2 Samuel 21:1-14
1 During the reign of David, there was a famine for three successive years; so David sought the face of the Lord. The Lord said, “It is on account of Saul and his blood-stained house; it is because he put the Gibeonites to death.” 2 The king summoned the Gibeonites and spoke to them. (Now the Gibeonites were not a part of Israel but were survivors of the Amorites; the Israelites had sworn to spare them, but Saul in his zeal for Israel and Judah had tried to annihilate them.) 3 David asked the Gibeonites, “What shall I do for you? How shall I make atonement so that you will bless the Lord’s inheritance?” 4 The Gibeonites answered him, “We have no right to demand silver or gold from Saul or his family, nor do we have the right to put anyone in Israel to death.” “What do you want me to do for you?” David asked. 5 They answered the king, “As for the man who destroyed us and plotted against us so that we have been decimated and have no place anywhere in Israel, 6 let seven of his male descendants be given to us to be killed and their bodies exposed before the Lord at Gibeah of Saul—the Lord’s chosen one.” So the king said, “I will give them to you.” 7 The king spared Mephibosheth son of Jonathan, the son of Saul, because of the oath before the Lord between David and Jonathan son of Saul. 8 But the king took Armoni and Mephibosheth, the two sons of Aiah’s daughter Rizpah, whom she had borne to Saul, together with the five sons of Saul’s daughter Merab,[a] whom she had borne to Adriel son of Barzillai the Meholathite. 9 He handed them over to the Gibeonites, who killed them and exposed their bodies on a hill before the Lord. All seven of them fell together; they were put to death during the first days of the harvest, just as the barley harvest was beginning. 10 Rizpah daughter of Aiah took sackcloth and spread it out for herself on a rock. From the beginning of the harvest till the rain poured down from the heavens on the bodies, she did not let the birds touch them by day or the wild animals by night. 11 When David was told what Aiah’s daughter Rizpah, Saul’s concubine, had done, 12 he went and took the bones of Saul and his son Jonathan from the citizens of Jabesh Gilead. (They had stolen their bodies from the public square at Beth Shan, where the Philistines had hung them after they struck Saul down on Gilboa.) 13 David brought the bones of Saul and his son Jonathan from there, and the bones of those who had been killed and exposed were gathered up. 14 They buried the bones of Saul and his son Jonathan in the tomb of Saul’s father Kish, at Zela in Benjamin, and did everything the king commanded. After that, God answered prayer in behalf of 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