2 Samuel 21:1
Now during the reign of David there was a famine for three successive years, and David sought the face of the LORD. And the LORD said, "It is because of the blood shed by Saul and his family, because he killed the Gibeonites."
Seeking God's FaceG. Wood 2 Samuel 21:1
Conscience AssertiveT. Guthrie.2 Samuel 21:1-14
FamineB. Dale 2 Samuel 21:1-14
Famine and WarC. Ness.2 Samuel 21:1-14
Famine in the Days of DavidG. T. Coster.2 Samuel 21:1-14
God's Delays in PunishingJ. Armstrong, D. D.2 Samuel 21:1-14
Punished Sin ExpiatedJ. Parker, D. D.2 Samuel 21:1-14
The Enquiry into SinR. W. Evans, B. D.2 Samuel 21:1-14
The Quickening of David's Conscience by Rizpah's ExampleC. Vince.2 Samuel 21:1-14
2 Samuel 21:1-14. - (GIBEON, GIBEAH.)
And there was a famine in the days of David three years, year after year (ver. 1). [Summary of the remaining portion (or appendix) of this book:

1. The famine.

2. Victorious acts in wars with the Philistines (vers. 15-22).

3. David's song of thanksgiving (looking backward); 2 Samuel 22

4. 2 Samuel His last prophetic words (looking forward); 2 Samuel 23:1-7. These two lyrical and prophetic productions of David, the ripest spiritual fruit of his life, form a worthy conclusion to his reign (Keil).

5. List of his heroes (forming, with 2, an historical framework for 3 and 4); 2 Samuel 23:8-39.

6. The pestilence (with the famine, "two Divine punishments inflicted upon Israel, with the expiation of the sins that occasioned them"); ch. 24.] This famine took place after Mephibosheth was brought to Jerusalem (ver. 7; ch. 9.); and, perhaps, about seventeen years after the death of Saul (2 Samuel 4:4; 2 Samuel 9:12). It is mentioned here "as a practical illustration, on the one hand, of the manner in which Jehovah visited upon the house of Saul, even after the death of Saul himself, a crime which had been committed by him; and, on the other hand, of the way in which, even in such a case as this, when David had been obliged to sacrifice the descendants of Saul to expiate the guilt of their father, he showed his tenderness towards him by the honourable burial of their bones." After long prosperity and plenty there came adversity and destitution. No rain "out of heaven" (ver. 10) for three successive years! What a scene of general, intense, and increasing distress must have been witnessed (Genesis 12:10; Genesis 26:1; Genesis 47:13; Ruth 1:1; 1 Kings 18:5; 2 Kings 6:25; 2 Kings 25:5; Jeremiah 14:1-10; Acts 11:28). Nor has it been unknown in modern times. Consider it (with its attendant circumstances) as -

I. CALLING FOR SPECIAL INQUIRY. "And David sought the face of Jehovah" (ver. 1), equivalent to "inquired of Jehovah" (2 Samuel 5:19), by means of the Urim and Thummim through the high priest (the last recorded instance of this method of ascertaining the Divine will, henceforth more fully revealed through the prophets); urged by the cry of distress, especially among "the poorest sort of the people of the land" (2 Kings 24:14), on whom the famine pressed with peculiar severity.

1. The misery of the poor and afflicted produces in every faithful ruler and in every right hearted man a feeling of compassionate and anxious concern.

2. Physical calamities are often due to moral causes; they follow human disobedience to moral laws; being in some cases manifestly connected with such disobedience (as when famine follows desolating wars, agricultural neglect, etc.), in others, however, not directly and apparently so connected. This connection is evident

(1) from the common convictions of men who instinctively associate calamity with crime;

(2) from the plain teachings of Scripture (Deuteronomy 28:15, 23, 24; Ezekiel 14:21); and

(3) from the moral government of the living, personal God, wherein all things are ordered with a view to moral ends.

3. These causes should be diligently searched out, by proper means - observation, consideration, prayer - in order to their removal. "It is not superstition, but rather the highest piety and the highest philosophy, which leads a people, under such a visitation as that of famine, to turn to Jehovah, saying, 'Show us wherefore thou contendest with us '" (W.M. Taylor). "Let us search and try our ways," etc. (Lamentations 3:40; 1 Samuel 4:3).

II. LEADING TO UNEXPECTED DISCOVERY. "And Jehovah said (through the oracle), Concerning Saul and concerning the blood guilty house, because he slew the Gibeonires." A crime which had been committed, not recently, but twenty or even thirty years before, was brought to remembrance, and set before the national conscience, quickened in its sensibility by the experience of affliction. "David must hitherto have ruled in a very irreproachable manner to render it necessary to go further back to find a cause for the calamity" (Ewald).

1. Its iniquity was great. An attempt was made to exterminate (consume and destroy, ver. 5) a poor, dependent, and helpless people; of the original inhabitants of the laud (ver. 2; Joshua 9:3-27), spared by solemn oath, devoted to the service of the sanctuary (now at Gibeon), for more than four hundred years dwelling peaceably among "the children of Israel and Judah" (Joshua 9:17; 2 Samuel 4:3), professing the same faith, and guilty of no offence; many of them being ruthlessly slain, others escaping by flight.

