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November 15, 2023

Second Samuel Part 10

The last 4 chapters of Second Samuel seem, at first, to be a miscellaneous collection of events during the reign of King David.


Second Samuel



[go over Bible study plan for next several months]

The last 4 chapters of Second Samuel seem, at first, to be a miscellaneous collection of events during the reign of King David. They are not necessarily written down in chronological order, however we don’t know when they actually occurred, only that it was sometime during David’s reign. Bible scholars are not in agreement. Some will say these events happened earlier in David’s monarchy. Others will say, no, they happened much later. The fact is we’re not given enough information in the text to determine exactly when they took place. But I contend that it is not the WHEN that is important, but the WHY. Why are these events mentioned here? The writer, under divine inspiration, has a real purpose in mind. Much of Second Samuel has shown David to be a flawed individual who sinned greatly, who wasn’t a very good father or husband. So I believe the writer wants to share these particular events at the end of his story of David’s life to highlight the lasting legacy of King David – that is, what it was that made David stand out in a positive way from all the other kings of Israel.

Let me draw your attention to the literary arrangement of these last few chapters. First, you have a narrative. Second, a list, Third, a poem. Then reverse the order… Fourth, a poem. Fifth a list. Sixth a narrative. This structure is not uncommon in Hebrew literature. This morning we will be looking at Ch 21 at a narrative and a list. Again highlighting the legacy of King David.

READ 2 Samuel 21:1

We don’t know when this 3-year famine occurs. But David has enough spiritual insight (remember that he is filled with the Holy Spirit, 1 Sam 16:13) to realize the famine is from God. Deut Ch 28 lists blessings for obedience to God as well as curses for disobedience. If God’s people will follow the Lord and obey Him then there will be abundance and prosperity. However if they do not obey the voice of the Lord then God will send curses upon them. And one of the many curses listed was famine. So David knows that this famine which his nation has been experiencing is from God. But he doesn’t know the reason. And so we’re told that David “sought the face of the Lord.” David prayed. He was a man of prayer. The Lord is always our best source of wisdom and guidance in life. James 1:5 reminds us, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” And that’s what David does here. He lacks wisdom so he goes to God.

By divine revelation (I believe it to be special revelation given to David from the Holy Spirit) God tells David the reason for the famine. It’s the result of a sin, a horrible sin, that was committed by David’s predecessor, King Saul. What was it that Saul did? The writer tells us that “he put the Gibeonites to death.”

OK, so who are the Gibeonites? They are Canaanites, pagans, Gentiles. Back in Joshua Ch 9 they realized that Joshua and the children of Israel were advancing in their direction after having conquered the cities of Jericho and Ai. So, fearing for their lives, the Gibeonites made a desperate effort to survive. They hatched a brilliant plan. They sent an envoy to Joshua and pretended that they were from a faraway country. They deceived Israel (who never consulted God in the matter) into making a peace treaty with them. After it was discovered that the Gibeonites were actually neighbors living in Canaan, they were allowed to live because of the oath Israel had sworn to them, not to kill them. However, they were permanently reduced to a slave status. Specifically they were forced to be woodcutters and water carriers for the tabernacle. It’s important to understand that background. Fast forward 380 years to the reign of King Saul. The Bible doesn’t record this particular action by Saul, the killing of Gibeonites. But I am convinced as I studied this (Ellicott’s Commentary) that it is likely that this tragic event occurred in 1 Samuel Ch 22 when Saul killed the priests of God at Nob at the hands of Doeg the Edomite. The Bible says, “Doeg the Edomite turned and struck down the priests, and he killed on that day eighty-five persons who wore the linen ephod. And Nob, the city of the priests, he put to the sword; both man and woman, child and infant, ox, donkey and sheep, he put to the sword.” Remember the Gibeonites were slaves that supported the tabernacle. And even though the tabernacle was sitting at Kiriath-jearim at this particular time in history, a large group of the Gibeonites would have been living near the priests of the Lord at Nob. So very possibly many Gibeonites were killed when Saul directed the massacre of the priests of God at Nob. Why would God wait all these years later to send a famine? We don’t know. We know from scripture that God is a gracious God and slow to anger. What we DO know is that at some point God tells David the reason for the famine. So David seeks to make things right with the victims’ families, the surviving Gibeonites.

