|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
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.
Verse 19. - The beauty of Israel. The word zebi means both "beauty" and also "the gazelle." Ewald takes it in the second sense, and explains it of Jonathan. "everywhere the first in courage, in activity, and speed; slender also and of well-made figure, and whose personal beauty and swiftness of foot in attack or retreat gained for him among the troops the name of 'the gazelle.' The Syriac Version also translates 'gazelle,'" but Ephrem says that the whole Israelite nation is meant, the flower of whoso manhood lay slaughtered on Mount Gilboa. Which signification we take must really depend upon the meaning we attach to the words, "thy high place;" and these in the Authorized Version have nothing to refer to, and so become unmeaning. The Revised Version follows the Vulgate in taking Israel as a vocative, sad renders, "Thy glory, O Israel, is slain upon thy high places." The sense would thus be that given by Ephrem, Israel's glory being its "mighty" men or heroes, its warriors slain upon Mount Gilboa with their king. But ver. 25 makes it plain that the "high places" are Jonathan's, and not those of the nation; and the more correct rendering is "O beauty [or, 'gazelle'] of Israel, slain upon thy high places! how are the heroes fallen!" Thus Jonathan is certainly meant, and the heroes are the young, prince and his father; and as the hunted antelope is said to return to its lair in the mountains, and there await its death, "gazelle" is probably the right rendering. In a dirge in honour of Saul and Jonathan we may be pretty sure that Jonathan would be referred to in its opening words, and the camp name of his friend would bring back to David's mind many a brave feat wrought together, and many a pleasant hour of companionship in past years.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
The beauty of Israel is slain upon thy high places,.... The high mountains of Gilboa, where Saul their king, and Jonathan his son, a prince of the blood, and natural heir to the crown, and multitudes of young men, the flower of the nation, were wounded and slain. Here begins the lamentation, or the elegiac song:
how are the mighty fallen! mighty men of war, strong and valiant, as Saul and his sons were, and the soldiers in his army.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
19. The beauty of Israel is slain upon thy high places—literally, "the gazelle" or "antelope of Israel." In Eastern countries, that animal is the chosen type of beauty and symmetrical elegance of form.
how are the mighty fallen!—This forms the chorus.
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