Then there was a famine in the days of David three years,
That is, three years running, one after another; some think this, though here related, was before the rebellions of Absalom and Sheba, and not after, and there are several things which may incline to it, as that the sin of Saul should otherwise be so long unpunished, and that the bones of Saul and Jonathan were not sooner removed, here related; and that there should be so many battles the Philistines after they were subdued, as recorded in this chapter; and in one of the Jewish F5 writings it is said, that this was the year after Saul was slain; though, in other copies of the same book, it is said to be thirty years after; and so in that Abarbinel used, and who is of the mind that what is here related stands in the order in which it was, and of the same opinion are some of our best chronologers F6:
and David inquired of the Lord;
before the high priest by Urim and Thummim, what should be the cause of the famine perhaps suspecting it was some sins of his; the first year he might take no notice of it, hoping for a more fruitful season the next year, it arising, as he might suppose, from some natural cause; the second year he might begin to think it was for some national sins, but might be remiss in his inquiry into them; but the third year he was alarmed, and concluded there was something extraordinary and special, and feared it was on his account, and this put him on making inquiry:
and the Lord answered, [it is] for Saul, and for [his]
on account of the blood shed by him and his family; which answer must in a good measure relieve the mind of David, if he was fearful it was for his sins:
because he slew the Gibeonites:
which was contrary to the oath that Joshua and all Israel had given them not to slay them, but save them alive, ( Joshua 9:15 ) . When this was done is not certain; the Jews commonly say F7 that he slew them when he slew the priests at Nob, they being hewers of wood and drawers of water to them, and were slain with them; or because their maintenance depended on the priests, they being slain, it was in effect slaying them; but rather this refers to another time, and to other action or actions of Saul, who sought by various means to destroy these people, and root them out of the land. The Heathens had a notion that barrenness, unfruitfulness, and famine, were inflicted by God for murder. Philostratus F8 reports of the Ethiopian Indians, that for the murder of their king, Ganges, their ground was unfruitful, their cattle starved, their wives abortive, and their cities and houses fell to ruin, until the murderers were destroyed.