2. Its effects were still felt by the "hewers of wood and drawers of water" (Nethinim, bondmen), who survived, in bitter grief, popular odium, heavier servitude. Their cries "entered into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth "(James 5:4).

3. Its guilt was unacknowledged and unexpiated; the wrong unredressed, the sin unrepented of, and even ignored and well nigh forgotten. "It would seem that Saul viewed their possessions with a covetous eye, as affording him the means of rewarding his adherents (1 Samuel 22:7) and of enriching his family; and hence, on some pretence or other, or without any pretence, he slew large numbers of them, and doubtless seized their possessions. It is said that he did this in his zeal for Israel and Judah, and this cannot be explained but on the supposition that the deed was done in order to give the tribes possession of the reserved territories of the Gibeonites. And there is no doubt this would be, as it was designed, a popular and acceptable act (Joshua 9:18). Saul's own family must have been active in this cruel wrong, and must have had a good share of the spoil; for we find them all, when reduced to a private station, much better off in their worldly circumstances than can else be accounted for" (Kitto). Here lay the secret of the famine, which was interpreted as a sign of Divine wrath.

"He turneth a fruitful land into a salt marsh,
Because of the wickedness of them that dwell therein."

(Psalm 107:34.)

III. INVOLVING IMPORTANT PRINCIPLES; not merely that sin and crime are followed by Divine punishment, and the wrongs of the poor and needy avenged (1 Samuel 30:15-17), but also that men are dealt with by God (in the way of chastisement) as communities, as well as separate souls (Ezekiel 18:2-4).

1. The guilt incurred by individuals is participated in by the nation to which they belong when their wrongdoing is connived at, profited by, and not repudiated; and especially when the wrongdoer is its recognized representative.

2. The infliction of suffering on a whole nation, on account of the sins of one or more persons therein, is often needful for the vindication of public justice, the reparation of wrong doing, and the general welfare.

3. Although a nation may be exempted for a season, through the forbearance of God, from the chastisement due to sin, it does not escape altogether, but is surely called to account in this world. "Nations as nations will have no existence in another world, and therefore. they must look for retribution in this" (Wordsworth). "I can perceive in the story a recognition of the continuance of a nation's life, of its obligations, of its sins from age, to age. All national morality, nay, the meaning and possibility of history, depends upon this truth, the sense of which is, I fear, very weak in our day" (Maurice). "Time does not wear out the guilt of sin, nor can we build hopes of impunity on the delay of judgments" (Matthew Henry).

IV. EVOKING RECOGNIZED OBLIGATION. "And the king called the Gibeonites, and said... What shall I do for you? and wherewith shall I make the atonement [expiation, satisfaction, means of reconciliation], that ye may bless [and no more curse] the inheritance of Jehovah?" (vers. 2, 3); "What ye say, I will do for you" (ver. 5). Whilst acknowledging the national wrong, he also acknowledged the national obligation, and expressed his purpose:

1. To redress their grievance, satisfy their claim for justice, and secure their favour and intercession.

2. To respect the justice of God (by whom their cause was manifestly maintained), so that prayer might be heard, and the famine removed. Unless right is done, prayer is vain (Psalm 66:18).

3. And to do whatever might be possible and necessary for these ends. "The land must expiate the king's wrong. This is rooted in the idea of the solidarity of the people, and the theocratic king as representative of God's people, whence comes solidarity of guilt between king and people" (Erdmann). David herein acted wisely and in a theocratic spirit.

V. REQUIRING ADEQUATE SATISFACTION. (Vers. 7-9.) The expiation was made by the crucifixion of the two sons of Rizpah and the five sons of Merab (Hebrew, Michal), "whom she bare to Adriel," according to the demand and by "the hands of the Gibeonites" (ver. 9), under the authority and sanction of the king (and doubtless with the approval of the nation). The demand:

1. Could be satisfied with nothing short of this. "We will have no silver nor gold," etc. (ver. 4); no private compensation could atone for such a public crime and wilful sin "before the Lord."

2. Accorded with the requirements of the Law (Genesis 9:5, 6; Numbers 35:31); or at least with the custom of blood vengeance, and the then prevalent ideas of justice. If (as is probable, ver. 1) the hands of the sons of Saul were stained with blood, the Law demanded their death; if (as may have been the case) they were personally guiltless, they suffered from their intimate relationship to the murderer, as a "vicarious sacrifice," and for the benefit of the nation. "To understand this procedure, we must bear in mind the ancient Oriental ideas of the solidarity of the family, strict retaliation and blood revenge - ideas that, with some limitation, remained in force in the legislation of the old covenant" (Kurtz).

