Read 2 Samuel 1:17-27
Our Attitude When Our Enemy Falls
The last chapter of 1 Samuel is the inspired account of the death of Saul and Jonathan; the first chapter of 2 Samuel begins with an Amalekite’s dishonest report of how Saul perished. Thinking he would receive a reward for bringing good news to Saul’s perceived enemy (2 Samuel 4:10), he instead was met with the end of his own life.
David shows in his lamentation for Saul that he was no enemy; he truly grieved for the fallen king. This lamentation also included David’s thoughts concerning his close friend, Jonathan, the king’s son. Three times, the line is repeated: “How the mighty have fallen!” Saul’s shortcomings and sins are not recounted here. David’s focus is upon Saul as “the Lord’s anointed” (2 Samuel 1:14-16).
“Tell it not in Gath, proclaim it not in the streets of Ashkelon—lest the daughters of the Philistines rejoice, lest the daughters of the uncircumcised triumph” (2 Samuel 1:20). Those who were enemies of God’s chosen people would have expressed great joy in the news of Saul’s death. David did not want this to be an occasion for joy for his foes.
Children of God are expected to behave better. “Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles; lest the Lord see it, and it displease Him, and He turn away His wrath from him” (Proverbs 24:17-18). The International Critical Commentary concludes, “The implication of the passage is that God might be more concerned with punishing his disobedient follower than that of the outright wicked.” Indeed, we should know better, while the unbeliever perhaps acts in ignorance.
Jesus explains how we should treat our enemy and why. “But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?” (Matthew 5:44-46).
Rather than joy at the downfall of our adversaries, perhaps we should experience a pang of regret that we did not make a greater effort to bring them to repentance so that they may stand justified in the sight of the Lord (James 5:19-20).