2 Samuel

2 Samuel - Lesson 21

Chapter 21:1-14

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**2 Samuel series originally taught by Stephen Armstrong. Chapter 20 onwards taught by Wesley Livingston**

  • Last week, we witnessed the immense opposition of the Northern tribes as a result of Sheba’s rebellion.

    • David and Judah were preparing to enter back into Jerusalem to re-establish David’s position as King over Israel.

      • However, feelings got in the way and folks got heated as emotions stirred regarding relations to accompanying David.

      • Sheba saw a way to sow division amongst the disunity which caused Israel to head to the North while Judah went with David.

    • And if you remember, time was of the essence because David had been through something like this not too long before with his son, Absalom.

      • As a matter of fact, David knew that if this situation was not settled, it would be worse than Absalom’s coup.

      • So, to respond, David sends Amasa to take the charge, although potentially a bit weary of Amasa’s intent, and to gather the men of Judah.

    • We then witnessed that through the jealousy of Joab, he took out Amasa and regained control of the army.

      • Upon arrival to Abel, Joab is confronted with a great woman of wisdom who sought to broker peace instead of bloodshed.

      • This ultimately led to the severed head of Sheba in one hand and the shofar blown in victory, in the other hand.

    • So, it is on the hills of this great victory for David that we transition into our text tonight, 2 Samuel 21.

      • We will find that the Kingdom of Israel is befallen by a famine, and something will have to be done to make things right.

    • If I were to outline our time in the text tonight, we are going to see the following things:

      • 1. Famine in the land (v.1-6)

      • 2. Restitution made (v.7-9)

      • 3. Rizpah’s grief and mourning (v.10-14)

    • If I were to put a tag on our text tonight it would simply be: Biblical Justice: A Response to Saul’s Actions.

      • With that being said, I invite you to open a copy of the scriptures and meet me as we begin our time in 2 Samuel 21:1-6.

2 Samuel 21:1 Now there was a famine in the days of David for three years, year after year; and David sought the presence of the Lord. And the Lord said, “It is for Saul and his bloody house, because he put the Gibeonites to death.”
2 Samuel 21:2 So the king called the Gibeonites and spoke to them (now the Gibeonites were not of the sons of Israel but of the remnant of the Amorites, and the sons of Israel made a covenant with them, but Saul had sought to kill them in his zeal for the sons of Israel and Judah).
2 Samuel 21:3 Thus David said to the Gibeonites, “What should I do for you? And how can I make atonement that you may bless the inheritance of the Lord?”
2 Samuel 21:4 Then the Gibeonites said to him, “We have no concern of silver or gold with Saul or his house, nor is it for us to put any man to death in Israel.” And he said, “I will do for you whatever you say.”
2 Samuel 21:5 So they said to the king, “The man who consumed us and who planned to exterminate us from remaining within any border of Israel,
2 Samuel 21:6 let seven men from his sons be given to us, and we will hang them before the Lord in Gibeah of Saul, the chosen of the Lord.” And the king said, “I will give them.”
  • Chapter 21 begins with the word “Now” which means there is a transition in events or times from the previous chapter.

    • In this case, the text mentions that there was a famine in the land “in the days of David”.

      • And this famine occurred for three consecutive years – notice the wording “year after year”.

    • On the onset, this detail may not seem like much, however this ongoing famine in the land was something that gained David’s attention.

      • It moves David to inquire of the Lord as to what was going on.

      • The question becomes, “Why does this famine gain the attention of David to the point that he inquires of the Lord?”

      • Secondly, “If this drought was such an issue, why did David wait so late to inquire of the Lord?”

      • To best understand the first question, we need to recognize the significance of famine in the land of Israel.

    • The fact that there were three years of crop failure meant that the land was not yielding its supply and as a result the economy was beginning to fail and people not eating.

      • Therefore, this would have triggered a sign of sorts that God was displeased with His people.

      • So, David concludes in his observation of unusual weather patterns and lack of rain fall, that Israel has somehow fallen under God’s divine discipline. (Leviticus 26:20; Deuteronomy 28:18 – Torah curse)

      • And from that, David is moved to seek the face of the Lord.

      • Perhaps this was accomplished through prayer and assistance from the priest, Ira, wearing the revelatory ephod.

    • So, it is in seeking the face of the Lord, regarding this famine in the Land, that the Lord reveals to David the reason behind the famine.

      • And quickly, as a side note, here is a beautiful example of the Lord at work answering prayer when we diligently seek Him in wisdom.

    • So, the Lord speaks and tells David that the famine upon the land has been caused by Saul and his “bloody house” having put the Gibeonites to death.

      • This word “bloody” is interesting. It is the Hebrew word dam (dom) which speaks to the shedding of blood or bloodguilt.

