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Bible Commentaries
2 Samuel 21

Hawker's Poor Man's CommentaryPoor Man's Commentary

Verse 1


More troubles of David are related in this Chapter. Here are mentioned three years famine in Israel. To implore GOD'S mercy, a sacrifice is made, at the request of the Gibeonites, of seven of Saul's sons. A daughter of the house of Saul, named Rizpah, showeth kindness to the dead. After this, David burieth the bones of Saul, and the bones of Jonathan.

2 Samuel 21:1

(1) ¶ Then there was a famine in the days of David three years, year after year; and David enquired of the LORD. And the LORD answered, It is for Saul, and for his bloody house, because he slew the Gibeonites.

David here appears once more in his proper character; enquiring of the LORD. And, no doubt, interceding for a remission of the punishment. And as such, a type of Him, the glorious David, to come, in after ages. GOD'S gracious answer is soon made to earliest, fervent prayer. That promise is never out of season: Isaiah 65:24 .

Verse 2

(2) And the king called the Gibeonites, and said unto them; (now the Gibeonites were not of the children of Israel, but of the remnant of the Amorites; and the children of Israel had sworn unto them: and Saul sought to slay them in his zeal to the children of Israel and Judah.)

The Reader, in order to have a clear apprehension of this subject, must look back as far as to the days of Joshua, and read the league of friendship entered into between Israel and Gibeon, See Joshua 9:15 . The HOLY GHOST hath not recorded what the conduct was which Saul manifested towards the Gibeonites. It is sufficient to know, that it must have been particularly odious, because the LORD visited it upon Israel, in those three years famine, so long after Saul's death. Reader! do not fail to remark, how sure, though slow, sometimes the LORD's judgments are. The apostle, speaking of the awful certainty of such things, describes the tremendous visitation with which the LORD will in the end of the day, account with sinners, in those awful terms; whose judgment, (says he) now of a long time, lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not. 2 Peter 2:3 .

Verse 3

(3) Wherefore David said unto the Gibeonites, What shall I do for you? and wherewith shall I make the atonement, that ye may bless the inheritance of the LORD?

It is probable, that as David had brought this affair before the LORD, and had sought direction from the LORD what to do, the LORD had given direction to him to consult the Gibeonites.

Verses 4-6

(4) And the Gibeonites said unto him, We will have no silver nor gold of Saul, nor of his house; neither for us shalt thou kill any man in Israel. And he said, What ye shall say, that will I do for you. (5) And they answered the king, The man that consumed us, and that devised against us that we should be destroyed from remaining in any of the coasts of Israel, (6) Let seven men of his sons be delivered unto us, and we will hang them up unto the LORD in Gibeah of Saul, whom the LORD did choose. And the king said, I will give them.

Their rejection of gold and silver, was meant to show that nothing so contemptible could be equivalent for the wrongs they had sustained. And by telling David, that they did not expect that he, or his people, should be the executioners of justice, evidently showed that they were looking to the divine precept, blood for blood. Genesis 9:6 . And that they would, if the king approved, execute the sentence themselves.

Verses 7-9

(7) But the king spared Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan the son of Saul, because of the LORD'S oath that was between them, between David and Jonathan the son of Saul. (8) But the king took the two sons of Rizpah the daughter of Aiah, whom she bare unto Saul, Armoni and Mephibosheth; and the five sons of Michal the daughter of Saul, whom she brought up for Adriel the son of Barzillai the Meholathite: (9) And he delivered them into the hands of the Gibeonites, and they hanged them in the hill before the LORD: and they fell all seven together, and were put to death in the days of harvest, in the first days, in the beginning of barley harvest.

