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BibliaTodo Commentaries




Benson Joseph
2 Samuel 21

1. For three years in a row there wasn't enough food in the land. That was while David was king. So David asked the LORD why he wasn't showing his favor to his people. The LORD said, "It is because Saul and his family committed murder. He put the people of Gibeon to death."

2. The people of Gibeon weren't a part of Israel. Instead, they were some of the Amorites who were still left alive. The people of Israel had promised with an oath to spare them. But Saul had tried to put an end to them. That's because he wanted to make Israel and Judah strong. So now King David sent for the people of Gibeon and spoke to them.

3. He asked them, "What would you like me to do for you? How can I make up for the wrong things that were done to you? I want you to be able to pray that the LORD will once again bless his land."

4. The people of Gibeon answered him. They said, "No amount of silver or gold can make up for what Saul and his family did to us. And we can't put anyone in Israel to death." "What do you want me to do for you?" David asked.

5. They answered the king, "Saul nearly destroyed us. He made plans to wipe us out. We don't have anywhere to live in Israel.

6. So let seven of the males in his family line be given to us. We'll kill them. We'll put their dead bodies out in the open in the sight of the LORD. We'll do it at Gibeah of Saul. Saul was the LORD's chosen king." So King David said, "I'll give seven males to you."

7. The king spared Mephibosheth. He was the son of Jonathan and the grandson of Saul. David had taken an oath in the sight of the LORD. He had promised to be kind to Jonathan and the family line of his father Saul.

8. But the king chose Armoni and another Mephibosheth. They were the two sons of Aiah's daughter Rizpah. Saul was their father. The king also chose the five sons of Saul's daughter Merab. Adriel, the son of Barzillai, was their father. Adriel was from Meholah.

9. King David handed them over to the people of Gibeon. They killed them. They put their dead bodies out in the open on a hill in the sight of the LORD. All seven of them died together. They were put to death during the first days of the harvest. It happened just when people were beginning to harvest the barley.

10. Aiah's daughter Rizpah got some black cloth. She spread it out for herself on a rock. She stayed there from the beginning of the harvest until it rained. The rain poured down from the sky on the dead bodies of the seven males. She didn't let the birds of the air touch them by day. She didn't let the wild animals touch them at night.

11. Someone told David what Rizpah had done. She was Aiah's daughter and Saul's concubine.

12. David got the bones of Saul and his son Jonathan. He got them from the citizens of Jabesh Gilead. They had taken them in secret from the main street in Beth Shan. That's where the Philistines had hung their bodies up on the city wall. They had done it after they struck Saul down on Mount Gilboa.

13. David brought the bones of Saul and his son Jonathan from Jabesh Gilead. The bones of the seven males who had been killed and put out in the open were also gathered up.

14. The bones of Saul and his son Jonathan were buried in the tomb of Saul's father Kish. The tomb was at Zela in the territory of Benjamin. Everything the king commanded was done. After that, God answered prayer and blessed the land.

15. Once again there was a battle between the Philistines and Israel. David went down with his men to fight against the Philistines. He became very tired.

16. Ishbi-Benob belonged to the family line of Rapha. The tip of his bronze spear weighed seven and a half pounds. He was also armed with a new sword. He said he would kill David.

17. But Abishai, the son of Zeruiah, came to save David. He struck the Philistine down and killed him. Then David's men took an oath and made a promise. They said to David, "We never want you to go out with us to battle again. You are the lamp of Israel's kingdom. We want that lamp to keep on burning brightly."

18. There was another battle against the Philistines. It took place at Gob. At that time Sibbecai killed Saph. Sibbecai was a Hushathite. Saph was from the family line of Rapha.

19. In another battle against the Philistines at Gob, Elhanan killed Goliath's brother. Elhanan was the son of Jaare-Oregim from Bethlehem. Goliath was from the city of Gath. His spear was as big as a weaver's rod.

20. There was still another battle. It took place at Gath. A huge man lived there. He had six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot. So the total number of his toes and fingers was 24. He was also from the family of Rapha.

