Selfish Craft
2 Samuel 1:2-10
It came even to pass on the third day, that, behold, a man came out of the camp from Saul with his clothes rent, and earth on his head…

Beyond the assertion of the Amalekite that Israel was defeated and Saul and Jonathan were dead, of which the diadem and bracelet afforded proof, it is uncertain how far his story was true. His statement concerning his own conduct cannot be satisfactorily reconciled with that of 1 Samuel 31.; and, although credited by David, it was probably a fabrication, his motive therein being the desire of reward, as David himself clearly perceived (2 Samuel 4:16). In him we have a picture of what sometimes appears in others under higher moral influences, viz.:

1. Dominant selfishness. He is supremely concerned about his own interest. Self-love is an original principle of our nature, and, when properly regulated, points in the direction of virtue and happiness. But it easily degenerates into selfishness, "the source of all the sins of omission and commission which are found in the world." And when a man comes under the dominion of the latter, he may sink into any depth of meanness.

2. Subtle scheming. Amidst the dying and the dead, after the battle, his only thought is of gain; and, having plundered the fallen king of the regalia, he coolly calculates how he may dispose thereof to the greatest advantage; and then hastens a long distance across the country to one whom he expects to find ready to welcome the prospect of his own elevation by an enemy's death, and to pay him "the wages of unrighteousness."

3. Feigned sympathy. He comes into the presence of David "with the marks of distress and dismay - dust and clay smeared over his face, and his clothes torn" - on account of the disaster which has befallen Israel (1 Samuel 4:12). But how little does his appearance correspond with the feelings of his heart! "Self-love sometimes borrows the face of honest zeal" (Hall).

4. Obsequious homage. "He fell to the earth, and did obeisance;" prostrating himself before the rising sun of the new era with abject, insincere, and wicked mind. "To those who are distinguished in the kingdom of God as specially called and favoured instruments of grace, falsehood and hypocrisy draw near most pressingly and corruptingly in the guise of humility and self-abasement" (Erdmann).

5. Plausible lying. (Vers. 6-9.) He artfully mingles falsehood with the truth he utters, for the sake of enhancing the value of his good offices. If he had been satisfied with simply telling the tidings of the death of Saul, all would have been well with him; but by his gratuitous inventions he entangles himself in a dangerous snare.

6. Unconscious self-accusation. "I stood upon him, and slew him, because I was sure that he could not live after that he was fallen" (ver. 10). He accuses himself in the excuses he makes for his conduct. Qui s'excuse s'accuse. Even the request of Saul would not have justified his act or absolved him from responsibility. And how could he be sure that the wounded king could not live? Even the most hardened villain deems it needful to endeavour to palliate his offence. And he who is solely intent upon his own interest often makes admissions that clearly reveal his guilt.

7. Fatal miscalculation. He judges of the character of another by his own, meets with a generosity, loyalty, and justice which he cannot understand, fails of his purpose, and receives a reward which he did not anticipate. "The incident gives us the opportunity of marking the immense difference in the order of mind and character which may subsist between two individuals brought together by one event, and having their attention occupied by one and the same object" (J.A. Miller, 'Saul'). "He taketh the wise in their own craftiness" (Job 5:13). "The wicked is snared in the work of his own hands" (Psalm 9:16; Proverbs 6:15; Proverbs 18:7). - D.

Parallel Verses
KJV: It came even to pass on the third day, that, behold, a man came out of the camp from Saul with his clothes rent, and earth upon his head: and so it was, when he came to David, that he fell to the earth, and did obeisance.

WEB: it happened on the third day, that behold, a man came out of the camp from Saul, with his clothes torn, and earth on his head: and so it was, when he came to David, that he fell to the earth, and did obeisance.

A Change of Dynasty
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