In his lament over the death of Saul and Jonathan (2 Samuel 1:27), David ends saying:

אֵיךְ נָפְלוּ גִבֹּורִים וַיֹּאבְדוּ כְּלֵי מִלְחָמָֽה׃ פ

“How the mighty have fallen, and the weapons of war perished!” (ESV)

Most translations agree the weapons were destroyed. A few see them as lost:

Heroes have fallen in battle. Their weapons of war are lost.” (ERV)

Being lost or abandoned does seem to better follow with the thrice repeated phrase "how have the warriors fallen" (vv, 19, 25, 27) and the image of Saul's shield cast away (v. 21) as well as the empty bow and sword (v. 22).

Is seeing these weapons lost or abandoned the better understanding of David's lament?

1 Answer 1


איך נפלו גבורים ויאבדו כלי מלחמה

In this verse there is - patently - a synonymic parallelism. Besides the first term (איך), that is (in this context) an interjection of astonishment, the rest of the verse is composed inside a parallelism structure.

Ah! The powerful (men) [גבורים] fell [נפלו] and the war instruments [כלי מלחמה] perished [ויאבדו]!

Like we may see, the links are:

'powerful (men)' = 'war instruments'; and 'fell' = 'perished'.

So, we may correctly conclude that David wasn’t speak about the weapons (sword, bow, spear, etc.) those men did possess but of Saul and Jonathan like instruments of war, fighting the war of God against His enemies.

We may find this peculiar use of the term כלי also in Isa 13:5. In the previous verse (4) God indicates that a ‘multitude (of nations)’, or ‘a great people’ will serve Him like his ‘כלי of indignation’ (and, probably, the same also in Jer 50:25 [compare it with the verses 41, and 42].

Interestingly, also Luther translated in this manner (כלי מלחמה = die Streitbaren).

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