      • Secondly, it identifies that those within Saul’s household were involved in this shedding of blood against the Gibeonites.

      • Now regarding who in the household were involved, we will find out soon enough.

    • But a greater question arises which is, “What would have caused such a dire famine during David’s reign for something that Saul committed?”

      • Keep in mind that 2 Samuel was not necessarily written in chronological order, but simply is unfolding the events and life of David.

      • Furthermore, we can assume that within this time frame, this event, more than likely, could have occurred in the beginning of David’s reign.

      • Most scholars estimate that this event must have occurred earlier in David’s reign, whereas others suggest this was later in David’s reign.

    • It’s in verse 2 that David wastes no time to attempt to make right what had been done wrong to alleviate the drought in the land of Israel. (Biblical Justice)

      • What a beautiful characteristic of true leadership from David.

      • That a true leader is willing to make amends for wrongs done even if it cost them something.

    • So, verse 2 provides us some background as to what brought forth the drought in the land.

      • And we discover within the writer’s commentary that a covenant was broken between Israel and the Gibeonites.

      • Now, the current text doesn’t provide us any further information as to when this covenant was established.

      • However, if we were to go back in Israel’s history, we do find a record of how this covenant got established. Turn with me to Joshua 9:15-18.

    • While you are turning there, I want to provide you with some background information to Joshua 9:15-18.

      • During Joshua’s leadership, they came across the Gibeonites who disguised themselves as foreigners from afar.

      • They attempted to seem as down-trodden men in need of protection.

      • Most importantly, the Gibeonites used the fame and name of the Lord and His hand upon Israel to win Israel’s favor of them.

    • Now as a means of application, this is no different from someone such as a false teacher or unbeliever using the banner of Christianity to push a particular agenda.

      • They will try to look the part and seem that their intentions are one thing, yet in the end, they intend to take advantage of a group.

      • This is what this group of Gibeonites did and to add insult to injury, Joshua fell for the okie doke.

      • And here is where Joshua and the men of Israel went wrong. Check out Joshua 9:14-15.

Joshua 9:14  So the men of Israel took some of their provisions, and did not ask for the counsel of the Lord. 
Joshua 9:15 Joshua made peace with them and made a covenant with them, to let them live; and the leaders of the congregation swore an oath to them.
  • Israel failed to seek the counsel of the Lord regarding the wisdom and approval necessary before entering a covenant with these men.

    • As a quick note, this should be a biblical principal in which every believer should put into practice: “Seek the counsel of the Lord!”

    • Proverbs 16:9 says this about our plans in light of God’s providence:

Proverbs 16:9 The mind of man plans his way,
But the Lord directs his steps.
  • Now regarding the term covenant, when I have taught before about covenants, I mentioned to consider them as legally binding contracts.

    • It is something that you are obligated to or bounded by and if you break the contract, there are dire consequences.

    • And being that they made this contract and swore an oath before the Lord, they were bound to this promise.

    • Well, it wasn’t much later that Joshua and Israel realized what they had done.

      • They had been tricked and realized the Gibeonites were neighbors within their land.

      • Therefore, they could not strike them because as Joshua 9:19 says, “We have sworn to them by the Lord, the God of Israel, and now we cannot touch them.”

      • In other words, let our yes be yes and our no be no.

      • As believers we must uphold the truth at all costs and in all circumstances.

      • This was Jesus’ point in Matthew 5:33-37! Truth must be upheld!

    • So, verses 3-6 we find that David is going to bring in the Gibeonites to resolve the matter.

    • In verse 3, David asks, “And how can I make atonement that you may bless the inheritance of the Lord.”

      • That word for atonement in Hebrew is kpr (kepeo) which means to make amends, cover over, or make propitiation.

      • In other words, biblical justice (better known as restitution) is to be made regarding the sin committed against the Gibeonites.

      • And David is wanting to satisfy their requirements to bring about justice that has been wrongfully committed against them.

    • However, notice what the Gibeonites did not ask for: They didn’t ask for a payout, nor did they ask for the lives of the men of Israel.

      • Now consider for a moment that the Gibeonites are technically slaves to Israel, so to go before the King for injustice done against them, they are at the mercy of the King.

      • But David puts himself at the mercy of the Gibeonites, because he says in verse 4b, “I will do whatever you say.”

      • Here we see David as a Justifier, he sets himself up to make right what has been done wrong.

      • And what a beautiful picture of Christ this paints!

    • That Jesus, who committed no sin and did no wrong, took upon Himself our sinfulness so that we could be made right with God.

      • Friends, Jesus’ death on the cross is the means by which true cosmic justice is served. (Restitution)

      • You and I were deemed guilty before a Holy God! And before the Divine gavel was struck, Christ stepped in and took our guilty verdict Himself.