In the choice David made of the persons to be sacrificed, the divine justice may he also traced: Saul had given Merab, his daughter, to Adriel, though promised to David. And here the issue of that marriage suffers the punishment. If parents would but consider how much their conduct operates upon the future circumstances of their children, what a check might this sometimes prove, to keep back from presumptuous sins. The friendship and the loves of David and Jonathan, are sweetly kept up. Reader! the sacrifice here made is a solemn history. And, no doubt, it being recorded, was with a view to say as much. But, do not fail to keep a steady eye upon the hand of GOD in it. This reconciles all we meet with in otherwise questionable cases. And surely, far better that the house of Saul, in every department of which it is said to be bloody, should perish, than that all Israel should be famished: Even Caiaphas could say it was better that one man should die for the people, than that the nation should perish. John 11:50 . Blessed JESUS! thou wast pleased to confirm this by thy precious death. Thou hast died; the Just for the unjust, to bring us to GOD . Bring us then to GOD, oh thou bleeding Lamb, since thou hast taken away sin by the sacrifice of thyself!

Verses 10-11

(10) ¶ And Rizpah the daughter of Aiah took sackcloth, and spread it for her upon the rock, from the beginning of harvest until water dropped upon them out of heaven, and suffered neither the birds of the air to rest on them by day, nor the beasts of the field by night. (11) And it was told David what Rizpah the daughter of Aiah, the concubine of Saul, had done.

It should seem that in the instance of those seven Persons of Saul's house, hung up to perish by the Gibeonites, there was an evident departure from the law, which enjoined, that the body of him that was hanged on a tree, should not in any wise remain all night, for he that is hanged is cursed of GOD. See Deuteronomy 21:23 . Therefore there must be some very special design intended from this present occasion. That those bodies actually continued hanging, is, I think, very clear, not only from the watching of Rizpah, (for, wherefore should she have watched, but to preserve them from birds and beasts of prey?) but also from what is said, that David when he brought back the bones of Saul and Jonathan, gathered also the bones of them that were hanged. Besides, as the watching of Rizpah continued until the water dropped upon them out of heaven; it seems that the famine had been occasioned for want of rain, and that when the rain descended, it was considered as an answer from the LORD, of his approbation; and then, and not before, the bodies were taken down and buried. But, if this be the real state of the case, are we not led to the discovery of a most important thing, shadowed out by this? Reader! look at it again. Here are seven persons, contrary to GOD'S own law, kept suspended between heaven and earth, after being hanged. And the law expressly forbade it on this account, for he that is hanged is accursed of GOD . But after this was done, GOD was intreated for the land. And could anything more strikingly set forth, in those remote ages, from the crucifixion of JESUS, a circumstance more in point? Was not JESUS made sin, and a curse for us, and for this express purpose, that he might redeem us from everlasting famine? And after the accomplishment of this great end, was not our GOD entreated for the land? Yes! thou precious Surety of the poor sinner; thou wert made, not merely the curse of the judicial law, but thou wert, made the curse of the moral law; as if designed on purpose to show that the blessed JESUS was hung up between heaven and earth, as if unworthy of either, and in all this, being the sinners' Surety, though in himself holy, harmless, and undefiled, yet he was made sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of GOD, in him. 2 Corinthians 5:21 . See Galatians 3:13 . And as it was by the bones of those sons of Saul, so is it spoken of our LORD JESUS; after they had fulfilled all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree, and laid him in a sepulchre. Acts 13:29 .

Verses 12-22

(12) And David went and took the bones of Saul and the bones of Jonathan his son from the men of Jabeshgilead, which had stolen them from the street of Bethshan, where the Philistines had hanged them, when the Philistines had slain Saul in Gilboa: (13) And he brought up from thence the bones of Saul and the bones of Jonathan his son; and they gathered the bones of them that were hanged. (14) And the bones of Saul and Jonathan his son buried they in the country of Benjamin in Zelah, in the sepulchre of Kish his father: and they performed all that the king commanded. And after that God was intreated for the land. (15) ¶ Moreover the Philistines had yet war again with Israel; and David went down, and his servants with him, and fought against the Philistines: and David waxed faint. (16) And Ishbibenob, which was of the sons of the giant, the weight of whose spear weighed three hundred shekels of brass in weight, he being girded with a new sword, thought to have slain David. (17) But Abishai the son of Zeruiah succoured him, and smote the Philistine, and killed him. Then the men of David sware unto him, saying, Thou shalt go no more out with us to battle, that thou quench not the light of Israel. (18) And it came to pass after this, that there was again a battle with the Philistines at Gob: then Sibbechai the Hushathite slew Saph, which was of the sons of the giant. (19) And there was again a battle in Gob with the Philistines, where Elhanan the son of Jaareoregim, a Bethlehemite, slew the brother of Goliath the Gittite, the staff of whose spear was like a weaver's beam. (20) And there was yet a battle in Gath, where was a man of great stature, that had on every hand six fingers, and on every foot six toes, four and twenty in number; and he also was born to the giant. (21) And when he defied Israel, Jonathan the son of Shimea the brother of David slew him. (22) These four were born to the giant in Gath, and fell by the hand of David, and by the hand of his servants.

