Summary: Encouragement to memorialise the sacrifice of those who serve the nation.
“Your glory, O Israel, is slain on your high places!
How the mighty have fallen!
Tell it not in Gath,
publish it not in the streets of Ashkelon,
lest the daughters of the Philistines rejoice,
lest the daughters of the uncircumcised exult.
“You mountains of Gilboa,
let there be no dew or rain upon you,
nor fields of offerings!
For there the shield of the mighty was defiled,
the shield of Saul, not anointed with oil.
“From the blood of the slain,
from the fat of the mighty,
the bow of Jonathan turned not back,
and the sword of Saul returned not empty.
“Saul and Jonathan, beloved and lovely!
In life and in death they were not divided;
they were swifter than eagles;
they were stronger than lions.
“You daughters of Israel, weep over Saul,
who clothed you luxuriously in scarlet,
who put ornaments of gold on your apparel.
‘How the mighty have fallen
in the midst of the battle!
‘Jonathan lies slain on your high places.
I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan;
very pleasant have you been to me;
your love to me was extraordinary,
surpassing the love of women.
“How the mighty have fallen,
and the weapons of war perished!”
he old king was brave, of that there was no doubt. He had fought the nation’s wars, leading his army against the enemies of the state in multiple campaigns. He was not perfect; however, he was God’s anointed to lead the nation. He had not obeyed God perfectly. He had deliberately sinned on multiple occasions. The sins were not significant in the eyes of many, even in the eyes of many among the churches in this day. Nevertheless, his sins were egregious and displeasing before the Living God.
His bravery was displayed in this final battle. To demonstrate the reality of this statement, it is necessary to go back a bit and examine the events preceding the last battle. Saul had become obsessed with killing David. His rage was inspired primarily by the knowledge that God had removed divine blessing from the king, anointing David. Though David had served Saul loyally, leading the army and valiantly defending the nation, Saul was quite unwilling to share any glory with the younger man. And David was idolised by the people.
Returning from battle against the Philistines, “the women came out of all the cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet King Saul, with tambourines, with songs of joy, and with musical instruments. And the women sang to one another as they celebrated,
‘Saul has struck down his thousands,
and David his ten thousands.’
[1 SAMUEL 18:6, 7]
Instead of rejoicing in victory, Saul brooded over what was being sung. The divine text states, “Saul was very angry, and this saying displeased him. He said, ‘They have ascribed to David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed thousands, and what more can he have but the kingdom?’” Then, the divine account concludes darkly, “And Saul eyed David from that day on” [1 SAMUEL 18:8, 9].
From this point forward, Saul would make multiple attempts to kill David, even pursuing him into the Judean desert and hounding him out of the land. And though he would confess on several occasions that David was righteous and that he—Saul—was in error, like a maddened pit bull he would return to his unrelenting, mindless efforts to kill the younger man. His hatred of the one whom the LORD had chosen was so intense that he even ordered the slaughter of the priests of God because he believed they favoured David. Rather than inspiring his people, his rage actually drove loyal servants to the man whom he hated.
Among those driven to David was a son of the King. Jonathan was as brave as either Saul or David. On one occasion, Jonathan and his armour bearer had initiated a battle against the Philistines. This was at a time that Saul’s army was cowering in caves and among mountain crags. The battle Jonathan initiated panicked the Philistines, causing them to flee in disarray. Saul was informed that the Philistines were fleeing and no one was pursuing. He attempted to obtain guidance, but the rout was so complete and so rapid that he acted hastily—perhaps too hastily.
Saul put the army under strict orders that no one was to eat anything until the Philistines were completely driven from the field. The Word of God informs the reader, “Saul had laid an oath on the people, saying, ‘Cursed be the man who eats food until it is evening and I am avenged on my enemies.’ So none of the people had tasted food” [1 SAMUEL 18:8, 9]. However, Jonathan hadn’t received the message—he was busy fighting Saul’s battle! Jonathan was chasing the fleeing Philistine army, ensuring that they didn’t turn and fight again.