    • So, David, listens to their request in which the Gibeonites requested that 7 men from the household of Saul be given to them to hang to death.

      • Now some of you may be thinking, “How is it that Saul’s sons have to pay the price for what Saul did?”

      • Some will argue, “Doesn’t the scripture say that the sins of the Father won’t fall upon his sons?” Yes (Deuteronomy 24:16).

      • Yet, the same pairs with Deuteronomy 5:9-10 regarding visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and grandchildren to the third and fourth generation.

    • In other words, human responsibility was essential as it pertained to the Law, therefore what an individual wrongfully did against God, he/she alone was reprimanded.

      • The same was true regarding a father who has rebelled against God and influenced his children to do the same.

      • Both the father and the children must be held responsible because of their personal sins regardless of the means of influence. (Personal Responsibility)

    • So, the Gibeonites apply the Law, rightfully in this situation, known in Latin as “lex talionis” which means – eye for an eye, tooth for tooth, life for life.

      • So, the fact that the Gibeonites are requesting 7 of Saul’s sons means that not only was Saul involved but his sons were too.

      • Therefore, according to Exodus 21:23-25, David tells these men, “I will give them.”

      • Here’s how Exodus 21:23-25 reads:

Exodus 21:23 But if there is any further injury, then you shall appoint as a penalty life for life, 
Exodus 21:24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 
Exodus 21:25 burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.
  • What becomes such a beautiful moment within this transaction is that David will demonstrate his commitment to upholding his oath of prior.

    • Check out verses 7-9.

2 Samuel 21:7 But the king spared Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan the son of Saul, because of the oath of the Lord which was between them, between David and Saul’s son Jonathan.
2 Samuel 21:8 So the king took the two sons of Rizpah the daughter of Aiah, Armoni and Mephibosheth whom she had borne to Saul, and the five sons of Merab the daughter of Saul, whom she had borne to Adriel the son of Barzillai the Meholathite.
2 Samuel 21:9 Then he gave them into the hands of the Gibeonites, and they hanged them in the mountain before the Lord, so that the seven of them fell together; and they were put to death in the first days of harvest at the beginning of barley harvest.
  • The text here provides this juxtaposition between the unrighteous king, Saul and the righteous king, David.

    • That where Saul’s failure to uphold a centuries old oath causes calamity in the land, David’s upholding of his oath with Jonathan and execution of Justice for the Gibeonites brings about peace for the land.

      • Now if you recall, Mephibosheth was Jonathan’s son who was a grandchild of Saul’s household.

      • And it was in 1 Samuel 20:15-16 that David had made a covenant with Jonathan regarding his offspring.

      • Turn with me quickly to 1 Samuel 20:15-16 for the establishment of this covenant:

1 Samuel 20:15 You shall not cut off your lovingkindness from my house forever, not even when the Lord cuts off every one of the enemies of David from the face of the earth.” 
1 Samuel 20:16 So Jonathan made a covenant with the house of David, saying, “May the Lord require it at the hands of David’s enemies.” 
1 Samuel 20:17  Jonathan made David vow again because of his love for him, because he loved him as he loved his own life.
  • So, David spares Mephibosheth and singles out Saul’s other offspring to make amends for the breaking of a long-standing covenant.

    • And in return, he submitted two sons of Saul’s concubine, Rizpah, named Armoni and another Mephibosheth.

    • And the other 5 sons were from Merab, Saul’s daughter who was married to Adriel (1 Samuel18:19)

    • And with these seven in total, the Gibeonites put them to death in the first days of the barley harvest, which would be an early springtime in Israel.

    • And the location of their death was in Gibeah which was in Benjamite territory, where Saul was from.

    • Check out verses 10-14.

2 Samuel 21:10 And Rizpah the daughter of Aiah took sackcloth and spread it for herself on the rock, from the beginning of harvest until it rained on them from the sky; and she allowed neither the birds of the sky to rest on them by day nor the beasts of the field by night.
2 Samuel 21:11 When it was told David what Rizpah the daughter of Aiah, the concubine of Saul, had done,
2 Samuel 21:12 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 open square of Beth-shan, where the Philistines had hanged them on the day the Philistines struck down Saul in Gilboa.
2 Samuel 21:13 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.
2 Samuel 21:14 They buried the bones of Saul and Jonathan his son in the country of Benjamin in Zela, in the grave of Kish his father; thus they did all that the king commanded, and after that God was moved by prayer for the land.
  • Now, if we were to imagine this scene for a moment, this had to be devastating for both Rizpah and Merab to witness. We see this immense amount of grief from Rizpah’s point of view.

    • Her sons whom she carried have now been led out to slaughter for actions they participated in with her father, Saul.