3. Was restricted by merciful consideration for the assuredly innocent and steadfast fidelity to a solemn engagement. "And the king spared Mephibosheth," etc. (ver. 7). "The obscurities of this narrative probably may never be entirely cleared up. One thing, however, is certain - these seven descendants of Saul were not pretenders to the crown; and David cannot be suspected of having embraced such an opportunity to put them out of the way. Neither is it to be supposed that David delivered up the innocent contrary to the Law (Deuteronomy 24:16). They were, therefore, delivered up to the avengers of blood and punished with death, not on account of the crimes of Saul, but for the murders which they themselves, with the connivance of Saul, had committed on the Gibeonites, and for which they had hitherto remained unpunished" (Jahn, 'Heb. Com.,' 32.).

VI. AFFORDING SALUTARY INSTRUCTION (whether the victims be regarded as having actually taken part in the crime or not). "As seen by the people, the execution of Saul's sons (who were not charged with being in any way personally accessory to their father's crime) was a judicial act of retribution; but this aspect of the transaction was only an 'accommodation' to the current ideas of the age. Viewed in its essential character as sanctioned by God, it was a didactic act, designed to teach the guilt of sin" (Kirkpatrick); to produce repentance, and prevent its recurrence. That melancholy spectacle of a sevenfold crucifixion "on the mountain before Jehovah," in "Gibeah of Saul" (1 Samuel 10:5; 1 Samuel 22:6), declared:

1. The exceeding culpability of unrighteous zeal, of the wanton violation of sacred pledges, of the unjust taking away of human life. "Let us here learn the danger of trifling with oaths and solemn engagements. Four hundred years had elapsed since the treaty made with the Gibeonites; and yet in the sight of God it was as sacred as ever; so that he who presumed to infringe it drew down a severe judgment on the whole nation" (Lindsay).

2. The inevitable, rigorous, and impartial execution of Divine justice. Princes are not above its correction, nor bondsmen below its protection.

3. The far reaching consequences of transgression; to the children and children's children of the transgressor. "The evident intention of God in ordering the death of so many of Saul's family" (which, however, is not expressly stated) "was to give public attestation of the abhorrence of Saul's perfidy and cruelty, and to strike into the hearts of his successors on the throne a salutary dread of committing similar offences. The death of these seven persons, therefore, is not to be regarded as a punishment inflicted upon them for personal offences, even though they might have a share in their father's persecution of the Gibeonites, but an act commanded by God in virtue of his sovereign rights over the lives of all men, to teach princes moderation and equity, and to prevent the perpetration of enormous crimes, which are inconsistent with the welfare of the civil government as well as incompatible with the principles of true religion" (Chandler).

VII. FOLLOWED BY MERCIFUL DELIVERANCE. "And after that [the expiation] God was entreated for the land" (ver. 14). "Long forgotten sin had been brought to mind and acknowledged and expiated; homage had been paid to justice; the evil of unfaithfulness had been exposed; the honour of the nation had been purged from foul stains; it had been shown that neither kings nor princes can do wrong with impunity; maternal fondness had been touchingly displayed; a long forgotten duty had been attended to; a noble example had borne fruit; and after that God was entreated for the land. The generous heavens poured down their showers, the languishing life of field and vineyard revived, and the earth was clothed with beauty and teemed with fruitfulness again. There was one more proof of the everlasting truth, 'Righteousness exalteth a nation'" (C. Vince). - D.

