Whether it's born of the death of a loved one, a deeply felt disappointment or regret, or some irrevocable loss, it's sting is potent like no other. Such grief leaves a scar that often baffles us long into our tomorrows.
David is, perhaps, the best spokesperson on the subject. His life and writings require at least one box of Kleenex as we discern his unabashed mournfulness throughout various epochs in his own life.
Certainly David's grief is keenly felt with the loss of his firstborn, but also with the betrayal of several of his own sons; their mis-deeds and premature deaths. A life lived largely on-the-run only added to his sense of disenfranchisement.
Yet it's when we come to his woeful reaction to news of the deaths of Saul and Jonathon - one a bitter but much loved enemy & the other a true, beloved friend - we not only learn of the bloody battle that claimed them, but of the depths of David's heart.
He composes a song, and it is given a name: The Lament of the Bow.
It's a dirge, a song of bereavement David is compelled to craft. It is also a song of remembrance (lest he, or anyone else forget?) ... and soon it becomes a training cadence.
It would seem war is always to be lamented. How well we all know this!
I believe it's something more ...
War and bows are, unfortunately, the stuff of gaining and maintaining freedom. Some are engaged in it for far less noble causes - like ethnic cleansing or power grabs - but it's fair to say that bloodshed is never (or lamenting, for that matter) God's Plan A. It's always a lessor plan, one that seemingly becomes inevitable long after the opportunity for doing life God's way has passed.
Such a thing never calls for rejoicing, regardless of who wins, unless it's to celebrate the end, the cessation of the war itself. In all instances, war calls for the Lament of the Bow.
Whether it's friend or foe laying mortally wounded on fields of battle (literally and figuratively), there's little cause for celebration. Victory chants ring hollow next to the bow's lament.
and his son Jonathan, and ordered that the
men of Judah be taught this lament of the bow
(it is written in the Book of Jashar):
"Your glory, O Israel, lies slain on your heights.
How the mighty have fallen! ...
O mountains of Gilboa, may you have neither
dew nor rain, nor fields that yield offerings of grain.
For there the shield of the mighty was defiled,
the shield of Saul—no longer rubbed with oil.
From the blood of the slain, from the flesh
of the mighty, the bow of Jonathan did not turn
back, the sword of Saul did not return unsatisfied.
"Saul and Jonathan— in life they were
loved and gracious, and in death they were not parted.
They were swifter than eagles,
they were stronger than lions.
who clothed you in scarlet and finery,
who adorned your garments with ornaments of gold.
"How the mighty have fallen in battle!
Jonathan lies slain on your heights.
The weapons of war have perished!"
1 Samuel 1:17-27
I have no clue why David's lament felt so personal to me, or why it compelled me to craft this piece. What I do know is that I have felt the wounds of friend & foe alike, and I have also seen many a loved one fallen on the fields of battle - some placed there by my own skilled archery.
May I never forget the Lament of the Bow, for even the mighty fall.