According to plan, both men appeared on the plains of Weehawken to settle their squabble in a duel. The first shot rang vociferously. Alexander Hamilton fired his custom-made pistol and missed Aaron Burr, trimming off a nearby branch. The second shot produced two sounds: one was gunfire, the second was a thud from Hamilton’s body collapsing to the ground. The physician darted toward him, but there was nothing he could do, for as Hamilton declared, “This is a mortal wound, Doctor.” The bullet struck him above his hip, bounced off his rib, cut through his liver, and cracked his lower spine. Hamilton died the following day on July 12, 1804.
Hamilton’s death was not according to plan, however. Neither Burr nor Hamilton expected to walk away as the last man standing. They both intended to simply wound—to make a statement with a bullet—rather than kill. The resulting public humiliation forced Burr to flee to Georgia, which proved to be a saving grace for our fledgling nation. A conspiracy was afoot for the northeastern region of New England to secede from the rest of the country, with Burr as president. Hightailing it to the south destroyed those plans. You could say that Hamilton’s death, albeit accidental, saved the entire nation in its fragile infancy.1
The political salvation obtained by Hamilton’s blood pales in comparison, however, to the spiritual salvation purchased by the blood of Jesus Christ, whose grim death also saved an entire nation—the nation of God’s people. Jesus of Nazareth achingly ascended the hill of Golgotha, bloodied and bruised from Roman whips, but He had not come to duel. He came to end the greatest duel of all: the war between God and man. As Jesus drank the whole cup of God’s wrath against sinners, the sound from the cross was not a gunshot, but a piercing cry of anguish: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). And His death was not an accident; it was according to God’s plan. “Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him,” said Isaiah the prophet (Isaiah 53:10).
Although Burr’s story ended in humiliation, the story of Jesus Christ did not. God raised Him from the dead, exalting Him at His right hand (Acts 2:32-33). We are saved, then, not only by His humiliation on the cross, but by His exaltation from the tomb. As Paul perfectly stated,
“Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life” (Romans 5:9-10).
The duel is over if you have believed in Christ for your eternal salvation. The fight died when Christ died; now you are God’s friend.
- No one narrates the famous story of Hamilton vs. Burr like Joseph J. Ellis in Founding Brothers (New York: Random House, Inc., 2000).
Bible Gleanings is a widely-read weekend devotional column, written for the Murray Ledger & Times in Calloway County, Kentucky.
Brandon is the founder and main contributor to Brandon’s Desk, the blog with biblical resources from his ministry. He is proud to be the pastor of the family of believers at Locust Grove Baptist Church in Murray, Kentucky. He and his wife Dakota live there with their three dogs, Susie (Jack Russell), Aries (English Shepherd), and Dot (Bluetick Beagle).