David and his men had been back at Ziklag for 3 days when they finally heard about the defeat and Saul’s death. The man who brought this news, gave a different version of the story of Saul’s death from 1 Samuel 31. He claimed that Saul had asked him to kill him, and that he not only killed Saul but brought David his royal headband and bracelet.
David and his men, all mourned not only Saul’s death but that of Jonathan and the defeat of the army of Israel for the rest of the day. Then David went back to the man who claimed to have killed Saul. He questioned the man and specifically asked him why he had no fear of killing Israel’s anointed king. Finally he asked one of his soldiers to kill the man for killing Saul. David then composed a song of lament for Saul, Jonathan and Israel. This chapter claims that he made Judah learn it by heart but this probably happened later when he left Ziglag.
David showed consistency in behaviour and values. He had always been clear that killing Saul was not acceptable. This man probably thought David would welcome him with his loot. He clearly did not know David very well. David treated the man as he would have expected himself to be treated if he had killed Saul.
One could say that this was a selfish strategic move – since David was in line to be the next king and he probably would not want everyone trying to kill him. But, as we shall see, the succession was not clear to David or Israel. David would seek the answers from God and Israel would resort to civil war with various factions before settling on David as king. In addition, David, had never acted specifically to protect himself but always put Saul’s life above his own. Even later in his life when he sinned with Bathsheba, David did not place himself above God’s law – he accepted his transgression and the punishment for his chosen actions.
When everyone one was jostling for power, David was mourning his friends and king.