Then there was a famine in the days of David three years.
Some years since it was found that many returned emigrants were ending their days in English workhouses. When the authorities inquired into the causes of this fact, they ascertained that in nearly every case those who were then paupers had formerly prospered in the colonies; but they had forsaken their prosperity and come back to England, because they could not bear the thought of dying and being buried in the strange lands wherein they had made their homes for a season. While they were in health and vigour, they were comparatively content to be far away from the old country; but as soon as the shadows of evening began to fall they yearned to return to the familiar haunts of life's morning, in order that, when they fell asleep, they might be laid to rest in their fathers' sepulchres. The desire was so strong, that they yielded to it, although they thereby doomed themselves to poverty for the remainder of their days. This is an instinct which cannot be put down by force of argument. After all that can be said about the un-wisdom of it, the voice of nature will still plead for it, and "it seems to be the appointment of heaven that the first attachments of which the heart is conscious should be its last." If we have no such desire about out own final resting-places we have about those of our friends, and we like to have the graves of our loved ones near to us, and not far away amongst strangers. This feeling must not be denounced as mere sentimentalism, for it has been cherished as an honourable thing by men who were neither feeble nor foolish. When Barzillai pleaded against the preferment which David was urging upon him, this was his last and most forcible entreaty: "Let thy servant, I pray thee," etc. Was it not strange that David should for so many years leave the remains, of Saul and Jonathan in the place of their hasty sepulture, far from the burial of their fathers? It might have been fairly anticipated that, on his coining into power, David would make an early effort to bring the body of Jonathan to his native place, and there inter it with all the honour befitting the burial of such a princely man and faithful friend. Instead of this, David allowed thirty years to pass away before he did what reverence and gratitude for the dead should have constrained him to regard as a sacred duty to be discharged as soon as possible. Towards the close of David's life, the prosperity f the kingdom was interrupted by a famine. "He inquired of the Lord." It will be remembered that, in the days of Joshua, the Gibeonites had, by means of false pretences, obtained a covenant of peace between themselves and the Israelites. They were degraded to perpetual servitude; but with all the sacredness of a solemn oath the public faith was pledged to them for the security of their lives. Under circumstances not fully disclosed to us, Saul broke the oath and forfeited the honour of the nation, by slaying many of the Gibeonites, and by attempting to destroy them all. It has been supposed by some that he was severe and cruel towards the Gibeonites, as a kind of set-off against his pretended compassion towards the Amalekites. Later commentators have thought that light is is to be obtained from the question Saul put to his courtiers when he was disclosing his suspicions against David: "Hear now, ye Benjamites," etc. This implies that Saul either had given or would give them fields and vineyards. The sin of Saul was regarded by God as a national sin, either because the people shared in the plunder, or because they sympathised with or connived at the deed. The matter was one of double guilt, for, besides the shedding of innocent blood, there was the violation of a solemn compact. Some men have a feeling that there is an appearance of injustice ii a crime be punished many years after its perpetration. But lapse of time has no power to diminish the guilt of an action, and why should it deter or diminish punishment? If lapse of time work change in the offender, bringing him to repentance, then it is meet for mercy to interpose with pardon, and keep back punishment for ever. This is according to God's promise. Where, on the other hand, the rolling years reveal no improvement, the guilt is increased instead of diminished. In these cases delayed judgment will be at last heavier judgment. Of course, objectors will ask the old question: "Was it just to make one generation suffer for the sins of another?" Seeing the famine did not come till more than forty years after the offence, the greater part of the offenders must have entirely escaped the punishment; and it is said, therefore, the delayed judgment must have been an unjust judgment. How is it people never think of asking this other question: "Is it just for one generation to be enriched in many ways by the skill and labour and victories of a preceding generation?" The law of God that links the generations together is constantly and powerfully working for good. We are all of us more or less better in body, mind, and estate, because of the virtues of those who have lived before us. If we were to be stripped of all the fruit Of the various excellences of bygone generations, how poor and feeble we should be! Our freedom, our art and science, our civilisation, with all its power to mitigate the sorrows and increase the pleasures of life, are not the creation of our wisdom, they are not the product of our virtues. By far the larger portion of them we owe, under God, to the work and worth of those who now sleep in their graves. "Other men laboured, and we have entered into their labours." It was doubtless by God's direction that David suffered the surviving Gibeonites to decide what should be done to expiate the sin. They demanded that seven of Saul's descendants should be publicly executed, and their demand was granted. Saul and his sons had been the leaders in the unprincipled slaughter, and his descendants were most likely the largest holders of the unrighteous spoil. It was contrary to Jewish custom to leave the bodies upon the gibbets to waste away; but it was done in the case of these seven, either because the Gibeonites demanded it, or in order to make the warning more terrible. It gave rise to a most touching display of motherly affection and fidelity. Two of the seven were sons of Rizpah, who, though she had been one of Saul's wives, was still living. She could not bear the thought of their hanging there for the vultures to tear to pieces and devour, and she determined to keep watch over them and drive off the foul birds of prey. She made her home upon the rock, and watched with a vigilance that never slept, and a devotion that never wearied. It was told David what Rizpah had done, and instantly his memory was awakened, and his conscience was quickened. He thought of the bones of Saul and Jonathan sleeping in the place of their somewhat hurried and unseemly burial. He saw the duty he ought to have discharged. He fetched the long-neglected remains from Jabesh-Gilead, and carried them to the country of Benjamin, and buried them in the sepulchre of Kish, the father of Saul. With them he buried also the bodies of the seven, and thus relieved the tender and faithful-hearted Rizpah from the burden of work and woe which her love for her own had laid upon her. Long-forgotten sin had been brought to mind, and acknowledged, and expiated; homage had been paid to justice; the evil of unfaithfulness had been exposed; the honour of the nation had been purged from foul stains; it had been shown that neither kings nor princes can do wrong with impunity; maternal fondness and fidelity had been touchingly displayed; a long-forgotten duty had been attended to; a noble example had borne fruit; and "after that God was untreated for the land." The way in which Rizpah's conduct moved David to his duty affords a fine instance of what has been aptly called "unconscious influence." She had no design upon the conscience of the king, but her right doing told with great effect. Words are often feeble and in vain, but deeds are seldom fruitless. The most eloquent preachers may have to cry out complainingly — "Who hath believed our report?" The success of example is far more certain, for its fragrance has never been a sweetness wholly "wasted on the desert air."

(C. Vince.)

Conscience works after the manner so beautifully set forth in a ring that a great magician, according to an Eastern tale, presented to his prince. The gift was of inestimable value: not for the diamonds and rubies and pearls that gemmed it, but for a rare and mystic property in the metal. It sat easily enough on the finger in ordinary circumstances; but so soon as its wearer formed a bad thought, designed or committed a bad action, the ring became a monitor. Suddenly contracting, it pressed painfully on his finger, warning him of sin. Such a ring, thank God, is not the peculiar property of kings; all, the poorest of us, those who wear none other possess and wear this inestimable jewel — for the ring in the fable is just that conscience which is the voice of God within us.

