2 Samuel 21:1-14
21 For three years in a row there wasn’t enough food in the land. That was while David was king. So David asked the Lord why he wasn’t showing his favor to his people. The Lord said, “It is because Saul and his family committed murder. He put the people of Gibeon to death.” 2 The people of Gibeon weren’t a part of Israel. Instead, they were some of the Amorites who were still left alive. The people of Israel had promised with an oath to spare them. But Saul had tried to put an end to them. That’s because he wanted to make Israel and Judah strong. So now King David sent for the people of Gibeon and spoke to them. 3 He asked them, “What would you like me to do for you? How can I make up for the wrong things that were done to you? I want you to be able to pray that the Lord will once again bless his land.” 4 The people of Gibeon answered him. They said, “No amount of silver or gold can make up for what Saul and his family did to us. And we can’t put anyone in Israel to death.” “What do you want me to do for you?” David asked. 5 They answered the king, “Saul nearly destroyed us. He made plans to wipe us out. We don’t have anywhere to live in Israel. 6 So let seven of the males in his family line be given to us. We’ll kill them. We’ll put their dead bodies out in the open in the sight of the Lord. We’ll do it at Gibeah of Saul. Saul was the Lord’s chosen king.” So King David said, “I’ll give seven males to you.” 7 The king spared Mephibosheth. He was the son of Jonathan and the grandson of Saul. David had taken an oath in the sight of the Lord. He had promised to be kind to Jonathan and the family line of his father Saul. 8 But the king chose Armoni and another Mephibosheth. They were the two sons of Aiah’s daughter Rizpah. Saul was their father. The king also chose the five sons of Saul’s daughter Merab. Adriel, the son of Barzillai, was their father. Adriel was from Meholah. 9 King David handed them over to the people of Gibeon. They killed them. They put their dead bodies out in the open on a hill in the sight of the Lord. All seven of them died together. They were put to death during the first days of the harvest. It happened just when people were beginning to harvest the barley. 10 Aiah’s daughter Rizpah got some black cloth. She spread it out for herself on a rock. She stayed there from the beginning of the harvest until it rained. The rain poured down from the sky on the dead bodies of the seven males. She didn’t let the birds of the air touch them by day. She didn’t let the wild animals touch them at night. 11 Someone told David what Rizpah had done. She was Aiah’s daughter and Saul’s concubine. 12 David got the bones of Saul and his son Jonathan. He got them from the citizens of Jabesh Gilead. They had taken them in secret from the main street in Beth Shan. That’s where the Philistines had hung their bodies up on the city wall. They had done it after they struck Saul down on Mount Gilboa. 13 David brought the bones of Saul and his son Jonathan from Jabesh Gilead. The bones of the seven males who had been killed and put out in the open were also gathered up. 14 The bones of Saul and his son Jonathan were buried in the tomb of Saul’s father Kish. The tomb was at Zela in the territory of Benjamin. Everything the king commanded was done. After that, God answered prayer and blessed the land.
In this passage, the impact of Saul reminds me that no matter what the intensity of zeal I have stirring up within me, this is no justification for me going against solemn words of promise before God, and before people.
Clearly, God considers words of solemn promise before Him and before people binding. Binding to the point that when we go against such words, we are sinning. As confronting as the killing of Saul’s 7 male descendants is to me, it is also a reminder that God cannot and does not leave such sin and guilt unpunished.
The encouragement of this passage for me is to be really aware of what I promise to God and others, and make sure that I have every intention of fulfilling what I promise, and that I have the resources to do likewise. That I am to remember that, just like God is, I need to be a person whose word is trustworthy and true.
Praise God that Jesus covers me with grace and forgiveness when I can’t live up to such a high calling as this. But this is no excuse to not improve my record. I have a responsibility, in Christ, to
be true to my promises. To be otherwise, and to live otherwise, is to enter into sin.
God, help me to continue to improve my record of faithfulness to my word, and help me to deal with every faltering before you and people as you deem it necessary to repair and restore things.
Written by Ps. Rob Waugh