2 Samuel 1:2
It came even to pass on the third day, that, behold, a man came out of the camp from Saul with his clothes rent, and earth upon his head: and so it was, when he came to David, that he fell to the earth, and did obeisance.
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(2) On the third day—viz., after David’s return, not the third day after Saul’s death.

Did obeisance.—The following verses show that this was not merely an act of Oriental respect, but was intended as a recognition of David’s rank as having now become king. The messenger, although an Amalekite (2Samuel 1:8; 2Samuel 1:13), had earth upon his head and his clothes rent as marks of sorrow for the defeat of David’s people, and the death of their king.

1:1-10 The blow which opened David's way to the throne was given about the time he had been sorely distressed. Those who commit their concerns to the Lord, will quietly abide his will. It shows that he desired not Saul's death, and he was not impatient to come to the throne.Now it came to pass ... - There is no break whatever between the two books of Samuel, the division being purely artificial. 2-12. a man came out of the camp from Saul—As the narrative of Saul's death, given in the last chapter, is inspired, it must be considered the true account, and the Amalekite's story a fiction of his own, invented to ingratiate himself with David, the presumptive successor to the throne. David's question, "How went the matter?" evinces the deep interest he took in the war, an interest that sprang from feelings of high and generous patriotism, not from views of ambition. The Amalekite, however, judging him to be actuated by a selfish principle, fabricated a story improbable and inconsistent, which he thought would procure him a reward. Having probably witnessed the suicidal act of Saul, he thought of turning it to his own account, and suffered the penalty of his grievously mistaken calculation (compare 2Sa 1:9 with 1Sa 31:4, 5). On the third day; from David’s return to Ziklag, as the foregoing words manifest.

With his clothes rent, and earth upon his head; pretending sorrow for the loss of God’s people, in compliance with David’s humour.

It came to pass on the third day,.... After the battle was fought, in which Saul was slain:

that, behold, a man came out of the camp from Saul; that is, from them who were in the camp with Saul, for he was dead. Some say (d) this was Doeg the Edomite, which is not likely that he should come with such tidings to David; besides, if he was Saul's armourbearer, as others say, see 1 Samuel 31:4; he died with Saul; nor his son, as others (e), which is not at all probable, though his being an Edomite is no objection, since the Amalekites were of the race of Edom:

with his clothes rent, and earth upon his head: in token of mourning, and was the bringer of bad tidings, see 1 Samuel 4:12,

and so it was, when he came to David, that he fell to the earth, and did obeisance; as being the rising sun, Saul's successor, and now king.

(d) Pesikta in Jarchi in loc. (e) Tanchuma in Yalkut in loc. Hieron. Trad. Heb. in 2 lib. Reg. fol. 77. C.

It came even to pass on the third day, that, behold, a man came out of the camp from Saul with {a} his clothes rent, and earth upon his head: and so it was, when he came to David, that he fell to the earth, and did obeisance.

(a) Seeming to lament the overthrow of the people of Israel.

2. on the third day] The exact position of Ziklag in the Negeb, or “South country,” has not been determined. But if we may place it in the neighbourhood of Beersheba (see note on 1 Samuel 27:6), the distance from the battle-field of Gilboa was about 90 or 100 miles as the crow flies, between two and three days’ journey for an active runner, so that the battle probably took place about the same time as David’s return home.

a man came out of the camp from Saul] This expression and that of 2 Samuel 1:3 seem to imply that the Amalekite represented himself as in some way attached to the Israelite army, either as a combatant, or more probably as a camp-follower. On the other hand, the words of 2 Samuel 1:6, “I happened by chance upon mount Gilboa,” seem to describe his presence on the battle-field as accidental. On the whole it is best to suppose that he was connected with the army, and to understand 2 Samuel 1:6 to mean merely that his finding Saul was accidental.

with his clothes rent, and earth upon his head] With the same tokens of mourning as the man of Benjamin who bore the news of the disastrous defeat of Aphek to Shiloh. See 1 Samuel 4:12, and note. There however the word rendered clothes is different, perhaps denoting a military dress, as in 1 Samuel 17:38 : that used here is the ordinary term.

fell to the earth, and did obeisance] Recognising David as Saul’s successor, and expecting a reward for his tidings.

did obeisance] Obeisance, derived from Lat. obedire through Fr. obéissance, was originally used in the literal sense of obedience, but in Bible-English is limited to the act of prostration, which was the outward token of obedience or reverence. The Heb. word, variously translated in the E. V. ‘bow oneself,’ ‘bow down,’ ‘fall flat,’ ‘crouch,’ ‘reverence,’ ‘do reverence,’ ‘worship,’ means literally to bow oneself down, and specially to worship God.