(T. Guthrie.)

I. THE CONNECTION BETWEEN MORAL EVIL AND PHYSICAL SUFFERING. Do we believe in God as the Moral Ruler of men? Then we cannot but believe that He designs and controls what is occurrent around them to the education and bettering of the moral, nature that is within them. National calamities follow upon national sins. Let no corn-seed be sown; no provision made as far as man can make it for harvest, and famine will come as a Divine retribution. But with all the husbandmen's forecast and arduous anticipative toil, famine may still come as a punishment because of a nation's sins — drought, mildew, destructive insect life, the ministers of God that do His chastening pleasure. Atheistic philosophy resolves the government of the world into the action of natural laws, as if there could be laws without a Law-giver, as if they could act except He continued to be and continued to make them efficient. Some may point to second causes. "These suffice; hence come war, famine, black pestilence." But why hence? Design there cannot be without a Designer. Punishment may smite the nations through the operation of natural law; but that law is the expression of God's will, and in its operation moves His hidden, but correcting hand. As men deal with their children, God deals with them; from moral evil comes physical suffering. The punishment may be delayed, but it is inevitable. Nations, as such, have no future beyond the bounds of time. Punishment, then, for national sins must fall upon nations now. Sometimes with startling, convicting sharpness. Sometimes "after many days" — days that have gathered into many years. It was so in the case of the famine that was the punishment for Israel's accessory guilt in Saul's crime against the Gideonites forty years before. A truth this not without modern confirmatory instances. France slaughtered many of the Huguenots — her best and purest sons — and chased many more into exile. Two hundred years afterwards came the full appalling punishment for that stupendous crime in the horrors of the French Revolution — in the "dire Religion stript of God." America cherished slave-holding into a domestic institution — and, at length, long after the first slave-holders had passed, in tremendous national convulsion, and through the Red Sea of slaughter, the African bondmen made their wondering, exultant way into freedom. "God's judgments often look a long way back."

II. GOD'S DISPLEASURE WITH NATIONAL PRIDE AND VIOLATION OF TREATY OBLIGATIONS. The famine afflicted Israel because of the perfidy shown to the Gibeonites by Saul and his approving subjects. What instruction, what warning, in these records for England to-day! We are in treaty with many dependent nations and tribes. Let us be faithful to our treaties — honest, kind, not aggressive on the reserved and acknowledged rights of any. To wrong African or Indian tribe — any tribe though as weak and helpless as the ancient Gibeonites, with the national approval, is to assure in coming days for the nation storms of the Divine displeasure. Nor is national pride to go unpunished. And are we guiltless herein? Vast, inclusive of many languages and all climates, the empire that acknowledges our King. But let us not forget who has made us to differ; who has exalted us among the nations; who has lifted us up and can cast us down.

III. IN RIZPAH WE SEE THE UNUTTERABLE, UNVANQUISHABLE STRENGTH OR A MOTHER'S LOVE. Her sons were doomed to ignominious, dishonoured end. She will honour them! An aged woman; adult sons; a king's sons — thus to end! To her they are royal still. As her grey hair streams to the wind, as her voice and arms are raised against the prowling creatures, oh strength of resolution! oh, thronging memories in that lonely woman's heart!

The barley harvest was nodding white

When my children died on the rocky height,

And the reapers were singing on hill and plain

When I came to my task of sorrow and pain.

But now the season of rain is nigh,

The sun is dim in the thickening sky.

I hear the howl of the wind that brings

The long, drear storm on its heavy wings;

But the howling wind and the driving rain

Will beat on my houseless head in vain.

I shall stay, from my murdered sons to scare

The beasts of the desert and fowls of air.Unconquerable love! not rewarded — winning comely sepulture for the bodies of her dead.

(G. T. Coster.)

1. A famine in Palestine was always a consequence of deficient winter rains, such a deficiency being by no means uncommon; but in this case the famine endured three successive years, and thus became alarming, and impelled men to ask religious questions and make religious arrangements. "David inquired of the Lord" — in other words, he sought the face of the Lord. Is not the action of David imitated, to some extent at least, by the men of all time? When the east wind blows three days, or three weeks, men do but remark upon it complainingly, and it passes from criticism; but when it continues three months, and three more, and the earth is made white with dust, and every tree stands in blackness and barrenness, and every bird is silent, and the whole landscape is one scene of blank desolation — then men begin to inquire concerning causes, and even the most flippant and obdurate may be easily moved to seek the face of the Lord. Thus selfishness assumes a religious aspect, and religion is degraded by being crowned with selfishness; thus men make confusion in moral distinctions, and imagine themselves to be pious when they are only self-seeking, and suppose themselves constrained by persuasion when they are simply driven by fear.

