2 Samuel 2:30-32
And Joab returned from following Abner: and when he had gathered all the people together…
What a glorious thing must be a victory, sir! it was remarked to the Duke of Wellington. "The greatest tragedy in the world," he replied, "except a defeat" ('Recollections,' by S. Rogers). The rejoicing by which it is attended, is usually mingled with weeping and sometimes swallowed up of grief. Various persons are thus affected for various reasons. Think of the sorrows endured:
1. At the fall of fellow soldiers. "Nineteen men and Asahel" (vers. 23, 30) who come not to the muster after sunset (vers. 24, 30), nor answer to the roll call, but lie in the chill embrace of death. "Alas! fallen are the heroes."
2. In the burial of the dead. (Ver. 32.) No opportunity is afforded for seeking out and burying all the slain; but the remains of Asahel are carried across the hills by night (ver. 29) and laid in the tomb of his father in Bethlehem, where the sorrow of the preceding day is renewed. It reminds us of a pathetic scene of recent times described in the familiar lines —
"We buried him darkly at dead of night,
The sod with our bayonets turning;
By the struggling moonbeam's misty light,
And our lanterns dimly burning."
3. When the news is conveyed to their homes. "They came to Hebron at break of day;" a day of bitter grief to many bereaved hearts. "By the slaughter of a war there are thousands who weep in unpitied and unnoticed secrecy whom the world does not see; and thousands who retire in silence to hopeless poverty for whom the world does not care" (Dymond).
4. For the miseries of fellow sufferers; the enemy - defeated, bereaved, and mourning - for they too are "brethren," and cannot but be remembered with sympathy and pity.
5. Concerning the state of the departed. A soldier's life is not favourable to piety and preparation for heaven, and the passions by which he is commonly swayed when his earthly probation is suddenly terminated are such that we can seldom contemplate his entrance into the eternal world with feelings of cheerfulness and hope. "After death the judgment."
6. On account of the animosities of the living, which are increased by conflict and victory, and are certain to be a source of future trouble (2 Samuel 3:1, 30, 33).
7. Because of the dishonour done to the cause of the Lord's Anointed. Religion suffers, the progress of the kingdom is hindered, and the King himself is "grieved for the misery of Israel." "The victory that day was turned into mourning" (2 Samuel 19:2). So is every victory gained by "the devouring sword." But there are victories which are bloodless and tearless, sources of unmingled joy; spiritual victories over ignorance and sin won by and through the might of him at whose birth the angels sang upon those hills of Bethlehem, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men." - D.
Parallel VersesKJV: And Joab returned from following Abner: and when he had gathered all the people together, there lacked of David's servants nineteen men and Asahel.