Useful Bible Studies > 2 Samuel Commentary > chapter 21
David had to choose the seven men from Saul’s family who would die because of Saul’s crimes against Gibeon’s people. Usually, God’s law does not permit a son to die because of his father’s evil deeds (Deuteronomy 24:16). However, in this extraordinary situation, God had shown that the punishment was right and proper.
There was not enough evidence to prove that these seven men were guilty of murder. However, that may not mean that they were completely innocent. Saul’s family were very powerful people. They may have benefited from Saul’s crimes; they may have supported or approved of those evil deeds. We do not know – but David may have chosen men whom he knew to be cruel and evil.
Those men had to suffer for the crimes of Saul, their father or grandfather. However, at the same time, David decided that one particular man must not suffer for those crimes. That was Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan and a grandson of Saul. Mephibosheth was a humble and sincere man, who opposed Saul’s evil acts (19:28-30). The Bible gives the legal reason why David had to save his life. A covenant is a set of promises in front of God, that establishes a permanent relationship. Saul’s actions were even worse than murder because he refused to obey the covenant (the peace agreement) between Israel and Gibeon’s people. David saved Mephibosheth because of the covenant that he made with Jonathan (1 Samuel 20:14-17; 1 Samuel 23:18).
David had also promised Saul that he would not kill Saul’s family (1 Samuel 24:21-22). That was probably not a covenant because there was no intention to establish a permanent friendship. However, David was very careful in this situation because of his promise. He did not choose the punishment for Saul’s family, and he did not order their deaths. He only permitted Gibeon’s people to carry out this punishment.
Next part: Nobody buries the seven bodies (2 Samuel 21:9)
Please use the links at the top of the page to find our other articles in this series. You can download all our articles if you go to the download page for our free 1000+ page course book.
© 2023, Keith Simons.