READ 2 Samuel 21:2-3

David, v 2, understands what the problem is now and takes the initiative to make things right with the Gibeonites. Saul had broken the oath that Israel had made to the Gibeonites not to kill them. In the words of Israel’s leaders back in Joshua 9:20: “Let [the Gibeonites] live, lest wrath be upon us, because of the oath that we swore to them.” So God’s wrath now had indeed fallen upon the entire nation of Israel in the form of a severe nationwide famine. And why? Because of what King Saul had done. David understands, v 3, that atonement must be made. In other words, there needs to be some action taken to resolve, to make things right. David’s words in v 3, “That you may bless the heritage of the Lord” is a direct reference to the Abrahamic covenant (Gen 12), “I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

So how do you make atonement for a mass genocide, for the murder of countless innocent people? It requires an action. But what action? In the Bible there are 2 words attached to atonement that you need to know. The first is the word “propitiation,” the act of appeasing a holy God. This term speaks to the justice of God. The second is the word “expiation.” This speaks to fixing the problem. But there can be no expiation without propitiation. In order to resolve the problem you must first satisfy the justice of God. So how do you deal with an offense made to God? Saul’s sin was not just a sin against the Gibeonites, but against God Himself. How can justice be rendered?

READ 2 Samuel 21:4-6

The Gibeonites response indicates that they knew the Law of God even though most of them were still pagans. In the Law there is no monetary recompense for murder. What does the law require as payment for murder? A life for a life. That is God’s justice. So who then should die for all those people whom Saul had murdered? At this point Saul is dead as are all of his sons. So none of them can be held accountable. The Gibeonites propose that 7 of Saul’s grandsons (his closest surviving descendants) “be hanged before the Lord.” This isn’t to be an act of revenge but of recompense. I’m sure there were more than just 7 Gibeonites who had been killed. But here we see that 7 are chosen to die for the many.

Side note… Just a reminder about the pervasiveness of sin which we have talked about before – David’s sins against Bathsheba and her husband Uriah resulted in the eventual deaths of 3 of his sons and the rape of his daughter, a civil war. Here Saul’s sin against the Gibeonites eventually results in the deaths of 7 of his grandsons. The pervasiveness of sin, the widespread devastating effects of sin, and here we see it yet again. Our sin doesn’t just impact us. It impacts many others and usually those closest to us.

King Saul was a covenant breaker. He broke the covenant oath Israel had made with the Gibeonites. But King David is a covenant keeper. Remember David had made a covenant of his own. He had promised by an oath to protect Jonathan’s son and David is going to keep that promise.

READ 2 Samuel 21:7

So by the mercy of God and because of David’s covenant promise to Jonathan, Mephibosheth is spared.

READ 2 Samuel 21:8-9

Here we see propitiation displayed. This action satisfies the wrath of a holy and just God (we will see this later). In Romans Ch 3 Paul is commenting on the death of Jesus on the cross – “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by His grace as a gift, thru the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by His blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in His divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show His righteousness at the present time, so that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” So in Romans Ch 3 Paul tells us that Jesus’ death on the cross, the one for the many, satisfied the justice of God while at the same time providing you and me (guilty sinners) with mercy. So in our narrative here in 2 Samuel we have a good example of propitiation.

At the end of our lesson today we’re going to sing one verse of an old familiar hymn about atonement, about the atonement that Jesus made for your sins and mine. I just wanted to preview that.

Before we move on to verse 10 I need to answer a question that many have asked regarding this particular passage. The Law required that the bodies of individuals who had been executed for a crime be buried the same day (Deut 21:22-23). So the question has been raised, why did these 7 bodies remain unburied? Good question. And I had to really dig to find an answer. One commentary I read explained it this way: The Gibeonites were pagans (descendants of the Amorites) and not bound by the Law of Moses. Their intent was to let the bodies hang until God, propitiated by this offering, sent rain upon the land. It was a pagan practice to execute men for crimes and thereby appease the anger of their gods. Even though the Gibeonites living in Israel had the knowledge of the true God, they were apparently not free from this superstition. God in His providence allowed the Gibeonites to do what they did in order that they, the party who had been wronged, might obtain justice and some recompense for the wrong done against them (Saul had violated a solemn national promise) and provide Israel with a memorable object lesson of the importance of respecting treaties and oaths.

READ 2 Samuel 21:10-14

Rizpah the mother of 2 of the 7 men hanged keeps vigil over the corpses and driving any scavengers away. She does this for six months, from April to October. This is a heartbreaking scene. It is an act of love by a mother for her sons. David is moved when he gets word about what Rizpah had been doing. He takes the remains of Saul and Jonathan from Jabesh-gilead as well as the decomposed corpses of these 7 grandsons of Saul and he gives them a proper burial in the tomb of Saul’s family. By doing this David shows the gracious kindness of God. V 14 says, “After that God responded to the plea for the land.” The curse is removed. God sends rain. The famine is over.

