Punished Sin Expiated
2 Samuel 21:1-14
Then there was a famine in the days of David three years, year after year; and David inquired of the LORD. And the LORD answered…

1. A famine in Palestine was always a consequence of deficient winter rains, such a deficiency being by no means uncommon; but in this case the famine endured three successive years, and thus became alarming, and impelled men to ask religious questions and make religious arrangements. "David inquired of the Lord" — in other words, he sought the face of the Lord. Is not the action of David imitated, to some extent at least, by the men of all time? When the east wind blows three days, or three weeks, men do but remark upon it complainingly, and it passes from criticism; but when it continues three months, and three more, and the earth is made white with dust, and every tree stands in blackness and barrenness, and every bird is silent, and the whole landscape is one scene of blank desolation — then men begin to inquire concerning causes, and even the most flippant and obdurate may be easily moved to seek the face of the Lord. Thus selfishness assumes a religious aspect, and religion is degraded by being crowned with selfishness; thus men make confusion in moral distinctions, and imagine themselves to be pious when they are only self-seeking, and suppose themselves constrained by persuasion when they are simply driven by fear.

2. David, having learned the Divine reason for the continued famine, now turned in a human direction, as he was bound to do, saying unto the Gibeonites, "What shall I do for you?" The word is the term which is used throughout the law in connection with the propitiatory sacrifices. The word literally means to cover up. David inquires what he can do to cover up the sin of Saul, so as to remove it from the sight of the men against whom it had been committed. Saul himself being dead, his male descendants were considered as standing in his place, and were looked at in the solemn light of actually personating him and having responsibility for his evil deeds. The Gibeonites regarded the whole affair as involving theocracy, and not until the execution had been completed could the stains be removed which had been thrown upon the most sacred history of the race. Men's ideas of compensation undergo great changes. It is no surprise that at first the idea of compensation should be considerably rough and formless. Jesus Christ. remarking upon it, set it aside in the letter, and displaced it by a nobler spirit: — "Ye have heard it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: but I say Unto you"... and then came the gospel so difficult to be apprehended by the natural reason, but yielding itself as an infinite treasure to the claim of faith and love. David took the two sons of Rizpah the daughter of Aiah. He could not lawfully refuse the demand of the Gideonites, having before him the fact that the law absolutely required that bloodguiltiness should be expiated by the blood of the offender. David spared for Jonathan's sake the only descendants of Saul in the direct line who could have advanced any claim to the throne.

3. The beginning of harvest points to the time as being immediately after the Passover (Leviticus 23:10, 11), and consequently about the middle of April. The rains of autumn began in October, so that Rizpah's tender care must have extended over about six months. She waited until water dropped upon them out of heaven — that is, until the water-famine was at an end; and thus the Divine forgiveness was assured. A most vivid and ghastly picture this: see the seven bodies fastened to a stake, either by impaling or by crucifixion, and watch them standing there day by day and week by week, until the clouds gathered and the returning rain attested that God had been satisfied because justice had been done in the earth. The Lord from heaven is watching all our oblations and sacrifices and actions, and when we have done that which His law of justice requires He will not forget to send the rain and the sunshine, and to bless the earth with an abundant harvest.

4. Then we come upon a beautiful expression — "And after that God was intreated for the land." There is a solemn lesson here for all time. We must do justice before we can make acceptable prayer, we cannot turn dishonoured graves into altars which God will recognise. "If thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee: leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift." "Wash you, make you clean; pub away the evil of your doings." These are the conditions upon which God will be intreated.

5. There is a line of true melancholy in the remainder of the chapter. The Philistines had yet war again with Israel, but now when David went down and fought against the Philistines we read that "David waxed faint" (v. 15). A splendid life is now showing signs of decay. David in his old age was fighting with giants, but he was no longer the ruddy youth who smote Goliath in the forehead. There is a time when a man must cease from war. There is also a time when his character, his peaceful counsels, his benignant smile, may be of more value than the uplifting of his enfeebled arm. Patriots should take care that their leaders are not too long in the field of danger; and these leaders themselves should know that there is an appointed time for withdrawing from the battle and sitting in noble and well-earned seclusion, guiding by counsel when they can no longer lead by example.

(J. Parker, D. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: Then there was a famine in the days of David three years, year after year; and David inquired of the LORD. And the LORD answered, It is for Saul, and for his bloody house, because he slew the Gibeonites.

WEB: There was a famine in the days of David three years, year after year; and David sought the face of Yahweh. Yahweh said, "It is for Saul, and for his bloody house, because he put to death the Gibeonites."

God's Delays in Punishing
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