21. He made fun of Israel. So Jonathan killed him. Jonathan was the son of David's brother Shimeah.

22. Those four Philistine men lived in Gath. They were from the family line of Rapha. David and his men killed them.

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2 Samuel 21

2Sa 21:1. Then there was a famine, &c. — The things related here, and chap. 24., are, by the best interpreters, conceived to have been done long before Absalom’s rebellion. And this opinion is not without sufficient grounds. For, first, this particle, then, is here explained, in the days, that is, during the reign of David: which general words seem to be added as an intimation that these things were not done next after the foregoing passages, for then the sacred writer would have said, after these things, as it is in many other places. Secondly, Here are divers particulars which cannot, with probability, be ascribed to the last years of David’s reign: such as, that Saul’s sin against the Gibeonites should so long remain unpunished; that David should not remove the bones of Saul and Jonathan to their proper place till that time; that the Philistines should wage war with David again and again, 2Sa 21:15, &c., so long after he had fully subdued them, 2Sa 8:1; that David in his old age should attempt to fight with a Philistine giant, or that his people should suffer him to do so; that David should then have so vehement a desire to number his people, 2Sa 24:1, which, being an act of youthful vanity, seems not at all to agree with his old age, nor with that state of deep humiliation in which he then was. And the reason why these matters are put here out of their proper order is plainly this; because David’s sin being once related, it was very proper that his punishments should immediately succeed: this being very frequent in Scripture story, to put those things together which belong to one matter, though they happened at several different times. David inquired of the Lord — It is possible that David, for the first, and even second year, might have ascribed this calamity to natural causes; but in the third year, being well convinced that the visitation was judicial, he applied himself to the sacred oracle of God, to learn the cause of this extraordinary and continued calamity. And God soon informed him that this punishment was on account of the blood shed by Saul and his family. Because he slew the Gibeonites — The history of the Gibeonites is well known: they were a remnant of the Amorites, but by an artful contrivance, related Jos 9:9, obtained a league for their lives and properties from the children of Israel. And, forasmuch as Joshua and the elders had confirmed it by an oath, they thought themselves bound to keep it, only tying them down to the servitude of supplying the tabernacle with wood and water for the public sacrifices, and the service of those who attended upon them. This unhappy people, notwithstanding it is probable that they had renounced their idolatry, and performed the other conditions of their covenant, Saul sought all occasions to destroy; and did so to such a degree of guilt as drew down the divine judgment upon the land. But upon what occasion, or in what manner Saul destroyed them, is not mentioned in the Scriptures, except those that may be supposed to have been slain with the priests in the city of Nob, as being hewers of wood and drawers of water for the tabernacle. But undoubtedly there was some more general destruction of them for which this punishment was inflicted, although the Scripture is silent about it.


2Sa 21:2. In his zeal for the children of Israel and Judah — When Joshua and the princes made a league with the Gibeonites, the people were greatly offended with them, as appears, Joshua chap. 9. Whatever the pretences of this resentment might be, the true reason seems sufficiently apparent; they were, by this league, deprived of the lands and spoils of the Gibeonites. Did these reasons cease in the days of Saul? Or rather, did they not still subsist, and with more force, in proportion as the people of Israel and their wants increased, in a narrow land? But however this may be, why did Saul slay them? The text plainly saith, that he did it in his zeal for the children of Israel and Judah. But the question still returns: How could the destroying these poor people manifest his zeal for Israel and Judah? There is seemingly but one imaginable way how this could be done. The Gibeonites had one city in the tribe of Judah, and three in Benjamin; and when they were destroyed out of these cities, who could pretend any right to them but Israel (that is, Benjamin) and Judah? So that Saul destroyed the Gibeonites, as the most obliging thing he could do for his people. See Delaney.


2Sa 21:3. David said unto the Gibeonites, What shall I do for you? — Josephus supposes that when God acquainted David what was the occasion of the famine, he likewise declared that it should be removed if he made the satisfaction which the Gibeonites themselves should require. That ye may bless the inheritance of the Lord — That, atonement being made, and God’s anger being turned away, his inheritance may be blessed, and plenty restored again to Israel.


2Sa 21:4. We will have no silver nor gold of Saul, &c. — Neither silver nor gold was a just equivalent for the loss they had sustained by Saul and his bloody house. Neither for us shalt thou kill any man in Israel — Except of Saul’s family, as it here follows. The marginal reading, however, seems preferable, Neither pertains it to us to kill any man, &c. They were in such a state of servitude as did not allow them to take the only proper retribution, blood for blood. This appears to be the meaning, because David immediately replies, What you shall say, that will I do.


