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Thursday, July 25th, 2024
the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16
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Bible Commentaries
2 Samuel 9

Carroll's Interpretation of the English BibleCarroll's Biblical Interpretation

Verses 1-13



2 Samuel 5:13-16; 2 Samuel 9:1-13; 2 Samuel 12:24-25; 2 Samuel 21:1-14

Our present discussion commences with 2 Samuel 9:1-13, David’s kindness toward Jonathan’s son, Mephibosheth. When Jonathan’s child was five years old, there came to his mother’s home an account of the death of the father on the battlefield of Gilboa, and as the nurse that carried him was frightened and ran with the five year old child, she stumbled and fell, or let the child fall, and it crippled him for life. Jonathan had acquired a very considerable estate. The subsequent history referring to Mephibosheth will appear in a later chapter. David’s kindness to Mephibosheth will give us the conclusion of the history. It certainly is a touching thing that in this connection David remembers the strong tie of friendship between him and Jonathan, and upon making inquiry if there be any left of Jonathan’s house) he finds that there is one child, this crippled son, and he appoints Ziba, a great rascal, by the way, as we learn later, to be the steward of the estate, the rente of the estate to be paid to Mephibosheth, and Mephibosheth to eat at the king’s table. The closing paragraph, 2 Samuel 5:13, "So Mephibosheth dwelt in Jerusalem; for he did eat continually at the king’s table; and he was lame on both his feet." Spurgeon takes this for a text, and preaches a remarkable sermon on it. He makes it in a sense illustrate the imperfect saint, the lame feet representing the imperfection, continually feasting at the table of his king. That is the manner in which he spiritualizes it, and by which he illustrates the great privilege of a saint to eat continually at the table of his Lord, to sup with him and be with him.

The next point is the birth of Solomon, the fourth son of Bathsheba. He received two names: "Solomon," which means "peace," and "Jedidiah," which means the Lord’s "beloved," and an announcement was made by the prophet that this child should be the successor of David.

The next paragraph tells about the family of David, and has an important bearing upon the subsequent history of Absalom. Let us give special attention to this record of David’s family. We have names in the Bible of seven of his wives. There were others not named. We have the names of nineteen sons and one daughter. They were the children of his regular wives. He had a good many other daughters not named. Then he had a number of children by his concubines. So we have the names of seven wives and twenty children. There were more wives and more children, but these are enough. I suppose he did not have names enough to go around.

As introductory to the next chapter, which is on Absalom, note that four of these sons became very important in the history. Amnon, the first son, and the son of his first wife, Ahinoam, will figure in the Absalom chapter. The third was Absalom, but his mother was Maacah, the daughter of Tairnai, king of Geshur. Geshur is located in the hills of Bashan. These people were left there contrary to the divine law; that is the law first violated. God told them not to permit any Canaanites to remain in the Promised Land, but we learn in Joshua 13:13 that the Geshurites were allowed to remain. Another law was, as you learned from Deuteronomy 7, that the Israelitish people should not marry into these tribes. David violated that law by marrying the daughter of the king of Geshur. So there are two violations of the law in connection with Absalom. Absalom was half Geshurite and half Israelite. The next son of any particular note was the fourth son, Adonijah. We come to him later. His mother was still a different woman, about whom we do not know anything in particular. The next son is Solomon, the tenth son. The first son of importance in the history is Amnon; second important in history (the third son) Absalom; third son important in history by a different mother is Adonijah; and the fourth important son (the tenth son) Solomon. The law in Deuteronomy says that if they should select a king, he should not multiply wives; there is the third law violated. So, in going back to the past violations of the law of God, the evils of polygamy are manifest in David’s history. There would necessarily be jealousies on the part of the various mothers in their aspirations for their sons. It is said that every crow thinks its nestling is the whitest bird in the world) and every mother thinks her child E Pluribus Unnm. She is very ambitious for him) and she looks with a jealous eye upon any possible rival of her child. These four sons – Amnon) Absalom, Adonijah, and Solomon, all illustrate the evils of polygamy.