      • This is a scene that allows us to witness both the grief of a mother but also the abounding mercy of God.

    • The text mentions that Rizpah, from the start of the harvest until the breaking of the drought, prevented the animals to eat at the now corroding bodies of her sons.

      • This detail lets us know that Saul’s descendants were hung on display for more than a week, at best.

    • Consider the fact that from early march through the summer, the rising aroma of death had to be quite overwhelming.

      • The fact that the text mentions there was a time of rain signified that the curse upon the land, due to their breaking of a covenant, had been lifted.

      • This furthermore spoke to the reality that God’s curse had rested upon these 7 sons.

      • For as the Law made known in Deuteronomy 21:23, “anyone who hung on a tree was under God’s curse.”

      • So, they have been made public spectacles of what disobedience to God looks like – what a piercing image.

    • However, that same text also mentions that the individuals had to be buried that same day.

      • So, the fact that these boys had been hanging for a prolonged period signified something.

      • It signified that either the Gibionites were unaware of this statute or were spiteful or God was using this in preparing to get the people’s attention somehow.

    • So it’s in verse 11 that David gets wind of Rezpah’s perseverance through alienating herself to preserve her children’s dignity, that it moves David to respond.

      • Isn’t it interesting how at times that our humiliation and desperation can garner the active participation of the King!

      • Rezpah remained where she was because she knew that the Law required the honor of burial.

      • So, it’s in her state of utter humiliation and desperation to protect her sons because she loved them, that David responds.

      • Perhaps, questions around the palace were circulating as to where Rezpah was.

      • In any case, when individuals got wind that she was still at the place of execution, David was moved with much compassion to do something. In this case to respond according to the requirements of the Law.

    • Herein lies a principal of scripture, that God responds to those in whom diligently seek Him.

      • However, it comes through means of great humility to seek God to respond to His word.

    • So not only does David respond to Rezpah’s need in response to the Law for a proper burial, but it causes David to remember about two others.

      • David tells his men to take the bones of Saul and Jonathan from the men of Jabesh-gilead and to give them a proper burial in the country of Benjamin, in Zela.

      • That distance alone is a little over 50 miles of travel. (See slide)

    • I could imagine this sight for David probably hit close to home, having to grieve the loss of your child, especially given the fact that he just lost Absalom not long ago.

      • Well, it’s here that the text tells us that after David brought the bones of Saul and Jonathan to their land (sense of honor) along with the sons, that God was moved by prayer for the land.

    • This is an astounding reality, because it seems as if the prayers from the people of Israel in that day were not being answered.

      • That somehow, amid this famine and drought, while their prayers were going up to the ears of the Lord, He was not responding.

      • For some this may seem to be a bit harsh given the circumstances of the people.

      • However, we see that God does not respond until obedience to His word has come about.

    • We often can try to go to our prayer closets or send up the best prayers we know how to get God’s attention.

      • However, we see that there are instances in which your and my prayers are delayed or not responded to.

      • In other words, God’s response to our prayers is based upon being in right fellowship with Him.

      • To put it differently, God responds when obedience is realized.

      • Check out what Psalm 66:18-20.

Psalm 66:18  If I regard wickedness in my heart,
The Lord will not hear;
Psalm 66:19 But certainly God has heard;
He has given heed to the voice of my prayer.
Psalm 66:20 Blessed be God,
Who has not turned away my prayer
Nor His lovingkindness from me.
  • So, it took a desperate mother, to get the attention of a mighty King for David to see what God had been hearing from this woman night after night.

    • And it’s in David seeing the need that He responds gracefully which makes way for God to respond to the long-awaited prayers of His people.

    • If you see nothing else in the text tonight, don’t miss this point – God sees all and He knows all.

      • However, may this serve as a lesson for us to recognize that answered prayers are tied to obedience to the Lord.

      • It doesn’t make Him less attentive to our needs or less loving of a father.

    • God is not a genie you can send your prayers up to and expect Him to respond when we are out of line.

      • Isaiah 59:2 puts it this way:

Isaiah 59:2 But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God,
And your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear.
    • And in Israel’s case, they were in sin and needed of be made right with God.

    • How selfish and self-centered of us to expect God to answer our prayers, yet we do not submit to His word in obedience.

      • And at the same rate, how great of a response to prayer will we see once we are submitted and obedient to God.

      • That He is able and willing to respond!

    • May we always seek to be in right fellowship with the Lord and if we find ourselves out of fellowship with the Lord, may we humbly confess our sins and approach the throne of grace.

      • For in that He is waiting to forgive us our sins and cleanse us of our unrighteousness.

    • Next week, we will round out Chapter 21 as we move into Chapter 22.

      • Let’s Pray.