Verse 2. - On the third day. This means the third day after David's return with the spoil and captives recovered from the Amalekites. If we study the data, we find that David had marched with Achish as far as Aphek in the plain of Jezreel (1 Samuel 29:1), opposite to which, on the rising ground near Gilboa, Saul had posted his army. A march of three days had brought him back to Ziklag (1 Samuel 30:1), and after the shortest possible delay he had started in pursuit of the Amalekites. The rapidity of his movements is proved by so large a proportion of his hardy men falling out of the ranks at the brook Besor; but nevertheless some time must have been lost at Ziklag in discovering the greatness of their disaster, in searching for any who might possibly have escaped, in getting food, and in mustering again together for the pursuit. Near the brook they seem to have found the Egyptian slave who became their guide, and who had been abandoned three days before David found him. It follows, therefore, that the Amalekites were then three days' march in advance, and however rapidly the pursuit was urged on, we cannot allow less than five days for it, and one for the battle (vers. 12, 13, 17). The march homeward would take a longer time, as David was now encumbered with flocks and herds, women and children. If it took eight days, the time occupied in it by the Amalekites, the whole period that had elapsed since David was sent away from Aphek by the Philistine lords would be eighteen or nineteen days; and it is thus evident that the Amalekites were plundering Ziklag at the very time when he was being dismissed, half angry, half rejoicing, at the slight put upon him, but little thinking of the sad need there was for his presence elsewhere. Now, the messenger from Gilboa, if an active runner, weald easily traverse in two days the distance which David and his men had travelled in three. And thus it follows that the battle at Gilboa was fought on the very day of David's happy return from the pursuit, and about nineteen days after the review at Aphek. If the word "tomorrow" in 1 Samuel 28:19 seems to imply a more rapid march of events, we must remember that the meaning of the word in Hebrew is more indefinite than with us (comp. Genesis 30:33; Exodus 13:14). With his clothes rent, and earth upon his head. Though the Amalekite came out of the camp, yet we are not to suppose that he had been one of the combatants. Every army is followed by a vast number of vagabonds, intent upon gain, purchasing of the troops their booty, plundering wherever they have the chance, and carrying on a lucrative but illicit trade. He was more probably a sort of gipsy sutler than, as many suppose, the slave of some Israelite. He professes, however, to be upon Israel's side, and appears with the usual marks of sorrow. By so doing he hoped to commend himself to David, whom he knew to be too patriotic to rejoice at the defeat of his countrymen, though he doubted not that he would hear with joy of the death of so inveterate a personal enemy as Saul. On this account, and because the way would now stand open to David's ambition, he evidently felt sure of receiving a large guerdon for his news. There is, moreover, a further interest in his conduct; for it demonstrates the existence of a widespread popular feeling that David was destined to be Israel's king. It was this conviction which made him give David kingly honour; for he fell to the earth, and did obeisance. And all Israel, on the morrow after the defeat, would probably have done the same, but for David's own conduct. Israel was too high-spirited a nation to take at once for a king a man who had marched with their enemies to fight against them, even though they knew that the voice of prophecy had appointed him to inherit Saul's throne. 2 Samuel 1:2David receives the news of Saul's death. - 2 Samuel 1:1-4. After the death of Saul, and David's return to Ziklag from his campaign against the Amalekites, there came a man to David on the third day, with his clothes torn and earth strewed upon his head (as a sign of deep mourning: see at 1 Samuel 4:12), who informed him of the flight and overthrow of the Israelitish army, and the death of Saul and Jonathan.

2 Samuel 1:1-3

2 Samuel 1:1 may be regarded as the protasis to 2 Samuel 1:2, so far as the contents are concerned, although formally it is rounded off, and ויּשׁב forms the apodosis to ויהי: "It came to pass after the death of Saul, David had returned from the slaughter of the Amalekites (1 Samuel 30:1-26), that David remained at Ziklag two days. And it came to pass on the third day," etc. Both of these notices of the time refer to the day, on which David returned to Ziklag from the pursuit and defeat of the Amalekites. Whether the battle at Gilboa, in which Saul fell, occurred before or after the return of David, it is impossible to determine. All that follows from the juxtaposition of the two events in 2 Samuel 1:1, is that they were nearly contemporaneous. The man "came from the army from with Saul," and therefore appears to have kept near to Saul during the battle.

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