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2Sa 21:1 There was a famine in the days of David three years, year after year; and David sought the face of Yahweh. Yahweh said, There is bloodguilt on Saul and on his house, because he put to death the Gibeonites-
The record in 2 Samuel is not necessarily chronological but follows themes. This material may be inserted here to follow on from the mention of Gibeon in 2 Sam. 20:8, where Joab had killed Amasa. The seven victims were all young and unmarried, which would suggest a date earlier in the reign of David. And it would be more appropriate that judgment for Saul's misbehaviour came early on in David's reign, rather than as it were being remembered much later. "Three years, year after year", could refer to the three years after Saul's death.

Saul tried to kill all the witches (1 Sam. 28:2) and quite possibly he justified killing Gibeonites on the basis of cleansing the land from the original inhabitants (Ex. 34:11-16; Dt. 7:2); Gibeon was within the tribal area of Saul's tribe Benjamin but they weren't Benjamites. He likely wanted to destroy them and then give their land and city to his own tribe, fulfilling his promise to the Benjamites to give them property of their own. Seizing Gibeon would've been the ideal way to do this without seizing anything from other tribes. And surely he was mindful of how his failure to kill the Amalekites had cost him the kingdom, and so he perhaps thought he could make up for that by killing the Gibeonites. But he overlooked the covenant Joshua had made with the Gibeonites not to destroy them. This is so psychologically credible- that a man in bad conscience with God would transfer his guilt onto others, and punish them for it. 

But it could be that this incident is chronological, and follows on from the theme of the previous chapter- that there was a revival of interest in re-enstating a Saulide king from Benjamin, given growing disillusion with David personally. God raises the judgment for what Saul did possibly 22 years after he had done it. A reminder that because judgment isn't executed at the time, it doesn't mean God has somehow abrogated it. We also note the slowness of David to perceive that atonement was needed- the famine went on for three years, despite the promise of the covenant that there would not be famine if Israel were obedient.

The incident of Saul killing or trying to kill the Gibeonites isn't recorded. We would rather have expected there to be some punishment for his slaying of the priests at Nob. Possibly this slaying of the Gibeonites was related to that. But it isn't recorded. The idea may be that God still recalls sin, even some obscure sin, either actually slaying them or seeking to slay them, perhaps "only" killing seven of them as that's how many victims were required in compensation, done decades ago. God said there was blood guilt on Saul's family for what Saul had done. Atonement had not been made at the time and there is such a thing as delayed judgment and community guilt. One dimension of sin is that it affects others.

The word translated "bloodguilt" clearly refers to culpability for committing murder (Ex. 22:2; Num. 35:27; 2 Sam. 16:7; Is. 33:15; Ez. 9:9). It is legitimate for God to bring judgment for a sin upon a later generation, indeed His Son taught that the blood of previous murders would be "required of this generation". In the last day, "The earth will reveal her bloodshed and no longer cover her slain" (Is. 26:21). Likewise the blood guilt of previous generations was required of the generation that experienced the Babylonian invasion (Ez. 9:6-10). Ahab and Hezekiah had judgment brought upon their descendants because of their sins, but not in their days (1 Kings 20:29; 2 Kings 20:6-19). This was “visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me” (Ex. 20:5; 34:7); "In the lands of your enemies... because of the iniquities of their forefathers they will rot away" (Lev. 26:40). But all this was negotiable, and David had himself negotiated his own blood guilt by appealing to God's grace.

