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2 Samuel 1:1-5

Context
David Learns of the Deaths of Saul and Jonathan

1:1 After the death of Saul, 1  when David had returned from defeating the Amalekites, 2  he stayed at Ziklag 3  for two days. 1:2 On the third day a man arrived from the camp of Saul with his clothes torn and dirt on his head. 4  When he approached David, the man 5  threw himself to the ground. 6 

1:3 David asked him, “Where are you coming from?” He replied, “I have escaped from the camp of Israel.” 1:4 David inquired, “How were things going? 7  Tell me!” He replied, “The people fled from the battle and many of them 8  fell dead. 9  Even Saul and his son Jonathan are dead!” 1:5 David said to the young man 10  who was telling him this, “How do you know that Saul and his son Jonathan are dead?” 11 

1 sn This chapter is closely linked to 1 Sam 31. It should be kept in mind that 1 and 2 Samuel were originally a single book, not separate volumes. Whereas in English Bible tradition the books of Samuel, Kings, Chronicles, and Ezra-Nehemiah are each regarded as two separate books, this was not the practice in ancient Hebrew tradition. Early canonical records, for example, counted them as single books respectively. The division into two books goes back to the Greek translation of the OT and was probably initiated because of the cumbersome length of copies due to the Greek practice (unlike that of Hebrew) of writing vowels. The present division into two books can be a little misleading in terms of perceiving the progression of the argument of the book; in some ways it is preferable to treat the books of 1-2 Samuel in a unified fashion.

2 sn The Amalekites were a nomadic people who inhabited Judah and the Transjordan. They are mentioned in Gen 36:15-16 as descendants of Amalek who in turn descended from Esau. In Exod 17:8-16 they are described as having acted in a hostile fashion toward Israel as the Israelites traveled to Canaan from Egypt. In David’s time the Amalekites were viewed as dangerous enemies who raided, looted, and burned Israelite cities (see 1 Sam 30).

3 sn Ziklag was a city in the Negev which had been given to David by Achish king of Gath. For more than a year David used it as a base from which he conducted military expeditions (see 1 Sam 27:5-12). According to 1 Sam 30:1-19, Ziklag was destroyed by the Amalekites while Saul fought the Philistines.

4 sn Tearing one’s clothing and throwing dirt on one’s head were outward expressions of grief in the ancient Near East, where such demonstrable reactions were a common response to tragic news.

5 tn Heb “he”; the referent (the man mentioned at the beginning of v. 2) has been specified in the translation to avoid confusion as to who fell to the ground.

6 tn Heb “he fell to the ground and did obeisance.”

7 tn Heb “What was the word?”

8 tn Heb “from the people.”

9 tn Heb “fell and died.”

10 tn In v. 2 he is called simply a “man.” The word used here in v. 5 (so also in vv. 6, 13, 15), though usually referring to a young man or servant, may in this context designate a “fighting” man, i.e., a soldier.

11 tc Instead of the MT “who was recounting this to him, ‘How do you know that Saul and his son Jonathan are dead?’” the Syriac Peshitta reads “declare to me how Saul and his son Jonathan died.”



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