Yet another law was violated. Kings now make marriages for State reasons; for instance, the prince of England will be contracted in marriage to some princess of France, or a princess of England contracted in marriage to a prince of Sapin) like Phillip II. Through these State marriages some of the greatest evils that have ever been known came upon the world) and some of the greatest wars. When David married the daughter of the king of Geshur, there was a political reason for it; he wanted to strengthen himself against Saul, and that gave him an ally right on the border of the territory held by Saul. We will find Solomon making these political marriages, marrying the daughter of the king of Egypt, for instance. That is the fourth law violated, all in connection with Absalom. I name one other law, a law which included the king and every other father, that his children should be disciplined and brought up in the fear and admonition of God. That Eli did not do, and David did not do. The violation of that law appears in the case of Absalom.

In running comment on our text we next consider from page 138 National Calamities, 2 Samuel 21:1: "And there was a famine in the days of David three years, year after year; and David sought the face of the Lord." In the book of Deuteronomy, Moses in his farewell address sets before the people, so clearly that they could not possible misunderstand, that famines and pestilences are God’s messengers of chastisement; that if they kept God’s law they should be blessed in basket and store, but if they sinned he would make the heavens brass above and the earth iron beneath.

This famine resulted from a drought. When the drought first commenced, no particular attention was paid to it, except that everybody knew that it meant hard times. The second year and still no rain, no crops, no grass, and it began to be a very serious matter. When the third year came, it became awful, and men began to ask what was the cause of it, and they remembered God’s law that when they sinned against him, he would send famine and pestilence upon them. David determines to find out the cause, so he goes before the Lord and asks him the reason of this terrible chastisement on the land, and the answer is given in our text: "And the Lord said, It is for Saul, and his bloody house, because he put to death the Gibeonites."

Let us look at that case of Saul. Saul was king of Israel; David had been anointed to succeed him, and there was sharp jealously between David and Saul, particularly upon Saul’s part, and he was seeking methods to strengthen himself. One thing that a king needs, or thinks that he needs, in order to strengthen himself with his adherents, is to have places to give them – fat offices, estates to bequeath to them. Saul, being a poor man himself, looks around to see how he can fill his treasury and reward his followers, particularly the Benjamites, and right there in the tribe of Benjamin live the Gobeonites. After the fall of Jericho, one of the Canaanitish tribes determined to escape destruction by strategy. So they sent messengers to Joshua in old travel-worn clothes, with old bread in their haversacks, as if they had been a long time on their journey. They met Joshua and proposed to make a covenant with him, and he, judging from their appearance and from the rations they carried, supposed that they must have come a long way and were, therefore, not people of that country, entered into a solemn covenant with them. They thus fooled him and the princes of Israel swore an oath before God that they would maintain their covenant with the Gibeonites. Very soon the fraud practiced was found out, and while they could not, for their oath’s sake, kill these people, they made them "hewers of wood and drawers of water" – in other words, servants. They let them remain in the land in that servile position, a kind of peonage state. These Gibeonites had been living there, holding their land, yet servants of the people for about 400 years, uncomplainingly submitting to their position, but on account of the oath made by Joshua, retaining their possessions.

Saul, as I said, looked around to find resources of revenue and said to himself, "Suppose we kill these Gibeonites and take what they have." And he and his sons, "the bloody house of Saul," made an attack upon these people and took everything that they had in the world and divided it up among the Benjamites. Saul afterwards boasted of it. He said, "What has David to offer you, and who will give you estates, as I have given you estates?" This act upon his part, (and his family assisted him in it,) was unprovoked, cold-blooded, murderous, and confiscatory, with reference to their property, upon a people that had been faithful as servants for 400 years. And even up to this time in David’s reign these people were yet deprived of any redress.

God did not overlook that wrong. He holds communities responsible for community sins, nations responsible for national sins, and just as he sent a plague upon the children of Israel on account of Achan, so he sent this famine upon Israel, because in the nighttime this poor, poverty-stricken people, who had been defrauded of home and property and almost destroyed by: the "bloody house of Saul," prayed unto God. God hears such cries. Whenever a great national injustice is done, as Pharaoh did to the Israelites in Egypt, retribution follows, and as the Spaniards did to the Indian tribes whom they subjugated, particularly in Cuba, there came a day when the thunder of American guns in Santiago avenged upon Spain the wrongs that Cuba had borne for 400 years. "There is no handwriting in the sky that this people is guilty of a great inhumanity or national wrong, and therefore I will send a pestilence," and he sends it and leaves them to inquire the cause.