David in Ps. 51:14,16 had specifically asked God to remove his bloodguilt involving Uriah (and the other soldiers of Israel slain at the time), without sacrificial expiation of the kind the Gibeonites were demanding: "Deliver me from blood guiltiness, O God, the God of my salvation... For You don’t delight in sacrifice, or else I would give it". Despite being a man of blood guilt (Ps. 51:14), as Shimei rightly said in cursing him on behalf of Yahweh, David asks God to remove all blood guilty people from his presence as he doesn't want their company (Ps. 59:2; 139:19). Indeed David sees such people as the epitome of wickedness- when he himself had blood guilt and had only been saved from it by grace. He simply refuses to accept his blood guilt in any lasting sense. The same Hebrew term for blood guilt is used in 1 Sam. 25:26, where Yahweh through Abigail "Withheld you [David] from blood guilt"- by the grace of sending Abigail to David in His wisdom and grace. And David recognized at the time that indeed he had been saved from bloodguilt by being stopped from killing Nabal (1 Sam. 25:33 s.w.). David likewise had assured the woman of Tekoah that blood guilt would not be required from her son, and he would by Kingly decree ensure that those who sought to expiate the son's blood guilt by his murder wouldn't be allowed to do so (2 Sam. 14:11). And thus by extension he gave the same guarantee of safety from blood guilt revenge to his son Absalom who had murdered Amnon. But now, despite all this experience with bloodguilt being removed by grace, David allows bloodguilt to be demanded, without a thought for seeking the Divine grace and wisdom that had saved him from bloodguilt. Why? Perhaps he just couldn't be bothered. Perhaps he knew that the death of the house of Saul, who had only recently risen against him under Sheba, was no bad thing for him politically. Or perhaps he just made a too hasty judgment without having thought through the implications- because he was not as conscious as he should have been of God's great grace to him over bloodguilt.

This graceless attitude to bloodguilt was continued by Solomon, who uses the argument to justify slaying Joab in order to cleanse David's descendants from blood guilt for the murders Joab had committed (1 Kings 2:31-33). Solomon's argument here is weak; because as noted on 2 Sam. 21:1, David had been saved from his own blood guilt by grace, and he ought to have reflected that in turning down the request of the Gibeonites. But Solomon just repeats his father's political usage of blood guilt expiation, and wrongly reasons that he has to slay Joab lest David's family be charged with blood guilt seeing that Joab was David's cousin, of the same blood family. It could be argued that Joab had killed Abner as revenge or expiation for Abner's blood guilt in killing his brother Asahel. But David and Solomon then make Joab have blood guilt for the murder. Clearly David and Solomon were seeking to impute the guilt of blood upon people and use it as an excuse to murder them. Whereas David definitely had blood guilt for Uriah, the soldiers who died with him and likely many other cases. Yet David was saved from it by the grace of imputed rightness. And yet, so ungratefully, he seeks to impute guilt to others and punish them for it.

All this fits the theme of David continuing to suffer so hugely for his sins with Bathsheba and Uriah, likewise committed many years ago, but still noted by God and requiring atonement or at least, repentance. No matter how long ago the sin was committed, or how obscurely, the consequences remain. We at this point in the story are wondering why God doesn't just give David a break, and let the consequences stop. But we are being shown the seriousness of sin and its Divine judgment; and how actual repentance and change are sought from us by God. So perhaps this is why the incident occurred at this time, to nudge David to likewise consider his sins and their ongoing judgment and the need to make amends. The abiding judgment for Sail's sins was to remind him that he was in the same situation. David's statement at the time was that "Against You only have I sinned", as if he discounted any sin against Bathsheba, Uriah and their families. This helps us understand why this matters occurs at this time. I am not saying that textual dislocation and out of chronology events do occur in the Biblical text. But I always seek to more carefully consider the context before coming to that conclusion, and here we have a classic example.

We likewise wonder why this judgment affected all Israel if it were just Saul's sin, and why didn't it come upon Saul in his lifetime. Again the answers were to teach David that his sin would affect his nation and house after him, and many others suffered because of his sin. And out of Saul's many sins, why pick this one with the Gibeonites? Surely because it involved a willful breaking of covenant with them [the one Joshua had made]- just as David's adultery with Bathsheba and murder of her husband. Likewise we ponder why an unrecorded sin of Saul is made so significant in its consequence- and again we see the answer through the material being placed at this point in the narrative. David's sin with Bathsheba and Uriah had been done secretly, just as Saul's sin against the Gibeonites had been unrecorded.

We ponder how there was bloodguilt on Saul's descendants. Saul's sins were not to be visited upon his descendants (Ex. 18:2; Dt. 24:16; Jer. 31:29) and Num. 35:33 is clear that Saul personally was responsible: “Blood pollutes the land and the land can have no expiation for blood that is shed on it, except by the blood of him who shed it". When asked what can make ammends, the Gibeonites naturally ask for the blood of Saul's family. But this is apparently in line with what Yahweh Himself had told David here. It seems rather politically convenient for David that here we have the destruction of the potential claimants to his throne. That is what David humanly would have wanted, but grace and his honouring of his promise to Saul stopped him from killing the descendants of his enemy, the previous king. Usually a new king destroyed the family of the previous dynasty. But God through the incident of the Gibeonites works to ensure that this happens anyway, as some kind of reward for David's attempt to live by grace and integrity in the matter. This is a possible take. But elsewhere in this commentary I have explained that on the other hand, David was wrong not to have appealed for grace and Divine intervention and answered the Gibeonites wrongly by letting them have their demands.

