David was overwhelmed by the reality of the royal family’s destruction. Yet as in the case of the author of Lamentations, David’s agony works like a catalyst. His pain creates one of the most sensitive and moving expressions of mourning ever penned or uttered. Gordon praises the passage as “one of the finest specimens of Hebrew poetry in the Old Testament.” David’s words not only express his personal grief, but that of all Israel as well.
David’s public expression of grief over the deaths of Saul and Jonathan has been preserved in a poem, “The Song of the Bow” (1 Samuel 1:19–27). This “Song of the Bow” is part of a now-lost longer composition referred to by the historian as the Book of Jashar (Joshua 10:13). Part of this same poetic song was sung by Joshua on the occasion of the defeat of the Amorites (Joshua 10:12–13).
David “ordered that the men of Judah be taught this lament” (2 Samuel 1:18), perhaps because of its subject matter, since it paid tribute to Israel’s first royal family and dealt with the larger and ever-relevant issue of loved ones dying in war.