II Samuel 1:1-16
1 After the death of Saul, David returned from striking down the Amalekites and stayed in Ziklag two days. 2 On the third day a man arrived from Saul’s camp with his clothes torn and dust on his head. When he came to David, he fell to the ground to pay him honor. 3 “Where have you come from?” David asked him. He answered, “I have escaped from the Israelite camp.” 4 “What happened?” David asked. “Tell me.” “The men fled from the battle,” he replied. “Many of them fell and died. And Saul and his son Jonathan are dead.” 5 Then David said to the young man who brought him the report, “How do you know that Saul and his son Jonathan are dead?” 6 “I happened to be on Mount Gilboa,” the young man said, “and there was Saul, leaning on his spear, with the chariots and their drivers in hot pursuit. 7 When he turned around and saw me, he called out to me, and I said, ‘What can I do?’ 8 “He asked me, ‘Who are you?’ “‘An Amalekite,’ I answered. 9 Then he said to me, ‘Stand here by me and kill me! I’m in the throes of death, but I’m still alive.’ 10 “So I stood beside him and killed him, because I knew that after he had fallen he could not survive. And I took the crown that was on his head and the band on his arm and have brought them here to my lord.” 11 Then David and all the men with him took hold of their clothes and tore them.12 They mourned and wept and fasted till evening for Saul and his son Jonathan, and for the army of the Lord and for the nation of Israel, because they had fallen by the sword. 13 David said to the young man who brought him the report, “Where are you from?” “I am the son of a foreigner, an Amalekite,” he answered. 14 David asked him, “Why weren’t you afraid to lift your hand to destroy the Lord’s anointed?” 15 Then David called one of his men and said, “Go, strike him down!” So he struck him down, and he died. 16 For David had said to him, “Your blood be on your own head. Your own mouth testified against you when you said, ‘I killed the Lord’s anointed.’”
1. The Initial Report 1-4
David settled again in Ziklag, his own city, after he had rescued his family and friends from the hands of the Amalekites and stayed there probably trying to bring order out of the ruins and chaos sure to have been there and also sending presents to his friends as we observed earlier.
There at Ziklag he was soon to receive those that came over to his side, by this time they were no longer men in distress and debt, as his first followers were, but persons of quality in their country, according to I Chronicles 12:1, 8, 20 and 22 they were “ . . . warriors who helped him in battle . . . . armed with bows . . . . able to shoot arrows or sling stones either right-handed or left-handed . . . . brave warriors ready for battle and able to handle shield and spear. Their faces were the faces of lions, and they were swift as gazelles in the mountains . . . . leaders of units of a thousand . . . . Day after day men came to help David until he had a great army like the army of God.” Men like this were to come to him day by day with God apparently stirring up their hearts to do so, until his army was much bigger and better. The secret sources of revolutions are unaccountable and must be understood by God’s sovereign involvement in the affairs of governments and men. It is God who turns all hearts as the rivers of water. But before that process began, on the third day back in Ziklag David received a young Amalekite visitor with a message of the death of Saul.
We do not know why David had not left his own spies in Gath and/or Jezreel to bring him reliable and speedy reports of the military engagement. Perhaps it was a sign that he was not looking forward to Sauls sad day, nor was he impatient to come to the throne, but willing to wait until the news reached him naturally. The person who trusts in God is not in a hurry, he takes good news when it comes and is not impatient or uncomfortable while he is waiting. At any rate, the messenger arrived on the third day pretending to be a mourner for the dead king and a subject to the next one which he apparently felt would be David. He came with his clothes torn, and bowed to David perhaps inwardly congratulating himself that he had the honor to be the first that did homage to David as his sovereign. But it proved he was the first that received from him the sentence of death as his judge.
He told David he came from the camp of Israel, and intimated the bad position Israel was in when he said he had escaped out of it (v 3). He gave David a general account of the battle. David, of course, was very eager to hear how the matter went having been loyal to one king and now about to become the next one. The messenger told him very distinctly that the army of Israel was routed, many slain, and, among the rest, Saul and Jonathan were also dead.He probably named only Saul and Jonathan, because he knew David would be most concerned to know what had happened to them. Saul was the man he most feared and Jonathan the man he most loved. He gave him a more particular account of the death of Saul than of Jonathan. It is possible that David had already heard what had happened, but was eager to receive a first-hand report from the front. David needed to have a sure report. David could not proceed to his next steps without having reliable information.
