2 Samuel 1:18
(Also he bade them teach the children of Judah the use of the bow: behold, it is written in the book of Jasher.)
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(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 2Samuel 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 (1Chronicles 12:2; 2Chronicles 14:8; 2Chronicles 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 (2Samuel 1:19-24), the second to Jonathan, alone (2Samuel 1:25-26), each having at the beginning the lament, “How are the mighty fallen !” and the whole closing with the same refrain (2Samuel 1:27).

2 Samuel 1:18. And bade them teach the children of Judah — Among whom he now was, and over whom he first reigned; the use of the bow — While he made lamentation for the dead, he did not neglect the living: that they might be provided with better means to defend themselves, as the king designed of God to reign over them, he ordered that they should immediately learn to be skilful in the use of bows and arrows, by which principally the Philistines had gained this victory. The Israelites seem hitherto to have chiefly used slings, spears, and swords; but were now taught to shoot with bows and arrows. As, however, the words, the use of, are not in the original, but literally translated it is, He bade them teach the children of Judah the bow; many learned men are of opinion that it was not the use of the bow, which they were to learn, but this song of David, termed The Bow. There does not appear, however, to be any proof that this song bore any such title, nor is any sufficient reason given why it should bear any such. It seems much more probable, for the reason just named, that our translators have given us the true interpretation of the passage. Behold it is written in the book of Jasher — That David enjoined the use of the bow to be taught. It is more largely and particularly described there. Or, if The Bow meant this song, the sense is, that the song was recorded in that book, which some think to have been a book of odes and hymns, in which were recited the successes or misfortunes of the Israelites in battle.

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.The use of the bow - Omit "the use of." "The bow" is the name by which this dirge was known, being so called from the mention of Jonathan's bow in 2 Samuel 1:22. The sense would then be: And he commanded them to teach the children of Israel the song called Kasheth (the bow), i. e. he gave directions that the song should be learned by heart (compare Deuteronomy 31:19). It has been further suggested that in the Book of Jasher there was, among other things, a collection of poems, in which special mention was made of the bow. This was one of them. 1 Samuel 2:1-10 was another; Numbers 21:27-30 was another; Lamentations 2 was another; Lamentations 3 was another; Jacob's blessing Genesis 49; Moses' song Deuteronomy 32; perhaps his Blessing (Deuteronomy 33. See 2 Samuel 1:29); and such Psalms as Psalm 44; Psalm 46:1-11; Psalm 76:1-12, etc.; Habakkuk 3; and Zechariah 9:9-17, also belonged to it. The title by which all the poems in this collection were distinguished was קשׁת qesheth, "the bow." When therefore the writer of 2 Samuel ransferred this dirge from the Book of Jasher to his own pages, he transferred it, as we might do any of the Psalms, with its title.

The book of Jasher - See the marginal reference note.

2Sa 1:17-27. David Laments Saul and Jonathan.

17, 18. David lamented with this lamentation—It has always been customary for Eastern people, on the death of great kings and warriors, to celebrate their qualities and deeds in funeral songs. This inimitable pathetic elegy is supposed by many writers to have become a national war song, and to have been taught to the young Israelites under the name of "The Bow," in conformity with the practice of Hebrew and many classical writers in giving titles to their songs from the principal theme (Ps 22:1; 56:1; 60:1; 80:1; 100:1). Although the words "the use of" are a supplement by our translators, they may be rightly introduced, for the natural sense of this parenthetical verse is, that David took immediate measures for instructing the people in the knowledge and practice of archery, their great inferiority to the enemy in this military arm having been the main cause of the late national disaster.

Also: having mentioned David’s lamentation in general, before he comes to the particular description of it, he interposeth this verse by way of parenthesis; to signify, that David did not so give up himself to lamentation as to neglect his great business, the care of the commonwealth, which now lay upon him; but took particular care to fortify them against such further losses and calamities as he bewails in the following song; and by his example, and this counsel, to instruct the people, that they should not give up themselves to sorrow and despondency for their great and general loss; but should raise up their spirits, and betake themselves to action.

He bade them: David being now actually king upon Saul’s death, takes his power upon him, and gives forth his commands.

