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2 Samuel 21:1-14

Context
The Gibeonites Demand Revenge

21:1 During David’s reign there was a famine for three consecutive years. So David inquired of the Lord. 1  The Lord said, “It is because of Saul and his bloodstained family, 2  because he murdered the Gibeonites.”

21:2 So the king summoned the Gibeonites and spoke with them. (Now the Gibeonites were not descendants of Israel; they were a remnant of the Amorites. The Israelites had made a promise to 3  them, but Saul tried to kill them because of his zeal for the people of Israel and Judah.) 21:3 David said to the Gibeonites, “What can I do for you, and how can I make amends so that you will bless 4  the Lord’s inheritance?”

21:4 The Gibeonites said to him, “We 5  have no claim to silver or gold from Saul or from his family, 6  nor would we be justified in putting to death anyone in Israel.” David asked, 7  “What then are you asking me to do for you?” 21:5 They replied to the king, “As for this man who exterminated us and who schemed against us so that we were destroyed and left without status throughout all the borders of Israel – 21:6 let seven of his male descendants be turned over to us, and we will execute 8  them before the Lord in Gibeah of Saul, who was the Lord’s chosen one.” 9  The king replied, “I will turn them over.”

21:7 The king had mercy on Mephibosheth son of Jonathan, the son of Saul, in light of the Lord’s oath that had been taken between David and Jonathan son of Saul. 21:8 So the king took Armoni and Mephibosheth, the two sons of Aiah’s daughter Rizpah whom she had born to Saul, and the five sons of Saul’s daughter Merab 10  whom she had born to Adriel the son of Barzillai the Meholathite. 21:9 He turned them over to the Gibeonites, and they executed them on a hill before the Lord. The seven of them 11  died 12  together; they were put to death during harvest time – during the first days of the beginning 13  of the barley harvest.

21:10 Rizpah the daughter of Aiah took sackcloth and spread it out for herself on a rock. From the beginning of the harvest until the rain fell on them, 14  she did not allow the birds of the air to feed 15  on them by day, nor the wild animals 16  by night. 21:11 When David was told what Rizpah daughter of Aiah, Saul’s concubine, had done, 21:12 he 17  went and took the bones of Saul and of his son Jonathan 18  from the leaders 19  of Jabesh Gilead. (They had secretly taken 20  them from the plaza at Beth Shan. It was there that Philistines 21  publicly exposed their corpses 22  after 23  they 24  had killed Saul at Gilboa.) 21:13 David 25  brought the bones of Saul and of Jonathan his son from there; they also gathered up the bones of those who had been executed.

21:14 They buried the bones of Saul and his son Jonathan in the land of Benjamin at Zela in the grave of his father Kish. After they had done everything 26  that the king had commanded, God responded to their prayers 27  for the land.

1 tn Heb “sought the face of the Lord.”

2 tn Heb “and the house of bloodshed.”

3 tn Heb “swore an oath to.”

4 tn After the preceding imperfect verbal form, the subordinated imperative indicates purpose/result. S. R. Driver comments, “…the imper. is used instead of the more normal voluntative, for the purpose of expressing with somewhat greater force the intention of the previous verb” (S. R. Driver, Notes on the Hebrew Text and the Topography of the Books of Samuel, 350).

5 tc The translation follows the Qere and several medieval Hebrew mss in reading לָנוּ (lanu, “to us”) rather than the MT לִי (li, “to me”). But for a contrary opinion see S. R. Driver, Notes on the Hebrew Text and the Topography of the Books of Samuel, 53, 350.

6 tn Heb “house.”

7 tn Heb “and he said”; the referent (David) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

8 tn The exact nature of this execution is not altogether clear. The verb יָקַע (yaqa’) basically means “to dislocate” or “alienate.” In Gen 32:26 it is used of the dislocation of Jacob’s thigh. Figuratively it can refer to the removal of an individual from a group (e.g., Jer 6:8; Ezek 23:17) or to a type of punishment the specific identity of which is uncertain (e.g., here and Num 25:4); cf. NAB “dismember them”; NIV “to be killed and exposed.”

9 tc The LXX reads “at Gibeon on the mountain of the Lord” (cf. 21:9). The present translation follows the MT, although a number of recent English translations follow the LXX reading here (e.g., NAB, NRSV, NLT).

10 tc The MT reads “Michal” here, but two Hebrew manuscripts read “Merab,” along with some LXX manuscripts. Cf. 1 Sam 18:19.

11 tc The translation follows the Qere and several medieval Hebrew mss in reading שְׁבַעְתָּם (shÿvatam, “the seven of them”) rather than MT שִׁבַעְתִּים (shivatim, “seventy”).

12 tn Heb “fell.”

13 tc The translation follows the Qere and many medieval Hebrew mss in reading בִּתְחִלַּת (bithkhillat, “in the beginning”) rather than MT תְחִלַּת (tÿkhillat, “beginning of”).

14 tn Heb “until water was poured on them from the sky.”

15 tn Heb “rest.”

16 tn Heb “the beasts of the field.”

17 tn Heb “David.” For stylistic reasons the name has been replaced by the pronoun (“he”) in the translation.

18 tn Heb “the bones of Saul and the bones of Jonathan his son.” See also v. 13.

19 tn Heb “lords.”

20 tn Heb “stolen.”

21 tc Against the MT, this word is better read without the definite article. The MT reading is probably here the result of wrong word division, with the letter ה (he) belonging with the preceding word שָׁם (sham) as the he directive (i.e., שָׁמָּה, samah, “to there”).

22 tn Heb “had hung them.”

23 tn Heb “in the day.”

24 tn Heb “Philistines.”

25 tn Heb “he”; the referent (David) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

26 tc Many medieval Hebrew mss have here כְּכֹל (kÿkhol, “according to all”).

27 tn Heb “was entreated.” The verb is an example of the so-called niphal tolerativum, with the sense that God allowed himself to be supplicated through prayer (cf. GKC 137 §51.c).



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