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Poole on 2 Samuel 1:17, 18: David's Lamentation over Saul and Jonathan, Part 1

Verse 17:[1]  And David lamented with this lamentation over Saul and over Jonathan his son…


Verse 18:[2]  ([1 Sam. 31:3] Also he bade them teach the children of Judah the use of the bow:  behold, it is written [Josh. 10:13] in the book of Jasher [or, of the upright[3]].)

[And he ordered that they teach the children of Judah the bow,וַיֹּ֕אמֶר לְלַמֵּ֥ד בְּנֵֽי־יְהוּדָ֖ה קָ֑שֶׁתAnd he said, or ordered, that they teach the children of Judah the bow (Syriac, Strigelius) (with the bow [Tigurinus], the use of the bow [English], to shoot with the bow [Pagnine, similarly Jonathan]).  These words do not pertain to the lamentation of David.  But, since such illustrious men were dead, he advises his own, that they, as if hopeless and desperate, should not lay aside the arms of war, among which the bow was at that time holding a principal place; but that they should all the more teach their sons the arts of war (Munster).  Now, he had said, etc., that is, he had previously exhorted that they teach…the bow, that is, the art of war; lest they should despair because of the death of Saul; for they were going to be illustrious in the art of war (Vatablus).  And he proclaimed (Hebrew:  he said, a Synecdoche of genus) that they (namely, the prefects in charge of military operations) should teach them to handle the bow, evidently after the example of Saul and Jonathan (Piscator).  Which he set forth, to teach…to handle the bow (Junius and Tremellius), that is, this lamentation he set forth, so that, with this related through his fellow tribesmen, he might incite them, as it were, to acquire skill in archery (Junius).  He says this in the first place, so that he might give courage to the Jews, lest they be discouraged by the following lamentation (Dutch).  The sense:  David willed that they be instructed in the art of war (for the bow is taken for every class of arms [Sanchez, Tirinus, similarly Mariana]); and especially in the art of archery, of which great use was made at that time in war (Menochius), so that they might be able set over against the Philistines, who were quite skillful in this art (Tirinus), as it is evident from 1 Samuel 31:3 (Estius).  But it is not to be thought that the men of Judah were then to be taught the use of the bow; for this was common military training at that time.  The Hebraism of the bow is like to that of bread:  it is used for every class of arms (John Gregorie’s[4] Notes and Observations on Some Passages of Sacred Scripture[5] 1).  David was wanting to indicate that most grievous wars with the Philistines were imminent, and so all ought to be trained in arms (Tirinus out of Sanchez).  You will ask, What does the lamentation have to do with war?  Certainly, so that they, admonished by defeat, might be exercised in the arts of war with greater care, and not lose heart.  But why does he teach the children of Judah? because among the tribes they were holding the first place; and he himself was of that tribe (Mariana); and that tribe was having a promise from God concerning the kingdom, and concerning fortitude in war, Genesis 49:8-10 (Dutch).  [Others understand the passage completely differently.]  The Bow here is the title of the following song (thus Mariana, Sanchez, Serarius,[6] Lapide, Tirinus, Gregorie), because the bow of Saul and Jonathan is here commended (Sanchez).  [They prove this exposition in this way:]  1.  Because it is said of this bow, behold, it is written, etc. (Serarius).  2.  The Septuagint says that David published this lamentation; neither do the translators have any other term that corresponds to the bow.  3.  It is related that David spoke for this reason, that he might teach the children of Judah:  Teach them what? namely, that which they just called a lamentation.  4.  Because it was customary to teach and to speak lamentations of this sort, as it is evident from Deuteronomy 17;[7] 2 Chronicles 35:25; Jeremiah 9:20 (Serarius, Lapide).  5.  It was of old the custom to brand songs with various names of this sort, as is The Egg, Wings, and The Hatchet, in the works of Simmias of Rhodes;[8] The Shepherd’s Pipe, and The Shield, in the works of Theocritus[9] (Serarius).  Thus among the Greeks a certain Ode was called Harmodium, because it celebrates the heroic deeds of Harmodius.[10]  Other Odes were called Daphne, and Niobe, because they highly extol them (Lapide out of Sanchez).  Thus a few of the Psalms of David are called by their titles, like Psalm 22, the hind of the morning;[11] and Psalm 45, lilies[12] (Sanchez, Gregorie).  6.  Otherwise there is no connection here; for what does a bow have to do with lamentation? (Lapide).  He ordered that he teach, etc.  He took care that during the military exercises these verses were sung.  This song demonstrates that poetic figures flourished among those nations, no less than among the Greeks or Romans (Grotius). 

