Friday, August 19, 2011

2 Samuel 21:1-14

Now there was a famine in the days of David for three years, year after year; and David inquired of the Lord. And the Lord answered, “It is because of Saul and his bloodthirsty house, because he killed the Gibeonites.” 2 So the king called the Gibeonites and spoke to them. Now the Gibeonites were not of the children of Israel, but of the remnant of the Amorites; the children of Israel had sworn protection to them, but Saul had sought to kill them in his zeal for the children of Israel and Judah. 3 Therefore David said to the Gibeonites, “What shall I do for you? And with what shall I make atonement, that you may bless the inheritance of the Lord?” 4 And the Gibeonites said to him, “We will have no silver or gold from Saul or from his house, nor shall you kill any man in Israel for us.” So he said, “Whatever you say, I will do for you.” 5 Then they answered the king, “As for the man who consumed us and plotted against us, that we should be destroyed from remaining in any of the territories of Israel, 6 let seven men of his descendants be delivered to us, and we will hang them before the Lord in Gibeah of Saul, whom the Lord chose.” And the king said, “I will give them.7 But the king spared Mephibosheth the son of Jonathan, the son of Saul, because of the Lord’s oath that was between them, between David and Jonathan the son of Saul. 8 So the king took Armoni and Mephibosheth, the two sons of Rizpah the daughter of Aiah, whom she bore to Saul, and the five sons of Michal the daughter of Saul, whom she brought up for Adriel the son of Barzillai the Meholathite; 9 and he delivered them into the hands of the Gibeonites, and they hanged them on the hill before the Lord. So they fell, all seven together, and were put to death in the days of harvest, in the first days, in the beginning of barley harvest. 10 Now Rizpah the daughter of Aiah took sackcloth and spread it for herself on the rock, from the beginning of harvest until the late rains poured on them from heaven. And she did not allow the birds of the air to rest on them by day nor the beasts of the field by night. 11 And David was told what Rizpah the daughter of Aiah, the concubine of Saul, had done.12 Then David went and took the bones of Saul, and the bones of Jonathan his son, from the men of Jabesh Gilead who had stolen them from the street of Beth Shan, where the Philistines had hung them up, after the Philistines had struck down Saul in Gilboa. 13 So he brought up the bones of Saul and the bones of Jonathan his son from there; and they gathered the bones of those who had been hanged. 14 They buried the bones of Saul and Jonathan his son in the country of Benjamin in Zelah, in the tomb of Kish his father. So they performed all that the king commanded. And after that God heeded the prayer for the land.


In this section of Scripture we see that God does not forsake justice, though it seems delayed for a season. Now the backdrop to this was when Saul was king he not only made war against the enemies of the Lord, in his misguided zeal he (and more to the point, "his bloodthirsty house" meaning those in his own family, vs, 1) thought to purge Israel itself of the foreigners within the boarders of Israel, specially the Gibeonites, who were not just resident aliens, but these were people, Israel in the days of Joshua had made a solemn covenant with (see Joshua 9). And so after Saul's death, along with his own sons Jonathan, Abinadab, and Malchisua (1 Samuel 31:2), there still remained the sons of one his concubines who in all likelihood were apart of this genocide. And so long after his death and well into King David's reign, with David again firmly established on the throne God remembers Saul's killing the Gibeonites. And so it is now the Lord (the Covenanter with Israel) who remembers that Israel has broken their covenant through their genocidal act against them. For though God sometimes is "silent" for a season, He will not allow His people too perpetuate crimes and injustices against others, and thus violate His Holy Name, and then continue on as if no wrong has occurred, simply because of their covenant status with Him. For being in a covenant relationship with God means not only receiving blessing and privileges from God, but also it means fulfilling ones responsibilities to Him, as His Name bearer. And thus it means to be just in ones dealings with all people. And so it is now, that the Lord in the days of King David, brings a famine that lasts for three years on the land of Israel as a ongoing judgment against His people (who were not ignorant of Saul's murderous deeds) indeed some of whom must have also participated in Saul's crime, or were placid observers to it.
And so this famine is given directly by God to bring about justice for the Gibeonites, for the crimes that Saul and his household committed. Thus it is during David's reign, when he is well established, and the house of Saul can no longer pose a threat to the throne, that God brings that famine, knowing that His servant David would be a man who would seek His face, and would seek to do His will to make it right again.
It is then a wake up call to Israel which King David heeds when He understands that it is the Lord's hand who has brought this famine against His people to bring about justice. For the Lord is a God of justice (Deut. 32:4) who always does justice and so He moves His people (by one means or another) to do justice as His representatives in the earth (Gen. 18:19). And so it is when King David understands that it is the Lord who has brought about this famine that he as king and responds in humility and repentance on behalf of the people. And so he personally seeks out the offended Gibeonites, leaving them to prescribe what the atonement should be for the crimes Saul and his household committed again them. Now in this they request neither silver nor gold from Saul's house; nor do they ask for the death of anyone in Israel; though again who knows how many actually participated in Saul's genocide. Rather they ask that seven of his descendants should given to them, so that they might execute judgment on them, for the lives taken from them at his hand. (Something the Law also required, was the death of the offender who took another's life unjustly, and thus no financial remuneration could be taken for blood guilt upon the land, for blood can only be atoned for by blood, Num. 35:33). Now King David in giving up the seven decedents of Saul spares Mephibosheth Jonathan's son, who is different than Saul's own son Mephibosheth, (vs. 7-8). Now David does this for reason of the covenant between himself and Jonathan. Though it is also highly unlikely because of the lameness of Mephibosheth's feet that he had anything to do with Saul's murderous campaigns against the Gibeonites.
And so King David delivers up Saul's concubine Rizpah's sons, Armoni and Mephibosheth, as well as the five sons Michal the daughter of Saul that she bore to Adriel the son of Barzillai the Meholathite; when Saul gave her to him, rather than too David, as he swore he would (See 1 Sam. 18:17-30; vs. 19; 2 Sam. 3:14; 6:23).Therefore only the surviving heir's of Saul will be put to death. And so it is when they are delivered to the Gibeonites that they are hung before the Lord in the days of the harvest (vs. 6, 9). Now it is during this time that Rizpah the concubine of Saul will day and night stand watch over the bodies, from the beginning of the harvest until the late rains pour down from heaven, allowing neither birds of the air or beast of the field to defile the corpses (vs. 10). Now when David was told what Rizpah, Saul's concubine had done, David went to the valiant men of Jabesh Gilead and took the bones of Saul and Jonathan, Saul's son, whom they had retrieved from the Philistines wall in Beth Shan, when they hung them there after their defeat on Mount Gilboa at their hands, and thus David took their bones and he gathered them together with the bones of Saul's sons whom the Gibeonites had hung, and David gave them all a proper burial place, in their own country, in the land of Benjamin, in Zelah where their father Kish, Saul's father was buried (vs. 10-13). And so only then after justice had been served towards the Gibenonites, as well as the house of Saul, did God then heed the prayer for the land (Vs. 14).

Closing Thought:
When we sin against God and we hurt others, it is incumbent upon us to seek to make things right. To do justice and to make amends where and when it is appropriate to do so. Otherwise we too risk entering into a spiritual famine if you will, where God will not heed our prayers, nor grant us peace and prosperity until we do. Therefore it is far better as children of God to acknowledge our sins and transgressions to each other and trust in the Lord's mercies, rather than try to bury them. If you've wronged someone, than do as Jesus commands go and seek to make it right with them, otherwise you may have to bear your sin's punishment alone (Matt. 5:21-26).

Scripture Quotations
The New King James Version. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982

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