2. The Inquiry 4-10
So David asked, “How do you know that Saul and his son Jonathan are dead?” The young man unhesitatingly gave a detailed account, for he was not only an eye-witness of his death, but, he said, he was an instrument in it, and therefore David might rely upon his testimony. He said nothing, in his narrative, of the death of Jonathan, knowing how that would not be good news to David, but accounted only for Saul, thinking, as David understood it well enough, that he should be welcome for that, and rewarded as one that brought good news.
The story has details, but was just a fabrication. This Amalekite told an interesting yet untruthful story because he wanted a reward.
Saul may have made the request, but the part of the Amalekite’s story about the Amalekite killing Saul was not true. We have the true story of Saul falling on his sword and killing himself in an earlier chapter. “Saul took his own sword and fell on in” (I Sam 31:4)
According to the Amalekite, Saul said, ‘Stand here by me and kill me! I’m in the throes of death, but I’m still alive.’ This part may be true; Saul may have said that. In any case, it can serve to remind us of another future situation. In Revelation there is a similar record, “During those days people will seek death but will not find it; they will long to die, but death will elude them” (Rev. 9:6). If we assume that this part of the Amalekite’s story is true, then Saul’s conscience possibly had then brought to mind the javelin he had cast at David, his pride, malice, deliberate unfaithfulness, and especially the murder of the priests. No marvel that anguish came over him. His sense of un-pardoned guilt would have made death indeed the king of terrors. Those that have denied, rejected or refused to listen to their convictions will perhaps, in their dying moments, be overpowered by them. Death can be sweet to the believer or horrible to the unbeliever.
“So I stood beside him and killed him,” Possibly at this he observed David look at him with sorrow or anger instead of the pleasure the Amalekite expected to see, so he quickly added the next part of his story to appease David, and tried to excuse himself : “because I knew that after he had fallen he could not survive.” His life was still in him, but he would certainly have fallen into the hands of the Philistines or given himself another thrust. Though the Amalekite might happen to have been present, yet he did not actually assist in the death of Saul. He just told David so in expectation that he would reward him for it, as having done him a good service. Those who rejoice at the fall of an enemy are apt to measure others by themselves, and think that they would do so too. But a man after God’s own heart is not to be judged by or compared to common men. He is more noble than that. It is difficult for the righteous person to understand the thinking of the wicked, perverted and evil and, likewise, hard for the corrupted, defiled, misguided and twisted individual to understand the desires of the righteous who want to only do good.
Whether the Amalekite’s story is true or not, by it he condemned himself. It may have been David’s first knowledge of it and David thought the story was true, or not. In any case, the Amalekite produced proof of the death of Saul in the crown that had been on his head and the bracelet that had been on his arm. Does this mean Saul was so foolishly fond of these ornaments as to wear them in the field of battle, which merely made him a more obvious target for the archers? I see a close and sobering relationship between greed for important positions and their symbols and the pride attached to those positions. They make us the target of the devil’s fiery darts. Positions are given to us as opportunities to serve, not to glory in ourselves in them
Saul’s crown and armband fell into the hands of this Amalekite. Notice this irony. Saul spared the best of the Amalekites spoil, and now the best of his came to one Amalekite. He brought them to David, as the rightful owner now that Saul was dead, thinking that by this he might receive some reward or honor. An interesting tradition of the Jews is that this young Amalekite was the son of Doeg. Doeg, whom they suppose was Saul’s armor-bearer before Doeg slew himself, gave Saul’s crown and bracelet to his son, and told him to carry them to David, to gain favor with him. This is, however, is unlikely because Doeg’s son would have been so well known to Saul that Saul would not need to ask him, as he did this Amalekite, who are you. But this too is a part of the Amalekite’s story which we do not need to believe is all true. In any case, David had been long waiting for the crown, and now it was brought to him by an Amalekite. See how God can serve His own purposes of faithful promise-keeping to His people, even by men whose only aim is their own advancement.
