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This look at the latter years of David’s reign picks up on some key aspects of the Lord’s Providence and Power in preparation for David’s glorious hymn of praise in Chapter 22. (“And David spoke the words of this song to the Lord in the day that the Lord delivered him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul” 2 Sam. 22:1) We see the wisdom and diplomacy of David in responding to the discipline of the Lord by humbly seeking the path of restoration rather than becoming stiff-necked and rebellious. Despite numerous failures and the severe consequences of sin, David never lost his focus on trying to orient his heart to pursuing after his God. His family story speaks to us of restoration and forgiveness and being used by God in spite of his many blemishes. We also see the courage and military exploits of David and his key warriors as they faced untold dangers on every side; yet found the power of God to be sufficient to uphold them, deliver them and establish His kingdom.




A. (:1) Famine Attributed to Sins of Saul (Breaking Covenant with Gibeonites)

“Now there was a famine in the days of David for three years, year after year; and David sought the presence of the Lord. And the Lord said, ‘It is for Saul and his bloody house, because he put the Gibeonites to death.’”

(cf. NCAA sanctions against schools which feel the pain long after the offending coaches have departed.)

Ryrie: David recognized this famine as divine chastening (cf. Deut. 28:47-48) and asked God the reason. The sin was that Saul, zealous to exterminate the heathen from Israel, had slain some of the Gibeonites with whom Israel had made a treaty

(cf. Josh. 9:3-37).

– Look behind the trial to the underlying cause … may be sin … may be strengthening

(sermon series on James, testing – case of Job)

– Time does not hide our sin or erase our sin; we will face the consequences

– God treats covenant commitments as serious business

– Seeking the presence of the Lord = Key for David

– God’s Sense of Justice Demands Atonement for Wrongs

B. (:2-6) Costly Settlement of Grievance

1. (:2-3) Soliciting Acceptable Terms

“So the king called the Gibeonites and spoke to them (now the Gibeonites were not of the sons of Israel but of the remnant of the Amorites, and the sons of Israel made a covenant with them, but Saul had sought to kill them in his zeal for the sons of Israel and Judah). Thus David said to the Gibeonites, ‘What should I do for you? And how can I make atonement that you may bless the inheritance of the Lord?’”

Humility of David in soliciting this response from lowly Gibeonites

Their status in the kingdom = lowly servants; fortunate not to have been extinguished back in the days of Joshua

2. (:4-6) Striking the Deal

“Then the Gibeonites said to him, ‘We have no concern of silver or gold with Saul or his house, nor is it for us to put any man to death in Israel.’ And he said, ‘I will do for you whatever you say.’ So they said to the king, ‘The man who consumed us, and who planned to exterminate us from remaining within any border of Israel, let seven men from his sons be given to us, and we will hang them before the Lord in Gibeah of Saul, the chosen of the Lord.’ And the king said, ‘I will give them.’”

Num. 35:30-34

– Not seeking financial compensation

– Not trying to take matters into their own hands – going through proper channels of national justice

Why would David agree to this request? Deut 24:16

“Fathers shall not be put to death for their sons, nor shall sons be put to death for their fathers; everyone shall be put to death for his own sin”

Interesting context – verses right above that speak of not oppressing your servants

Blaikie: What the Gibeonites asked had a grim look of justice; it showed a burning desire to bring home the punishment as near as possible to the offender . . . Seven was a perfect number, and therefore the victims should be seven. Their punishment was, to be hanged or crucified, but in inflicting this punishment the Jews were more merciful than the Romans; the criminals were first put to death, then their dead bodies were exposed to open shame. They were to be hanged “unto the Lord,” as a satisfaction to expiate His just displeasure. They were to be hanged “in Gibeah of Saul,” to bring home the offence visibly to him, so that the expiation should be at the same place as the crime.

C. (:7-9) Selection and Execution of Required Victims

1. (:7) Mercy for Mephibosheth

“But the king spared Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan the son of Saul, because of the oath of the Lord which was between them, between David and Saul’s son Jonathan.”

Example of faithfulness to covenant oath

2. (:8) Selection of the Seven Sons of Saul

“So the king took the two sons of Rizpah the daughter of Aiah, Armoni and Mephibosheth whom she had born to Saul, and the five sons of Merab the daughter of Saul, whom she had born to Adriel the son of Barzillai the Meholathite.”

3. (:9) Harvest Festival Execution

“Then he gave them into the hands of the Gibeonites, and they hanged them in the mountain before the Lord, so that the seven of them fell together; and they were put to death in the first days of harvest at the beginning of barley harvest.”

Wiersbe: This happened during barley harvest in the middle of April, and the seven corpses were exposed for about six months, until the rains arrived and the drought ended in October. ???

OR: until the rains came ending the famine – showing that the Lord had accepted this sacrifice

D. (:10-14a) Respect for the Dead of Saul’s Family

1. (:10) Carcass Protection

“And Rizpah the daughter of Aiah took sackcloth and spread it for herself on the rock, from the beginning of harvest until it rained on them from the sky; and she allowed neither the birds of the sky to rest on them by day nor the beasts of the field by night.”

24 hour job – quite a commitment on her part

Blaikie: Unburied corpses were counted to be disgraced, and this, in some degree, because they were liable to be devoured by birds and beasts of prey. Rizpah could not prevent the exposure, but she could try to prevent the wild animals from devouring them. The courage and self-denial needed for this work were great, for the risk of violence from wild beasts was very serious. All honour to this woman and her noble heart! David appears to have been deeply impressed by her heroism.

