The Mighty Have Fallen – 2 Samuel 1&2

After defeating the Amalekites, David and his men returned to the city of Ziklag which was burned to the ground. Two days later, while they were plotting their next move and possible place of relocation, a man arrived from Saul’s camp with his clothes torn and dust on his head. It is obvious that this man was in mourning and had brought with him some dire news. When David enquired the man about his whereabouts and the news that he had brought, the man replied,

“The men fled from the battle,” he replied. “Many of them fell and died. And Saul and his son Jonathan are dead.”

2 Samuel 1:4 (NIV)

When David asked the man how he knew that Saul was dead, the man narrated the failed suicide attempt made by Saul and how he had killed the king of Israel upon his request. On hearing the proof that Saul was dead, David and his men tore their clothes and went into mourning. They fasted till evening for Saul, Jonathan and the fallen men of Israel. After they had mourned the death of the king of Israel, David went back to the man and asked him about his lineage.

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.
David asked him, “Why weren’t you afraid to lift your hand to destroy the LORD’s anointed? ”
Then David called one of his men and said, “Go, strike him down!” So he struck him down, and he died.

2 Samuel 1:13-15 (NIV)

The fact that Saul survived his suicide attempt is debated, with many having the opinion that the Amalekite was only lying to get into the good books of David, the new king of Israel. Even though the man was part of Saul’s army, he was an Amalekite living in Israel and that would have made him anxious, especially as a new regime under David was commencing. He would have also heard what his people had done to David’s home. The Amalekites had burned down the city of Ziklag which resulted in a war with David’s men where they lost their lives. Perhaps the man wanted to start on the right foot with the new king by giving him the good news that he played his part in killing David’s enemy Saul.

While the other side is that Saul could have very well been alive after he fell on his sword and the incident that the Amalekite narrated to David was actually true. David was furious at the man and how casually he spoke about killing the Lord’s anointed. The Amalekites had just burned his home and another one of them had just killed the king of Israel. We cannot be sure that David’s own men would have not done the same but perhaps this was a warning to anyone else who dared to take matters into their own hands and kill the Lord’s anointed. David felt that even when being betrayed by Saul several times, if he can show the restraint of not killing his offender, then everyone else in the country should have also done the same.

It can be said that it was easy for David to kill a foreigner, but he gave the same treatment to the men who killed Saul’s son Ish-Bosheth. David harbours no ill towards his predecessor as he writes a lament for Saul and his best friend Jonathan and orders the people of Judah to learn it by heart. He wants the entire land to weep with him for the fallen king forgetting all the ills that he and his countrymen had been put through because of Saul.

David regarded Saul as the anointed one of God. Saul was the first king of Israel, who was ordained by the prophet Samuel. David went into countless battles for both his country and the king. Not only was he the commander of Saul’s army but David was also his son-in-law as he had paid the price of a hundred Philistine foreskins for the hand of Michal, Saul’s daughter in marriage.

However, Saul did not share the same emotion for David as he despised him and attempted to kill him on several occasions. David knew that the hand of God was with him and that he would be made ruler of the land but he waited for Lord’s time rather than taking matters into his own hand. He spent the majority of his life on the run from Saul, hiding in caves and the wilderness. And when being presented with the opportunity to strike down his nemesis he always took the high road. David truly loved his country and was sad to see his king being shamed by the enemy and paraded around in the Philistine territory thinking that they had defeated the Lord’s army.

Perhaps David did not want to ruffle any feathers as he needed the support of Saul’s followers to establish himself as the king of Israel. Not knowing the will of God will always cause us to be grieved when his plans are revealed and carried out. We would always be in a state of anxiety as we had the opportunity to be in on the plan but we gave up the right by choosing to go our own way.

King of Judah

After some time had passed, David inquired of the Lord if he should go up to one of the towns of Judah. The Lord answered him and told him to go to Hebron. So David went to Hebron taking with him his two wives and all his men and their families. At Hebron, the men of Judah appointed David as king over their tribe.

When David was told about what the men of Jabesh Gilead had done for Saul by risking their lives and retrieving his mortal remains, he sent messengers to them with words of gratitude.

May the LORD now show you kindness and faithfulness, and I too will show you the same favor because you have done this. Now then, be strong and brave, for Saul your master is dead, and the people of Judah have anointed me king over them.”

