2 Samuel 21 and Related
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Gibeonites' Treaty with Saul
God allows a famine in the land for three years during David's reign because of the sins of Saul. Saul, in an incident not recorded elsewhere, had broken the sworn treaty Israel had made with the Gibeonites (Joshua 9:16-20), thus violating the law of God (Numbers 30:1-2). In order to settle the matter with the Gibeonites, David agrees to give them seven of Saul's descendants to be executed.
Yet why would David do such a thing? After all, Old Testament law is quite clear that a son is not to be punished for his father's sins (Deuteronomy 24:16; compare 2 Kings 14:6; Ezekiel 18:1-4, Ezekiel 18:14-20). But since David is not condemned in the text, and since God honors the action by ending the famine (2 Samuel 21:14), David has apparently done the right thing. Perhaps the answer to this matter is hinted at in verse 1, which mentions Saul and his "bloodthirsty house." The original King James has "bloody house" while the NIV has "blood-stained house." Saul, then, was not the sole perpetrator in this case—so were others of his house. Thus, it would seem that the seven men chosen had played some part in Saul's war against the Gibeonites, making them personally guilty. Therefore, it would appear that justice is served.
Saul's concubine Rizpah, mother of two of the men, "remained near the bodies, protecting them from scavengers, from the barley harvest to the early rains (late April to October)" (Nelson Study Bible, note on verse 10). When David is later told of Rizpah's remarkable example of dedication and self-sacrifice, he is moved to gather the bones of those men and arrange for a decent burial. He also retrieves the bones of Saul and Jonathan from their burial place, brings them to Zelah, and buries them in the tomb of Saul's father, Kish (verses 11-14).
We then read about the killing of Goliath's relatives. Here, the account of Chronicles finally joins back up with the book of Samuel. Had we been reading only Chronicles, we may not have noticed the jump of many years between verses 3 and 4 of 1 Chronicles 20. Yet we would have skipped all the way from the conquest of Rabbah to this destruction of the giants—without any mention of David's great sin, the infighting within his house, the rebellion of Absalom, the rebellion of Sheba and the three-year famine. As stated before, it is evident that Chronicles was compiled with a different purpose in mind than Samuel and Kings—that purpose apparently being to show the positive side of the line of David for others to emulate and to point out tabernacle and temple worship as the focus of David's kingdom.