2 Samuel 21:1

David Avenges the Gibeonites

1 Now there was a famine in the days of David for three years, year after year. And David 1sought 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 Samuel 21:1 Meaning and Commentary

2 Samuel 21:1

Then there was a famine in the days of David three years, year
after year
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] bloody house;
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.


F5 Pirke Eliezer, c. 17.
F6 Usser. Annal. Vet. Test. p. 55. Bedford's Scripture Chronology, p. 558.
F7 T. Bab. Bava Kama, fol. 119. 1.
F8 Vita Apollon. Tyanei, l. 3. c. 6.

2 Samuel 21:1 In-Context

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,

Cross References 1

  • 1. [Numbers 27:21]
The English Standard Version is published with the permission of Good News Publishers.