2Sa 21:2 The king called the Gibeonites and said to 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 to them: and Saul sought to kill them in his zeal for the children of Israel and Judah)-
Joshua 9 records how the Gibeonites had been promised security by Joshua, although they were Hivites who were to have been destroyed (Josh. 9:7; Dt. 7:2). Saul's apparent zeal to obey part of God's word whilst ignoring the covenant made by Joshua recalls how he murdered or expelled all witches (1 Sam. 28:9), in almost fanatic obedience to Ex. 22:18; Lev. 20:6. Saul's zeal to punish the apostate was really a classic case of psychological transference. He knew, subconsciously, that he was a sinner and deserved punishment for his sins. So he transferred those sins on to others, and punished them, revelling in it. But he was picking up verses from the Bible out of context, and with the witches, he himself used one. It was this attitude which was deeply displeasing to God. And the fact all Israel had known of this and done nothing to honour the covenant made in their name with the Gibeonites... meant that all Israel had to suffer the results of the famine.

2Sa 21:3 and David said to the Gibeonites, What shall I do for you? And with what shall I make atonement, that you may bless the inheritance of Yahweh?-
"Atonement" is not used here in a religious sense but simply meaning a covering, which the Gibeonites understand as hinting at a financial payment (:4). For David personally had not sinned against them, and atonement in the religious sense was only appropriate towards God. But the Gibeonites like to use it in a religious sense, playing God by demanding that without the shedding of blood there could be no reconciliation with them.

"Atonement" translates a word which has the idea of expiation. And we will learn in :14 that God was entreated or, as it could be rendered, "appeased". But many questions are left open. To whom was expiation made in :3- to God or the Gibeonites? And :14 says that "After that God responded to the prayer for the land". If "appeased" is the idea, then how is God appeased by prayer, specifically, the prayer / blessing of the now appeased Gibeonites? Clearly He was not so much appeased by dead bodies on a tree as by prayer, and the wronged praying for those who wronged them. This clearly touches Him. We note the rains didn't come as soon as the men were slain, but some months afterwards. He clearly was not appeased by the physical slaying and blood of victims. So whilst the images of expiation and appeasement are possible, they seem to me to hang by a slender thread.

However if we go for the idea of expiation and appeasement, we could conclude that indeed Yahweh was appeased by the death of Saul's descendants. But the implication is that David could have thrown the situation upon God's grace and direction, as he did his own blood guilt, and God could have forgiven the guilt some other way. "Wherewith shall I expiate..." was a question David ought to have known the answer to, had he remained aware of God's grace to him earlier. The answer was in an appeal to God, but he fails to do this.

2Sa 21:4 The Gibeonites said to him, It is no matter of silver or gold between us and Saul, or his house; neither is it for us to put any man to death in Israel-
The law of Moses forbad the payment of money as compensation for murder (Num. 35:31). That David had apparently hinted at this possibility in :3 would therefore suggest that he was willing to break the letter of the law of Moses, a feature of David's which was largely an outcome of his understanding so well the spirit of the law. And yet it was to lead him into the sin with Bathsheba and Uriah. And yet it has to be said that this was a difficult legal situation. God had shown that the sin of Saul needed some atonement, but Saul was dead. The Gibeonites were asking for blood as atonement, although they accept it is not within their power to execute this.

