There was a famine in David's time. It went on year after year after year - three years. David went to God seeking the reason. God said, "This is because there is blood on Saul and his house, from the time he massacred the Gibeonites."
So the king called the Gibeonites together for consultation. (The Gibeonites were not part of Israel; they were what was left of the Amorites, and protected by a treaty with Israel. But Saul, a fanatic for the honor of Israel and Judah, tried to kill them off.)
David addressed the Gibeonites: "What can I do for you? How can I compensate you so that you will bless God's legacy of land and people?"
The Gibeonites replied, "We don't want any money from Saul and his family. And it's not up to us to put anyone in Israel to death." But David persisted: "What are you saying I should do for you?"
Then they told the king, "The man who tried to get rid of us, who schemed to wipe us off the map of Israel
- well, let seven of his sons be handed over to us to be executed - hanged before God at Gibeah of Saul, the holy mountain." And David agreed, "I'll hand them over to you."
The king spared Mephibosheth son of Jonathan, the son of Saul, because of the promise David and Jonathan had spoken before God.
But the king selected Armoni and Mephibosheth, the two sons that Rizpah daughter of Aiah had borne to Saul, plus the five sons that Saul's daughter Merab had borne to Adriel son of Barzillai the Meholathite.
He turned them over to the Gibeonites who hanged them on the mountain before God - all seven died together. Harvest was just getting underway, the beginning of the barley harvest, when they were executed.
Rizpah daughter of Aiah took rough burlap and spread it out for herself on a rock from the beginning of the harvest until the heavy rains started. She kept the birds away from the bodies by day and the wild animals by night.
David was told what she had done, this Rizpah daughter of Aiah and concubine of Saul.
He then went and got the remains of Saul and Jonathan his son from the leaders at Jabesh Gilead (who had rescued them from the town square at Beth Shan where the Philistines had hung them after striking them down at Gilboa).
He gathered up their remains and brought them together with the dead bodies of the seven who had just been hanged.
The bodies were taken back to the land of Benjamin and given a decent burial in the tomb of Kish, Saul's father. They did everything the king ordered to be done. That cleared things up: from then on God responded to Israel's prayers for the land.
Published by permission. Originally published by NavPress in English as THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language copyright 2002 by Eugene Peterson. All rights reserved. (The Message Bible Online)