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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

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After the death of Saul and his three sons in the battle with Philistines recorded in 1 Samuel came the time for the reign of David. The first chapter of 2 Samuel serves as a natural transition of the kingship from Saul to David.

David was still living among Philistines when he heard that the Philistines and the Israelites just had a major battle. It is not difficult to see that David must have been eager to know about the outcome of the battle. He would probably welcome any reports from the battlefield.  Incidentally, the report came from one of the Amalekites who were spared by Saul in his disobedience to the Lord’s command to have them completely destroyed (1 Samuel 15:2-3).  Regardless of the reliability of the report, a few facts were revealed: 1) King Saul lost the battle and was killed together with his son Jonathan; 2) the reporter was an Amalekite; and 3) this Amalekite may have thought he was bringing “good tidings” (2 Samuel 4:10), the very fact that he brought Saul’s crown and bracelet to David showed that he recognized David as the successive king. 

To his surprise, David greatly mourned over the death of Saul and Jonathan, and the people of the LORD.  The Amalekite was not rewarded as he expected, but was executed according to his own words, saying, “I have slain the LORD’s anointed.”

David’s mourning was not merely a political show, for his real and deep grief was evidenced by his lamentation in the Song of the Bow.  David counseled Israel not to publish the death of Saul, rather to simply invite the daughters of Israel to also weep with him over Saul (vv. 24).  Saul had sought to kill David on several occasions, but David neither rejoiced nor showed any contempt for Saul.  The Lord’s instruction to love your enemy had greatly changed David’s perspective.  In his eyes, Saul was “the beauty of Israel” and “the mighty”, for he was the anointed of the LORD. From praising the virtues in his persecutor, David was actually giving glory to God from whom comes “every good gift and perfect gift” (James 1:17).  We, too, could give glory to God by seeing and talking about the good things of others, including our “enemies”.

In his lamentation, David highly praised Jonathan for his bravery, his filial love to his father Saul, and his committed loyalty to the people. Readers could almost feel David’s broken heart for losing such a great friend and share in his unspeakable sorrow.

The conflict between the two anointed, Saul and David, is reminiscent of the cosmic conflict between Michael and the Dragon (Revelation 12:7-9).  As David lamented over Saul’s death, so Jesus would weep over Satan and all those who rebelled with him.  It also corresponds with Jesus’s lament over the ruin of Jerusalem (Matt. 23:37-39).

The good news is that the day will soon come when all conflict will end and “God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain” (Revelation 21:4).

Samuel Wang

Center for East Asia Work