Also:  Having mentioned David’s lamentation in general, before he comes to the particular description of it, he interposeth this verse by way of parenthesis; to signify, that David did not so give up himself to lamentation as to neglect his great business, the care of the commonwealth, which now lay upon him; but took particular care to fortify them against such further losses and calamities as he bewails in the following song; and by his example, and this counsel, to instruct the people, that they should not give up themselves to sorrow and despondency for their great and general loss; but should raise up their spirits, and betake themselves to action.  He bade them:  David being now actually king upon Saul’s death, takes his power upon him, and gives forth his commands.  The children of Judah:  These he more particularly teacheth, because they were the chief, and now the royal tribe, and likely to be the great bulwark to all Israel against the Philistines, upon whose land they bordered; and withal, to be the most friendly and true to him, and to his interest.  The use of the bow, that is, the use of their arms, which are all synecdochically expressed under the name of the bow, which then was one of the chief weapons; and for the dexterous use whereof Jonathan is commended in the following song:  which may be one reason why he now gives forth this order, that so they might strive to imitate Jonathan in the military skill, and to excel in it, as he did.

[Just as it is written in the book of the just[13]]  Question 1:  What is this book?  Concerning it, see the things said on Joshua 10:13[14] (Grotius, Menochius).  Responses:  1.  The Book of Genesis, which is the book of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the most upright of men.  For that book often teaches it (namely, the art of war), as in Genesis 49:8, thy hand shall be on the neck of thine enemies (Munster out of the Hebrews).  2.  The Book of Samuel, in which are contained those righteous prophets, Samuel, Gad, and Nathan, in which it is written how Saul, withdrawing from God, perished.  But one and the same book and author would not cite himself (Lapide).  3.  The Book of the Law or the Pentateuch (Chaldean in Sanchez).  4.  This book (which I think lost) was a directory, in which there is a treatment of what is just and right (for it is to be noted that the book is not called יְשָׁרִים, of the righteous, but יָשָׁר, of the right), of justice and law, and the duty of each, both of the king and of the people, in every public function.  In which were contained both the blessings of God, and the manner of giving thanks to God.  5.  Perhaps this was the book, in which are transcribed pious songs, and psalms composed by various authors, from which the Psalter was composed, from which, nevertheless, this and other songs, because they do not speak with God either by praise or by prayer, etc., were afterwards rejected (Sanchez).  Question 2:  What then was to be written in this book?  Responses:  1.  This Funeral Ode (Sanchez, Serarius, Lapide, Piscator, Lapide), of which only a part is found here (Lapide out of Serarius).  2.  That soldiers are to be taught the bow, or military discipline:  for, this, as especially necessary, is for good reason place in the Book of Righteousness, or of duties; so that the Prince might have a way of honestly and peacefully ruling the republic (Sanchez).

It is written; not the following song, as many think, for that is written here, and therefore it was needless to refer us to another book for it; but this foregoing counsel and course which David took to repair the last loss, which is here mentioned but briefly, and in general terms; but, as it seems, more largely and particularly described in the book of Jasher; of which see on Joshua 10:13.

[1] Hebrew:  ‎וַיְקֹנֵ֣ן דָּוִ֔ד אֶת־הַקִּינָ֖ה הַזֹּ֑את עַל־שָׁא֖וּל וְעַל־יְהוֹנָתָ֥ן בְּנֽוֹ׃

[2] Hebrew:  ‎וַיֹּ֕אמֶר לְלַמֵּ֥ד בְּנֵֽי־יְהוּדָ֖ה קָ֑שֶׁת הִנֵּ֥ה כְתוּבָ֖ה עַל־סֵ֥פֶר הַיָּשָֽׁר׃

[3] Hebrew:  ‎הַיָּשָׁר.