2Sa 21:5-6. They answered, The man that consumed us, &c. — They desired no reparation of private damages, or revenge of injuries; all they required was that a public sacrifice should be made to justice, and to the divine vengeance inflicted upon the land. Let seven of his sons be delivered unto us, and we will hang them up before the Lord — As a satisfaction to his honour for an injustice and cruelty committed in defiance of a solemn oath given in his holy name. But it may be inquired, if Saul was thus wicked in destroying a people contrary to a solemn oath, ratified in the name of God, why should his sons and grandsons be punished for it? To this it may be answered, with great reason, and upon a good foundation, that they were not punished because Saul was guilty, but because they themselves were guilty, and had been the executioners of his unjust decrees. We have reason to conclude that his sons and his grandsons were among his captains of hundreds, and captains of thousands, as that was the practice of those days: and if so, undoubtedly they were employed in executing his cruel and unjust commands in regard to the Gibeonites, especially as the purpose of destroying them seems to have been to take their possessions; for we can scarcely suppose Saul to have been so solicitous to increase the fortunes of any, as those of his sons and grandsons. And this supposition the text before us seems to prove, as it not only entitles Saul bloody, but his house too: Saul and his bloody house. And it is likely that some of these still possessed some of the possessions of the Gibeonites, and that they defended and commended this action of Saul whenever there was any question about it: and, therefore, they very justly and deservedly suffered for it. See Delaney. In Gibeah of Saul — To make the punishment more remarkable and shameful, this being the city where Saul lived both before and after he was king. Whom the Lord did choose — This aggravated his guilt, that he had broken the oath of that God by whom he had been so highly favoured. And the king said, I will give them — Having doubtless consulted God in the matter; who, as he had before declared Saul’s bloody house to be the cause of this judgment, so now commanded that justice should be done upon it, and that the remaining branches of it should be cut off; as sufficiently appears from hence that God was well pleased with the action; which he would not have been if David had done it without his command; for then it had been a sinful action of David’s, and contrary to a double law of God. Deu 21:23; Deu 24:16. But here another question arises; supposing Saul’s sons and grandsons engaged in the fact, and therefore justly punished for it, how came it, or for what reason was it, that the whole people of Israel were afflicted with famine on that account? Undoubtedly because they were partakers too in Saul’s guilt, and had been abetting, aiding, and assisting in it; or, at least, had not opposed it, as they ought to have done. It is said expressly that Saul sought to slay the Gibeonites in his zeal for the children of Israel and Judah. Is it not absurd to think that any thing was done in zeal for them which they did not approve of? Or is there much reason to doubt whether they did not lend their hand to it? Is there the least colour to believe that they in any degree remonstrated against or opposed this proceeding of their prince? as they had a right, nay, were obliged by all the laws of justice to do, as a nation bound to make good the public faith they had given, and sworn to preserve. And if this was the case, were they not guilty as well as Saul, and were they not with justice punished?


2Sa 21:7-8. The king spared, &c. — For the Gibeonites desiring only such a number, it was at David’s choice whom to spare. The son of Jonathan — This is added to distinguish him from the other Mephibosheth, 2Sa 21:8. Because of the Lord’s oath, &c. — This was a just reason for not delivering him up. The five sons of Michal, whom she brought up for Adriel — In the original it is, whom she bare to Adriel. And as Michal was not the wife of Adriel, but her elder sister Merab, it is probable that Michal’s name has here crept into the text by the mistake of some transcriber for Merab’s. Or else it should stand as the margin of our Bible has it, Michal’s sister.


2Sa 21:10. Rizpah took sackcloth — Or rather, hair-cloth, of which tents were commonly made. And spread it for her — As a tent to dwell in: being informed that their bodies were not to be taken away speedily, as the course of the law was in ordinary cases, but were to continue there until God was entreated, and removed the present judgment. On the rock — In some convenient place in a rock, near adjoining. Until water — Until they were taken down: which was not to be done till God had given rain as a sign of his favour, and a means to remove the famine, which was caused by the want of it. Thus she let the world know that her sons died not as stubborn and rebellious sons, whose eye had despised their mother: but for their father’s crime, and that of the nation in violating the public faith, in which crime, if they had participated, it had only been in common with others; and therefore her mind could not be alienated from them.


