2 Samuel 1:17
And David lamented with this lamentation over Saul and over Jonathan his son:
Without entering into the controversy on "the book of Jasher," let us consider the text as it is presented in our version. We have in the text an illustration of —
I. THE COMBINATION OF THE POETICAL AND THE PRACTICAL IN ONE PERSON. Where will you find a truer, sweeter, deeper, more gifted poet than David? Where will you find a more natural and soul-moving lyrical outburst of grief than this over Jonathan? Tennyson's tender and touching, delicate and profound, and, to bereaved hearts, unspeakably precious "In Memoriam" is poor compared with this Davidic ode. Yet the poet, in his sorrow and his dirge, is wise, forecasting, politic, practical. With the bow and arrow Saul and Jonathan had been slain, so David would have the children of Judah well trained in "the use of the bow."
1. When the poetic is unpractical, merely dreamy, unsubstantial, vain, it loses all true worth — ceases, indeed, to be poetry; for the poet, as the name indicates, is a maker, a creator.
2. When the practical is dissociated from the poetic, it becomes dreary, unexalting, ignoble. When men aim at the merely utilitarian, they miss even their own low mark. We need the ideal, the poetic, in combination with the practical and utilitarian, to attain to completeness and symmetry. "The use of the bow" and the use of the lyre must go together, if we would have a symmetrical order of things — a cosmos.
II. THE DISORDER OF HUMAN NATURE. Saul and Jonathan are slain. The earth has not yet absorbed their blood. A deep, genuine, sacred sorrow is wailing in sad minor key through the soul of David. Surely it is a most pathetic, reverent time with the poet king! Yet he must give instructions as to "the use of the bow." Sorrowing for the absent ones removed by skilful archers, yet he deems it prudent to have the children of Judah made skilful archers, that they in their turn may make wives widows, happy children orphans, and take other Jonathans away from other Davids. There must be some "cursed obliquity" in human nature; the normal must have given place to the abnormal, ere this could have come to pass. The Biblical narrative of human apostasy is, we believe, the key to the enigma.
III. THE IMPERMANENCE OF HUMAN WORKS. Where is "the book of Jasher?" Who knows it? What did it contain? Was it in prose or poetry? Was it dialectical or didactic? We know something of the theories concerning it; but with any theory we must feel how impermanent are human doings. Suppose it means:
1. A book by some one named Jasher. Well, who was he? What was his character? What was his book about? Where now is all the treasure of his heart and brain, which he poured forth in his book? Alas! Jasher, we condole with thee.
2. A book for the regulation of equity between man and man. How sad that any attempt, even the feeblest, to rectify the disordered state of human affairs, should fail! Surely, in any normal state, any effort to promote equity should succeed and be remembered. But even such a book is not permanent.
3. A book in which the heroic deeds of righteous men were recorded. That must live !A righteous man — how grand! But what adjective is adequate to set forth "the heroic deeds of a righteous man"? A righteous man and heroic worker — surely the book that speaks of such must live! Alas, no! This book of the heroic deeds of the upright has gone.
IV. THE PERMANENCE OF LIFE, AS CONTRASTED WITH ITS TEMPORARY HUMAN RECORDS. "The book of Jasher" is no more; but the men and their deeds of whom it contained records, they are not no more; the men live, the influence of the deeds lives. Books pass away, men endure; records of deeds are soon lost, the influence of deeds lives on. Do not write a poem; live a poem. Trouble not about the record of the life; but be careful of the life. "The book of Jasher" may be unimportant; but the life of Jasher is of incalculable importance, perhaps to many, certainly to Jasher.
Parallel VersesKJV: And David lamented with this lamentation over Saul and over Jonathan his son: