Week of 2 Epiphany: Saturday, Year 2   10 comments

Above:  Jonathan and David (1642), by Davids Abschied von Jonathan

David Laments Saul and Jonathan

JANUARY 20, 2024


Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.


2 Samuel 1:1-4, 11-12, 19-27 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

After the death of Saul, when David had returned from the slaughter of the Amalekites, David remained two days in Ziklag; and on the third day, behold, a man came from Saul’s camp, with his clothes torn and earth upon his head.  And when he came to David, he fell to the ground and did obesiance.  David said to him,

Where do you come from?

And he said to him,

I have escaped from the camp of Israel.

And David said to him,

How did it go?  Tell me.

And he answered,

The people have fled from the battle, and many of the people also have fallen and are dead; and Saul and his son Jonathan are also dead.

…(The visitor, an Amalekite resident alien, claims to have killed Saul at the king’s request before fleeing with the royal crown  and armlet.)…

Then David took hold of his clothes, and tore them; and so did all the men who were with him; and they mourned and wept and fasted until evening for Saul and for Jonathan his son and for the people of the LORD and for the house of Israel, because they had fallen by the sword.

…(David orders the execution of the Amalekite.)…

[And David lamented with this lamentation over Saul and Jonathan…]

Your glory, O Israel, is slain upon your high places!

How are the mighty 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 upsurging of the deep!

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 swifter than lions.

You daughters of Israel, weep over Saul,

who clothed you daintily in scarlet,

who put ornaments of gold upon your apparel.

How are the mighty fallen

in the midst of battle!

Jonathan lies slain upon your high places.

I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan;

very pleasant have you been to me;

your love tome was wonderful,

passing the love of women.

How are the mighty fallen,

and the weapons of war perished!

Psalm 80:1-7 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  Hear, O Shepherd of Israel, leading Joseph like a flock;

shine forth, you that are enthroned upon the cherubim.

2  In the presence of Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasseh,

stir up your strength and come to help us.

3  Restore us, O God of hosts;

show us the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.

4  O LORD God of hosts,

how long will you be angered

despite the prayers of your people?

5  You have fed them with the bread of tears;

you have given them bowls of tears to drink.

6 You have made us the derision of our neighbors,

and our enemies laugh us to scorn.

7  Restore us, O God of hosts;

show us the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.

John 8:51-59 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

[Jesus said, …]

Truly, truly, I say to you, if any one keeps my word, he will never see death.

The Jews said to him,

Now we know that you have a demon.  Abraham died, as did the prophet; and you say, “If any one keeps my word, he will never taste death.”  Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died?  And the prophets died!  Who do you claim to be?

Jesus answered,

If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing; it is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say that he is your God.  But you have not known him; I know him.  If I said, I do not know him, I should be a liar like you; but I do know him and I keep his word.  Your father Abraham rejoiced that he was to see my day; he saw it and was glad.

The Jews then said to him,

You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?

Jesus said to them,

Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.

So they took up stones to throw at him; but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple.


The Collect:

Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ is the light of the world: Grant that your people, illumined by your Word and Sacraments, may shine with the radiance of Christ’s glory, that he may be known, worshipped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.


A Related Post:

Week of 2 Epiphany:  Saturday, Year 1:



Details matter, some more than others.  But it is sufficed to say that if one is mistaken about a preponderance of details (whether historical or literary or theological, etc.), one risks missing even the main point of what one is trying to say.  I am a history buff and a stickler for details, so I try to get as many details accurate as often as possible.  It is what I do, sometimes driving others inadvertently to fits of frustration with me.  C’est la vie.  

Using this approach, I consider 2 Samuel 1 and its immediate predecessor, 1 Samuel 31.  I accept neither Biblical inerrancy nor infallibility intellectually or as an article of my faith; I have read the book too closely for that.  Nevertheless, I do take the Bible quite seriously, try to keep my details straight, and endeavor not to imagine or manufacture a contradiction.  When I catch myself in error, I correct myself.  So know, O reader, that I have read 1 Samuel 31 and 2 Samuel 1 very closely and found no contradictions between them.

1 Samuel 31 tells us that King Saul and his forces fought Philistines at Mt. Gilboa, where Jonathan, Abinadab, and Malchishua, sons of Saul died and the king suffered an injury.  Not wanting the Philistines to capture him alive, Saul, asked his armor-bearer to kill him with his sword.  When the armor-bearer declined to do this, Saul did it himself.  National humiliation followed, with Philistines decapitating Saul’s corpse, placing his armor in a pagan temple, and fastening his body to a wall.  Yet “valiant men” of Israel recovered the corpses of Saul and his sons then proceeded to burn them and bury the remains properly.

Now read the portion of Psalm 80 again.  It fits well after what I have just described.

So now we come to 2 Samuel 1.  An Amalekite resident alien carrying Saul’s crown and armlet wanders into David’s camp.  He reports accurately that Saul and Jonathan are dead then states that he killed Saul at the king’s request.  The Amalekite says this; there is no narrator’s voice confirming his account.  David takes the news badly, orders the execution of the Amalekite, and laments Saul and Jonathan.

There was at least one other living of Saul, however, for he, Ish-bosheth, became king in Saul’s place.  (See 2 Samuel 2:8-11.)  David’s rebellion continued.

(By the way, compare the accounts in the early chapters in 2 Samuel with those in 1 Chronicles 10 and 11.)

Saul and David had had a difficult relationship.  Saul, David’s father-in-law, had tried to kill him more than once.  Yet David had spared Saul’s life twice and ordered his men not to kill the king.  Saul, in David’s mind, was still “the anointed of the LORD.”

It is easy to understand why David mourned Jonathan, his brother-in-law and good friend, who had saved his life.

How prone are you and I to seek the best for our enemies and to mourn their passing?  I can speak only for myself; I need to work on that, by grace.



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