He said, Whatever you say, that will I do for you-
This was unwise, because David was to be asked to break the law. But he perhaps lacks the humility to pull out of this blanket promise he has now made. We think of Herod offering to do anything for Herodias' daughter. The law of Moses forbad money compensation for murder (Num. 35:31,32) because that would devalue the human life and the seriousness of taking it. But the David who had experienced God's grace in not taking his life for murder and adultery could surely have found a way to not agree with this. And surely David could have argued that killing Saul's descendants wasn't obedience to the principle that the shedder of blood must be slain. And Saul's death in battle could have been accepted as his judgment for all his sins. David's desire to placate the Gibeonites rather suggests he failed to appreciate the grace shown to him when it came to guilt for murder. And this was extreme guilt- making descendants suffer for murder committed by an ancestor. And leaving their bodies exposed for months, in disobedience to the law, all suggests that David judged and spoke far too quickly. And did so without grace. David doesn't throw himself upon God for direction and wisdom, although he does do so in the incident of the numbering of Israel. The same language of God being entreated for the land is in 2 Sam. 24:25; but only after David had placed himself in God's hands and cast himself upon His grace and direction. And that is what he ought to have done here. Perhaps he learnt there from his failure here.

2Sa 21:5 They said to the king, The man who consumed us, and who devised against us, that we should be destroyed from remaining in any of the borders of Israel-
This implies Saul's campaign against them had been widespread and systematic. See on :2. The lack of record of it was to match how David's sin with Bathsheba and Uriah had been supposedly in secret- but was having a delayed outcome of judgment just as Saul's 'secret' unrecorded sin.

2Sa 21:6 let seven men of his sons be delivered to us, and we will hang them up to Yahweh in Gibeah of Saul, the chosen of Yahweh. The king said, I will give them-
One theme of the record is that David simply does what the Gibeonites ask, without any cavil nor attempt to negotiate with them nor with God. The Gibeonites say: “let them be given over to us” and David replies "I will give them over... The king took... The king handed them over” (:6-9).

The Gibeonites' demand that the crucifixion of the victims be done in Gibeah, Saul's home town, shows again their desire for the worst possible judgment against Saul. Their description of Saul as "Yahweh's chosen" is surely ironic and shows again the depth of their hatred.

Their allusion is to Num. 25:4, where the bodies of the leaders in the worship of Baal were hung up to turn away Yahweh's anger (cp. :1). But the seven sons of Saul were not personally responsible for the sin. And David had solemnly vowed before Yahweh to Saul and Jonathan on at least two occasions that he would not destroy their seed. David's acquiescence therefore was wrong, and like Herod and other kings trapped by their own pride to fulfil their promises, so David agrees to the death of Saul's sons. He ought to have said something like "I have vowed a vow not to do this, I believe in grace, and will not allow this to happen. I will throw myself down before Yahweh and beg for this situation to be resolved another way". But pride stops him. Yet David generally was humble in this kind of thing. So as with the sin with Bathsheba, I take this to be an out of character failing of David.

2Sa 21:7 But the king spared Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan the son of Saul, because of Yahweh’s oath that was between them, between David and Jonathan the son of Saul-
As noted on :6, David had made a similar oath before Yahweh to Saul (1 Sam. 24:21,22). But he seems to justify breaking that by arguing that he was honouring a similar oath he had made to Jonathan. I suggested on :6 what his response ought to have been.

2Sa 21:8 But the king took the two sons of Rizpah the daughter of Aiah, whom she bore to Saul, Armoni and Mephibosheth; and the five sons of Michal the daughter of Saul, whom she bore to Adriel the son of Barzillai the Meholathite-
David chose the sons of his ex wives Merab and Michal as the victims, however we read the text [Michal could have 'brought them up' for her sister as she herself remained childless until the day of her death]. And this reflects his bitterness towards them and desire to cut off any likely contenders for his throne after the Saulide rebellion under Sheba. David comes over as wrong all around in this matter. Michal was his former wife. He had broken up Michal's marriage with Paltiel even though Paltiel wept over it. And now he slays Michal's five sons. If this is the same Barzillai who was later so kind to David at the time of Absalom's rebellion, then we see that man's grace, forgiving David for slaying his five grandchildren. And it contrasts with David's low estimate of the value of human life which we again see.

