21:1 there was a famine. Not uncommon in the land of Canaan (Gen. 12:10; 26:1; Ruth 1:1), famine is often recognized in the Bible as a manifestation of God’s judgment (e.g., 24:13; Deut. 32:24; 2 Kin. 8:1; Ps. 105:16; Is. 14:30; Jer. 11:22; Ezek. 14:21; Rev. 6:8).
in the days of David. The time frame is stated quite generally. Perhaps the famine should be placed about the time that Mephibosheth came to David’s court (v. 7; ch. 9) and before Absalom’s rebellion (16:5 note), but this is uncertain.
on Saul and on his house. Saul had tried to annihilate the Gibeonites (v. 2; 4:3 note), though obviously with only partial success.