David's Lament
2 Samuel 1:17
And David lamented with this lamentation over Saul and over Jonathan his son:…

1. The Bible has been called "the record of human sorrows," and so it is. There are, however, parts of the sacred Scriptures where the shadows lay thickest, and the notes are ever in the minor key: I refer to the lamentations. What strains in music are more pathetic and moving than those of the "Marcia Funebre"! and when did ever Handel, or Beethoven, or Chopin exercise their genius with greater effect than in those compositions which unveil in sound the secret agony of bereavement! So in Holy Scripture, when the plectrum of the Spirit sweeps across the chords of the human soul in the dark hour of grief, there is something unspeakably touching in the inspired cadences.

2. Such outpourings of grief as are found in the dirge in this lesson, composed by David, may be "highly poetical," and betray the tense condition of the emotions; yet they are not devoid of moral teaching, and vividly depict the affectionate character of him who was a type of "the Man of sorrows."


1. I see in this the spirit of forgiveness. There was enough in Saul's dealings with David to have dulled the poignancy of grief, and even to have called up resentment. David's conduct seems an anticipation of the Christian precept, not only to forgive, but to love your enemies. Forgiveness of injuries, "the flower of charity," was ripened by the rays of the Sun of Righteousness, for there was little enough of it in the world before Christ came. I am not forgetting that Solomon said, "It is the glory of a man to pass by a transgression" (Proverbs 19:11). On the other hand, there is a tone of vindictiveness in parts of the Old Testament — in the Psalter, for instance — which reveals a low standard of morality in some respects. The "eye for eye" and "tooth for tooth" principle required nothing short of the Life and Death of Christ to dislodge it. Even David, on another occasion, betrayed something very much like the spirit of revenge (1 Kings 2:9). However, before us we have a beautiful instance of forgiveness, when the maxim, "De mortuis nil nisi bonum," was certainly not in the ascendant.

2. Moreover, David not only gave vent to his grief in the utterances of this elegy; but he taught it to the people. This arose from his generous desire that Israel should remember the greatness of Saul.

3. The object of teaching this dirge to the people was that they might remember it and repeat it. In the same way, the "Lamentations" of Jeremiah are repeated by the Jews at the "Wailing Place" with weeping, and thus the recollection of their sins and miseries is perpetuated. David willed that the memory of his predecessor should live in the hearts of the people.

4. David weeping over Saul is a type of Christ weeping over Jerusalem which rejected Him.


1. This was the climax of his grief, the bitterest element in the cup of sorrow.

2. David's sorrow arose from the friendship which existed between him and Jonathan (1 Samuel 18:1). Similarly, Jacob's love for Benjamin is described (Genesis 44:30). But this was outside all family ties. Strangers found in each other what they could not find in the domestic circle. This romantic form of love played a conspicuous part in the ancient world. Poets, artists, and philosophers made it their subject. Christianity has been taunted with its disregard of friendship. Yet the wider circles of love did not obliterate, in the heart of Christ, that. "love of mutual benevolence" which could delight in certain souls through an "affinity of natural qualities and feelings." Thus Lazarus was a friend of Christ, and St. John "the disciple whom Jesus loved."

3. But it may be admitted — although there are Christian friendships recorded in the history of the Church, and to be found amongst Christians, which are beautiful and separate from all that is essential or merely sentimental — that friendship has not the same conspicuous place which it had when Aristotle took two books of his "Ethics" to treat the theme; and there are reasons for this which need not now be discussed. It is sufficient to observe that its rightful value as a form of love is preserved. "What it seems to lose in importance, it gains in inward, worth by the consecration it receives from the Christian spirit" (Luthardt).

4. The description of Jonathan's love for David has ever been interpreted as a type of the love of the Christian for Christ, David's Son and Lord; and the covenant which he made with him, and the way he stripped himself of his robes and weapons (1 Samuel 18:3, 4), to be an image of the covenant with Christ, and the willingness to be stripped of all for His sake. The strong language which depicts the fervour of natural affection is a vehicle to describe the intensity and transforming character of Christian love.Lessons:

1. To try to learn the lesson — hard for flesh and blood, but possible through the grace of the Holy Spirit, not only to forgive, but to love those who have injured us. Though Saul had sought David's life, David wept over Saul's death.

2. To learn from the friendship between Jonathan and David, and the value which has been set upon friendship, how important is the choice of friends. How the influence may be powerful either for good or evil which comes from companionship: "With the holy thou shalt be holy, and with a perfect man thou shalt be perfect;" so the opposite, "With the froward thou shalt learn forwardness" (Psalm 18:25, 26).

3. All human friendship must be subordinate to the love of that Friend who laid down His life for us, and who is faithful when all others desert us.

(W. H. Hutchings, M. A.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: And David lamented with this lamentation over Saul and over Jonathan his son:

WEB: David lamented with this lamentation over Saul and over Jonathan his son

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