David Avenges the Gibeonites
21 Now there was a famine in the days of David for three years, year after year. And David sought the face of the LORD. And the LORD said, “There is bloodguilt on Saul and on his house, because he put the Gibeonites to death.” So the king called the Gibeonites and spoke to them. Now the Gibeonites were not of the people of Israel but of the remnant of the Amorites. Although the people of Israel had sworn to spare them, Saul had sought to strike them down in his zeal for the people of Israel and Judah. And David said to the Gibeonites, “What shall I do for you? And how shall I make atonement, that you may bless the heritage of the LORD?” The Gibeonites said to him, “It is not a matter of silver or gold between us and Saul or his house; neither is it for us to put any man to death in Israel.” And he said, “What do you say that I shall do for you?” They said to the king, “The man who consumed us and planned to destroy us, so that we should have no place in all the territory of Israel, let seven of his sons be given to us, so that we may hang them before the LORD at Gibeah of Saul, the chosen of the LORD.” And the king said, “I will give them.”
But the king spared Mephibosheth, the son of Saul’s son Jonathan, because of the oath of the LORD that was between them, between David and Jonathan the son of Saul. The king took the two sons of Rizpah the daughter of Aiah, whom she bore to Saul, Armoni and Mephibosheth; and the five sons of Merab the daughter of Saul, whom she bore to Adriel the son of Barzillai the Meholathite; and he gave them into the hands of the Gibeonites, and they hanged them on the mountain before the LORD, and the seven of them perished together. They were put to death in the first days of harvest, at the beginning of barley harvest.
Then Rizpah the daughter of Aiah took sackcloth and spread it for herself on the rock, from the beginning of harvest until rain fell upon them from the heavens. And she did not allow the birds of the air to come upon them by day, or the beasts of the field by night. When David was told what Rizpah the daughter of Aiah, the concubine of Saul, had done, David went and took the bones of Saul and the bones of his son Jonathan from the men of Jabesh-gilead, who had stolen them from the public square of Beth-shan, where the Philistines had hanged them, on the day the Philistines killed Saul on Gilboa. And he brought up from there the bones of Saul and the bones of his son Jonathan; and they gathered the bones of those who were hanged. And they buried the bones of Saul and his son Jonathan in the land of Benjamin in Zela, in the tomb of Kish his father. And they did all that the king commanded. And after that God responded to the plea for the land.
War with the Philistines
There was war again between the Philistines and Israel, and David went down together with his servants, and they fought against the Philistines. And David grew weary. And Ishbi-benob, one of the descendants of the giants, whose spear weighed three hundred shekels of bronze, and who was armed with a new sword, thought to kill David. But Abishai the son of Zeruiah came to his aid and attacked the Philistine and killed him. Then David’s men swore to him, “You shall no longer go out with us to battle, lest you quench the lamp of Israel.”
After this there was again war with the Philistines at Gob. Then Sibbecai the Hushathite struck down Saph, who was one of the descendants of the giants. And there was again war with the Philistines at Gob, and Elhanan the son of Jaare-oregim, the Bethlehemite, struck down Goliath the Gittite, the shaft of whose spear was like a weaver’s beam. And there was again war at Gath, where there was a man of great stature, who had six fingers on each hand, and six toes on each foot, twenty-four in number, and he also was descended from the giants. And when he taunted Israel, Jonathan the son of Shimei, David’s brother, struck him down. These four were descended from the giants in Gath, and they fell by the hand of David and by the hand of his servants.
2 Samuel 21 Commentary
by Hank Workman
It is the strangest of stories. Israel was under a 3-year famine and it fell back to a sin of Saul that had caused it all.
400 years before David’s reign, Joshua and all of Israel swore not to do any harm to the Gibeonites. The vow was expected to be kept. Under Saul’s leadership he killed many of them and broke the ancient oath that had been made. God expected the promise to be kept and time did not cease that obligation to such a promise. What’s fascinating to consider is time did not dictate the punishment God brought. It is a reminder for us that our promises are to be kept. God looks very diligently at these.
It’s fascinating that God had finally after all these years past Saul’s reign chose to deal with the matter. Many times, the sins of our past, although He has forgiven us when we’ve asked, there often comes a time we may need to revisit to make things right. The slow work of the Holy Spirit in our lives is very thorough. And when in God’s timing He has us revisit issues that need to be dealt with, will in His time bring them up.
The notable thing about this story is David inquired of God as to what the problem was. He sought God for the answer in order to correct the issue. Did David have an inkling as to what could be the cause?
Possibly, commentators are divided on this. But it took his seeking for certain in order to correct it. It should be a challenge for each of us when there is an ongoing issue we’re wrestling with to seek Him and find the answers. Is there something from the past we need to make right? Is God withholding His blessing until we do? Just as David had to deal with how to rectify and restore things, an action was required. When God reveals things to us concerning such matters, our action is needed as well.
It seems barbaric when you read the chapter as to what was required to bring an end to the famine and discipline. The way these 7 men were rounded up and consequently hung seems atrocious. In particular, as they were left to hang to the elements as a sacrifice of sorts, the sin of their father was laid upon them.
Deuteronomy 21:23 speaks of those hung on a tree being cursed. Their death was an atonement for the sin of Saul and freed Israel from their guilt. Yet the broader picture here explains why Jesus died how He did.
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”— in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.Galatians 3:13-14
Much the same was as atoning for the sin of the Saul, Christ died for all as He hung on the cross and redeemed us from the spiritual famine and destitute separate living from God Himself. He took on all our sins, from the past to the present, and made a way clear for the blessing of God. He made a way for living in victory over our past.
2 Samuel 21 Commentary
by Brad Boyles
King David was seemingly indestructible. He was a beast on the battlefield and a musician at heart. Although his sins are well-documented, it is a fact that David was blessed with many gifts and talents. In 2 Samuel 21, we read of how David begins to dwindle in his old age.
In a throwback from the time he was a boy, he goes up against the Philistines and once again we find more giants fighting against Israel. This naturally leads to the question, what was in the water in Philistine country that was producing all these giants? Maybe the Philistines had some giant factory tucked away deep in the backwoods of their land?
Anyway, this battle was difficult for David. He became weak and tired. A giant (surprise, surprise) named Ishbibenob went for David’s neck. If it wasn’t for the heroic act of Abishai, King David may have lost his life that day.
We also read of another giant! There is some confusion about who this man was considering David had already slain Goliath long before. 1 Chronicles 20 helps to clarify…
“There was another battle with the Philistines, and Elhanan son of Jair killed Lahmi, the brother of Goliath from Gath, whose spear had a shaft as thick as the bar on a weaver’s loom.”1 Chronicles 20:5 GNB
Goliath’s brother, Lahmi, was slain by Elhanan son of Jair from Bethlehem (ironically, also where David was from).
So what can we learn? Even though David was capable on the battlefield, his army didn’t need him to fight in order to obtain their victory. At this time, they needed him as a leader, not as a warrior. To David’s credit, he accepted their constructive criticism and stepped back.