[4] John Gregorie (1607-1646) was an English divine and churchman.  In spite of the relative brevity of his life, his attainments in learning were considerable, especially in Oriental studies.  He was preferred to the Prebendary of Salisbury in 1641, but he was deprived at the outbreak of the civil war.

[5] Notæ et Observationes in Aliquot Sacræ Scripturæ Loca.

[6] Nicholas Serarius (1555-1610) was a Jesuit scholar.  He served as Professor of Theology at the University of Mentz.  He wrote Commentariuu in Librum Josuæ, Judicum, Ruth, Regum, et Paralipomenon.

[7] Deuteronomy 27 or 31 may have been intended.

[8] Simmias of Rhodes (fourth century BC) was a Greek grammarian and Poet.

[9] Theocritus (third century BC) was a Greek Poet.

[10] Harmodius and Aristogeiton (both died 514 BC), also known as the Tyrannicides, were Athenian heroes, who attempted the assassination of Hippias, tyrant of Athens.  In the event, Hippias survived the attempt; but his brother, Hipparchus, was killed:  Harmodius died in the attempt; Aristogeiton was executed afterwards.  Although the Tyrannicides failed to kill Hippias, it opened the way for Cleomenes I, King of Sparta, to drive Hippias into exile.

[11] Psalm 22 title:  “To the chief Musician upon Aijeleth Shahar (‎עַל־אַיֶּ֥לֶת הַשַּׁ֗חַר, upon the Hind of the Morning), A Psalm of David.”

[12] Psalm 45 title:  “To the chief Musician upon Shoshannim (‎עַל־שֹׁשַׁנִּים, upon Lilies), for the sons of Korah, Maschil, A Song of loves.”

[13] Hebrew:  ‎כְתוּבָ֖ה עַל־סֵ֥פֶר הַיָּשָֽׁר׃.

[14] Joshua 10:13:  “And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies.  Is not this written in the book of Jasher (‎הֲלֹא־הִ֥יא כְתוּבָ֖ה עַל־סֵ֣פֶר הַיָּשָׁ֑ר)?  So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and hasted not to go down about a whole day.”

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Poole on Joshua 10:13: 'Verse 13:[1]  And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies.  (2 Sam. 1:18) Is not this written in the book of Jasher (or, the upright[2])?  So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and hasted not to go down about a whole day.

[And the sun and moon stood still]  Question:  Did they actually stand still?  Response 1:  Some deny that anything changed in heaven, but therefore something appeared to have changed, because on earth Joshua conducted so great matters with such swiftness that it rather appeared that the day was prolonged, and that the Sun stood still, than that he conducted those things…


Psalms in Worship (ed. John McNaugher): 'From the Word of God we gather that in the early days of the Jewish Church song did not have the prominent place it held in later times, but it would be a mistake to conclude from this that the people of God did not as individuals and as a congregation engage in praise to Him Who brought them, as a vine, out of Egypt, and planted them in the promised land. The songs of Moses and Miriam, of Deborah and Hannah, together with the indications that the books of "Jasher" [Joshua 10:13; 2 Samuel 1:18] and the "Wars of the Lord" [Numbers 21:14] were poetical productions, teach that from their earliest national existenc…


Matthew Henry: 'When David had rent his clothes, mourned, and wept, and fasted, for the death of Saul, and done justice upon him who made himself guilty of it, one would think he had made full payment of the debt of honour he owed to his memory; yet this is not all: we have here a poem he wrote on that occasion; for he was a great master of his pen as well as of his sword. By this elegy he designed both to express his own sorrow for this great calamity and to impress the like on the minds of others, who ought to lay it to heart. The putting of lamentations into poems made them, 1. The mor…


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