2 Samuel 21

Gibeonite Revenge

1 Now there was 1a famine in the days of David for three years, year after year; and 2David sought the presence of the LORD. And the LORD said, "It is for Saul and his bloody 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 sons of Israel but of the remnant of the Amorites, and 3the sons of Israel made a covenant with them, but Saul had sought to kill them in his zeal for the sons of Israel and Judah ).
3 Thus David said to the Gibeonites, "What should I do for you? And how can I make atonement that you may bless 4the inheritance of the LORD?"
4 Then the Gibeonites said to him, "5We have no concern of silver or gold with Saul or his house, nor is it for us to put any man to death in Israel." And he said, "I will do for you whatever you say."
5 So they said to the king, "6The man who consumed us and who planned to exterminate us from remaining within any border of Israel,
6 let seven men from his sons be given to us, and we will hang them 7before the LORD in Gibeah of Saul, 8the chosen of the LORD." And the king said, "I will give them."
7 But the king spared 9Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan the son of Saul, 10because of the oath of the LORD which was between them, between David and Saul's son Jonathan.
8 So the king took the two sons of 11Rizpah the daughter of Aiah, Armoni and Mephibosheth whom she had borne to Saul, and the five sons of 12Merab the daughter of Saul, whom she had borne to Adriel the son of Barzillai the 13Meholathite.
9 Then he gave them into the hands of the Gibeonites, and they hanged them in the mountain before the LORD, so that the seven of them fell together; and they were put to death in the first days of harvest at 14the beginning of barley harvest.
10 15And Rizpah the daughter of Aiah took sackcloth and spread it for herself on the rock, from the beginning of harvest until it rained on them from the sky; and 16she allowed neither the birds of the sky to rest on them by day nor the beasts of the field by night.
11 When it was told David what Rizpah the daughter of Aiah, the concubine of Saul, had done,
12 then David went and took 17the bones of Saul and the bones of Jonathan his son from the men of Jabesh-gilead *, who had stolen them from the open square of 18Beth-shan, 19where * the Philistines had hanged them on the day 20the Philistines struck down Saul in Gilboa.
13 He brought up the bones of Saul and the bones of Jonathan his son from there, and they gathered the bones of those who had been hanged.
14 They buried the bones of Saul and Jonathan his son in the country of Benjamin in 21Zela, in the grave of Kish his father; thus they did all that the king commanded, and after that 22God was moved by prayer for the land.
15 Now when 23the Philistines were at war again with Israel, David went down and his servants with him; and as they fought against the Philistines, David became weary.
16 Then Ishbi-benob, who was 24among the descendants of the giant, the weight of whose spear was three hundred shekels of bronze in weight, was girded with a new sword, and he intended to kill David.
17 But 25Abishai the son of Zeruiah helped him, and struck the Philistine and killed him. Then the men of David swore to him, saying, "26You shall not go out again with us to battle, so that you do not extinguish 27the lamp of Israel."
18 28Now it came about after this that there was war again with the Philistines at Gob; then 29Sibbecai the Hushathite struck down Saph, who was among the descendants of the giant.
19 There was war with the Philistines again at Gob, and Elhanan the son of Jaare-oregim the Bethlehemite killed Goliath the Gittite, 30the shaft of whose spear was like a weaver's beam.
20 There was war at Gath again, where there was a man of great stature who had six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot, twenty-four * in number; and he also had been born 31to the giant.
21 When he defied Israel, Jonathan the son of Shimei, David's brother, struck him down.
22 32These four were born to the giant in Gath, and they fell by the hand of David and by the hand of his servants.

2 Samuel 21 Commentary

Chapter 21

The Gibeonites avenged. (1-9) Rizpah's care for the bodies of Saul's descendants. (10-14) Battles with the Philistines. (15-22)

