How are the mighty fallen, and the weapons of war perished!
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
"Though choice of follies fasten on the great,
None clings more obstinate, than fancy fond.
That sacred friendship is their easy prey;
Caught by the wafture of a golden lure,
Or fascination of a high-born smile.
Their smiles, the great, and the coquette, throw out.
For other's hearts, tenacious of their own,
And we no less of ours, when such the bait,
Ye fortune's cofferers? ye powers of wealth!
Can gold gain friendship! Impudence of hope!
As well mere man an angel might beget.
Love, and love only, is the loan for love.
Lorenzo! pride repress; nor hope to find.
1. Metaphorically so called, to wit, Saul and Jonathan, and the brave commanders and soldiers of Israel; who might have been called the chariots of Israel, and the horsemen thereof. Or rather,
2. Properly; for, together with the men, their arms were lost, which was a very great aggravation of their loss, and that loss seems to be at this time more irrecoverable and dangerous than the loss of their men.
and the weapons of war perished! not only the valiant soldiers were killed, but their arms were lost; and particularly he may mean Saul and Jonathan, who as they were the shields of the people, so they were the true weapons and instruments of war, and with them all military glory perished; which must be understood as a poetical figure, exaggerating their military characters; otherwise David, and many mighty men with him, remained, and who revived and increased the military glory of Israel, as the following history shows.How are the mighty fallen, and the weapons of war perished!
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)27. How are the mighty fallen] This thrice-repeated refrain sounds the keynote of the elegy. Cp. Psalm 42:5; Psalm 42:11; Psalm 43:5; Psalm 107:8; Psalm 107:15; Psalm 107:21; Psalm 107:31.
the weapons of war] Metaphorically, of Saul and Jonathan as the instruments of battle for the nation. Cp. Isaiah 13:5, Acts 9:15 (σκεῦος as in the LXX. here). To understand it literally of swords and spears would close the most pathetic of elegies with an incredible bathos.
Dean Stanley observes that “Over the portal of the sepulchral chapel of the most famous of mediaeval heroes—the tomb of the Cid near Burgos—we find inscribed the words of David “How are the mighty fallen and the weapons of war perished,” “Quomodo ceciderunt robusti, et perierunt arma bellica” (Lect. II. 31).
It is needless to dwell on the poetic beauty, the chivalrous loyalty, the tender love, which characterize this most pathetic of funeral odes.
“Saul had fallen with all his sins upon his head, fallen in the bitterness of despair, and as it might have seemed to mortal eye, under the shadow of the curse of God. But not only is there in David’s lament no revengeful feeling at the death of his persecutor.… but he dwells with unmixed love on the brighter recollections of the departed. He speaks only of the Saul of earlier times, the mighty conqueror, the delight of his people, the father of his beloved and faithful friend; like him in life, united with him in death. Such expressions … may fairly be taken as justifying the irrepressible instinct of humanity which compels us to dwell on the best qualities of those who have just departed.” Stanley, Lect. II. 30. See too a noble passage to the same effect in Maurice’s Prophets and Kings, Serm. II., p. 32.Verse 27. - How are the mighty fallen! This lament, which occurs three times, is the central thought of the elegy. Glorious and noble in their pest lives, the heroes had now fallen, not as Wolfe fell at Quebec, with the shout of victory in his ears, but in the lost battle. And David seeks relief for his distress in dwelling upon the sad contrast between the splendid victories which Saul had won for Israel when first chosen to be king, and the terrible defeat by which life and kingdom had now been lost.
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