircumcised triumph.
21 Ye mountains of Gelboe, let neither dew nor rain come upon you, nor let there be in you fields of first-fruits: for there was cast away the shield of the valiant, 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 valiant, the arrow of Jonathan never turned back, and the sword of Saul did not return empty.
23 Saul and Jonathan, lovely, and comely in their life, even in death they were not divided: they were swifter than eagles, stronger than lions.
24 Ye daughters of Israel, weep over Saul, who clothed you with scarlet in delights, who gave ornaments of gold for your attire.
25 How are the valiant fallen in battle? how was Jonathan slain in the high places?
26 I grieve for thee, my brother Jonathan, exceeding beautiful, and amiable to me above the love of women. As the mother loveth her only son, so did I love thee.
27 How are the valiant fallen, and the weapons of war perished?
1: Year of the World 2949, Year before Christ 1055.
14: Psalm civ. 15