It is worthy the Reader's remark, that as David's first exercise in the field of battle, was with the giant, so his last should be. In the spiritual warfare, it is the same. The great champion we contend with, the devil, begins the war, and sometimes gives striking testimonies that he fights with us, as we end the war. But what a precious thought is it, that more is He that is with us, than all that are against us! You may, my brother! like David, wax faint; and the enemy may think to slay you. But no new sword, nor old one, while David's LORD fights your battles, can subdue you; for the promise is absolute: No weapon formed against thee shall prosper. The heritage, and the righteousness of the servants of the LORD , is of the LORD . Isaiah 54:17 . Reader! are you faint by reason of sin; or, from the opposition of the giants, your enemies; the world, the flesh, and the devil? Live upon the fulness of JESUS; upon JESUS himself; who brings with him all his promises, which are yea, and amen; and depend upon it, every tittle of his sacred word will be fulfilled: and the GOD of peace will bruise Satan, under your feet shortly. Romans 16:20 .

Verse 22


SEE, Reader! in the solemn events of this chapter, in the giving up the sons of Saul to death, how awfully true that denunciation of the LORD is, of visiting the iniquities of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate him. Oh! ye that are parents! let this sad example before your eyes, prompt you to seek grace from GOD, to be kept back from sin; lest the LORD smite the fathers with the children, and both are involved in the evil of their ways.

Precious JESUS! it is impossible to turn to any part in the Bible, or to any subject, or person, or thing contained in it, without finding somewhat that, either by immediate allusion, or in direct reference, points to thee. Everywhere, methinks, I discover thee. And in everything indeed, would I desire to have my soul exercised in the contemplation of thee. For, dearest LORD! that subject loseth all its beauty, all its loveliness, however pleasing in itself, that terminates not in thee. And though the bloody house of Saul is as remote, (and infinitely more remote), as hell from heaven, compared to thee; yet, when I see the ordinary law of our GOD broken, that in their hanging up, they might be suspended betwixt earth and heaven, until that GOD was entreated for the land: how is it possible, not to have my mind instantly led to thee, thou sinners' Surety, and sinners' Friend, who literally, and truly, wast made both sin and a curse for thy people, when thou knewest no sin, on purpose that they might be made the righteousness of GOD, in thee. There on thy cross, blessed JESUS, would I forever fix my eye , unless, indeed, now and then to follow thee, in the contemplation of thy conquests over it, in thy triumphal entrance into heaven. On JESUS would I forever gaze. In every ordinance, in every providence, in every prayer, in every song of praise; there, there would my ravished soul look, and say; there hangs my hope, my joy, my everlasting security! And on thee, and thy dear Person, do I hang all the glory of my Father's house, and all the glory of my own salvation. Oh! the precious, precious, Person of my adored Redeemer! So sweet, so suitable, so gracious, art thou to my soul, as a poor convinced sinner, that, like Paul, my determination is fixed; henceforth, I will know nothing among men, but JESUS CHRIST , and him crucified. And, blessed be my GOD, I hope and trust I can, with the same assurance of faith, say as he did, for I know him to be the power of GOD , and the wisdom of GOD for salvation to me, and to everyone that believeth.

Bibliographical Information
Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 21". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/pmc/2-samuel-21.html. 1828.
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