Heroes' Death

Week 3 Day 1

2 Samuel 1:17-27
17 Then David chanted with this lament over Saul and Jonathan his son, 18 and he told them to teach the sons of Judah the song of the bow; behold, it is written in the book of Jashar.

19 “Your beauty, O Israel, is slain on your high places!
How have the mighty fallen!
20 “Tell it not in Gath,
Proclaim it not in the streets of Ashkelon,
Or the daughters of the Philistines will rejoice,
The daughters of the uncircumcised will exult.
21 “O mountains of Gilboa,
Let not dew or rain be on you, nor fields of offerings;
For there the shield of the mighty was defiled,
The shield of Saul, not anointed with oil.
22 “From the blood of the slain, from the fat of the mighty,
The bow of Jonathan did not turn back,
And the sword of Saul did not return empty.
23 “Saul and Jonathan, beloved and pleasant in their life,
And in their death they were not parted;
They were swifter than eagles,
They were stronger than lions.
24 “O daughters of Israel, weep over Saul,
Who clothed you luxuriously in scarlet,
Who put ornaments of gold on your apparel.
25 “How have the mighty fallen in the midst of the battle!
Jonathan is slain on your high places.
26 “I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan;
You have been very pleasant to me.
Your love to me was more wonderful
Than the love of women.
27 “How have the mighty fallen,
And the weapons of war perished!”
After Saul, Israel’s first king, and Jonathan his son were killed in battle, David composed a eulogy for the two men. The refrain of his lament over their deaths is the line “How the mighty have fallen…”

Based on their history of violent opposition, we might be tempted to think that David would rejoice to hear of Saul’s death. Instead, David pens this song of grief extolling the might and strength of the fallen king and his son, choosing to honor the men rather than reveling in their demise. For Jonathan, especially, David pours out his lamentation.  His sadness over the death of his friend and brother is so poignantly expressed, adding extra emotion to the exclamation, “How the mighty have fallen in the midst of the battle!”

Consider the deeper weight and subtext of this phrase. The “mighty” and the strong are those we don’t expect to fall! Our heroes are supposed to be untouchable and unassailable! But in David’s eulogy, we see a glimpse of the truth: All the mighty will eventually fall–including David himself.

Perhaps you are familiar with the Latin words memento mori. Tradition says that in ancient Rome, generals who returned home after a successful conquest would have one of their slaves follow closely by them during the victory parade and whisper these words in their ear as they walked through the cheering crowds, “Memento mori–Remember that you must die.” Even the mighty, even the victorious.

The acknowledgement of death as an assured reality for us all (unless Christ returns first) is not only a humbling gut check, but also a poignant reminder of the grief that accompanies life in our fallen state. Lament, like we glimpse in David’s song over Saul and Jonathan, is a way that believers remind ourselves and others that this is not how it was supposed to be!
It seems wrong that “the mighty” all fall! And David, great king though he is destined to become, will have no power to change that reality.  

Only King Jesus–the true Mighty One–will have the power to defeat death. And not just for himself, but for all who are one with him in faith.  

Reflection and Prayer

How do you (or our society) typically identify the mighty and heroic? What sets them apart?

In Jesus, how do we see those expectations met, subverted, contrasted, or fulfilled? Especially as it relates to his death and resurrection?

God, you are the author of all life and the source of all goodness.  Thank you for making yourself known to us through Christ, the Mighty One, who allowed himself to be killed that we might live.  Give us wisdom, peace, and hope as we live in a world where death still brings grief and pain.  Turn our heart towards Jesus as we wait for the day he defeats death fully.  Amen.

Faith Bible Staff