The pagan way, the world’s way says, “I need to see for myself! Prove it to me! Show me! I’ll believe it when I see it!” By contrast God’s way, the Christian way says, “Trust the Lord! Have faith in God! Be still and know that I am God and that I will do what I say I will do!” The scripture is clear. God sent the rains after the bodies were dealt with God’s way. “After that God responded to the plea for the land.”

So in this narrative, this story David shows his great spiritual insight. He does the right thing. It was not an easy thing to do. It was not necessarily politically expedient. In fact David was likely criticized for what he did. But David knew that this had to be done in the best interests of the nation. The best leaders always put the best interests of the people ahead of their own careers. This story also shows that David is a man of integrity, He honored the promise that he had made to Jonathan. This is David’s lasting legacy.

Now we come to a list. Four giants (all Philistines, relatives of Goliath, enemies of God). And four heroes (all Israelites, all David’s servants, all influenced greatly by David).

READ 2 Samuel 21:15

“David grew weary” is an indication that this likely occurred toward the end of his reign when he is much older and weaker.

READ 2 Samuel 21:16-17

Giant #1 is Ishbi-benob (“his dwelling is in Nob”). He is out to kill David. His spear weighs 7 ½ lbs and he had a “new sword,” literally he possessed a new or a unique weapon. Hero #1 is a man we have met before, Abishai, Joab’s brother. He saves David life by killing this giant.

After this incident David’s men advise him not to go out to battle anymore and risk his life. David is way too important to the nation. They refer to David as the “lamp of Israel.” In other words, David’s life and leadership provide righteous guidance for the people of Israel. It is quite a testimony by David’s men as to how they feel about their king – not just a political leader but a spiritual leader.

READ 2 Samuel 21:18

Giant #2 is Saph (“a basin” or “a goblet”). Nothing more is known about this particular giant. Hero #2 is Sibbecai the Hushathite. He is listed in 1 Chron 11 as one of David’s mighty men.

READ 2 Samuel 21:19

Giant #3 is mentioned here as Goliath. The parallel passage of 1 Chron 20:5 clarifies for us that this giant’s name is Lahmi and that he is the brother of Goliath, the same Goliath that David had killed years before. Hero #3 like David is a man from Bethlehem. His name is Elhanan.

READ 2 Samuel 21:20-21

The last of the 4 giants is unnamed. But he is distinct with his six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot. He taunted the army of Israel. You would think that these Philistine giants would learn from the past that you just don’t do that. Years before David shouted these words to Goliath just before he struck him down: “I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.” Well, just like Goliath way back then, this six fingered six toed giant meets the same fate. The text says that he was “struck down.” And hero #4 is Shimei (not the rock throwing crazy man) but David’s nephew.

READ 2 Samuel 21:22

David, the brave warrior king passes along the same passion and boldness for God to his men that he had. David’s men are referred to in our text twice as David’s “servants.”

King David’s lasting legacy. So why is he considered Israel’s greatest king in the Old Testament? Solomon and the kings of Judah who followed him were all called the “sons of David.” Jesus Himself, the Messiah, our King was called the “Son of David.” Why is David referred to as a man after God’s own heart? Trusted God, prayed, had spiritual insight, wisdom, was a man of integrity, repentant, took action, brave, passionate for God…

You know, much of David’s reign as king was engaged in ridding Israel of its enemies. These were also the enemies of God. That’s how David’s public life had begun when he slew a mighty Philistine giant by the name of Goliath (1 Sam 17). Now we see David’s public life winding to a close and the task of slaying the giants in the land being completed by his men. David and his men understood what the people in Moses day at Kadesh-barnea failed to understand – yes, there are indeed giants in the land but they are no match for the God of Israel.

In his commentary on this chapter Matthew Henry closes with these words: “The most powerful enemies are often reserved for the last conflict. David began his glory with the conquest of one giant, and here concludes it with the conquest of four. Death is a Christian’s last enemy, and a son of Anak (in other words a giant); but, through Him that triumphed for us (thru Jesus Christ), we hope to be more than conquerors at last, even over that enemy.” I will only add one thing to what Matthew Henry said. Death has already been defeated. Yes we will all face it (unless Jesus returns first), but that giant has already been slain.

Are you ready to sing? Isn’t God good? Isn’t what Jesus did for us worth singing about? Here we go---



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