2 Samuel 1:18 MEANING

2 Samuel 1:18
(18) The use of the bow.--The words in italics, the use of, are not in the original, and should be omitted. David "bade them teach the children of Judah the bow": i.e., the following dirge called "the bow," not merely from the allusion to Jonathan's bow in 2 Samuel 1:22, but because it is a martial ode, and the bow was one of the chief weapons of the time with which the Benjamites were particularly skilful (1 Chronicles 12:2; 2 Chronicles 14:8; 2 Chronicles 17:17). The word is omitted in the Vatican LXX. He taught this song to "the children of Judah" rather than to all Israel, because for the following seven and a half years, while the memory of Saul was fresh, he reigned only over Judah and Benjamin.

In the book of Jasher.--This book is also referred to in Joshua 10:13, and nothing more is really known about it, although it has been the subject of endless discussion and speculation. It is supposed to have been a collection of songs relating to memorable events and men in the early history of Israel, and it appears that this elegy was included among them.

The song is in two parts, the first relating to both Saul and Jonathan (2 Samuel 1:19-24), the second to Jonathan, alone (2 Samuel 1:25-26), each having at the beginning the lament, "How are the mighty fallen !" and the whole closing with the same refrain (2 Samuel 1:27).

Verse 18. - Also he bade them teach the children of Judah [the use of] the bow. The old view is that given by the inserted words, and is well put by Ephrem Syrus in his commentary upon the passage. He says that, as Israel's defeat at Gilboa was the presage of a long struggle, and as the Philistines had gained the victory there by their skill in archery, David used his utmost authority with his own tribe to get them to practise this art for their protection in future wars. This explanation would be plausible were it not that we have reason for believing that the Israelites were already skilful in the use both of the sling and the bow, in both of which the Benjamites especially excelled (1 Chronicles 12:2). The modern view is that given in the Revised Version, where the inserted words are "the song of" the bow. "The Bow" is thus the name of the elegy, taken from the allusion to Jonathan's skill in the use of that weapon (ver. 22; comp. 1 Samuel 18:4; 1 Samuel 20:36); and the meaning is that David made his own tribesmen, who were probably ill disposed to Saul and his family, learn this dirge, not so much for its preservation, as to make them give the fallen king due honour. Similarly Exodus 3. is called "The Bush" in Mark 12:26. The book of Jasher. See on this book Joshua 10:13, where the Syriac Version calls it "The Book of Canticles," and understands by it a collection of national ballads commemorative of the brave deeds of Israelite heroes. Jasher literally means "upright," and the Book of Jasher would be equivalent to "Hero book," the Hebrews always looking to the moral rather than the physical prowess of their great men.

1:17-27 Kasheth, or the bow, probably was the title of this mournful, funeral song. David does not commend Saul for what he was not; and says nothing of his piety or goodness. Jonathan was a dutiful son, Saul an affectionate father, therefore dear to each other. David had reason to say, that Jonathan's love to him was wonderful. Next to the love between Christ and his people, that affection which springs form it, produces the strongest friendship. The trouble of the Lord's people, and triumphs of his enemies, will always grieve true believers, whatever advantages they may obtain by them.(Also he bade them teach the children of Judah the use of the bow,.... These words, with what follow in this verse, are rightly put into a parenthesis, since they do not begin nor make any part of the elegiac song, or lamentation of David; and are here inserted to show, that, amidst his sorrow and lamentation, he was not unmindful of the welfare of the people, and to provide for their defence and security; and therefore gave orders that care should be taken, especially in the tribe of Judah, which was his own tribe, and where he had the greatest authority, and for whom he might have the chiefest concern, that they should be trained up in military exercises, learn the art of war, and the use of every weapon of war, particularly of the bow, which, being a principal one, may be put for all; and which may be the rather mentioned, because the Philistines were expert in the use of it, and seemed to have done much execution with it in the recent battle, see 1 Samuel 31:3. They are said (p) to be the inventors of it; though Pliny (q) ascribes it to others; and it may be the people of Israel and of Judah had of late neglected to learn the use of it, and to make use of it, and instead of that had taken to other sort of arms in fighting; for that that was not unknown to them, or wholly disused, is clear from this song, 2 Samuel 1:22; see also 1 Chronicles 12:2. Moreover, as the Philistines, especially the Cherethites, were expert in archery, David found ways and means to get some of them afterwards into his service, and by whom he might improve his people in the art, see 2 Samuel 8:18; though some (r) are of opinion that the word "keshet", or bow, was the title of the following lamentation or song, taken from the mention of Jonathan's bow in it; which song the children of Judah were to be taught to sing; but then, as has been observed by some, for this there would have been no need of the following reference, since the whole this song is here recorded:

behold, it is written in book of Jasher); which the Targum calls the book of the law; and Jarchi and Ben Gersom restrain it to the book of Genesis, the book of the upright, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and suppose respect is had to the prophecy concerning Judah, Genesis 49:8, but Kimchi, extending it to all the five books of Moses, adds his blessing, in Deuteronomy 33:7. In the Arabic version it is explained of the book of Samuel, interpreted the book of songs, as if it was a collection of songs; which favours the above sense. Jerom (s) interprets it of the same book, the book of the righteous prophets, Samuel, Gad, and Nathan: hut this book seems to have been a public register or annals, in which were recorded memorable actions in any age, and had its name from the uprightness and faithfulness in which it was kept; and in this were set down the order of David for the teaching the children of Judah the use of the bow, and perhaps the method which he directed to for instruction in it; See Gill on Joshua 10:13.

(p) Bedford's Chronology, p. 245. (q) Nat. Hist. l. 7. c. 56. (r) See Gregory's Notes and Observations, &c. ch. 1. and Weemse of the Judicial Laws, c. 44. p. 171. (s) Trad. Heb. in 2 lib. Reg. fol. 77. D.

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