With great rejoicing the victors took up their homeward march. Upon reaching their companions who had remained behind, the more selfish and unruly of the four hundred urged that those who had had no part in the battle should not share the spoils. They felt that it was enough for them to recover each his wife and children.
David replied, “No, my brothers, you must not do that with what the LORD has given us. He has protected us and delivered into our hands the raiding party that came against us.
1Sa 30:24 For who will heed you in this matter? But as his part is who goes down to the battle, so shall his part be who stays by the supplies; they shall share alike.”
1Sa 30:25 David made this a statute and ordinance for Israel from that day to this.
1Sa 30:25 So it was, from that day forward; he made it a statute and an ordinance for Israel to this day.
All who were honourably connected with a military campaign should share the spoils equally with those who engaged in actual combat.
1Sa 30:26 When David reached Ziklag, he sent some of the plunder to the elders of Judah, who were his friends, saying, “Here is a gift for you from the plunder of the LORD’s enemies.”
1Sa 30:27 David sent it to those who were in Bethel, Ramoth Negev and Jattir;
1Sa 30:28 to those in Aroer, Siphmoth, Eshtemoa
1Sa 30:29 and Rakal; to those in the towns of the Jerahmeelites and the Kenites;
1Sa 30:30 to those in Hormah, Bor Ashan, Athak
1Sa 30:31 and Hebron; and to those in all the other places where he and his men had roamed.
In this distribution all those were remembered who had befriended me and my followers in the mountain fastnesses, when I had been forced to flee from place to place for my life. Their kindness and sympathy, so precious to me, the hunted fugitive, were thus gratefully acknowledged.
It was the third day since I and warriors returned to Ziklag. As we laboured to restore their ruined homes, they watched with anxious hearts for tidings of the battle which they knew must have been fought between Israel and the Philistines.
ANNOUNCING THE DEATH OF SAUL
Suddenly a messenger entered the town, “with his clothes rent, and earth upon his head.” He was at once brought to me, before whom he bowed.
I eagerly inquired how the battle had gone. The fugitive reported Saul’s defeat and death, and the death of Jonathan. But he went beyond a simple statement of facts. Evidently supposing that I must cherish enmity toward his relentless persecutor, the stranger hoped to secure honour to himself as the slayer of the king.
With an air of boasting the man went on to relate that during the battle he found the monarch of Israel wounded, and sore pressed by his foes, and that at his own request the messenger had slain him.
The crown from his head and the golden bracelets from his arm he had brought to David. He confidently expected that these tidings would be hailed with joy, and that a rich reward would be his for the part that he had acted.
But “I took hold of my clothes, and rent them; and likewise, all the men that were with me, and they mourned, and wept, and fasted until even, for Saul, and for Jonathan his son, and for the people of the Lord, and for the house of Israel; because they were fallen by the sword.”
The first shock of the fearful tidings past, my thoughts returned to the stranger herald, and the crime of which, according to his own statement, he was guilty. I demanded of the young man,
2Sa 1:3 And I said to him, “Where have you come from?” So he said to him, “I have escaped from the camp of Israel.”
2Sa 1:4 Then I said to him, “How did the matter go? Please tell me.” And he answered, “The people have fled from the battle, many of the people are fallen and dead, and Saul and Jonathan his son are dead also.”
2Sa 1:5 So I said to the young man who told him, “How do you know that Saul and Jonathan his son are dead?”
2Sa 1:6 Then the young man who told him said, “As I happened by chance to be on Mount Gilboa, there was Saul, leaning on his spear; and indeed the chariots and horsemen followed hard after him.
2Sa 1:7 Now when he looked behind him, he saw me and called to me. And I answered, ‘Here I am.’
2Sa 1:8 And he said to me, ‘Who are you?’ So I answered him, ‘I am an Amalekite.’
2Sa 1:9 He said to me again, ‘Please stand over me and kill me, for anguish has come upon me, but my life still remains in me.’
2Sa 1:10 So I stood over him and killed him, because I was sure that he could not live after he had fallen. And I took the crown that was on his head and the bracelet that was on his arm and have brought them here to my lord.”
2Sa 1:11 Therefore I David, took hold of my own clothes and tore them, and so did all the men who were with me.
2Sa 1:12 And they mourned and wept and fasted until evening for Saul and for Jonathan his son, for the people of the LORD and for the house of Israel, because they had fallen by the sword.
2Sa 1:13 Then I said to the young man who told me, “Where are you from?” And he answered, “I am the son of an alien, an Amalekite.”
