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Harsh Justice

Read 2 Samuel 21:1-14

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.”

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. David asked them, “What can I do for you? How can I make amends so that you will bless the Lord’s people again?”

“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.”

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. 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.”

“All right,” the king said, “I will do it.”
(2 Samuel 21:1-6)


During the time of Moses, God promised that certain curses would come upon the land in the event of sin (Deuteronomy 28:15-20). Famine was one of the curses. David soon traced the reason for the famine: the bloodguilt of Saul’s house.

Although the Bible does not record Saul’s act of vengeance against the Gibeonites, it was apparently a serious crime making him guilty of their blood. Still, why were Saul’s sons killed for the murders their father committed? In many Near Eastern cultures, including Israel’s, an entire family was held guilty for the crime of the father because the family was considered an indissoluble unit. Saul broke the vow that the Israelites made to the Gibeonites (Joshua 9:16-20). This was a serious offense against God’s law (Numbers 30:1-2). Either David was following the custom of treating the family as a unit, or Saul’s sons were guilty of helping Saul kill the Gibeonites.


It is never too late to seek forgiveness and make amends for any wrongs. Is there someone from whom you need forgiveness or need to extend forgiveness? Ask God for the humility and love to do whatever it takes to make things right.

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