After the slaughter and plunder of the Amalekites, David and his men, the wives, the children—everybody—returns to Ziklag. They’ve only been home for two days when they get the weirdest visitor. It’s a man, obviously marked for mourning in that he’s torn his clothing and has put ashes on his head – as if something is very wrong. The guy claims to have escaped from Israel’s camp – as if to say, “I fought with Israel and barely made it out alive.”
Well, less than a week earlier David had been moving toward the front lines of that battle in his pretended ruse with Achish. So he asks this weird visitor how it went.
“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. 2nd Samuel 1:4-12 niv 2011
David was devastated to learn that Saul was dead – even though their past should indicate relief more than sorrow at Saul’s passing. Saul was the leader of David’s nation. He not only mourned for Saul and Jonathon, but for the army of Israel as well – God’s peculiar treasure. It’s David’s mourning here that leads me to believe that the Philistine princes were wise to have Achish send him away from the battle. Perhaps David would have risen up from the ranks and laid waste to the Philistines after all.
And after a full day of mourning, David calls the weird visitor back to his presence:
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?” 2nd Samuel 1:13-14 niv 2011
Here’s the thing…if this man had indeed been fighting with Israel, he would have been familiar with Israel’s ways, and he would have known all about David and why David had refused on two prior occasions to kill Saul. Remember the armor-bearer was terrified and would not do it 1st Samuel 31:4 niv 2011
I think at this point David has it figured out that this Amalekite did not just happen to be on Mount Gilboa that day. Chances are, the Amalekite reached Saul and his sons before the Philistines and raided the dead bodies. He may have even witnessed Saul take his own life, but he changes the story in order to receive some kind of a reward from David for slaying what appears to be his mortal enemy.
David had lived a very duplicitous life. The consequence of that was that the Amalekite assumed that he and David were cut from the same cloth. But David has had a change of heart.
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.’” 2nd Samuel 1:15-16 niv 2011
In David’s actions here, and also in Chapter 4, David is quick to establish the fact that he’s not happy about Saul’s death, nor is he out to usurp Saul’s throne. He’s going out on a limb of commitment publicly as regards the righteousness and truth of God and His ways – and then he makes public a musical lament for Saul and Jonathon that flatters them in a very majestic and royal way. David is sincere in his expressions. His heart is right before God. But he’s also very careful to make sure that everyone familiar with his conflict with Saul knows exactly what side David is going to come down on – and that is the side of God Almighty.
Otto von Gerlach wrote: (German theologian from the mid 1800’s)
The only deep mourning for Saul, with the exception of that of the Jabeshites (I Samuel xxxi. 11), proceeded from the man whom he had hated and persecuted for so many years even to the time of his death; just as David’s successor [Jesus Christ] wept over the fall of Jerusalem, even when it was about to destroy [Him].
—Otto von Gerlach, 1795–1877
This is one of those awesome parallels between David and Jesus that I’m still trying very hard to sort through.
David loved Saul deeply and sincerely, and was sorry to realize that he had died before reconciliation could take place – before the restoration of their relationship.
Matthew reports that Jesus lamented over Jerusalem in the same way on Tuesday of the week He was crucified:
37 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. 38 Look, your house is left to you desolate.’” Matthew 23:37-38 niv 2011
God loves His peculiar treasure unconditionally – Saul was that kind of a peculiar treasure to David. David wanted to be with Saul and his family the same way God wants to be with Israel – but she would never listen, and her house was left desolate.
Saul’s house, as well, was left desolate.
Like Israel to Jesus, Saul did not want God’s anointed king to serve and protect. He fought David with everything he had, until Saul was finally dead.
David was a blessed warrior, who had proven himself time and time again, and yet Saul wanted him dead.
Christ fought many a battle for the nation of Israel, and had delivered her many times. Yet, when He stood right there in front of them they didn’t recognize His majesty.
10He was in the world, and though the world was made through Him, the world did not recognize Him. 11He came to that which was His own, and His own did not receive Him. John 1:10-11 niv 1984
Like Saul wanted David dead, and only for the sake of his righteousness, Israel sought to crucify Jesus Christ because of His righteousness. They didn’t want to hear any of it.
Back to the account of David…
God tells David to go to Hebron, where the men of Judah anoint David king. This is where David learns of the kindness of the people of Jabesh Gilead toward Saul and his sons. David then sends a message of thanks, but it’s also sort of an invitation to recognize him as king as the men of Judah had done.
There’s much more to this particular adventure of David, so come back next week for The Grass is Always Greener Part 2 in our series: The Lion of Judah.
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