2 Samuel 2:6-7 (NIV)

David would have wanted to thank the people of Jabesh Gilead for the courage they had shown when they went into the enemy territory and retrieved the decapitated body of their king. They prevented Saul from further disgrace and gave a proper burial to their king.

David would have also known that the men of Jabesh Gilead did this out of love for Saul as he had rescued them from the brutal king of the Ammonites, Nahash. He might have wanted to subtly let the people of Jabesh Gilead know that he had been ordained king of the Judean territories and that they can choose to align with him and be a part of his kingdom.

The Second Kingdom

Israel Divided

Across the Jordan, in the northern part of the country, Saul’s commander, Abner, had taken Ish-Bosheth, son of Saul and brought him over to Mahanaim. He made him king over the regions of Gilead, Ashuri and Jezreel and also over Ephraim, Benjamin and all of Israel. After some time Abner, took Ish-Bosheth and left Mahanaim and went to Gibeon. There they were met by Joab’s men at the pool of Gibeon with each group sitting on either side of the pool.

Battle of the Commanders

Then Abner said to Joab, “Let’s have some of the young men get up and fight hand to hand in front of us.”
“All right, let them do it,” Joab said.
So they stood up and were counted off—twelve men for Benjamin and Ish-Bosheth son of Saul, and twelve for David. Then each man grabbed his opponent by the head and thrust his dagger into his opponent’s side, and they fell down together. So that place in Gibeon was called Helkath Hazzurim.
The battle that day was very fierce, and Abner and the Israelites were defeated by David’s men.

2 Samuel 2:14-17 (NIV)

Now Joab had a brother named Asahel, who was part of David’s thirty warriors and was known for his fleet-footedness as he was the fastest runner among them. He had made up his mind to kill Abner and chased him relentlessly turning neither to the left nor to the right. When Abner saw Asahel behind him, he told him to go after the other young men from Saul’s army and stop chasing him. But Asahel refused to give up the pursuit and was determined to catch Abner and kill him.

… so Abner thrust the butt of his spear into Asahel’s stomach, and the spear came out through his back. He fell there and died on the spot. And every man stopped when he came to the place where Asahel had fallen and died.

2 Samuel 2:23 (NIV)

Seeing their brother being killed by Abner, Joab and his brother Abishai pursued him till sunset. They came to the hill of Ammah near Giah.

Abner called out to Joab, “Must the sword devour forever? Don’t you realize that this will end in bitterness? How long before you order your men to stop pursuing their fellow Israelites?”

2 Samuel 2:26 (NIV)

Joab blew the trumpet and called an end to the battle. The men of Judah did not pursue the Israelites and returned home. Abner and his men marched through Arabah and crossed through Jordan and came back to Mahanaim. Twenty of David’s men were killed while Abner’s army had incurred a loss of three hundred and sixty Benjamites. The brothers took Asahel and buried him at their father’s tomb in Bethlehem and returned to Hebron.

The commanders of Saul and David’s army had a grudge of their own to settle. When David was on the run, he alluded that Abner was feeding Saul with misinformation about him. But now David was open to Abner having a role in his army. But there could only be one commander of that Army. Abner might have felt it is his rightful position and was not going to let Joab oust him. Both men were trying to secure their future in their own way and were ready to sacrifice the lives of the young men of their respective armies.

Our selfish desires blind us from seeing things from the perspective of God. We abandon the will of God for our lives in pursuit of our desires and go on hurting everyone around us. Instead of putting ourselves first, we must understand that God has put us on this earth to serve others and not to be served by others.

Our purpose in life should not be to extract what we can from others around us but to spread the love of Jesus in our communities. We should not be creating hostilities in the name of religion but bonding with each other in the name of the one who unites us all by His love. The mighty have fallen but Jesus has risen to give us a new life through His death. Let us extend the same love to all creatures of God, regardless of the tribe they belong to.

Discussion Questions

1:15 – Why did David have the Amalekite killed who was only following Saul’s orders?
1:27 – Why is David grieving for Saul? Should we be grieving when God is accomplishing His will in our lives?
2:7 – Is David intimating the men of Jabesh Gilead about the change in power in his condolence message?
2: 32 – What were Abner and Joab trying to achieve through their impromptu battle?


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