3. Mourning for Saul, Jonathan, the Army and Israel 11-12
How did David receive this news? Far from being glad to hear it, as the Amalekite evidently expected, “David and all the men with him took hold of their clothes and tore them. They mourned and wept and fasted till evening for Saul and his son Jonathan, and for the army of the Lord and for the nation of Israel, because they had fallen by the sword” (vs11-12). David fell into spontaneous weeping, not only for his people Israel and Jonathan his friend, but also for Saul his enemy. This he did, not only as a man of honor, not wanting to be happy about his enemy’s defeat, but as a good, conscientious and sterling man of high moral standards, principles and scruples. This reaction proves that David had, from his heart, forgiven the injuries Saul had done him and bore him no malice. He knew this principle and perhaps is the one who this time, even before his son, Solomon, wrote it thought; “Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when they stumble, do not let your heart rejoice, or the Lord will see and disapprove and turn his wrath away from them. (Pr. 24:17,18) and “Whoever mocks the poor shows contempt for their Maker; whoever gloats over disaster will not go unpunished” (Pr 17:5).
The imprecatory psalms call down evil on another and express David’s desire for God’s justice and the triumph of good over evil and the ruin of his enemies. If we compare those imprecatory psalms with the verses before us now, we can conclude that the imprecatory psalms do not proceed from a spirit of revenge, or hatred, but from a holy zeal for the glory of God and the public good. From what David did here, when he heard of Saul’s death, we understand that his natural temper was very tender, and that he was kindly disposed even to those that hated him. He was very sincere, no question, in his mourning for Saul; it was not pretended. His sorrow was genuine and so strong that it moved those about him; for the weeping, tearing of clothes and fasting included “all the men with him.” It was probably a public fast and had patriotic overtones, for they wept not only for Saul and Jonathan, but also for Israel. We can easily imagine that they prayed for the restoration of Israel after this great loss.
4. David’s Pure Heart Revealed 13-16
The reward David gave to him the Amalekite speaks loudly. Instead of preferring and honoring him, he put him to death, judged him out of his own mouth, as a murderer of his king, and ordered him to be immediately executed. What a surprise this would have been to the messenger, who thought he should have favor shown him for his message. In vain might he have plead that he had Saul’s order for it, that it was a real kindness to Saul, that Saul must inevitably have died; all those pleas are singularly overruled: “Your blood be on your own head. Your own mouth testified against you when you said, ‘I killed the Lord’s anointed.’” (v 16)
David acted justly. The man was an Amalekite. Two times the man told David he was an Amalekite. That nation, and all that belonged to it, were doomed to destruction, so that, in slaying him, David did what his predecessor should have done and was rejected for not doing.
The Amalekite confessed his own crime, so that the evidence was in agreement with all laws sufficient to convict him. Every man is presumed to make the best of himself. If he did as he himself said he had done and killed Saul, he deserved to die for treason. But we know from I Samuel 31 that Saul took his own life. So even though he did not kill Saul, yet by boasting that he had done it, he plainly showed that if there had been occasion to he would have done it, and would have thought nothing of it. By boasting of it to David, he showed what opinion he had of David; that the Amalekite thought David would have been happy to know it was done. Did he not realize he was talking to David who many times had refused to do harm to the Lord’s anointed?
His lying to David, if indeed it was a lie, was highly criminal and proved, as sin, sooner or later always proves, that when we lie we harm ourselves.
David did honorably and conducted himself well. With this judgment, he demonstrated the sincerity of his grief and discouraged all others from thinking that by doing anything like what the Amalekite claimed to have done they would gain any favor from David. By taking this action, David, who was about to become the new king, recommended himself to the people as one that was zealous for public justice without concern for his own personal interests.
And we may also grasp something about the immorality of what we today call assisted suicide or euthanasia. We may determine from this story that to give assistance to any in murdering themselves, directly or indirectly, if done knowingly, brings with it the guilt of blood, and that life ought to be precious to us. Generally speaking, whatever contributes to life is good and whatever detracts from life is against life. Following this principle, good Christian leaders will seek to increase, improve, enrich and prolong life.