2. David, having learned the Divine reason for the continued famine, now turned in a human direction, as he was bound to do, saying unto the Gibeonites, "What shall I do for you?" The word is the term which is used throughout the law in connection with the propitiatory sacrifices. The word literally means to cover up. David inquires what he can do to cover up the sin of Saul, so as to remove it from the sight of the men against whom it had been committed. Saul himself being dead, his male descendants were considered as standing in his place, and were looked at in the solemn light of actually personating him and having responsibility for his evil deeds. The Gibeonites regarded the whole affair as involving theocracy, and not until the execution had been completed could the stains be removed which had been thrown upon the most sacred history of the race. Men's ideas of compensation undergo great changes. It is no surprise that at first the idea of compensation should be considerably rough and formless. Jesus Christ. remarking upon it, set it aside in the letter, and displaced it by a nobler spirit: — "Ye have heard it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: but I say Unto you"... and then came the gospel so difficult to be apprehended by the natural reason, but yielding itself as an infinite treasure to the claim of faith and love. David took the two sons of Rizpah the daughter of Aiah. He could not lawfully refuse the demand of the Gideonites, having before him the fact that the law absolutely required that bloodguiltiness should be expiated by the blood of the offender. David spared for Jonathan's sake the only descendants of Saul in the direct line who could have advanced any claim to the throne.

3. The beginning of harvest points to the time as being immediately after the Passover (Leviticus 23:10, 11), and consequently about the middle of April. The rains of autumn began in October, so that Rizpah's tender care must have extended over about six months. She waited until water dropped upon them out of heaven — that is, until the water-famine was at an end; and thus the Divine forgiveness was assured. A most vivid and ghastly picture this: see the seven bodies fastened to a stake, either by impaling or by crucifixion, and watch them standing there day by day and week by week, until the clouds gathered and the returning rain attested that God had been satisfied because justice had been done in the earth. The Lord from heaven is watching all our oblations and sacrifices and actions, and when we have done that which His law of justice requires He will not forget to send the rain and the sunshine, and to bless the earth with an abundant harvest.

4. Then we come upon a beautiful expression — "And after that God was intreated for the land." There is a solemn lesson here for all time. We must do justice before we can make acceptable prayer, we cannot turn dishonoured graves into altars which God will recognise. "If thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee: leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift." "Wash you, make you clean; pub away the evil of your doings." These are the conditions upon which God will be intreated.

5. There is a line of true melancholy in the remainder of the chapter. The Philistines had yet war again with Israel, but now when David went down and fought against the Philistines we read that "David waxed faint" (v. 15). A splendid life is now showing signs of decay. David in his old age was fighting with giants, but he was no longer the ruddy youth who smote Goliath in the forehead. There is a time when a man must cease from war. There is also a time when his character, his peaceful counsels, his benignant smile, may be of more value than the uplifting of his enfeebled arm. Patriots should take care that their leaders are not too long in the field of danger; and these leaders themselves should know that there is an appointed time for withdrawing from the battle and sitting in noble and well-earned seclusion, guiding by counsel when they can no longer lead by example.

(J. Parker, D. D.)

This chapter is a double narrative, first of famine, and secondly of waters, in the latter end of David's days.

1. The time when those three years of famine were, this is uncertain. Some expositors are for a transposition of those stories both of the famine and of the wars, which (they say) fell out before the rebellions both of Absalom's and of Sheba's, rendering probable reasons for their opinion; seeing 'tis said here in the general only that this famine fell out in the days of David (ver. 1), but other authors of profound judgment do see no reason for admitting any such transposition in the Scriptures, seeing it is never safe to allow it, but when it is necessary, and cannot be avoided; and therefore 'tis best to take them in that order, wherein the Holy Spirit hath placed them; yet sometimes Scripture-story puts those passages that belongs to one matter all together, though they happened at several times.

2. The cause of this famine made known by God's oracle. The natural cause was the drought (ver. 10). David, though a prophet, knew not the supernatural cause, until he consulted with the Urim, and God told him it was to punish Saul's fallen zeal, who had so perfidiously and perjuriously brought the Gibeonites into perdition (vers. 1, 2.)