God sees to the end of a man’s history, indeed to the end of all and every human history, He weighs men, and weighs them up in grace. Further, we all likely struggle with the unspirituality of others against us. We ponder how brother X or sister Y can really be a Christian, can have any real relationship with God, because of how we see them act. This struggle over these kinds of issues is, in my experience, the number one reason why people leave Christian communities. The raw anger, hatred and viciousness they see in others disillusions them, and they walk. The pull of materialism, of false doctrine etc., are actually not significant reasons in the majority of cases I know of where a believer has quit the community of believers. It’s nearly always personal disillusion with the evil side of their brethren. All I can say is, Consider David’s poorer side. Think of men like the Philistines who became David's most loyal bodyguards and soldiers, Adriel and Phaltiel, women like Rizpah, the mothers of Moab and Edom, who all likely considered David a sadistic maniac- given their experience of him. And, of course, Uriah, who surely knew all along what was going on. They saw the weaker side of David. Thanks to the extent of Biblical revelation about David, we see a wider picture. And even if that wider picture remains invisible to us concerning brother A and sister B, try to imagine that they have a prayer life, read Scripture, are loved by God, and probably in some ways and to some extent do respond to that love… and leave the final analysis of human character to the God who judges, weighs and knows far deeper, more graciously, more hopefully, than we ever can in this life.

David had loved Jonathan's sister Michal, and she loved him; only for her to come to despise David's spirituality, and to be unfaithful to him (2 Sam. 21:8 implies she had even more relationships than just with Paltiel). But then David killed her five sons. She was part of the ineffable sadness of David's personal life.

Michal has many similarities to Rachel in the book of Genesis. They each had an older sister who was set up to be their husband's wife. The fathers were both obsessive and unpleasant, and both fathers pursued after their husbands. Both women present as not very spiritual in that they had teraphim [household idols], which they both use to deceive their fathers to save their own skin, and to help their husbands save their lives from the murderous intent of their fathers. They both lie to their fathers. In the teraphim incident, Rachel claims to be sick and Michal claims David is sick. Both have husbands who work for their father, who deceives their husbands. Both had to chose their husbands over their fathers. Both had an older sister, Leah cp. Merab. The fathers of both women made an agreement with the sons in law [David and Jacob] to give them their daughters in marriage for a dowry [years of labour, killing Goliath], but deceived them. David effectively paid two dowries in order to marry Michal- slaying Goliath, and then 100 Philistine foreskins. Jacob also pays two dowries, each of seven years labour. Each woman had a time of infertility. In Michal's case this is recorded in 2 Sam. 6:23 "Michal, daughter of Saul, had no child to the day of her death". That could imply she had a child the die she died- she died in childbirth. Which would be another parallel with Rachel. This verse however stands in tension with 2 Sam. 21:8 "the five sons of Michal the daughter of Saul, whom she bore to Adriel" (NEV). The translations squirm around this by translating "bore" as "brought up for", or by appealing to a changed text which read "Merab" for Michal. But the Hebrew is simply as NEV- that Michal had five children by the man whom her older sister was married off to rather than David, and then she marries David. All spaghetti junction in terms of relationships, and all reminiscent of the Jacob-Rachel-Leah mess. All so mixed up and intertwining it's hard to get any mental map of it. Apparently both Michal and Merab were at one point married to the same man, Adriel. By the intrigue of their father. Just as with Laban and his daughters Rachel and Leah.

Clearly Jacob, Laban and Rachel are reflected in David, Saul and Michal. All these connections cannot be mere coincidence. We naturally enquire why such similarities constantly occur between the lives of God's people. We see the same thing today, the deeper we engage with other believers and get to know them. The repeated circumstances occur over time [between us and earlier believers we meet in the Bible] and also horizontally between us and present believers whom we know. We see the same Divine hallmark and way of operating in our lives, as comfort that indeed man is not alone- not least because our apparently unique situations aren't in fact so unique.

2Sa 21:9 He delivered them into the hands of the Gibeonites, and they hanged them in the mountain before Yahweh, and all seven of them fell together. They were put to death in the days of harvest, in the first days, at the beginning of barley harvest-
That is, at Passover (Dt. 16:9). At the time when David ought to have been celebrating God's deliverance from death by grace, he was putting to death innocent young people, who may have been no more than children. Sacrificing them on the first days of barley harvest suggests they were going along with a pagan ritual- for human sacrifice on the eve of harvest is attested in Canaan. In Hittite and Ugarit myth, Mot was killed by Anat between the barley harvest and autumn rains and Mot's body was believed to have been dismembered and exposed. And so human sacrifice at the time of the harvest rains was practiced in Canaan. Again we get the impression that the Gibeonites were out to humiliate them at all costs. And David ought rather to have refused to go along with such paganism. We keep asking, why does David go along with this? It really does seem that he was politically motivated by allowing the deaths of his potential Saulide rivals. And refusing to show any grace.

