What is one of the first keys we must keep in mind if we are going to understand 2 Samuel? If you try to force a key to unlock a door it wasn’t made for opening you are left with a broken key and still no access. If we think that 2 Samuel is primarily about David, who undoubtedly plays an important role in the book, we will nevertheless begin with the wrong key. We like to find the “hero’s” and the “villain’s” in the story and place the emphasis on the people we encounter, but the biblical authors are interested in directing us differently. Dale Ralph Davis says it well, “This is not about David; it is not even about covenant kings; it is about a covenant God who makes covenant promises to a covenant king through whom He will preserve His covenant people” (2 Samuel Out of Every Adversity, 9). You see, 2 Samuel is about our covenant keeping God, Yahweh!
Have you ever shared news with someone that you thought would be well received, only to be dead wrong? This happened to the Amalekite in 2 Samuel 1, but he had what was coming to him. Seem a bit harsh? Let’s recap what took place at the end of 1 Samuel and the beginning of 2 Samuel.
Saul was badly wounded by the Philistine archers (1 Sam. 31:3) and asked his armor-bearer to finish him off “lest these uncircumcised come and thrust me through, and mistreat me” (31:4). When the armor-bearer refused, Saul fell upon his own sword and the armor bearer “saw that Saul was dead” and did likewise (31:5). Now according to the Amalekite “By chance I happened to be on Mount Gilboa…” (2 Sam. 1:6) pause. How do you by chance happen to be on a mountain during a war exactly? Moving on, the Amalekite is asked by Saul to finish the job, and that is how some (e.g. Josephus) say these two narratives fit. But let me ask you, if Saul was concerned with being thrust through by an uncircumcised Philistine, how is an uncircumcised Amalekite any better? Now the Amalekite is the son of a sojourner (2 Sam. 1:13) so perhaps he was circumcised after being among the people of Israel. We don’t know for certain. The Amalekite said he found Saul leaning on his spear, which is an odd thing if Saul had fallen upon his sword already as 1 Samuel 31 told us. In lieu of these discrepancies, the Amalekite is a liar. Sure it was true that Saul was dead, but he lied about the manner of that death. Thinking that he was bringing good news to David, he lost his life for his lies, a reminder that our sin will find us out (Num. 32:23). The Amalekite should have known not to lift his hand against Yahweh’s anointed (2 Sam. 1:14), and he was held accountable to his own words. The intent of the Amalekite’s heart got him killed. Remember when David felt stricken in his heart for having just cut a piece of Saul’s robe off (see 1 Sam. 24:4-5)? David refused to return evil for evil to Saul, and remained loyal to Yahweh’s anointed all the way to the end, even grieving at the sound of his and Jonathan’s death (2 Sam. 1:11-12).
Some irony is seen since Saul did not utterly destroy the Amalekites as God had commanded, because they were guilty of sin remember (1 Samuel 15). God is not capricious but was patient with the Amalekites and they continued to rebel, and sadly, so did Saul. It is here in 2 Samuel 1 that we find an Amalekite with Saul’s crown and armlet in hand, for the kingship was stripped from Saul after this failure in battle and given to Saul’s neighbor, David (1 Sam. 15:28). Some additional irony is seen when we think that David and his men were plundering the Amalekites who had burned Ziklag with fire (see 1 Sam. 30) about the same time that this Amalekite was plundering items from Saul. You don’t just happen to come upon a battle and swipe the tokens of kingship from the King of Israel unless you were waiting for such an opportunity. The Amalekite lies to David, and David sees the holes in his account. Saul was already dead, but since he lied about killing Yahweh’s anointed, he was judged by his own words and lost his life. A reminder to any and all, do not mess with Yahweh’s anointed. “Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against Yahweh and against His Anointed, saying, ‘Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.’…Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and you perish in the way, for His wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in Him” (Psalm 2:1-3, 12). May every ruler and person be on watch if you seek to set yourself against Yahweh’s Anointed, David’s Son and David’s Lord, Jesus Christ, you will be a footstool (see Ps. 110)!