When we begin our study of 2 Samuel (2 Samuel 1:1–10), David has just returned to his home in Philistine territory. David returned to Ziklag from his successful raid against the Amalekites (1 Samuel 27:6; 2 Sam. 1:1). David brought all of the wives, sons, and daughters who had been kidnapped be the Amalekites, home.
Shortly after David returned to Ziklag he was met by a runner who had returned from Gilboa with the news of the death of Saul and his sons (2 Samuel 1:2–4). When pressed for details, the messenger claimed that he had come on the wounded Saul (2 Samuel 1:5–6), identified himself as an Amalekite (2 Samuel 1:7–8), and when urged to do so by the king had mercifully put him to death (2 Samuel 1:9–10).
The irony of this event should not lost on us. Saul had lost his kingship because he had failed to kill an Amalekite king (1 Samuel 15:9, 26); now an Amalekite that Saul had failed to eliminate would kill this Israelite king. Saul had been ordered to kill the Amalekites—now he ordered an Amalekite to kill him.
This man’s report, differs some from the account in 1 Samuel 31:3–6. It appears that parts of his reports were changed. Was the Amalekite lying? Was he merely an opportunistic thief who robbed battlefield corpses before the Philistines could strip them? Had he accidentally stumbled across Saul’s corpse and imagined he could trade the jewelry and information for a great reward? Many scholars assume the Amalekite concocted the story; others, accept it as truthful.
Perhaps he was Jewish and just called himself an Amalekite to protect Saul from the charge that he asked a fellow Israelite to do the unthinkable—to kill his own king (2 Samuel 1:14, 16).