2Sa 21:10 Rizpah the daughter of Aiah took sackcloth, and spread it for her on the rock-
To form a tent for her to live in whilst she protected the bodies day and night from wild animals.

From the beginning of harvest until water was poured on them from the sky-
The heavy rains usually came about six months after the beginning of harvest. The rain clearly meant that the famine had ended; God is presented as having been appeased by the deaths and so rain comes.

She allowed neither the birds of the sky to rest on them by day, nor the animals of the field by night-
The idea of blood sacrifice being required to bring rain suggests that the Gibeonites believed in a rain god. Yet when David is asked to give seven men of the family of Saul as a blood sacrifice to appease the rain god who was not sending rain, David agrees. He doesn’t make the Biblical argument that rain being withheld indicates the need for repentance before Yahweh, and that sacrificing humans is wrong and won’t change anything in this context. He gives in to the false understanding of the Gibeonites, breaking his undertakings to Saul and Jonathan by doing so, and selects seven men to be slain and hung up. We read of the mother of two of them, Rizpah, lovingly watching over the bodies of her sons day and night, with all the distraction of true love (2 Sam. 21:10). David didn’t have to do this. But he did. We get the impression this was another example of his wrong attitude to the shedding of blood (1 Chron. 22:8). He doesn’t seem to have cared for the mother’s feelings, nor for the lives of her sons. And note that David makes up the total of seven men by having the five foster sons of his own estranged wife Michal slain. Was this not David somehow hitting back at Michal, who had mocked him for his style of worship in 2 Sam. 6? And how did Adriel, the father of those five sons, feel? He wasn’t of the house of Saul, but because of David’s desire to placate someone else, he lost all his sons, just because his wife had died and Saul’s daughter had raised them. And yet this same David is recorded as saying soon afterwards: “I have kept the ways of the Lord, and have not wickedly departed from my God. For all his ordinances were before me; And as for his statutes, I did not depart from them. I was also perfect toward him; And I kept myself from mine iniquity. Therefore hath the Lord recompensed me according to my righteousness, According to my cleanness in his eyesight” (2 Sam. 22:22-25).

To leave the bodies impaled was specifically disobedient to the Mosaic command that respect must be shown even to the executed- their bodies were not to be left hanging and were to be buried on the day of their execution (Dt. 21:22,23). And yet the bodies were left there from barley harvest to the first rains after the Summer (:10), about five months. This was downright humiliation. We can rightly assume that Rizpah dearly wanted to bury the bodies but was not permitted to. Indeed, leaving the bodies hanging was punishment for breaking covenant with Yahweh in Dt. 28:26: “And your corpse shall be food to all the birds of heaven, and to the animals of the earth; and no one shall frighten them away”. Rizpah frightening away the "birds of heaven" sounds therefore like her protest at this treatment. She was trying to show that her sons had not broken covenant. One purpose of this narrative may be to highlight the weakness of David. He knew God's law so well, or so he claims in Ps. 119. But he allows it to be flouted, and at best appears impotent to stop the Gibeonites abusing Saul's descendants. If the event is in chronological order, then we would have yet another example of David's impotence, culminating in the picture of his sexual and physical impotence in the closing scene of his life. The once so powerful is being progressively rendered powerless- not so much in simplistic judgment for the sake of it, but in order to coax and nudge him towards greater self understanding and repentance.

This wasn't the first time David had slain men for bloodguilt and then displayed their bodies. He had done so when Ishbosheth was slain by his own men, and David in turn killed them for their bloodguilt and hung up their bodies: "When wicked men have slain a righteous person in his own house on his bed, shall I not now require his blood [Heb. 'his blood guilt'] of your hand, and take you away from the earth? David commanded his young men, and they killed them, and cut off their hands and their feet, and hanged them up" (2 Sam. 4:11,12). But David did this for political reasons, to try to prove his own innocence of slaying Saul's son, his rival to the throne. So when it happens again here with David granting the request of the Gibeonites, we likewise suspect David's motives are mixed.

