Then there was a famine in the days of David three years, year after year; and David inquired of the LORD. And the LORD answered, It is for Saul, and for his bloody house, because he slew the Gibeonites.
There is no note of time whatever, nor any clue as to what part of David's reign the events of this chapter ought to be assigned.
Enquired of the Lord - Hebrew "sought the face of the Lord," quite a different phrase from that so often used in Judges (e. g. Judges 1:1) and the Books of Samuel, and probably indicating that this chapter is from a different source; an inference agreeing with the indefinite "in the days of David," and with the allusion to the slaughter of the Gibeonites, which has not anywhere been narrated.
And for his bloody house - literally, "the house of blood," i. e., the house or family upon which rests the guilt of shedding innocent blood.
And the king called the Gibeonites, and said unto them; (now the Gibeonites were not of the children of Israel, but of the remnant of the Amorites; and the children of Israel had sworn unto them: and Saul sought to slay them in his zeal to the children of Israel and Judah.)
The way in which the writer here refers to the history of the league with the Gibeonites Joshua 9 shows that the Book of Joshua was not a part of the same work as the Books of Samuel.
Of the Amorites - The Gibeonites were Hivites Joshua 9:7; Joshua 11:19; and in many enumerations of the Canaanite nations the Hivites are distinguished from the Amorites. But "Amorite" is often used in a more comprehensive sense, equivalent to "Canaanite" (as Genesis 15:16; Deuteronomy 1:27), and denoting especially that part of the Canaanite nation which dwelt in the hill country Numbers 13:29; Deuteronomy 1:7, Deuteronomy 1:20, Deuteronomy 1:24, and so includes the Hivites.
Wherefore David said unto the Gibeonites, What shall I do for you? and wherewith shall I make the atonement, that ye may bless the inheritance of the LORD?
And the Gibeonites said unto him, We will have no silver nor gold of Saul, nor of his house; neither for us shalt thou kill any man in Israel. And he said, What ye shall say, that will I do for you.
No silver, nor gold ... - Money payments as a compensation for blood-guilt were very common among many nations. The law, too, in Numbers 35:31-32, presupposes the existence of the custom which it prohibits. In like manner the speech of the Gibeonites implies that such a payment as they refuse would be a not unusual proceeding.
Neither ... shalt thou kill any man in Israel - They mean that it is not against the nation of Israel, but against the individual Saul, that they cry for vengeance. The demand for Saul's sons is exactly similar to that which dictated David's own expression in 2 Samuel 24:17, "against me, and against my father's house."
And they answered the king, The man that consumed us, and that devised against us that we should be destroyed from remaining in any of the coasts of Israel,
Let seven men of his sons be delivered unto us, and we will hang them up unto the LORD in Gibeah of Saul, whom the LORD did choose. And the king said, I will give them.
Seven men - Seven was a sacred number not only with the Hebrews but with other Oriental nations Numbers 23:1, Numbers 23:29, and is therefore brought in on this occasion when the judicial death of the sons of Saul was a religious act intended to appease the wrath of God for the violation of an oath Numbers 25:4.
But the king spared Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan the son of Saul, because of the LORD'S oath that was between them, between David and Jonathan the son of Saul.
The Lord's oath - The calamity brought upon Israel by Saul's breach of the oath to the Gibeonites would make David doubly careful in the matter of his own oath to Jonathan.
But the king took the two sons of Rizpah the daughter of Aiah, whom she bare unto Saul, Armoni and Mephibosheth; and the five sons of Michal the daughter of Saul, whom she brought up for Adriel the son of Barzillai the Meholathite:
Rizpah - See the marginal reference. A foreign origin was possibly the cause of the selection of Rizpah's sons as victims.
Sons of Michal - An obvious error for "Merab" (1 Samuel 18:19 note).
And he delivered them into the hands of the Gibeonites, and they hanged them in the hill before the LORD: and they fell all seven together, and were put to death in the days of harvest, in the first days, in the beginning of barley harvest.
In the first days - The barley harvest (about the middle or toward the end of April) was earlier than the wheat harvest Exodus 9:31; Ruth 1:22.
And Rizpah the daughter of Aiah took sackcloth, and spread it for her upon the rock, from the beginning of harvest until water dropped upon them out of heaven, and suffered neither the birds of the air to rest on them by day, nor the beasts of the field by night.
Dropped - Rather, "poured," the proper word for heavy rain Exodus 9:33. The "early rain," or heavy rain of autumn, usually began in October, so that Rizpah's devoted watch continued about six months. How rare rain was in harvest we learn from 1 Samuel 12:17-18; Proverbs 26:1. The reason of the bodies being left unburied, contrary to Deuteronomy 21:23, probably was that the death of these men being an expiation of the guilt of a violated oath, they were to remain until the fall of rain should give the assurance that God's anger was appeased, and the national sin forgiven.