Verses 1-9 Every affliction arises from sin, and should lead us to repent and humble ourselves before God; but some troubles especially show that they are sent to bring sin to remembrance. God's judgments often look a great way back, which requires us to do so, when we are under his rebukes. It is not for us to object against the people's smarting for the sin of their king; perhaps they helped him. Nor against this generation suffering for the sin of the last. God often visits the sins of the fathers upon the children, and he gives no account of any matters. Time does not wear out the guilt of sin; nor can we build hopes of escape upon the delay of judgments. If we cannot understand all the reasons of Providence in this matter, still we have no right to demand that God should acquaint us with those reasons. It must be right, because it is the will of God, and in the end it will be proved to be so. Money is no satisfaction for blood. It should seem, Saul's posterity trod in his steps, for it is called a bloody house. It was the spirit of the family, therefore they are justly reckoned with for his sin, as well as for their own. The Gibeonites did not require this out of malice against Saul or his family. It was not to gratify any revenge, but for the public good. They were put to death at the beginning of harvest; they were thus sacrificed to turn away the wrath of Almighty God, who had withheld the harvest-mercies for some years past, and to obtain his favour in the present harvest. In vain do we expect mercy from God, unless we do justice upon our sins. Executions must not be thought cruel, which are for the public welfare.

Verses 10-14 That a guilty land should enjoy many years of plenty, calls for gratitude; and we need not wonder misused abundance should be punished with scarcity; yet how few are disposed to ask of the Lord concerning the sinful cause, while numbers search for the second causes by which he is pleased to work! But the Lord will plead the cause of those who cannot or will not avenge themselves; and the prayers of the poor are of great power. When God sent rain to water the earth, these bodies were buried, for then it appeared that God was entreated for the land. When justice is done on earth, vengeance from heaven ceases. God is pacified, and is entreated for us through Christ, who was hanged on a tree, and so made a curse for us, to do away our guilt, though he was himself guiltless.

Verses 15-22 These events seem to have taken place towards the end of David's reign. David fainted, but he did not flee, and God sent help in the time of need. In spiritual conflicts, even strong saints sometimes wax faint; then Satan attacks them furiously; but those who stand their ground and resist him, shall be relieved and made more than conquerors. Death is a Christian's last enemy, and a son of Anak; but through Him that triumphed for us, believers shall be more than conquerors at last, even over that enemy.

Cross References 32

  • 1. Genesis 12:10; Genesis 26:1; Genesis 42:5
  • 2. Numbers 27:21
  • 3. Josh 9:3, 15-20
  • 4. 1 Samuel 26:19; 2 Samuel 20:19
  • 5. Numbers 35:31, 32
  • 6. 2 Samuel 21:1
  • 7. Numbers 25:4
  • 8. 1 Samuel 10:24
  • 9. 2 Samuel 4:4; 2 Samuel 9:10
  • 10. 1 Samuel 18:3; 1 Samuel 20:12-17; 1 Samuel 23:18; 2 Samuel 9:1-7
  • 11. 2 Samuel 3:7
  • 12. 1 Samuel 18:19
  • 13. 1 Kings 19:16
  • 14. Exodus 9:31, 32
  • 15. Deuteronomy 21:23
  • 16. 1 Samuel 17:44, 46
  • 17. 1 Samuel 31:11-13
  • 18. Joshua 17:11
  • 19. 1 Samuel 31:10
  • 20. 1 Samuel 31:3, 4
  • 21. Joshua 18:28
  • 22. Joshua 7:26; 2 Samuel 24:25
  • 23. 2 Samuel 5:17-25
  • 24. Numbers 13:22, 28; Joshua 15:14; 2 Samuel 21:18-22
  • 25. 2 Samuel 20:6-10
  • 26. 2 Samuel 18:3
  • 27. 2 Samuel 22:29; 1 Kings 11:36
  • 28. 1 Chronicles 20:4-8
  • 29. 1 Chronicles 11:29; 1 Chronicles 27:11
  • 30. 1 Samuel 17:7
  • 31. 2 Samuel 21:16, 18
  • 32. 1 Chronicles 20:8

Footnotes 17

Chapter Summary


A famine being in the land three years, the Lord was inquired of, to know the reason of it; and it being answered, that it was on account of Saul's slaughter of the Gibeonites, they were summoned by David to know what satisfaction they required for the cruel usage of them, 2Sa 21:1-3; to which they replied, that they only desired seven of Saul's sons to be delivered up to them, to be hanged by them, which was granted, 2Sa 21:4-9; whose bones, with those of Saul and Jonathan, David buried in the sepulchre of their fathers, 2Sa 21:10-14; and the chapter is closed with an account of the various battles fought with the Philistines, in which four of their generals were slain, 2Sa 21:15-22.

2 Samuel 21 Commentaries

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