The First Reading: Samuel 1.1, 17-27
The song is said to have been taken from the Book of Jasher (‘the Upright’), an old collection of poems which is now lost (see Joshua 10.13). The text of the lament has been damaged over the centuries, and is not clear in several places (especially verses 18, 19, and 21). The fact that there is no specifically religious reference and the magnanimity of David towards Saul, who had been hateful to him, may be taken as grounds for accepting the authenticity of this song. The author of Samuel shows a hostility to Saul which one might have expected to find in this lament if it had in fact been a later composition.
In verse 21 some versions make “not anointed with oil” refer to Saul and others to Saul’s shield. If it refers to the shield, the image is of its being left on the field to rust; if to Saul, as the NOAB notes, the “not” is an editorial comment refusing to acknowledge him as the Lord’s anointed.
For the love of David and Jonathan, see 1 Samuel 18.1-5 and chapter 20. Scholars disagree about the nature of the affection between the two men. For an introduction to the discussion, see
David’s lament is a very beautiful poem and one which has had much influence on later literature. Many who know little of the bible will recognize such lines as the refrain “How are the mighty fallen” and “Tell it not in Gath, piblish it not in the streets of Ashkelon”.