2Sa 21:11. It was told David what Rizpah had done — And he heard it with so much approbation, that he thought fit to imitate her piety, being by her example provoked to do what hitherto he had neglected, to bestow an honourable interment on the remains of Saul and Jonathan, and, with them, upon those that were now put to death, that the honour done to them therein might be some comfort to this disconsolate widow.


2Sa 21:12. He defended it — So that the Philistines could neither burn the corn, nor carry it away, nor tread it down. The Lord wrought a great victory — By his hand. How great soever the bravery of the instruments is, the praise of the achievement is to be given to God. These fought, but God wrought the victory. It must be observed that this Shammah, although one of the three most mighty men, is not particularly named in the book of Chronicles; it being the manner of the Scriptures, as the Jews observe, to notice that briefly in one place, which hath been explained at large in another; as this action of Shammah is here in this book.


2Sa 21:13-14. He brought up the bones of Saul, &c. — From under the tree where they were buried in Jabesh, 1Sa 31:13. They gathered the bones of them that were hanged — Having first burned off the flesh which remained upon them: or, perhaps, this was done some time after they were taken down, when nothing but bones remained; and then they had all seven an honourable interment. The bones of Saul and Jonathan — Together with those now mentioned. And after that — After those things were done which were before related; that is, after they were hanged up; for by that God was pacified, and not by the burial. God was entreated — When satisfaction was given to the Gibeonites, God restored plenty to the country.


2Sa 21:15-16. The Philistines had yet war again with Israel — After, or besides the other wars with the Philistines mentioned in this book, they yet again disturbed David’s repose. David waxed faint — Being no longer in the vigour of youth, but probably in declining years, though not old in age. Ishbi-benob, of the sons of the giant — Either of Goliath, who, by way of eminence, is called the giant, or rather, as the Hebrew word, רפה, rapha, signifies, any giant. The words should rather be translated, Of the race of the giants, that is, of the Anakims, who fled into this country, particularly to Gath, when Joshua expelled them from Canaan, Jos 11:22. Whose spear weighed three hundred shekels of brass — This is to be understood of the head of his spear, which weighed half as much as that of Goliath, 1Sa 17:7. He being girded with a new sword — One made on purpose for him, larger and heavier than those commonly used. Thought to have slain David — Thought he had a fair opportunity to do it.


2Sa 21:17. That thou quench not the light of Israel — Lest thou be slain, and thereby thy people lose their glory and happiness, and even be utterly ruined. Good kings are, in Scripture, justly called the light of their people, because the beauty and glory, the conduct and direction, the comfort and safety, and welfare of a people depend greatly upon them. A noble image this of a king!


2Sa 21:18. After this — After the battle last mentioned. There was again a battle at Gob — Or in Gezer, as in 1Ch 20:4, whereby it seems Gob and Gezer were neighbouring places, and the battle was fought in the confines of both. Sibbechai the Hushathite — One of David’s worthies, 1Ch 11:29; slew Saph — One of the same race of Rephaims, descended from the Anakims.


2Sa 21:19. Elhanan, a Beth-lehemite — Another of David’s worthy and valiant commanders. Slew the brother of Goliath — The relative word, brother, is not in the Hebrew text, but is properly supplied out of the parallel place. 1Ch 20:5, where it is expressed. The staff of whose spear was like a weaver’s beam — For thickness; that is, like the large roller on which the cloth is fastened in weaving.


2Sa 21:20-22. There was yet a battle in Gath — That is, in the territory of that city; which circumstance intimates, that this, and consequently the other battles here described, were fought before David had taken Gath out of the hands of the Philistines, which he did many years before this, 2Sa 8:1, compared with 1Ch 18:1; and therefore not in the last days of David, as some conceive, from the mention of them in this place. A man of great stature — Or, a man of Medin, or Madon, as the Seventy render it; so called from the place of his birth, as Goliath is said to be of Gath for the same reason. Who had on every hand six fingers, &c. — Tavernier, in his relation of the grand seignior’s seraglio, p. 95, says, that the eldest son of the emperor of Java, who reigned in the year 1648, when he was in that island, had six fingers on each hand, and as many toes on each foot, all of equal length. These four fell by the hand of David — That is, by his conduct and counsel, or concurrence. Indeed he contributed by his hand to the death of one of them; while maintaining a fight with him, he gave Abishai the easier opportunity of killing him. But what is done by the inferior commanders is commonly ascribed to the general, both in sacred and profane authors.



New International Reader's Version (NIRV)

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