2. (:11-13) Bone Retrieval

“When it was told David what Rizpah the daughter of Aiah, the concubine of Saul, had done, then David went and took the bones of Saul and the bones of Jonathan his son from the men of Jabesh-gilead, who had stolen them from the open square of Bethshan, where the Philistines had hanged them on the day the Philistines struck down Saul in Gilboa. And he brought up the bones of Saul and the bones of Jonathan his son from there, and they gathered the bones of those who had been hanged.”

David showing that he was not taking any personal revenge on the house of Saul

3. (:14) Proper Burial

“And they buried the bones of Saul and Jonathan his son in the country of Benjamin in Zela, in the grave of Kish his father”

Any application to growing trend towards cremation?? Do we need to show such respect for the bones of the dead?

E. (:14b) Famine Averted by Submission to David

“thus they did all that the king commanded, and after that God was moved by entreaty for the land.”

Lesson about how God responds when people repent, humble themselves before Him, and seek Him in prayer …

Gordon: Strangely, the preoccupation of these verses is with the honourable burial of the remains of Saul and Jonathan, as if David hoped to forestall criticism for the harsh treatment of Saul’s family by this act of piety towards the memory of its most senior members. It would not have been the first time that he had tried to make political capital out of the bones of Saul and Jonathan (cf. 2:4-7).

LESSONS ABOUT ATONEMENT: share the gospel from this passage!

– God’s Presence and God’s Favor = What is Most Important in Life

– Covenant Relationship Dictates Certain Acceptable Behavior to Maintain the Relationship

– Covenant Breaking = Serious Business

– Sin Alienates from God’s Presence and God’s Favor – Separates us from God

– Judgment of Famine designed to awaken our conscience and show us our need for reconciliation

– Key Question; How Can I Make Atonement?

– Answer determined by offended party – not the invention of the sinner

– Atonement cannot be purchased or earned by good works

– Substitutionary Death involved – the shedding of blood; death and burial

(No picture of resurrection here; limited analogy)



There will always be giants attacking the people of God; already looked at the giants of sin from within . . .

Movie – Slaying of the Giants – Football story – giants of fear and unbelief

Here dealing with Giants without –cf. the spies sent to scope out the promised land; came back and reported, there are giants living in the land

A. (:15) Exposed in Battle

“Now when the Philistines were at war again with Israel, David went down and his servants with him; and as they fought against the Philistines, David became weary.”

B. (:16) Targeted for Death

“Then Ishbi-benob, who was among the descendants of the giant, the weight of whose spear was three hundred shekels of bronze in weight, was girded with a new sword, and he intended to kill David.”

C. (:17a) Rescued by Abishai

“But Abishai the son of Zeruiah helped him, and struck the Philistine and killed him.”

David was thus indebted to Abishai, the brother of Joab.

D. (:17b) Retired From Active Combat

“Then the men of David swore to him, saying, ‘You shall not go out again with us to battle, that you may not extinguish the lamp of Israel.’”

Mittelstaedt: The first warrior came very close to killing David. He is identified as Ishbi-Benob, a powerful man whose arms were strong enough to hurl a seven and a half pound spear. David himself went down to fight against the Philistines, and he became exhausted. He was emotionally and physically drained. Had it not been for the alert reaction of Abishai, David’s fearless officer, the king might have fallen in battle.


A. (:17) Ishbi-benob Killed by Abishai

“But Abishai the son of Zeruiah helped him, and struck the Philistine and killed him. Then the men of David swore to him, saying, ‘You shall not go out again with us to battle, that you may not extinguish the lamp of Israel.’”

B. (:18) Saph Killed by Sibbecai

“Now it came about after this that there was war again with the Philistines at Gob; then Sibbecai the Hushathite struck down Saph, who was among the descendants of the giant.”

C. (:19) Goliath Killed by Elhanan

“And there was war with the Philistines again at Gob, and Elhanan the son of Jaare-oregim the Bethlehemite killed Goliath the Gittite, the shaft of whose spear was like a weaver’s beam.”

Various explanations:

– David did not really kill Goliath — unacceptable

– This was a totally different Goliath – just same name — unlikely

– parallel account inserts the phrase: “brother of Goliath” – omitted here

1 Chron. 20:5 “and Elhanan the son of Jair killed Lahmi the brother of

Goliath the Gittite,”

D. (:20-21) Freak Giant Killed by Jonathan

“And there was war at Gath again, where there was a man of great stature who had six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot, twenty-four in number; and he also had been born to the giant. And when he defied Israel, Jonathan the son of Shimei, David’s brother, struck him down.”

E. (:22) SUMMARY

“These four were born to the giant in Gath, and they fell by the hand of David and by the hand of his servants.”

Blaikie: Why have these passages been inserted in the history of the reign of David? Apparently for two chief purposes. In the first place, to give us some idea of the dangers to which he was exposed in his military life, dangers manifold and sometimes overwhelming, and all but fatal; and thus enable us to see how wonderful were the deliverances he experienced, and prepare us for entering into the song of thanksgiving which forms the twenty-second chapter, and of which these deliverances form the burden. In the second place, to enable us to understand the human instrumentality by which he achieved so brilliant a success, the kind of men by whom he was helped, the kind of spirit by which they were animated, and their intense personal devotion to David himself.