The children of Judah: these he more particularly teacheth, because they were the chief, and now the royal tribe, and likely to be the great bulwark to all Israel against the Philistines, upon whose land they bordered; and withal, to be the most friendly and true to him, and to his interest.

The use of the bow, i. e. the use of their arms, which are all synecdochically expressed under the name of the bow, which then was one of the chief weapons; and for the dexterous use whereof Jonathan is commended in the following song: which may be one reason why he now gives forth this order, that so they might strive to imitate Jonathan in the military skill, and to excel in it, as he did.

It is written; not the following song, as many think, for that is written here, and therefore it was needless to refer us to another book for it; but this foregoing counsel and course which David took to repair the last loss, which is here mentioned but briefly, and in general terms; but, as it seems, more largely and particularly described in the book of Jasher; of which see on Joshua 10:13.

(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.

(Also he bade them teach the children of Judah {g} the use of the bow: behold, it is written in the book of Jasher.)

(g) That they might be able to match their enemies the Philistines in that art.

18. also he bade, &c.] And he gave commandment to teach the children of Judah the Bow. The E. V. cannot be right in inserting “the use of,” for the bow was a weapon already in common use. If the text is sound, “the Bow” must be a title given to David’s elegy from the mention of Jonathan’s bow in 2 Samuel 1:22. Somewhat similarly the section of Exodus containing the account of the burning bush is called “the Bush” in Luke 20:37, and the second chapter of the Koran is called “the Cow” from the incidental mention in it of the sacrifice of a cow.

It must be noted however that the Vatican MS. of the LXX. omits the word bow, and reads simply “And he commanded to teach [it] to the children of Judah.” Possibly therefore the word over which much discussion has been spent, has found its way into the text through some scribe’s mistake, and should be struck out.

The elegy was to be learnt by heart by the people in order to preserve the memory of Saul and Jonathan fresh among them. Compare the direction concerning the Song of Moses (Deuteronomy 31:19), and the title of Psalms 60.

behold, it is written in the book of Jasher] The elegy was included in the volume known as The Book of Jashar, or, the Upright. (LXX. βιβλίον τοῦ εὐθοῦς; Vulg. liber iustorum.) This book is mentioned only here and in Joshua 10:13. “The Upright” is explained by some to mean Israel as the covenant people of God, and connected in etymology and sense with the title Jeshurun (Deuteronomy 32:15); by others it is referred to the heroes whose praises were celebrated in the book. All that can be inferred from the references to it is that it contained a collection of ancient poems, commemorating remarkable events or great heroes of the national history: so that it formed a “book of Golden Deeds” for the instruction of posterity, a “national anthology” to which additions would be made from time to time as occasion offered.

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. 2 Samuel 1:18David's elegy upon Saul and Jonathan. - An eloquent testimony to the depth and sincerity of David's grief for the death of Saul is handed down to us in the elegy which he composed upon Saul and his noble son Jonathan, and which he had taught to the children of Israel. It is one of the finest odes of the Old Testament; full of lofty sentiment, and springing from deep and sanctified emotion, in which, without the slightest allusion to his own relation to the fallen king, David celebrates without envy the bravery and virtues of Saul and his son Jonathan, and bitterly laments their loss. "He said to teach," i.e., he commanded the children of Judah to practise or learn it. קשׁת, bow; i.e., a song to which the title Kesheth or bow was given, not only because the bow is referred to (2 Samuel 1:22), but because it is a martial ode, and the bow was one of the principal weapons used by the warriors of that age, and one in the use of which the Benjaminites, the tribe-mates of Saul, were particularly skilful: cf. 1 Chronicles 8:40; 1 Chronicles 12:2; 2 Chronicles 14:7; 2 Chronicles 17:17. Other explanations are by no means so natural; such, for example, as that it related to the melody to which the ode was sung; whilst some are founded upon false renderings, or arbitrary alterations of the text, e.g., that of Ewald (Gesch. i. p. 41), Thenius, etc. This elegy was inserted in "the book of the righteous" (see at Joshua 10:13), from which the author of the books of Samuel has taken it.
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