2 Samuel 21 Commentary


The writer of 2 Samuel has finished his historical record of David’s reign. Since the story of David’s sin with Bathsheba, the writer has mainly been concerned with showing how this one event changed the course of David’s life. He now returns and records various other stories and poems to show other difficulties David faced during his reign. He shows also how God cared for him during those difficulties. (The story of David’s closing years is given in the opening chapters of 1 Kings.)

Judgments and justice (21:1-22)

One of David’s difficulties was a three-year famine throughout the land. God showed him that this was a judgment on Israel because Saul had slaughtered the Gibeonites. By such action Saul broke the oath that Joshua, as representative of the nation, had sworn to the Gibeonites in the name of God (21:1-2; see Josh 9:15,19-21). Saul’s sin had to be cleansed and the Gibeonites’ claim for justice needed to be satisfied. Therefore, seven of Saul’s descendants were executed, the number seven symbolizing full satisfaction (3-9).

David was filled with sympathy when he saw how one of Saul’s former concubines sorrowed for the dead men. He tried to comfort her by arranging for an honourable burial for the bones of Saul and Jonathan, possibly along with those of the seven victims. This showed also that he himself had no hatred for his former king, but had executed the seven men only in response to God’s call for justice. God then lifted his judgment on Israel by ending the famine (10-14).

During one of the Philistines’ many battles with Israel, a Philistine giant had apparently tried to take revenge on behalf of the dead Goliath by trying to kill David. But he himself was killed by one of David’s chief men (15-17). Three other Philistine giants were killed by Israelites on different occasions (18-22; cf. 1 Chron 20:5).

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