2Sa 21:11 It was told David what Rizpah the daughter of Aiah, the concubine of Saul, had done-
It seems it took David the six months alluded to in :10 to respond. He gathers up the bones of the men or boys, along with those of Saul and Jonathan, and gives them a decent burial.

2Sa 21:12 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 public square of Beth Shan, where the Philistines had hanged them, in the day that the Philistines killed Saul in Gilboa-
David's burial of the bones of Saul and Jonathan right afterwards seems to me to have been politically motivated. He had allowed Saulide contenders for the throne to be cut off and publicly humiliated but now he seeks to wash his hands of any accusation of being against Saul. If he had trusted the earlier word to him, that he would replace Saul, then he need not have gone along with the Gibeonites' demands.

The last mention of the David : Jonathan relationship is in 2 Sam. 21:12-14, where we read that David personally ("he" cp.  they") took and carried the bones of Saul and Jonathan to their final resting place. The love of David for Jonathan is apparent. We are invited to imagine David carrying the bones of his best friend, perhaps just the ashes of them (1 Sam. 31:12,13), cradling them (or the container) in his arms, weeping as he walked. How about this for pathos. The words of David's lament in 2 Sam. 1 would have surely come to his mind. It is almost certain that David memorized them, seeing it was taught as a song of remembrance (2 Sam. 1:18). There would have been the restimulation of so much. So that is how the Spirit concludes the story, David walking off into the sunset with the bones of Jonathan. It should be remembered that this occurred after David's disgrace with Bathsheba. The thought must surely have gone through his mind: It's a good thing dear Jonathan isn't here to see it. The very name of the prophet Nathan, the exposer of David's sin, would have restimulated David. For 'Jonathan' means 'Yahweh-Nathan'. It is quite likely that in practice David would not have pronounced the 'Yah' prefix; he would have called Jonathan 'Nathan' (how many 'Jonathan's do you know whose name isn't abbreviated by their friends?). The reason why there is so much pathos in the story, so powerfully expressed, is to set us a standard of love and feeling towards Christ; for Jonathan represents us, and the love of David for him really is a reflection of the love of Christ for us. Truly do we sing that "Thou art far above / dearest of human love".

David's rush to publically bury and respect the remains of Saul and Jonathan is laboured in :12-14. Again we sense political thinking and motivation in David. Sheba was from the tribe of Saul and his rebellion had been more dangerous for David than Absalom's. Perhaps having allowed the family of Saul to be so humiliated, he now rushes to show respect to them. This was trying to ingratiate himself to the men of Judah by allowing the abuse of Saul's descendants, and then to the men of Benjamin by honouring the memory of Saul. David's motives as ever were mixed.

2Sa 21:13 and he brought up from there the bones of Saul and the bones of Jonathan his son: and they gathered the bones of those who were hanged-
The extreme grief of Rizpah is intentionally contrasted with this symbolic gesture from David in at least giving the sons an honourable burial, although it took David six months to do so. He is presented as callous in the face of very genuine grief caused by his pride and refusal to honour his covenant before Yahweh that he had made with Saul.

2Sa 21:14 They buried the bones of Saul and Jonathan his son in the country of Benjamin in Zela, in the tomb of Kish his father: and they performed all that the king commanded. After that God responded to the prayer for the land-
David was wrong in killing those seven men or boys. God is not appeased by blood sacrifice in that sense. It was the prayer of the Gibeonites that 'appeased' God and not the murder of those men. After the horror of what he had done was brought to his attention, David buried the bones of Saul as if he felt he should have been more respectful to the house of Saul (2 Sam. 21:12) and only then God responded to the prayer for the famine to be lifted (:14)- as if He sought respect for the house of Saul and not the disrespect of killing seven random relatives of Saul's on the say-so of mere men. If indeed God wanted the sacrifice of those men, we would surely read that immediately after their murder He lifted the famine; but He did so only after David had subsequently shown respect to the house of Saul as a token of regret and repentance for what he had authorized.

