David Hears of Saul’s Death (1:1–16)
17–18 David then wrote a public lament, a poem mourning the deaths of Saul and Jonathan. It is not known why it was called the lament of the bow (verse 18); it was first written in the Book of Jashar, an ancient account of famous events, of which no copy remains (Joshua 10:12–13).
19–21 Your glory, O Israel (referring to Saul and Jonathan), lies slain on the heights of Mount Gilboa (verse 19). Tell it not in Gath . . . Ashkelon1 (verse 20); David is saying: “Don’t spread the news of Israel’s defeat among the Philistines.” David didn’t want the Philistines to be glad or to rejoice over the deaths of Israel’s leaders.
Then, in verse 21, David pronounces a poetic curse on Mount Gilboa, because that was the place where Israel was defeated and where Saul and Jonathan were killed: “. . . may you have neither dew nor rain. . .”2
22–27 In the remainder of the lament, David praises both Saul and Jonathan. In regard to Saul, David focuses on his strengths, not his weaknesses. He shows no bitterness toward Saul, who for so many years had been his mortal enemy. David sets an example for us all: Do not gloat when your enemy falls . . . or the LORD will see and disapprove (Proverbs 24:17–18).
Then, in verse 26, David especially mourns for the loss of his dear friend Jonathan, whose love was more wonderful than that of women.3 Jonathan’s love was wonderful” because it was self-sacrificing; Jonathan had been willing to give up his right to the throne for David’s sake (1 Samuel 23:16–17).