3. The means made use of for removing this judgment of famine, namely, the getting both God and the Gibeonites reconciled to Israel (vers. 3, 4, 5, and 6.) Those Gibeonites had complained of their grievances to God, and he had heard them, for he is gracious. (Exodus 23:27.) The reason why they had not all this long time complained to King David. That happened to them which befalls all that are deeply oppressed, they are so dispirited that they dare do nothing for their own relief, and possibly they suspected that David would be unwilling to rescind the acts of Saul.(2) God now rouses David. He asks them what would satisfy them, seeing Saul had-so wronged them from a zeal without knowledge (Romans 10:2), against the public faith, which God (under no pretence) will suffer to be broken, no not though it was won by a wile. (Joshua 9:1.5) Yet was it binding to successors.(3) It was not a money-matter they sought for satisfaction, but that seven of Saul's sons might be hanged up before the Lord in Gibeah of Saul, that the place wherein he plotted to root out our families, even at his royal palace, may now become the open stage for the rooting out of his family.(4) The matter, manner, and form of the expiation of Saul's sin, whereby God was reconciled, and the famine removed from Israel at the Gibeonites' prayer.(1.) Mephibosheth, Jonathan's son, is so named to distinguish him from that other Mephibosheth, the son of Saul's concubine (vers. 7, 8). This poor cripple was saved for Jonathan's sake, because of the Lord's oath between them. How much more will the Father of all mercies be mindful of the children of believers for Jesu's sake, and for the covenant made with their parents.(2) But David, doubtless at God's direction, took the two sons of Rizpah, Saul's concubine, and the five sons of Merab, who was married to Adriel.(3) The manner of this expiation, it was the execution of this sevenfold matter, by hanging them all up before the Lord (ver. 9), though David had sworn that he would not cut off Saul's seed (1 Samuel 24:21, 22). Yet God, dispensing with David in this oath, directed him to do thus; otherwise David had been as guilty of perjury as Saul himself was, and God would not have been so well pleased with this sacrifice as to remove the dearth at it.(4) Rizpah's motherly affection to her two hanged sons. (ver. 10.) She erected a tent upon a continguous rock made of sackcloth (in token of mourning) to secure herself from the parching heat of the sun in the droughty day, and from the malignant vapours of the dark nights. Resolving to watch their bodies from all annoyances, because they were doomed by David with the direction of God, who in this extraordinary case dispensed with his own double law. (Deuteronomy 21:23, and 24, 16.) To hang there until the anger of God was appeased for Saul's sin, and rain reobtained, which Rizpah prayed earnestly for in her mourning tent; and that the Lord would accept the sacrifice of her sons for an atonement, to remove the famine, etc. If so, then Rizpah must be a religious woman, having this providence made an ordinance to her. However, she was certainly a virago of a more than manly courage that durst watch there night and day without fear of wild beasts, etc. Not wanting servants as a king's concubine, yet will she watch herself alone.

5. David's high commendation of Rizpah's doing, insomuch as he made her his pattern in declaring due respect to the dead. (vers. 11, 12, 13, 14.)(1) Tidings of Rizpah's condoling the death of her sons, etc., being brought to David, it pleased him so well that be willingly learnt to do his own duty to the dead, and not only towards the bodies of these royal persons now executed, but also to the bones of Saul and Jonathan.(2) David hereupon giveth out his royal order, that the bones of Saul and Jonathan laid up in the sepulchre (where the men of Jabesh Gilead had buried them, 1 Samuel 31:10, 11, 12), should be brought thence, and be buried in the sepulchre of Kish, Saul's father, and for the bodies of those seven sons he ordered also an honourable burial, to make them all the amends be could possibly for their ignominious death: all which do clearly demonstrate that David bare no malice either to Saul (who had been so malicious to him while he lived) nor to his sons, and what little reason Joab had to accuse David for hating his friends (2 Samuel 19:6), but herein he most piously loved his enemies.

6. The effect of all this. (ver. 14.)(1) The Lord's tenderness towards Rizpah, when God saw her motherly bowels, in lamenting the loss of her sons with so much love and patience, and lodging in such an open air to keep their dead bodies from all harm either by bird or beast, he would not suffer her to suffer this hardship till September (as some say) which was the time of God's giving Israel their latter rain (as their former rain fell in Nisan or spring before their barley-harvest, the very time wherein they were hanged (ver. 10), for then Rizpah must lodge upon the rock in her sackcloth tent for many months night and day; but God soon sent rain as that phrase intimateth "Water dropped upon them out of heaven" after so long a drought, causing a dearth, whereby she presently understood God's anger was appeased, seeing rain was now re-obtained.(2) The Lord soon sent rain, not only because He saw David had done that due execution of justice (demanded both by God and the Gibeonites) which so far pleased God that the wickedness of wicked Saul, of his sons, and of his subjects was expiated thereby as to temporal punishments, but also God was pleased because David found in his heart (as the phrase is, 2 Samuel 7:27) to recompense good for evil to his enemies, in ordering an honourable interment to Saul and all his sons, and to bury them honourably in a place of Benjamin, named Joshua 18:28.(3) After their execution God was intreated for the land (ver. 14.) Those intreaters were many, not only all the religious people of Israel, but also Rizpah prayed for rain, that a speedy period might be put both to the pinching famine and to her own painful watchings.

7. The wars David had with the Philistines, wherein were four famous battles fought, from ver. 15 to the end.(1) In the first battle David was present in person, though 'tis expressly said "He now waxed faint" with old age (ver. 15.) Some say this fell out before Absalom's rebellion. Let this story be timed without interruption where the Holy Spirit hath placed it. Here David was in danger to be slain by the giant Ishbi Benob (v. 16), who being made a new colonel, pressed into Israel's army, and with his new sword essayed to slay David as a proof of his valour, but Abishai succoured him, and slew the daring monster (v. 17), Josephus saith, it was done as David nursed them, &c.(2). David was absent in all the three following battles, for his men sware to him because of his former personal danger [That he should descend into no more battles] as they had only obliged his absence (2 Samuel 18 .)(3). The issue of these three battles succeeding the first,, and one another as the Philistines (routed in all the four fights) could recruit, and rally their forces. All these victories are ascribed to David (v. 22), learn we to do so unto Christ for all our victories both corporal and spiritual: These all made way for Solomon's peaceable reign.

