Summary: Second Samuel 21:1-14 teaches us that amendment must be made for wrongdoing.
Twenty months ago, we started a sermon series on “The Life of David.” So far, we have looked at the rise of David (1 Samuel 16-31), David’s coronation as king over Judah and Israel (2 Samuel 1:1-5:5), God’s promise to David of an everlasting kingdom (2 Samuel 5:6-10:19), and David’s sin, decline, and restoration (2 Samuel 11-20).
Second Samuel 21-24 is sometimes called an epilogue to David’s life. However, as commentator John Woodhouse notes, “This carefully arranged material presents us with important perspectives on the kingdom of David, the kingdom of God, and the relationship between them. These chapters look back over the whole period of David’s reign (and earlier). The text is not arranged chronologically but thematically.”
The first episode in the epilogue probably refers to a time shortly after David took Jonathan’s crippled son, Mephibosheth, into his care. It is one of the Bible’s most difficult stories to hear. It tells of the hanging of seven of King Saul’s descendants because of Saul’s actions against the Gibeonites many years earlier.
Let’s read about David avenging the Gibeonites in 2 Samuel 21:1-14:
1 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.” 2 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. 3 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?” 4 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?” 5 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, 6 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.”
7 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. 8 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; 9 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.
10 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. 11 When David was told what Rizpah the daughter of Aiah, the concubine of Saul, had done, 12 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. 13 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. 14 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. (2 Samuel 21:1-14)
Jean-Claude Juncker, the European Commission President, revealed in an interview that he keeps a book with the list of people who have crossed him in the past. I know this may sound like a joke. But seriously, one of the most senior officials in the EU walks around with a book of names of people who have been mean to him. Juncker says in the interview, “I have a little black book called ‘Le Petit Maurice’ where for the past 30 years I have noted when someone has betrayed me.” He goes on to say in the interview that the book isn’t really full “because people ‘rarely betray me.’ ” To defend himself, he says a little later, “I am not vengeful, but I have a good memory.” The book became so well-known during his time as the prime minister of Luxembourg that he would tell people attacking him, “Be careful. Little Maurice is waiting for you.”