BLOOD AND LAMENT 1Sam 31, 2Sam 1

THE BLOODY END FOR SHA’UL        1 Samuel 31
CONTEXT: This chapter has its parallel in 1 Chronicles 10. Where there are textual difficulties, I take into account that later version of the story, along with the Septuagint and whatever is available from Dead Sea Scrolls.  The Chronicles narrative picks up again at 2 Samuel 5. Verse7 is a gloss, a comment added by a later hand.

    1As the P’lishtim fought with Yisrael, the men of Yisrael fled before them, corpses falling in the Gilboa hills. 2The P’lishtim fastened on to Sha’ul and his sons and they struck down Y’honatan, Avinadav, and Malkishua. 3The battle grew heavy on Sha’ul – the bow shooters found him and he writhed in agony caused by the shooters.
    4So he said to his arms bearer: “Draw your sword and stab me lest these foreskins arrive and stab me and torture me.”
    But his arms bearer did not want to do it for he was very frightened. So Sha’ul took the sword and fell on it. 5His arms bearer saw that Sha’ul died and he too fell on his sword and died along with him.
    6Thus Sha’ul, his three sons, his armor bearer and all his men died that day together.
    7(When the men of Yisrael on the other side of the [Yizra’el] valley and beyond the Yarden river saw that the men of Yisrael had fled and that Sha’ul and his sons were dead, they left the towns and fled. The P’lishtim arrived and settled in the towns.)
    8The next day the P’lishtim arrived to strip the corpses and they found Sha’ul and his three sons, fallen in the Gilboa hills. 9They cut off his head and stripped his armor and sent it around P’lishti territory to spread the news to the temples of their idols and to the people. 10They placed his armor in the House of Ashtarot and his body they impaled on the wall of BeitShan.
    11The inhabitants of Yavesh in Gil’ad heard what the P’lishtim had done to Sha’ul.  12They rose, every worthy man, and they went all night and took down the bodies of Sha’ul and his sons from the walls of BeitShan. When they arrived at Yavesh they burned them there. 13They took their bones and buried them under the tamarisk in Yavesh. Then they fasted for seven days.

A HERO’S LAMENT        2 Samuel 1
    CONTEXT: Scroll of Yashar (straight forwardness, righteousness) refers to a lost document which may have contained pedagogic poems. The scroll is mentioned in Josh 10:12f–regarding the sun and moon affecting battle.
    V.18 is an interpolation citing the source and purpose of the poem. The Hebrew text for “to teach…bow” seems defective, missing a word or preposition. One explanation is that “bow” is the name of the poem: “Lament of the Bow.” Alternatively, it may refer to battle skills for the populace that the poem encourages.
    V.20  daughters of the foreskins. The vulgar expression indicates contempt.
    V.21 unanointed with oil   Anointing shields seems to be a preparation for battle, cf. Is 21:5.
    (I am indebted to Edward McCrorie, PhD, Professor Emeritus of English at Providence College in Providence, RI. He is a poet and tranlator, working in Greek, Latin, and Hebrew. With his sharp eye and ear he has read critically through the David stories and especially the poetry in this section. His insight and word skills have helped make my translation readable.)

    1After the death of Sha’ul, David, having returned from striking the Amaleki, was back in Tsiklag for two days. 2On the third day a man arrived from Sha’ul’s camp, his clothes torn, dirt on his head. When he came to David he fell on the ground and prostrated himself.
    3David: “Where have you come from?’
    The man: “From the camp of Yisrael.  I escaped.”
    4“What was the situation? Tell me.”
    “It was that the people fled the battle.  And many of the people fell and died.  And Sha’ul and his son Y’honatan died.”
    5And David said to the lad who was telling him all this: “How did you know that Sha’ul died, and his son Y’honatan?”
    6“I just happened to be on a hill in the Gilboa and there was Sha’ul leaning on his spear. The chariot and horsemen had overtaken him. 7He turned back and saw me and called to me. I said, ‘I’m here.’ He said, ‘Who are you?’ I said, ‘I’m an Ameleki.’ 9He said to me, ‘Stand by me and finish me off. Death throes have seized me but my breath keeps going.’ 10So I stood by him and finished him off. I knew that he would not live after his being felled. I took the crown that was on his head and a band that was on his arm and I have brought them here to my lord.”
    11David took hold of his clothes and tore them and so did all the men who were with him. 12They mourned, wept, and fasted till evening for Sha’ul and his son Y’honatan and for the people of Yahh and for the House of Yisrael that had fallen by the sword.
    13And David said to the lad who had told him: “Where are you from? “
    “I am the son of an Amaleki sojourner.”
    14“How is it that you did not fear to raise your hand to slay Yahh’s anointed?”
    15David then called one of his lads and said: “Come here. Engage him.”  He struck him and he died. 16David said: “Your blood is on your own head. It was your mouth that betrayed you when you said, ‘I killed Yahh’s anointed.’”

    17David elegized. This is his lament over Sha’ul and his son Y’honatan 18(to teach B’neyY’hudah (bow.) Note that it is written on the Scroll of Yashar) and he said:

19Crown jewel of Yisrael, pierced on your own hills.
How heroes fell!
  20Tell it not in Gat. Spread it not in the streets of Ashkelon,
    Lest P’lishti girls get happy, daughters of the foreskins delight.
21Ah, Gilboa hills! Not dew, not rain upon you,
   Highlands, where fouled was a shield of the strong,
    Shield of Sha’ul, unanointed with oil.
22From blood of corpses, fat of the strong
   Y’honatan’s bow was never held back,
    Sha’ul’s sword never returned clean.
23 Sha’ul and Y’honatan, beloved and pleasing,
   As they lived so they died, together.
    Than eagles they were swifter, than lions, mightier.
24Weep, daughters of Yisrael, for Sha’ul,
   Who draped you in linen with lace,
    Who adorned your dress in ornaments of gold.

25How the strong toppled! In what combat,
   Y’honatan, a corpse on your heights.
26I am crushed for you, Y’honatan, my brother.
   You much pleased me. Your love was
    More wondrous to me than love of women.

27How the strong fell,
    Lost, such warriors!
© Rabbi David L. Kline  

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