Useful Bible Studies > 2 Samuel Commentary > chapter 21

Seven men from Saul’s family must die

2 Samuel 21:5-6

The people in Gibeon did not belong to Israel. They had an ancient peace agreement with Israel. Saul offended against that agreement when he murdered most of them. However, they had no right to do anything about it, either under the peace agreement or under Israel’s law. So, they appealed to God.

God supported their claim. For three years, there was not enough rain in Israel. So, David asked them what must happen for them to ask God to show kindness to Israel again.

In the laws that God gave to Noah for all people, there must be a punishment for murder (Genesis 9:5). However, Saul was already dead and that law gave Gibeon’s people no rights against his family. So, it was necessary to refer back to an even earlier law to find the proper punishment in this situation.

In Genesis 4:15, God placed a mark on Cain, to protect his life. If anyone killed him, seven members of that person’s family must die. In the same way, Gibeon’s people should have received special protection, because of their peace agreement. Saul had killed very many people in Gibeon – but it would satisfy Gibeon’s people if just seven men from his family died as a punishment for his crime. A human judge must not punish someone for his father’s crime (Deuteronomy 24:16); but this was a matter of God’s judgment. As God had defended Cain by this rule, so God would accept it for Gibeon’s people too.

After the death of these seven men, the people from Gibeon wanted to hang up the bodies. That would show that God’s curse was upon them (Deuteronomy 21:23). In other words, God’s judgement was against them.

Next part: David chooses the seven men who would die (2 Samuel 21:7-8)


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