2Sa 21:15 The Philistines had war again with Israel; and David went down, and his servants with him, and fought against the Philistines. David grew faint-
The material in 2 Samuel isn't chronological. The material we have now at the end of the book appears to be various cameos of the life of David which are for some reason not incorporated into the book as a whole. Perhaps the common theme in them all is that they mention David's weaknesses in various ways. We now read of how David was "faint", physically weak during a battle. It is one of a number of hints that he did not enjoy good health. We think of him laying sick at Mahanaim during Absalom's rebellion, and the copious evidence in the Psalms that he had a breakdown of his health soon after the sin with Bathsheba. These events are located in  1 Chron. 20:4-8 immediately after the capture of Rabbah, which was again not David at his spiritually strongest.

2Sa 21:16 and Ishbibenob, who was of the sons of the giant, the weight of whose spear was three hundred shekels of brass in weight, he being armed with a new sword, was about to have slain David
We wonder therefore whether David's faith failed him at this point, or whether he did not have the level of faith he showed when he triumphed over Goliath. David had mocked armour as a source of strength, and yet this suggests David almost perished because of the weaponry of this Philistine. I suggested on :15 that the cameos from the life of David which conclude 2 Samuel all have the common theme of David's weakness. 

2Sa 21:17 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 go no more out with us to battle, that you don’t quench the lamp of Israel-
The significance of this is that David is harking back to how he had not gone out to war with his armies at the time of 2 Sam. 11:1, and it had led him into the sin with Bathsheba. At every point we find him repentant and playing along with how God too was referring him back to previous points in his life. It seems that after the sin, David insisted on going out with his troops to battle even when he was too old to effectively do so (2 Sam. 18:2).

2Sa 21:18 It came to pass after this, that there was again war with the Philistines at Gob: then Sibbecai the Hushathite killed Saph, who was of the sons of the giant-
We note that the Rephaim had children like other human beings (2 Sam. 21:16,18; Dt. 3:11), inhabiting an area known as the valley of Rephaim (Josh. 15:8). The "giants" of Gen. 6:2-4 were therefore humans and not celestial beings. "Gob" is LXX Gath; see on :20 for the significance.

2Sa 21:19 There was again war with the Philistines at Gob; and Elhanan the son of Jaareoregim the Bethlehemite killed Goliath the Gittite’s brother, the staff of whose spear was like a weaver’s beam-
Elhanan was from the small village of Bethlehem, and therefore was likely a childhood friend of David's. He like us with the Lord Jesus was inspired by David's victory over Goliath. He saw what was potentially possible for man in faith, just as we are shown through the Lord's victory on the cross what is possible for men apparently saddled with human nature.

2Sa 21:20 There was again war at Gath, where there was a man of great stature, who had on every hand six fingers, and on every foot six toes, twenty four in number; and he also was born to the giant-
David fought the Philistines at Gath (see on :18), and yet we note that he lived with Achish at Gath for over a year, and some of his most loyal followers were Philistines from Gath like Ittai. His victories over them therefore elicited humility and faith from some of the Philistines there. They realized that David and his men won their victories not in their own strength, but because of Yahweh. And they humbly came into covenant relationship with the God of their enemies, and fellowship with their one time enemies and murderers of their friends and families. It is humility which is the critical requirement in coming to the true God, and no amount of apparently high powered intellectual argument and slick presentation can replace that.

2Sa 21:21 When he defied Israel, Jonathan the son of Shimei, David’s brother, killed him-
Goliath's defiance of Israel is a major theme (1 Sam. 17:10,25,26,36,45). Later Philistine defiance is described with the same word (2 Sam. 21:21; 23:9). David's victory over Goliath was inspirational to other Israelites, just as the Lord's triumph on the cross should be to us. Jonathan was brother to the crafty Jonadab, who led Absalom into major sin by his subliminal suggestions. We see how faith and unbelief can exist within the same family.

2Sa 21:22 These four were born to the giant in Gath; and they fell by the hand of David, and by the hand of his servants
David took five stones to kill Goliath but used only one. Was he faithless and doubting that the first one would hit home? Or did he aim to use the other four on Goliath's four giant sons (2 Sam. 21:16-22)?  Do those five stones represent the five books of Moses which Ps. 119 tells us was Christ's study all the day, it being through the word that Jesus overcame the mind of sin? If he did aim to use the other four on Goliath's four giant sons, that shows supreme spiritual ambition. In reality those four were killed later by David's closest followers- and they must have their counterparts amongst us.