David grieved deeply over the death of King Saul and Saul’s son, Jonathan, who was David’s best friend. He did not see this as a personal victory for himself but a great loss for the Nation. It was about Israel, God’s people, not about himself. He begins his song of lament for the king and his son in 2 Samuel 1:19, “Your glory, O Israel, is slain on your high places! How the mighty have fallen!” In some translations, you will see that instead of “Your glory,” there will be “Your beauty” and even “Your Gazelle.” The words are close in Hebrew. But from the song that follows, it appears to me to be referring to Saul, the Kind of Israel, to be representative of the Nation as a whole and therefore is said to be Israel’s “Glory.” The place where Saul was killed is “Mount Gilboa.” This is what is meant by “high places.”

The relationship between Saul and David is extremely complicated. He was best friends with Saul’s son. He married Saul’s daughter. He served in Saul’s army even though Saul had attempted to kill him several times. But David was thinking about the nation itself and the humiliation it experienced at Saul’s defeat. Further, David had such affection for Jonathan that David lost one of the most important people in his life. Although we cannot miss the personal nature of David’s sorrow, we can’t overlook how death, in general, brings grief to every human being. One web writer says, “Following Saul and Jonathan’s death, David cried out for silence in the streets and for a curse to descend on the mountain where the mighty of Israel had fallen. Although David’s lament was personal, he led all of Israel in mourning the nation’s calamity. As Alistair Begg explains, his sorrowful grief was a biblical response to death. When we take time to mourn, we show a watching world that death is indeed the last great enemy, even as we look forward to the return of Christ, who alone conquered death.”[1]

I expect that everyone has heard the phrase “how the mighty have fallen.” It’s often used today to refer to a great decline in importance or wealth or a serious lapse into sin by someone powerful and influential. The origin of the phrase is in David’s lament over the deaths of Saul and Jonathan in battle. The expression occurs three times in 2 Samuel 1, in verses 19, 25, and 27.[2] I wonder if the writer might be focusing on the three episodes of the fallen angels in the Bible. In Isaiah 14, the greatest of God’s angelic creations, Lucifer, thinks too highly of himself and falls from his great position with God to be God’s great enemy. Genesis 6 speaks of demonic disembodied spirits that inhabited the bodies of men to cohabit with women. They are now imprisoned for their transgression. It might be well said, “how the mighty have fallen” of them. At the Judgement of Babel, the lessor gods were allotted to the nations as they rebelled against God’s divinely assigned position for them. Saul was in rebellion against God, and it was said of him, “How the mighty have fallen.” All mankind celebrates the strength of humanity. We compete to prove we’re the best in sports. We gather riches to show our superiority to the world. We go to schools to earn degrees that we can hang on our walls. We boast of our achievements, but the end of it all is always the same. Solomon tells us in the book of Ecclesiastes that all the money, pleasure, power, and wisdom in the world will not put off the inevitability of death. It’s all vanity of vanities, and we should think about this because meditating on death improves life. Even a Greek Philosophy said, “An unreflected life isn’t worth living.”

 [1] https://www.truthforlife.org/resources/sermon/how-mighty-have-fallen/

[2] Manser, Martin H., Natasha B. Fleming, Kate Hughes, and Ronald F. Bridges. 2000. I Never Knew That Was in the Bible!. Electronic ed. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.