2 Samuel 21:1-14 (Part 1) – A Promise Made Should Be A Promise Kept

Posted: August 20, 2018 in 10-2 Samuel

2 Samuel 21:1-14 (Part 1 of 3)
David Avenges the Gibeonites

It would be easy for the United States to abandon Israel. That would be the politically expedient thing to do. The region of the Middle East is full of oil rich nations that fuel the American economy to the tune of about 25% of our petroleum use each year. It would be economically smarter for us to wash our hands of Israel. However, they have been a key ally in the region since the nation was established via conquest in 1948. Prior to and during World War II, millions of Jews fled Nazi-occupied Europe for America (to escape detention in death camps). After the war, millions more came to America to restart their lives in a new land – those that did not participate in the establishment of the Jewish state in what was once their Promised Land. Further, Israel is the lone democracy in a region ruled by wealthy oil-rich despots in most of the Arab countries surrounding Israel. Militarily, Israel is a key ally that helps us keep tabs on Islamic radical groups. Further, there is the innate, almost unspoken need of the American culture to support an Israeli state because of our diminishing but latent Judeo-Christian influence in our society. In that perspective, Israel represents God’s still-chosen people. Thus, from a Judeo-Christian perspective, we must support Israel.

Keeping promises is often a difficult thing to do. The United States has often since the rise of Arab nationalism in the early 1970s paid the price for our friendship with Israel. All of the hate of the United States can latently be tied back to our friendship with Israel. In the American press, Israel is often made out to be the villain that creates refugees of Palestinians and the killers of hundreds and thousands more. So, it certainly would be easier for us to say to Israel that you guys are on your own. It would be easier to break all of our previous promises to Israel and just walk away. It would be cheaper too. According to most of the sources I have read, our military and diplomatic support of Israel costs this country about $4 Billion annually and rising each year. That’s a significant investment. It’s a significant investment that often has a backlash for us. The Arab world has favor in the world of public opinion when it comes to Israel. Most Westerners feel guilt for having been complicit in the wresting of Palestine from the regional facts of what was left of the Ottoman Empire. Thus, in the world of public opinion, Israel is the Donald Trump of their region. No matter what they do, it is soundly condemned. Most European countries join in the condemnation of Israeli actions because of their proximity to Arab nations, the large influx of Arabs to Europe, and their fear of Arab retaliation. Keeping promises to Israel by the United States is a hard thing to do. It is inherited by each President and they must make the unpopular decisions each and every year to support Israel in one way or another.

The promise-keeper relationship that we have with Israel in the 20th and 21st centuries was what I thought about this morning as we see what David does about the promise-keeper relationship his kingdom has with the Gibeonites. Let’s read the passage, 2 Samuel 21:1-14, now:

Chapter 21
1 There was a famine during David’s reign that lasted for three years, so David asked the Lord about it. And the Lord said, “The famine has come because Saul and his family are guilty of murdering the Gibeonites.”

2 So the king summoned the Gibeonites. They were not part of Israel but were all that was left of the nation of the Amorites. The people of Israel had sworn not to kill them, but Saul, in his zeal for Israel and Judah, had tried to wipe them out. 3 David asked them, “What can I do for you? How can I make amends so that you will bless the Lord’s people again?”

4 “Well, money can’t settle this matter between us and the family of Saul,” the Gibeonites replied. “Neither can we demand the life of anyone in Israel.”

“What can I do then?” David asked. “Just tell me and I will do it for you.”

5 Then they replied, “It was Saul who planned to destroy us, to keep us from having any place at all in the territory of Israel. 6 So let seven of Saul’s sons be handed over to us, and we will execute them before the Lord at Gibeon, on the mountain of the Lord.[a]”

“All right,” the king said, “I will do it.” 7 The king spared Jonathan’s son Mephibosheth,[b] who was Saul’s grandson, because of the oath David and Jonathan had sworn before the Lord. 8 But he gave them Saul’s two sons Armoni and Mephibosheth, whose mother was Rizpah daughter of Aiah. He also gave them the five sons of Saul’s daughter Merab,[c] the wife of Adriel son of Barzillai from Meholah. 9 The men of Gibeon executed them on the mountain before the Lord. So all seven of them died together at the beginning of the barley harvest.

10 Then Rizpah daughter of Aiah, the mother of two of the men, spread burlap on a rock and stayed there the entire harvest season. She prevented the scavenger birds from tearing at their bodies during the day and stopped wild animals from eating them at night. 11 When David learned what Rizpah, Saul’s concubine, had done, 12 he went to the people of Jabesh-gilead and retrieved the bones of Saul and his son Jonathan. (When the Philistines had killed Saul and Jonathan on Mount Gilboa, the people of Jabesh-gilead stole their bodies from the public square of Beth-shan, where the Philistines had hung them.) 13 So David obtained the bones of Saul and Jonathan, as well as the bones of the men the Gibeonites had executed.

14 Then the king ordered that they bury the bones in the tomb of Kish, Saul’s father, at the town of Zela in the land of Benjamin. After that, God ended the famine in the land.

In this passage, we find that the main action of 2 Samuel concluded with 2 Samuel 20. The remainder of the book. As you can see from the opening words of 21:1, the episode is described with a very generic time stamp: “in the days of David”. Chronology is not that important here. These last four chapters of 2 Samuel are a kind of composite conclusion, that is, different kinds of David-centered material stitched together by the writer in order to give us a final assessment of David.

Here, in this passage, we see David as the mediator for his people. He seeks the Lord on behalf of his people. In this, he is similar to the high priest who goes into the Holy of Holies in the tabernacle (and later, the Temple). He intercedes on behalf of his people to find out why there is famine in the land. David probably didn’t see a spiritual reason in every problem, but he did not shut his eyes to the hand of God in circumstances. The first and second year he might look upon it as a punishment laid upon them for the common sins of the land: but when he saw it continuing a third year also, he thought there was something in it more than ordinary, and therefore, although he well knew the natural cause to be drought, yet he inquired after the supernatural, as wise men should do.

When David heard it was because of an attack against the Gibeonites, a chill probably ran up his back. He knew they were a people especially wrong for Saul to attack and kill. In the days of Joshua – more than 400 years before David’s time – Israel swore not to harm the Gibeonites, a neighboring tribe (Joshua 9). God expected Israel to keep its promise, even though the Gibeonites tricked Israel into making the agreement. Saul’s crime was not only in killing the Gibeonites but also in breaking this ancient and important oath. God expects us to keep our promises. God expects nations to keep their promises. Time does not diminish our obligation to promises.

So, what can we take away from this today? We must keep our promises that we have made before God and men. We must keep them even when it is politically a disadvantage to us. God has kept His promises always to us. He promised us that He would bless us if we would be obedient to Him. Through Jesus, He has fulfilled His promise to us to make us righteous. God keeps all His promises. We should too.

Amen and Amen.

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