He sent this famine, and the third year men began to inquire as to its cause, and God answered by pointing out this sin. If that is the cause this nation must remain under the scorching fire of that drought until expiation is in some way made for that sin. David sent for the remnants of the Gibeonites and acknowledged that this wrong had been done to them, and that they, as remnants of the multitude that had been slain by Saul, had a right to blood revenge; so David said to them, "I will do what you say to right this wrong." They said the children of the man that did this shall die; he himself is out of the way, but they are living. " ’The bloody house of Saul,’ seven of them, must be given up to be put to death as we think fit and where we think fit, so that compensation may be made. They must be gibbeted, crucified, and they must remain there in Gibeah, Saul’s home, and the scene of the crime that he committed; they must remain there until the offense is expiated."

David declined to let any of Jonathan’s sons help pay that penalty. He exempted Mephibosheth, who was eating continually at his table, and who, doubtless, judging from the character of Jonathan, had nothing to do with this grievous crime. He selected two sons of Saul’s concubine, Rizpah. She was a very beautiful woman, and after Saul’s death there came very near being a civil war about her. She occasioned disturbances between Abner and Ishbosheth, who was then king. She had two sons, one named Mephibosheth, the younger one, and the older one, named Armoni. Her two sons and the five sons of Merab (not Michal, as the text has it) were taken by in Gibeonites to Gibeah, Saul’s home, put to death and then gibbeted, after they had been put to death by crucifixion, or put to death and then crucified. "Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree." This execution occurred about the time of the passover, and the bodies had to hang there until it was evident that God has removed the penalty. The rain did not come until October, about the time of the last feast, so these bodies hung there six solid months. Rizpah took her shawl, or cloak, and made a kind of a booth out of it, and resting under it, she stayed there six months and kept off carrion birds and beasts of prey from these bodies – two of them her children – all day and all night long – in her mother love, wishing that the curse could be lifted from the bones of her children; wishing that the disgrace could be removed; wishing that they might be taken down and have an honorable sepulture. Six months after she took that position it rained, the drought was broken, the famine stopped, and the sin was appeased. David heard how this mother had remained there and it touched his heart. He had the bodies taken down and also had the bones of Saul and Jonathan brought from Jabeshgilead, and accorded to all an honorable burial.

What this woman did has impressed itself upon the imagination of all readers of the Bible. The undying strength of a mother’s love! It impressed itself upon the mind of an artist, and a marvelous picture was made of this woman fighting off the carrion birds and jackals. It appealed to the poet, and more than one poem has been written to commemorate the quenchless love of this mother. A mother’s love suggested by the case of Rizpah is found in an unpublished poem by N. P. Willis. He represents the famine as so intense that the oldest son snatches a piece of bread from a soldier’s hand and takes it to his mother, and the youngest son is represented as selling his fine Arab horse for a crust of bread and bringing it to his mother. When I was a schoolboy at old Independence, our literary club had a regulation that every member should memorize at least one couplet of poetry every day and recite it. I memorized a great many. I remember my first two. The first one was The man that dares traduce because he can With safety to himself is not a man. The second one was In all this cold and hollow world There is no fount of strong, and deep, and deathless love Save that within a mother’s heart,

Dore, who illustrated Paradise Lost, Dante’s Inferno, and the Bible, was a wonderful artist. He had 45,000 special sketches and paintings. Perhaps in the Dore gallery of Bible illustrations this picture appears. The artist puts in his picture seven crosses; on one a carrion bird has alighted, and others are coming, and peeping out of the rocks are the jackals gathering to devour these bodies, and there is Rizpah frightening away the birds and jackals. It is a marvelous picture.


1. Rehearse the story of Mephibosheth, and David’s kindness to him. Who preached a sermon on 2 Samuel 9:13?

2. What great king was born just at this time, what his names, and the meaning of each?

3. How many wives had David, and how many children?

4. What four sons of David became important in history, what five violations, in connection with Absalom, of the law of Moses, and what the evils of polygamy in David’s case?

5. What national calamity just now, its cause, and how ascertained?

6. Rehearse the story of the Gibeonites.

7. What principle of God’s judgments here set forth?

8. How was this offense expiated?

9. Who were exempted, and why?

10. How did Rizpah show her mother-love in this case, and its impress upon the world?

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on 2 Samuel 9". "Carroll's Interpretation of the English Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bhc/2-samuel-9.html.
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