2Sa 1:14 So I said to him, “How was it you were not afraid to put forth your hand to destroy the LORD’s anointed?”
2Sa 1:15 Then I called one of the young men and said, “Go near, and execute him!” And he struck him so that he died.
2Sa 1:16 So I said to him, “Your blood is on your own head, for your own mouth has testified against you, saying, ‘I have killed the LORD’s anointed.’ ”
My grief at the death of Saul was sincere and deep, showing the generosity of a noble trait. I did not exult in the fall of my enemy. The obstacle that had barred my access to the throne of Israel was removed, but at this I did not rejoice.
Death had obliterated the remembrance of Saul’s distrust and cruelty, and now nothing in his history was thought of but that which was noble and kingly. The name of Saul was linked with that of Jonathan, whose friendship had been so true and so unselfish.
The song in which I gave utterance to the feelings of my heart became a treasure to my nation, and to the people of God in all subsequent ages:
“Thy glory, O Israel, is slain upon thy 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 triumph.
Ye mountains of Gilboa, Let there be no dew nor rain upon you, neither fields of offerings: For there the shield of the mighty was vilely cast away, The shield of Saul as of one not anointed with oil….
Saul and Jonathan were lovely and pleasant in their lives, And in their death they were not divided;
They were swifter than eagles, They were stronger than lions. Ye daughters of Israel, weep over Saul, Who clothed you in scarlet delicately, Who put ornaments of gold upon your apparel. How are the mighty fallen in the midst of the battle! Jonathan is slain upon thy high places. I am distressed for thee, my brother Jonathan: Very pleasant hast thou been unto me: Thy love to me was wonderful, Passing the love of women. How are the mighty fallen, And the weapons of war perished!”
The death of Saul removed the dangers that had made David an exile. The way was now open for him to return to his own land. When the days of mourning for Saul and Jonathan were ended, “David inquired of the Lord, saying, Shall I go up into any of the cities of Judah? And the Lord said unto him, Go up. And David said, Whither shall I go up? And He said, Unto Hebron.”
Hebron was twenty miles north from Beersheba, and about midway between that city and the future site of Jerusalem. It was originally called Kirjath-arba, the city of Arba, the father of Anak. Later it was called Mamre, and here was the burial place of the patriarchs, “the cave of Machpelah.” Hebron had been the possession of Caleb and was now the chief city of Judah. It lies in a valley surrounded by fertile hill country and fruitful lands. The most beautiful vineyards of Palestine were on its borders, together with numerous plantations of olive and other fruit trees.
David and his followers immediately prepared to obey the instruction which they had received from God. The six hundred armed men, with their wives and children, their flocks and herds, were soon on the way to Hebron. As the caravan entered the city the men of Judah were waiting to welcome David as the future king of Israel. Arrangements were at once made for his coronation. “And there they anointed David king over the house of Judah.” But no effort was made to establish his authority by force over the other tribes.
One of the first acts of the new-crowned monarch was to express his tender regard for the memory of Saul and Jonathan. Upon learning of the brave deed of the men of Jabesh-gilead in rescuing the bodies of the fallen leaders and giving them honorable burial, David sent an embassy to Jabesh with the message, “Blessed be ye of the Lord, that ye have showed this kindness unto your lord, even unto Saul, and have buried him. And now the Lord show kindness and truth unto you: and I also will requite you this kindness.” And he announced his own accession to the throne of Judah and invited the allegiance of those who had proved themselves so truehearted.
The Philistines did not oppose the action of Judah in making me king. They had befriended me in my exile, in order to harass and weaken the kingdom of Saul, and now they hoped that because of their former kindness to me the extension of my power would, in the end, work to their advantage.
But my reign was not to be free from trouble. With my coronation began the dark record of conspiracy and rebellion. I did not sit upon a traitor’s throne; God had chosen me to be king of Israel, and there had been no occasion for distrust or opposition.
Yet hardly had my authority been acknowledged by the men of Judah, when through the influence of Abner, Ishbosheth, the son of Saul, was proclaimed king, and set upon a rival throne in Israel.
Ishbosheth was but a weak and incompetent representative of the house of Saul, while I was notably qualified to bear the responsibilities of the kingdom. Abner, the chief agent in raising Miphiboseth to kingly power, had been commander-in-chief of Saul’s army, and was the most distinguished man in Israel.
Abner knew that I had been appointed by the Lord to the throne of Israel, but having so long hunted and pursued me, he was not now willing that I, the son of Jesse should succeed to the kingdom over which Saul had reigned.
The death of Abner, the mighty warrior in Saul’s army.