(C. Ness.)

Saul had been some time dead, when this famine, year by year, for three years, visited the people of Israel. You must look back to the book of Joshua, to see what the sin was. There we find that Israel had made a league with the Gibeonites. "Joshua," it is written, "made peace with them, to let them live; and the princes of the congregation aware unto them And the children of Israel smote them not, because the princes of the congregation had sworn unto them by the Lord God of Israel." But in after times they forgot this oath, by suffering Saul to slay the Gibeonites, and did not see the guilt of letting him take their lives. But the sin, though at first it brought no chastisement, began to put forth thorns and to prick in David's day. Now we often act like Israel; we brush away from our minds what we have done. We are too busy with to-day; we are interested in what is going on just now. Who likes to look an old folly in the face? Who likes to unrol the book of life, to read the pages that are stained and blackened with old sins? We do not like to rake up all our sins. There is enough of sin in every man's life to put him to the blush. But is it wise thus to treat ourselves and our sins? Is all well because we are at ease, and have got rid of the sting of our old misdeeds? Is all really safe? Is there no cause for a certain fearful looking for of judgment, and fiery indignation.? Are sins to be thrown aside, and got rid of this way? Nay, we may be very easy and composed; but this is not safety; it is only a treacherous peace; true peace must be sought for by the very opposite course. The true way of peace is not to turn away from the past, but to turn towards it, that we may search and see what we have been about; the true way of peace is not to try to forget our sinful or frivolous deeds of old, but to be at pains to recollect and recall them; for the true way of peace lies through the gate of repentance, through a deep, sincere, careful repentance. It is the penitent who can lay hold of the Cross and live. We must not mistake the ways of God in this matter. The famine that fell on Israel for offences long since past shews us that the edge of God's sword is not blunted, because for a time it is withheld; for every sin there is punishment in store. No man resists the Spirit, and goes unpunished, if he remains impenitent. The Lord often withholds His arm, not because He disregards the sin, bug because He knows the terror of His vengeance, and would fain see the conversion of the sinner. If we are at all moved by the long-suffering and forbearance with which we have been treated, what wiser thing can we do than solemnly and carefully to retrace our steps, and, by a close accurate study of our past lives, to see whether we have much to repent and to confess before the Lord?

(J. Armstrong, D. D.)

Here we have an example of the dealings of God with sinners; we see the sin of one man, Saul, coming upon his family, according to that rule which God hath specially laid down among the strictest of his commandments. "I, the Lord thy God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me." The first thing to be learned from such a manifestation of the ways of God's dealing with sin, is the very dreadful extent to which it goes: nearly 200 generations have past since the days of Adam, and yet the effects of his sin have not run out their course. All this world is of a piece; one part is joined on to another, so that no man, however selfish, can do any thing for himself only; some one else must in some way or another come in for his share in it. Can the Christian then take too great heed to himself? The sin of Saul, we seed brought a judgment on the whole land; and it is most instructive to observe how it had been so completely forgotten by men, so that David was obliged to enquire the reason of the judgment. So little do men think of sin until they begin to smart for it. Is not this also a matter of daily experience? But the child of God, and joint-heir with Jesus Christ, has no need of being compelled to enquire of God. He does enquire daily; daily there is presented to his eyes the miserable spectacle of this world, full of sorrow and death, and daily and hourly he feels in his body the tokens of mortality; and daily God gives him an answer with greater clearness, "It is for sin." And daily also he sees his Saviour on the cross, in his agony and sufferings; and daily he enquires of the Lord in his heart, "Why is this?" and daily the answer comes to him with a deeper experience of his own need and God's abundance, "It is for sin." Sin, therefore, is his abhorrence; he sees God's judgment ever upon it. We see from this chapter that after David had enquired of the Lord, and found the reason of the judgment which was upon the land, he immediately set to work to remove it. But how few will follow the example of David in their own case I God having spoken to their enquiring conscience in a manner not to be mistaken, how slow are they to give up the darling sin to be crucified! Such never can have made serious and earnest enquiry of the Lord. Let all enquire with David's sincerity, and then they will perform with David's faithfulness. But the business of the Christian is to enquire with all sincerity, and with daily diligence; ford if he be not less watchful than becomes his profession, he must see both within him and without him continual occasion for such inquiry. And thus they daily grow in the knowledge of themselves, and in the resignation of their wills unto God; thus they become more conformed to the image of the Son of God, who Himself, when in the flesh, though He were a Son, yet "learned obedience by the things which He suffered." Thus, as persons find pearls of inestimable price by diving to the bottom of the sea, and groping there amid fear and darkness, so they, searching into the dark depths of their heart with godly fear, bring always up to sight the precious pearl of their redemption in Jesus Christ.

(R. W. Evans, B. D.)

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