Birds of the air ... beasts of the field - It is well known how in the East, on the death e. g. of a camel in a caravan, the vultures instantly flock to the carcass. (Compare Matthew 24:28.)
And it was told David what Rizpah the daughter of Aiah, the concubine of Saul, had done.
And David went and took the bones of Saul and the bones of Jonathan his son from the men of Jabeshgilead, which had stolen them from the street of Bethshan, where the Philistines had hanged them, when the Philistines had slain Saul in Gilboa:
From the street of Beth-shan - This was the wide place just inside the gate of an Oriental city, bounded therefore by the city wall (compare the marginal reference). Here, as the place of concourse, the Philistines had fastened the bodies.
And he brought up from thence the bones of Saul and the bones of Jonathan his son; and they gathered the bones of them that were hanged.
And the bones of Saul and Jonathan his son buried they in the country of Benjamin in Zelah, in the sepulchre of Kish his father: and they performed all that the king commanded. And after that God was intreated for the land.
Moreover the Philistines had yet war again with Israel; and David went down, and his servants with him, and fought against the Philistines: and David waxed faint.
This, like the preceding paragraph 2 Samuel 21:1-14, is manifestly a detached and unconnected extract. It is probably taken from some history of David's wars, apparently the same as furnished the materials for 2 Samuel 5; 8; 23:8-39. There is no direct clue to the time when the events here related took place, but it was probably quite in the early part of David's reign, while he was still young and active, after the war described in 2 Samuel 5. The Book of Chronicles places these Philistine battles immediately after the taking of Rabbah of the Ammonites 1 Chronicles 20:4-8, but omits David's adventure 2 Samuel 21:15-17.
And Ishbibenob, which was of the sons of the giant, the weight of whose spear weighed three hundred shekels of brass in weight, he being girded with a new sword, thought to have slain David.
Ishbi-benob - A corrupt reading. The whole passage should perhaps run thus: "And David waxed faint. So they halted in Gob (as in 2 Samuel 21:18-19). And there was a man (in Gob) which was of the sons of the giant, etc."
Sons of the giant - The "giant" here 2 Samuel 21:18, 2 Samuel 21:20, 2 Samuel 21:22 is "ha-Raphah," whence, the "Rephaim" Genesis 14:5; Deuteronomy 2:11. The sons of Ha-raphah, or Rephaim, are different from the "Nephilim," or Giants Genesis 6:4; Numbers 13:33. The sons of Anak were not strictly Rephaim, but Nephilim.
Three hundred shekels of brass - About eight pounds. Goliath's spear's head weighed "six hundred shekels of iron."
But Abishai the son of Zeruiah succoured him, and smote the Philistine, and killed him. Then the men of David sware unto him, saying, Thou shalt go no more out with us to battle, that thou quench not the light of Israel.
And it came to pass after this, that there was again a battle with the Philistines at Gob: then Sibbechai the Hushathite slew Saph, which was of the sons of the giant.
A battle in Gob - In the parallel passage (marginal reference), "Gezer" is named as the field of this battle. However, Gath is named 2 Samuel 21:20, 2 Samuel 21:22 in a way to make it probable that Gath was the scene of all the battles. The Septuagint in this verse has "Gath."
And there was again a battle in Gob with the Philistines, where Elhanan the son of Jaareoregim, a Bethlehemite, slew the brother of Goliath the Gittite, the staff of whose spear was like a weaver's beam.
The Hebrew text is manifestly very corrupt. First, for "Jaare-oregim," 1 Chronicles 20:5 gives us the reading Jair. "Oregim" has evidently got in by a transcriber's error from the line below, where "oregim" is the Hebrew for "weavers." Again, the word the "Bethlehemite" is very doubtful. It is supported by 2 Samuel 23:24, but it is not found in the far purer text of 1 Chronicles 20:5, but instead of it we find the name of the Philistine slain by Elhanan, "Lahmi the brother of Goliath the Gittite." It is probable, therefore, that either the words "the Bethlehemite," are a corruption of "Lahmi," or that the recurrence of "Lahmi," and the termination of "Beth-lehemite" has confused the transcriber, and led to the omission of one of the words in each text.
And there was yet a battle in Gath, where was a man of great stature, that had on every hand six fingers, and on every foot six toes, four and twenty in number; and he also was born to the giant.
And when he defied Israel, Jonathan the son of Shimea the brother of David slew him.
These four were born to the giant in Gath, and fell by the hand of David, and by the hand of his servants.
Four - Not necessarily meaning that they were brothers, but that they were all of the race of the Giant, all Rephaim. The word "four" is omitted in the parallel passage, only the three last being mentioned in that chapter.